Advertising may be the ultimate "what have you done for me lately?" business. You're only as good as your last idea and, if you slip, there's always somebody--some other copywriter, some other agency--ready to give you an extra shove and walk over your prostrate body to show the client something better. Loyalty and honor don't mean much when there are millions of dollars on the line.
Actually, baseball is an even more cutthroat business. There's always somebody younger, somebody stronger looking to take your job. The only way you can deal with it is ignore it. "Don't look back," said Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige. "Something might be gaining on you."
Don Draper is hearing footsteps. In "Dark Shadows," Episode 9 of Season 5 of Mad Men,Don notices that most of the agency's best ads are being written by Ginsberg. Don's never been threatened by Peggy--he's mentored her, and she reveres him--but Ginsberg is still an outsider. His good work is a threat to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce's alpha creative.
So Don does a little snooping. Working alone in the office one weekend, he picks through a folder on Ginsberg's desk, reviewing Ginsberg's ideas for Sno Ball, Pepsi's slushy ice drink. Ginsberg's ideas are good. Don has to come up with something better.
Only it's not better. The account team concludes that Ginsberg's idea--"Hit me in the face with a Sno Ball"--is better than Don's--a picture of Satan with the line, "Yes, even me." They agree to take both to the presentation, but Don leaves Ginsberg's ideas in the cab. The client loves Don's idea, giving Don the ego boost he needs. The old boy's still got game.
How about Betty Draper Francis? How's her game? As the episode opens, Betty'sweighing cheese for her awful-looking breakfast (also includes a dry, black piece of toast and half a grapefruit). She's trying hard to lose weight--an especial problem, what with Thanksgiving coming up. It's working: at a Weight Watchers meeting, we find out Betty has lost half a pound, in spite of her "trying" week.
What has tried our Betty so? Why, it's Don's new life, of course. Betty goes to pick up the kids at Don's gorgeous Manhattan apartment and is instantly envious. Even worse, she catches sight of Megan dressing in the bedroom, buttoning a shirt over her slender frame.
So Betty sets about poisoning the well. Sally is working on a family tree for school, and Betty nonchalantly asks her if she's made a place for Anna Draper, Don's first wife. Anna is news to Sally, who responds by punishing Megan for lying to her. Megan, of course, tells Don; Sally overhears their conversation and understands what her mother is trying to do. In response, Sally acts as if Don's first wife was no big deal. She gets an A on her family tree and Betty gets another arrow in her heart.
"Dark Shadows" is filled with little scenes in which the grass appears greener on the other side of the fence. Pete Campbell fantasizes about Rory Gil--er, Beth. Peggy is put out when Roger chooses Ginsberg over her for a secret new client pitch. Megan's friend Julia is up for a role on a soap opera, which Megan covets; meanwhile, Julia covets Megan's wealth. Roger brings his soon-to-be-ex-wife Jane to a client dinner--and as soon as he sees her making eyes at another man, takes her to bed. All the jealousy and betrayal lead up to a brief confrontation between Don and Ginsberg in the elevator. "I feel bad for you," says Ginsberg, expressing the noble, sour-grapey feeling of the jilted lover, the scorned adman. "I don't think about you at all," says Don.
In the end, at the Francis Thanksgiving table, Betty puts everything in perspective. "I'm thankful that I have everything I want," she says, "and that no one else has anything better." It's an awful, ugly sentiment, made even worse by its blatant falseness. One look at Betty's plate tells the tale: one brussels sprout, a smear of gravy, a little ball of stuffing. Betty forks the stuffing into her mouth and chews and chews.
We've been there. We've all been there. Somebody else always has a better job, a nicer house, gets more attention, comes up with a better idea. Meh. In my old age, I'm happy with who I am and where I am. I want those young copywriters who work for me to kick my ass, and I'll be the first to give them credit when they do. I've been the guy whose ads were left in the cab, and it's not good for anybody.
I'm also the guy who's in love with his wife and his home and his life. My grass is plenty green over here. Maybe you should be jealous of me.