Mad Men Musings: A Day’s Work

If you’re a Mad Men fan, join us regularly for Mad Men Musings – a space to discuss selected highlights, low points, or just plain water-cooler worthy moments of each episode.

Mad-Men-A-Day's-Work-Intro

Valentine’s Day is less sweet sentiments and more workplace politics, accented with racism, sexism, and maybe a roach or two. The bicoastal SC&P offices are like a chess game, the players constantly moving and trying to check each other. It isn’t romantic, but it is fascinating; so grab your heart shaped box of Godiva and dig in for our latest round of Mad Men Musings!

Mad-Men-A-Days-Work-Don

Don is living the louche life: sleeping in past noon, throwing down on Ritz crackers, and just marking time (and his liquor bottles.) He does have at least one roach for company, so that’s something, I guess. Dawn is keeping him updated on the goings-on at SC&P; meanwhile, he’s lunching with other agencies and keeping his options open. Don’s fall from grace is no secret, though – as his lunch mate points out, everyone knows Don “pulled a major boner in a meeting.” Still, despite the television and cracker binging, Don seems determined to keep up appearances.

Meanwhile, Sally is allowed off campus to attend the funeral of her roommates’ mother. As she and her friends plot on how to slip away and go shopping in the city, Sally casually puffs on a cig and remarks, “I’d stay here until 1975 if I could get Betty in the ground.” Her tough, sardonic façade crumbles a bit, though, when she ditches her friends and makes a surprise visit to Don’s office. Lou is taken aback and doesn’t know what to tell her about where Don is, so Sally goes to Don’s apartment and waits for him.

In other office news, Peggy is reconciled to a dreary, loveless V-day. Stan and Ginsberg mock her mercilessly; Ginsberg points out, “She has plans – look at her calendar. February 14th…gloomily masturbate.” Peggy is momentarily brightened by a huge bouquet of roses and immediately assumes they’re hers, but they actually belong to her secretary, Shirley. Oblivious to this fact, Peggy concocts a whole drama around the roses, which she assumes Ted has sent her – first she’s elated, then angry, then starts sending cryptic messages to Ted.

Mad-Men-A-Day's-Work--Dawn

Shirley is appalled and tries to claim her flowers, but Peggy doesn’t give her a chance. In a short but revealing scene, Shirley talks briefly with Dawn and fills her in; the two women sarcastically address one another by the other’s name, highlighting the prejudice of their workplace. At SC&P, they’re practically interchangeable twins, thanks to not only their gender but, more importantly, the color of their skin. Plus, Shirley gets one of the best lines of the episode when she says to Dawn, “Who the hell is sending her [Peggy] flowers?”

Mad-Men-A-Day's-Work--Peggy

When Peggy finally is set straight, rather than apologizing for her ridiculous behavior, she snaps to Shirley, “You didn’t have to embarrass me. Grow up!” The only embarrassing one in this situation is Peggy, clearly.

Compounding the general injustice, Lou excoriates Dawn for not being in the office to deal with Sally – even though Dawn was only out because she was buying perfume as Lou’s V-day gift to his wife. To her credit, Dawn stands up to Lou, but it doesn’t matter. Joan tries to intervene, but Lou insists he wants a new secretary and is done with Dawn.

Concurrently, Peggy marches into Joan’s office and insists that SHE wants a new secretary, too, because of the “incident” that occurred. Joan is forced to switch the women around, moving Dawn to the front reception desk, but Bert pulls the racist old patriarch card and tells Joan Dawn can’t be there because people will see her. Joan’s biting response? “I’m sorry, do you want me to dismiss her based on the color of her skin?”

In an unexpected turn of events, though, Jim Cutler seems to realize that Joan is stretched thin – not only is she a partner with her own accounts, but the head of personnel, too. He asks her to consider moving to her own office upstairs, and she does. The chess piece moved to Joan’s old desk? Dawn – who allows a small, triumphant smile to flicker briefly across her face.

Mad-Men-A-Day's-Work--West

On the West Coast, Pete signs the dealer’s association, but the East Coast office insists that Bob Benson be brought in from Detroit to help.

Side note: I’m kind of dying for some Bob-Benson- as-the-Talented-Mr. Ripley action—bring him in, please!

Pete, per usual, is thwarted at every turn – there’s no place for him to move up in LA (Ted couldn’t care less) and his go-getter girlfriend, Bonnie, refuses to leave her real estate work early for him. She’s a property mogul, people, not “some housewife cleaning oatmeal out of the carpet.”

The last chess piece in this game? Don and Sally, each with an agenda of subterfuge. When Don gets back to his apartment, he finds Sally waiting. He lies, of course, and tells her he left work early because he wasn’t feeling well. Sally is well aware of the falsehood, but since she ditched a funeral to buy boots, glass houses and all.

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Don ends up driving her back to school, and after some tense car time where he compares her to Betty and Sally responds by bringing up Sylvia, they detour to get gas and food.

Don comes clean and explains that he told the truth at work, but it didn’t go over so well. Sally warms up a little, and you can see the faint spark that Don rekindled last season, when he showed Sally the house he grew up in. When he drops her off, Sally unexpectedly says, “Happy Valentine’s Day. I love you.” Don is left watching her disappear into the school, something bittersweet and longing etched on his face.

Readers – Are you also hoping Bob Benson pops up soon? How obnoxious was Peggy? And do you think Jim Cutler has an angle, giving Joan that office?

all photos: via AMC

Amity writes and teaches in Central PA. Her obsessions include: Rodarte (she can’t afford any Rodarte, mind you, but a girl can dream), espresso, books, vintage/thrift fashion and fountain pens. She thinks you should dress like a weirdo once in a while, just to shake things up.

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Written by amity

8 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Krista
    Krista

    I wanted to pimp slap Peggy for acting like she was back in junior high.
    I wanted to give Dawn a high five for standing up for herself and that smile when she got Joan’s office/I assume became head of personnel.
    I wanted to pimp slap Lou for being a jackass. I like nothing about this character and he makes me yearn for John Deere to give them another riding mower to play with.
    Lastly, I wanted to give Joan a hug when she realized she was finally being recognized as an accounts-person and not just a glorified secretary. Go, Joanie! :)

  2. Profile photo of amity
    amity

    I think you have the perfect ratio of slaps to hugs!

    Lou is pretty gross, isn’t he? And I’m so excited for Joan, but worried about Jim’s motivations–he’s so shady, it’s hard for me to believe he’s just acting like a normal human being. I was also disappointed by Roger’s reaction to Joan getting that recognition…

  3. Profile photo of heather
    heather

    Whew! I’m so glad this ep was better after the opening snoozer!

    I can’t wait for some Bob Benson action. I think it will be worth it.

    I didn’t really think Don’s admission fell flat with Sally. She’s never going to be the “Oh okay, I forgive you” kind of daughter.
    About time Joan gets some recognition, although I fear you are both right about it probably having some sort of backlash or strings attached. I’m also happy for Dawn, although I feel bad for her that she had to go through so much crap to get there!

    I want to high five @krista for this comment: “I wanted to pimp slap Lou for being a jackass. I like nothing about this character and he makes me yearn for John Deere to give them another riding mower to play with.” :)

    Also, Ginsberg’s comment killed me. So good.

    How many times do you watch the episodes for your posts @amity? You do the best job!

    1. Profile photo of amity
      amity

      Aw, thanks! I actually just watch it once, scribbling frantic notes the whole time. If there’s a really good line, I’ll pause and jot it down, then go back to general scribbles. It’s a chaotic system, but I guess it works?

      And dying for Bob Benson to pop up, too. And for Ginsberg to have more screen time. He’s so sardonic and weird and interesting…

  4. Profile photo of turboterp
    turboterp

    Great recap as always, @amity !
    I keep thinking about two things from this episode:
    What’s with the roach? Was it some kind of Kafka thing, like Don’s unemployment is turning him into a big roach, and that’s why he didn’t react to his little visitor?
    Was Don half serious about his “dine and dash” plan? Why did he even suggest it?

    1. Profile photo of amity
      amity

      Thanks! The roach was crazy, and I love your Kafka-esque interpretation. I don’t know, I thought it was just to represent the huge divide between Don’s inner self (cloistered in the apartment, things are dirty and squalid and lack order) vs. the outer self–the ostensibly together man about town that Don’s still pretending to be. But he’s not because ROACHES, MAN.

      And yeah, the dine and dash was really weird–for a second, I totally believed him…

    2. Profile photo of sherrishera
      sherrishera

      I wouldn’t be surprised if it is a Kafta moment and Don has some pinchers and a couple extra hairy appendages next episode (or maybe the last one). Things seem to going down that path. Am I the only one who longs for the simple days of Don’s heiny peeking from under the sheets with a nearly lifeless hand clutching a CC while a secretary du jour stares at him from across the boudoir? The symbolism has become so profound and the dialogue so pained and unnatural. I have a love/hate relationship with the meaningful character development, convoluted messages, and parallel universes. I love the drama that complex Don lives, and the intriguing other life he had, as well as how it has impacted those around him, but I prefer to see it fleshed out the way real people do, in a less literary more human (sloppy) way.

  5. Profile photo of sherrishera
    sherrishera

    I am so hungry for Betty right about now. Serously, her and Benson…because right now it almost feels like I’m watching a whole other show. It’s not bad but, gosh, it’s almost becoming TOO clever, too self absorbed to the point of arty and banal. And that scene in the previous episode with Neve Campbell on the plane: loved the baiting, loved the dis and the near miss, HATED the “died of thirst” bit. Get over yourself Mad Men writers. And please find Bob and Betty…preferably playing doctor with another boy, manage-a-Roger style!

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