Mad Men Watch: Help Wanting

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Michael Yarish/AMC

Fellow Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce shareholders,

It’s been a tough week, but change is in the air for our faithful (and faithless) companions. They are all thick with desire: for the war to be over, for marriages to end, for sex and money and a drunken negation of their neediness, or for their business to hew more closely to their personal vision of success. If last week was Hell, this is more Purgatory, friends and lovers awaiting some kind of release.

Let’s review our ongoing business, shall we?


When one is raised in a bordello, it must be tough to distinguish between childish curiosity and a pervy voyeurism. How much does Don even try to make that distinction, looking back? Hellbent on seizing whatever catches his eye, Don reenacts those whorehouse days by throwing money at his latest diversion, Sylvia, once the deed is done. He makes a lousy cookie-jar joke, because he’s tired and the quips come harder to him now. (And let’s not forget to thank the casting gods for bringing Linda Cardellini back to us; it’s been far too long.)

Later, over dinner with Sylvia, he’ll order an Old Fashioned because you are what you drink—or is it what you eat, as she implies by ordering him the Steak Diavolo. Maybe he’s both. He certainly plays up the doting husband when Megan admits her miscarriage. “I want what you want,” he tells her, “is that what you want?” The tautology is titillating, and she’s released from guilt over her keeping the secret.

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Is Don most himself at work, where his rakish charm and bullheaded bulldozer-ing of the needs of his clients, coworkers, and the company itself keep paying dividends? Or when he’s juggling women after-hours, making each feel amply wanted? And if he is in fact, deep down, a gigolo, as the closing music declares, who on earth could be his pimp?


The aspiring actress has become a soap star, both on screen and at home, where the plotlines are becoming ever more tangled. Megan, dressed like a teenager in a tight sweater and headband, shares secrets with Sylvia, suddenly prim. She confuses Megan’s miscarriage with a soap plot device, then recoils until such delighted, judgmental contempt that we are forced to re-evaluate just how slippery Sylvia might be. In the end, though, Don is still telling Megan she’ll have whatever she wants; Sylvia just gets the tips. For now.


Moist Herb returns, briefly, and, with a sly dick joke, Joan proves once again she’s the best thing on television. What a shame she’s still hawking booze on the commercial breaks, instead of ruling the SCDP roost.


Success brings a lot of things: money, security (sometimes), pride. In our world it also tends to bring moral confusion. So as our Pegs learns the ropes of becoming a manager, she also is learning how to be The Boss. Just because your work is bad doesn’t mean that you are bad, she informs her underlings, who seem unmoved. But they are in fact motivated, if only to mount a feminine hygiene-based prank on her. She retaliates by telling Ted the SCDP secrets, in the process betraying Stan, whose hippie beard is quickly overtaking his face. It’s as if the secret is her only currency to buy back her Ted’s respect (though he laughed off the joke.) Ted her gives a Boss lesson when he calls her bluff, instructing her to snatch the ketchup account. “There’s nothing like things going badly when you leave,” he says. Peggy’s story has long been how to manifest her ambition as a woman of her time; perhaps she’s learning that ruthlessness is another currency at her disposal?

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If last season was all about punching Pete in the face, this season is Pete punching back, in his own slippery way. He’s a hit in polite society, mastering the welcome wagon but unable to hide his resentment of it once the guests leave. In his Dream Apartment in the city, he brings back a gorgeous blonde and leads her into his bedroom, set off from the living room by a series of glass game-show doors. A tryst with him is the only prize, no matter which she chooses, but Brenda seems up for it, dilly-dallying the next morning as she pulls on her stockings. Pete, dick-ish, asks her “Can you move it along a little?”

But it’s Trudy on the move. When Brenda escapes her abusive husband for the safety of Pete’s kitchen, Trudy drives her to a hotel, then, as soon as daylight hits, kicks Pete out—not because of the infidelity, she’ll have you know, but for his lack of discretion. These are the suburbs, you know. Pete will have to find some other poor sap to buy his toilet paper—handsome, eager, Bob the toady, who refuses his money with a face so open you just know he’s filing the favor away, for later.


Well, folks, things are really rolling now. But what of Betty the brunette? Is Bobby just a figment of the Drapers’ imagination, or is he actually a person, with his own dreams and desires? And shareholders, will the various wars ever become more than metaphors for psychological states, or is it just bad news on the television, bad news in the home? Did you breathe a sigh of relief that Megan lost the baby, and share her guilt? Whose marriage ends next?

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