Tonight’s jaw-dropping episode of Mad Men explored the commodity of women, with a focus on Peggy and Joan (played by the absolutely outstanding Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks respectively), in an episode that will forever change their characters and the show itself.
The meticulously paced episode was primarily focused on Joan and the desperately coveted Jaguar account, as the men of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce frantically holed themselves up in the office to perfect their one shot at pitching to the luxury car giant.
Don’s big idea for the pitch is that the Jaguar car is ‘the other woman’; it’s like a beautiful, sexy mistress, which is bought to be admired. It’s an idea that his wife Megan baulks at as she asks him: “A mistress is like a Jaguar, but a wife is what? A Buick?”
Pete Campbell and Ken Cosgrove wine and dine Jaguar titan Herb in an attempt to get a head start on the pitch, and whilst out drinking the heavyset car magnate brings up the subject of the attractive redhead “built like a B-52,” who works at the SCDP office.
Undoubtedly he is talking about bombshell Joan, who like the sexy red curves of the Jaguar, is a hot, out-of-reach prize, an item of decoration and not an individual with feelings.
Herb demands a night with Joan in return for his critical vote, and Pete, reaching new, extreme levels of sliminess (even for him), immediately slithers off to propose the idea to Joan.
Joan may be beautiful, but she’s no fool, and at first she turns down Pete’s disgusting offer of a night with the boorish Herb. However the SCDP partners, apart from a thoroughly disgusted Don, initially offer her $50,000 to do the deed, which Joan reveals: “Is four times what I make in a year.”
Desperate Joan, who has somehow found herself in a run-down, cramped apartment, with a baby, no husband and an overbearing mother, reasons that if she is going to do this it better be worth her while.
The metaphor for the advertising world as prostitution has never been clearer, as Joan raises the stakes, demanding a five per-cent non-silent partnership in the firm, an offer which the men agree to, although Roger shakes his head at this “very dirty business.”
The tension is ramped up as Don runs to Joan’s place to tell her that she can’t do this, and the pair share yet another chaste and tender moment, Joan clearly appreciating having just one person willing to stand in her corner.
However the action cuts from their affectionate encounter, back in time to show that Joan has in fact already done the dirty deed, with Don’s comforting words tragically arriving too late.
The action then cleverly intercuts back and forth between the Jaguar pitch and scenes of Joan’s hotel room transaction, emphasising once again the lengths the characters go to get what they think they want.
As Don begins his winning pitch, he murmurs to the men assembled in front of him: “What price we could pay, what behaviour we could forgive.” Don is finally realising that the price they have paid to win Jaguar is far too high.
Mad Men has become famed for its parallel plotting, weaving a theme through various subplots and tonight that message was the price of women, and it was a price which Peggy would not pay.
After yet again being unappreciated by Don, who even cruelly throws money in her face (echoing Joan’s act of prostitution), Peggy sees that it’s time to realise her own worth, and leave SCDP for a company that has more respect for women.
In the second shocking bombshell of the night, Peggy takes an offer at another company, and it’s almost unbearably poignant as Don finally realises too late that she is gone and he cannot buy her back.
Peggy goes to shake his hand goodbye, but a devastated Don reaches forward and kisses it, this moving scene chronicling the end of one of the most crucial, longstanding relationships on Mad Men.
Tonight’s episode ‘The Other Woman’ wasn’t the most subtle we’ve seen from Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, but it’s without a doubt one of the most shocking and memorable of the season. A real game changer that will have lasting repercussions for absolutely everyone, especially Peggy and Joan.
The episode ended to the refrain of The Kinks ‘You Really Got Me,’ which seemed a wry nod to the fact that there would be no one watching who hadn’t been blindsided by the unexpected, excellently executed plot twists of Joan becoming partner and Peggy saying goodbye to SCDP.
What did you think of tonight’s episode of Mad Men?