It’s always odd recapping the more plot-heavy episodes of Mad Men because it becomes less about the general themes or social commentary and more about what is going on. If there was one positive in this slightly uneven episode, it’s that the plot and themes were right up against each other, with hypocrisy being the order of the day emphasized by people’s actions and a recurring motif of doors closing and who was on which side. It also brought up another odd motif that was hinted at in the season opener but brought back into focus with this episode: “What’s missing?”
But the big thrust of this episode was the hypocrisy of Don Draper. In his world it is just fine and dandy if he does anything unscrupulous but God help everyone if someone does it to him. It’s one thing for him to have an affair with Sylvia or joke with Megan after an awkward dinner where they discover the producers of her soap opera To Have And To Hold are swingers, but it’s something completely different when he arrives on set to watch Megan film her love scene and think she’s enjoying it. It’s one thing to form a secret committee with Stan and Pete and have secret meetings to go after the Heinz ketchup account, but it’s something completely different when the CGC gang rolls up into the same hotel room and have Peggy give a great pitch and land the account (using one of Don’s mantras “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation.”) and they end up losing the ketchup account, but the beans account as well!
Speaking of hypocrisy, this episode used the theme of hypocrisy to spotlight everyone’s favorite pre-feminist heroine Joan Harris. She’s still living in the same apartment she had with her mother and son, but now as partner she has to deal with her share of it from an unlikely source – Harry Crane. To be fair, Harry has always been good about making money for the firm in creative ways but never seemed to get his due for it (you will recall when he suggested the laxative commercials to be placed after the John F. Kennedy for President commercials). In this case, he does Ken a major solid by getting Dow off of his back by suggesting they sponsor a television special with Joe Namath which rakes in a ton of money. But he still feels undervalued because he feels Joan didn’t earn her partnership. This causes him to make several big mistakes: 1) When his secretary Scarlett is fired by Joan, he tries and fails to overturn her, 2) When he barges into the partners meeting with the news of Dow, he proclaims ““I’m sorry that my accomplishments happened in broad daylight. The next time this group is called to order, I expect to be sitting at this table,” 3) When Roger and Bert pay him the full commission for the television special, he still asks about the partnership. While Harry has never been good about business affairs, I fear that his desire to be on the other side of the door is going to cost him.
But as Joan would tell him, it’s not all that great being with the partners either. She may have the money and the power but she still feels like she’s being treated like a secretary. She may have the admiration of the women who work for and with her (and even her friend Kate) but the respect is missing from her life. But as Kate rightfully reminded her the day after their wild party, she has to get up and seize it.
And now a few random thoughts:
* On the “What’s Missing” theme: Like Don’s pitch to the Sheraton Hawaii, the notion that something was missing was in Don’s pitch to Heinz. At no point did it say Ketchup or even show the Heinz bottle.
* I admit I cheered Joan on as she was toying with the hippies. But it was so odd seeing Joan in the position of third wheel to someone else.
* Did anyone else catch Harry drinking out of an ABC mug? Who wants to guess that Harry is going to ditch SCDP, move to Hollywood, and work in television proper?
* The Dawn subplot was rather odd, with her almost getting fired, then getting punished with the control to the supply closet and time cards. My theory is that it was easy for her to punish Scarlet, who was Harry’s secretary, but a little trickier when it’s Don’s. That said, Dawn’s view of it as a promotion was kind of cool, and her reply of “I don’t care if everybody hates me here, so long as you don’t” was pretty bad ass.
* Dawn also had the quote of the night – ” “Everybody’s scared there. Women crying in the ladies room, men crying in the elevator. It sounds like New Year’s Eve when they empty the garbage, there’s so many bottles.” (But that’s why we watch this show!)
* Pete offering his apartment to Don was hilarious and was either (a) a reference to this film, or (b) foreshadowing to this groundbreaking musical that would debut later in the year. And Don’s takedown of Pete (“I live here, Pete.”) was hilarious.
* Speaking of takedowns, Bert Cooper is back and does not have time for your nonsense, Harry Crane! And I still think it is one of the greatest meta jokes in history that Bert Cooper is played by the star of yet another iconic 60s musical (and one very apropos of this show!). Don’t believe me; watch for yourself.
Photo Credits: AMC