Mad About Those ‘Mad Men’ Women
Sunday’s episode of AMC’s Mad Men at 10 p.m. ET gets us even closer to the season finale — but last week’s episode got us closer to the three women at the heart of this year’s stories…
In the May 27 episode titled “The Other Woman,” which series creator Matthew Weiner co-wrote with Semi Chellas, the most controversial story line involved Christina Hendricks’ Joan Harris, who was singled out by one of the clients for a pivotal and lucrative potential Jaguar account as a coveted sexual prize. The client’s request was as bold and blatant as it was offensive: Arrange for an intimate evening with the curvy redhead, and it would go a long way to securing the contract wit Jaguar — pending, of course, a winning advertising pitch as well.
Each of the men at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce reacted differently to the possibility, from the pimp-like enthusiasm of Vincent Karheiser’s Pete Campbell to the indignant refusal by Jon Hamm’s Don Draper. In the end, though, it was Jared Harris’ Lane Pryce who had the most impact, counseling Joan on how to turn the moment into a small partnership share in SCDP.
So, cross-cut with a scene of Don pitching the Jaguar executives the morning after, giving a pitch about unattainable beauty, we saw Joan, the evening before, staring straight ahead as the lecherous client unzipped her dress and got his wish.
But when Jaguar finally called with the news they’d accepted the firm’s pitch, Joan was in a new power position, listening on a conference call with the advertising firm’s other partners. After 13 years of hard work, Joan traded one night of sex for a substantial promotion.
Don’s wife, Megan (Jessica Paré), faced a life-changing moment, too — a callback as a finalist for a Broadway show, the out-of-town previews for which would have taken her to Boston for more than a month, had she won the role. Don was furious about that, Megan attended the callback anyway — but didn’t get the job.
What we saw, though, was just part of her audition, as a trio of leering guys asked her to turn around and walk closer to them.
She did that. But the inference is that she didn’t do much else — did not, in other words, lower her moral standards as Joan had. And, hence, did not manage to move forward on merit alone.
Ah, but Peggy Olson did.
Elisabeth Moss, as the secretary-turned-copywriter, got a job offer a from former colleague to jump ship — at a salary more than she was asking, and with a better title. Peggy, tired by the male-dominated nonsense at SCPD, decided to take the offer — which Don misread as a well-timed negotiation ploy for a raise, then reacted with disbelief, then angrily told his former protégé she needn’t give the customary two weeks’ notice.
Yet when Peggy stuck out her hand to the seated Don to say goodbye, he held and kissed it instead — holding the hand, and the gesture, for so long (see photo at top of column) that Peggy fought back tears.
The best moment, though, was saved for last. As the rest of the firm popped champagne and celebrated the Jaguar account, Joan — the one most responsible, perhaps, for landing that accout — was the only person to notice that Peggy had packed a box of stuff and was heading for the elevator.
The final shot had Peggy waiting for the elevator, and as it arrived, turning what could have been a bittersweet moment into a saucy moment of triumph. Just before entering the elevator, Peggy flashed a cocky, thrilled-with-herself smile — as the soundtrack played the Kinks’ jubilant “You Really Got Me.”
Joan, to get where and what she wanted, had to sacrifice something very personal. Megan, by refusing to sacrifice, didn’t get there.
But Peggy — on talent and perseverance alone — made the cut, and the grade, and ascended to the next level.
You really got me, Peggy — with that final smile.