Mad Men Season 6 Episode 3: “To Have and to Hold”
First, apologies for the lack of recap last week. Monday was a rough day for everyone, and I couldn’t get a recap up in time. But it’s not a big loss. Suffice to say I was not a fan of the episode. But this week the show returned to form and it did it beautifully. Cue sigh of relief. And now on to the recap.
It took four hours but we finally got a real Joan storyline and the biggest single fallout from season 6: Joan’s big secret and her big promotion. In an office like SCDP there was no way that Joan’s prostitution was going to be kept quiet. It’s unfortunate for everyone (the characters, the audience, humanity) that Harry Crane is the first one to say it out loud. There are few things on this show (and indeed, life) worse than a Harry Crane temper tantrum. And his brand new glasses and sideburns only make him easier to hate. There was some truth in what he was saying about being under-appreciated, but the people who ask for appreciation never get it. He’s never fit in, neither at Sterling Cooper nor at SCDP. He’s talented and they need him, but nobody likes him. He has a great facade and no substance. I predict he won’t be at SCDP much longer. It’s interesting to think that of the founding members of SCDP, (Don, Bert, Roger, Pete, Peggy, Joan, Harry and Lane), five are partners, one quit, one died, and one is Harry.
Joan is feeling the fallout of her situation on a personal level too. Her friend Kate is in town, another career woman, in this instance, from Mary Kay, and is pressuring Joan to act like the woman she was in season 1 or 2, when she still lived with a roommate and had one night stands just because she felt like it. The scene at the soda shop with phones at the tables (was this really a thing? why? I will investigate) looked and felt wrong. Joan didn’t belong there. She belonged even less in the cab and at the club. She really just seemed so old. So mature. An executive, like Kate said. The way she convinced herself to kiss the man was a little hard to watch. Christina Hendricks did some of her best work in this episode. The firing the secretary storyline is one we’ve encountered with Joan a few times before, and I was pleased that this time it led to forward motion for Harry and for Dawn.
Speaking of Dawn, she exists! At last Mad Men has an African American character with her own storylines completely devoid of other regulars. I’m so intrigued to know more about Dawn. The scenes she was in tonight were all strategic and revealing. Letting herself be taken advantage of at work and the fallout alongside the two scenes in the diner showed us that she’s a pushover and that she’s honest. And that she, like Peggy, is getting something different out of that office than the search for a man.
Poor Megan Calvet Draper found her man and her dream career but can’t have both. I’d think she’d have a lot to say in this whole “can women have it all” debate. As her soap opera role gets bigger and bigger (without any evidence as to why she got it, we have to assume it’s because Don gave her that commercial) they’re giving her a sex scene. Her biggest worry is about Don, who she still believes to be monogamous and in love with her. As the season unravels it seems that neither is true anymore.
Megan’s costar suggests a dinner with her husband, the writer, and Megan and Don, to make the news go down better. The result was one of the funniest scenes ever on Mad Men. At first I thought he was coming on to just Don and then I realized the, ah, implication of the dinner. Did you ever think Don would seem like a prude? Of course he’s not, but he wants his wife to be. I almost felt that the licentious couple only existed so that Don could tell Megan to go home with them after he freaks out that she kissed another man. Does he think Sylvia Rosen is a bad person for cheating on her husband? Maybe, maybe not. But he definitely thinks Megan is.
And of course, there’s the Heinz debacle. This one is Don’s fault. After proclaiming his loyalty last week to baked beans when Ken had the opportunity for ketchup, he goes ahead and meets them anyway, with Pete (Ken is so much better at his job, Don!) and then blows the presentation. Hey, maybe smoking marijuana while you work isn’t the best idea? I thought it was pretty funny that Don’s ad focused on food, like he and Stan had the munchies while working on it. But it was an example that Don’s losing his touch. His go-to pitch (nostalgia, mystery) isn’t what’s going to cut it for some of these bigger brands. Peggy’s on the other hand, was clear cut, bold, and what the client wanted. She and Ted won the bake off while Don and Stan just got baked.
There’s all sorts of symbolism surrounding Don’s turning around of Sylvia’s cross necklace at the end, tied into this week’s episode title “To Have and To Hold.” Marriage isn’t very sacred on Mad Men, although everyone pretends it is. I tend to think the title was less about matrimony (although it was all over the ep, from the open marriage to Dawn’s friend’s pending nuptials) and more about what everyone is losing. Don lost Heinz. Megan lost Don. Joan lost her old self. We’ll see what they gain instead.