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.
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!
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.