Joan and Peggy. These two have been the subject of much contrasting over five seasons of Mad Men, and this week’s episode, titled The Other Woman, casts their differences in the sharpest relief yet.
That title – The Other Woman – refers to a mistress, which is how Don and his creative team think of Jaguar. As he explains it to Megan, “The Jaguar is beautiful but unreliable. It comes with a toolkit the size of a typewriter. You basically have to have another car to go places. What we’re saying is it’s your gorgeous mistress.” Megan is not impressed. “So, a wife is like a Buick in the garage?” “We’re trying to make a weakness into a strength. We’re selling to men,” Don explains. “No, I get it. Doesn’t being a mistress make the car immoral?” Megan asks. “The word ‘mistress’ won’t be in the ad,” Don says. To Don, this is simply a metaphor, but it’s a reminder of Don’s past for Megan, and it stirs her insecurities Do Some Work.
The episode gives us other mistresses, second-place women looking to make it in a man’s world, thus making the weakness of femininity into a strength. We’re talking about Joan and Peggy and the wildly diverging paths that each takes to a better position and what they’re willing to trade to get there. And though each can leverage herself to a new plateau, in the end, one will feel like a trap, while the other, though terrifyingly unknown, will feel like flying.
And in the middle of all of this is Don Draper, whose great victory will be tinged with bitterness and loss. The episode opens with Don, Stan, Ginsberg, and some freelancers huddled up in the conference room, struggling to come up with a big idea for the Jaguar campaign. They’ve decorated one wall of the room with various photos and icons, designed to inspire. But it’s not working. Peggy catches Don in the hallway and asks him to approve some copy for Secor Laxatives, but he’s in a rotten mood and brushes her off, telling her she’s in charge of everything other than Jaguar and making a decision. It’s a great vote of confidence, but in life it’s not so much the message, but how it’s delivered that counts.
As this exchange is wrapping, Joan shows up with a fancy lunch – lobster – wheeled into the conference room courtesy of Roger Sterling. The men applaud as the covers are removed from the trays. Peggy watches this from the other side of the glass wall that separates her from the big-time action.
While Don and the creatives tackle the look and feel of the campaign, Pete and Ken work on the politics of the campaign, securing it against some formidable competition. This includes wining and dining guys like Herb Rennet (Gary Basaraba), the paguar dealer’s association. President Herb plays his cards close to the chest until the end of the meal when Pete assures him that SCDP will do whatever it takes to make him happy. Seeing his opportunity, Herb tells them that tone thing will certainly help them win his vote – a night with Joan Harris. A night in bed with Joan Harris. In a show filled with slimy guys and shady deals, this is a new depth. Luckily, Ken Cosgrove is at the table, but just as he’s about to inform Herb that Joan is married, Pete cuts him off.
Herb excuses himself for a moment, and while he’s away, Ken asks Pete why he didn’t tell Herb the truth about Joan, rather than lead him on. Pete says that Herb himself is married, knows that Joan is married, and doesn’t care about either. Ken is disgusted at this. “Well, we wanted to be in the car business,” he says, lighting a cigarette. Don arrives home from work to learn that Megan has a big audition the next day. She’s nervous and needing support,
She shifts the attention to Don, asking him what he planned on doing. “I was just going to watch Carson and cry myself to sleep,” he says, giving her a hangdog look. She tells him not to worry, that he’ll think of something. He says that maybe she’ll think of something, inviting her to help. She goes along and asks for the strategy. That’s when he tells her about the Jaguar being like a beautiful, high-maintenance mistress.
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