Mad Men 5.11 – The Other Woman



“Which one is he?”
“He’s not bad.”
“He’s doing this.”

Screw having a life – until the firm lands the Jaguar account, they’re going to live, eat, and breath big cats. It’s a stressful pressure-cooker, but the lobster feast the company bought for the guys on the account goes a long way for morale. Unless of course you’re Peggy, who is not on the Jag account, but is in fact on the laxative account; a shitty job if I ever heard one. She’s literally left staring through the meeting room glass at the yummy food which she’ll never get to to taste <-- metaphor for her career. Ken and Pete are strenuously schmoozing one of the Jag execs over dinner and drinks, and he isn't shy to name his demands: he wants a night with the office redhead who's built like a B-52. Oh my god, either of them would totally be willing to give this guy a blowjob in the bathroom to get the account, but they know the odds of Joan agreeing to comply is about as likely as as a Sno Ball's chance in hell. Don comes home wiped out, to find Meagan rehearsing for an audition the next day. Perhaps hoping to rekindle some of their work environment magic, he asks for her advice on the Jaguar pitch. She's more than willing to add her two cents - until Don tells her they want the Jag to be presented as the sexy high-maintenance mistress compared to the reliable old Buick wife. Hey, it's what men want, right? Pete thinks it would be a swell idea to go to work the next day and ask Joan if she'd bang the client to land the account. She's contemptuous in her refusal, and when he asks her what it would take to make her into Cleopatra (oh brother), she snottily replies, "You couldn't afford it." On the other side of the feminist front, the cologne client is going to pull their account due to sluggish sales, and even though Peggy refuses to let the client think Ginsburg was her boss - the horror! - she still managed to save the account on the spot by thinking of a new ad that as far as I can tell talks men into giving women a man's cologne for valentine's day. Good luck with that, fellows! The client is convinced, and Peggy is the hero of the hour. Yay! Pete meets with the partners to tell them about Joan potentially being the Jaguar guy's main selling point. Don is especially appalled (because he and Joan are BFFs forevah) and walks out in a huff at the very thought, but Pete convinces the others to let him offer her a $50,000 finders fee. They're disgusted, but a car account is a car account. Joan isn't the only one being screwed by Jaguar - the firm doesn't have the money to offer Joan, so they want Lane to extend their line of credit or use their bonuses. And since he's stealing from the company yet still in debt up to his stiff British upper lip, that tends to make things very awkward for him. After that debacle, Don suddenly thinks the mistress angle for Jag is mondo sucko. He storms back to his office to drink heavily, where Ken, Harry, and Peggy proudly tell him how Peggy saved their account. When he tells her it's Ginsburg's account even after bitching at her earlier to make all the decisions without Don because she's in charge, she protests. Don flies into a rage and takes the cash out of his wallet and throws it in her face. Homigod, what a supreme dink. She goes back to her office without a word. Ken follows her and promises that if things don't work out, they can both leave the company and start somewhere else. Just like the kid kicks the dog after the dad kicks the kid, Peggy lashes out at him and ridicules his dreams for the both of them. "You and your stupid pact. Save the fiction for your stories." He leaves, crestfallen, and congratulations, Peggy. You've now officially turned into Don Draper. Lane is desperate. He's also a very smart man. He tells Joan about the partners meeting, which humiliates and enrages her of course, but is quick to point out that if they gave her fifty thousand dollars it would almost certainly ruin the company...but if she asked for a five percent partnership in the firm, that would take care of her and her son forever. And all she has to do is open her legs for some letch she can't even remember meeting. Poor Joan, goddess of my soul. What a terrible world she lives in. Lane's isn't so peachy either, but at least he doesn't have to service the customers. Meagan and her friend Julia surprise Don at work before the audition. Meagan wants to boost her confidence, and what better way to do that then have sex with your powerful husband in his office? Julia meanwhile, who may just have had a little liquid courage before they arrived, does her best Jaguar imitation on the conference room table, much to the appreciation of the men. Well, all the men except Ginsburg, who can't believe how a powerful man like Don Draper can't control his wife, and must put up with her shenanigans no doubt because she's beautiful. Hmm, is that an inkling of an idea in his eye? Pete thinks this would be an epic time to tell Trudy that if they get the Jaguar account, he's getting an apartment in the city. She reacts as expected, although she only thinks she has to worry about his love affair with Manhattan. Doesn't she know that having a loving family, good job, and beautiful country home couldn't possibly be enough for any man, especially with all that hideous "fresh air" and "nature" everywhere around them? Joan goes back to her crummy apartment with her broken fridge and nagging mother. It must more than cross her mind that she could fix all her problems if she only agrees to the "deal" with Jaguar. But what price will she pay?

Great news! Meagan is one of four girls who got a callback for the part. Yay! And if she gets it, she’ll be going to Boston for three months. Yay! Wait, WTF did you say? Sure, Don wanted her to follow her dreams – but not if it disrupts HIS life in any way. I mean, be reasonable. Don strictly forbids her to go, which goes over about how you’d expect. Meagan’s going to do what she wants, because somehow, she thinks her needs are as important as his. This is about the time Don starts wishing it was the ’50s again.

Not unexpectedly, Joan tells Pete that she’ll agree to the so-called business deal if she gets a 5% stake in the company, just as Lane suggested. Pete folds like a cheap suit and agrees to her conditions, then asks her advice on how to set it up, because she’s Joan and she’s the one he’d ask that sort of thing. Ha! She barks at him to handle it himself, and no she’s not going to shake his hand for sealing her fate as a prostitute. Don’t try to pretty this up, Pete. You’re nothing but a scuzzy pimp, and don’t you forget it. And don’t think reading Goodnight Moon to your little girl is going to change my mind – maybe she can grow up to be a prostitute for her dad to get new business, too.

Fuck you, Pete.

Ginsburg’s been thinkin’ thinkin’ thinkin’, and he comes up with the perfect pitch for the assholes who are going to want to buy this car: “Finally…something beautiful that you can truly own.” Because you can’t really own the women in your life ever since slavery was outlawed, am I right guys? And all the men who feel the sands of society shifting under their feet breathe a sigh of relief that at least they’re still the boss of the car they drive. At least, Don sighs with relief. Mission accomplished.

Peggy has lunch with Fred Rumsen from the old days, and when he hears what a tool Don is being he advises her to, you know, stop complaining about him and actually get another job and quit. Peggy fantasizes about getting other job offers mostly so she can throw them triumphantly in Don’s face, but to really…leave him? Forever? That’s a whole other ballgame. Peggy’s relationship with Don may not be entirely healthy, let’s just say.

When Don finds out that Joan’s agreed to sleep with the Jaguar Jerk for a partnership stake in the firm (as Pete points out, the conversation doesn’t end just because Don leaves the room), he rushes to her apartment to talk her out of it. She comes out of her bedroom in a robe, and when he begs her not to go through with it, she’s shocked and saddened to find out that he didn’t actually agree with the others to make her an offer she couldn’t refuse. She smiles wearily at him and touches his face, and he leaves knowing he’s practically Batman, he’s just that close to being a superhero.

As Don and his team sell their hearts out to the Jaguar people, we see Joan doing the same at the hotel room where she meets with the Jaguar exec. She looks so beautiful, and he’s such a lout with his lousy grasp of history and silk Hugh Hefner bathrobe. He only spends a few seconds on small talk and a quick emerald necklace payoff before he excitedly demands to “get a look at those”, and as she turns around so she can muster her courage while he unzips her dress, her eyes fill with tears (and so do mine) but she doesn’t stop him. She’s made her deal with the devil, and even though she has to sell her body instead of her soul to the firm like the men do, she knows her partnership will keep her plenty warm at night. Our Joan is nothing if not practical.

Don't cry, Joan!

Back at home she squirrels the necklace away with her shame, when Don shows up at her door. It’s takes us a second to realize that this is a replay of his earlier visit from her point of view, and when she covers her dress with her robe and goes to speak with him it becomes clear that he tried to talk her out of selling herself after she already had. Oh Joan! Oh Don! I’m not sure she would have listened to him, but it’s heartbreaking that she never got the chance to find out.

And speaking of selling yourself, Meagan goes on her precious audition, only to find out the directors don’t care about her acting chops nearly as much as the do about how her ass looks in that dress. It’s the advertising world all over again, and that must be an especially hard blow for her to bear.

You know Peggy’s nervous because she’s smoking as she waits in a greasy spoon cafe for her secret meeting with the head of a competitor ad agency. It’s one of Don’s arch nemeses, and he’s thrilled he’s getting the chance to steal Don’s best and brightest right out from under his nose. He’s everything Don isn’t: he promises her fancy dinners with clients, free reign, and even a thousand dollars MORE than she asks for ($19,000, baby! And how adorable was it that she wrote her asking price on a Sterling Cooper Draper Price notepad with the names crossed out). He actually thinks she’s great, and what a shock to the system that must be for her.

Don comes home to find Meagan feeling down because she didn’t get the part. Nevertheless, our self-aware (way more than anyone else on this show) heroine tells Don that if he makes her choose him over acting she will – but she’ll hate him for it. No matter his sizable faults, Don does love her and want her to be happy. He just wants to be happy first.

The next morning Peggy’s about to go into Don’s office to break the news to him when they get the call that will tell them if they landed the Jaguar account. Don is stunned when Joan comes into the partners meeting to listen to the call, but her chin doesn’t drop one iota. She made her decision, and he’s in no position to take the moral high ground. Much celebrating ensues when they find out they did indeed get the account. Don’s less enthusiastic, because now he’ll never know if they got it because they’re the best agency in New York or because Joan’s got the best rack in New York. I think…both. He’s not the only one with the wind knocked out of him – Lane is shaken to learn there won’t be any bonuses this year because they’ll have to hire more hands to take on Jaguar, although next year should be magnificent. Next year is way too late for the problems he’s spent himself into. I’m afraid the noose is tightening for our Lane.

Don’s feeling all mopey, so he asks Peggy what she wanted to talk about so he can avoid having to endure everybody’s oppressive happiness. She sits him down and alllmost loses her courage, at least until Don asks if she’s upset about Joan becoming a partner (“WHAT!”). Then she gulps a drink and starts her obviously rehearsed speech thanking him for everything he’s done for her. When she quits, Don thinks she’s finagling for a raise but as he realizes he can’t compliment or threaten her out if it, every emotion Don Draper is capable of feeling crosses his face. And without a word Jon Hamm just earns his next Golden Globe award. All bluster till the bitter end, he tells her point blank that he’s the real reason she’s successful, and demands she tell him a number that will make her stay. “There is no number,” she says gently. With nothing left to be said, he advises her she’s quitting now, not in two weeks. She agrees that’s for the best, and holds out her hand for him to shake, because this is business, dammit, not personal. That theory is blown out when he kisses her hand instead, all their history and misery and friendship and respect encompassed in that simple act. Her eyes fill with tears and she thickly tells him not to be a stranger. This cliched farewell breaks their bond, and she leaves.

Don't cry, Peggy!

She takes just her thermos and mug, the only personal effects in her entire office, and walks to the elevator without looking back. Joan sees her leave and frowns, but only for a second. Their paths are diverging, and it’s every woman for herself now. She’s a voting partner, baby! Let’s see what THAT does to office politics.

Peggy waits for the elevator and looks back at the firm’s doors. Does she, like I (I’m ashamed to admit), hope that Don will come running after her, begging her forgiveness, pushing her in the elevator to kiss her passionately against the back wall? Whatever she’s thinking, nobody chases after her and the elevator doors open. Her life with SCDP is over, and the rest of her life awaits. With that, she breaks into a big grin and gets on the elevator as You Really Got Me by the Kinks plays her out (which is a vast world of difference from the song choices that ended Man Men in earlier seasons). You go, Peggy. I <3 u. Holy hell, that might have been the best episode of the season. What the heck is going to happen next week?! Stick around to find out.

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  • This episode was one of the best, and most devastating, they’ve ever done. Damn.

    Every single female character had some event that put them firmly in their place, whether they weren’t aware of it (Trudy) or were all-too-aware of it. Their worth is still based 100% on their looks, and if they don’t have the looks they don’t have the worth.

    The flip side is that if you do have the looks (Joan, Megan), you have worth but it has a dollar sign attached to it. A novel I read once said something like, “if you’re a bad girl, they punish you by making you invisible. If you’re a good girl, they reward you by making you invisible.” They (and we) are all in that double-bind.

    I loved Peggy’s interaction with Freddy, and how the hiring dude thought she was awesome. I’m glad that she quit SDCP (but not MM!), because I was afraid that with Joan making (heh, sadface) partner they’d have Joan and Peggy fighting each other, and MM is too good for that.

    • Great comments! This show throws my feminist self into a tizzy, but I love all the characters despite (or more likely because of) their numerous flaws. The worst part for me is that the men have all the power – and they’re still freaking miserable. I just want to smack them all! And have sex with them all. Possibly both. Hee!

  • Could it be that Peggy is don’s “other woman”, the one he can’tachieve to have?