Previously on Mad Men, ‘Time & Life’
As the SC&P team make their transitions to McCann-Erickson, it becomes clear almost immediately who’s going to be happy blending in and who’s going to fight to stand out. On the surface, Don seems content with the move. Jim Hobart and Ferg Donnelly make him feel like their prized possession. They want Don to know that he’s important; he’s there to take the agency up a notch. McCann is a comfortable workplace, they tell him, where no suit jacket is required. He can relax here.
Don’s contentment is challenged during his very first creative meeting. He’s the lone, jacketed man in a sea of white shirts. Everyone but him has conformed to the environment, including Ted Chaough. Before the meeting starts, Don overhears a fellow creative director asking Ted “so you’re here to bring us up a notch?” Don is just another cog in the McCann machine. As the meeting continues around him, Don fixates on a plane flying off in the distance, lost in thought. It’s not long before he gathers his things and leaves the meeting. Though it’s not out of character for Don to leave a meeting whenever he feels like it, there was a strong sense of finality to this particular departure.
Don arrives at Betty’s place to take Sally back to school, only to find that she’s made her own way back without bothering to inform him. Betty has registered for classes and she seems genuinely excited about her new path. Though Don is pleased for her, their interaction leaves him desperate to find his next move. Instead of driving home, he heads west towards Wisconsin. After several hours of driving non-stop, Don becomes delirious. First he hears Bert Cooper’s voice on the radio and then the man is sitting next to him. Their conversation is muddled with metaphors but one thing Bert says is pretty clear: Don loves to play the stranger. He’s always been skilled at wearing different hats in front of different people. Hell, the only reason he’s Don Draper is because he took that hat from a dead man.
So, when he arrives in Racine he puts on a new persona in order to get the information he desires. He assumes the role of Bill Phillips from Miller Beer, who has a prize for one Diana Bauer. Yep, he still hasn’t given up on the waitress. Once that disguise stops working he reinvents himself as a debt collector, with ease. The problem is, Diana’s ex-husband doesn’t buy what Don’s selling. Don isn’t the first man to come looking for Diana. She’s left a trail of broken men behind her.
Still lost and looking for a new beginning, Don agrees to drive a hitchhiker all the way to Minnesota. Putting even more distance between him and New York. The hitchhiker remarks, “I don’t want to take you out of your way, man.” But this is exactly what Don is looking for. At this point, I think it’s safe to theorize that Don won’t be going back to New York or advertising, not for long anyways. I think he’s going to end up in California when all is said and done.
Peggy’s transition is put on hold when there’s no office space arranged for her at McCann. Someone assumed she was a secretary – she even received the standard welcome flowers the other ladies were getting – so there’s no room for her yet. They offer her a space in the steno pool, but Peggy refuses to work there until a proper office is ready. She spends what should be her first week at the new agency, working from the increasingly useless and empty offices of SC&P. Just as the electricity is cut, Peggy hears eerie music coming from somewhere in the office. She finds Roger, sulking and playing a tune on an old piano.
Roger hasn’t even made his way into McCann yet. He’s going down with the SC&P ship and that means hanging around the offices until someone finally gives him the boot. Roger convinces Peggy to have a couple drinks with him and they reminisce about their time at the agency. He offers Peggy the tentacle porn artwork that once belonged to Bert, but she declines, stating that she couldn’t hang it in her office because she knows she has to “make men feel at ease.” Roger wonders, “Who told you that?”
After what must have been several drinks, Peggy is roller-skating around the office pretending to perform a routine while Roger provides the musical accompaniment. It’s a shame these two didn’t get more interaction over the years because they make a great pair. When Peggy finally makes her entrance to McCann, she’s definitely standing out. She’s radiating with a newfound confidence, she’s finally broken out of her shell. As she struts down the halls with sunglasses on, a cigarette hanging out her mouth, and the tentacle porn artwork in hand, Peggy has never looked so in charge and too fucking cool for school. Hopefully she can hang on to this attitude when she inevitably comes up against the same sexism that we saw Joan grappling with this week.
Speaking of Joan, her transition to McCann was a bumpy ride. There were some positive moments, like when two women copywriters introduced themselves and made it clear they were eager to work with her. They also invited her to join their ladies club, which is not exactly a women’s lib group but more of a safe space to drink and bitch. She briefly sees Pete – who is adapting easily to his new position as VP – and he’s still very much in her corner, putting in good words to try and get her on more accounts. Don also extends a helping hand at one point. Overall though, moving to McCann was exactly as negative as she predicted it would be.
Dennis, the loathsome asshole who previously suggested that Joan get into the bra business, completely ignores her and interrupts her at every turn during a call with Avon. On top of that, he proposes a golf meeting with the Avon rep who just so happens to be in a wheelchair. If Dennis had bothered to look over Joan’s notes, he would have known this important information. When Joan is furious with him, rightfully so, he makes maters worse by saying, “I thought you were going to be fun.”
Joan is far nicer than she should have to be when she brings the problem to Ferg. Instead of raising the issue of Dennis’ overt sexism, she says that Avon merely didn’t respond well to Dennis and they ought to consider placing someone else on the account with her. This ends up backfiring when Ferg decides to take Dennis’ place. At first, the change is welcome, but then Joan realizes that Ferg expects more than just a work relationship. He wastes no time insinuating the kind of “fun” they could have on a business trip.
Since Joan is still owed half a million dollars from McCann, she’s not willing to just pack up and quit. She meets with Jim and tries to reason with him about not working with Ferg. She’s fully capable of handling these accounts on her own; she was a partner after all. Otherwise, she’s happy to just take her money and leave. Jim is, well, he’s a crusty old white man and he couldn’t care less about her position at SC&P. He implies that she didn’t even earn her stake in the company, it was probably just left to her in someone’s will.
For those of us that have sympathized with the women of Mad Men all these years, this episode gave us some truly rewarding fan service. Joan has clearly been paying attention to the feminist movements taking place around her. She warns Jim that she’s not afraid to get lawyers involved, in fact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will provide her and any other interested women in the office with one. She’s not here to negotiate anymore. Joan knows that if she files a complaint, she’ll have the ACLU on her side, along with Betty Friedan – author of the Feminine Mystique and prominent Women’s rights activist – and the hundreds of women who’ve been marching down Fifth Avenue. Basically Joan is like, women are standing up for themselves so get the hell over yourself, Jim.
Unfortunately, but understandably so, Joan is forced to back down. McCann offers her half of the money she is entitled to, and as Roger points out, it might be wise to take it considering she may end up with nothing at all at the end of an arduous legal battle. While I would have loved to see Joan be properly compensated, her outcome feels very, regrettably, realistic.
As the end of Mad Men draws near, saying goodbye to characters is unavoidable. I do hope this isn’t the last we see of Joan though.