As always, spoilers lie ahead...
After three hours of focusing primarily on the men of Mad Men, this week's episode, "To Have And To Hold," was a decidedly more female-driven affair, as we caught up with Joan and delved more into Megan's career. And of course, Dawn who finally got a story line. Yay!
As far as theme goes, the episode's title is an obvious reference to marriage (and the soap opera Megan appears in); but it can also apply to relationships in general, particularly how one can feel bound to roles and ties they feel they have outgrown. And, as Don and Pete's foiled caper shows, breaking said ties can have consequences.
Joan is certainly caught between her old role as office queen bee and new role as partner. She seems at home with the latter when chatting over dinner her mother and friend Kate, an ambitious Mary Kay rep, as they give her props on her success. But a minor secretary scandal at SCDP reminds her that those who know the truth don't see her partnership as a triumph.
After firing Harry's secretary Scarlet for skipping out on work and having Don punch her time clock--which, FYI Scarlet girl, if you're gonna traffic in deception, you need to do a hell of a lot better than doing the "no no no," panic wave behind your boss's back--Harry pitches a fit against Joan's "dictatorship" and tells Scarlet to go back to her desk. "Do whatever you think is best," Joan tells her in steeliest voice and stares at her so intently you'd think the poor girl is about to incinerate before walking into a partner's meeting. Of course on one level Joan's reaction is more than slightly hypocritical; she had many a lunchtime dalliance with Roger back in the day, and while she's definitely about her business, I highly doubt Joan never played hooky. Then again, she only skipped out during lunch hour or after work, so maybe the issue isn't so much Scarlet had some fun, but she had it on company time. That and the fact she was so indiscreet, a cardinal sin in Joan's world.
But back to Harry, who, fresh from putting out a fire with Dow Chemical by making them sponsor of a family-friendly variety show, is feeling his oats, and barges into the meeting to finish what he started. Honestly, I expected this to another Harry Krane whipping boy fest, but he goes for the jugular. "I'm sorry my accomplishments happened in broad daylight, and I can't be given the same rewards...the next time this group is called to order I expect to be sitting at this table. I actually earned it."
As much as I loath and laugh at Harry 90 percent of the time, he has a point. He created the TV department from scratch, and has pretty much been running that ship solo ever since. He may be a skeeze, but he's a survivor, and like Peggy before him, has not been given his due, in part because everyone still thinks he's a complete joke. However, the venom he spews at Joan is particularly vile. Perhaps if he hadn't been so clueless as to how great she was the reading scripts/advising clients gig back in season two, she would've moved up SCDP's ranks in a more humane way. Of course Joan still chose to sleep with Herb, but maybe she wouldn't seen that as her only option if other, more legitimate doors to advancement weren't slammed in her face.
Adding direct insult to vicious shade, the rest of the partners overrule Joan's firing of Scarlet and stop whatever punishment she had in store for Dawn to keep up a facade of workplace diversity. After a day like that, who could blame Joan for having a girls' night out with Kate? If anything, the scenes between them provide Christina Hendricks the chance to deliver some hilarious lines ("I need a drink, and this place is a soda fountain."). The confrontation with Harry clearly hit a nerve. "You did everything smart" she says to Kate, recalling a failed marriage to a guy named Scotty. Though her mood picks up a bit when she realizes Kate wants to get lil' out of town action, and switches into a role she's perfected: a master interpreter and manipulator of men and their affections. Having been stripped of any power at work, she exerts it elsewhere; though I have to admit she looked as out of place as Betty in Greenwich Village in that psychedelic club.
The next morning, through runny mascara and messy hair, Kate expresses regret for her one night stand, while Joan reassures her everything will be back to normal when she gets home. Think of it as a softer version of Don's "it will shock you how much it never happened" line. Anyway, Kate goes on to express admiration for Joan's survivalist skills in staking out her territory in New York and in life. "I always had Dennis to fall back on. You didn't," Kate says. "And I never will. How did that happen?" Joan responds, sounding resigned to the reality she may never have a permanent man in her life. What seems to bother her more though, is her status at work. "I've been working there 15 years and they still treat me like a secretary," she says.
Something clicks though, when Kate tells her it doesn't matter what the other partners or anyone at SCDP thinks; she's there and the opportunity is hers for the taking. In a way, the moment is an echo of when Joan bluntly told Peggy to stop dressing like a little girl in season two's "Maidenform." Joan has the power and the position, now she just has to accept it herself. Her handing off the punch clock and supply closet keys to Dawn seems like a step in that direction. Though her warning to Dawn--"Don't thank me. You don't understand this is a punishment--is ambiguous. Is she saying Dawn is the new Joan, resented by other secretaries for spoiling their fun and dismissed by the men as a frivolous secretary in an important but thankless job? Damn, I guess it's not that ambiguous.
Of course Dawn doesn't just have to deal with being a woman in the workplace, but a black woman as well. It's why she was hired and why she kept her job after her snafu with Scarlet; she and SCDP are bound together. Though it's a tense relationship at the moment. Dawn doesn't get why everyone is so edge, or men cry in elevators or women in bathrooms, or drink their livers away, or hang themselves in their office. It's definitely not a place to find a husband, as she tells a friend/bride to be after said friend drops the bomb that her date for the wedding fell through.
Their scenes touch on race in both of personal terms--as when Dawn talks about how there are less of "us" on the train she takes to work, until it's just her and the shoeshine man, who doesn't give her a second glance--and in work terms as, when her friend rightly points out Scarlet asked her to punch her out so if things hit the fan, they could blame the black girl. Her friend calls her out for being scared to speak up, but as Dawn points out, "What am I gonna do? Throw a brick through their window?" Unlike said friend, she's not on the fast track to matrimony, so going along to get along is the better strategy at the moment. In some ways their conversations parallel Joan and Kate's, and it's nice to finally get Dawn's perspective, as she's an outsider to both the advertising world and the upper-middle class white men and women who occupy it. It's also notable Dawn wants Joan to like her, as it looks like she's on the same career girl/perpetually single path as both she and Peggy have traveled.
Out of the three main story arc's, Don's interested me the least this week. But maybe that's because we've seen so much of him earlier. Anyway, Don was not as his best in "To Have And To Hold"; he and Pete attempted to pull off a secret coup a la season three's "Shut The Door. Have A Seat" and season four's "The Chrysanthemum And The Sword" by meeting with Heinz Ketchup behind Raymond's back and failed miserably, and he ruined Megan's big love scene on her soap before going off to sleep with Sylvia.
But first the pitch; while it was great, the true surprise (or in Don's mind, more like treachery) came when he, Stan and Pete walked out to see Ted and Peggy. What's worse, his former protege has taken a liking to using some of his patented phrases ("If you don't like what' being said, change the conversation"). Long story short, Peggy's pitch's didn't win the account either, as Walter Thompson swooped in and, as Ted reveals "bought it in the room." Cue a pissed off Ken, who says Raymond found out about the secret meeting and has dropped SCDP. "There's nothing better than being be known for your loyalty," Ken spits before storming off. While Don was the target, his words definitely hit their mark with Peggy as well.
Ted, who under other circumstances would enjoy watching Don flail, does try to commiserate, does try to commiserate, saying big companies throw scraps out for the small firms like them to fight over. But Don being Don, he can't lower himself to find common ground with the enemy. "Speak for yourself" he says, walking off, not giving Peggy so much as a glance. Stan of course, is more transparent with his feelings, and flips her the bird on his way out. Aww, I'll miss their late night phone calls. Maybe they'll dial and make up? Yeah right.
Don broke his business ethic of loyalty, and it cost him, but he doesn't pick up on how that could also be costly in his personal life. No doubt seeing Peggy succeed without him with things he taught her put him in the worst head space possible to see Megan's first love scene. Though it's not as if he was over the moon about that in the first place. Over dinner with her co-star Arlene and her husband Mil, she tries to downplay the potential steaminess of her scene, but the Arlene and Mil don't follow her cues. That's because they got other things in mind, like inviting Don and Megan over for some weed and group sex. Oh yes, the swingers have arrived, but Megan and Don choose not to partake.
With all that in mind, how else could things have ended after he watched her scene than with a vicious fight in her dressing room? "I don't understand why you'd do that to yourself," she says, before calling him out for never stopping by the set until now or even watching the show. "I'm sick of tip toeing around you every time something good happens to me," she snaps, but Don's got plenty of emotionally damaging shots to fire off. "You kiss people for money. You know who does that?" he says, an ugly (and enlightening) remark in light of last week's whorehouse flashbacks.
"You couldn't stop it, so I guess ruining it is enough for you," Megan says. Oh honey, but Don's not done crapping all over your big day yet. He tells her to go to dinner with Arlene and Mil, since "they're much more open-minded." A cruel thing to say, especially since Don laughed off the whole swinging invitation with Megan in the cab on the way home earlier, giving her a false sense of security that he was fine with her job and with her love scene, then pulling the rug out from under her.
Speaking of rugs, Don picks up a penny under Sylvia's so he knows he can go inside her and Dr. Rosen's place and get lucky. The two start their usual dance, until Don asks her to take her cross off. She refuses, saying it means something to her. Don (jokingly?) asks if she prays for absolution or for him to come back after they finish. "I pray you'll find peace," she says, stroking his now pensive face. Oh Don. Just when I'm ready to write you off you get all human on me.