This week on Mad Men
, Joan learns the limitations of her power at SCDP, Peggy swoops in and steals ketchup like a boss and Don proves to be a staggeringly huge hypocrite when he freaks out at Megan for an onscreen kiss.
Also, there's too much Harry Crane and his distracting sideburns and much too little Roger Sterling and Burt Cooper, who prove with a few sharp barbs that I would watch a spin-off where they insult people and shop for argyle socks. Plus, African American secretary Dawn gets to develop a bit of a personality and proves she might be someone to keep an eye on at the agency.
On Mad Men
the more things change, the more they stay the same. It's not that the show has an entirely negative worldview on people's capacity to change and grow, but it can be crushingly realistic about the likelihood of people breaking free from old patterns.
Peggy has managed to work her way up from Dawn's position to surpass her former mentor, using his own words to boot. Joan, however, might have earned the partner title, but she still doesn't have the respect. "They still treat me like a secretary," she says.
Don is seemingly standing still, allowing Peggy to fly by him. He's retreated back into old patterns in his personal life with his affair with Sylvia, while professionally we haven't seen anything resembling the old Don Draper in eons. The times are changing, but Don isn't.
Don Draper the Hypocrite
Megan is at a big career moment: her character on the soap is getting a romance storyline. But knowing this can freak some husbands out, her co-star Arlene wants Megan and Don to go out with her and her head writer husband. Instead of assuring Don it will be a tame, G-rated love scene, Arlene and Mel proposition the couple.
It's the swinging '60s, after all, and what would they be without some actual swingers? Between this storyline and Joan's night out on the town, it feels like swinging is in the air. Mad Men: brought to you by free love! Don's facial expressions in the scene are classic, and their laughter in the cab ride home later is hilarious.
But the laughing stops when Don swings by the set (for the first time ever) to see Megan's big kissing scene. Watching from the sidelines, you can see Don's disgust and anger.
Is it the kiss or is it that the kiss represents Megan's increasing freedom that causes him to liken her to a prostitute? (A profession we know Don has a lot of experience with, highlighted in last week's episode
Whether or not you like Megan (and I know she has her detractors), you have to admit she hits the nail on the head tonight in her dressing room confrontation with Don. "I'm sick of tiptoeing around you every time something good happens to me," she tells him.
Since Megan broke off from Don's universe at SCDP to pursue acting on her own, Don has been pulling away from her. Don is so desperately afraid of being unlovable that he lashes out and retreats as soon as the women in his life demonstrate the need for independence, the need to be their own person outside the sphere of the relationship.
Yet the sheer enormity of the hypocrisy of Don yelling at Megan for kissing a co-star while he's having an affair with their neighbor (who Megan has confided in, and who they routinely have over for dinner) is pretty horrible, even for Don.
As Don turns Sylvia's cross around, she tells him she prays for him to find peace. But if Mad Men has been consistent in anything, it's that for Don Draper, peace is an elusive prospect.
Joan: Best Wingman Ever
Since Joan is the best at everything, is it really any surprise she's totally the best wing-lady ever? This season has been very Joan-lite. I've seen more of Christina Hendricks in the commercials than in the actual show while watching Mad Men these last few weeks. So it's with relief that I see we're going home with Joan.
In the office, Joan tries to fire Harry "my sideburns are eating my common sense" Crane's secretary Scarlet for taking off and getting Dawn to fudge her time cards. But Harry freaks out, in a partner meeting, no less, and demands Scarlet be reinstated. Harry also demands to be made partner, mentioning that his accomplishments for the firm were made "in broad daylight," a nasty allusion to Joan's one night with the Jaguar client.
While the show hasn't directly addressed the nastiness that went on with Joan last season, it has made plenty of references showing that Joan's power has come with a price. And despite the fact that she's a partner, she can't even fire a secretary. The women we've come to know and love (particularly Peggy and Joan) have achieved much in their careers, but that glass ceiling is still firmly in place. Despite Joan's position, the rest of the partners don't even back her against Harry.
At home, Joan goes out with her Mary Kay selling friend Kate. Kate wants a wild and crazy night out on the town and Joan, despite seeming entirely indifferent, obliges. Even when that involves visiting stupid restaurants with phones on the table or making out with some weirdo in a cab. Let it never be said that Joan is not a solid wing-lady.
Later, her friend confesses that she admires Joan and all she's accomplished. "It's not what you think," Joan says. But her friend says it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks at SCDP, Joan has the title and the money. It's all right in front of her for the taking.
I just want to note that Joan's dress has a huge rip in the sleeve and that both Joan and her friend look like they've been run over. Which just proves that Joan really knows how to party. Joan: being better than you since episode one.
Dawn Plays Greek Chorus
Perhaps some of the best scenes in tonight's episode involve Don's secretary Dawn, who plays a perfect Greek chorus to the insanity that is SCDP. When talking to her friend, she notes just how crazy it is working for the ad agency. Women cry in the bathrooms, men cry in the elevators, people hang themselves in the office. "It's like New Year's Eve when they take out the trash; it's all empty bottles."
I wish we could have a Dawn interlude in every episode where we get an outside perspective of the madness. SCDP is a pretty messed up place to work, even by 1960s standards. Stan and Don put tinfoil over the windows of a workroom and then smoke pot while trying to come up with the Heinz campaign. A normal office it is not.
Dawn is obviously afraid she's going to get the boot, so she offers to take a pay delete for the hours she fudged for Scarlet. Joan, looking terrifying in a huge white lace collar like a sexy vampire, puts Dawn in charge of the time cards as punishment instead. Dawn wants Joan to think highly of her, and her honesty seems to have won Joan over for the moment. Will we be seeing more of Dawn as the season progresses? Could she even be the next Peggy?
The Student Becomes the Master
This might be the most office-centric episode of the season so far, and I'm loving every minute of it. While I enjoy the outside stories, there's nothing like watching the ad men and women go to work.
This time, they're working to win over Heinz ketchup in secret so Raymond from beans doesn't blow a gasket. Don puts Grizzly Adams, or I guess Stan, on the case. They come up with a "bold" campaign without ketchup in the picture.
But Peggy and Ted are right on their heels. Once inside, Peggy taps into that former Don Draper magic. "If you don't like what they're saying, change the conversation," she says of the competition between ketchup and catsup. Her pitch, which they buy in the room, is so good Don knows immediately they've lost. In this scenario, Peggy is definitely ketchup and Don is watered-down catsup. Peggy has always been in the process of leaving him behind, and it seems she might have finally surpassed her former mentor.
Don's facial expression when they see Peggy, and while he listens outside the door, is inscrutable. Is he proud? Is he angry? Is he feeling left behind? Peggy is a product of Don through and through, but while Don is stuck, Peggy has moved on. If Don is looking towards death with his suicidal beaches, Peggy is looking to the future instead.
Unfortunately, she has to step on a few people along the way, one of which is Stan. Poor, beard-y Stan flips her the bird after the meeting with Heinz. (A gif-worthy moment if ever I saw one.) Not only does SCDP lose out on ketchup, they also lose beans as well. This can't be a good thing for the ad agency.
What did you think of the episode? Is Peggy leaving Don in her dust? Were you happy to see Joan? Will Dawn become a more prominent character? And is Don the biggest hypocrite ever? Sound off in the comments!