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Mad Men Recap: Partnership, Prostitution, and the Prodigal Peggy   Leave a comment


A meeting room full of unfamiliar faces struggles to overlay the illicit mystique of a mistress onto Jaguar. The lines are no good. Peggy meets a grouchy Don in the hall so he can sign off on non-Jaguar work and he tells her she’s in charge of everything that’s not a repackaged mistress. Roger bought lobster for the room of freelancers and Peggy’s subordinates. Ginsberg’s eyes explode as he lifts the cover off a tray of steaming crustacean. Is that Kosher?

Herb Brennet, head of dealerships for Jaguar, is not. He rather openly demands a dalliance with Joan as a necessary, but not sufficient condition for his endorsement of SCDP. Ken begins to note that Joan is married, but Pete stops him and brews a plan. Herb Brennet doesn’t just behave like a pig. Heavyset, balding, accent like  a union boss.

Don is really back in the swing of things, focused on work. He comes home exhausted and stressed. So much that he doesn’t take a second to think that telling Megan about the Jaguar = mistress pitch might make her feel insecure and upset, given the pieces of his past she knows about. She needs to read up for an important audition, but not in the bedroom.

Pete is ever the opportunist. Pitching copy directly to clients by the second episode, suggesting an urban market strategy for Admiral TVs, the pre-YouTube viral stunt for Sugarberry Hams. There’s nothing innovative about the world’s oldest profession so it’s more gall than inspiration on Pete’s part this time and the likeable weasel is losing that qualifier. Pete approaches Joan before any of the others arrive and she’s understandably appalled at his request that she prostitute herself. “What if it was Trudy?” asks Joan, not knowing he already tried that years ago to get his lame short story published. Weasel! Pete says something about Cleopatra and becoming a queen, leaving with the impression that he just needs to set the price high enough.

Peggy saves the Chevalier Blanc account by transplanting it to Paris. Peggy’s been into Paris since the Belle Jolie account that launched her career and a panorama of Champs Elysees hangs over Harry’s desk as she spins the “new” idea like she’s Keyser Soze. The way she rescues the ad is a nice boost for Peggy. She’s been neglected and now she shines with Don preoccupied.

A meeting of the partners to discuss ponying up to make Joan a queen kicks off with Pete briefly summarizing the situation. Don objects and walks out. The world doesn’t turn off when Don leaves a room and the partners agree to make Joan an offer. Pete tells Lane to extend the credit line $50,000, not knowing he already has for other reasons and can’t again.

The show’s dealt with prostitution before. It’s just that now really appalling because it’s not a red shirt, it’s our favorite redhead. And it’s not like Don has always taken a stand against prostitution — without it he wouldn’t exist. A whore was his Thanksgiving guest post-divorce, he bought one for Lane soon after, and stood by while the executives took Bazooka Joe to such a “party.”  Don’s against this because Joan’s his friend. After their moment in the bar last episode, it’s clear he respects her. That, and he really wants to know creative won this account on its own merit.

Back to the room of frustrated freelancers and Don, mindful of his wife, says they’re through with the mistress angle, leaving them to stew in confusion. In his office, Ken, Harry and Peggy give the good news that Peggy saved Chevalier Blanc, but Don is unimpressed, taking it for granted. Explaining that she just switched the scene from London to Paris, Don flings a couple bills in her face, barking, “You want to go to Paris? Go to Paris!” Peggy doesn’t cry, but lashes out at a Ken Cosgrove who was just trying to comfort her and reaffirm their pact. Don’s lack of appreciation shatters her belief in loyalty at SCDP.

Lane visits Joan with intentions that are a little unclear. Whether he has feelings for her or is just worried about his check forgery being discovered or thinks he can solve a lot of problems with one maneuver, I’m not sure. He tells Joan to forgo the $50,000 and demand a 5% stake in the company as a partner instead, saying it’s a better deal. Maybe that’s true, but the point is Lane is saying Joan needs to demand more money, not not to do it. Do we feel bad for Lane at all? The guy is writhing. Financially ruined. Not the courage to stand up to Pete this time. Tells Joan to take what she wants, since he didn’t get what he wanted when he became a partner, having never asked for it.

Joan was offended that the partners had a meeting about the arrangement, telling Lane “I don’t want them to know I was asked.” But now that it’s been discussed, she seems to have gotten over that, if she can secure her kid’s future. But if she goes through with it, not only will the other partners never forget how she became one herself, but I don’t think Herb Brennet is the tight-lipped type. It’s been mentioned on the show that advertising is a small world, word about Don’s proficiencies had gotten around by Season 2 and Bobbie Barrett, and things like the second sale of Sterling Cooper and the loss of Lucky Strike leaked out efficiently. Does Joan know what this does to her reputation?

Meanwhile, Pete reads Goodnight Moon to his baby daughter. It’s adorable. He can play the slimy pimp the office, then come home, hoist his daughter on his lap and sweetly lull her to sleep. Joan asked Pete how he’d feel if a client demanded Trudy — what about his daughter? Not sure I’d put it past him. Pete’s a major player in the advertising world now and has been the engine behind the Herb Brennet arrangement. But it’s going to come back to get him.

Working late, Megan and her friend drop by the office to visit. Megan pitches, “Jaguar: your problem, not mine,” before stealing Don away for a little pre-audition marital bliss. Megan’s friend crawls on the conference table making jungle cat noises to the delight of the men, save Ginsberg who’s distracted. “So she just gets to come and go as she pleases?” he asks exasperated, and it’s more likely he’s talking about Megan than the mistress the Jaguar isn’t supposed to be anymore. To our knowledge, Megan still owes him $15 in lunch money.

Pete wants an apartment in the city and Trudy won’t have any of it. Says his “love affair” with Manhattan is over. Not the most cohesive way to weave the mistress theme into it in my opinion. Show’s how detached Pete is from the suburbs and his domesticated wife. He’d do anything for a Jaguar right about now.

Apollo or Don, Mrs. Holloway? I don’t think her and Apollo, who’s wife won’t let him fix things at Joan’s apartment anymore, are “just friends” the way Joan and Don are.

Megan gets called back for the final round of auditions. She’s excited and makes Don promise to come visit. Don’s confused, thinking she’ll be in Manhattan. If she gets the part, she’ll be in Boston for three months. Don tells her to forget about it and she storms out, telling Don he’s only been supportive because he thinks she’ll fail. “You just keep doing whatever the hell you want,” Don yells at the door, assured that he’s the only one that can do that.

Joan makes the 5% demand of Pete and he agrees. The arrangement is made. I can’t believe it, or that it will go through. “He’s not that bad,” assures Pete. “He’s doing this,” Joan clarifies for him.

Don stands solitary in his office and goofball Ginsberg pops in to annoy him. He can’t get the mistress thing out of his head either, Megan dropping by the other evening seeming to have sparked one of his million ideas. Ginsberg recounts mulling “the asshole who’s going to want this car,” noting that what the rich douche bag has isn’t enough for him. A bemused “no duh” flashes across my brow as I hear it. Don wants to hear more and Ginsberg keeps on hammering the theme of not being able to own attractive things to one’s satisfaction.

The copy reads: Jaguar, at last something beautiful you can truly own. Don smiles and Ginsberg applauds himself. I guess I’m not the asshole who’s going to want this car because I think it’s his weakest copy yet, probably spun while fantasizing about his boss’s wife. But Don’s happy with it and catapults into prep mode like Tony Stark walking toward the edge of Stark Tower.

Freddy Rumsen’s back. He did some freelance for SCDP and moved on with the Ponds account he’d brought. If we think Roger or Don has passed their prime, look at Freddy. His skills are useless in 1966 and he’s bouncing around. There’s something sweet and fatherly about the way he calls Peggy “Ballerina” and he’s really looking out for her best interest as he suggests she leave SCDP for a better opportunity.

Peggy’s reluctant to seriously consider leaving at first, and that seems right. Freddy as good as got fired from Sterling Cooper for pissing his pants and passing out while he was supposed to be pitching, making way for Peggy’s promotion. He needs to drink copious amounts of coffee to fight his alcoholism. He makes it clear he’d love to go back to SCDP if Peggy leaves a hole there, so it’s not like he’s exactly doing great elsewhere. Granted we’ve never seen Freddy in his prime, we’ve seen his work as recently as last year, his copy being “old fashioned” and not very good. Why would Peggy take career advice from the less talented guy she stepped over to launch her copy writing career half a decade before?

Nonetheless, Freddy insists Peggy shop around for other offers and seems genuinely invested in her success. I’m not convinced at this point Peggy would actually leave, but she seems to take seriously Freddy’s assurance that Don’s a big boy, would understand, and even give the same advice if it wouldn’t hurt him. I want Peggy to be successful, but I’m not convinced Freddy is the right consultant to help her along.

Don starts putting on his hover boots and energy-beam gauntlets as Pete drops by to assure him that Herb Brennet has been placated. Don seems surprised when Pete points out that the conversation doesn’t stop just because Don leaves the room, and he rushes off to save the damsel.

There’s probably some cinematic value in the way the next couple scenes play out, but I’m not a fan of them. We’ve already been tricked into thinking a fever dream was real and dealt with non-linear storytelling centered around Don calling distraught from a HoJo’s this season. I guess what we’re supposed to pull out of this narrative twist is that from Don’s point of view, he got to Joan in time to stop her from selling herself, the doffing of his cap the equivalent of  Iron Man closing his face shield as he blasts off.

But actually, Joan had already gone through with it and returned by the time Don got there. She let him believe he had stopped her/saved her because she appreciates that he cares. Don won’t find out for a couple days that Joan is now a partner and we don’t know if he’ll ever find out how his timing was on that night.

I made those Iron Man comparisons because Don is in super hero form as he pitches Jaguar. He’s strong and handsome and compelling and confident — the Don we all want to be or else have. While he’s doing that, he has as much swag as ever. I still think the line is a boorish mouthful, but the Jaguar guys seem like it and the executives march back to the office with a pretty good feeling.

Don’s pitch is spliced with scenes from Joan’s night with Herb Bennet. He’s a big fat hairy blob of repulsion. Joan is cordial. She gets it over with. Bennet is like a stereotype of some disgusting powerful pervert and represents what’s under the hood at Jaguar. Easy connection.

Peggy, taking Freddy’s advice, sets up a meeting. With Teddy Chaough, whom we haven’t seen this year. I like that Chaough’s a character. Get to show ad men as obnoxious sleazes without any sympathy for them. He’s not exactly Venom to Don’s Spider-Man and now I’m not even using characters from a movie I just saw.

Chaough flatters Peggy, telling her how Clearasil complains the work’s not as good since they moved. It’s funny that he thinks Don thinks about him, telling Peggy she must have heard horrible things from him. Hey Ted, ask Ginsberg whether Don thinks about you.  Chaough’s a narcissist, but not in the same way as Don.”You don’t have to be like me” he says when making it clear he needs a writer and quoting Emerson. But Peggy is charmed by the recognition and flattery she never gets at home at SCDP.

Chaough uses all the cliches and homilies and formulas he says he didn’t see in Peggy’s book to get her attention. He tells her to give him a number. She writes something on a slip of paper and slides it to him. He scribbles something and slides it back. Peggy requested $18k and Chaough counter-offered $19k + Copy Chief if she accepted on the spot. Obviously it’d be a raise and for comparison’s sake Joan said $50,000 was four times her annual salary so she was making $12,500. How would it be to make $6,500 more than the big shot who bossed you around on your first day? To get that raise Don told you to stop asking for?

Peggy’s wow’ed by Chaough and says she thinks she needs a chocolate milkshake. I can’t be the only one thinking, “There Will be Blood.” We’re not sure what Peggy says after that, but the show is certain to close with it.

Megan went for callbacks and tentatively pivots as she’s immediately told to “turn around” upon entering the room. They need a look at her before they need to hear a word from her mouth, and we’re supposed to think about what Joan did. Megan doesn’t get the part and finds comfort in Don’s arms, telling him she’ll always choose him over acting if it comes to that, but she’ll hate him for it. These two have some conflict every episode and have thus far been able to reconcile by the end of the hour. As of now, I don’t see that pattern changing.

The day of the big announcement, Dawn alerts Don that Peggy needs to have a word. Before they can step into his office, a giddy Roger corrals the partners into his office after hearing calls were going out and two other agencies were rejected. Don is shocked that Joan steps in when only partners are supposed to be there. He can’t celebrate as Jaguar is delivered and the rest of everybody goes wild.

As Champagne pops in the conference room, Don takes Peggy’s appointment, processing. “I don’t want it like this,” he told Pete as he was told of the deal with Joan. Peggy needed more respect and opportunity but would she want it like this? Ginsberg was irate when he learned that Don left his Snowball copy in the cab, denied ever knowing if it could have been sold. Don did that to Ginsberg and now Pete’s done it to Don (well, it’s Ginsberg’s copy so maybe that’s twice now) not knowing if the copy — what validates these ad guys as creative apex predators — was good enough by itself. Pete’s assurance that the Herb Bennet-Joan encounter was merely a hurdle that had to be cleared so the copy could win the day isn’t any more satisfying than Don telling Ginsberg he took only one copy because going in with two looks weak.

Don insists he has time to speak with Peggy. “You really have no idea when things are good, do you?” notes Peggy, puzzled that Don refuses to celebrate winning the Jaguar account. If she’s really leaving, those words might soon be applicable to herself. The suggestion is that Don didn’t get what he wanted (creative vindication) even though he got what he asked for (the Jaguar account), and neither do we.

Don has a seat and Peggy starts off by showing appreciation for everything he’s done for her. Don fills in her “but,” and she announces that she’s accepted another offer. Don seems amused, thinks she’s playing a game. Angling for a raise or something. And he’s in a good enough mood to acquiesce.

But Peggy’s not playing games. She indicates she’s serious and gives notice. Don offers to surpass whatever number she can imagine, but she says that’s not what this is about and she’s really leaving. Throwing money in her face didn’t work for Don earlier in the episode and it’s not working now, even if under more respectful terms. Maybe that part sets in as Don realizes this is for real. He’s in shock. The vein in his forehead is anguished and confused.

Where are you going?” he asks. “Cutler Gleason and Chaough,” she tells him, without embarrassment. “Perfect,” says Don, showing vulnerability, but refusing to say the horrible things about Chaough that Chaough thinks he does.  Maybe it is perfect — maybe Peggy can’t do much damage to SCDP over at CGC and Ginsberg and his million ideas can hold the fort down for Don. But it’s emotionally wrecking and we know it.

Don just had the shock that his heroic rescue of Joan’s distressing damsel wasn’t as dashing as he had thought. Then the next blow is delivered that his number one deputy that has always been his young charge is now switching sides and joining the bandits. There’s disorder in this sheriff’s town and he has no control, just when he thought he reclaimed the reins. He’s lost Betty, he’s lost Anna, Megan quit working, the Joan he took out to test drive the Jaguar is no more and Peggy has defected to the guy who fancies himself Don’s nemesis. Is actress Megan really enough now? What does his new lady friend Jaguar have to say about that?

Joan probably doesn’t know what she’s given up to become a partner after 13 years with Messrs.  Sterling and Cooper. Stuck without prospects the whole time. She watched two of her secretaries, Peggy and Megan, become copy writers within a year. Megan married Don and she can be a rich flailing actress while Joan married a failed surgeon who prefers it in Vietnam. With Chaough’s offer Peggy gets another promotion and now makes 150% of Joan’s salary. I don’t know if a 5% stake in the company is as valuable as Lane says it is, but look how she got it. She can’t seem to get anything the way she wants it and look how easy it seems for these other women who have real career prospects or a real successful husband. Given that, was this inevitable if Joan was ever to move up?

Joan watches Peggy leave the office, not celebrating, not knowing she’s really gone. She seems to think she’s gotten what she wanted, the partnership, and Peggy is left out the way she was left out from the lobster-fest at the episode’s beginning. That’s not what this is. I just watched the Les Miserables trailer so it’s fresh in my mind, but Joan has this Fantine thing going. A prostitute, yeah, but to take care of her kid in the absence of a father, holding onto crushed dreams.

Peggy didn’t get what she asked for ($18k), but got what she wanted (another $1,000 and validating Copy Chief title Don would never grant her) from Teddy Chaough and so here we go. She’s really felt slighted by all of SCDP this entire season. Though it’s mostly been Don’s lack of appreciation, she also thought Ken was having meetings in violation of their pact and was mad at Roger hiring Ginsberg on the side after she had performed well for him in that capacity. It’s really not about the money, which Don didn’t understand when he offered top dollar. It’s about respect for Peggy, which Don undermined for the last time when he so flippantly broke the news of Joan’s partnership.

That being said, it’s hard to be confident that that’s what she’ll find at CGC. All the SCDP guys have their character flaws for sure, but (save Pete, maybe) they’re sure to be saints compared to Chaough and company. He seems not to have Don’s talent, which probably enhances his dislikability. Maybe “Copy Chief” is really just a title Chaough intends to invent when his plan to steal Mohawk Airlines from SCDP comes to fruition. Chaough used flatttery, not respect to woo Peggy, and she won’t find appreciation with him.

Peggy’s always wanted to go to Paris. “Chaough” isn’t French for anything, and the CGC offices aren’t in the Eiffel Tower.

AND IF that chocolate milkshake Ted got her spills, Megan won’t be there to clean it up since she’s not one of his children anymore.

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Posted May 31, 2012 by Wada in Uncategorized

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