Season 6 of Mad Men has been light on Joan scenes, but this all changes in “To Have and To Hold” as her role as a partner is explored revealing how it is perceived by people in the office and in her personal life. This is also the first episode where we get to see Megan at work on her soap opera and while all might seem well with her marriage; this is not the case as Don continues his dalliance with Sylvia and he reacts unfavorably to a new storyline for Megan’s soap character.
It’s appropriate that Pete’s seedy city apartment is the location for the first secret meeting with Timmy from Heinz Ketchup as they’re courting him behind Raymond’s back. They are under the impression that they are the only agency vying for Timmy’s business and so it comes as a huge shock when they see Peggy waiting to pitch after them in a hotel room that they have paid for (yep they get screwed twice). This is thanks to Stan’s loose lips last week, when he revealed to Peggy that Heinz was looking for a new agency and Ted jumped at this opportunity. Even though Stan is a friend, SCDP is their rival so this action makes business sense but Stan’s reaction to Peggy (in the form of a one finger salute) shows that those late night phone calls are probably a thing of the past.
They of course choose Peggy’s work as it is bold and features the bottle; the big selling point in their eyes. Don listens in on Peggy talking and it’s hard to tell what he is feeling when he hears her use his “Change the conversation” line. Don’s mood takes a nose dive when they find out that they didn’t win the account and so he heads to Megan’s set where she is shooting her first love scene. This allows him to take his anger out on someone and he does it in a cruel fashion by comparing what she does to prostitution. The flashbacks last week showed Dick Whitman growing up in a whorehouse and so Arlene’s comment of “You like to watch don’t you?” probably hit home and prompted Don’s sneering reaction to Megan’s job.
I half expected for this argument to lead to angry sex as we saw when they had the fight after his birthday party last season, instead Don leaves Megan weeping and heads to Sylvia’s with Sylvia now standing in for his chance of redemption (she prays for him to find peace). There’s clearly chemistry between Don and Sylvia (and between Jon Hamm and Linda Cardellini), but it’s hard to have any sympathy for Don when he has just yelled at his wife for a fake romance when he has this going on in the same building they live in. The incident at dinner with Megan’s co-workers Arlene and Mel, two people who are very comfortable with their sexuality also gives Don the chance to play moral police with Megan about her profession. As we’ve seen with everything that goes on at SCDP with interpersonal relations, Don is the last one who should be judging.
One person at SCDP who is willing to say what he thinks about the backroom activity is Harry as he is fed up with his lack of partner status, despite the huge amount of revenue that he brings in. Even though Harry goes about it in the wrong way, he does have a point (I hate admitting it when Harry is right). This issue is raised when Joan fires Harry’s secretary (who I get a vague impression that he might be sleeping with her, or he wants to sleep with her) and he takes this moment to unleash all of his grievances about Joan’s path to partner.
Harry’s cruel words (which are tinged with truth) set in motion doubts within Joan that is nicely timed with her friend Kate visiting from out of town. Kate is incredibly impressed with Joan’s title at work and even when Joan admits that she is still treated like a glorified secretary, Kate suggests that this shouldn’t matter as she still has the ability to say that she is a partner. Joan’s story ties in with Dawn’s, another person who is having a perception issue. Dawn’s friend Nikki thinks that Dawn is being taken advantage of by the other secretaries at SCDP (and if they’re aware of the issue that Pete mentions when it comes to not being able to fire Dawn, Nikki might be right). Dawn doesn’t believe this to be the case, but when she apologizes to Joan she claims that the only person whose opinion she cares about is Joan’s even if that isolates her.
– “Project K” isn’t the most subtle secret project title, but watching Ginsberg try to figure out what it means is a lot of fun. This episode had quite a lot of humorous moments with this project before their failure and I would happily watch more scenes in the windowless room if they involve Stan and Don getting high debating whether hot dogs make you think of ketchup or mustard. Mustard is my answer to that question.
– The telephone restaurant that Joan and Kate go to feels like a real life version of Dream Phone.
– The transition from the awkward cab set up to the same seating positions in the club in the East Village with Joan, Kate and the phone restaurant waiter is really superb and thanks to the music in the club it feels quite hypnotic. The morning after showed both ladies suffering from hangovers – Joan’s mother helpfully asks “Do you need to throw up?” – and it’s a small detail but Joan’s dress that she is still wearing has a small rip in it. Betty’s trip to the East Village also ended up with torn clothes.
– Bert didn’t have an office when there was only one floor, but now they have another floor he gets a palatial space and he still has his no shoe rule. I would also happily watch hours of Bert and Roger chatting about politics and commenting on how awful Harry is (who is pretty ungrateful for a check that huge). Also Harry should never compare himself to Bert.
– Don catches on to the swinging offer at dinner a lot quicker than Megan does and his reaction of disgust and surprise is pretty wonderful. It doesn’t appear that they will be attending any key parties in the future as Don prefers his affairs in the traditional secret manner.
– Another moment of hilarious disgust from Don is when Pete offers him the use of his apartment if he ever needs it *nudge, nudge wink, wink.*
– The Vietnam War is mentioned in several storylines this week showing how it is becoming central to all that is going on in the U.S. in 1968. Don is against the war if anyone was wondering.