For those who don’t completely loathe the behavior of Don Draper yet, this episode presents more evidence as to why you should. The hypocrisy he shows in this episode is both astonishing and delusional. Don wishes to hold on to his philandering as long as he can, as if it has become part of his identity. And yet, as we see from this episode, the prospect of Megan doing anything approaching sex with another guy is seen as the worst thing in the world. What I love about this episode is how it unapologetically shows Don for the artificial construct he is. He is his own creation and he may have the classic look of successful, confident man but the absence of truth inside him has rendered him unable to do the things of which he used to be successful.
Much of the episode is devoted to the attempted acquisition of the Heinz ketchup account, and it’s fascinating seeing the different approaches of SCDP and Peggy’s agency. In Don’s campaign, there is an emphasis on what isn’t seen, with generic-looking fries and hamburgers without the ketchup in the frame at all, with the simple slogan “Pass the HEINZ”. Much like his hotel pitch in the first episode of the season, Don intentionally does not feature the product, fixating on what’s missing. This is undoubtedly related to his own feelings about his life, which seem to be growing stronger with each passing episode. Now it’s proving to be a detriment in his work as he is continuing to lose big accounts through depressing pitches that don’t appeal to companies’ sensibilities. Granted, his speeches haven’t gotten any less compelling or persuasive but the messages behind them have become much more negative in nature.
Peggy’s pitch is much more straightforward. She discusses Heinz’s competitor Catsup and how Heinz should distinguish themselves as the only real ketchup brand on the market. Her ad features the ketchup bottle at the top with the words “Heinz. The Only Ketchup” comprising the rest of the ad. The executives are very pleased with her ad in comparison to Don and company’s but the account ultimately ends up going to a third ad agency. There is a great moment when both SCDP and CGC meet at a local bar and Stan gives Peggy the middle finger. It is clear that she only got the information that Heinz was on the market from Stan’s private phone conversation with her so naturally it upset him. Once again, though, this is another example of men underestimating Peggy’s ambition and her willingness to excel beyond her former co-workers.
For those belly-aching the lack of Joan this season, we finally got a sizable dose of our favorite redhead in this episode. When her friend Kate comes in to visit her and the city, Joan takes her out for a night on the town, to give her a taste of New York. Kate is another of the long list of people who are in love with the idea of New York; the fast pace, the diversity, the different sites and the overall excitement, seen so often in movies and other forms of media are enough for anyone to want to try it out for a day or two. In her wide-eyed innocence, Kate wonders at Joan for how exciting her life must be, being a partner at a huge agency in addition to taking care of her child. But only Joan knows how much things haven’t changed since her early secretary days. Her male co-workers still treat her as second-class, despite her elevated status, and hesitates at the thought of going out for a night on the town. Regardless, she ends up making out with a stranger at a psychedelic club, choosing to look past her own dissatisfaction. Even with her status as a partner she still doesn’t feel respected as a woman.
Don is equally dissatisfied by the image he has constructed for himself. This is evident when he goes to Sylvia after scolding Megan and gets Sylvia’s cross necklace out of his sights. He is the image of the all-American male, as noted by the producer of To Have and to Hold at a dinner between him, Don and Megan. Yet he cannot help but feel a frustrated emptiness inside him. There are so many things he wishes to have and hold, namely Megan, Sylvia (and many other girls like her) and his job, but most of all he wishes to be in control of his destiny and his happiness. Unfortunately, his attempts at making himself happy come at a cost to those around him. He may hide behind cigarettes, a glass of scotch and a confident grin but he’s much more unhappy than any of him admirers and worshipers.
This was a solid entry into the sixth season, though it wasn’t quite a home-run. There’s a lot of treading the same tracks going on here so I hope some progress is made in the episodes to come, not just for the plot but the characters themselves.
MVP: Christina Hendricks