Mad Men Watch: Daughters’ Disappointments

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Ron Jaffe/AMC

Emile Calvet (Ronald Guttman), Marie Calvet (Julia Ormond), Megan Draper (Jessica Pare), Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) - Mad Men - Season 5, Episode 7

Pop Quiz: What happens when you get a chance to pull back the curtain on a world you’ve always admired and finally get to see how it works from the inside? You discover it’s dirty. There’s a reason, as the saying goes, you never want to see laws or sausages (or advertising or marriages) being made. It’s a pretty nasty process.

Much like last week’s episode, last night gave us three solid plot lines that spun around each other and converged in the last few minutes. Two of them deal with the disappointment that comes with expectations, on which the world doesn’t come close to delivering, and one is a crushing glimpse into the world of adults.

For those of you (like me) who had to take a second when they mentioned the Lucky Strike letter, last season, after Lucky Strike left SCDP, Don published a letter in the New York Times saying that his firm would no longer represent tobacco companies. The letter earned Don an award from the American Cancer Association, which we are reminded again and again is complete bulls__t because Don discusses the letter with Roger while the two continue to smoke cigarettes.

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It’s hard to decide who has the worst discontent: Peggy, Megan or Sally. Just when we thought things were going well with Abe, he calls Peggy and insists on dinner (on a work night!). When Peggy seeks the advice and counsel of office manager/den mother/all-around counselor Joan, she gets Peggy’s hopes up that the dinner might be a proposal and insists she have an answer ready, especially if it’s no. It’s hard to watch Peggy’s face when Abe tells her he wants to move in together, but her severe disappointment soon turns into excitement—until her mom drops the “living in sin” line and the entire idea blows up.

For the first 50 minutes of last night’s episode, I thought this would be the chapter where Megan really came into her own. She does—coming up with the new ad campaign for Heinz, recognizing at a social dinner that Heinz is getting ready to dump them and then tag-teaming with Don to give the pitch that saves the day. Megan out-Draper’s Draper when the chips are on the table. She seems born for the job (and she’s even really sweet when Don’s kids show up unexpectedly). But she’s also painfully aware that her parents aren’t happy, either with each other or her chosen profession. Her father, a Marxist college professor, goes so far as to say she gave up on her dreams just to marry Don. So much for hitting the big time.

Yet as bad as things seem for Peggy and Megan, Sally’s venture into the adult world could charitably be called a disappointment (traumatic experience is more like it). When she accompanies Don and the gang to accept his award, it would have been bad enough if her only takeaway from the evening was a glimpse at how boring adult life is—networking, infighting and bad fish galore—but instead she walks in on Roger (who for most of the evening played the role of sweet uncle to perfection) getting a blow job from Megan’s mother. It’s Sally who gives us our closing note. She has a sweet, innocent relationship with Glenn, whom she calls at boarding school (“They all think you’re my girlfriend,” he says), and when he asks how her big night in the city was, she says, “Dirty.” Life has been getting messy for a while. Some things never change.

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It’s not just about religion. When Peggy and Abe have Peggy’s mom over to break the news they’re planning on living together, her reaction was expected: she can’t support someone “living in sin.” But as showrunner Matthew Weiner pointed out, the response had more to do with sexual norms in the mid ’60s. Peggy’s mom explains that if she moves in with Abe, he will marry someone some day, but not her. She has to make a decision whether to be lonely or jump into a situation she knows likely won’t end well.

The return of the Black Sox: Early in the episode, Roger has drinks with Mona to ask for her help introducing him to business leaders. He tells her about his acid trip and that at the height of the experience, he was playing for the 1919 Chicago White Sox, who infamously threw the World Series. The Black Sox scandal signaled the death of innocence in baseball and initiated a new era where the game was much messier. Though Roger gained enlightenment during his acid trip, he seems to have come to the realization that life will be much harder now. “I thought you married Jane because I had gotten old,” she tells him. “I realize it’s because you had.” Ever since Lucky Strike imploded, Roger’s been wandering in the wilderness, realizing he can no longer rely on his privileged upbringing for business and wartime service as his ultimate source of pride. If there’s one prediction from me, it’s that Roger becomes something of a lion killer again.

A sea change for the female workforce? Almost more surprising than Megan’s bad reaction to her Heinz success was how happy Peggy was for her. After all, Peggy went round after round with the Heinz folks, coming up frustratingly empty, so you’d think she’d be angry that Megan swooped in and saved the day. On the contrary, Peggy seemed genuinely happy to see another female copywriter having a big moment. Will that support last?