Monday, May 28, 2012

THE PRICE YOU PAY:  Whether you found last night's Mad Men brilliant or maddening depends on whether you really believe that vote would have gone 4-0, with one abstained.

Pete, sure; Cooper, sure. Lane? Well, given his financial straits, the partnership share was a less painful short-term offer than the cash, but his strong affection for Joan might have led him towards a flat no.  Still, if you're Lane, maybe you do say, "Look, I'm way down in the hole; if you have a chance to avoid my mess, just do it."

But then there's Roger. Maybe I'm romanticizing his character too much, but I just have a lot of difficulty accepting Kevin's dad doing this -- yes, it's an indirect way to give Joan the financial comfort he wants her to have, but not by this route. "It was the 60s" just doesn't work for me as an answer ... but that I didn't quite buy it doesn't mean that it still wasn't devastating to watch, this lecherous oaf owning Joan for a few hours (wearing the fur Roger once bought her as his mistress), cross-cut with Don Draper at his Draperest selling the idea of finally getting to control this beautiful, unattainable object.  [And, please, hand Christina Hendricks her Emmy, now, for her wordless reactions.]

This week is all about, anvilliciously but no less effectively, women recognizing how they are seen by the men in their world (Megan's being checked out as a piece of meat; Peggy having money thrown at her, because TWTMIF!), and then deciding what the price is, what are the things which would make them happy. And if there's a thesis to the episode/season/series, it's that Peggy is the one who is happiest because she knows her price, states it (and it's only money; she's the one who most seems to have the work/life balance for happiness which feels like a more contemporary concept), and when it's offered, takes it.

The unstated part is that what Peggy also wants is the respect her new title confers, and that's something that Don just can't match. There's no number he can offer to compensate for the continued indignities he and SCDP have visited upon her, and I have to wonder if Don's sad acceptance of Peggy's decision is his recognition that SCDP as he now knows it will never treat Peggy as well as she deserves. She will never get the lobster.

And so Peggy Olson steps into the light, and I'm damned if I know how they keep her in the series going forward. That's the frustrating thing about this -- one roots for Peggy and wants to see her move on completely, but the reality of television shows is that I fear she'll be back. If the price for Peggy's fictional happiness is that we as an audience will never see her again, are you willing to pay it?


  1. I thought Pete said (after Don left) that there wasn't a need to take a formal vote.  He reported that as a vote later, one of several facts he bent throughout the episode.

    Marvelous ending scene between Don and Peggy, ending with that beautiful kiss of her hand.  Peggy's words to him underline how wonderful a writer she is on short notice.  "Don't be a stranger" indeed.

    Speaking of wordless looks -- the one between Don and Joan when she entered the office as a partner was perfect and heartbreaking.

    Who else briefly thought Megan's actress friend would end up being a deus ex machina of sorts?  And which one of the guys in Megan's audition was supposed to be Jules Feiffer?

  2. Ranhorn11:25 AM

    Brilliant for me. Completely believable. Joan is, though perhaps sadly, a whore. Logical step in her progression for my money. Roger is a bit more complicated. But I think he has always been a bit of a coward, so his...inability? step up. He certainly selfish enough to put the business a over his personal feelings (if any). I think any genuine feelings he may have had for her ended that night in the alley.

  3. Carmichael Harold12:07 PM

    I didn't read it at all as Roger voting for this.

    I looked back on the scene, and Roger didn't so much vote as give in.  In fact, he first said no ("I hope you told him to take a long walk").  Then, Pete said Joan was up for it ("more amused than shocked").  Roger responded incredulously ("she said she'd do it"), and when Pete implied that she did, Roger gave a look of disbelief then resignation.  That look reminded me both of last week when Roger said something about how he always just accpeted it when Joan got flowers from some other man, and the heavy theme of the Jaguar pitch, about while you can objectify beautiful women, you can't control them.   Roger didn't vote yes, and clearly was unhappy with it ("don't fool yourself, this is some very dirty business"), but thanks to Pete's obfuscation, he didn't try to stop her from exercising what he took to believe was her own free will.  

  4. sconstant12:20 PM

    TWTMIS?  I keep trying and getting to "that's what the money is ____" but that gets me nowhere except to my favorite line from David Mamet: "Everyone needs money.  That's why they call it money."  But that would be "TWTCIM."

  5. Yep, Roger first said no when it appeared that was a safe stance, then backed off in the face of Pete's maneuvering.  Cooper's parting shot was typically benign -- make sure she knows she can say no.  So in reality, everyone abstained except Pete.  And Lane, in his well-meaning attempt to provide for Joan.

  6. christy in nyc12:27 PM

    I guess I may change my mind after thinking about it for a while, and/or after seeing the rest of the season or even series. But as of right now I buy the Joan development. It's interesting to me that the talk seems to focus on which of the men would or wouldn't have LET it happen, when in the end it was really all in Joan's hands. Also interesting that we saw the initial partner discussion but not the one when Pete brought the 5% offer to them (unless I'm forgetting?) Once she said that she'd do it for a 5% partnership, in each of their minds, she was making them an offer, not the other way around. Which wouldn't excuse any of it, but I think would change a person's individual justification to themselves.

    I'm interested to see the Lane conversation again, because it strikes me that many viewers saw that as him baldly manipulating her so as to cover his own embezzling ass, but I got the impression that his first choice outcome would be for it NOT to happen (in fact he seemed to maybe not even want to land Jaguar, because it would necessitate putting more money up front), but knowing that the $50K would be tempting to anyone, he had to do something to try to change the deal one way or another.

    I guess on a show where I've seen every single character (even the ones I love dearly, like Joan) do really dispicable things to other people as well as themselves, I'm not willing to make prostitution where I draw the line.

    I also can't wait for this week's Mad Style from Tom & Lorenzo, because not only did Joan wear the fur coat Roger gave her (remember he also wanted to put her in an apartment), but that also looked very similar to the black dress Joan was wearing the night she spurned Carol and picked up those two randoms and brought them home, then ended up at the office writing telegrams in it because Roger had a heart attack after picking up those twins at casting. At least, she doesn't wear black much, (nor does she show that much cleavage much) and those are two times she did.

    Everything with Peggy was awesome. I highly doubt they'll sideline her. We've got some estalished characters over in that office. It'll be Scranton/Stamford for a while, no problem :)

  7. 1.  It's a typo, and should be an "F."
    2.  "that's what the money is symbolizing."

  8. sconstant12:40 PM

    It'll be Scranton/Stamford for a while, no problem :)

    It worked for The Office...or, um, wait, it didn't.  I don't want to lose Peggy either, obvs.

  9. Carmichael Harold12:43 PM

    I thoroughly loved this episode even as it broke my heart.  

    I think Adam is dead-on about the Peggy conundrum (is the price for her fictional happiness worth us not seeing her?).  The growing theme this season of Don dealing with simultaneously loving and, out of love, learning to let go (with both Megan and Peggy), can be a little heavy handed at times, but I really admire a show that takes the time to make the audience actually engage directly with it. We, the audience, wants Peggy do what she needs to do, but I think we're meant to simultaneously mourn her potential loss to the show as if we were in Don's shoes (and those of parents as their children strike out on their own, or of the WWII generation losing its grip on those that came after). 

  10. Maret1:01 PM

    This was such a heartbreaking and beautiful episode. What I loved were the silent moments where the actors conveyed everything they needed to without saying a thing:

    The look on Joan's face when she turned around after "Let me see them."
    The aforementioned look on Don's face when Joan came into the office for the Jaguar call.
    The look on Don's face as he kissed Peggy's hand, and the look on her face as he did it. (That taking of the hand and kissing it was my favorite moment of the episode.)

    I also, of course, loved the reveal that Don's visit to Joan's apartment happened after she had already slept with the Jaguar guy.

    And a terrific music choice in The Kinks as Peggy steps onto the elevator to leave SCDP for her new job.

    While certainly this season has been more direct in it's messaging than previous seasons, I think the beautiful, quiet moments these terrific actors give us are why an episode like this works so well. Loved it.

  11. Preston1:11 PM

    Just yesterday afternoon I was pondering whether I thought Don was still the most brilliantly-written (and acted) character on television (as I thought he was for the first four seasons), but last night's episode made me realize that one of the most genius aspects about this season is just how subtle Weiner and Co are handling Don and his world.  It is clear at this juncture that he has faced and battled his demons and emerged a(n arguably) better man, but the shifting environments around him -- specifically, his relationships with the most important women in his life -- recall the past more and more.  Megan is his new Peggy: a woman he took an instinctive chance on, nurtured her/their development, and ultimately faces having to let her go (in one way or another).  Similarly, Peggy was the new Betty: a beautiful co-dependence that soured as he forgot her value in his life and as she realized the power of her own independence.  Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is becoming the underhanded community that it once fought so valiantly to escape.  Yes, Season Five is proving no matter how much things change (we are fully entrenched in the 1960s, after all), they still stay the same.

  12. GinnaD3:46 PM

    His well-meaning attempt to provide for Joan? Am I the only one who was sickened the most by Lane? His actions were the most purely selfish of anyone! He was clearly bent on manipulating the situation, and someone he claims to care for, in order to save his own sorry skin. 

    Watch Lane's reactions. His biggest is when the others suggest that they could pay $50,000 to Joan by (again) cancelling the bonuses and also getting an extension. He knew either of those actions (or both), and failure to get the account, would bring his theft to light.

    So he leaned on someone who trusted his judgement (Joan), and manipulated her into asking for a financial benefit that would leave him in the clear. Couching it, of course, in terms, of trying to help her. 

    Pete is Pete. He would probably sell his own body to get an account. (And let's not forget, he encouraged Trudy to sleep with, or at least flirt with, that guy from the Atlantic.) Roger, I agree with Carmichael Harold. After he heard that she was on board in priciple, he stopped protesting. 

  13. christy in nyc4:31 PM

    Oh, maybe I'm weird. A couple of my fave Office episodes were from that brief stint. But the main point is that I really, really doubt we're going to lose Peggy's part of the story just because she's starting a new job. I'd be just as surprised if she disappeared as if Don did (which I used to think was possible, in the early days of the show, but I don't anymore).

  14. sconstant6:00 PM

    Oops, forgot my actual point, which is to agree that we don't know what happened between the partners when the 5% came up for discussion.  In addition to wanting to hear it, I kind of want to know where that 5% came from - if everyone's shares were diluted to 95% of their former value, then one imagines Don would have been involved somehow, and he didn't seem to be, since he was surprised to find out it was going on.  But if it wasn't, then where did those 5 points come from?  I can't see anyone in the room giving it up in whole or even in part if Don's share wasn't affected. 

  15. Marsha12:31 AM

    I have no doubt we'll keep seeing Peggy - do we not remember that Don said that if Peggy ever left, he'd spend the rest of his life trying to hire her back?

  16. Marsha12:32 AM

    (Hit post before I meant to.)

    And I am looking forward to the inevitable future scene where Peggy and Don are pitching against each other.

  17. Anonymous12:48 AM

    For those of you who still have the HD version on your DVR: Go to the scene where Megan and her actress buddy crash the Jaguar war room. About a minute in, off to the right you will see a sign that says "Pete says dealers want to see asses in seats". Around the sign? Naked butt Xeroxes. Awesome background work there.


  18. GinnaD, I completely agree with your assessment of Lane's motives. He may have gotten Joan a better deal, but he did it all for self-serving reasons so his theft wouldn't be exposed by the need to find the $50,000 to give to Joan.  I thought he was just as despicable in this situation as Pete was. 

    And I agree with Carmichael Harold on Roger - while I wish he would have fought more against prostituting Joan, I do think he went along with it because he was made to believe that Joan was okay with it.  Joan has made it clear that she doesn't want him in her life (or Kevin's), so he seemed to see it as staying out of her way. Or maybe I'm just making excuses for one of my favorite characters.

  19. Yes, there's no question that Lane motives are also to save himself in the process of getting Joan a better settlement.  And won't Joan now find the discrepancy in the books even faster?

    Everyone in the room was made to think that Joan was okay with it.  And Joan was made to feel (in addition to the humiliation of knowing she was discussed) that everyone thought the end justified the means.  Everyone except Pete, of course, who I agree would sell his own body for a victory.  And then never let anyone forget it.

    Interesting place Don is in -- he cares about Joan and doesn't want her to do it, but he also has his pride.  He has to think he could get the account on his own, and now that's forever sullied by not knowing exactly how good he was in the room.  Hamm played it all beautifully.

  20. kd bart10:07 AM

    Sunday's episode makes me wonder if Bert Cooper and Roger's Dad did the same sort of thing with Ida "Queen of Perversion" Blankenship back in the early days of Sterling Cooper.