Things (and people) were really moving around this week. Last week’s episode may have been a nice setup for this season, providing us some perspective on who is where and how Don and SC&P are working, while being separated from each other, but this week’s episode really threw us into the world of Mad Men that has been so revered. “A Day’s Work” is an episode that provides us with many of these men at work, but really has its female characters at the center of every story being told. It works very well, especially as this is an episode set on Valentine’s Day that does not involve much romance at all.
Within this episode alone: Peggy deals with continuing to be an outsider based on her ‘prodigal child’ nature within the company; Joan deals with her position(s) at the company; Dawn deals with Don from afar and how that plays a part in her work; Pete’s realtor/lover, Bonnie, provides her own perspective on sales; even the various other secretaries are all adding to this episode’s plotting. Best of all, Sally Draper has a lot to do this week and given that I’m now writing about Mad Men, I can finally express more about how wonderful an actress I find Kiernan Shipka to be. Don’s adrift nature continues to be shown as well, but we are also given some hopeful moments with him, given how he eventually comes around to talking with Sally.
I will start with Peggy. We are not given much to like about her this week. Even given the misunderstanding that becomes the source of Peggy’s frustration this week, the fact remains that she began the day not realizing it was Valentine’s Day and ends the day by running to Joan to fix a problem, rather than confronting it herself. She is consumed by work, given that it is all she seems to have that both satisfies her in some way and provides her with something that allows her to wield the small amount of power in the company that she has. As a result, it would appear to only be Stan that she can consider a friend (maybe Ken Cosgrove too, but he’s busy). Lou Avery doesn’t care much about her ideas, Ginsberg is more or less her creative opposition, and most of the other women do not seem to care for her at all.
As we already were given a look at Peggy’s current life situation last week, it is a bit sad that her resulting irritation was initiated on this day by flowers. She unintentionally claims her secretary’s flowers and has a miserable day because of it, due to unresolved feelings for Ted. When she finally learns the truth and is rightfully embarrassed, her solution is to tell Joan that she needs a new girl, rather than patch things up with Shirley. Given that Joan is already dealing with another issue, it was great to see Harry Hamlin provide Joan with a choice that resulted for the better with regards to both her and Dawn.
Joan ended up having a nice Valentine’s Day, after having to push through some ugliness involving pettiness from some and casual racism from others. While arriving at work and receiving flowers from her son/Roger, Joan would eventually have to deal with her position as ‘Musical Chairs Director’, with Bert, Lou, and Peggy all requesting to have the different girls to be working for either them or in different parts of the office. Cutler manages to sum up Joan’s job quite well, when asking whether Joan would rather have the position that has her not liked by anyone downstairs or the one that provides a new office upstairs, where she can focus on her accounts. Taking what is easily the better choice, a new office upstairs, it also allows for a change that is a “screw you” to some of the white men in the office and a victory for change in the corporate offices of 1969 New York, with Dawn taking Joan’s old office and expanded responsibilities, even if it may come at a price.
It should be noted that Teyonah Parris, as Dawn Chambers, has been a wonderful asset to the show, given how she made her way into this company and how the show has utilized her since. This week we find that Don continues to be working with Dawn in an unusual fashion, but one can see how it makes sense, as there is a sense of loyalty, based on how Don has treated her in the past. We also get just enough world building with regards to a woman of color working in this corporate environment based on some simple exchanges between Dawn and Shirley, which is about as well played as any of the little, but significant, scenes in Mad Med can be.
Moving across the country for a bit and staying on the woman, Bonnie is a nice counter to Pete Campbell, who once again manages to be doing a lot of good in terms of work, yet remaining insufferable as a person. Now I certainly like Pete (who could resist the dolt), but I do really like this little relationship we are seeing between him and Bonnie. Jessy Schram adds some nice flavor to the character, both in the way she knows how to seduce Pete and in relating a story to him in regards to what her life is like in a similar industry. It is just a shame that Pete, for all the forward thinking he does, also has little regard for woman in business, which actually goes in line with the old guard that sit in the form of Roger and Bert in this episode.
Both men, while entertaining as always, rear their heads over some matters handled differently in the time they are living in now versus when they were younger. Roger happily announces the racial slur thrown his way and later fights with Cutler about how to handle an account (cutthroat vs. courtesy). Bert is happy to humor some ideas about how to handle the accounts, but also makes a direct request to not have a colored woman sitting at the front desk of his company. Change comes one step at a time, but the show does a hell of a job to remind you about who these men can be at times, whether it is in a good or bad light. Speaking of which, Don still wants to be seen in the good light, despite lingering in the bad.
This week we continue to see the façade that Don Draper has built around himself. While he spends a majority of the day watching TV alone and consuming products he once worked on the ads for (look at those delightful Ritz crackers), he then gets completely dressed simply to see Dawn at his door and receive the information he craves, in order to keep up with his company. He makes a boldface lie to another company head for the sake of an interview that he is doing to make some noise that he only hopes the members of SC&P can hear, so they can ideally invite him back to work. Don only breaks the act for the sake of Sally, much later in this episode, in a series of scenes that are flat out terrific.
While Mad Men generally does a fine enough job at making most of its plotlines each week feel plenty important, one could argue (or at least I will) that Sally has the A-plot of this episode. She begins by skipping school with her roommate/friends to go to a funeral, only to then go shopping in the city. Sally loses her purse, which lead to a trip to the office to see her father. It is soon made clear that Sally has no idea that her father is no longer at the company, which is awkwardly handled by Lou Avery who doesn’t believe he has to deal with this sort of thing. It is this incident that leads to Dawn’s promotion (imagine that), but getting back to Sally, the young Draper then heads to Don’s home, where Don then gets into another awkward situation.
It remains a bit heartbreaking that Don lost something last season when his daughter caught him in the act. Now he has to walk on eggshells around Sally, but that comes to a head this week when Don forces himself to tell the truth to her. Sally and Don began at different levels, based on what the two know separately this episode, but once the argument begins in the car and leads to a gas station dinner full of Don’s approximation of the truth and teenage rebellion from Sally, the episode has the potential to go just about anywhere, as Kiernan Shipka has always been a fine presence for Jon Hamm to match wits with.
The result is a nice one, as the two eventually settle on being honest with each other. It leads to a scene that is capped twice. One has Sally asking for a coke to go with the change Don gives for a phone call, the next has Don suggesting the two dine & dash. The fact that the car ride ends with Sally telling her father, “Happy Valentine’s Day, I love you,” is about as hopeful as it can get for Don, who may have lost many things, which could eventually include his marriage (Sally had some easy advice for that too), but is inching his way towards something worthwhile. His preferred position may not be currently open to him, but Don may at least be keeping some form of his desired identity not only alive, but strong. Sometimes Sally is in the right place at the right time.
Any Other Business?
- Still no sign of Harry Crane this week, but a lot of talk about Bob Benson!
- Lou Avery is a dick.
- “You can have my office.” – Ted is just a nice guy, isn’t he?
- Lots of short skirts this episode, in and out of the workplace.
- Ginsberg not holding the elevator for Peggy is such petty rebellion, but it works for him, I guess.
- Are there odds on Peggy and Stan getting together to have beautiful bearded children by the end of this series?