'Mad Men' Recap: Unattainable Beauty
'Mad Men' Recap:  Unattainable Beauty
This week on Mad Men, Joan sells herself for Jaguar, Peggy leaves SCDP for a rival agency and Don is the moral voice of reason in almost every situation. Let that sink in for a second. Don Draper, voice of reason. You know a situation is really out of control when it grosses out Don Draper.

When Mad Men first began, the show's sexism was blatant and in-your-face. As Mad Men continued, the female characters became more empowered, at least within their own narrow worlds. Peggy moved up to copywriter, Joan garnered more respect, Betty got out of her damaging marriage with Don. This season, even secretary-turned-wife Megan turned out to have more to her than met the eye.

It got easier to ignore the sexism and inherent inequality of the universe in which Mad Men exists. This episode ripped the curtain off, exposing just how far the female characters have actually come. Peggy finally realizes that she'll never be respected in the way she wants to be at SCDP, especially by Don. Joan becomes partner, but at a terrible price. Meanwhile, Megan and Don continue to have the same fight about her career, especially when it turns out a new part might take her away to Boston for three months.

The pitch to Jaguar really sums it up: Women are objects to be bought and sold. They can be unattainable and they can be won, but at the end of the day they're just objects to men. This is a show about advertising, after all. Everything is for sale.

"If they weren't pretty, if they weren't temperamental, would we still love them like we do?" Don asks in this pitch, equating women to Jaguars. "What price would we pay? What behavior would we forgive?" he asks. This week, there's a lot of behavior to forgive and the price seems much too steep.

Emerald, The Color of Money

The episode starts with Don and the copywriters (minus Peggy) pitching an idea of equating Jaguar to a mistress. But they would never use the word mistress, of course. Just like how everyone references the Joan situation obliquely without ever really coming out and saying what they would be asking her to do. At a dinner meeting with Jaguar guy Herb, he makes it very clear that he'll vote in favor of SCDP if he gets something that he wants. That something is a night with Joan.

The boys at SCDP are used to showing clients a "good time," but they're not quite as comfortable with whoring out their own staff. Pete broaches the topic with Joan, trying to push her into accepting the terms for a fee.

Pete has gone full-scale creep this season in a way I'm not sure he'll ever really be able to come back from. First, he was hitting on a girl in high school, now he's pimping out Joan -- at this point, he's like a month from growing some kind of molester-looking facial hair. If Ed Hardy shirts had been invented in the 60's, he would be dressed like a cast member of the Jersey Shore. I think everyone that has Pete on suicide-watch might be onto something.

Joan initially shuts Pete down by telling him he couldn't afford it. Instead of seeing this as a no, Pete sees this as a conditional and brings it to the other partners to discuss. Don, rightfully grossed out, gets up and leaves the meeting. Pete convinces the others to let him present Joan with the $50,000 bonus money as incentive. I'm shocked that Roger just sits in the room and shrugs this plan off. Is he still tripping on LSD? God, Roger, way to be awful.

Lane talks to Joan and advises her that if she goes through with the plan, she should use it to leverage partnership and a 5% share of the company. How is it possible for Lane to do something nice while also doing something so gross? Pete agrees to those terms and it looks like Joan is really going to go through with it.

Except Don hears about it at the last minute and races over to Joan's apartment. Once there, he catches Joan in her green robe getting ready for a shower. He tells her not to do it and she tearfully thanks him. "You're a good one, aren't you?" she asks him.

As Don pitches the Jaguar account, we cut back and forth between Don's lady-as-car analogy and Joan showing up to sleep with Herb. It turns out Mad Men is playing with chronology again, just like in the LSD episode earlier this season. When Don appears at Joan's apartment, he's already too late. Joan had just come home from sleeping with Herb, and we see part of the earlier scene between Don and Joan play out again. Christina Hendricks and Jon Hamm have such fantastic chemistry; I hope the show continues to pair the two in scenes together.

Poor Joan sells herself out for a share of the company. SCDP get the Jaguar account, but at a very steep price.

Moving On

Meanwhile, Peggy is watching the guys on the Jaguar account eat lobster, while she's consistently turning around quality work with little reward. After she saves the day on the phone with a client, she's shocked to learn that Ginsberg will be taking over the account anyway. When she complains to Don, he angrily throws money at her.

She has dinner with Freddy, who convinces her she should be meeting with headhunters and looking around for new jobs. Between Paul in the last episode and Freddy, it's like a tour through old Sterling Cooper employees. Could Sal be next? (Please, please, please?!) Peggy reluctantly agrees with him and meets with another agency. He immediately tells her how much he values her work and offers her a lucrative salary and chief copywriter title.

After they win the Jaguar account, Peggy asks to speak to a shell-shocked Don. He lets slip that Joan is a partner now and that seems to steel Peggy, who looks as if she might still be waffling a bit. (Don, of course, only finds out Joan went through with sleeping with the Jaguar man when she shows up at the partner meeting. Their faces when they look at each other is heartbreaking.) "The day you saw something in me, my whole life changed," Peggy tells Don. She calls him her mentor and her champion and then tells him she's planning on leaving.

Don thinks think she's picked the perfect time to get herself a better salary, because buying people off has been what this entire episode has been about. But Peggy won't budge. "I'm sorry, but you know this is what you would do," she tells him.

Don's jaw gets especially square and handsome when he's upset and angry, apparently. He kisses her hand and Peggy cries, and I feel many feelings for the millionth time this episode. Don tells her she doesn't need to stay two weeks, just like Megan didn't. Joan sees Peggy leaving and smiles, just as Peggy does after her last look at SCDP. She might be getting on the elevator going down, but I'll bet Peggy's prospects are looking up.

Although I'm concerned about what Peggy's departure from the agency means for her presence on the show. A Peggy-less Mad Men is not a world I want to live in.

Stormy at Home

Meanwhile, things aren't idyllic at home, either. Megan gets an audition and Don is fully supportive, until he finds out that her nabbing it would mean spending three months in Boston rehearsing. Don is holding onto Megan very hard. Is it because he's afraid of slipping into old habits without her nearby? Or is it something else? Whatever it is, he's been falling to pieces every time Megan takes the smallest step away from him. He was convinced that things would be good as long as he kept Megan around, but now that they're no longer Mr. and Mrs. Draper at home and at the office, the seams of their relationship are showing.

Elsewhere in martial non-bliss, Pete wants to get an apartment in the city but Trudy will hear none of it. She likes living in the suburbs, especially with their daughter, and wants to have another baby. All Pete wants is to get back to the excitement of the life he dreams of living in the city. This whole season has been about Pete not being happy with what he has, no matter how perfect it is on the surface.

Next week on Mad Men, someone opens and closes a door, Peggy doesn't show up in the previews and my heart stops, Pete is gross, Lane robs a bank and goes on the lam and Roger talks about LSD again.

What did you think of this week's episode? Were you shocked that Joan went through with it? Or were you too busy being shocked that Peggy quit? Sound off in the comments!

Morgan Glennon
Contributing Writer

(Image courtesy of AMC)

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