Mad Men – Recap & Review – The Other Woman

photo: amc

Mad Men
The Other Woman

Original Air Date: May 27, 2012

Ryan O – Associate Staff Writer

Joan’s arc from the beginning of the series has consistently broken my heart. She’s a woman of staggering talent. If Joan were alive today, she’d be, at the very least, a must-read blogger who gets a million visits a day (who wouldn’t love to read what Joan had to say about anything and everything from pop culture to politics?) and at the very most, on her way to being a CEO of a very successful company.

But, in 1967, she is none of those things. Instead, the way for her to become a partner in an advertising agency is to become a prostitute.

The episode breaks down into the story of the show’s three most important women. Each is asking someone to hire them. Let’s start with Megan, get to Peggy, and then Joan.


Megan tells Don she has an audition for a play. He mentions not really wanting to let go out in her dress, which is short enough that we can’t see it under a very short coat. Later, she stops by the office before going to the audition to see Don so she can be confident going into the audition. The next morning, she tells Don she got a callback audition. She also tells him that there’s two months of rehearsals and three weeks of preview performances in Boston before the show opens on Broadway. Don is pretty angry at the thought of her being in Boston for three months.

Megan goes to the callback audition. Three men on a couch. One asks her to step toward them and turn around, which she does. Her appearance is a commodity.

Later that day, she tells Don when he gets home from work that it didn’t go well. She asks him not to make her choose between work and him because she’ll choose him but she’ll hate him for it.


Peggy is watching all of the men working on Jaguar in the conference room — including a number of freelancers hired just for this pitch. Yes, there is literally a glass wall between her and the most important work the office is doing. But, she’s working on everything else and Don has given her the authority to sign off on things.

Ken is taking a call from a Chevalier Blanc, the cologne that Ginsberg wrote the Hard Day’s Night-style pitch for several episodes ago. They like the work but sales has levelled off so they want to drop the ad. Peggy and Harry are in on the call, too. Peggy tweaks the idea on the spot and the client loves it. Later, she mentions it to Don, who is all set to send Ginsberg to Paris to help shoot the ad. Peggy isn’t pleased with that, since the idea is now hers. Don, in front of Ken and Harry, literally and angrily throws money in her face. Peggy just walks out. Ken follows her. Harry does, too, looking at Don kind of disappointedly, which good for you, Harry.

Ken and Peggy talk and Ken mentions their pact about them leaving together. Peggy tells him his pact is like his writing: fiction.

Peggy has lunch with former colleague Freddy Rumsen. They talk about her leaving and Freddy says he’ll hunt for jobs for her. That leads to a meeting with Teddy Chaough, Don’s nemesis from last season. Teddy is excited about hiring her. Peggy writes down the salary that she wants and slides it to him (and the title of “Copy Chief”). He crosses it out and slides back a number that’s $1,000 higher ($19,000, which is about $130,000 now and the $1,000 increase is worth about $7,000 now). She’s in.

The bad part is that she has to tell Don. She gives Don a really thoughtful and meaningful speech about being grateful for everything and the way he has mentored and championed her. But, she thinks it’s time for new experiences and she’s giving her two-week notice. Don tries to offer her a raise. Peggy is committed to leaving though and Don gets a little bitter. Peggy says it’ll be hard to leave. Don says she doesn’t need to stay for two more weeks, he’ll be fine with the freelancers. Peggy, who is standing, offers Don, who is sitting her hand so they can shake. Instead, he takes it, hold it, and kisses it. For a long time. Nope, longer. Still a little longer. Finally, he lets go. With tears in her eyes, she tells him not to be a stranger. She goes to office, gathers a few things and walks down the hall. Joan sees her leaving and isn’t sure why she’s going. Peggy gives a last look to the office and then gets in the elevator and is gone.


Ken and Pete are at dinner with a guy from Jaguar. They’re talking about what SCDP has to offer Jaguar. The guy mentions that one thing SCDP has is Joan and he’d love to sleep with her. Ken tries to cut off the conversation. Pete, because he’s Pete, doesn’t and draws the guy out a bit. The guy essentially says if he doesn’t get to spend the night with Joan, he’ll vote to go with another agency and his is one of three votes.

Pete goes into Joan’s office the next day. He tries to soft-pedal it but, yes, he asks Joan to sleep with the guy. Joan, of course, isn’t interested. Pete has the gall to say, “If you can think of some way to break it to the company that we’re out of this, I’d really appreciate it” and then “We’ve all had nights in our lives where we’ve made mistakes for free.” Ugh. Pete, you’re just gross. Pete still wants to know what it would take for Joan to go through with it. “I don’t think you could afford it.”

Pete brings it up with the other partners. Don clearly wants to beat Pete for even entertaining the idea. Don leaves and slams the door behind him. Pete suggests a 10% finder’s fee on the first year’s commission, which is about $50,000 (about $350,000 today). Bert does point out that you can’t overempasize the importance to the firm of getting a car but Pete needs to let her know she can still say no (and he’s earnest about both statements). (I know Pete pitched it to them as if Joan just needed enough but would Bert or Roger really entertain the idea? Would Lane? It seems a bit unlikely, doesn’t it?)

Lane visits Joan. He’s not comfortable about it but brings up the bargain. Joan’s disappointed that Roger participated. Lane doesn’t want her head turned by a big number says she needs to be smart. Ultimately says she shouldn’t ask $50,000 but for 5% partnership in the firm.

The next morning, Joan goes into Pete’s office. She tells him she wants a 5% partnership in the business and she wants the papers drawn up by the end of the day. “There’s no negotiation.” Pete eventually tells Don that Joan got 5%.

Don goes to Joan’s apartment to stop her. She’s in a silk bathrobe, “about to get in the shower.” Don pleads with Joan not to do it. Joan calls him one of the good ones. Don tells her to have a nice night.

We next see Don pitching to Jaguar. We start switching back and forth between the pitch and Joan going to the guy’s hotel room. Don is pitching. Joan is, well, being reduced.

But. It turns out that Joan had gone through with going on the date before Don had arrived at her apartment and we see that encounter again, from her point of view. She slips the bathrobe over her dress. She tells Don she was told everyone was in favor and Don says they voted after he left.

Each of the three women is very talented. One was able to use her talents and get what she wanted. One used her talents but didn’t get it. One wasn’t even really in charge of her own fate in regard to what happened to her. She was a carrot in a negotiation.

Don doesn’t find out until the next morning that Joan went through with it. He can’t enjoy the celebration that comes with landing Jaguar.

Other than the obvious horror at Joan’s situation, I don’t know how I feel about this. I’m not sure I like that the writers did this to Joan’s character. How do you bring a character back from that? How can the partners have respect for Joan? How can anyone in the office? How do you explain how Joan got her partnership? How could they not ask her to do that again? How can Don think of Joan in a positive way again? I’m not entirely pleased that the show did this with that character. Turning her into an actual prostitute.

Other things

* Ginsberg is ultimately the one that comes up with the idea that they go with to pitch to Jaguar.
* Don opposed Joan doing it because, seriously, ew. But, also, he was motivated by wanting the creative work to stand on its own.
* Lane went to Joan partly because he’d already extended the company’s line of credit another $50,000 without telling anyone. He needed Joan to ask for something else.
* Pete read Goodnight Moon to his little girl. We also got a bit of Trudy. She told him that he needs to end his affair: the one he has with Manhattan.
* It seems pretty clear that we’re building toward a Don and Joan pairing. What will become of Megan?
* As Peggy tells Don, he tries to make a counteroffer. “There’s no number” is what Peggy tells him. He seems to have no respect for that. On the other hand, that’s opposite of how he feels about Joan having a “number.”

Best Lines: “It’s not a game. It’s my career.” It could’ve been spoken by any of the three women but Peggy said to Ted Chaough.
Best Shot: The shot of Peggy walking from the lobby and into the elevator simple but clear. Peggy Olsen has left the building.
Song over the end credits: 1964’s “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks

What do you expect to happen in the coming weeks? Let’s hear your Two Cents!

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