After weeks of fat-suiting, genre-busting, punch-throwing, acid-dropping episodes, last night’s Mad Men was content instead simply to zero in on small, happy-sad milestones in our characters lives, deepening their unfinished, pointillistic portraits — i.e., do what Mad Men’s done best for its previous four seasons. It wasn’t flashy, and save for one holy crap! moment, not particularly daring. For anyone harboring ill feelings towards Megan Draper, it also may have been fairly maddening, since so much of the hour was spent exploring and expanding our understanding of who she is, and where she’s come from. Also, there was a lot of French — but at least we (mostly) got subtitles!
The episode may have spent the most time on Megan, but it really focused on three young women — Megan, Sally, and Peggy — and their yearning for validation, for the need to know that the life they’re carving for themselves is headed in the right direction. Let’s start with Peggy, since her storyline was the one most removed from everyone else’s. She’d shaken off the disappointment of being booted off the Heinz account, and was happily shooting the breeze late one night back at the office with Stan and Michael and her boyfriend Abe — seemingly on his first visit to the office, or at least his first time around Stan the twentysomething frat boy, and Michael the filter-free Martian. Stan turned the conversation quickly to the Playtex account, and some forward discussion of Peggy’s bosom ensued. Peggy liked it — she seemed rather flattered by the attention — but the talk clearly rattled Abe, who made for a swift exit.
I could be crazy, but all this season I’ve sensed a subtle micro-storyline in Stan’s continued attraction to, and possible love for, Peggy. And I think Abe noticed it too. The next day, he brusquely phoned Peggy and demanded they have dinner at a new, nice establishment that night, no matter how busy she’d be at work. Peggy was immediately unnerved, and her snap interpretation was that Abe wanted to break up. So she turned to the only woman she trusts with matters of the heart, the only woman who seems to know all the rules and how best to follow, bend, or break them: Joan.
Joan interpreted Abe’s actions far differently: He’s gonna propose, you dummy! Peggy’s heartbreakingly priceless reaction: Wait, no one proposes to me, they propose to, well, Joan! I loved how nakedly Peggy showed her adulation for Joan, and how Joan allowed herself to enjoy it while also softly swatting it away. “Men don’t take the time to end things,” Joan said, speaking from all-too-recent experience. “They ignore you, until you insist on a declaration of hate.” Peggy, no slouch, realized what Joan was implying, even if she was incredulous about it: “Someone dumped…you?” Joan, pricelessly: ”Peggy, I’m just like everybody else.” Joan, I love you, but I beg to differ.
NEXT: Abe “proposes,” and Peggy’s mom is not happy about it