This week’s episode of Mad Men certainly wasn’t short on “What in the name of the ’60s is going on?” moments, mostly (as per usual) involving Don and his gradual downward spiral. We’ll get to all that, but the part of the episode that stood out to me was the storyline involving Joan and Peggy and Avon. I love their interactions in general, and it brought up some challenging questions about feminism and women in the workforce, as well as playing with our sympathy, which is what we’re here to talk about.
So let’s get to it. Without further ado, I present this week’s Mad Men Sympathy Rankings. Check out last week’s recap to compare the standings.
8. Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) (Last week: not ranked)
We’d gone a couple of weeks without any particularly offensive Pete Campbell moments, but last night he was beyond dramatic about Joan taking over the Avon account. Yes, it was sneaky of her to not invite him to the meeting, but it was inconsiderate of him to leave her out of it in the first place. He had nothing to do with getting that account! And then the way he dealt with the aftermath, with his ridiculous comments? Ugh. “It’s a revolt!” he cries. “In your absence, things have become quite dire,” he tells Don and Roger. It’s like his “shameful, shameful day” comment when MLK was assassinated. Just cool your jets, Pete. Maybe that “funny cigarette” he smokes at the end of the episode will calm him down. It was certainly impressive how Janis Joplin started playing as soon as he took a drag. Cool trick!
7. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) (Last week: 8)
Don’s descent into the valley of crazytown continued this week as he traveled to Los Angeles and attended a party in what looked just like Paul Simon’s house in Annie Hall. (That was totally the same house, right?) He gets high on hashish and has an out of body experience in which he talks to a pregnant hippie Megan (the pregnant part is interesting for the recent Sharon Tate theory) and sees a soldier missing an arm. Where is his body while this is happening? It’s drowning in a pool, only to be revived by Roger. Oh dear. Get it together, Don. You’re not inspiring sympathy, only the increased usage of the phrase “Oh, brother.”
6. Jim Culter (Harry Hamlin) (Last week: not ranked)
Culter already creeped me out when he watched Stan have sex with his dead partner’s daughter (ick), and this week he continued to rub me the wrong way. He seems to be trying to take over the agency, and to be honest it’s kind of confusing me, but I do know I’m not a fan.
5. Roger Sterling (John Slattery) (Last week: 4)
Roger continues to be a smartass, and I’m fine with it. He got to wear an awesome ascot, he made a bunch of short jokes about former employee Danny (Danny Strong!), who’s currently a pretentious movie producer in Hollywood, and he saved Don from drowning. He got punched in the gut, but he’s still Roger Sterling, and it’s still entertaining. You get to stay in the middle, Roger.
4. Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm) (Last week: 2)
I’ve struggled with my feelings about Ted, because we haven’t gotten a whole lot of insight into who he is in his personal life. But I admire him as a professional, even if he frustrated me by kissing Peggy. I respect his decision to try to keep the company together despite Cutler’s attempts to split it up, and his eventual decision to let Joan handle the Avon account was admirable. Come on, Chaough, don’t disappoint me.
3. Megan Draper (Jessica Paré) (Last week: 1)
Megan wasn’t in this episode much, aside from Don’s hashish visions and a few moments related to the violence at the Democratic National Convention. I do wish she would have the opportunity to realize how horrible Don’s been to her and kick him to the curb Joan-style, but she still undoubtedly remains sympathetic.
2. Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) (Last week: not ranked)
I found this week’s Avon storyline really interesting, and it brought up a lot of questions about women in the workplace. I definitely think Joan should get more respect from the men at SCDPCGC (now Sterling, Cooper & Partners), especially considering the unsavory means they expected her to use to gain more power at the agency. This is also what makes me wary about Joan. Like Peggy explains, she didn’t sleep with anyone to work her way up in the business. Unfortunately, however, sometimes the only way to get through to people and achieve success is to break the rules and push your way in. I admire Joan for taking a stand, but I just think she needs to be more careful and learn her way around the job before she jumps in and takes risks like that.
1. Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) (Last week: 3)
I’m giving Peggy a higher ranking here because I respect her more practical approach to the situation. Joan put her in a difficult decision by breaking the rules. That said, I loved that she ultimately helped Joan by sending in a fake message from the Avon guy. Sistahs gotta stick together! Look at Peggy, redeeming herself.
I will also say that the commercials for “Classic Mad Men” during this episode made me nostalgic for earlier seasons. I’m not crazy about these latest episodes, but it’s still one of the best shows on TV, so I can’t really complain.