After last week’s merger with McCann-Erickson, on last night’s Mad Men the characters experienced some growing pains atop the corporate ladder. The world of McCann is defined by chauvinistic ambition and there are three times as many executives to watch out for. This was an especially moody episode, with lightly surreal moments that ranged from deliberately stilted to incredibly candid, and felt as carefully controlled as the show’s best episodes.
THE FIRST (AND LAST?) CREATIVE MEETING AT MCCANN.
Don settles into his rather insulated new office, which lacks the spacious windows and general amount of sunlight of his old one. A meeting with CEO Jim Hobart and “Ferg” Donnelly shows him exactly what he’s in for at McCann: a philosophy of entitlement in every aspect of the business, whether it’s a gift from Conrad Hilton, a sudden acquisition of Miller Beer account, and the promise of no-hassle dinner reservations and parking tickets. “I’m Don Draper from McCann Erickson,” he says as a pretend introduction, but something just doesn’t fit. In his first creative meeting, there are about 20 executives standing around, eating roast beef box lunches and leafing through spiral notebooks with the day’s proposals. “Is this every creative director in the agency?” “It’s only half of us,” Ted replies. As he intuits the passionless, inside-baseball tone of the meeting, Don’s attention span takes a flight of fancy when he sees a plane outside the conference room window, and leaves the room. They don’t need him where they’re going.
DON AND BETTY HAVE A MOMENT
Don goes to Betty’s place to pick up Sally and drive her to school but finds he’s too late. Still, he finds his ex-wife reading Freud’s Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria in the kitchen—lest we forgot she is not a graduate student in psychology. Betty looks as happy and confident as ever, because as she explains, this is exactly what she wants to be doing. “I’m younger than you, always have been, always will be,” she says as Don rubs her shoulders. She clearly still loves him, but she’s made a life on her own terms. Is Betty’s literature assignment this a harbinger of Don’s pull toward unstable women? Perhaps he would get something out of it. Regardless of subtext, it was a treat to hear him call her “Birdy” again for the first time in years.
DON GOES TO FIND DIANE
Don drives to Racine, Wisconsin to find Diane. He shows up at Diane’s old house, where he meets her ex-husband’s new wife, and invents a role for himself as a salesman from Miller beer, who is coming to give Diane her prize. There’s a spooky reveal of Diane’s daughter on the stairs when she opens the door to invite him in, which gave the impression that Don is walking into a rabbit hole. “Are you looking for my mother? Anything she needs can go through me,” she says. As Don continues to make small talk with the wife, the husband comes home and immediately sees through Don’s ruse. “You think you’re the first one to come up here? She’s a tornado with a pile of dead bodies behind her.” As a devout Christian, the husband tells Don that Diane is “with the Devil”, and that only Jesus can save her now. The next day, Don picks up a hitchhiker, and is headed to Saint Paul, Minnesota. He’s not going back to work any time soon.
JOAN IS SEXUALLY HARASSED OUT OF THE OFFICE.
A former partner at SC&P, Joan is assigned to work on her accounts with Dennis at McCann, but he sabotages the first call and is thoroughly unprepared for the job. She gets short with him, and he bluntly retorts: “Who told you you had the right to get pissed off?” This is only the beginning of Joan’s experience of sexism in her new work environment—a problem she attempts to overcome. “I thought you were going to be fun,” he says, and storms out. When Ferg Donnelly meets with Joan to size up the situation, he takes Dennis’ side, but offers to help Joan out—all while being totally creepy and vaguely threatening. “Let’s get to know each other.” The causally shady new man in Joan’s life suggests that she can either go to court or “hire a guy” to take care of the situation. But she prefers to deal with things head-on. She meets with head honcho Jim Hobart. “I don’t care about your SC&P partnership,” he says bluntly, and insists that she get with the program. Joan matches him by threatening to get the ACLU behind her: “I suppose it’ll be difficult to find a reporter who wants to embarrass you this deeply.” He offers her a severance package that is half of what she is owed by the company, and she refuses. But Roger convinces her that it’ll be easier if she just takes the money. Is this truly the end of Joan’s advertising career, or will she make a name for herself elsewhere before the series’ end?
PEGGY AND ROGER.
Peggy is still going to her desk at the all-but-destroyed SC&P offices out of pride. “I am a copy supervisor. I am not setting foot there until I get my office.” She is waiting until McCann gives her the time and space she deserves in her position. On the afternoon she’s set to move into her new office, she hears ominous organ music coming from afar: it’s Roger, of course. The both of them hang out, reminisce, share a bottle of Vermouth and have more on-screen speaking time together in this episode than in the rest of the series combined—and it’s delightful. He plays a rag on the organ as she roller skates around the empty offices. He gives her Bert Cooper’s copy of the ubiquitous painting “Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife”, which she feels confident enough to put in her new office. The next afternoon, she enters McCann-Erickson with sunglasses and a lit cigarette, not giving a fuck. Let’s hope she’s able to promote some kind of institutional change from within, a fight that Joan was forced to give up.