Don's stressing over the Jaguar pitch when Megan springs a possible theater engagement on him that'll take her to Boston for three months, if she gets the part. Peggy, who pulls off yet another home run on a conference call and gets no respect for it from Don, Peggy whose resentment has been well-earned and brewing for some time, spouts off in a minor way that -- combined with the other stuff, plus a deeply awful thing I am going to tell you all about in a minute -- causes him to go crazy and throw money in her face. I would say that's the worst thing that happens, and in any other episode it would be, but here it's like #3 on the list of horrible, sickening moments.
Ken and Pete try to leverage a Jaguar vote, the head of the Dealers' Association who is a central-casting cigar-chomping tub of gross named Herb Rennet. He tells them his non-negotiable demand: A night with Joan Harris. (Whose rapist husband, her mother reminds us, we all wish would die over in Viet Nam already.) Pete, nastier than he's been in quite a while, of course runs this offer straight over to Joan, on the off chance that maybe prostitution is something she's been wanting to try. She somehow refrains from slapping the ever-loving shit out him, and politely demurs, so he takes it to a SCDP partner vote. After the men pick their jaws up off the floor and put their brains back in their heads from the appalling fact that this is even a thing that's happening, Don storms out.
Cooper never really knows what's going on, Sterling is nominally disgusted but a creep himself, and Lane... Well, Lane just wants that bonus he always wants, so they won't cart him off to jail. He weakly agrees to the plan, to stall, so that he can do an end-run around the whole party and tell Joan not to ask for cash, if she does it -- Pete wants to give her fifty grand, in prostitution money -- but just ask to become a minority partner in the firm. It's couched as a loving gesture, sage financial advice from her biggest ally, but really he's just watching out for himself.
All of this setup, by the way, takes place in an atypically unsubtle web of metaphors and parallels about how you can't control women -- Peggy's job worries, Megan's acting career, Joan's ineffable Joan-ness -- but that's what makes you want them. So the Jaguar pitch circles around this idea of the car-as-mistress, in a particularly gruesome way, before Ginsberg comes up with an even grosser take, which is that at least you can own a Jaguar, which makes them better than wives or mistresses. And that ends up being the pitch, with the usual Don Draper flourishes, which is itself ironic because he's being such a good husband this year and reversing every terrible thing he did to Betty in like chronological order.
It's sort of the most Mad Men episode of any episode of Mad Men, or like what you would think the show would be like if you'd only ever heard people talk about it: Tits, ass, whoring out of secretaries, cheating on wives, smoking, day-drinking, whatever. Real gross. The essentially unlovable Pete's having some kind of midlife teen crisis where all he wants is an apartment in the city so he can have sex with all kinds of girls even though his wife is perfect. The named partners of SCDP are having actual meetings about whether or not to make Joan have sex with a dude, even while they're throwing up about that fact. Megan's audition involves being treated like meat, Lane's running around forging checks and being creepy. Everybody yells at Don the entire time, and all he does is get sadder and sadder, and meaner and meaner and meaner.
So once he hears about the new terms, Don rushes over to Joan's house to beg her not to go through with it -- which is a surprise, because Pete implied that they were all super into the idea, when the truth is that only Pete is gross enough to be into the idea at all, and Don wasn't even at the meeting -- and she thanks him for being a "good one," touches his face, and sends him off to do his Jaguar pitch... Never letting on that in fact she'd just gotten back from fucking the gross Jaguar guy. (It's fairly devastating, since, by a trick of editing, we don't yet know that either.)
Meanwhile, Peggy gets some advice from Freddy Rumsen -- always a sensible plan -- and sets up a meeting with old Ted Chaough, who is dying to have her come join his firm, and offers her even more money than her sky-high opening bid. For a thousand reasons, not the least of which is the fact that she has outgrown her mentor, she actually decides to take the job. Not sure how that will turn out, considering Ted and Don's weird mutual obsession, but Peggy's been swimming with the sharks for awhile now.
But the next day -- as Peggy's trying to quit -- Jaguar calls: They got the account. And who's that coming in the door at the partners' meeting about it? New partner Joan Harris. Which is depressing enough, because it means she went through with it, but also ironic and sad in a grand Shakespearian sense, because he'll never know how much his visit meant to her: He just thinks he came and told her not to go through with it, and then she did it anyway. Either way, they have Jaguar -- and it means absolutely nothing, as far as any of them (save Pete, and I guess Cooper) really care. For a show that's often about hollow victories, this was the hollowest. And that's not even the heartbreaker!
Peggy finally gets Don alone and delivers a short, but very wonderful speech about all he's done for her, and he moves through these, like, stages of grief. It's horrifying. First he's like, "Gimme the bottom line," and then realizes she's actually quitting, so he turns his pretty smile up to a hysterical 11 that looks like he has lost his mind, and that doesn't work, so then he gets all sour and entitled and scary-mean and almost mentions the Baby Thing, and that doesn't work, so then he just tells her to clean out her desk.
And when she offers him her hand, he kisses it for a very long, very sad, slightly weird amount of time. Peggy chokes back tears, gets a silent salute from Joan that she doesn't even know about, and then grins her way onto the elevator and out into the world. And I mean, I was relieved when the episode eventually ended -- what a fucking drag, man -- but ten times more relieved that it ended that way. Good luck, little lady. I would say you should have taken Joan with you, but those dorks wouldn't last five minutes.
-- Jacob Clifton
Obviously this is the most talked-about episode on this show in a while. And it should be - it's painful, flawed, and brilliant. That said, before I get lost in the Joan stuff, I want to say I think the show has done episodes about three women in distress at the hands of men better -- I'd put "A Night To Remember" ahead of this effort no question and although smaller in ambition you could even make a case for "The Beautiful Girls". I would not, however, put many things ahead of certain performances in this episode, particularly Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss in the last scene and Christina Hendricks all the way through. So without further ado:
In the conference room, we get our first signal that they are going hardcore on this Jaguar thing by the fact that Don is sitting around the big table with his team and he chastises Stan for a (joking) pitchline involving the word "mistress" explaining, "The salesman can use it, but the campaign can't." Don then gets up to take a break, leaving Ginzo, Stan and two Creative members I'm shocked survived last year's big purge inside. (One of them was even from SCDP -- picture him with blood and paper all over him.) Or maybe these guys are freelancing now, which makes sense during a cash crunch.
Cut to Don coming out of his office with a bottle of what's presumably pain reliever, when Peggy catches him so he can sign off on Secor. Don, however, rather impatiently reminds her that she's in charge of all non-Jaguar business for the time being (...really? That seems like a lot of responsibility even for Peggy) and then Joan appears with two cart-pushing secretaries in tow, informing them that Roger bought the Creative boys lobster from the Palm. As the team whoops appreciatively, the women bring the lobster in and Peggy stares like she's considering trying to lick the shellfish through the glass. I mean, I'm not sure anyone would begrudge her popping in and nicking a bit of it, but whatever you may say about this episode it's not exactly subtle in the points it's trying to make.
Speaking of lack of nuance, this gross, overweight, middle-aged pig who is at dinner with Pete and Ken is, as we'll learn, the head of the Dealers' Association and part of Jaguar's selection committee and he cautions the boys that Creative has to be "pretty spectacular" to make the product stand out. Ken and Pete aren't worried, not with the XK-E in their pocket, but Gross Pig (given the level of subtlety in this episode, the name seems to fit) talks about people going the extra mile and whatever and doesn't drag it out too much longer before mentioning that "dynamite redhead" he saw at the SCDP offices and how he sure would love to get to know her better. Ken at least starts to shut that line of inquiry down, but Pete, grimy little pimp that he is, keeps the guy's hopes up although he doesn't go so far as to promise anything. Gross Pig says that if it were to happen, it would make him happy and then he gets up to go eat some corpses for a mob boss or whatever else pigs do. Ken asks if that was what he thinks it was and Pete, aiming for a seat in the slophouse himself, grossly says that yes, it suuuuure was. Ken asks why Pete didn't let him tell the guy Joan's married and Pete counters that it's because Gross Pig is too and he's sure it wouldn't matter to him. Ken sighs, "Well, we wanted to be in the car business" and it's not a bad line but I'm assuming he's being this blithe because there's NO WAY he's going to be the one to approach Joan about this.