Mad Men Recap: Sister Strife

Mad Men Joan Quits Recap

Ugh, moving. Am I right?

First there’s the making sure all of your stuff gets boxed up and relocated to the proper destination. Then there’s the unpacking and realizing that you’ve accidentally opened a crate of ennui, a realization that makes it tough to continue doing the work you’ve done for years, so pointless does the endeavor seem when the great, wide world is out there for the taking and/or a sad waitress might need saving.

Finally, there’s the removing the bubble wrap from the pesky awareness that it’s a man’s, man’s, man’s world — and it will be for the foreseeable future.

OK, maybe these moving woes are specific to Mad Men, which physically relocates Sterling Cooper & Partners from its home office to the McCann Erickson mothership in this week’s episode. But can’t you relate? Transitions can be hard for all of us (and, as Don and Joan find, very, very hard for some of us), and there’s always a vase chipped or a table nicked or a passion marginalized, mocked, threatened and quietly ushered out. (Sigh. Poor Joanie.)

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s review what happens in “Lost Horizon.”

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I AM JOAN, HEAR ME ROAR | I’m going to begin with Joan’s storyline, because I want to purge the ickiness from my brain as soon as possible. Upon moving into her new digs at McCann Erickson, she’s paired with Dennis (AKA one of the idiots who made her utter, “I want to burn this place down” during the Topaz nylon discussion a few episodes back). When he alienates the Avon rep during a phone call, Joan asks Ferg for some assistance. So Ferg takes Dennis off the account — and puts himself in. Dennis “has a wife and three children. He’s not going to work for a girl. What’s he gonna say? ‘She’s my boss?'” Ferg scoffs. I think the grossest part of this whole conversation is the way he acts like he’s doing Joan a favor by putting forth a vision of their working relationship, which will involve weekends away and “a good time.” I physically cringe as Ferg takes Joan’s hand between both of his sweaty meat shovels and promises “From now on, no one comes between me and your business.”

Richard tells Joan there are two ways to solve a business problem: lawyers or intimidation. (He uses a lot more words, but that’s the drift.) But at her meeting with McCann boss Jim Hobart, she winds up using a blend of both. Hobart quickly drops his good-guy act to make it clear that she’s a no one at the new firm, despite her SC&P partnership, and if she doesn’t find a way to get along in the new regime, “you’ll be getting a letter from our lawyer.”

“I wonder how many women here would like to speak with a lawyer,” Joan asks pointedly, pushing the old man into near apoplexy. (Side note: Seriously, he turns scarlet. It’s amazing to watch.) He offers her 50 cents on the dollar for her shares if it means “never to see your face again.” She name-checks Betty Friedan, the ACLU and the recent Women’s Strike for Equality before stalking out of his office. Place? BURNED DOWN.

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The scene is so powerful, and Joan’s fuse has been smoking for so long, that the confrontation feels cathartic. Now, you think, our Joan is going to win over all those oafs. Nope. Roger comes to her office the next day to urge her to take the buyout. “You started something that could leave you with nothing,” he says. I honestly think Rog thinks he’s looking out for her best interests — and an earlier scene proves once again how little sentimentality he has about business — but it’s a terrible thing to hear someone you love(d) argue for the other side, especially when it’s a side history will prove wrong. She tears up, grabs a photo of Kevin and her Rolodex from her desk, and leaves. “Tell him he has a deal,” she says on the way out. Joan Harris, ladies and gentlemen. Doing the soul-crushingly smart thing since 1960.

LATER! | Earlier in the episode, Jim welcomes Don to the building and talks up some of the big accounts he’ll have under his control. Hobart waited 10 years to have Draper on his team, he notes, saying, “You’re my white whale.” I’m not sure Moby would be the word I would put in front of Dick to describe Don, but OK. We’ll go with it.

Everything is peachy — Meredith is decorating Don’s apartment, there are roast beef sandwiches for a client meeting — until Don sits down in a meeting for Miller beer and suddenly seems completely out of his element. Maybe it’s that the research guy presenting is giving a Draper-caliber pitch. (You know, the one that goes, “Warm feeling, warm feeling, honeyed voice, wry smile, dash o’ misogyny, toothless joke, beat for… emotion?”) Maybe it’s that there are far more people in the room than Don is used to working with. But he gazes out the window at a plane in the sky, then gets up and leaves. The only person to notice is Ted, who looks happy.

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INTO THE GREAT WIDE OPEN | Don makes a stop to see Sally, but she’s already left for school. So he gives Betty a shoulder rub (it’s a little weird that it’s not weird, right?) and then drives to Racine, Wisc. Just like that. Along the way, he hallucinates Bert (hi Bert!) sitting in the passenger’s seat, telling him what a stupid idea it is to try to find downer diner waitress Diana in her home state. WHEN YOUR SYPHILIS TALKS, DON, LISTEN.

He winds up at Diana’s house, where he pretends she won a new fridge full of Miller beer. But Diana’s ex’s new wife (played by Sarah Jane Morris, Brothers and Sisters) is the only woman there, and when Diana’s old hubby comes home, he’s ripped to find Don in the living room. The husband (played by MacKenzie Astin, The Facts of Life) follows Draper to his car. “You think you’re the first one who came lookin’ for her?” the husband asks, prompting me to ask, “Good God there are more people who find Frowny McAlleySex alluring?”

So Don keeps driving, eventually picking up a hitchhiker bound for St. Paul. Look for the hippie drifter’s story to dominate the next episode.

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ON A ROLL | The episode’s most fun moments, by far, come when Roger and Peggy — both hanging at SC&P’s old offices for different reasons — drink together. She notes that it’s the most attention he’s paid her since she’s worked at the firm, and it’s certainly the longest scene I can recall Elisabeth Moss and John Slattery ever sharing. They talk about how being at McCann will be a challenge for both of them, and how it’ll be good, though they probably wouldn’t have undertaken the change without a push. He gives her a print from Bert’s office — “It’s an octopus pleasuring a lady,” which she argues she can never hang in her new space because it’ll make men feel uncomfortable (sigh) — and somehow they end the evening with him playing an organ and her doing laps around the office on rollerskates. The visual is sublime.

The next morning, Peggy rolls into McCann Erickson, which finally has an office free for her, wearing sunglasses, smoking a cigarette and toting the octoprinty under her arm.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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41 Comments
  1. GeoDiva says:

    So not ready to say goodbye to the Mad Men gang. Joan’s troubles breaks my heart, but totally expected. However, the final shot of Peggy strolling through McCain had me cheering!

  2. Nero tTVf says:

    Racine Wisconsin to St Paul Minnesota … that’s a long drive. The next episode [7.13] is entitled ‘The Milk and Honey Route’, and I think (having check on the Internet to learn more about that title) it is the title of a book from many years ago, and has a link to ‘the hobo code.’

    My hunch is whatever that hitchhiker tells Don on that trip will have some connection to the ‘Hobo Code’ he learned as a boy from the drifter who stayed at his family’s barn. What he does with that intel, at this point, is anyone’s guess. But my guess is Don is going to undertake a long trip very soon.

    Don Draper is no one’s ‘white whale.’ If we’ve learned anything about Don, it is that he cannot be ‘caged’ by anyone. Not by the Korean War, not by McCann-E, not by Betty and marriage, not by Megan … no one. That is not how Don is wired. Try to corner Don, and he will escape and…. disappear.

  3. Erica says:

    Peggy roller skating while Roger plays the organ will be one of my favorite visuals from this show ever.

    And side note- the guy who plays Ferg was also a major creep 20 years ago when he was John Sears on Beverly Hills 90210 and told Kelly Taylor “he’d wait 50 years for her” but got really impatient really fast.

    • Meh says:

      This guy has basically made a career out of being a creep. First, 90210, then One Tree Hill and now Mad Men. Good for him going the distance even as a jack hat!

    • Amie says:

      He was a good guy on the soap Santa Barbara when he was young and sweet.

  4. Nek says:

    i just kept wondering how the present executives of McCann Erickson like seeing their agency portrayed as loutish and sexist as it has been through these last few episodes. Also it was strange to see Don and Betty so chummy.
    Can’t believe Don was willing to give it all up for the waitress!

  5. Renee says:

    Minnesota, land of Bob Dylan who also changed his real name, he was born Robert Zimmerman The 70’s produced one of his best albums, Blood on the Tracks. Mad Men hasn’t used any Dylan music. Wonder if they will. No, the hitchhiker isn’t a Dylan clone. But if you look at Dylan in the early 70s, same look. I suspect they are touching themes, perhaps as Draper heads towards California…?

  6. Tom says:

    I may have missed it but was it confirmed that Sally was going to college or just back to her boarding school?

  7. Paolo says:

    Ted likely is happy –but not what you think. He’s realized that Don has had “enough” of it all, and just walks out. Ted is happy for Don, doing what he wants– and what Ted doesn’t have the courage to do.

    • Nero tTVf says:

      That’s it – I got the same vibe. In the room of clones and know-it-all’s and corp. BS’ers, it is only Ted who realizes what has just happened – Don is walking out and not going to come back to M-E; and Ted is relieved and happy for him.

    • Lisa says:

      Totally agree!

  8. Jake says:

    MM has really lost its shine for me. I hope the finale makes up for this last half of the series because it’s been painfully slow. Maybe they’re saving it all for the last episode I dunno. Those first 3 seasons or so were so top notch, but it’s gone downhill in my opinon. I’m sticking with it more because …well… the end. If they had a next season, I wouldn’t watch it…just read summaries here. The longer this show is around the more the writing deteriorated. Matt Weiner is no Vince Gilligan and Mad Men is no Breaking Bad. That show retained quality writing throughout and a kick ass finale that made sense. Hope the last episodeof MM does the same (Peggy on rollerskates was freaking awesome and I was pulling for Joan to kick those as*h**es butts…. maybe she still will (but considering the times, probably not).

  9. AnnieM says:

    Peggy wins this episode. Good God, this was a hard episode to watch – Joan defeated, Don facing a Borg-like assimilation from Mc-E (which I imagine he won’t let happen), then wasting a good chunk of the episode on his fool’s errand – good grief, I hope this mousy waitress storyline will have a point to it that makes sense. And as hard as it was to see what happened to Joan, I’m old enough to remember when that was how things mostly went for women then, especially women who looked like our Joan. So sad as it was, it kind of made sense. I still hope she ‘hires a guy’ though. Lol. So it appears that Peggy is ready to kick some ass – I really hope she does, and that we get to see it. And the Don/Betty scene…I saw it more as Jon Hamm & January Jones saying a warm goodbye rather than as Don & Betty; since we’re nearly done, it didn’t surprise me too much, and didn’t feel weird to me. The Roger & Peggy stuff was great, and a much needed lightness to the weight of the rest of the episode. Oh, I’m also glad Don’t didn’t crash his car, cause it sure looked like it might happen.

  10. The Kaibosh says:

    Roger playing the organ while Peggy roller skates around him is one of the best things I’ve seen on TV, ever!

  11. Vanessa C says:

    The recap has been edited in the last few hours to correct that Sally went back to “school” instead of “college.”

    The author should have noted the edit, but has not.

    Good episode.

  12. Shar says:

    I’m going to be very annoyed and disappointed if the only female who comes out a winner is Betty who the least deserving of it.

    • Butters says:

      I don’t think Betty is going to be winner in this. Remember, things with her and her husband are not as happy as they appear. He is controlling, which is one of the reasons she takes out her frustrations on the kids. My guess is he is humoring her with going to get her masters but he really just expects her to stay at home and she does not like that. Peggy is going to get the happy ending.

  13. Heathers says:

    Sweaty meat shovels, Frowney McAlleysex- omg I love your descriptions! This episode felt like a dream sequence.

  14. Beat Box says:

    I have little sympathy for Joan. She slept her way in to a partnership and even though she’s tried, it’s not surprising that from a business stand point M&E don’t see her as valuable. She still makes out like a bandit in the end.

    • Clandestine Green says:

      Wow…I totally agree and i am surprised others haven’t brought this up. Joan is reaping what she sowed. What she did may have been the only route she could see to make her way but the reality is that all that she has comes from her willingness to sleep her way to the top. It is hard for me to feel sorry for her now since she has really reaped what she sowed. Peggy is another story altogether…she got her position by being smart, hard working and deserves a happy ending. She should have been a part of the partner equity.

    • Holly says:

      The way I see it, Joan didn’t do anything that a man would not have done. She was a b-buster before the word was popular. She’s awesome.

    • Sigma60 says:

      I also agree that it’s ironic Joan earned her partnership & money by agreeing to have sex, and now will lose half of it by refusing to do so. I disagree with writer, though. The “soul crushing smart thing” to do would have been to do the minimum the job required for 6-12 months, pocket her money (since the 50% she’s giving up would be worth around $1.5 million in today’s dollars), and watch the firm mismanage and lose her clients (even though she cares about them).

      I have never been big fan of Joan, especially given the way she turned on Don. Nonetheless, I would enjoy it if the show ended with a flash forward in which she gained her clients back working in a small firm she helped start.

    • Fiona Fire says:

      It’s not like she seduced her boss of her own volition. IIRC someone at the firm (I want to say it was all the partners except Don) asked her to sleep with the Jaguar guy for a five-figure payout but she asked for a partnership instead.

    • Nor do I. She slept her way to the top. And, even before sleeping with Jaguar, I actually think Weiner wrote Joan as gaining far more respect from her coworkers/managers than reality would actually have it. I never liked the way she speaks (the actress’ prissy, sometimes WHINY voice comes put in all her eork. Check out Lifetime Movie “Hunger Point”…..I found her just as annoying b in that film as well), and thought she was a complete botch when she turned her back on Don. Finally, her sleeping with the Jaguar client showed her true colors….deep down, she’s a slut, pure and simple. The fact that they made her a partner is ridiculous; but, I guess they were afraid of a lawsuit if the didn’t.

      Joan reminds me of all the uneducated twits I’ve had the displeasure of working with who have always amazed me by how arrogant they are and how MUCH attention they demand even though they are nothing but a lowly assistant.

    • JenInChicago says:

      Whoa, whoa, whoa…..the will she or won’t she episodes were outstanding. Joan (and Don) were disgusted but knew that for her – that was the only way she could see getting to the top of the heap. Joan feels that if she gets there, she will be able to show that she should have been there all along – regardless of the means by which she arrived. Conversely and beautifully written/acted, is Peggy’s plight. She knows she does not have Joan’s physical attributes and will need to work her way to the top.

      Both women trying to get ahead in life. Joan desperate to be given the chance to work for it, like Peggy and Peggy, herself wishing that the long road could be easier and, in some way, envying Joan in that regard.

      I don’t see how Joan’s use of her wiles (which men had been trying to exploit for decades, so it seems) is worse than Peggy using her brain to get ahead.

      Now, if Joan had been a complete dolt without a brain, I could see your argument, but she is a smart woman and did the smart thing.

  15. Mr. Tran K says:

    Can’t imagine seeing Peggy roller skating. Down to the final two episodes.

  16. Joanna says:

    umm, I don’t think bubblewrap was around back then…

  17. fribster says:

    I think Don leaves because he realizes that they’ve been blowing smoke up his butt about how important he is. It was a subtle line, but someone had clearly said that Ted would be making them “up their game” just like Hobart told Don. Don’s got his money. He doesn’t need to be another cog in the McCann machine.

  18. Mike says:

    Gotta love Paul Johansson. He’s got the slime ball factor down pat(aka his role as the ever *lovable* Dan Scott). I was hoping Joan would stab him with a letter opener or something. :)

  19. madmadmen says:

    I think that Don/Dick may find out that Diana committed suicide. Diana makes a 9 PM call and then a 9:30 PM call to Don. Those actions sound desperate to me So many viewers wanted Megan to die or be killed. My opinion is that Weiner partially introduced the Diana character so that viewers would experience the satisfaction of seeing one of Don’s woman die. Megan was too big of a character to kill off but Diana who reeks of death may be the proxy person who dies instead of Meagan