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Worldly Distractions: Mad Men 6.4 - To Have and To Hold


crazyforkate

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I am burned out from a gruelling TESOL course this week (successfully completed, by the way), but have emerged from my semi-consciousness to bring you Mad Men’s latest. After last week’s bevy of shattering domestic moments, the “Next week on†sequence suggests that this will be an office-heavy episode, always a welcome look into the high-stakes world of advertising. And maybe we’ll even  get a real Joan story. Let’s do this.

“Previously onâ€: Don tells Sylvia he wants to stop. Peggy, quitting SCDP, thanks Don for what he has done. Pete mentions that they’re going to lose Jaguar; Joan strips naked. Back at the office, she asks for a partnership. Don mutters something about Megan being a big TV star. Stan tells Peggy about the Heinz debacle. Chaough demands that she seize the opportunity. Opening credits. Alison Brie is in this!

In Pete’s man-whore apartment, the Skeezeinator asks a client (revealed to be Heinz Ketchup Dude) about a planned change in his life. Turns out Don is there, too. He wonders how they’re going to handle the delicate situation with Heinz Baked Beans. The line “There’s prestige that comes with ketchup†is uttered. The plan – the creatives will produce some work, and it it’s good, Ketchup Dude will keep Raymond of Baked Beans in line. They’ll have to hold the presentation out of the office, of course – “We’ll get a hotel room,†says Pete, which causes every viewer to shudder.

Once he has departed, Pete and Don sit down to talk business. Only Pete, Don and Stan will be in on it. Don mentions the apartment in a way that indicates he thinks it’s kinda weird. Pete naturally bungles it, offering it to him “In case you ever need to stay in the city.†Translation: “Look at me! I’m a big boy! My (kind of ex) wife lets me do whatever I want!†Don shoots that one down pretty fast with his best quizzical look.

Dawn, Don’s secretary, meets her – sister? BFF? Something – in a diner to discuss an upcoming wedding. She complains about her job and how alone she feels and how hard everyone works her. Boo hooo, wah wah. Does this mean we’re getting a real plotline about her?

At Joan’s apartment, Gail is getting gussied up by a gorgeous blondie whose identity won’t be revealed until Joan walks in. It’s her sister, Kate! Joan has a sister? Huh? EDIT: Apparently it’s a friend. She sells Mary Kay cosmetics and has several children...and in six seasons (eight years) has not even been mentioned. Joan has dinner reservations for two, as she puts it rather pointedly, but Gail insists on home cooking so that Kate won’t be hungover for a job interview the next day. I am detecting some serious tension.

Don gets on the elevator in his building only to be confronted by Sylvia. They exchange some snotty talk, then make out and start arranging their next trysts. Seriously, have some decency, or barring that at least a little common sense. Megan or Arnold could walk in like any second. Anyway, Don’s got a ridiculous look on his face, so he’s happy.

Kate discusses why she’s transferring from Mary Kay to Avon – or more accurately, why she’s moving from Spokane to New York. Gail comments that seeing Joan’s job, she wouldn’t want all that responsibility. At least Joan manages to coax some pride out of her. Kate departs for the Waldorf, but not before Joan wishes her well and expresses some support. I really feel like more’s going to be revealed really soon. Something happened between those pals, for sure.

Harry has most ridiculously embraced the 1960’s, with his epic sideburns and nearly Elton Johnesque glasses. He’s drinking out of an ABC mug. Charming. Ken comes in ostensibly to talk business but ends up complaining about his in-laws, including his father-in-law’s involvement with napalm. Not your average family gripe there. Harry suggests that he has an idea for how to deal with them. His sycophantic secretary practically drops her panties right there.

As teasingly advertised in last week’s preview, Stan walks down a hallway. It is thrilling.

Ginsberg notices that he disappears into a room marked “private†and wonders how they can find out what’s happening. He suggests a spy cam. Bob Benson wonders about the mysterious “Project Kâ€. Jeez, guys, don’t you ever watch this show? Don arrives just in time for Benson to suck up to him (why are you even here, buddy?), but he’s just looking for Stan.

In the Secret Room of Secrets, Don chastises Stan for lighting up a joint on the job – Happy 4/20, everyone. When Stan mentions that it “clears the cobwebsâ€, he promptly takes one himself. Attaboy. They put on some music, probably so they won’t be heard, and Don looks over some food ads Stan’s using for inspiration. He launches into the kind of stoned talk every stoner in media ever uses. “A hot dog cries out for mustard.†Heh. Munchies in three seconds flat. Stan looks really confused. They decide a hot dog cries out for ketchup instead, and to order lunch. It certainly seems that Stan has proved himself at SCDP if he can get this kind of trust.

Scarlett, Harry’s secretary, asks Dawn to punch her out early so she can leave. Supposedly this has to do with another secretary’s birthday gift, but since this is Mad Men I am forced to assume that there are ulterior motives. Dawn complains yet again about how demanding Don is. Oh, Dawn, at least you don’t seem to have fallen for him. Yet.

We go to the set of Megan’s TV show. She is wearing the gaudiest maid’s uniform I have ever seen. One of the actors, Rod, comes in to tell her about a new script. He is quickly joined by an actress named Arlene, who mentions that Megan and Rod are going to have a love scene in a couple of episodes. She mentions that she thinks Megan is super talented and so does her husband (a writer). Megan is thrilled. Lots of hugging and squealing occurs. There’s only one hitch. Megan has never done a love scene before. Arlene tries to reassure her, but you can tell she’s a little bit worried. Forget her, how’s Don going to react? Eek. And of course Arlene brings it up right away, advising her to be up front. Arlene proposes that she and her husband take the Drapers out to dinner to break it gently. Dun dun DUN!

At SCDP, Whiny Meredith walks into Joan’s office to ask whether she sent Scarlett anywhere. Joan is not attuned to Scarlett’s whereabouts. A crisis appears averted when Harry walks by charming the client perfectly well. Joan gives Meredith the “fuck off†look – and then asks her to send Scarlett in as soon as she finds her. I can’t help but think this storyline is going to blow up fast.

Don comes back to his gorgeous apartment and sexy wife, both of whom are in fine shape this evening. (Megan fashion watch: Pink turtleneck and fabulous red pants. Niiice.) She butters him up with drink and the promise of a good meal, then says they should talk about things other than work. Megan, this is the way spouses announce something really terrible. You’re not putting anything past Don Draper, my dear. He is quick on the uptake, and Megan laments having such a smartly husband who can figure things out sooooo perfectly. She breaks the news of the dinner first. Don isn’t thrilled, and knows there’s more, so she brings up the love scene. Record screech.

Even though Megan insists it’s “just kissing and huggingâ€, Don is pissed. Megan tries to reassure him with the “it’s all part of my job†spiel. Nope. He says he needs to think about it. You don’t own her lips, buddy. Finally, he admits that if she was just some random actress he knew, he’d be happy for her – and he’ll put up with it even if he can’t be happy for her. Well... progress, I suppose?

Harry and Ken are buttering up Ken’s father-in-law, Ed Baxter, over all the bad publicity Dow has been receiving for napalm. Constant exposés are crippling him. SCDP and the guy from ABC  suggest a variety special with Joe Namath, lots of other stars including Julie Andrews, and Broadway music.  Dow will be “responsible for making people smile†again, distracting from the little problem with crimes against humanity. Lots of peppy commercials. It’s brilliant. Everyone starts singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy†until Baxter gives in. Harry is a genius and the shining light of SCDP. Score.

Joan shows up in front of Harry’s office (radiant blue dress, by the way) and taunts Scarlett a little about being away. As she points out, it’s very odd for Scarlett to have been away from Harry’s desk in the afternoon when she left at 6:47 PM. After explaining about the birthday gift, Scarlett thinks she is saved. Poor lamb has never dealt with Joan before, has she?

Joan descends the Fancy New Staircase only to run into Dawn (forest green dress, very Late-Sixties), who to her credit immediately gets flustered. Joan broaches the topic of the punch card, then mentions that “Scarlett told me everything.†Dawn is about to open her mouth when Scarlett runs down the stairs waving her arms in the classic “shut up†motion. Joan fires Scarlett on the spot. BOOM. Do not trifle with the Wrath of Joan.

Called away for a partners’ meeting, Joan vows to deal with Dawn later. Scarlett whines and cries to no avail. When Joan tells her that she’s embarrassing herself, she runs away as fast as her shiny white go-go boots can take her. Wow, this show looks different from Season 1. It’s almost the 70’s in some aspects of design. But it doesn’t feel like that “fake sixties†we all know so well – it looks lived in. Kudos, production team.

Harry and Ken arrive at the office bursting with their good news. On their way in they run into a crying Scarlett, who confesses the whole sorry story (eerily echoing Jane to Roger in Season 2). Next thing you know, Harry drags Scarlett back into the office and demands an apology from Joan. The Queen of Madison  Avenue is unrepentant, and laughs Harry off. He complains that he’s tired of her “petty dictatorship.†A circle of confusion surrounding the word “attached†follows. Oh, god, Harry’s not going to boink her too, is he? I thought he was still cleaning off the patchouli after his encounter with Mother Lakshmi last season. Joan says she has more important things to do and firmly puts him in his place. Translation: “I’m a partner and you’re not NEENER NEENER†(picture that with a lot more snark). Scarlett is caught between the all-powerful Joan and the desperately-trying-to-maintain-some-semblance-of-power Harry. With a malevolent glare, Joan gives in – but Harry walks right by the partners’ meeting, showing him who has truly won. Considering their history (remember Joan’s brief job as his script reader in Season 2?), it’s a real triumph on her part. Harry glares. He resembles a bull about to charge. Ken advises him to stay put. Too late.

Harry storms in and declares that he needs to defend himself (too bad they were actually talking about Project K). Awww, cute little Harry still thinks he’s the centre of the universe. Joan tries to stop him, but Roger is clearly having fun with this and lets him proceed. Ken lights a cigarette in the same manner that we get popcorn whenever a fundie posts something inflammatory. Harry recounts the Saga of Scarlett and finishes by declaring that if she goes, he goes too. Of course, he mixes it up with “it’s either me or herâ€, leading to a priceless correction from Cooper. Harry cites his brilliant television idea as evidence of his value. He complains that Joan is seen as more worthy because she’s a partner, and he’s sorry “my accomplishments happened in broad daylightâ€. Ouch. Seriously, I gasped and pushed my computer chair back when he said this. Harry, you shit. You absolute piece of shit. Joan should fire your ass and Lane should come back from the dead and give you a nice ghost beating.

Pete gets all faux-outraged about it, which is laughable. Don is still confused by what his secretary did. Harry lays down the law – he wants to join the partners from now on, because he has earned it. Seriously, dude, keep digging. The partners are stunned into silence. (It should be noted here that Roger says approximately nothing in the defence of the mother of his child, nor Don for his favourite liquor cabinet-clearing bestie.) Harry drops the mic and leaves, with a shocked Ken trailing behind him.

The partners try to reassure Joan (the word try being what’s important here, as Pete obviously fails at it) that Harry is a loser who will get approximately nowhere. Pete points out that the HRC is investigating the industry about their employment of “Negroesâ€, presumably headed off at SCDP by Dawn’s presence. She won’t be fired yet. As for Scarlett, Cooper points out that she’s probably learned her lesson by now. They get back to business. Don gives Joan a Significant Look.

At the same diner as earlier in the episode, Dawn meets her Sister-BFF-person. She complains about her day at work that she totally got herself into. Her friend thinks she’s acting like an idiot and shouldn’t trust the other secretaries. She accuses Dawn of compromising her job by being scared, but Dawn points out that the entire firm is scared. Good point -  it’s not like anyone has an easy time on Madison Avenue, though Dawn has more considerations than any of the other secretaries. But no matter what, Dawn wants to keep her job, and that means giving in on a lot of different things.

Cut to another restaurant – some kind of soda joint – where Joan and Kate are hanging out and picking up guys. It’s a little childish-seeming for a sophisticated woman like Joan, but she goes along with it. A waiter seems to be interested in them, but it turns out he’s way more into Kate than Joan. The beauty is no longer foolproof. Uh-oh. Joan is slipping. Even the greatest must say goodbye to youth, I guess – especially if their younger friends work in the beauty industry. The phone on their table rings. It’s the waiter. Joan coaches Kate through the phone call and manages to set up a meeting between the two. Gracious in defeat, as always.

Cut to Don (I keep typing Dawn) and Megan at dinner with Arlene and Mel from the soap opera. They discuss some controversial Vietnam comments from the Smothers Brothers. The discussion turns to sponsors. Don mentions that he’s against the war, which I find curious – there are very few contexts he would have mentioned that in. Is it true, or just smooth talk to win over the left-wing writer? Hmm. Don dubs satire “the most threatening humor there is.†Mel comments that he should just cast Don, though Arlene notes that he probably plays many roles already. Megan very subtly points out that the show is TOTALLY NOT CONTROVERSIAL AT ALL DON, GAWD. Mel does not get the message, talking about titillating housewives. Poke at Fifty Shades of Grey, writers? Come on, you can tell us, I’d be tempted too. Megan steers the conversation to HOW TASTEFUL MY SHOW IS DON. Mel and Arlene respond by inviting them back to their apartment for some weed – oh, and swinging.

YES.

Don looks like he’s just been stabbed in the gut with a Tabasco-coated dagger, but Megan says it sounds like fun. Double shock for Don. He gives her the “Are you fucking kidding?†look. (Side note: start a gallery of Jon Hamm’s Looks. Yum.)  They say, oh, it’s cool if you don’t smoke pot, we could just skip to the other stuff we had in mind (PSST, WE MEAN AN ORGY). Don plays dumb. Arlene explains that they like the Drapers and want to be friends, with the “come hither†in her eyes. Megan says “Us too!†super brightly, and Don is like “Um.†Mel helps out by suggesting that they get better acquainted, a “chemistry experiment†for “playâ€. They both say they have to work, and Arlene comments that she makes delicious black coffee.  Guys, I am loving this conversation way too much. Madison Avenue Don + weird artsy couple + swinging = hilarious.

The Drapers manage to stutter their way out of it, and Arlene and Mel take it graciously. I guess they of all people would know swinging’s not for everyone, and – sorry, I just rolled back to watch that conversation again. Jon Hamm’s face. I died.

The waiter, Joan and Kate all cram into a taxi headed for the Electric Circus. Swinging and a psychedelic club all in one episode? It is the sixties. Stop this, my poor heart can’t take it. Joan pretends they’re from out of town. The waiter suggests that he have a kissing contest with the two ladies. Surprisingly, both are game. Unfortunately, the waiter goes for Kate while Joan stares out the window. Every Mad Men fan feels an inexplicable rage. Suddenly, Joan’s playful adventure seems kind of...sad.

“What the hell was that?†Megan asks in the taxi with Don, summing up the viewers’ reactions perfectly. Her husband is philosophical and not taking it particularly seriously, pointing out that Mel had a good strategy, anyway. At least he’s not super pissed off. In fact, he jokes about it quite well. Megan worries that this is some elaborate form of the casting couch. Don thinks not – they’ve probably tried it with lots of people. Then Megan points out that she has to work with this couple. If anyone has expertise in this area, it’s Don, and he reassures her that it will be just fine. And the couple have been married eighteen years, so clearly they’re doing something right.

At the club, crazy colours flash and everyone gets high while some weird French music plays. The Sixties are well established. Joan looks like a time traveller in her exactly-the-same-as-season-1 dress, sipping wine and totally alone. She gives the impression of a chaperone, for heaven’s sake – she doesn’t have the “fun†image that Kate does. Frankly, all the free love just seems to piss her off.

Soon, a dude sits down between Joan and an entwined couple. His name is Johnny. They quickly begin to make out. At least she didn’t totally strike out – and Johnny looks way cooler than that dorky waiter. Go get ‘im, Joanie.

Roger and Bert discuss the upcoming election. Harry comes in for what is obviously a pre-arranged meeting. They turn to the embarrassment of recent events, after some small talk – turns out that in addition to the daughter, Harry and his wife now have twins named Nathan and Stephen, who’d have thought? Harry is suspicious, unsure what’s coming next. Roger calls Harry’s freakout “initiative†and hands him a significant cheque – seriously, I would love to earn that much in one year, let alone as a bonus – meant as a a commission on the special. Harry waits expectantly. They make it clear he’s not getting anything else. Immediately Harry is pissed off because Jooooaaaan whine whine whine...Roger and Bert cut him off. Bert gives him a dismissive put-down. Harry takes the money, but reminds them that he still thinks he deserves a partnership. He threatens to leave. Oh, Harry, when will you learn? Bert remarks that it’s the most impressive thing he’s done yet. Clearly, Harry’s not going anywhere, or at least not where he wants to go.

While watching RFK on the news, Don gets a goodbye kiss from Megan. She asks for luck at her big love scene. He gives her a much deeper kiss, and the wish, but watches her go with a forlorn look in his eyes. Don, if you weren’t such a rat I’d feel bad, but you are a major rat and you don’t own your wife. Carry on.

Joan and Kate are passed out in her bed, nursing the hangover to end all hangovers. Gail (with adorable Kevin in her arms) drags them out of the room and harangues them for good measure. Kate is tired out, but glad to have had a taste of fun. She comments on how much she admires Joan for taking risks and doing well in the big city. Joan says that she will not have a man to fall back on, for better or for worse – and the glamorous executive life Kate imagines is nowhere near reality. Still, I think she has a much better view of her life than she did the night before, and those feelings of inferiority to Kate? Gone.

Don pitches to Heinz Ketchup, with Stan’s help. The setup: a blank white canvas with a picture of food on it. It’s incomplete. What’s missing? The ketchup, of course. A cellophane cover is pulled over with Pass the Heinz on it. The execs are not impressed. Don rambles about imagination, but they are convinced it’s not finished. They decide to think about it. SCDP is in the race if not in the lead.

On the way out, Don runs into Peggy, clearly pitching for CGC. She looks away, but Chaough gives them the smirkiest smirk ever smirked. They’re in control, and Don’s protégé is blooming somewhere else. Awkward greetings are exchanged. Pete grows the bitchface again, and Stan looks completely furious. While the other two head for the elevator, Don eavesdrops on the pitch.

Peggy starts with the difference between catsup and ketchup. Competitors are selling a gross imitator by claiming it’s just as good as ketchup. Peggy pulls out the Don quote “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation.†Outside, Don shakes his head. The look on his face is somewhere between pride and horror. The ad is minimalist – white with simple black lettering – but the Heinz bottle is there, captioned with Heinz. The Only Ketchup. Peggy knocks it out of the park. It’s done.

Joan walks into SCDP, hungover and with her hair in a jaunty ponytail. She notices Go-Go Boot Scarlett and a contrite Harry. Dawn, wearing a most excellent grey jacket-plaid kilt combo, trembles at her approach. She asks for a word, only to get Joan’s best eyebrow-raise in response. After a halting apology for the Saga of Scarlett, Dawn offers to dock her own pay for the missed hours. Though Joan is still pissed, she recognizes that Dawn essentially has her heart in the right place. She sends her to clean out what is evidently a very gross supply closet as punishment. Dawn comments that it doesn’t matter who hates her at SCDP, as long as she has Joan’s respect. A ghost of a smile crosses Joan’s face as she says, “We’ll see.†God, Christina Hendricks can act the crap out of a scene.

Don, Stan and Pete commiserate over a post-failed pitch drink. Suddenly, Peggy and the CGC contingent walk in. Chaough is obnoxious once again as he tells them that J. Walter Thompson won the pitch. Peggy’s brilliance hasn't quite paid off. Pete goes into a minor tantrum. Ken appears to scream at Pete for being careless with Heinz, because now Raymond of Baked Beans is in a state and has withdrawn his business. Ken is furious because they left him out of it, the rest of them are in poor spirits, CGC politely looks away. Don storms out. Pete whines that it was totally worth the risk you guys. Everyone onscreen and off mentally wills him to shut up. Peggy gives Stan a smile, and he gives her the finger, but I don’t think their friendship is dead. It's business, right?

On the incredibly garish set of Megan’s show, the love scene is in progress. Megan is the cute innocent maid being hit on by the dashing lead character. They fall into a passionate embrace on the bed. Meanwhile Don lurks in the shadows. He is decidedly not impressed. Hypocrite. The scene gets steamier. Arlene sneaks up behind him, and comments that Don likes to watch. Ech, gross, go away you crazy lady. The scene ends. Megan brightly runs up to her husband expecting praise, and gets a cold glare instead. Ouch. Don, you rat. Arlene loves it, no surprise. He offers to “keep Megan company†while she gets changed, which is presumably code for “scream at her like a hypocriteâ€. It’s not like he’s screwing the neighbour or anything, after all.

Megan and Don argue. She’s annoyed that he showed up at all, and thinks he’s being a) pervy and B) controlling. He pretty much calls her a prostitute. Ugly. Just plain ugly. She wails that he’s ruining her career and never cared until now. He leaves her with a taunt about the “open-minded†Mel and Arlene, leaving Megan in tears. Can we just say here that Don is an awful, awful person? Because I don’t think that gets stressed enough.

Don picks up a penny from the corridor floor, the code Sylvia devised to let him know that Arnold was on call, then knocks. She lets him in but is pissed that he didn’t show up earlier. Okay, so it’s cool for Don to cheat, but not cool for Megan to kiss someone she’s not even involved with? Sure. Don asks her to take off the cross around her neck, then suggests that when he leaves she should “Get down on your knees and pray for absolution.†She says she prays for him to find peace. SERIOUSLY, writers. That is not Mad Men subtlety. He takes off her cross, they screw. Another Mad Men episode done with, and where was Alison Brie?

I will leave this now as I am very tired, but suffice to say that Mad Men does not do bad episodes. I would not call this a standout, or even the best of this season so far, but it got the job done. We finally got a Joan storyline – and at long last Dawn had more than three lines – and Peggy and Don briefly interacted. It was well worth exploring, and even if the rest of the episode had been pure dreck, let’s face it- the swinger scene made it all worthwhile. Welcome to the Sixties.

 

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