Mad Men recap: Penny Serenade

Joan goes out with a friend, Harry throws a tantrum, and Don's affair deepens
Ep. 04 | Aired Apr 21, 2013

THE KETCHUP-Y TASTE OF DEFEAT Don, Pete, and Stan regroup at a bar after losing Heinz Ketchup.

Jordin Althaus/AMC

While Peggy is clearly Don's female analogue and protege in a professional capacity, Joan has always been the homecoming queen to Don's All-American quarterback. But although she commands a certain level of respect in the office, her head often ends up tapping up against the glass ceiling. Not even a partnership—or at least one earned the way she earned hers—is enough to keep someone like Harry from feeling like he has free range when talking with her.

Harry, who we've seen evolve from a hapless dope to a hapless dope who's also kind of a scumbag, is infuriated when Joan tries to fire his secretary for leaving early and having Dawn punch out for her. He interrupts the partners' meeting to berate her and stammeringly demand his own seat at the table, his head still inflated from a successful TV pitch to Dow Chemical. (Joe Namath in a straw hat will help American viewers forget about the women and children being burned alive by napalm on the other side of the world.) Roger and Cooper end up trying to buy him off, but Harry is adamant, trying to gain sympathy by saying that Cooper was once like him, to which Cooper replies, "I was different from you in every way." It doesn't matter how many deals he seals, the idea of making Harry Crane a partner is like giving the dog a seat at the dinner table.

Joan's work woes are off-set by a visit from an old friend. (I'm guessing it was an old friend, since details about their exact relationship were scarce.) Joan's friend is a sales director for Mary Kay who's in New York to meet for a position with Avon. Both make-up companies were iconic places for business-minded women to self-start, and the friend admits that she's doing it partly in emulation of Joan. Even Joan's mother can't keep the pride out of her voice when she talks about her daughter's position at SCDP. Of course, neither of them know how that position was procured, but, on the other hand, Joan has always been indispensable to the company in exactly the way her promotion would suggest to outside eyes.

A night on the town shows Joan in her element. She indulges in some youthful indiscretions, playing Cyrano to her friend and making out with a young man at the Electric Circus nightclub in the East Village. The song that plays, "Bonnie and Clyde," is by that seductive (read: lecherous) Frenchman Serge Gainsbourg and one of the few contemporary women who could match Joan Holloway's measurements: Brigitte Bardot.

This wild night, along with her friend's admiration, is exactly the ego-boost she needs. Tired of the resentment that comes with running her "petty dictatorship," as Harry calls it, Joan hands over the responsibility of keeping track of time cards to Dawn, who's just happy to still have her job. There's a chance we may be seeing more of Dawn in episodes to come. This is the first time she's treated like a character in her own right as opposed to someone against whom Don or Peggy's racial views could be bounced. She meets with her about-to-be-married friend in a primarily black diner to talk frankly about all the sad, lonely, alcoholic white losers populating her place of employment. Mad Men has always opened itself up to flak for the way it has (or, more accurately, hasn't) grappled with race relations, so it's nice to see some effort on that front at least.

It was a surprisingly plot-thick episode, especially after the last few mood pieces. Still, nothing of major consequence happened and beyond setting up a potential Peggy/Don rivalry (which would be the advertising equivalent of Anakin fighting Obi-Wan) there's still not much clue as to how the rest of the season will pan out. But that's just par for the course.

STRAY THOUGHTS

"I live here, Pete." Don's one-line shut-down of Pete's offer to let him use the Sex Pad. Of course he has no need for a secret adultery hideout because he lives in the same building as his mistress.

"Harry has great ideas." "Did you find your keys?" There's no way Harry's not sleeping with his secretary, right?

Did anyone else want to hear the "Yankee Doodle Dandy"/"Notre Dame Fight Song" duet go on a little longer?

Don is constantly playing his own continuing game of "Who Kisses Better?"

I really hope the ketchup poaching doesn't sour the relationship between Stan and Peggy. I was really enjoying their cross-agency friendship.

My God, Stan's beard. It's glorious.

Follow Keith on Twitter: @Staskijiwczejcz


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