This week’s Mad Men is all about not practicing what you preach. Don gets angry with Megan for feigning sex on her soap, when he does a lot more than feign with others in real life. Joan fires Harry’s secretary, Scarlett, when Joan is clearly no angel. And a lot of people are mad about some secret meetings with Heinz Ketchup. This episode, entitled “To Have and to Hold,” probably won’t have much weight in terms of furthering the plot as a whole other than to further complicate the Don/Megan relationship. Though, like last week’s entry, this episode from writer Erin Levy and director Michael Uppendahl has a tight theme, is well-constructed, and is definitely engaging.
Joan’s act of hypocrisy here stems from her desperately trying to establish a sense of authority in the male-driven workplace. And you really feel for her, especially since that whole terrible Jaguar situation is still getting thrown in her face. When she discovers that Scarlett made Dawn falsely punch her timecard to duck out with Harry (and also to do some shopping) she is livid and immediately fires Scarlett… only to get undermined by Harry and the rest of the partners when the firing doesn’t stick. Harry is especially awful here, begging for a partnership (which he doesn’t get), saying, “I’m sorry my accomplishments happened in broad daylight and I can’t be given the same rewards.”
Joan certainly engages in something tawdry that makes her late for work the next day when her old friend Kate (Marley Shelton) comes into the city for a job interview with Avon – and eventually coaxes Joan to come along on the town to pick up men, eventually landing the two ladies making out with beatniks to Serge Gainsbourg’s “Bonnie and Clyde.” Though while perhaps Joan acted somewhat rashly in firing Scarlett, she was justified in wanting to establish control. Also, she is an adult and can do whatever she wants – she wasn’t making out with the beatnik at the office, after all. It is disheartening that Joan is unable to fully gain the respect of her coworkers, that her partnership remains somewhat of a joke in their eyes, given how it was established. Joan may not practice what she preaches, per se, but it’s impossible not to side with her in this situation. Though let’s hope Kate doesn’t get that Avon job, because Joan doesn’t need to scrounge a pickup joint for a date. She is worth more than that, certainly. Christina Hendricks does her usual stellar job in this episode, as she articulates Joan’s indignation in regard to her being pigeonholed as a sexpot, as well as how she also perpetuates that very pigeonholing.
Dawn has her own story thread here – that she is scared of standing up for herself at work because she is black and wants to blend in – though this remains somewhat underdeveloped. Joan gives her the responsibility of ownership of the timecard and supply closet keys as a punishment at the episode’s end, but hopefully Dawn continues to become a more fully-realized character, since it would be somewhat lazy for her story to end here.
Don is somewhat less justified in his act of hypocrisy. Bridging over his whore complex from last week, he looks upon Megan’s love scene as nearly an act of prostitution, which he even says quite explicitly. Megan knows that the news of her impending love scene will bother him and breaks the news rather gently, but Don bellows, “Honey, I can tolerate this, but I can’t encourage it.” Um… Don, you’re having sex with the neighbor. All the time. You have no right to judge this at all, especially since it means that Megan’s part is getting beefed up and therefore her work is being appreciated on the show (albeit by weird swinger showrunners, but whatever). Don and Megan have a brief reconciliation from their awkward double date with said swingers (the male swinger/soap writer is played by Ted McGinley, who is otherwise famous for killing Happy Days), though when he sees Megan actually filming the scene, he flies into a rage.
Don is completely insensitive to Megan here, behaving as if he has zero concept of what it means to be an actor, that Megan is just pretending to enjoy the comforts of another man. Hell, the poor girl is wearing a maid’s uniform and a wig – it’s clearly not real life. Don seems like he needs for his wife to be an innocent, while his extramarital fling is the “whore.” Does Megan remind him of Sylvia now, because of the sex scene? Does she remind him of his mother’s fellow prostitutes? If it’s the latter, then boy, that’s irrational. It’s somewhat frustrating to watch Don be so pigheaded in this circumstance, though it’s usually frustrating for Don to come off as so unlikeable.
So that brings us to the hypocrisy of the various secret meetings. The first is Don, Pete, and Stan’s meeting with Heinz Ketchup. Don and Stan smoke weed and come up with the campaign, a clean, modern approach of a closeup shot of food with the slogan “Pass the Heinz.” Don is bested by his protegée, Peggy, however, when she scores a secret meeting of her own directly after SCDP’s, in the hotel room they paid for. And she wins the account with an impassioned pitch for the campaign “Heinz: The Only Ketchup.” It’s a really great moment here at Don listens to Peggy’s pitch at the door and knows that she was better than him. I would like to think that a large part of him is proud of her, since he thinks of her as an extension of himself in many respects. Don, et al, are peeved about the secret meeting that Peggy scored, but they scored a secret meeting themselves, and in doing so, betrayed the wishes of their loyal Heinz Beans client. Yeah, Peggy got the meeting by exploiting Stan’s inside info, but that’s the game. Though neither Peggy nor Don won the account – J. Walter Thompson snuck in with a stealthy meeting of their own and nabbed the account.*
Ken is pretty angry when he finds out about the secret meeting and that the Heinz Beans client dropped them because of it. But he is also somewhat of a hypocrite (theme complete!), since he and Harry made a secret meeting of their own with Ken’s father-in-law, Dow Chemical honcho, Ed Baxter (Ray “Leland Palmer” Wise), since Dow is taking a hit over bad press from Vietnam (they plan a Dow TV special to please the masses.
Aren’t we all a bunch of hypocrites though? These characters are really just being human, and we can’t really blame them for anything. Though I’m sure Roger’s psychoanalyst would have a field day with Don’s skewed logic, as demonstrated even more this week.
The Upside: Another episode with a nice, tight theme. Also, Christina Hendricks gives a standout performance here.
The Downside: The plot of the season remains somewhat static with this one. Also, the Dawn storyline here feels underdeveloped.
On the Side: Ray Wise knows… that mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. A kid’ll eat ivy too, wouldn’t you?
Correction: J. Walter Thompson nabbed the account, and not Peggy, as previously posted.