Mad Men s5e11: The Other Woman

“At last: something beautiful.. you can truly own.”

And we’re back in the room! Hello hello, and welcome back one and all. This is a bonkers balls to the wall episode. Let’s yap about our female characters– the three ladies Don can’t control, and he doesn’t like it one bit. Pegs bounces from SCDP to work for the very handsome Ted, Joan takes matters into her own hands with Herb (vile pun intended), and Megan’s auditioning with the possibility of bouncing to Boston for a show. As they’re trying to bag Jaguar, Don’s back in his old car salesman gig for a beat.

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I dig the way this episode centres around how Don’s predicament creating a pitch for Jaguar mirrors his feelings about ownership and power playing a role with the important ladies in his life. It’s intertwined with his tangible relief when Ginsberg finally comes up with The Pitch, an exhale and a smile. Of course! But that look of satisfaction on his face maybe shows how, secretly (or not), Don might miss being able to Truly Own his ladies on some level. Ginzo’s pitch speaks to Don in the inmost way.

Speaking of non-secrets, apparently Megan is only allowed to succeed on Don’s terms; he has a Fragile Man Feelings meltdown when she tells him she may be spending a bunch of time in Boston for a potential part. But hey, Megan shows from the very start that she refuses to be owned by Don; she pops round to SCDP in her audition dress for a bang during latenight Jaguar work. Megan is the one who initiates said office fuck sesh, and chose to leave advertising for what she really wanted to do with her life.

When Don is confronted with the idea that she might actually be successful, he’s backed into a corner, shouting “Just keep doing whatever the hell you want!” as she leaves the damn room. Good lord.

At the office, Don’s been acting like a dick to Peggy and taking her for granted; she’s had enough once he literally throws cash in her face. What a fucking insult.

Let’s be real, she works her ass off; where’s her goddamned lobsters from The Palm? When she shares good news about a successful pitch on the fly, Don literally throws money in her face as a way to take her down a peg for joking about an on location trip to Paris. Time to take a meeting with Teddy Chaough and split for CGC, to a place where she will hopefully garner more respect.

As Peggy gives her notice to Don, he legit cannot believe she’s splitting. It’s a strange mix of pure ego, regret, and true disbelief. His face goes from an “ahh, you must be fucking with me!” grin to “punted in the solar plexus” heartbreak. Shocked he can’t own Pegs nor keep her around, he figuratively throws more cash in her face, offering whatever salary she wants. But hell no; she refuses to be treated like that, no matter the price, and extends her hand for a farewell shake. Don kisses it and she cries silently; dude is seething once she leaves.

image courtesy of AMC

And now, moving swiftly along to Joan and Herb, the planetary Jaguar creep from NJ. I mean, this is a man in a bathrobe whose idea of foreplay is fervently exhaling “lemme see ’em”. Oy fucking vey.. file under ‘Things Men Say(TM)’.

He insinuates to Kenny and Pete that they will for sure win Jaguar’s business in exchange for a night with Joan; and Herb knows the power he wields. This is no small thing– a car on Madison Avenue means you’ve arrived.

Shocking absolutely nobody, Pete is the one to approach her openly with a business proposition, because of course he is. Is it right to put Joan in that position? Absolutely fucking not, but the other partners seem to be nonplussed, although a little scandalized. Don is the only one who voices an ‘absolutely not’ opinion. And ultimately, Joan does agree; she made up her own mind.

“We’re talking about a night in your life. We’ve all had nights in our lives where we’ve made mistakes for free!”

“You’re talking about prostitution.”

“l’m talking about business at a very high level. Do you consider Cleopatra a prostitute?”

“Where do you get this stuff??”

“She was a queen. What would it take to make you a queen?”

“l don’t think you could afford it.”

image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Lane’s role in this whole thing is a mess. I love the guy, but good lord. He brazenly manipulates Joan to hide his embezzlement and the Christmas bonus shitstorm. Her potential 5% stake in the company would keep the Christmas bonuses afloat in lieu of the lump $50k in Pete’s offer; after all, Lane already extended their credit line without telling the other partners. Honestly– Lane’s not wrong, a partnership is a far better deal for Joan in the long run, but SHIT is it coercive. Dude is obvi desperate to cover his ass.

As smarmy as Pete is, at least he didn’t beat around the bush; he approached her as an equal, laid it out, and got on with it. Was it ideal? Nah. It’s deffo twisted, but Pete didn’t ply her the same way Lane did. He was direct in his own Pete Campbell way– he didn’t approach her out of ego or his ideas of How Women Should Act(TM) either. And when Joan comes back to him with Lane’s partnership notion as her choice, Pete balks but relents once he realises that she ain’t wrong.

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Looking at you, Don. When he’s at Joan’s apartment attempting to save her from her assuredly sweaty fate, he says a number of things that sound supportive at face value– even though the deed was already done, unbeknownst to him. His words, though kind, fall under a bit of his How Women Should Act(TM) thing, and it’s deceptively insidious. Sure, Don is “one of the good ones”; but you can still see the shock creep across his face when he pieces together what transpired, in spite of him telling her not to do it. (TALE AS OLD AS TIIIIIIME)

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Joan and her (albeit reticent) bang with Herb is the crowning jewel of a woman he cannot control, nor own. Oof.

“The conversation doesn’t end just because you leave the room.”

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Mad Men s5e4: Mystery Date

“You know, there are some parts of town where we can run into some people I worked with.”

Hello, dark-ass episode! This episode is filled with nightmares, fever dreams, literal murder, shame, but not without a tinge of light at the end of the tunnel.

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As we all know, Don’s a guy with a whole lotta hangups. Even with our initial glimpses of Don on the show, he’s ~an adulterer~ though of course, we don’t know it just yet. You see him banging Midge in the pilot and hanging around at her Village digs, and that’s what we know of him. They have a chat like a couple would, he frets about work and being a fraud while she soothes and reassures during their pillow talk. Then as Caravan pipes up, he boards the train home to his idyllic suburban home in Ossining at the very end.. revealing his picture-perfect wife and 2 kids.

quelle surprise.. || image courtesy of Giphy

What starts to come into focus as Mystery Date unfolds is just how deeply ashamed Don is of his past fucking around, how intrinsically broken he is inside. This show has never really presented Don’s philandering in a good way, but there’s a pretty harsh fluorescent DMV floodlight blasting directly upon his bullshit here. Here’s a guy who hates himself, deep down.

Banging around with Midge, Rachel Menken, Bobbi Barrett, that annoying Palm Springs teenager Joy, the incredibly irritating Miss Farrell, tons of other randos like the remarkably uncomfortable elevator encounter Andrea.. he’s looking for someone or something to fix whatever the hell is wrong with him, and he plunges in hardon first. We know he’s never had a loving mother figure in his life which certainly doesn’t help.

That feeling of isolation and shame eats away at him, and he’s terrified that it’s some keystone part of his personality he can’t move past; marrying Megan was maybe a move to convince himself that it’ll be better this time around. He was unhappy while married to Betty, and you never know.. perhaps he’s right, Megan will save the day with her sunny bubbliness and her love for him. Maybe she’ll coax him and love him into fixing that part of himself. But hey, Don.. we create our own demons.

Ginsberg knocks a presentation out of the park for Butler Shoes Footwear, and natch, rattles off like a maniac about the idea of Cinderella being inherently dark; and it does make sense. Think about it– a woman with only one shoe desperately running, hobbling, to get the fuck away from a dark, imposing figure of a man. Ginzo describes the ad’s moneyshot with the chase, Cinderella’s shoe, as we see Andrea’s limp leg from under Don’s bed later.. juxtaposed against that sumptuous white carpet after he strangled her to death in his fever hallucination.

And Don frantically shoving Andrea’s body under the bed is the inverse of the oft-discussed Speck murders in this episode; instead, it’s a dead girl under the bed versus a frightened live one.

Because of Speck looming over everyone, there’s talk of people popping up at your door and what might happen. The soldier who crosses Joan’s threshold should theoretically be fulfilling a dream for her; Greg, her husband, back from Vietnam on leave, with less than a few months to go before he’s back home for good and they can be a family again.

But we all know Greg is more of a shit nightmare creep than a daydreamer’s hero. We know that he raped Joan on the floor of Don’s office. We know that he’s a wildly insecure manbaby, whom Joan married more for the expectation of a lady of her time than true love. We know that they’ve tried to make things work, with some nice moments here and there, but at the end of the day Greg is just the handsome face she settled for. Either way he’s her husband, and she’s relying on him to be home soonish and help her day to day make sense; instead, he volunteered to stay in Vietnam for another year because he feels “needed” over there. Fucking hell.

The surprise news is dumped on Joan at a classy Italian dinner with her mother and Greg’s distraught parents, immediately followed by some bro blaring an accordion to ease the tension. Last time an accordion made an appearance on this show was when Joan had to serenade a similarly uncomfortable trash dinner!

image courtesy of The New Yorker

So, Joan ditches said shitbag husband once and for all, thank fucking Christ. She has reached her limit of bullshit, and Greg and his microscopic dick can go and be Very Important(TM) in Vietnam. Good riddance, dead weight.

As the dawn of the next day arrives, it seems everyone’s waking from their nightmares, and probably none more than Joan. Don’s shit fever dream only lasts that night, whereas Joan is breaking out of one she had been living for years.

And while Don is left feeling wary of his wandering eye in the harsh light of day, Peggy is consumed with guilt and embarrassment over a split-second moment with Dawn and her cash-addled purse. And in fairness to Pegs, I feel like she was more worried about having a relative stranger in her house when she’d swindled Roger for so much cash that day (roughly $2600 in 2017 dollars!) rather than a race thing. Either way, that split second moment of hesitation with her purse on the coffee table as they said goodnight is something she can’t really bounce back from.. awkward.

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Joan lies on her bed next to her tiny baby and her mother, mulling everything over and wide awake. This isn’t the life she thought she’d have, and it’s certainly not the one she was sold, but at least she doesn’t have to worry about Greg and his bullshit Fragile Man Feelings(TM) anymore.

Can everyone break out of their bullshit? Can we ever really do that? Guess we’ll have to see.

“I mean, she’s running down this dark side street. And it’s outside a castle, so it’s got those walls and the cobblestones. And she’s running, but she’s only got this one incredible shoe for her incredible gown, so she’s hobbling, wounded prey. She can hear him behind her, his measured footsteps catching up.. she turns a corner; those big shadows.. And she’s scared. And then she feels a hand on her shoulder and she turns around. And it doesn’t matter what he looks like, he’s handsome at that moment offering her her shoe. She takes it. She knows she’s not safe, but she doesn’t care. I guess we know in the end she wants to be caught.

….See? It’s too dark.”

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