“Lost Horizon” is one hell of an episode. It seemed a bit disjointed at times, but it was rich with action, angst, anger and anticipation. “Lost Horizon” is a deep dive into what it’s like to have personal and professional lives upended by a Madison Avenue agency takeover. The nitty-gritty, not-so genteel, policies, politics, and prejudices of McCann-Erickson took center stage. Both Joan and Peggy were caught in the net of McCann’s boy’s club culture. Joan is a victim of “systemic” sexual harassment and Peggy is dismissed as just a secretary because that’s the assumed role of most women at McCann. Rather than caving in, both Joan and Peggy stand up for themselves, take on the establishment and come to grips with their new reality. Roger and Don experience what it is like to be just one part of a large, old boy management club rather than the management. Roger and Don are no longer “the man.” Roger deals with it by providing poignant moments of comic relief that range from pathetic to prophetic. Don retreats further into an alternate reality driven by his unexplainable obsession with “saving” Diana.
SC&P’s offices at the Time-Life building are being emptied while Harry and Roger look on. Roger cynically asks Harry if they packed his computer and an almost giddy Harry tells Roger that McCann has a floor full of computers and “five men and ten women just handling data.” Harry may not get the partnership he wanted, but he will have plenty of toys to play with. Unfortunately, most of Harry’s SC&P colleagues did not fare as well.
As Joan is settling in to her new office, copywriters Karen and Libby express interest in working on Topaz, and Avon and invite Joan to join their regular “informal ladies club” gathering at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central station. The Oyster Bar was a happening place for Madison Avenue folks to get “relaxed” for their commute home. Joan explains that Peggy was responsible for those accounts but they told Joan they’d “love to share the crumbs.” Everything went downhill fast for Joan after that. Joan is conscientiously trying to integrate her accounts into McCann by preparing briefing books and scheduling client calls. In merger situations clients must be made to feel important and assured of continuity with key executives. Joan makes the call to Barry at Avon with Dennis, a McCann “suit” by her side. Dennis obviously didn’t read the briefing book and he interrupts and makes a complete ass of himself. After the call, a pissed off Joan chastises him for not caring about SC&P’s accounts. Dennis dismisses Joan telling her she doesn’t have the authority to tell him what to do.
Joan decides to take her concerns up the chain of command and she suffers the consequences. She tells Ferg about Dennis and Avon and he immediately promises to fix things. Ferg explains that Dennis won’t work for a girl (slap) and that he will work directly with her on the account. He tells Joan, “You will get the respect you desire now that it’s just you and me.” Joan’s fleeting moment of satisfaction turns tochauvinistic crap when Ferg suggests the two take a trip to visit Avon in Atlanta and that he’s “not expecting anything more than a good time.” Pow. Joan is devastated and confides in Richard and decides to take her complaints to the top.
She meets with Jim Hobart to make the case that her partner status at SC&P should carry weight at McCann. Jim tells Joan her status has changed and says, “Your little stake doesn’t mean anything here.” Joan asks Hobart to buy out her equity stake of $500,000 which quickly spirals into a heated exchange about lawyers, workplace harassment and discrimination. Joan is brilliant and stands her ground, prompting Hobart to offer Joan “fifty cents on the dollar to never see your face again.” Joan refuses and Hobart summarily throws Joan out of his office saying he’d rather give the money to the lawyers. Later Roger meets with Joan and urges her to take the offer. A very sad, deflated Joan agrees and becomes casualty number one of the “new beginning.” It is highly likely that McCann will loose Joan’s accounts unless Peggy can be the glue that binds them to McCann. I’m hoping that Joan, secure with her $250K, will have some fun and adventure with Richard. Go for it Joan.
Peggy, on the other hand, faces different challenges. Initially mistaken as a secretary, Peggy finds herself without an office or a clearly defined role at McCann and Joan’s departure is likely to complicate matters further. Marsha from HR apologetically shows up at Peggy’s apartment with her “secretarial welcome flowers.” Peggy says “I’m a copy supervisor and I’m not setting foot in there until I have an office.” Peggy decides to work temporarily at SC&P empty offices until she can properly take up residence at McCann. The next day Marsha calls Peggy at SC&P informing her that her new office is ready but sparsely furnished with a drafting table. As Peggy gets ready to leave she sees Roger playing an electric organ. Roger and Peggy get to share some rare moments of truth, frankness, and fun that are wonderful to watch. Roger convinces Peggy to postpone her walk over to McCann and they both get very drunk on vermouth.
An emboldened Peggy decides to give Roger a piece of her mind. “You were supposed to watch out for us!” she says. Roger replies with his usual, unsympathetic Sterling wisdom. He says “This business doesn’t have feelings. You get bought, you get sold, you get fired… even if your name’s on the damn door, you should know better than to get attached to some walls.” Roger regales Peggy with some war stories and Peggy gleefully skates around the office as Roger knocks out tunes on the organ. Priceless. The next day Peggy makes her cocky, cool entrance to McCann with her octopussy painting in hand radiating a confident don’t mess with me attitude. Peggy will be just fine.
While Roger is playing the organ at SC&P, Don meets with Jim Hobart to find out that they have great accounts lined up for him like Nabisco, National Cash Register “and your old friend Conrad Hilton.” Jim feeds Don’s ego further by telling him that McCann got Miller Beer for him by purchasing one of their current agencies. In fact, McCann did purchase a Miller Agency, Mathisson & Company, in 1970 which Age referenced in a recent article. Hobart adds, “You’re my white whale and I’m expecting you bring things up a notch around here.” Jim is expecting Don to take the bait and bring his Don Draper magic to McCann. Hobart even gets Don to say out loud, “I’m Don Draper from McCann-Erickson,” hoping that this affirmation will seal the deal. It has just the opposite effect.
Don walks into a crowded conference room full of other McCann creative directors, including Ted, for a briefing on a new Miller diet beer. AT SC&P this meeting would have included, Pete, Roger and Don, with Don making the recommendations on how to proceed. As the meeting starts Don tunes out and stares at a jet flying outside the window, and walks out as Ted watches and smiles. As far as Don is concerned McCann is the farthest thing from his mind. His first stop is the Francis home to take Sally back to school but she’s already left. Before Don sets out on his quest to find Diana, he and Betty have a warm bonding moment. Don completely checks out of McCann and hits the road on his quest with an occasional visitation from Bert Cooper. Not even Roger knows what Don is up to. In the meantime, back at McCann Jim Hobart’s patience is wearing thin and complains to Roger about Don and Joan. Jim is beginning to realize that his “white whale “ may not have been worth the quest.
An important part of the action in “Lost Horizon” involves McCann’s pursuit of a new diet beer from the Miller Brewing Company. Miller had acquired a small brand called Meister Brau and they worked on perfecting what became known as “Lite Beer From Miller.” After successful test marketing, the brand was introduced nationally in 1975 and became a huge success. A critical factor in its success was the inventive and famous advertising developed by McCann-Erickson (of course) that featured iconic all-star athletes including Bubba Smith, Dick Butkus, and John Madden.
Next week’s “The Milk and Honey Route” episode will unfold against rich and juicy backdrop. Don is on the road again to Dianaville, Roger is confined to what he describes as McCann’s old age home floor, Ted is happily in love with his situation, Joan is free to define her own future, Peggy is ready to kick some serious ass, Pete is lying low, and Jim Hobart is loosing his patience. I can’t wait.