Mad Men Season 5, Episode 11 Discussion
Throughout the fifth season of Mad Men, our writers will dissect and discuss the happenings of each episode. These discussions will contain spoilers from the most recent episode. In other words, read at your own risk.
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Vinny Ginardi: Whoa.
After being disrespected and under appreciated time and time again, Peggy Olsen is leaving SCDP. While her frustration had to lead to something (just this season alone she was pushed to the side in favor of Ginsberg and Megan), I was shocked that it led to her leaving the only firm that she has ever known. Peggy’s always wanted to gain the respect that she felt she fully deserved from Don, and finally, she stopped asking nicely.
How great was their interaction? Don was clearly blindsided by Peggy’s decision and his response of “Let’s pretend I’m not responsible for every good thing that’s ever happened to you” could only reassure that she was making the right decision. Why would Peggy want to stick around if everything that she accomplished was only perceived as great because Don found her? I didn’t think Peggy would go through with leaving the company, but I think this was the final push she needed to get out the door.
Also, what does this mean for the Ken Cosgrove-Peggy Olsen pact? She didn’t seem to take it too seriously when Ken brought it up in this episode. Will Ken be out the door too? (I realize in the grand scheme of things, I am probably the only one who cares about this).
Michael Cresci: Boom! This was a fantastic episode and probably my third favorite of the season (after the Pete-centric episode, “Signal 30″ and the LSD episode, “Far Away Places”) and it accomplished a lot. Yet again, we saw Don put another nail his marriage’s inevitable coffin by acting childishly when he discovers Megan would be in Boston for 3 months if she gets the part. He can’t contemplate why she wouldn’t want to simply stay with him and enjoy being his wife.
But Vinny’s right, we should start with Peggy. I loved Peggy’s little phone call victory and it reinforced how under appreciated she is at the firm. Her realization that SDCP is a dead end was a long time coming and I loved her initial idea of taking a few meetings to prove to Don she could leave. It doesn’t even occur to her, as Freddy Rumsen (he’s back!) points out, that normal people would simply take the better offer and actually leave. Peggy’s little salary negotiation also served to remind us how likable Peggy is and that she is still actually pretty new at this despite years of experience. Not to mention the fact that she kicked some serious ass and got a big time title bump (Copy Chief) and a big time salary for a woman in the 1960′s. The highlight of all this, of course, was when she told Don. It was a powerful, masterfully written scene that Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss nailed. Don ran through the whole range of emotions from impressed to offended to high and might (“let’s pretend for a second that I’m not responsible for every good thing that’s ever happened to you”) to humbled and broken. The long moment where he kissed her hand while she fought back tears was deeply affecting and it told us so much about both characters. For Peggy, she had an almost Oedipal journey and needed to slay her father (Don) which reinforces her goal to essentially belong in a man’s world. Don on the other hand didn’t shake Peggy’s hand but went for a chivalrous hand kiss. His relationship with women has always been a focal point of the show and it’s deeply complicated. Whether Don is (literally) charming their pants off, dream murdering them, for feeding them orange sherbet, leaving them at bus stops, playing five finger fillet with them in a bathroom or giving them career opportunities they’d never know otherwise you can never quite predict what Mr. Draper will do with the women in his life next. But, as Megan wanting to go to Boston showed us, Don still feels a sense of ownership over the women in his life. Not slavery, but the older notion of chivalrous protection and belonging that he exemplifies by trying to protect Joan from whoring herself. Don wants the women in his life where he can see them, safe and keeping things the way he’s used to them.
Except Peggy is done being the protege and our protagonist once again loses a battle to the inexorable march of time.
VG: Let’s switch gears and talk about the other major focus of this episode: Joan. I think we were all probably a little surprised that Joan essentially agreed to be whored out in exchange for becoming a partner of the firm (and locking up Jaguar of course). We’ve mentioned in our discussions in the past how confident, independent, and strong of a woman that Joan used to be, but how this season she has become extremely vulnerable. Because of that, I don’t think Joan from any other season would have agreed to this type of behavior.
I think that it is pretty interesting that we saw major changes to the careers of Peggy and Joan in the same episode. They have always had a strange relationship, which was such a big part of the beginning of the series. This episode made the show feel amost cyclical in that we started the show with Joan showing Peggy the ropes to being a secretary but now we are seeing them each move up in the advertising world. Although we’ve seen both characters develop throughout these five seasons, they each are reaching their new titles because of core characteristics that we’ve always known of them. Peggy landed her new position because of her drive and ambition while Joan became a partner because of her looks. Some things never change. Wait, that line wasn’t from this episode, was it?
What did you guys think of the reactions from the partners? Obviously, Pete is a sleazeball but we already knew that. But out of everyone, Don was the only one truly against it. And was Don being against it because he felt that it was wrong or because he wanted to land Jaguar on his own?
MC: I think in some ways this wasn’t a vulnerable move on Joan’s part. It came from a vulnerable place and may not be something she is proud of but I thought she was asserting her sexuality and mystique in exchange for certain financial assurances that matter to her more because of her child. Don’t get me wrong, she was manipulated to some extent and it wasn’t really a shining moment but she used the very thing men always objectified her for (her looks) as a weapon to gaining financial security and legitimate decision making power. She kind of stood as a polar opposite of Peggy who used her long undervalued skills to remove herself from the unhealthy situation at SDCP. It was an interesting moment at the end of the episode when Joan watched Peggy walk out. There was a lot going on there.
I thought the scene with Pete approaching the partners was a highlight of the episode. I couldn’t believe how okay with it Roger seemed though it spoke to the fact that he may enjoy LSD and free love but he’s from an older age. Pete’s line about Don, “The world doesn’t stop when you leave the room,” is another of the dozens of indications that Don Draper isn’t quite who he used to be. Really that scene showed the attitude towards women among this group. More interested then is watching how the two women in this episode reacted to the realization that their male counterparts see them as means to an end.