Christina Hendricks: Mad Men Heartbreaker Had Been in the Works 'For Quite Some Time'

When it comes to the heartbreaking twist served up by AMC’s Mad Men this past Sunday night, it was not a matter of if but when Joan would take one for the team at SCPD.

“[Series creator] Matt [Weiner] had told me about that storyline… either last season or the season before,” Christina Hendricks reveals in a Q&A. “[He] was planning on using it before, but the development of the characters just didn’t get to that point. So I’d had some knowledge of it for quite some time.”

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Hendricks, who is always a part of the Emmy season conversation, admits to being nervous about the storyline, in which Joan beds auto dealership bigwig Herb in trade for his support of SCDP landing the Jaguar business. (“It’s a terrible price to pay,” she notes.) But at the end of the day, she says the material was “beautifully written.”

As for how Sterling Cooper’s male partners fell on the sticky issue, Hendricks reckons that Joan is disappointed that Roger, the father of her child, didn’t put his foot down. Instead, Don was the one to make sure Joan knew that such drastic and unseemly action was not necessary. “So at least one person… cared,” the actress says.

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Alas, Don’s sentiment — unbeknownst to him — was delivered too late, as Joan had already had her assignation with Herb. And the look she gave Don during the congregation of the now six agency partners was a combination of “‘Don’t judge me,’ ‘What’s done is done’ and ‘Thank you,’ all at once,” says Hendricks. “[It was her] really owning it, and yet we’re not gonna discuss it.”

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  1. Lambsilencer says:

    I was skeptic at first about Don taking the moral high ground, with all his womanizing. But it was beatifully written, and came off as sincere, and not formulaic or dishonest. Womanizing is one thing, and might not be very noble, but it’s a far cry from asking someone to do that for a potential client. I’m glad Don draw the line at that.

    • CR says:

      I think a big reason he took the moral high ground was that his birth mother was a prostitute, and that was something held against him throughout his childhood. I loved season the softer side of Don throughout the episode and was heartbroken when he kissed Peggy’s hand at the end.

    • rubytu says:

      Drawing the line or being a hypocrite?

    • Karla says:

      I was skeptic about Don taking the moral high ground, because he reacted the exact opposite way to Sal in a similar situation. It’s difficult to keep up with the amnesia of the characters sometimes. Don hates Roger; Don likes Roger. Don helps Lane out with a prostitute; Don won’t give Lane 5 minutes to get to the bottom of why he stole money from the company. Ken currently hates Pete; if he (Ken) names his first child Pete, I’ll be shocked but I’ll be watching!

  2. Vicki says:

    It was heartbreaking, and Hendricks was wonderful as usual. Joan is a survivor. She did what she felt was necessary after weighing the pros and cons. I want Pete to go down that elevator shaft and Lane to use the situation to cover up his embezzling and pin it on Pete.

    • Chloe says:

      Oh, I love that idea!!! Can we get you a job on the writing staff? :)

    • Dani says:

      Seconded! I’ve always had a problem with Pete, but in the last ep he was just hideous.

      • Matt Newman says:

        I actually think Pete came off better than anyone other than Don in that at least he was upfront whilst all the others essentially let him do the dirty work and then tried to claim the moral high ground whilst going along with the idea.

        • pahoehowflow says:

          Do you recall when Pete told all the partners that Joan was amenable to the idea? Pete swayed the partners with his interpretive retelling of his conversation with Joan,

          • Britta Unfiltered says:

            You are correct, Pete did indeed lie to everyone in that episode to get what he wanted. He’s become a real sleaze.

    • Colleen says:

      Please send Pete down that shaft! He’s such an ass.

  3. Diane says:

    This was definitely the best episode of the season. When they showed Don coming to see Joan the second time with the realization that he was too late, my heart just sank.

    • There was no ‘second time’ – they showed the same event twice, with a bit more information provided for the viewer the second time through. Don didn’t know what had transpired until Joan arrived at the partners’ meeting.

      • Mía says:

        She knew that. The comment reads “When they showed…the second time” not when Don arrives the second time

  4. Christina Hendricks did (again) an amazing job in this episode.
    She really deserves some recognition this year, listen up Emmy academy !

    • Dani says:

      Yeah she was utterly flawless in this ep. I hope it’s the one she submits for Emmy consideration.

    • TheBeach says:

      That’s what I love about Hendricks’ acting. It’s so understated and subtle and yet she can convey more with the look in her eyes or slight turn of the mouth than many other actresses with over the top histrionics.

  5. ASH1157 says:

    I’d always figured that Joan was one that had used her feminine wiles in the past to get what she wanted, so, for me, this development wasn’t altogether as shocking as it might seem to some.

    • Jo Jo says:

      Well, clearly you were mistaken in your assumption.

    • Becca says:

      It’s one thing to use your “feminine wiles” to get ahead, but a whole other thing when the partners of your company ask you to take one for the team. It’s prostitution and not the same thing as wearing a low cut top or short skirt and flirting. Besides, she did none of those things, the guy saw her and wanted her (and I’m sure it’s not the first time he’d made such a request). It’s a messed up situation all around, especially the men all sitting around discussing it. Campbell needs to fall down an elevator shaft or eat lead. Either one will do.

      • really? says:

        So it’s one thing to use your own body and sexuality to get ahead but god forbid someone else ask her to do it? Got it, check on the most ridiculous argument ever. I don’t think she is a prostitue, but I’m with Asj1157 that this really wasn’t that big a stretch nor was the fact that she accepted it. If it had been Peggy or Megan then perhaps it was a twist that wasn’t expected. But to each their own on their opinion, well except for JoJo who apparently thinks theirs is the only one.

        • Jo Jo says:

          Excuse me? I wasn’t suggesting that mine is the “only opinion”. I was simply pointing out that Joan clearly isn’t okay with “using her feminine wiles” to get what she wants. Seriously, name one instance of this from the show?

          • really? says:

            Didn’t she get to the head of the secretaries because she was sleeping with Roger? Didn’t she get a raise becasue of her relationship with her bosses? Didn’t she use her sex appeal to continue to be the boss of the secretaries? Really that’s not enough for you to show she isn’t against using er attributes to get ahead?

          • Jo Jo says:

            I think it’s pretty clear that Joan practically runs the office. I don’t see that she’s got ahead on anything other than her own merit. She is “the boss of the secretaries” because she’s the best of them! And though she got a “promotion” she didn’t get a raise… Can’t see many men being ok with that. Her “attributes” (and the culture of the time) are what is stopping her from progressing, not helping her! As we saw last night, the men will always see her as a whore now. So sad.

          • really? says:

            The office ran fine without her. She ran the secretaries in the old partnership. This new role is a different story only becasue Lane is inept. You can have your opinion about whether she used her skills or attributes, but for you to think she’s never used her assets to get ahead is plain wrong. If she looked like Peggy do you honestly think she’d get away with her attitude and be in the position she is in? If you answer yes then you really didn’t know how it worked in the 60’s.

          • E says:

            When the partners decide to leave Sterling Cooper and form this new company, they called Joan asap because she knew where everything was, how to assemble it, and she was an integral piece in getting this new company off the ground. They didn’t just hire her later, she was there from day 1.

          • really? says:

            Yep, and again, if she looked like Peggy would she be as valued? Peggy basically has saved that firm and they don’t give a damn about her. It took her leaving for Don to realize how important she is. Again, you can be skilled, that’s fine, and Joan is skilled. But she has gotten this far based on her other womanly assets also. To say otherwise is ridiculous, then you haven’t watched the show for the past seasons.

          • E says:

            And how is that different than real life anyway? Beautiful people get things that not-beautiful people don’t get. Life isn’t fair. However, Joan’s beauty would not have gotten her anywhere without the rest of her assets. Roger slept with a different secretary and she’s didn’t get a promotion. Joan’s physical assets are far from her only trick.

            The only reason I replied was because Joan was your implication that the firm “ran fine” without her. She was on maternity leave. Did you expect it to fall apart? Even female CEOs take time off when they have a baby.

  6. Rachael T says:

    i truly believe Pete Campbell will commit suicide this year mostly because he’s the damp towel of life -and the whole ‘show a gun in the first act someone’s getting shot in the third’: i distinctly remember Pete saying he had a shotgun in his office out of nowhere in the second episode of the season… hint hint maybe and loosing the fight to Lane, getting shut down by Rory Gilmore, no big congratulatory hugs on getting Jaguar in the door, it could definitely all add up

    • Chloe says:

      It might be fun to see him run over by a Jaguar!

    • mawhi says:

      The shotgun was a callback to season one when he spent his store credit for a returned wedding present on it. But you’re right… why bring it up now?

      Yikes, suicide by shotgun. What a mess.

      • Gail says:

        Don’t know why people are always saying characters are going to commit suicide. Last year people were saying Roger was going to do it because he lost Lucky Strikes account.

  7. ES says:

    Wasn’t Don’s biological mom a prostitute? No one has mentioned that. I thought that fact adds another layer on the whole episode.

    • mawhi says:

      I was just about to mention that! She was. It is an important part of Don’s character with regards to this episode.

  8. Need to sidetrack……………..does Roger know that Joan’s baby is his??

  9. portiaslegacy says:

    Not surprised this was in the works for some time. It was kind of an escalation of the sexual harassment in the workplace theme that has always existed on the show. Sal got fired for not doing what Joan did, and from then on they had a huge emphasis of how they have to degrade themselves for the biggest clients.

    It’s not a story I’m comfortable with, but Mad Men has always been about making its audience uncomfortable. Every time you think it’s a dreamy nostalgic trip something like this happens.

  10. J V Smith says:

    I never encountered it, but trust me men got away with hedious stuff like that before sexual harassment laws came into play. Christina thought every partner was onboard with the tawdry deal. She should have turned it down but a piece of the company in the late 60’s and thinking it’s what your bosses wanted, she made a hard choice.

  11. kate says:

    There is a book out by a woman who was in the ad business during this time and she says that everything potrayed is true and actually not as bad as what really went on. Another point: Don will never know if it was his presentation that won the account or not…….I would imagine that this will bother him.

    • kate says:

      Sorry, to clarify my point, the female author who wrote about what really went on in the 60’s in the ad business (the drinking and carousing and harrassment etc.) wrote that it was actually a lot worse than what is potrayed on Mad Med.

    • E says:

      I was thinking the same thing Kate – about Don wondering if his pitch won it. I suppose Roger saying that they said it “wasn’t even close” implies it was more than just a 2-1 vote for SCDP. I do think his concern for Joan was absolutely legit, but it seemed that his sour demeanor following the announcement could have included that the “thrill” of winning the pitch was dampened by more than just learning Joan went thru with it. Guess we’ll find out.

  12. rubytu says:

    Don isn’t known for his moral treatment of women. Look at his past. Look at the way he treated Betty and Peggy. He threw money in Peggy’s face! And for all her hard work, how far was Peggy from being made partner? He wanted to save Joan? It would be nice if the men weren’t all hypocrites, but now Joan is a partner. Yay for Joan. Yay for Joan! It was a dirty business, but she turned the tables on them with their own game…. Yes, she did.

    • Britta Unfiltered says:

      I find your comments an odd justification of what she did. It’s all cool what she did and what they did to her because it worked out that she became a partner? Yes, quite the happy ending there.

      • rubytu says:

        I’m not saying it’s cool what they did to her, or that the ends justify the means, but that I’m glad she’s now a partner. She did beat them at their own game, even if it was a bit ugly to get there.

  13. Gail says:

    People in the office are going to start to gossip about why Joan got the partnership. They have already made remarks about how Peggy got her job by sleeping with Don ( untrue of course) The fact that the gossip will be true in Joan’s case is just going to get to her.

  14. Britta Unfiltered says:

    Matt, I am glad you cleared up the issue on whether or not Joan really went through with it. The argument people were making that she didn’t sleep with the guy and was just scamming the SDCP partners was really killing me. Like it wasn’t obvious enough she went through with it when they showed her in bed with the guy post-coitus? What more did they need to see to know she did the dirty deed? Actual penetration? I still feel half horrified by her actions, but I’m really more horrified by the actions of Pete and the other guys at SDCP. They should not have allowed this to happen. It was a really good episode though, quite Emmy worthy all the way around. In fact, I’m pretty sure AMC scheduled Mad Men the way they did in order to get this episode in during the eligibility period. And they were certainly cutting it close, the eligibility period ends tomorrow.

  15. jejehi says:



  16. orchardist says:

    I’m surprised so many people missed out the point of the partner’s meeting – Pete “took one for the team” too. Not nearly like Joan but Pete played the role of sleaze bucket and got his hands dirty while Roger and Burt got to keep their distance. Lane only got directly involved to save himself from discovery.

    And Pete treated Joan with the greatest respect at the end.

    So… haters to the left… Pete Campbell was the most open and upfront of all the partners. If they were concerned about Joan, why didn’t they talk to her themselves? Because they didn’t want to know if she had a problem. And now they get to feel superior because they were distant from the actual transaction while Pete fumbled around as a second-rate pimp.

    Pete KNEW she had a price. And Joan knew she could say no. As far as Pete knows, it WAS her idea. He didn’t talk to her after the partner’s meeting and she set up the appointment to see him. Really. Think it through.

    He has no moral qualms because he amoral on this issue.
    He treated her with respect before and after.
    He told the partner’s flat out that she was less shocked than amused and that there was no guarantee it would make the deal.
    He told Don even though Don hated what was happening.

    So yes, Pete is the deal-maker but this deal should have been seen coming a mile off. At the end of the day Joan is a partner and she’s mature enough to not let this mentally weigh her down. There was harm to her but she weighed her options and made a power move.

    • mmf says:

      i would just like to question whether Joan ever really felt she could say no in this situation.

      She is about to get divorced, is about to become a single parent, who cannot rely on her husband to finacially support her and her baby. her mother is constantly criticing her and pushing her to do just about anything to “land/keep a husband”.

      With the agency she has a secure job, she is effectively heading her own department just like don, roger, peter etc. Where up until now she believed that she is respected for what she is able to do.

      After realising that she will never be seen as an equal by all these men, no matter how hard she works, or how much they depend on her, the betrayal must have been devastating. Surely she must have felt that there was nowhere she could have gone without at least some rumours following her? If she could not trust her work colleagues, then who could she? At SCDP she will hopefully have some security, despite the rumours and nasty looks. But off course this will not be the end of the matter, by a long shot for any of them.

      I thought it was an amazing episode, that portrayed the different choices made by three different women (peggy, megan and joan), who all were facing very similar situations.

  17. Hermes says:

    Pete is being Pete, this is who he has always been and who he always will be. They keep him around to do things like this, things they know they cant/wont do. Ken would have never done this Roger and Bert are past their prime, so Pete did what he had to do and it got them Jaguar. All that being said he is still a douche. Also ,is it just me or was this the best episode this season? It’s also the only one that felt like a Mad Men episode this season.

  18. susola says:

    This is a true and all too historically accurate event. When I was 22 years old, I was told by my boss I would get a promotion if I slept with him. I declined and quit after he hired a 19 year old male college to take the job, and have me train the guy to be my boss (this was in the 1970’s). The president of the company was suspicious and asked me why I was leaving. I didn’t believe they’d take any action, so I stayed mum. But I truly believed they knew what was going on. At least Joan made her own decision and got recompensed for it on her own terms.

  19. cathiecat says:

    I’d like to say a word about Lane’s role in this episode. While we all know that Lane is terrified his embezzling is going to be discovered if the bonus money theft/undisclosed extension of the credit line comes out, despite that, he gave Joan the most practical advice possible. He (believing Pete’s lie that she was ideologically on board) related to her his experience of settling for too little in joining the original partners in the coup. He advised her to go for the 5% voting partnership. Joan has the future of her family to consider. I’m not condoning her choice, but lots of moral compromises have been made on this show over the years. I’m sure the fate of Sal was in the back of Joan’s mind.

  20. ggny says:

    finally caught up and i got to say with all the foreshadow it seems like they are gonna put Don and Joan together as a couple