Mad Men Recap: Ladies and Ungentlemen

Mad Men Season 6 RecapI wanted more Joan in my Mad Men, and in this week’s episode, I got it. Now the question is: Will the redhead reach out and grab the golden, albeit slightly tarnished, ring that’s floating in front of her?

The same can be asked of several of the show’s females — burgeoning soap star Megan, secretarial pool standout Dawn, Mad gal on the move Peggy – who find out that getting what they want doesn’t necessarily play out the way that they had planned. In related news, Harry acts like a total ass. Let’s review the major developments of “To Have and to Hold.”

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LET’S PLAY KETCHUP | Don and Pete meet in secret with Heinz ketchup’s Timmy, the co-worker Raymond explicitly asked them to ignore last week. He’s unhappy with his current ad firm and interested in hearing Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s pitch for his product. Don wants total secrecy surrounding “Project K” – only Stan is assigned to work on it, and he does so in a windowless room at the back of the office. (Don and Stan sharing a joint back there, by the way, was pretty great; I think that’s the closest we’ve ever seen Draper come to giggling.) They come up with a tagline (“Pass the Heinz”) pared with art of food, implying that Heinz is the only ketchup. Timmy likes it but wants to see the bottle somewhere in the ad; SCDP leaves the clandestine meeting promising to test it both ways… and run right into Peggy and Ted, who are also there to angle for the account.

You can tell Peggy is the last person Don expects to see horning in on his tip. His curiosity is so great that he stoops to listening at the closed door while she’s making her pitch. She tells the Heinz people, “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation” – you devoted Mad Men fans will remember it as Don’s own advice, parroted back to him by Pegs herself, just before he writes the “Why I Quit Tobacco” letter in Season 4. The student has become the philandering, boozing, self-hating teacher! Her ad concept (“Heinz. The only ketchup.”) is very similar to her former boss’, too, except hers depicts the bottle the way that the potential client wants.

It’s all to no avail, though. While the SCDP trio is licking its wounds at a nearby bar, Ted and Peggy come in to do the same: Heinz went with another firm. Ken soon arrives and angrily informs his boss that Raymond found out and is bailing with his beans account. Stan conveys his feelings with a middle finger directed squarely at his erstwhile phone date, who looks sheepish at the other end of the bar.

GET IT, GIRL | At the office, Joan fires Harry’s secretary after it’s discovered that Dawn clocked out for her the night before. Harry and his stupid sideburns are livid; he angrily rehires his receptionist, Scarlett, then gets into it with Joan as she’s on her way into a partners’ meeting. He watches, assuming she’s telling Don, Roger & Co. about the argument (she’s not), then bursts into the meeting and basically demands that they make him a partner. He may have a leg to stand on – after all, he just convinced Dow to pony up for an hour-long variety show starring Joe Namath and friends (long story) – but the way he goes about it is a study in how to be The Guy Everyone Can’t Stand. “I’m sorry my accomplishments happened in broad daylight and I can’t be given the same rewards,” he says, referring to Joan’s sleeping with Jaguar Herb to land an account.  (Side note: As if he wouldn’t have done something equally icky – or worse! – to get a seat at the big kids’ table.) After he leaves and it’s resolved that no one’s getting fired, the meeting continues… and I’m left to wonder why Partner Joan is still dealing with secretary miscellany the way that Office Manager Joan had to.

In other news, Joan’s friend Kate, a married Mary Kay manager with some degree of success, is in town to drink too much, live vicariously through her pal and make out with strangers. Or, as she calls it, “interview with Avon.” She drags Joan out for, among other things, flirting with and kissing the first guys that come along – at one point, Joan recreates many of my failed college nights on the town as she sits on the end of a sofa and sips her drink in a bored manner while Kate and some guy she picked up round second base just inches away. Fun!

The ladies wake up the next morning, still wearing their dresses and makeup from the night before. Hungover Kate asks, “I’m really not you, am I?” Joan looks mildly amused as she replies, “Why would you wanna be?” (I can think of at least two reasons…) Kate envies her friend’s position as an executive, even if it’s not as great as it seems. “I’ve been working there for 15 years, and they still treat me like a secretary,” Joanie laments, but Kate hints that maybe she’s just gotta go after what she wants. Might the first step be when she surrenders the supply-room and timecard keys to Dawn?

In case you were wondering, Roger and Bert call Harry into a meeting the next day to hand him a $23,500 check – the total commission on the Dow variety hour. It’s more than he makes in a year, but he pissily makes it clear he’s going to start looking for another firm if he’s not made partner, and soon. Gotta love Bert’s remark after Harry stomps out of the room: “That was the most impressive thing he’s done.”

THE SWING SET | Megan’s got her first love scene coming up on the show, and Don is not psyched about it. “Honey, I can tolerate this, but I can’t encourage it,” he says – and isn’t that pretty much how he approaches everything she does (and is)? Her co-star Arlene, who happens to be married to the show’s head writer Mel, suggests a couples’ dinner to ease Don’s fears. It doesn’t work, and in fact ends with the scribe and his wife suggesting that the Drapers come over to “smoke some grass” and get (have sex) to know (have sex) each other (sexsexsex) better. Don’s face rules in this scene, by the way. The Drapers awkwardly decline and later joke about it – “just a pile of arms, legs” — in the cab on the way home.

But no one’s laughing when Don arrives on set to watch Megan film the scene. It’s the first time he’s visited – or showed any interest in her work, actually – and he’s only there to make her feel bad about what she’s doing. “You kiss people for money. You know who does that?” he snipes, leaving her to cry in her stocking cap while he sleazes over to give it to Sylvia in the maid’s bedroom. He may act holier-than-thou, but he’s put off by Sylvia’s cross pendant and asks her to remove it. She won’t, and she tells him she prays for him, “for you to find peace.” I thought that might break Don – it certainly pierced a layer or two – but he reverts to what he knows as he moves the cross to the back of her neck and bears her down onto the bed.

PEGGY 2.0? | This episode gives us glimpses of the life that Don’s secretary, Dawn, leads outside of the office. We learn she’s single, she’s going to be in her friend’s wedding and she thinks SCDP is just as messed up as the rest of us do. In fact, she gives the most on-point summation of that place I’ve ever heard: “Everybody’s scared there. Women crying in the ladies’ room. Men crying in the elevator. It sounds like New Year’s Eve when they empty the garbage, there’s so many bottles.” Truth. I don’t know about you, but I like her.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Are you hoping Don’s fling with Sylvia ends soon? Do you think Dawn has what it takes to survive at SCDP? What distracts you more: Stan’s beard or his fringe jacket? Sound off in the comments!