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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

April 22, 2013 at 8:24 AM

Mad Men Monday: The conversation changes

“If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation,” says a breezy Peggy, during a pitch to Heinz Ketchup. Sound familiar? It’s because Don said that exact thing to her, a few seasons back when she was still a wide-eyed protege, and now Don’s listening in at the door, hearing his own words bounce back at him. Not a great moment for him (nor, as it turns out, for Peggy either), and one that will surely change their relationship. And you wonder how Don, after last week’s pious “Sometimes you’ve got to dance with the one that brung you,” got so swept up in this top-secret pitch — was he caught up in “the prestige that comes with ketchup,” to quote the Heinz guy in the fabulous blue and green plaid blazer? Or was it because Don’s always drawn to secrets, to not playing by the rules?

Last night’s episode, “To Have and to Hold” (named for the soap opera that Megan’s on) turned its focus to some characters who haven’t had much attention yet this season. Joan, whose mother still lives with her (hmm, wasn’t she going to “hire a girl”?), welcomed an old friend and took the opportunity to have a little fun — trying to forget that, at work, she’s still being treated as a secretary rather than a partner. (Note that Joan’s made one significant change this season that indicates that she, at least, has made the switch: She’s no longer wearing the gold pen necklace that for five seasons was her signature accessory.) But her friend, and her mother, reminded her that it doesn’t matter what her colleagues do — she’s a partner at a Madison Avenue advertising firm, and “that looks pretty good from where I’m sitting,” says the Mary Kay-pushing pal. Harry revealed his true colors as not just a dim bulb but kind of a jerk, trying to overrule Joan’s authority and making insinuations about she got her partnership. (It’s not clear how much he knows; but his guess hits too close to home for comfort.) He’s demanding a partnership for himself, though he’s so clueless he can’t even threaten to quit correctly — I loved how his line “It’s her, or me!” was followed by an amused Pete saying “I think you mean, ‘if she goes, I go.’” Anyone else think it’s Matthew Weiner’s not-so-private joke that the biggest dolt on his show is the television executive?

We finally heard a little more from Dawn, who met a friend at a diner and shared some thoughts about working at SCDP: “It sounds like New Year’s Eve when they empty the garbage — all those bottles,” she says, describing how women cry in the bathrooms and men cry in the elevators. Be careful, her friend cautions — those women aren’t your friends. But Dawn, in a weak moment, agrees to help Scarlett (who’s surely sleeping with her boss, right?) in a deception — incurring the wrath of Joan. This subplot ends with a very interesting scene between Dawn and Joan, who are in a similar position: they’re both outsiders in the office, without friends and unsure who’s being honest with them. Joan surprises Dawn by giving her something of a promotion, but calling it a punishment; perhaps she’s sensing, somewhere deep down, a kindred spirit.

And the Don/Megan/Sylvia triangle continues to play out, with Don at his most hypocritical — calling Megan a prostitute, more or less, for enthusiastically participating in a love scene on her soap (which is a promotion of sorts for her). He then scoops up the penny under Sylvia’s welcome mat (several of their encounters have had financial undertones, as befits Don’s adolescent understanding of relationships), only to be taken aback mid-seduction when Sylvia tells him that she prays for him — “to find peace.” Sounds like somebody knows Don pretty well.

What did you think of this fairly quiet episode? I think the season’s still warming up. Another favorite moment, though: Pete, who never stops trying to impress Don, idiotically offers him the use of the Swinging Bachelor Pad, in case Don should need an apartment in Manhattan. Don gazes at him with an I-can’t-believe-I-have-to-deal-with-this-person look, and says coolly, “I live here.” I do love watching Pete getting put in his place — though I missed Trudy this week. Other thoughts?

Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) - Mad Men - Season 6, Episode 4 - Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC

(Photo by Michael Yarish, courtesy of AMC.) Note how Joan’s style has changed very little over the years (other than losing the pen necklace) — she’s still wearing her hair in a very “done” early-60s way, and her almost matronly dresses and suits are a sharp contrast with the mini-skirts of the younger women at the office.

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