“To have and to hold…”
Attempts at fidelity?
He appears to have let those go.
Yet beyond the romantic tensions, changing sexual mores, and intrigues at the office, this episode features characters hanging on to what they think they possess and what they think they deserve, while passing on illusions – as well as integrity.
And then there are the women – these magnificent, complicated, tentative, powerless, and powerful women – more powerful than they realize, in various stages of coming into their own. They’re fighting, they’re adapting, they’re learning. They risk passing on opportunities that may be closer than they think, as they make dramatic compromises to access what they can.
Megan and Power
“To Have and to Hold” is the name of the daytime drama in which Megan has an increasing role. As she builds her career, Don goes through the motions of acceptance, but is increasingly disgruntled.
Megan prepares her husband for her upcoming love scene, a first, hoping he’ll be fine with it.
Don: “What am I supposed to say?”
Megan: “That you trust me and know it’s part of my job.”
Don: “I can tolerate this but it doesn’t mean I can encourage it.”
Megan: “You’re perfect.”
Ah… just the right amount of jealousy but feigned respect for her “profession.”
Who’s the skillful actor here? Might it be Dick-Don, with his lifetime of experience?
As for Don’s reaction when he shows up on set, are we witnessing a little guilty projection? He is, after all, sleeping with another woman. And shall we attribute these angry lines to the demons of his upbringing?
You kiss people for money. Do you know who does that?
Joan and Power
Move over Rodney Dangerfield. Joan doesn’t get any respect. At least, no respect from the likes of Harry and some of the younger lions.
But Joan doesn’t know her own power. She explains to her visiting friend, Kate, that the situation isn’t what it appears, despite the partner title she carries. She says “I’ve been working there for 15 years, and they still treat me like a secretary.”
I don’t care how they make you feel – it’s right in front of you for the taking.
In the meantime, we see her continuing composure in the face of challenges to her authority, her ability to pick her battles, and the clever way with which she resolves problems, specifically, in the situation that concerns Don’s secretary, Dawn.
Peggy and Power
Peggy exhibits more cool than Don as she pulls out all the stops with a nifty campaign proposal to nab the ketchup account. She had less to lose of course, but she’s on her game and unfazed by the competition. She also shows considerably more grace when the ketchup account is won by J. Walter Thompson.
Shall we note the deliciously comedic moments? Kudos for the nifty “standoff” scene that took place in the hallway of the Roosevelt Hotel. Shades of gunslingers and westerns! What’s not to love about the threesome from Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce facing the trio headed by Ted?
Another fabulous moment follows as Don is not too proud to listen at the door to Peggy’s presentation, which is clean, confident, and smart.
Peggy is growing into her power. She shows no remorse for doing her job, and doesn’t flinch as Don glares when both teams inadvertently meet later at a bar. Don may feel betrayed. She’s calm and collected.
Betrayals All Round
On the subject of betrayals, shall we start with acts or value systems? How about the distinction between outright betrayal and prostituting ourselves?
Prostitution seems to be the better word in some instances, as it’s the background story of Don’s life, the constant compromising required to be successful in business, and while he refers to Raymond (Baked Beans) as “a friend,” it doesn’t take much to convince Don to chase the ketchup account.
Can anyone spell “Project K?”
Betray a friend for what you want?
It’s hardly the first time. (Hello, Arnie? I’m sleeping with your wife!)
Prostitution is everywhere – for personal or professional gain – including the back story of Joan’s accession to her partnership position, and Don’s insinuations about Megan’s activities on set.
Power to the People?
If betrayal is a leitmotif in this episode, power is a central theme. Don, Peggy, and Joan all let go of their integrity to varying degrees, in order to go after – and get – the power they believe they want.
A routine happening in the Big Bad Real World?
But note that Megan declares herself more openly.
As for the trade-offs, Joan may be letting go of her illusions, a measure of safety in her expectations, and possibly, the old set of rules. With her friend’s help, she may break away from resignation that she can’t take more control.
Peggy? She’s freer to pursue her passions and her power, having walking away from the old firm – and the shadow of her mentor.
Dawn is another story, and the scenes in which she expresses her fears to a friend are revelatory of the pecking order of opportunities for women, or rather, their scarcity. She sees few chances to do much at SCDP other than hang on to her job – “to have and to hold.”
A Side Note: Joan v. Don – Who’s Evolving With the Times?
Joanie is certainly a woman who knows when to pick her battles. She doesn’t engage when Harry undermines her authority and has a tantrum. Yet she finds a unique and smart “punishment” for Don’s secretary, Dawn, potentially setting up this pair as future allies.
She acquiesces to her friend’s desire to party, and both cut loose in a club with strangers. In several humorous scenes, there’s a little drinking, a lot of making out, and no doubt Joan could do with a few hours of… distraction.
Is this a sign of Joan’s ability to take care of her own needs? Her capacity to evolve more than she realizes?
Contrast this with Don, who seems out of step with the times, and no more so than in his overreactions, his hypocrisy, and his double standards.
Gone, But Not Forgotten
In the mid to late 1960s, old rules are being kicked to the curb – by the civil rights movement, the women’s “liberation” movement, certainly by Vietnam. The conflicts and contradictions are no more apparent than in the image problem suffered by Dow Chemical, maker of napalm, in need of repositioning. All hail the team singing Yankee Doodle Dandy! Let’s hear that pitch for “a tailor-made show” with Broadway Joe Namath, and –
Brought to you by Dow Chemical… family products for the American family.
More Classic Mad Men Lines
Harry is rewarded for the Joe Namath idea and (amusingly?) his inappropriate display of “initiative” when he barged into a meeting. The senior partners present him a check for $23,500, the full commission on Broadway Joe for Dow, which amounts to slightly more than a year’s pay.
But Harry strides out when they don’t offer him a partnership, with a petulant “You know how important I am to this company.”
Burt and Roger. What a pair! And a delicious one-two punch.
Burt Cooper says:
That was the most impressive thing he’s done.
Then Roger adds:
Should we fire him before he cashes that check?
A Poignant Close (Cue the Violins?)
And the closing scene between Don and Sylvia?
He’s putting on the moves, and asks her to remove the necklace she is wearing, that bears a cross. She refuses.
Don: “What do you do when I leave here? Get down on your knees and pray for absolution?’
Sylvia: “I pray for you.”
Don: “For me to come back?”
Sylvia: “For you to find peace.”
Fade to black…
Images, Jordan Althuis, AMC. Click images to access originals at AMCTV.
Image of Joan, image of Don and Sylvia in elevator, video clip. Access here.