Friday, June 1, 2012

Review: Mad Men "The Other Woman"

Non Spoiler Review:
It's all about Jaguar this week, as one of the car execs makes an interesting proposal that would help SCDP in the running. That creates a host of problems at the firm and ultimately changes its dynamic for good.

The Other Woman puts the stress on Don as he struggles to balance the Jaguar account at the expense of the other women in his life—Megan, Joan and Peggy. He makes some serious missteps that I'm sure will have long run repercussions for himself. While not all the plot developments are a complete surprise, they all deliver the punch and emotion one might expect.

There are BIG changes. This one ranks up there with The Suitcase as far as how it evolves the dynamic on the series, offering some very emotional scenes. The direction of this season is starting to really come together now. The final moments are both rewarding and very sad. SCDP, Don, and Mad Men, won't be the same again.

Spoilers Now!
Creative is struggling over the Jaguar campaign. Peggy's in charge of other business until the campaign is done, but she can't help but notice all focus is on Jaguar (and those working on it). Pete and Ken meet with the Jaguar rep, Herb. He's interested in Joan and would like to meet her. Somewhat taken aback by the suggestion, Ken recommends other red heads, but he's persistent and wants to spend a night together. He doesn't mean ask her out, either. He's clear if he's not happy, there will be no guarantees about the account. 

Don mulls over some ideas with Megan using the idea of a mistress to sell the car. She thinks it makes it sound immoral.

Pete goes to see Joan and talks about his dinner with Herb, who wants something they are not prepared to give, something unorthodox. They're going to lose Jaguar unless an arrangement is made with she and Herb, he finally confesses—a night with her or no account. So he asks her to think of a way to break the news to the company. Joan tells him he's unbelievable. He suggests one night might be worth the sacrifice and compares her to Cleopatra. He finally leaves, explaining it was just an act of desperation.

Pete talks to the partners about the issue with Joan and suggests if they bring Joan the right amount she'd do it. Roger can't believe that. Joan had told him they couldn't afford her. Don insists the work will be good enough on its own, plus it's not a guarantee, declares the matter closed and walks out. Roger won't pay for anything regarding Joan, either. Lane suggests Jaguar isn't meant to be, and they should just take their bonuses and move on. Pete tells Lane to extend the credit line to factor in a payment for Joan. Roger is disgusted with the dirty business, and Bert tells him to let her know she can still say no.

Harry, Peggy and Ken are on conference call with Chevalier Blanc. They're pulling an ad, so Peggy manages to pull out a save to revamp the ad and the client loves it. It involves shooting a new commercial in Paris. Don decides he'll let Ginsberg go to Paris as he was on the account. Peggy thinks she should go given she came up with the idea, and so this must mean she's actually not in charge of all the other business. Don flies off the handle and tells her to go to Paris and throws money at her in front of Ken and Harry. She leaves, seriously hurt, and Ken follows to tell her Don's got a lot on his mind. Peggy isn't convinced.

Lane visits Joan and brings up Jaguar, suggesting they are planning to offer her $50,000. She's offended and wants to know if he was involved in the discussion. Lane explains he didn't want to tempt her, but discourage her. He admits he settled for much less than he needed when he signed on to the firm, and then brings up the idea that a partnership in the company itself would take care of a woman and a child for a lifetime, rather than take the monetary offer. Lane says he's looking out for her.

Megan and her acting friend Julie show up at a creative late night meeting, as she had an audition in the city. Megan and Don fool around in his office while Julie entertains the men in creative. Ginsberg isn't impressed with Megan coming and going as she pleases.

Trudy sits with a cranky Pete still hurting about the Jaguar situation. He suddenly brings up that he'll need an apartment in the city if they get Jaguar as he can't keep coming home so late. She's sick of hearing about his love affair with Manhattan. It's time to let it go as far as she's concerned, and they're not even trying for a second child.

Megan gets a call back from her audition, and that's when Don finds out rehearsal is in Boston for three months and abruptly puts his foot down. She accuses him of never expecting her to make it. He tells her to do whatever the hell she wants. Joan meets with Pete and tells him she wants a partnership, not silent, comprising five per cent of the business, with documents by the end of the day. Ginsberg offers a new pitch to Don, and thinks the car should be the woman you can't have. Jaguar—at last, something beautiful you can truly own. Don loves it.

Peggy has dinner with Freddie. He says car guys are all a bunch of creeps and suggests she could leave and shine elsewhere. So she later meets with a rival Ted Chaough, who wants to know why she wants to play for the other team. She says it's her career she's looking out for. He's quite passionate about the writing and it really appeals to her. He wants to know what she wants to get paid, and when she scribbles it down, he adds a thousand dollars to her salary. He won't make her wait for an answer.

Pete loves the campaign and advises Don they've removed all other impediments. Don is furious to learn that they agreed to propositioning Joan without his knowledge. He doesn't want it like this, but Pete protests it was her idea.

Don shows up at Joan's to tell her it's not worth it. If they don't get Jaguar, so what, and who wants to be in business with people like that. Joan was told everyone was on board. He explains he said no and they voted without him. She's quite touched and tells him he's one of the good ones, isn't he? She understands and is all right, and thanks him. He tells her to have a nice night and she wishes him luck with his presentation.

SCDP presents their campaign to Jaguar. Juxtaposed with this is Joan showing up at Herb's hotel. He's quite eager to begin. They do the deed and he thanks her for a wonderful time. As Don asks the executives what price they would pay for something beautiful, Herb seems to love the pitch. At home, as she prepares to shower, Joan is interrupted by her mother to say Don is there to see her. And we realize his visit was actually too late, and he'd arrived after she'd slept with Herb.

Megan faces her own group of men for her call back, who seem more interested in how she looks than her acting skills. Don returns home to find her upset about not getting the part. She'll always choose him over her acting, she says, but she'll hate him for it. He doesn't want her to fail. 

Peggy asks to talk to Don that morning, but Ken runs up to announce a rival firm is out of the running for Jaguar. Then the call comes in. Peggy leaves them to their anticipation, while all the partners assemble in Roger's office, including Joan. She shares a look with Don. Roger answers the call and they get the account. It wasn't even close. Joan gives Lane a hug. As the office cheers, Lane remains behind to have a drink.

Don's not in the mood to party, even when Peggy congratulates him and says he never appreciates when things are really good. They go into his office, though Peggy is reluctant. Don thinks she wants to be put on Jaguar, or is upset about Joan being made partner. But that's the first she's heard of that.

Peggy explains he changed her life and it's been a privilege working with him. Don starts to get the hint. She's reached the point for a new experience and is giving her notice. She's accepted another offer. Don is dismissive, telling her it's been crazy and he's taken her for granted. She's picked the right moment to ask for a raise.

Peggy won't budge. It's time for her to move on, and it wasn't easy. She explains she's moving to Cutler Gleason and Chaough, which takes all of Don's effort to handle and he starts to get choked up. He tells her to name a number. She counters that there's no number. And he knows this is what he would do. As he finally accepts the reality of the situation, Don tells her she doesn't need to wait two weeks. She understands. They shake hands, but Don kisses it. She cries, and tells him not to be a stranger.

Peggy gets her things and leaves while everyone is partying, but Joan notices. At the elevator she has one last look at reception, then smiles and steps in.

The Verdict:
Where to start with this one. Peggy's departure was something that flowed organically, of course, but the sudden and abrupt exit certainly put Don (and us) off balance. I have no idea what will happen with her now, or if we'll still get our healthy dose of Peggy for the rest of the season. I am happy for the character, given that satisfied smile we got at the end to show that, despite our misgivings, this was the best decision for her.

And we get another Joan episode, too. The whole partnership thing came right out of left field, even if it was to save Lane's own ass by saving $50,000 on the bribe. We didn't really get to see any fallout among the other partners at having this (non-silent) new addition to their ranks but it's sure to bring out the sexism in Bert and Pete. 

Not much was said of Megan's call back, aside from the implication that she either wasn't prepared to go through with the part because of the physical requirements, or she didn't live up to their expectations. Between Joan and Peggy she's stuck in her rut spinning her wheels until she can find some success to justify her jump from advertising.

The sexual revolution was at the forefront. The men all behave very badly—except for Ken, who offers his support for Peggy. And Don remains one of the good ones in many ways still. Lane manages to delay his embezzlement discovery by putting the bug in Joan's ear about the partnership and thus not draw more funds from the company. A sad thing, given how close the two of them are. Pete, of course, sets the whole thing in motion because he doesn't care about Joan (or women) at all.

There was a firm contrast between the three women and how they achieved success—Peggy making her career move on her talents. While Joan abruptly advanced her career using her own merits she's exploited in the past. Is one better than the other? Both certainly achieved their goals while the men continue to languish around them trying to understand the changing world around them.

What happens to Don now? His idealized version of Joan has taken a serious hit. Home life with Megan continues to grow more brittle. And he's lost the one true confidante at the firm with Peggy (and to a rival, no less).

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