Timely Conversations

 Posted by on April 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm  Mad Men, Season 7, Themes
Apr 152014

agentWith the title “Time Zones” and a fourth wall breaking opening monologue from Fred Rumsen pitching the wristwatch ad tagline, “Accutron. It’s not a time piece. It’s a conversation piece,” it’s no great stretch to see the use of time as a motif in MAD MAN’s first episode of Season 7.

The idea of time is injected into many of the important conversations that take place throughout “Time Zones.”

For instance, Don and Megan meet over dinner with Megan’s agent, Alan Silver. There they find out that Megan is a strong contender for an acting role on an NBC pilot. Quite visible during the scene is Silver’s ostentatious gold watch (which looks like something from the new season collection of Royal Crown Watches and that would seem to match his equally ostentatious personality).

Later, During Joan’s first meeting with Butler’s Wayne Barnes, she discovers the wunderkind is planning to propose that his company take all their ad business in-house. Barnes’ excuse to cut the conversation short is his stated desire to get home to tuck in his kids (bedtime).

At her invitation, Roger meets his daughter Margaret for lunch where she forgives all his “transgressions” as part of some new-found (and yet unexplained) spirituality. The scene opens with Roger apologizing for being late because of traffic.

Newly armed with a decisive counter-argument, Joan calls Wayne Barnes’ to explain why his cost savings plan isn’t a winning strategy. Upset and somewhat desperate after realizing Joan is correct, Barnes abruptly rises from his desk. As he and Joan figure out a way to buy the junior executive time with his superiors, there is a conspicuously placed wall-clock clearly visible in the shot behind him.

Finally, one is tempted to link the use of timepieces in “Time Zones” with the first scene of Season 6’s opening episode, “The Doorway.”  There, Don is shown reading “Dante’s Inferno” on a beach in Waikiki. At one point, Don notices that his wristwatch is broken. In the context of that episode, the “broken ticker” related to the theme of “problems of the heart” (both physical and emotional) developed throughout the episode. Some have even suggested it foreshadowed Don’s death (running out of time).

However, “Time Zones” could also be extending that motif into Season 7 by making the dysfunctional Don’s broken watch a symbol of his inability to have real “conversations” with the people in his life.


  49 Responses to “Timely Conversations”

  1. I don’t think Fred Rumsen was breaking the fourth wall, It was supposed to look like it, but really he was staring straight ahead trying to recite word for word what Don had told him. The camera was simply in front of him.

    • You split hairs. 🙂

      Ostensibly, Rumsen IS talking to Peggy. But his words, uttered while looking at the camera, “Are you ready? Because I want you to pay attention. This is the beginning of something.” are also aimed at squarely at the audience to kick off the final season. It’s not HOUSE OF CARDS, but wall-breaking nonetheless (IMHO). At least a very, very hard tap.

      • It’s not 4th wall in the technical sense; it’s a meta-conversation which is meant to speak to the audience without breaking the 4th wall.

        • Correct. Deliberately misleading and disorientating at first. The effect is highlighted by not having any ambient noises (outside traffic, noises from the outer office) until they reveal Peggy sitting there. A great piece of filmmaking.

        • I stand happily corrected.

          For S&G’s did a quick Google search and it’s interesting how many other reviewers made this same error regarding Freddy’s pitch and that pesky “fourth wall” — not that that vindicates me in any way. 🙂

          • Sometimes being wrong around here is my favorite thing, because so many Basketcases are so smart; it’s always an education.

    • Ok, you can quibble whether this is breaking the fourth wall or not

      What is said (pure dialogue from Freddy), there should be no doubting

      Freddy’s speech – MW’s script – and the fact Freddy’s asks you to pay attention is a ploy often used by David Mamet and his ‘reinforced’ or ‘recurring’ dialogue technique, where often his characters tell you to pay attention to what their saying. This dialogue is important and it succinctly sets up the episode and its subtext of time, connection and disconnection

      Matt – you hit a home run, or an end run

  2. That whole first Ken scene was all about what a nightmare his life is now that he has no time. Margaret put emphasis on setting the time for their brunch (“Ten-thirty”) to cap her phone call to Roger. Don _timed_ his visit to CA to match Ted’s trip East. Ted doesn’t have time to play with Cutler and tries to push it back a day. Peggy’s last conversations with Whatshisname and with Stan were both about it being “too late” to change the Accutron pitch. All her interactions about the neighbor’s toilet were about time (“Fix it now!” and “Gotta rush home to Anita.”) And, the movie leader Don watched on Megan’s black-and-white portable TV (just seeing which, for me, was a moment of inner time travel) was for “Lost Horizons,” which is all about stumbling on a legendary “land that time forgot.”
    I wonder if there’s an Alice in Wonderland motif in play here – that kicks off, after all, with the white rabbit checking his watch and being late.

    • Correction: as pointed out in other posts, Lost Horizon appears on the new color TV, but is itself in black and white – which is brilliant.

      • Loved that! And remember how California had been a place of renewal for Don before? It’s a lost horizon for him now.

    • One more. Freddy to Don: “It’s been two months.”

  3. Don’s favorite rhetorical tool is to redefine something. After all, Dick Whitman redefined himself as Don. So there was one big clue that Don wrote the ad Freddy pitched. “It’s not a time piece. It’s a conversation piece.” Same redefining formula as “It’s not a wheel. It’s a time machine.”

    Also, wheel and watches are circles. Around and around we go.

    • To add to what you said, around and around we go, but we never actually get anywhere.

      • But this one isn’t going to take us back to a place where we knew we were loved.

        Where this episode is concerned, there are a lot of suspensions and holding patterns, but the impending landing seems ominous, on so many fronts.

      • In Looking-glass Land, Alice finds one must rush as fast as possible to stay in the same place — but perhaps one can over interpret it.

  4. Peggy just couldn’t succeed in changing the conversation this time. That thwarted effort seemed multiply doomed when it was revealed that Freddy, who had seemed so on top of his game in that opening pitch, was actually performing Don’s pitch. (Love how that was handled! That first scene had me cheering for Freddy Rumsen; then later, in Don’s apartment, I found I was rooting for him all the more. He might just turn out to be a lifeline for Don. But that’s for another thread.) I wonder if anyone else was a little puzzled by Peggy’s backtracking about which watch slogan she wanted to back. It makes sense that she has conflicting motives; I don’t see why she would know that Freddy is working behind the scenes with Don, but she seems to have some degree of loyalty to Freddy. Even if he is merely a freelancer right now, she would have to know how few working allies she has, and would be smart to be defending bridges when possible. More importantly, though, she probably has a good enough ear to be able to tell that (Don)Freddy’s really is better than hers. So was she fighting for loyalty, for the best work, or both? And ultimately it barely matters, since she’s working for someone who just couldn’t care less about either.

    • I believe she was trying to make it hers. Exert her place above Freddy in the arrangement. It might be because she’s more insecure now, less confident. She wanted Freddy to bring her a “kernel” that she could turn into something. Like Don would do.

      It totally backfired. She didn’t expect a fully formed great idea. And what’s more, as mad as she is at Lou for not recognizing it’s greatness, she might be as mad at herself for not fully letting Freddy’s work stand on it’s own without her “mark” on it.

      It reminds if when Pete came up with “thanks Clearisil!” Which was a perfect slogan, and she just didn’t want to give it to him.

      • Peggy was frustrated because she was given a fully formed ad that she was unable to use. She realized immediately that Freddie/Don’s ad was superior to what was produced in house and she wanted to promote the better option. Assuming the ad was used, Peggy would get credit for working with Freddie and for promoting the ad. Other than in specific cases, Peggy wants to support others when they have a good idea- recall her working relationship with Megan. Her frustration was intensified when she finally admitted to herself that Lou Avery is not only an impediment to her, he is also content with mediocrity. The bond she shares with Don is in part based on a desire for excellence at whatever the cost. Avery could care less. MW has often said that the foundation for many character story lines is often set in the first episode of each season. Will we eventually see a Don-Peggy proffessional alliance outside of SC&P ?

  5. “It’s not a time piece. It’s a conversation piece”. For some reason this episode deliberately gave ammo to anyone who thinks about the various conspiracy theories from the last years. Where Megan lived, the sound of the coyotes, something about how the coffee had the same name as one of the Manson victims and Stan saying “this is not about coffee” and so forth. “Open the door and walk in. You do not have to parachute in through the ceiling” suggests that we’ll get something more down to earth than the D.B. Cooper ending, though. But Weiner is either trolling us, or the Manson murderers will have an effect on this story, though probably not through the death of Megan.

    • (I know these things are not literally conspiracy theories, but that’s what people are calling them)

    • The coffee had the same name, because Abigael Folger was the Folger coffee heir.

      • And to follow up on DH’s note, Abigail Folger was murdered by the Manson followers that night at Sharon Tate’s house.

        I felt sorry for Peggy when she got put in her place by, what was the line, “I’m immune to your charms” and her old lover comes back.

      • What I found curious about the somewhat conspicuous displaying of the Folgers can in the SC&P New York office is that it was whatever you call the geographical version of an anachronism, as Procter & Gamble didn’t even distribute the Folgers brand on the East Coast until the late ’70s. So it was either an innocuous slip by the prop department or deliberate product placement for one reason or another (though I don’t subscribe to the Megan/Manson conspiracy plot theory for reasons I don’t care to detail here and now).

        • Wow. They had a video interview somewhere recently (before the season started) and said that if there’s coffee, it will be Folgers because that’s what everybody used then.

          It was an interview with Janie Bryant and the prop and set design people…

        • Sorry… I don’t where you got your info; but, as a child growing up on the East Coast I saw many “Mrs. Olson” Folger’s Coffee commercials in the mid 60’s during my Mother’s “stories” which were primarily owned and sponsored by Proctor and Gamble.

          • I loved Mrs Olson! She really made that coffee look delicious!

          • My info is initially from memory, as I would often scratch my head at all the copious Mrs. Olson jokes Johnny Carson would make in the Sixties and Seventies, and I specifically remember Folgers’ introductory campaign to the New York market in the mid-Seventies clearing up that mystery.

            Here’s a 1979 article from the Observer-Reporter, out of western Pennsylvania, that specifically states that Folgers was an exclusively West Coast brand until the mid-’70s. Perhaps you recall secondhand references to Mrs. Olson or else you were in an East Coast test market, as that coffee was not distributed in the East, and definitely was unavailable in Miss Olson’s New York:


            • You could be correct, my memory is not what it used to be.
              However, Folgers’ website states, “In 1963 The Proctor & Gamble Company (P&G) of Cincinnati, OH, acquired the Folgers Coffee Company and began national distribution of the products under the name Folgers.”

      • But MW could have selected many other brands of coffee, or not used a brand name,

        But we also know not to read anything into MW’s “foreshadowing” as his “clues”, even if intended, are often for misdirection.

        “Folgers” was simply to perk us up.

  6. Allan Havey. Didn’t he use to have a talk show on MTV back in the ’80’s?

  7. Don’t forget that Joan’s whole scare tactic with the shoe boy was all about buying “time” on the networks and that their in house as work would be in competition with SC&P for network “time” and that they didn’t have the buying power to stand a chance.

    She also says that they can only fire them “once.”

    And that their shoe sales may well be declining for some time, or foreseeable future.

  8. Megan: “we don’t have time to fight.”

    Don’s plane was late.

    Ginsberg asks Dawn a time question and she answers with a time answer, but I forget what they said.

    Did Lou say it’s time for your check up to the group?

    Peggy offers her couch to her brither in law because it’s so late, but he says it’s fast (getting home) at this time of night…

    And don’t forget Ken! He doesn’t even have time to take a crap! Bob calls him at ten. Pete calls him at two.

    Did Rogers bedmate say where have you been all this time?

    And most important of all, don is late to meet Pete, but is really trying hard to be on time for work now, when he doesn’t really have a job now…

    Man, you’d think Megan’s magazine would’ve been Time instead of Playboy 🙂

    • Peggy – nice comments …

      Ginsberg asked Dawn if the how long the meeting will take, and she said “that’s up to you!”.

      Saucy, that Dawn …

    • I remember the mother of our next door neighbors took Playboy. She was only a little older than Megan is now – I believed her when she said she liked the articles.

      Playboy was huge in 1968 – something like 3-4 million circulation and rising. Hefner paid more than any other magazine for fiction and the Interview was well established. Look at the heavy hitters in this list of interview subjects from ’68:

      Norman Mailer
      Truman Capote
      William Masters & Virginia Johnson
      John Kenneth Galbraith
      Paul Newman
      Stanley Kubrick
      Ralph Nader
      Don Rickles
      Eldridge Cleaver

      Not saying Weiner’s mom took playboy but I’ll bet some of her friends did.

    • Lyrics from Don’s operner theme…via Spencer Davis Group

      Well my pad is very messy
      And there’s whiskers on my chin
      And I’m all hung up on music
      And I always play to win
      I ain’t got no time for lovin’
      Cause my time is all used up
      Just to sit around creatin’
      All that groovy kind of stuff.
      I’m a man

  9. In retrospect, the tagline for Accutron is Don’s signature style.

    “It’s not a timepiece, it’s a conversation piece,” is nicely parallel to “It’s not a Wheel, it’s a Carousel.”

    • Its not a man who grew up in a whorehouse, its a man who lives in a pent house.

      Yes he is all about changing the conversation.
      Until the woman on the plane rejects that notion by saying ” blame the guys on madision avenue”
      That was one cold hard slap.

    • It also references Don’s line: if you don’t like what people are saying, change the conversation. He needs to change the conversation he’s been having with the world.

  10. Megan : it’s 9 and I have to get to class.
    Megan : you’re not here long enough for a fight.
    Don to woman on the plane : we have a few more minutes.
    Woman to Don : how long have you been married? Don : not long enough.
    Woman to Don : … then a doctor told me he’d be dead in a year
    Peggy to Avery : calls one of the alternative ideas about Accutron a ‘digression’ which is a temporary change

  11. The entire episode is a meta-conversation with the audience; calling attention to the fact that our “time” with Mad Men is running out.

    When the Lou character first appeared in this episode I thought it was Duck! Does anybody else see a similarity between the appearance and demeanor of Lou and Duck? Deliberate or not, for me, it added an element of personal, romantic rejection to the “I guess I’m immune to your charms” comment. When she fell to the floor crying I immediately felt that, oddly, the worst of it for her was the absence of Don and the sad state of their relationship. They have a way of just being there “the gift of presence” for one another as true friends in one another’s darkest hours and there is no sign of him. She is in a dark, lonely, rejected place because of her broken relationships with many people. Et tu, Don?

    Don’s balcony scene. It was a hopeful moment for me. He looked both of his major addictions in the eye and gave them a firm “no” for the first time I can recall. He didn’t even toy with the temptations as he is wont to do. He could have accepted the ride from the Neve Campbell character; first tempting and then giving in to the seduction. He made a clear stand. He didn’t even start down that path. And yes, she was CLASSIC Don Draper Adultery Bait. The liquor bottle. Again, he didn’t even start with a “harmless” nightcap. He was white knuckling it out there on the balcony. Cold Turkey on the booze and the women. All the more remarkable for the fact that Megan is in California and he is free to indulge without his usual sneaking and lying. This was altogether new behavior for Don. Why did he need to go out on the balcony? I’d like to think that cold dose of reality, or just focusing on his physical discomfort somehow helped him resist the warm, comforting escape of women and alcohol.

    • Don telling the woman on the plane that Megan knows he a terrible husband stood out to me. He is rarely that honest or self-reflective.

    • Lou’s sweater made it hard for me to notice anything else.

  12. Watched again last night. Megan and Don wake up, her head resting on Don’s chest, and the first words spoken are Megan saying, “How much time do we have?”

    She means how much time that day, of course, but it still hit hard. Plus, looks like it’s Don who cuts their time short, lying that he has to work that day before his red-eye flight – you’d think he’d be glad to take her up on her offer to let him hang around. I guess by now he’s as uncomfortable in the marriage as she is. How much time do they have, indeed.

  13. Megan told Don when she picked him up at the airport that they had the one dinner with her agent then would spend the weekend together. Next day she went to acting class. People have been saying that Megan went to work but that’s not the case, she could have skipped class. Says a lot.

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