Mad Men Watch: Love and/or Money

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Michael Yarish/AMC

Fellow Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce shareholders,

There are so many machinations happening this week that one would be forgiven for thinking SCDP sells soap, not Heinz Baked Beans or napalm or whatever they’re storyboarding in The Windowless Room. Some weeks all of Manhattan is a whorehouse, bustling intersections of love and lust and power and money. I guess, after all these years, we shouldn’t be surprised that things don’t go well this week. Things rarely do, in whorehouses, at least for our heroes: Think of the way Don’s soul visibly curdled in last week’s flashback, or last season’s wreck of the Jaguar account.

And yet this endless amore in our heroes’ hearts is increasingly disheartening. Transactional relationships are useful, of course, and profitable. But the thrill of victory keeps on fading into an ambivalent afterglow. And then there’s the bill.

Don

Was anyone else surprised he takes a stand against the war? Or, as usual, is he talking about himself—the war inside? Perhaps he feels vanquished. Don’s carrying weight in the bags under his eyes. There’s less of him with each dying day. As for those he loves, however much he can love, well, Peggy beat him in the ketchup battle. Megan is increasingly able to get along just fine without him (even if her friends and colleagues still all want to sleep with him).

There lately hasn’t been a whole lot of fight in old Don Draper… but what’s left of him without it?

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Megan

If she can’t set traps, Megan can at least feed her husband lines that are good enough for now.  She fixes Don a drink and angles him into a role she thinks he’s perfect for: jealous but titillated husband. Megan might be the first wife whose ambition stands toe-to-toe with Don’s. At times, her sex drive even threatens to surpass his. We’ve all seen what she can do to an apartment, when she turns her eye to decorating (or, for that matter, cleaning.) Her power is fearsome. But can she be his peer? She’s rehearsing for it, at least. Will he give her the part, or the shove?

Dawn

Dawn’s finally given a little more time out of the office this week, though she spent most of that time venting about her time inside it. Her bravura takedown of SCDP’s office culture perhaps makes it clear she’s only it in for the money. Watching Joan navigating the man’s world, though, it’s a question of just how long Dawn can stay that principled. (And it’s telling that it often seems like the most principled option.) Soon enough, Joan dangles a set of shiny keys before her. She’s graduated from SCDP’s pool of goofy secretaries. Dawn’s One Of Us now.

Joan

Joan’s sister might be a Mary Kay lady, but Joan is Boss Lady Supreme. When she says, “Thank you for clearing that up,” she means, “clear out your desk.” And yet. The ghosts of scuzzy car dealers haunt even the offices of partners. Joan is forced to summon her power elsewhere—The Electric Circus on St. Mark’s, where a handsome boy wants her, and Serge Gainsbourg sings “Bonny and Clyde” as if Brigitte Bardot never existed. She could go anywhere from here. But she goes back to the office.

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Ken

Pale as a pipsqueak from Village of the Damned, Ken Cosgrove this week turns from his sci-fi fantasias to the dystopic hellscape that is Dow Chemical’s public image. The best thing to counter anti-napalm protests brewing up coast to coast? Joe Namath singing show tunes and John Wayne doing sketches. Qualms are dashed by a rousing mashup of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and the Notre Dame fight song, a performance just slightly less unnerving than Leland Palmer’s “Get Happy,” still on the tip of Ray Wise’s tongue. He and Harry’s plans are spoiled though, by the failures of Powers That Be. His days are numbered, no?

Harry

Mr. Crane is bumbling and sputtering his way to the middle, with his gift for mediocre invention in full force this week. “Broadway Joe” fails to win the respect of his superiors, though it saves the Dow account. If Harry’s looking for role models at SCDP, he’d do better than to emulate Pete’s tantrums (though they worked for Pete) or Peggy’s self-reliance (though it’s working for her). Perhaps he despises Joan because he knows he’ll never be her.

New Business:

If there’s anyone who’s caught in the currents of sex and money, it’s Betty. Strange not to see her this week, perhaps the brown hair didn’t agree with her. And does anyone hand over a check with more grace than Roger Sterling? (No one has, or ever will. What does his shrink have to say about such panache?)

Folks, let’s open the floor: Dawn’s wedding planning is doomed, right? What does Pete do in that apartment of his? How much of all this will end up in Sally’s thinly-veiled first novel? I’m here at my table, waiting by the phone. Call me.

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