Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mad Men Episode 5-11: The Other Woman

Recap: This episode shows several characters making moves to get something they dearly want, even at a high cost, and often playing hardball to get it. The SCDP execs learn that Herb, an executive at Jaguar, will see that SCDP gets Jaguar’s business if they will arrange for Herb to spend a night with Joan. Don, wanting to protect Joan from this indignity and to show that Creative can win the account on its own merit, says no and insists that Jaguar doesn’t need Herb’s vote to make their final decision. Don walks out of the executive meeting and in his absence, the other four continue to discuss the proposal, ultimately being deemed by Pete to be “in agreement.”

With the goal of getting the Jaguar account at any cost, Pete meets with Joan and informs her of the situation, offending her further by suggesting that she will receive a large sum of money as compensation, like a prostitute. Pete instructs Lane to take out a loan to cover the cost. Lane, realizing he cannot do so because he recently sought a large loan that the rest of the execs don’t know about, and wanting desperately to keep his job and not get caught, approaches Joan and suggests that she should not ask for money but rather for 5% of the company profits along with full partner voting rights, thus ensuring her ability to earn enough money to raise her son in the coming years. Joan, humiliated to learn that all the partners heard about and discussed Herb’s indecent proposal, and repulsed by the idea of selling herself, yet wanting very much to be able to provide well for her son without Roger’s financial support, agrees to the arrangement and meets Herb at a hotel room to do the unsavory deed. Don later learns of the agreement of the other partners and makes an immediate trip to Joan’s apartment to tell her personally that she doesn’t have to do it; however, by that time, Joan has already returned from the sexual encounter. At Joan’s apartment, Don briefly meets Joan’s mother, Gail, but doesn’t know who she is.
Don’s pitch to Jaguar involves suggesting, but not saying directly, that men see a Jaguar as “the other woman” – expensive, beautiful, and fast, but risky, impractical, and impossible to control. His ad campaign, developed by Mike, was: “Jaguar – at last, something beautiful you can truly own.”
Meanwhile, Mike, Ken, and Harry are supposed to have a conference call with a potential client, Chevalier Blanc, but Mike is absent so Peggy sits in as his supervisor. When the client rejects the ad campaign Mike proposed, Peggy dreams up a similar but different concept involving Lady Godiva and the client loves it. After the trio informs Don of their successful phone call, Don assigns the work to Mike, not to Peggy, and insults Peggy for wanting to remain on the account by throwing money at her and telling her to go to Paris on her own if that’s what she wants. Clearly, Don has no idea what Peggy wants, which seems to involve respect for her work, seniority over Mike, and a closer mentoring relationship with Don. After Don’s insult, Ken comes to Peggy’s office to lend his support, but Peggy rejects his friendship and pact idea, saying, “Suddenly we all care about each other?”
On the personal front, Pete tells Trudy that, if SCDP gets the Jaguar account, he will have to get an apartment in Manhattan. However, Trudy is forceful in refusing to agree to that arrangement. Joan wants her mother, Gail, to get the refrigerator fixed by calling the married building super, Apollo, and it is revealed that Gail has had a heavy flirtation or an affair with him. Megan announces possible travel plans to Boston for three months if she gets the acting role she wants, and tells Don she hopes he will visit her on weekends. Don is shocked at this but agrees that, if she gets the part, she should take it. After Megan auditions for the part and gets a call-back, she looks uncomfortable when the three men assessing her at the call-back ask her to turn around, as if they were evaluating her body and not her acting talent. Although we don’t see the remainder of that meeting, we later see Megan telling Don that she didn’t get the part, and that if she has to choose between acting and Don, she will choose him but also hate him for it.
Gradually, Peggy realizes she will never get the respect and treatment from Don that she deeply longs for, so she has a coffee shop meeting with her old friend Freddy Rumson and seeks his advice. Freddy expresses confidence in her talent and advises her to move on to another company, adding that this is what Don would advise her to do, were he not involved. At the end of the episode, Peggy gives her notice to Don. Don offers her more money, but when she rejects the offer, Don kisses her hand and displays a sense of loss, feeling especially sorry for himself when he learns that his old rival Ted Chaough will be Peggy’s new boss. Peggy leaves the office just as the company celebrates the new Jaguar account, and she appears happy to be moving forward.

A prominent theme of this episode is men wanting to own and control women as “things” that can be bought (or at least rented), and being frustrated when they can’t do so.

·         Herb offers SCDP the promise of winning the Jaguar account if they will “rent” Joan to him so that he can control her for one night.

·         The SCDP execs offer Joan a good enough financial reward to give up her personal dignity in the interest of securing the Jaguar account. Ultimately, it’s her choice, but by offering her a 5% partnership, they, in return, give up total male control of SCDP, which is likely to frustrate them in the future.

·         Don tries to control Peggy by throwing money at her when she wants to be assigned to the Chevalier account, and later by offering her a raise when she gives notice that she’s leaving SCDP. He is visibly frustrated that she leaves anyway.

·         Don deeply wants to control Megan but also wants her to be happy; this puts him in the position of feeling frustrated with her when she says she may need to travel to Boston for several weeks. After Megan scolds him for underestimating her acting talent and potential for success, Don responds by yelling back at her, “Just keep doing whatever the hell you want!” – as if he feels insulted because he can’t control her.

·         Although it was just a faint suggestion, when asking Megan to turn around, the three men at the call-back audition appear to look at Megan as a potential “piece of meat” for their consumption, a meal they might be willing to pay a high price to enjoy; since Megan reports to Don that she didn’t get the part, it’s possible that she refused to prostitute herself to get it.

A second theme involves diverse loves that include the love of something other than a person, where a choice must be made.

·         At the presentation, Don paints a picture of men leafing through a Playboy magazine, passing up the images of flesh to gaze upon the image of a Jaguar, essentially preferring something beautiful they can own to something beautiful they’ll never completely own.

·         Megan loves Don but she also loves the theater; as she told Don late in the episode, if she had to choose between acting and him, she’d choose him but she’d hate him for it.

·         Pete loves Trudy and the family life, but he also has a love affair with Manhattan, which Trudy tries unsuccessfully to squelch.

·         Peggy loves working for Don, but she also loves her career and ultimately is forced to choose between the two; fortunately, she makes the growth-oriented choice.

·         Roger still loves Joan (probably), but he also loves getting new business and making money; ultimately he sadly and reluctantly goes along with offering Joan up to Herb in order to get the Jaguar account.

Finally, a pervasive theme is people misjudging the character of others. For example:

·         Kenny misjudges Peggy, not realizing that she has become cynical about office relationships thanks to Don’s mistreatment of her. When Ken tells her “I’ll get us both out of here,” Peggy rudely scolds, “You and your stupid pact; save the fiction for your stories.” Ken suddenly realizes that Peggy is not the person he thought she was, and he immediately leaves the room.

·         Peggy misjudges Ken, a true friend whose friendship and career alliance she rejects because she doesn’t believe he will be willing and/or able to come through with any meaningful help. Considering Kenny’s family connections and past behavior, she’s wrong about that.

·         Pete misjudges Joan when he first meets with her and asks her for advice on how to break it to the partners that they’re going to lose the Jaguar account simply because Herb “wants something very unorthodox.” His language shows that he thinks he can fool Joan, but she sees right through him and knows he’s asking her to sleep with Herb.

·         Joan misjudges Lane, mistaking him for an honest man when he informs her that all the other executives – Roger, Bert, Don, and Pete – are on-board for having her sleep with Herb.

·         Joan’s new depth of disgust for Roger (after Lane said they all voted for her to sleep with Herb) is another misjudgment because Roger was not really “for” the indecent arrangement.  When Pete shocks the executives with Herb’s proposal, Roger appears dismayed and says, “I hope you said no. She said she’d do it?” He correctly judges her to be someone who would not want to do that. Later in the conversation, seeing that everyone else was not standing strongly against it, Roger finally washes his hands of it by saying he wouldn’t stand in their way but he also wouldn’t pay for it. Pete, like a typical salesman, takes Roger’s words as a yes since it wasn’t an unequivocal no. However, Roger’s words and reactions show that he clearly was not in favor of it or he wouldn’t have added, “Don’t fool yourself; this is some very dirty business.”

·         Joan’s presumed cynical perception of Bert (after Lane said they all voted for her to sleep with Herb) is a misjudgment too, because Bert’s only comment was to emphasize that Joan should still have the option of saying no.

·         Joan’s cynical perception of Don (after Lane said they all voted for her to sleep with Herb) is a misjudgment that she later over-corrects when Don visits her apartment. What Don doesn’t express when telling Joan he was against having her sleep with Herb is that not only did he want to protect her, but he also felt confident and proud of his Creative department and believed they could win the business on their own merit. Therefore, when Joan caresses Don’s face and views him as “a good one,” she is seeing his good side as a gentleman but not seeing his self-important pride.

·         Don misjudges Joan and Pete when he believes Pete after Pete says, “It was her idea”; Don’s mistake is both believing Pete’s lie and flipping his judgment of Joan when he should have realized that Joan would not come up with such an idea.

·         Don misjudges Peggy when he offers her a raise, telling her he respects her for finally asking for it at the right time, when in fact what Peggy wants from him is what she always imagined they had in the past – a mentor/mentee or protégé/champion relationship.

·         Megan accuses Don of misjudging her acting talent. When she hears of his disapproving surprise about possibly traveling to Boston and staying there to rehearse for 8+ weeks, she says, “What did you think? That I would be a singing waitress? Perform in the laundry room?”

·         Don misjudges Joan when, upon leaving Joan’s apartment, he says, “Say goodnight to your friend” – suggesting that he may think Joan lives with a “girlfriend.”

·         Don misjudges Joan when he advises her not to sleep with Herb, not realizing that she is not an innocent girl simply being controlled by bad men and waiting for him to ride up on his “white horse” and rescue her, and that as an adult she is capable of looking after her own best interests by making difficult choices that she thinks will serve her family in the long term.  

·         Most importantly, Peggy misjudges both Don and Freddy Rumson by imagining she and Don have had a mentor/mentee relationship through the years. In season one it was Freddy Rumson who discovered Peggy’s talent (her “basket of kisses” comment for the Belle Jolie account) and who encouraged and mentored her. Don went along with Freddy’s recommendation, seeing that he could use Peggy’s talent to get back at Pete at the time, and took credit for being her “mentor” when it was Freddy who actually did much of the work of mentoring. In fact, through the years, Don has taken credit for her actual work whenever he felt it made him look good, something a real mentor doesn’t do. At the end of this episode, when Don tells Peggy, “Let’s pretend I’m not responsible for every good thing that’s ever happened to you,” she seems to totally buy-in to his words, as if Don had been doing anything but using Peggy to his own advantage all along. Even today, Freddy consistently encourages Peggy and points her in the direction of career growth, while Peggy fails to appreciate what an enormous role Freddy has played as a mentor and continues to play in her development, attributing it all to Don instead.

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