AMC’s Mad Men: Episode 511 “The Other Woman”

It’s 1967, a whole new year for the Mad Men crew, and nothing seems to be more important to the SCDP staff than landing their first big automotive contract in the form of that elusive beast; Jaguar. There are so many people working on the Jaguar pitch that characters we’ve never seen are coming out of the woodwork. Seriously, there are two extra guys in the room with Ginsberg, Stan, Cosgrove and Draper working on the pitch that I can’t ever remember seeing before. The elusive perfect pitch line is not coming easy for anybody but as we soon learn their sale may depend on an altogether different type of pitch. It’s not mentioned lightly that the “car people” are a bunch of sleazeballs, and it quickly comes to the forefront that the lynchpin of the Jaguar deal has a proposition that he says will seal the deal; Joan. If it had been anyone but Pete Campbell taking the meeting you might imagine that the deal would end right there. In fact if it was Don taking the meeting he might have hit the guy right in the face even in the middle of the restaurant. Pete however not only has the nerve to bring it up with Joan, but also to follow-up with a partners meeting to see how much they can raise to bribe her. Thus begins one of the elements of this weeks major theme: upward mobility of the 1960’s woman.

For Joan, who has an absentee husband who is divorcing her, a young child and nagging mother at home, and 13 years invested in the firm as a secretary, the opportunity of hitting a huge payday for a night of her services provides too much of a temptation. Lane, who is still freaking out about bonuses and the money he embezzled, has convinced Joan that her best bargaining chip is a 5% stake in the company, becoming a minor partner as opposed to a lump payoff. While certainly good advice for her long-term security, it is ultimately underhanded of Lane as he is also highly concerned that if he uses the $50,000 extension to bribe her, he won’t get his bonus and will be found out. It turns out that there “Will be no bonuses this year!” as Cooper booms so it seems like Lane’s fraudulence will be somehow linked to the season finale. Joan’s whole encounter with the sleazy salesman is handled with typical Mad Men brilliance, as we are treated to a bookended scene of Don’s efforts to keep Joan from prostituting herself. In the middle of the bookends we see Don making the sales pitch of the unattainable, which has become attainable (the Jaguar) crosscut with the unattainable (Joan) who has become attainable for a price and the metaphor is complete.

Two of the other women in Don’s life are also making their way forward as best they can. Don and Megan continue their domestic power struggle as Megan’s successful casting call gives her an opportunity to be in a play which is being staged in Boston. The thought of Megan being away for three months ignites the internal conflict of Don’s wish for his wife’s success coupled against his desire for her to be at home in the traditional sense. Megan, in her fiery way, recognizes this and accuses Don of not having thought of her leaving because he never believed she would succeed. Don, as he also proved with Joan, is at heart a good person who wants whats best for the people he cares about comes around to make peace with Megan and her dreams. Megan ultimately doesn’t get the part, and similarly to Joan is herself judged as a sexual pawn as she is ogled and asked simply “to step forward and turn around” in her second casting call.

Lastly we get to this week’s developments with Peggy Olson. It has been a long time coming that Peggy has been feeling more and more neglected, jaded and under appreciated at SCDP. Similarly to Pete Campbell copying Don’s lecherous past, Peggy is also following in the footsteps of her idol and doing what she thinks he would have done. The pact between Peggy and Ken Cosgrove to move on together has been mentioned frequently in the past weeks episodes, and Peggy has flirted with other advertising companies in the past, but the day that no one ever thought was really going to happen has come. After lunching with former Sterling Cooper salesman Freddy Rumsen, Peggy gets herself a meeting with Don’s arch-rival in ‘Cutler, Gleason, and Shaw’ who butters her bread and makes her an exceptionally attractive offer. 

As we learn from Peggy’s heart-wrenching dialogue with Don as she gives her notice, it’s not about the money. Don initially thinks she’s making a power play to get her much deserved raise, but quickly realizes that what Peggy really wants is to make a name for herself out from under the shadow of Don Draper and to further become the model of a self-made woman. Hopefully for Mad Men viewers Peggy doesn’t make herself a stranger as she promises to Don as she is one of the more enjoyable Mad Men characters.

Notably absent from this weeks stories of the burgeoning Women’s Lib movement is Betty Draper. This is because like her counterpart Trudy Campbell, an increasingly rare Alison Brie appearance, Betty is still a throwback to the 1950’s housewife who has built her life around being a debutant and keeping her efforts on the home front. Unlike Trudy however Betty doesn’t seem to relish in it, and will likely experience more conflict between being a housewife or a professional in the Mad Men future.

Overall this was another example of Mad Men at it’s best, interweaving multiple story lines with social commentary in a seamless and cinematically beautiful way. It’s sad to say that there are only two episode of Mad Men left this season so enjoy it while it lasts. Hopefully these last two weeks will be as amazing as this one.

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