“THE OTHER WOMAN”
Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway Harris. We saw them in the beginning as secretaries with Joan navigating Peggy how to play the game. But Joan’s passive aggressive queen-bee status and Peggy’s earnestness were just a mismatch. They are not the same kind of woman in a variety of different ways, and the different eras of the workplace each one represents reappears time and time again. Joan never thought of herself beyond being a secretary, even though it is proven and spoken how she could easily do the work of the male partners at SCDP. Peggy went from secretary to copy-writer and is still willing to kick in the glass ceiling even though I would say she is pre-second-wave feminism at this point. The moment after the news of winning the Jaguar account, Joan gives an exiting Peggy a look. Joan might not know off the bat that she is gone for good from the agency, but there is a sense of Joan can never leave the agency. She is the personified organ of the agency and ever the more indispensable after this episode. Peggy is moving on, she has outgrown the agency and the shadow cast by her boss and ‘older brother’ figure Don. We saw in “Lady Lazarus” that the empty elevator shaft that Don sees after Megan leaves seems to point how he can never really leave. Peggy leaving of course is horizontal at this point; same field, different agency. Can she move up vertically? Let’s hope Mad Men gives us the privilege to see that.
Prior to Peggy leaving SCDP, we have seen in little bits each episode that she has plateaued in her work there. From getting buried in an account that she got thrown off of, getting phased out of working on accounts because of her gender, and her work being under Michael Ginsberg’s name had to unnerve her as she was practically living in the office re-doing and re-viewing work for the day. Don throwing money in her face, who has ignored a lot of her situation this season be it with his marriage or being anxious over the Jaguar account, was the breaking point. Peggy has never given a thought with a career outside of advertising but her wings at SCDP seemed clipped and her pact with Ken Cosgrove appeared to just be in name only. But she realizes she can walk away, realizing money cannot solve her problem with her and the agency. There is no price for her creativity.
Joan also did not put a price on the asset that has gotten her most attention at the agency but that response was ambiguous enough for Pete Campbell to twist to the partners that she could do a proposition from an important Jaguar exec. Money will not do, for many reasons, but Lane Pryce plants a seed in Joan’s head that a 5% stake and partnership in the company will do. Now people think that Joan rejecting Roger offering to pay for Kevin seems like a much better option when weighing the two but for Joan, the Roger option still has her dependent on somebody else’s money. That is just not Joan. Yes, she is giving away her agency for the night but her reward is something in her control and not in a control of a man she knows far too well. It is heartbreaking to see Joan willingly let go of that agency with the Jaguar exec and even more perverse that the glass ceiling has somewhat cracked at SCDP based on this with Joan as the first female partner but, even if Joan does not know the whole story from all of them, the male partners at the firm have all been involved in ethically questionable and heinous acts with clients. Joan is not ashamed about it but even with her vertical rise through the agency, it is this agency and something she cannot walk away from.
I think for both Joan and Peggy, their options are completely in character. Peggy may have been raised through the agency but she is a woman who realizes she can walk away and not have to follow the path expected of woman at that time. Joan does follow the path expected of her and if anything, the path has been very disappointing and destructive to her. Joan relishes the power she has at the agency and there is something to note that with Greg out of the picture, but in the picture enough that he is seen as Kevin’s father, getting control back comes through the agency that not only helps her but the agency— as backwards as that is given what she has to do for both her and the SCDP.
People seemed surprised that Don was against Joan doing it or rather, the only one against it. I think in a way, he wants the Jaguar account for himself rather than Pete, Lane, Roger, and Bert openly pimping out Joan. Last episode, Don made it his mission to get the Jaguar account and his pitch, via the ever perceptive Michael Ginsberg, seemed like the one pitch to officially get him back in the saddle. However, we find out that his 11th hour trip to tell Joan not to go through with it was too late and that the account is tainted. And by the end of that day, he loses the thrill of winning the account, his protege, and the woman he could never have but respected. Work is no longer fun for Don already and a day like that may have done more long-term damage for him professionally at the agency. Don is removed from love-leave but also work, frightened that Megan was the one that would ‘run away’ when it stood true for Peggy. He does not really understand it, Peggy wanting to leave, but it makes him uneasy with what he is left with. Can he ever leave? Or is his exit that empty elevator shaft, that he can never leave?
Among the season 5 episodes, “The Other Woman” stands out in not just its all-around quality and balance but plot-wise it could be a real game-changer for the season and perhaps the series overall. My only real complaint is the lack of Roger, and not just for zingers, but the fact that we saw no dilemma going through his head about Joan getting propositioned and that he trusted Pete Campbell’s word. This season has been accused of being too “obvious” with its themes and the theme of women compartmentalized, objectified, and used as objects may scream out on paper as ‘try hard’ but it underscores that nothing has really changed. There may be more ways and options for women to walk away but I think it says a lot that the briefest but most on-the-noise (in a good way) sub-plot was Megan’s audition because I am certain that for Matthew Weiner and the like in the industry, that is kicking the hornet’s nest.
Yes, I definitely was in tears at the end of this episode with the way Don, Joan, and Peggy gave each other heartbreaking looks. This should easily be the Emmy submission episode for Christina Hendricks.
A show of hands: Who recoiled in abject terror when they saw Pete turn his head and smirk after talking to Joan?
I do not think this is Elisabeth Moss’ last episode of the season, let alone the series, though her beaming exit into the elevator as The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” was stupendous. A much needed lift from all of the sadness.
My only negative response to Peggy leaving is that it is to work for Ted Chaough. I hate that guy! Why did Freddy have to direct her to him?
Don and Megan seem to need each other as escapes and breaks from their careers sexually. I think it has dawned on Megan that returning to acting is not easy but their talk about the Jaguar pitch at home after work showed she is not giving into the temptation of critiquing the ‘mistress’ pitch, leaving the bedroom to look at a script. But hell, even her late night visit to Don when she shoots down Stan and the free-lancers asking for any ideas had her give a dismissive statement that was still more interesting than what they were coming up with, with the exception to Ginsberg’s pitch- but he was on Mars anyway.
Now Ginsberg looking at Don’s office contemplating Don and Megan brings into question what he sees as who is getting ‘owned’, that most certainly inspired his pitch. At first, I thought for sure Megan was ‘the Jaguar’ (certainly not ‘the Buick in the garage’) but rethinking his phrase that she ‘comes and goes as she pleases’ makes me think it speaks to how she has Don wrapped around her finger. Given that he knew her as the boss’ wife, I think for him he easily sees that she is the one who won in this union and not the other way around and that is not necessarily her as the one ‘owned’.
Pete never answered Joan’s hypothetical of how he would react if Trudy got propositioned. I think we all know the answer to that question.
Joan’s mother flirts with plumbers, is casually racist toward people of color, and now wants Greg to die in Vietnam. I think we know what part of her personality she is fan-servicing as a character.
I note that Peggy’s realization that there is nothing for her at SCDP is pre-second-wave feminism. The fact that her biggest champions are Freddy Rumsen and Ken Cosgrove, not to mention Harry Crane speaking fondly of her to Don, shows that although the feminist streak in Mad Men in terms of plot and character arc is still in developing stages it is not going to be a random showcase of ‘The 60s!’.
Will Jaguar ever want their product on the show ever again? Now I just think all of their execs look like Antonin Scalia.
This took place in mid-January but close enough to Valentines Day in 1967. Did Super Bowl I already happen? The game was not really taken seriously as an event so I can imagine it goes under the radar in the zeitgeist whereas the Ali-Liston fight in Season 4’s “The Suitcase” was must-see, must-hear, must-watch.
This episode was co-written by Matthew Weiner and Semi Chellas who co-wrote this season’s “Far Away Places” and you got that feel of “Far Away Places” with the ‘return’ to Joan’s apartment to realize her tryst with the Jaguar exec already happened and Don’s quest to change her mind was too little, too late dramatic irony.
Janie Bryant style callback. Not just Joan wearing the black fur Roger gave her but a callback to her likeness to Rita Hayworth by going Gilda with the Black cocktail dress.
That montage of Joan’s tryst and the pitch was gold and would make Eisenstein cry if he did not hate capitalism and consumerism so much. Also helped the Jaguar models in Stan’s art work were hot red.
People are wondering why Don would be concerned with Joan using her body but not Sal with Lee Garner Jr. in Season 3. Beyond the homophobia and Joan being a woman, he admires Joan way more than Sal. For Don, Joan is the indispensable, living incarnate of the agency. Sal was a dispensable creative type who was a dime a dozen.