The offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce have become a time capsule – not simply because the constant wandering of Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) through its halls seems to have stunted the aging process, but because there is a pervasive level of old-school thinking that Mad Men has, again and again this season, shown to be at odds with the world several stories below.
For all its apparently failed efforts to remain progressive and ahead of the curve in terms of advertising, SCDP is also woefully archaic in terms of equality in the workplace, so it’s losing out on two fronts at the same time, and now the creative agency has to do without one of its most singular voices because of that fact. To be fair, though, it’s the kind of thinking that nearly every other business is doing at the same time. As illustrated in ‘The Other Woman,’ offices everywhere are simply lined with men unable to view woman as anything other than objects.
The point is made very plainly as Don (Jon Hamm) and his creative team (sans Peggy) work extensively to convey the message that Jaguar is that temperamental, fiery woman men, with means and without, simply have to have; it’s a thing of beauty that they can actually own to sublimate their need to be possessive of an actual woman. The actual pitch is almost those terms exactly, and it comes from Ginsberg (Ben Feldman) after he sees Megan (Jessica Paré) march in and whisk Don away to his office for a little pre-audition confidence building. He notes that she just comes and goes as she pleases. In Ginsberg’s mind, as much as Don, or anyone would like to think they’ve got Megan, or someone like her, on a short leash, there’s just no keeping a woman like that.
There is something cheap and sordid about it all. It’s a perverse conquest; the kind of thing some men pat each other on the back about. By attempting to sell Jaguar as a mistress, an obtainable object just out of reach, the agency becomes home to the same kind of thinking in its desire to land its first car. And in doing so, SCDP remains complicit in prostituting Joan (Christina Hendricks) as a means to that end.
It seems as though the head of the dealers’ association, Herb, has taken a liking to Joan, and makes it clear to Ken (Aaron Staton) and Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) over dinner that if he’s not treated to a night with her, the chances that SCDP will ever land Jaguar are basically nil. Of course it’s Pete who broaches the subject with Joan – attempting to appear aggrieved by the situation, but that, really, his hands are tied and he thought he’d just bring it up because the needs of the company and all. Though repulsed, Joan leaves a window of opportunity open for Pete. After all, she’s a soon-to-be-divorced mother living in Manhattan with an ex in Vietnam, a fridge on the fritz and a mother asking whether she’s all dried up inside. Joan has a lot on her plate, and being able to look herself in the mirror comes in a distant second to the possibility of not having to constantly worry about money. Naturally, Pete doesn’t miss his chance to pitch the idea to the other partners. Don wants nothing to do with the notion, but the rest remain on the fence – not exactly comfortable with the idea, but open to it nonetheless.
And of course, that’s what it all comes down to: what figure everyone has in mind. As Lane (Jared Harris) points out, he helped form the agency by agreeing to a salary well below what his lifestyle required, and now he’s underwater because of it. ‘The Other Woman’ suggests that no matter how much or how little money someone makes, or already has, there’s always more wealth to be accumulated; it’s simply a matter of what people are willing to do, or sacrifice, to acquire that which they desire.
For Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), more money also means the possibility of more respect, and more freedom with another agency. Despite all the work she’s done over the years and how far she’s come, Peggy is just always going to be the girl on the outside looking in. While the men are at the table searching for a way to convey the message that Jaguar is the other woman, she’s on the other side of the glass, pitching laxatives while Don and the boys are treated to lobster. And after she successfully pitches an idea on the fly to Chevalier Blanc, Don gives it to Ginsberg because it’s his account. When Peggy complains, Don throws money in her face, accusing her of only wanting to go to Paris.
After a brief chat with Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray), Peggy’s ready to move on and it seems her suitor is none other than the loathsome, Draper-chasing Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm). While SCDP has become mired in its old-school ways, Chaough’s agency, Cutler Gleason and Chaough, is willing to pay top-dollar for Peggy’s creative mind – topping her salary demand by a cool thousand dollars. Of course one has to wonder whether Chaough’s offer stems from a place of equality and respect or simply the price he’s willing to pay to steal away Draper’s protégé. It may be too much to expect that someone like Chaough could see Peggy as something more than his own conquest in the battle he’s started with Don.
For his part, Don gets hit with the realization that Megan’s acting may mean months away from Manhattan, which results in yet another spat between the couple. Thankfully, he’s not entirely privy to the lascivious call back she’s forced to endure, which suggests that no matter Megan’s talent, the men who can decide her future are simply searching for a very specific thing, an object that will look good on stage. At the same time, Don catches wind of Joan’s deal and rushes to tell her that no account, not even Jaguar, is worth signing over her character for a five percent stake in the company.
Then, in a rather well executed segment, Don pitches Jaguar while Joan is wooed, used and dismissed by Herb. Only later do we learn that Don’s appeal came after the fact, which he learns when Joan is amongst the partners as they announce they’ve landed Jaguar. Uninterested in celebrating such a win, Don and Peggy go to his office so she can tell him she’s leaving SCDP for CGC. Don’s response is a mixture of anger and venom, but when offered, he takes Peggy’s hand and kisses it for an extended length of time, as if pulling the tear from Peggy’s eye. Then he simply dismisses her.
Peggy leaves the office while Joan has consigned herself to them forever. She stands in front of the elevator and as the doors open, the music kicks in and Peggy smiles to herself, a free woman.
Mad Men continues next Sunday with ‘Commissions and Fees’ @10pm on AMC. Take a look at the episode below: