This week on Mad Men, Don Draper was a hypocrite, Harry clashed with Joan, Project K came to fruition, we were promised Joe Namath in a straw hat, and we got guest stars like Ray Wise and Substitute Aquaman Ted McGinley. Let’s get into this week’s episode, “To Have and to Hold”.
This episode makes a nice thematic follow-up to last week. Previously, Pete Campbell finally started to feel the consequences of infidelity (By the way, the credits listed Alison Brie as a guest star this week. We were lied to!), and this week the whole agency got smacked down for going around behind a client’s back. In fact, how great is it that the episode opened with Don, Pete, and Heinz Ketchup Tim having a secret meeting in Pete’s secret Sex Condo? No good can come of that place!
I’m honestly surprised that Don pursued the ketchup account. In the past, he’s been the one who goes to bat for the established client. Remember his loyalty to Mohawk Air? Project K would almost make more sense for Pete and Roger, but Don’s not the same guy he used to be. A year or two ago, I wouldn’t have bought it, but this is just more evidence that Don’s already shaky moral center has deteriorated further. Once again, I’m left wondering what happened since last season. I’m still kind of surprised that he’s cheating on Megan, but his new business ethics are the real evidence to me that something major happened since Season Five ended. We still don’t even know how he answered the “are you alone” question, you know? Where’s your head at these days, Don?
Of course, their pitch was really solid – I thought maybe Don had lost his mojo after the Royal Hawaiian campaign, but “Pass the Heinz” was a good campaign. Although it might be worth noting that just like the Royal Hawaiian pitch, the client is left wondering about what isn’t in the ad. The missing vacationer, the missing ketchup – I don’t know if that’s intentional, but I keep thinking about it. We’ve either got Don repeatedly experimenting with the storytelling equivalent of negative space, or else Matthew Weiner wants us to think of Don as a man who’s missing something. Two pitches so far this season, and they both involve some sense of loss. I repeat my earlier question about the location of Don’s head these days.
And when Don’s crew runs into Peggy’s group outside the hotel room, I have to wonder if it’s the first time they’ve seen one another since last season. The way Don stays behind to listen to her pitch is kind of sweet – he still thinks of her as a protégé. And just look at his reaction when he hears “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation”. That’s exactly what he said to her before he wrote the tobacco letter. Peggy’s using his own words to compete with him, which is really kind of a Don Draper move. I really like Jon Hamm’s reaction here – he seems hurt when he hears those words. He’s not proud of Peggy for learning a lesson and applying it. To me it seems like that was something they shared between them, and not something that was meant to be parroted at a pitch. That’s my read on it, at least. I’m not sure Don and Peggy are all that clear themselves on what their relationship is these days.
When both losing firms show up at the same diner (J. Walter Thompson got the account – Myndi had to explain this to me because I thought “J. Walter Thompson. Bought it in the room,” meant that JWT was a Heinz executive who bought it right there. I was incorrect.), there are two immediate consequences. First off, Stan is pissed. And he’s right to be – it goes against almost everything I believe to take Stan’s side over Peggy’s, but she betrayed him. I don’t know how their friendship developed after Peggy left, though in the glimpses we’ve seen, it seems to be an important relationship for both of them. (Peggy is not great at making friends. Especially not friend with jobs.) It really seemed like Peggy looked forward to those calls from Stan, and I don’t see him trusting her again.
The other consequence is that this news gets back to Raymond immediately, and he pulls his business. Now, I’d virtually guarantee that it was Ted who let Raymond know what was going on, so this is also kind of on Peggy. (Don is right to hate that guy!) Now, it seems like SCDP is on more solid financial footing, so the loss of Heinz (vinegar, sauces, and beans) isn’t going to lead to layoffs, but it’s still a big hit for them to take. And you know when Ken Cosgrove has the moral high ground, you’ve pretty seriously screwed up. If Don puts two and two together, Stan’s going to have a lot to answer for. We might be headed for a Don vs. Peggy blowout sooner rather than later.
Last week, Alison Brie (who has now come up twice even though she’s not in the episode) was on Speakeasy (Paul F. Tompkins’ YouTube show), and she mentioned that she only gets her script pages, so she actually doesn’t know what Pete’s up to until she sees the episode. As Myndi noted, that means Rich Sommer probably gets a page every other week for most of the season. He might not even know that Don got remarried! But this week, Harry Crane got to be awesome. And also an ass. The two definitely go hand in hand.
Harry’s a guy who is often undervalued, probably due to his lack of social skills. He’s kind of a dope, but he’s the one who realized they needed a TV department. He’s actually good at his job, despite his personal failings, and as we saw with the Joe Namath special this week, he’s really good at putting out fires on his own. He’s almost the Hurley of this show, in a way. But let’s be honest – he’s never going to make partner. It doesn’t matter what he contributes, he’s always going to be kind of a joke to guys like Bert and Roger.
And we know full well that Joan deserves to be partner (on her merit), Harry and Ken are always going to see her as an ascended secretary. What I find interesting when Harry bursts into the meeting is that he mentions Joan got her promotion for unsavory reasons. But would Harry know the specifics? Jaguar Herb is not good at keeping his fat dumb mouth shut, but would he really let people know that he bribed Joan into sleeping with him? I’m thinking there are probably rumors flying around the company about why Joan made partner – it seems to be fairly well known that she and Roger had a thing, and I always kind of imagine that people assume she’s sleeping with Don. So I don’t think that the rank-and-file knows about the Jaguar awfulness, but you know how rumors fly.
The scene when Harry gets his commission check and then still demands a partnership makes me so happy. I’ve got a soft spot for Harry, even when he’s being an ass. Those moments when he stands up for himself are always gratifying, and I love that Bert was actually impressed by him. Those two have had such a weird relationship, going back to Bert’s abstract painting in Season One, and I love their interactions. Whether this is the beginning of an arc for Harry or if he’ll fade into the background immediately remains to be seen.
And with this episode, I really noticed how different the show looks than it used to – the fashion and design aesthetic of 1968 is not the same as 1960, and we’re really seeing those changes in the design of SCDP. While most of the main characters remain untouched by changing fashions, the secondary and tertiary characters are showing off flashier colors and crazier facial hair. This week in particular, it seemed like the colors were really popping off the screen. Somebody better get an Emmy for that!
This has to mark one of the first times in the history of this show where the rakish charms of Jon Hamm and the savvy business moves of his counterpart, Don Draper, could not overpower my anger at the character. The way Don treated Megan from start to finish this week made me really hate Don for the first time. I realize I may be in the minority in taking this long to hate the character, but I blame that on my equal distaste for Betty in the early seasons and the fact that since he’s been single and then with Megan, we haven’t seen him quite like this. He’s a complete jerk who can’t resist screwing things up, even when he knows better. Look at how he tells Sylvia–again–that he wants to stop their affair. She is clearly lonely (husband who’s never home, son off at school) and he’s taking advantage of that. His upbringing in the brothel obviously shaped his worldview in ways we never knew until now (last week, he tossed her a wad of cash, this week it was the penny under the mat that symbolized the exchange of goods & services) and has had a huge impact of how he sees women and their place in the world. The double standard that existed in the era only helped him rationalize his actions further.
He can sleep with whomever he wants, but for Megan, it’s tantamount to prostitution to even do a fairly chaste love scene on a soap opera and get paid for merely simulating passion. And, come to think of it, now we know why he lobbied so hard for Joan not to sleep with Herb for a partnership; it wasn’t just because of their friendship, it was because she was on another plane for him. This was a woman he actually respected and even feared a bit, so much so that he never even made a casual pass at her, and now she was going to debase herself like every other female he’d ever encountered. And, man, did he clutch his proverbial pearls when Mel, the TV producer, and his actress wife Arlene (played by “Jump The Shark” patron saint Ted McGinley and former soap actress Joanna Going), suggested a four way. That was a couple ahead of their time, huh? Maybe they can have a spinoff set about five years ahead of this season? Key parties and smoking grass galore! Don casts aspersions on everyone else’s sexual preferences and adventures even as he has a torrid affair. He doesn’t for a minute blame himself for his actions. He’s got it in his head that he’s a bastard who can’t help himself, and part of him is absolutely correct. But, it doesn’t make him any less of a hypocrite.
I continue to really like Megan, and root for her. Heck, I even root for her and Don, because I think if there is anyone in the world that can make him change, it would be her. She knows about Dick Whitman, she knows about his temper, she knows about the string of women before they were married. Wouldn’t it be interesting for him get caught and how that would play out? He’s played it too close to home before (Sally’s teacher), but now, he’s cheating in the building. We saw what happened when Pete got busted already, and Trudy barely knew that woman. Megan’s actually confided in Sylvia and considers her a friend, while Don also charted new territory by making friends with the spouse of his mistress (again, Pete last year with Howard, even though Howard was already cheating when Pete nailed Beth for the first time). This can really only end badly. The question is simply how and when. Sylvia doesn’t seem interested in ending the affair or her marriage; Don is clearly adding that passion to her life that she’s been missing. What is she giving him, really? We’ve only seen them in bed and acting like a bickering old married couple at a restaurant. What intrigues Don about this Manhattan housewife? Most of previous paramours have been much more complex forbidden fruit.
And then there’s Joan. She’s still not being valued the way she thought she would be after her promotion; it’s clear she’s still seen as an office manager and not a partner in the truest sense. She gets a jolt from the visit of an old friend (their history isn’t fleshed out, but she clearly knows Joan’s mom, so they must go back a ways) who admires her executive status on Madison Avenue. What Kate can’t believe is that Joan is just as impressed by her ascension through the ranks at Mary Kay and the interview she has withAvon. The two head out on the town, and married Kate proceeds to make out with a diner manager who joins them at a downtown nightclub while Joan, bored, sips her drink on the end of the couch. Before too long, though, she is also macking on a random guy who pays her the right complement at a vulnerable moment. The next morning, the two wake up wearing the same clothes and smudged mascara from the night before. Both realize they aren’t 20 anymore. Kate also realizes she isn’t Joan, who can’t understand why anyone would want that horrible fate. But, without even realizing it, her words of encouragement may embolden Joan once and for all. When Joan’s mom pops in with Kevin and announces they’ll have to bathe him because she’s got to run out for an hour, it seems to click in that this is her life now, and she can still make it pretty great.
The first step on that journey is to let go of what she’s always known best; running the office, managing every last detail of the secretarial pool, right down to time cards and the supply room. She hands those duties off to a surprised Dawn, who is clearly afraid of Joan, as it seems most of the girls in the office are. When we see Dawn meet her engaged friend at a diner and bitch about work, we can’t help but laugh at this: “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.” She even mentions Lane’s suicide, which you know has to spook so many of the staff daily. Is Lane’s office in use? I hope not. Then again, what the hell do you do if your company has an office in which someone hung himself? Not sure there’s a good way to handle that scenario. Dawn was afraid she’d be fired for clocking out Harry’s secretary hours after she’d actually left for the day, but choosing to stand her ground got her rewarded instead. Speaking of Scarlett, who was pretty spunky, what are the odds Harry’s sleeping with her? He’s very invested in keeping her, and she seems way more enamored with him (“Harry’s got a lot of ideas!”) than most people are. I still think Harry’s going to come out a big winner when all is said and done, at least from a career standpoint.
So maybe Dawn will be the new Peggy in the sense that she will rise through the secretarial ranks to a position of prominence never before held by a black person at the firm. Which begs the question: will SCDP ever hire any black males? It might not fly in accounts, but you know Stan and Ginsberg would have no problem welcoming a black guy to the creative team.