Finally, something beautiful you can truly own?
That may be the slogan that nails the Jaguar account for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and on the surface, it may seem that these arrogant ad men hold ownership over the women, but not so fast! When it comes to the gorgeous gals in Don Draper’s life – there’s no predicting their choices, much less who comes out with the upper hand.
Sure, the late sixties are a time when options remain restricted. A woman’s value lies in her beauty and sexuality. But the men pay a price for pulling the strings, or trying to. In this episode, while everyone isn’t paying a price just yet, everyone has their price.
The Price is Right
She’s been proving herself for years, with little recognition from Don. She wants his respect and acknowledgment for her accomplishments. In a heart-to-heart with Freddy Rumson in a diner (reminiscent of a revealing conversation with Don in “The Suitcase?”), she decides to explore her options at other agencies.
We see Elisabeth Moss in a beautifully restrained performance as she struggles with her decision to leave her first job, and she ultimately jumps ship to be copy chief at a great salary – but with Don’s nemesis, Ted.
Megan’s paying a price for her desire to act; friction with Don is continuing. She spills over with youthful enthusiasm as she gets a call-back for an audition, and may I add – she wears a beige ensemble that brought me back to Marlo Thomas in “That Girl.” When she doesn’t get the part, she’s in a funk, but tells Don she will press on, and she has no intention of failing.
As for her price? One she isn’t willing to pay as yet?
Does anyone else think there may have been a little casting couch proposition that she declined?
Joan’s price for playing the game is the highest of all. She’s asked to bed Herb, the sleazy Jaguar dealership guy, in order to clinch the account. Eventually, that’s exactly what she does, but not for a barrel of cash – for a partnership.
Mad Men and Manipulation, Early 1967
Pervie Pete has no qualms about trying to manipulate Joan into a stranger’s bed for the good of the firm – or to serve his growing sense of self-importance. Don takes the moral high ground without equivocation, disgusted by the idea, but the other partners (with varying responses) buy in, so to speak, whoring out Joan with attitudes ranging from indifference to reluctance.
Even Roger gives it a thumbs up, reminding us of the literal and metaphorical pimping in the ad biz – or maybe any biz when you’re after success at all cost.
We may find Pete particularly despicable in this episode, but what about Lane? He manages to escape the noose one more time, but only barely and not for long. He hopes by convincing Joan to go for a partnership stake rather than $50k, his embezzled “advance” for that very sum won’t be missed.
Surprise, surprise – even with Jaguar on board, Bert Cooper still says no to the bonuses. Now what’s Lane going to do? He’s still trapped!
Joanie – What Are You Thinking?
May we remember we’re in 1967?
Joan’s getting a divorce. She’s a vital part of the Sterling Cooper team. She has a baby and she’s a single mother. When is she going to get another chance like this? And the Pryce-is-Wrong’s persuasive talents are considerable.
It’s painful watching the betrayal by these men she knows so well – Pete, whose slimy success is nonetheless toxic, Bert, whom she seems to respect, Lane, for whom she feels some affection, and Roger with whom she shares a long romantic history – and a child. Don is the only one who rejects the idea of trading Joan’s body for a business deal. But she’s lied to, and doesn’t know his stance on the matter.
Even in the so-called seduction scene as Hands-On Herb tries to orchestrate the action, he goes for her breasts and she refuses him. Instead, Joan turns her back – it’s an elegantly defiant act – and she takes control of the situation, unzipping her dress.
Will anyone disagree that Christina Hendricks owns this episode?
Her expression reflects every conceivable emotion – anger, sorrow, resolve, contempt, control, relief, and at moments, the most exquisite vulnerability. She’s gentle with Don, as he explains that he does not want her selling her soul for the business. But that knowledge comes too late.
The Pitch: A Collision in Slow Motion or a Thing of Beauty?
Don presents the pitch to Jaguar in the dark paneled room of suits. He speaks of deep beauty, deep emotions that create desire. This is Don at his best – calm and in command – and the scene is cut with flashes of Joanie equally in command and possibly at her best.
Don is persuasive; Joanie is stunning – and stoic.
Don delivers his message; Joan executes on her part of the partnering bargain.
Don is genuinely passionate about his campaign, as we can only assume that Joan feigns passion of necessity. It’s brilliantly interwoven, as the consummate Ad Man spins his tale of the unattainable object just out of reach, of the shiny painted curves of this car, of the man who can have the Jaguar even if he can’t have the women he wants.
And Don says:
What price would we pay, what behavior would we forgive if they weren’t temperamental… beyond our control…
Jaguar. At last. Something beautiful you can truly own.
The other woman?
It’s the woman inside all of us, willing to step outside prescribed boundaries – if necessary.
It’s the Jag, and all it represents. It’s what you cannot possess – another human being and certainly not a woman, all evidence to the contrary.
As for Megan’s oddly feline friend, crawling across the conference room table and baring her butt? If she had made it as far in the auditions as Megan – would she have settled for the casting couch? Paid whatever price it took for the next step?
Don Draper’s Disappointment
Don’s pleasure at winning Jaguar? Short-lived.
He’s disappointed by the two women he counts on. Women he thought he knew.
When he realizes that Joan did the deed with Herb, his victory is tainted. He wanted it on his own merit.
Besides, we know the genuine friendship blossoming between these two. Their intimacy is born of being closer in age, aware of their constraints and roles, but realistic about operating within them while pushing their limits. He’s old school when it comes to women; she may have been pressured into the oldest “trick” in the book, but he hates that she did it.
He takes her for granted. She’s had enough.
The final scene between them is poignant and understated. Peggy expresses her deep appreciation for his years of mentoring. His anger turns to resigned acceptance, tinged with shock.
Peggy reaches out for a hand shake, and instead, Don takes it and kisses it tenderly.
Don’t we recall all these two characters have shared? Her journey from Brooklyn neophyte through covered up pregnancy to copywriter and confidante? Wasn’t she the one who steadied Don on more than a few occasions, including in the aftermath of Anna’s death (in Season 4)?
As the agency celebrates, Peggy quietly picks up her coat, her hat, her purse, her briefcase; she hesitates at the desk. She wipes her eyes, then tucks her thermos beneath her arm and takes her coffee cup.
Dick Whitman – Abandoned Again?
Don must be feeling abandoned. Or should I say – Dick? How many hits has he taken in recent months?
Megan leaves the agency, the honeymoon is clearly over, Joan disappoints, and Peggy – both motherly and sisterly – is packing up and moving on.
It’s impossible not to think of the many losses for Don – and Dick – over the past years. It’s the women who seem to desert him, through death or denial: his mother, his wife, Anna, now Peggy. And thanks to Joan, he can kiss his shredded illusions goodbye.
Peggy at the elevator?
Given those doors to nowhere a few episodes back, I caught my breath as she stood, waiting. I found myself yelling at the television – “no, no, no” – and hoping for the best. Would she plummet to her death for daring to stand on her own? Do any of us know if Peggy is walking into her future, or stepping into disaster?
It’s a great metaphor for the late sixties, isn’t it? Transition. Transformation. Opportunity. Danger.
Overall? Kudos for an exceptional episode! Christina Hendricks and Elisabeth Moss show us their acting chops – they certainly aren’t alone – and Mathew Weiner takes us out on the Kinks, singing “Girl, You really got me going…”
And yes, these “girls” astound the men with their willingness to go the distance, however they can manage it. Maybe they’re more like the Jag then we realize: fast, desirable, and elusive.