Your ‘Mad Men’ Season 6, Episode 4 Talking Points: All’s Fair in Free Love and Advertising

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No current TV show generates more Monday morning conversation than Mad Men. With that in mind, Flavorwire is recapping Season 6′s Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce by giving you a handful of talking points to spark your own water-cooler debate. Last night’s episode, “To Have and to Hold,” was notable for finally revisiting Joan’s story — and for piling up the betrayals, both personal and professional.

Several months into her new role as partner at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, Joan still isn’t getting the respect she deserves. After she fires Harry’s secretary, Scarlett, he storms into her office and announces that she’s his employee and he wants to keep her. Then, furious that she’s an executive and he isn’t, he storms into a meeting of the partners and demands to be given a seat at the table. “I’m sorry my accomplishments happened in broad daylight and I can’t be given the same rewards,” he blusters, reminding us that his poisonous envy is flavored with virulent misogyny. Joan’s colleagues reassure her that Harry won’t be made a partner, but they also conclude that public humiliation has taught Scarlett (and her accomplice, Dawn) enough of a lesson and overrule her dismissal. Later, she tells her friend Kate how she really feels about her new role at SCDP: “I’ve been working there for 15 years and they still treat me like a secretary.”

Like Harry, Kate is jealous of Joan, because she mistakes a life of steely pragmatism and heartbreak for a life of glamor and freedom. She’s in town to interview for a job in the big city, but her bigger priority seems to be a night at the psychedelic Electric Circus with a young waiter. Kate is married, and her betrayal is only one of the many that pervade “To Have and to Hold.” The episode begins when Pete and a noticeably uncomfortable Don hold a secret meeting with Ketchup — the prestigious Heinz brand they’re pursuing behind Beans’ back — but the joke is on them when Peggy and her team show up at the hotel room SCDP has paid for and pull the business out from under them.

In fact, “To Have and to Hold” seems designed to give Don a taste of his own disloyal medicine; not only is he undermined professionally, but he’s forced to deal with Megan making out with an attractive costar in a series of love scenes. “I can tolerate this, but I can’t encourage it,” he tells her, but by the end of the episode he’s come to spy on her at a taping and it’s unclear whether he will, in fact, be able to tolerate her pretend infidelity — which is pretty hypocritical, of course, seeing as he’s the one who’s really cheating and ends the hour in the arms of Sylvia. We even see a bit of Don’s youth, explored so extensively last week, bubble up in his fight with Megan: “You kiss people for money. You know who does that?” It’s possible he’s got prostitution on the mind because, for once, it’s Don who’s been objectified and had to politely refuse sexual advances made by Megan’s swinger colleagues. Something of a sequel to last year’s memorable episode on Joan’s moral quandary, “To Have and to Hold” reminded us that circumstances can force anyone — even a man — into a dilemma like hers.

Additional talking points:

  • Dawn is finally a character: Speaking of betrayals, Don’s secretary, Dawn, got her first mini-storyline last night. The only black employee in the office, she’s the one Scarlett recruits to punch her time card and cover for her absence. But does trying to fit in — and obeying her coworkers despite her misgivings — make her a traitor to her race? “All they see is, ‘Yes, suh,'” Dawn’s friend Nikki tells her. “What am I going to do, throw a brick through their window?” Dawn counters.
  • Are Harry’s days at SCDP numbered?: Although his Namath-for-napalm pitch earns him a commission larger than his annual salary, it’s clear he’s got no chance of making partner. So Harry alludes to the possibility that he’ll get snapped up by another firm — and it’s hard not to hope his endlessly annoying character is on the way out.
  • “I’m sure he’s a man who plays many roles.” Arlene really has Don’s number, eh?
  • The pained look Don gives Peggy when he sees her show up to pitch Ketchup. I’m not in the practice of empathizing with Don Draper, but I couldn’t help feel his pain in that beautifully rendered silent exchange.
  • Joan’s commitment-free love life. Sure, she makes out with some guy at the Electric Circus, but sometime between her awful marriage and her night with the Jaguar guy, Joan seems to have made a decision not to get too romantically involved. Talking with Kate, she implies that she’s made a decision to be on her own for the rest of her life — which is pretty huge when you think back to the marriage-minded Joan of early Mad Men seasons.