Blowing Smoke (Mad Men)

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"Blowing Smoke"
Mad Men episode
Episode no. Season 4
Episode 12
Directed by John Slattery
Written by Andre Jacquemetton
Maria Jacquemetton
Original air date October 10, 2010
Episode chronology
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"Chinese Wall"
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Mad Men season 4

"Blowing Smoke" is the twelfth episode of the fourth season of the American television drama series Mad Men, and the 51st overall episode of the series. It aired on the AMC channel in the United States on October 10, 2010. Robert Morse who plays Bertram Cooper received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for this episode at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards.


Don Draper meets with a representative from Heinz to discuss moving the beans, vinegars, and sauces line of business to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce but is dismayed when the potential client says he will hear ideas from SCDP in six to eight months, as he has doubts about the agency's immediate future. Don, pushing to clinch the business sooner, offers to reduce the commission, but the client declines. He advises Don to leave selling to the Accounts professionals and observes: "I bet I could get a date with your mother right now."

At the office, the partners talk with an advisor, Geoffrey Atherton (Faye Miller's business partner), who recommends they replace Lucky Strike with new business, of any size, as soon as possible to avoid being seen as stagnant or decaying, preferably another tobacco account given their expertise. Atherton arranges a "date" with Philip Morris, although Philip Morris cancels the day of the appointment, without explanation. The agency learns, later, Philip Morris only scheduled a meeting with SCDP to exert pricing leverage with BBDO.

Lane extends the agency's bank loan to bridge the loss of Lucky Strike revenues. He asks the partners to collateralize the line of credit, with an investment of $100,000 from each senior partner, and $50,000 from each junior partner.

Pete tells Lane he doesn't have that kind of money and applies for a loan of his own. When the bank phones the Campbell residence, Trudy mistakenly believes Pete wants to surprise her by buying a house in the suburbs. She and Pete argue, when Pete explains he needs the loan to fulfill his fiduciary obligation as a partner, so the firm can make payroll and reduce the number of layoffs. In response, Trudy – referring to SCDP as the Titanic and the requested collateralization as doubling down on a large gambling loss – forbids Pete to borrow the sum from the bank or her father.

Don runs into his old flame, Midge Daniels (Rosemarie DeWitt) in the Time-Life Building lobby; she says she was there for a business meeting and acts surprised to see Don. Midge invites Don home for dinner and to meet her husband; when Don hesitates, she says she has lost her purse and needs a ride home. Midge's husband, Harry, inadvertently reveals Midge had tracked Don down (and did not accidentally bump into him as she had claimed), that Midge will "do anything" if Don buys a painting, and wheedles money from Don to go out and "buy dinner". Midge confesses that she and her husband are heroin addicts, and Harry will use Don's money for drugs. She also confides that she had sought Don out so he would buy one of her paintings. Don buys one out of pity, writing a $300 check while Midge strokes his inner thigh, but when Midge says, "Don. What would I do with a check?", Don gives her all the cash he has in his pocket ($120), instead. Don spurns her advances and, once home, Don starts to throw the painting out. However, he instead ends up staring at it all night, seemingly in a trance.

Without consulting the other partners, Don writes a letter, which he places as a full-page ad in The New York Times, to publicly say that he is relieved to no longer be advertising a product he knows will kill people and make them unhappy, and tobacco accounts are no longer welcome at SCDP. (To compose the letter, he rips out and discards his earlier journal entries and starts on a fresh page.) The other partners are livid, and an angry Cooper abruptly resigns. After Lane assesses the firm's financial status, the partners agree to dismiss most of the staff, as the firm's dwindling funds are insufficient to make another payroll unless they downsize.

Don meets with Peggy, who fears she is being let go, but learns Don wants her to approve a list of the people in the Creative Department who need to be dismissed. In the midst of the firings, SCDP receives a call from the American Cancer Society, inquiring about launching an anti-cigarette campaign. Pete is unimpressed, as the work is pro bono, but the other partners point out the client is prestigious, the assignment represents new business, and many of the board members are bigwigs and potential new clients.

Faye Miller visits Don's office and sees him and Megan walking shoulder to shoulder down the hallway. Faye informs Don she and Atherton must resign SCDP's business, because Atherton wants to continue working with tobacco clients. However, she and Don can now date openly, which she considers a fair trade. Don invites her to dinner that night at La Caravelle, and Faye tells him to "have your girl make reservations".

Faye then bids farewell to Peggy, who expresses admiration for Faye and hopes they will remain in touch. She also bemuses Faye by observing that Faye does not have to compromise herself to be successful and respected. Faye responds: "Is that what it looks like?"

Dr. Edna tells Betty that Sally has made excellent progress and will now see her only once a week. This dismays Betty, who claims Sally's life remains chaotic, but – as Dr. Edna points out – Betty seems to have a lot on her mind and needs time of her own to talk. Dr. Edna refers Betty to a colleague who works with adults, but Betty elliptically convinces Dr. Edna to reserve time for Betty "to continue discussing Sally's progress" with her, instead.

Betty learns that Sally and Glen have been talking in private and reacts vehemently. At the dinner table, Betty suggests to Henry that they move to another town, and Henry agrees. Sally runs up to her room, heartbroken.

The episode ends with various partners ushering employees into their offices to be terminated. Don gazes at those who are crying and forlorn in the same way he had stared at Midge's painting, before writing the New York Times letter.

Cultural references

  • The title refers, at once, two concepts:
    • The act of smoking, which corresponds to the firm's chasing tobacco clients as well as the numerous characters' continuing to light up[1]
    • The haze of romance through which the episode viewed the agency's work situation[2]
    • Saying things that are untrue in order to make oneself or something one's involved in seem better than it is.[3] TIME magazine's TV critic, James Poniewozik, devoted his review to the many examples of this behavior throughout the episode.[4]
  • Midge Daniels and Don both refer to Washington Square Park, without ever saying its name:
    • Upon their running into each other, Don tells Midge he thought he'd run into her in the Village, "in the park".
    • Later, after Don has given Midge and her husband, Harry, all of the cash in his pockets, and he observes he has no carfare to get home, Midge tells him to walk home through "the park", advertising her work by carrying the painting he bought from her.
  • Midge told Don she thought her husband looked like Brendan Behan when they first met; her husband corrects her, stating she'd told him he looked like Dylan Thomas.
  • Sally Draper describes to Glen Bishop the infinite-loop motif, or Droste effect, on the Land O' Lakes butter packaging, which features an Indian maiden holding the butter box.[5]
  • The morning Don's anti-tobacco letter appears in The New York Times, Megan Calvet informs him he has received a phone call from Emerson Foote. Alan Sepinwall observes: "one of Don's other phone messages was from Emerson Foote, an advertising giant who in 1965 quit his job as chairman of McCann-Erickson because he didn't want to represent tobacco anymore",[2] and who, as Keith Phipps observes: "devoted himself to anti-smoking advocacy. (He later came back.) Foote was of the generation before Don’s and, unlike Don, he hated the cigarette industry in earnest."[1]
  • Don invites Faye to dinner at La Caravelle, an "august" French restaurant that - along with Le Pavillon, and La Côte Basque, was an offshoot "of the seminal restaurant in the French pavilion of the 1939 New York World's Fair, where [Charles] Masson père began as a waiter under the eye of the legendary Henri Soulé".[6]


Viewership for "Blowing Smoke" rose from the previous episode as 2.23 million viewers tuned in on the night of the original airing, while 0.7 million viewers in the adults 18-49 age demographic watched the episode.[7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Keith Phipps (October 10, 2010). "Blowing Smoke (S4 / E12)". AVClub. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Alan Sepinwall (October 11, 2010). "'Mad Men' - 'Blowing Smoke': Here's a letter to the New York Times (Don tries to apply lessons from his love life to his work life)". Hitfix. 
  3. The Free Dictionary: Blow smoke
  4. James Poniewozik (October 11, 2010). "Mad Men: SEASON 4, EPISODE 12 - Mad Men Watch: Behavioral Modification". TIME. 
  5. Anthes, Bill. "Native Moderns: American Indian Painting, 1940-1960". Durham: Duke University Press, 2006: 99.
  6. Mimi Sheraton (December 24, 2007). "Check Please: The Frog at forty-Five". The New Yorker. 
  7. Gorman, Bill (October 12, 2010). "Sunday Cable Ratings: 'Boardwalk Empire' Plunges; 'Rubicon' Up; Mad Men, Kardashians, MLB Playoffs & More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved April 16, 2011. 

External links