Sunday, May 27, 2012

MAD MEN 5.11--"The Other Woman"

 You may find yourself living a shotgun shack. You may find yourself in another part of the world. You may find your self behind the wheel of a large automobile. You may find yourself with a comics blog. You may mind yourself reviewing Mad Men despite the lack of overlap. You may say to yourself "Well, how did I get here?"

 Then you decide to hang all that and get to the point, because here it is episode 11 and in a couple more weeks this'll all be done and dusted. Last week we had a humorous pile-up of plotting, including yet not limited to Lane embezzling, Harry banging a Hare Krishna, Megan throwing spaghetti and Joan throwing airplanes. What madcap hi-jinks await us this time? We'll just have to see.


 "Don't fool yourself--this is some very dirty business"

 Man, this episode starts heavy and gets worse, ultimately becoming blacker than midnight in a coal mine. We pick up with where we left off last week--with SCDP committing itself in force to securing the Jaguar account. Don has his people working nose to the grindstone and have locked into the notion of Jaguar (they were--and are--extraordinarily high-maintenance cars)  as the "mistress" car--expensive, high-maintenance, and not altogether reliable. One may compare and contrast this with Don's past as searching out woefully complicated infidelities when he was with Betty and Pete's recent adventures in being oily and creepy and unfaithful this season.

 If that were all it was, that would be bad enough. But one of the Jaguar dealers decides to make things difficult by suggesting that if he were allowed to have sex with Joan, it would ensure his vote Unfortunately, he does this in front of Pete, who has not had his ethical program installed by Dr. Soong, and thus, makes it a whole production to Joan (who, obviously says no.) and then to the partners, which initially seems to go well, as Don thinks it's an insane idea to even entertain and Lane is appalled (naturally, as he has that whole embezzlement noose around his neck after last week) but . . .Roger and Bert are surprisingly willing to entertain the idea of what is essentially high-value prostitution.

 However, ugly as it is, Lane plants a rather explosive idea in Joan's head about making her a full partner (incidentally dropping a line about the source of his tax problems--when they formed SCDP back at the end of Season 3, he settled for something lower than his worth, which, one assumes, led to his tax problems. That he suggests something that might tank the entire firm is . . .intriguing, and speaks somewhat to his state of mind with the noose around his neck) as an incentive to sleep with the guy. And Joan, motivated perhaps by a broken fridge, her mom verbalising what we've all been thinking about Greg (that we hope he gets killed in Vietnam) lays down the ultimatum--she wants to be a partner (and not a silent one) with a sufficient percentage of the business to set her up for life.

 The "dirty business" or, to be less delicate, "shit rolling downhill" causes all kinds of shockwaves. For one thing, Peggy's handling all the work while Don and the boys are contemplating Jaguar. Unfortunately, added responsibility doesn't equal more respect or credit, a reality Don proves in an utterly repelled display (as display so bad even Harry Crane leaves without comment) Peggy's been close to leaving before, but in telling Ken to go to hell with regards to their pact that if he found something good he'd take her along, she's ever closer to going her own way.

 Don further fails to distinguish himself by throwing a shit fit when Megan's audition possibly will end up with her leaving for Boston for rehearsals. Don, upset about the Joan thing, upset because Jaguar's not breaking right, because the partner's voted to pimp Joan out without him, and maybe just upset at being abandoned, throws a shit fit and Megan gives it right back. Don's fear of abandonment will further wound him in this episode, but we'll get to that in a bit.

 Because Joan goes through with it, and it's cross-cut with Don's pitch to Jaguar (of Ginsberg's idea, which I must confess, I didn't think that much of. As usual with his stuff it seems blatantly on the nose so we're assured of how "deep" he is) with Joan having sex with the sales rep. It is easily one of the bleakest things I have ever watched on this show and I marveled, slightly, at the dark art necessary to make Joan being raped by Dr. Greg on the floor of Don's office seem like small potatoes next to the apocalyptic grotesquerie of this. It is an incredible scene, and honestly, I dunno if I could ever watch it again easily, especially when we realise that poor Don was too late to talk her out of it. It is sad enough to be William Styron level bleakness.

 But hey, the ends justify the means, right? SCDP gets Jaguar, and everything's great, huh? Joan gets her partnership, Don gets a big win, Lane gets that noose around his neck tightened (and potentially has now dragged Joan into it--last season the partners were expected to kick in money to keep the lights on and even Pete couldn't afford his stake and Don had to kick his in) Don knows what it cost to make happen and feels disgusted . . .

  . . .and Peggy quits SCDP to go work with Ted Chaough (who you may remember from last season--he postured himself as Don's nemesis and got burned by Don with the Honda thing) Don takes this news . . .not well at all, really. Remember, this is the person who he begged to come with him when SCDP started, the person who was there with him when Anna died, the person who's always been there. And she left on a day wherein the business that kept him away from Megan won a big one at a price too awful to be easily tolerated.

 I don't say this easily, and it's certainly not as explosive in it's bleakness, but this episode was almost Breaking Bad level bleak. The recurring motif of the women of the show being eyed like a piece of meat (even when she's escaping to a new job poor Peggy has to deal with Chaough leering at her) was awful, the tension unbearable, and the final scene just brutal.

 Two episodes to go. Gonna be strange with Peggy elsewhere, and everyone else walking wounded for a whole host of reasons.

 That's it for this week! Join us next week when Joan plays with Silly Putty, Bert and Roger decide to get out of town and go for a drug-fueled rampage through Las Vegas, and Pete finally quits shopping in Nordstrom's boys department in a little funky fresh jam we call "Commissions and Fees." Until next week--soupy twist!


RosieP said...

But hey, the ends justify the means, right?

Does it? I wouldn't be surprised if the other partners will only be able to view Joan as a whore. And if this is true, Joan will have brought this upon herself by agreeing to Lane's final proposition.

Kazekage said...

My first Mad Men commenter! Thanks for stopping by. :)

Sarcasm on my part with the whole "ends justifying the means" thing. To use another cliche "the interstate to hell is paved by horrible intentions."

This whole maneuver was like unleashing a plague as a weapon--it'll infect everyone with rot before all is said and done.

The more I've chewed over it, the more it's really a bad situation for all concerned. Pete has proven himself to be the grimiest of grimy pimps and it's hard to find someone who's turning out your staff all that dependable. Don now has to work in a firm without Peggy (who he drove away) and with a big "get" for SCDP that will forever be tainted because he'll never know whether it was his presentation of Joan's sexytimes, Lane has maneuvered Joan into not necessarily having a lot of money (because once the embezzlement comes out, it may tank the firm even with the infusion of Jaguar)and being a cover for his embezzlement.

Really, all it's managed to do is poison everyone at SCDP to one level or another and probably superheat every simmering conflict to the point where world wars may not have had this level of animosity.