For the past five seasons of Mad Men, Christina Hendricks‘ Joan Holloway has been using sex to get ahead in life. And on last night’s episode, she finally got paid for it.
When we first met Don Draper and his merry band of ad salesmen, Joan was the hot secretary manager banging married Roger Sterling and any other men she deemed worthy. Over the first seasons of the show, she traded in her dating card for marriage to a doctor. But that marriage didn’t work out and this season she found herself back in the office as a single mother. In 1966, that was not a very promising situation. So when a car salesman who played an integral part in Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s potential Jaguar deal demanded a night with Joan for his approval, she found herself trading sex as an investment in her future.
She asked for a 5% stake in the company and a full partnership, which bounced her work status far above any of the women we’ve seen on the show to date. However, the fact that she had to have sex to get ahead at work was also a pretty sad transaction.
Meanwhile, the most interesting juxtaposition of the episode wasn’t the fact that Joan was willing to trade sex for money, or the fact that Lane Pryce tricked her into the longterm potential of a partnership at the firm versus a $50,000 payoff right away (because he had already spent the $50K the company intended to use to pay for her tryst), but the fact that Elizabeth Moss’ Peggy Olsen also took a risk on her future this episode. She mad a career jump and became Copy Chief at a new company. But she didn’t need to use sex to get it.
Tired of being pushed around by Don, Peggy took a meeting with a rival firm, earned herself an impressive pay bump and a new title of Copy Chief at the competing firm. We don’t know yet if Peggy’s bet will pay off. It looks like her new boss cares more about hurting Don Draper than women’s liberation. But that might just work out in Peggy’s favor.
But the real sad part of the episode was the realization that Peggy might have just written herself off the show by leaving Sterling Cooper. Let’s hope that Matthew Weiner doesn’t bring Peggy back as a Hare Krishna in five episodes.