'Mad Men' recap: Season 5, Episode 11, 'The Other Woman'

Major successes, heartbreaks in this classic game-changer of an episode

  • Don Draper (Jon Hamm) had some emotional highs and lows this week.
Don Draper (Jon Hamm) had some emotional highs and lows this… (Jordin Althaus/AMC )
May 27, 2012|By Jordan Bartel

"Don't be a stranger" -- Peggy Olson

I went to a wedding a few weeks ago, and the conversation at my table, as it often does, turned to "Mad Men."

A few guests were very adamant about Season 5; "lackluster" and "disappointing" were the most commonly used words. I've been back and forth about this season, but have always thought there has been more good moments than bad.

After last week's glaring misstep, I was getting worried. But tonight's beyond-excellent episode, which ranks right up there with episodes "The Suitcase" and "Shut the Door. Have a Seat," in terms of raw powerful storytelling, has reeled me back in.

It's not just that so much happened as SCDP feverishly prepped for the Big Jaguar Pitch. It's that everything happened in such a compelling way.

It's a few days before the crew has to pitch to Jaguar, in what Don has deemed a potential turning point for the agency. They need this thing, and need it now. Don has assembled a group of freelancers and Michael Ginsberg to brainstorm and things don't seem to be going well.

"Jaguar: The mistress who'll do things your wife wont."

"Jaguar: You'll love it when you're in it."

These are not Don Draper-approved taglines. At one point Don, in between drinks (he's drinking more than usual, which says something) yells "Get me some lines!" and you really feel his pain.

In the meantime, Pete and Ken have a schmoozing dinner with Herb, the head of the Dealers Association who is one of the deciding votes on which agency gets the Jaguar deal.

Herb makes it smarmy-clear (in terms that smarmy-Pete can understand) that he wants a night with Joan because she has red hair, is built like a B-52 and is, well, Joan.

The good-hearted Ken tries to play the "she's married" card and is disgusted by Herb's offer (Ken's a sensitive writer, after all, and actually acts like a human being). Pete, shockingly, is open to the proposition.

Ultimately, Ken succumbs to the pressure of wanting to land this big account: "Well, we wanted to be in the car business," he says. Ew. This pimp chat is part of being in the car business?

The next day, Pete goes to talk to Joan about what went down and does so in a very business-like way, even though it really is prostitution. And Joan is nobody's hooker.

"We're going to lose Jaguar unless an arrangement is made. And it involves you and Herb," Pete says.

"You're unbelievable," is Joan's understatement of the season. And Pete Campbell reaches a new low.

"You're talking about prostitution!" Joan says.

"I'm talking about business at a very high level. Was Cleopatra a prostitute? She was a queen. What would it take to make you a queen?" Pete says. See what I mean? New low.

"You couldn't afford it," Joan says.

At this point, I thought the discussion would stop, but Pete actually has the gall to call a freaking partners meeting to vote on the possible Herb-Joan merger.

"You have some nerve to even ask her!" Lane says. Don is similarly disgusted, voices his disdain and leaves the office without participating in the vote.

The worst offender is perhaps Roger Sterling, who at first seems upset but then when hearing that Pete wants to pay Joan $50,000 for her services, can only say, "I'm not going to stand in the way, but I'm not paying it." Really, Roger?

It's not surprising then when Lane goes to talk to Joan about how much money she could make, the first thing an embarrassed Joan asks is, "Roger Sterling participated in this discussion??" Gross.

Fans of Joan we're probably all thinking that she would in now way do this. First of all, she has to sleep with a dude named Herb, which I don't think anyone recommends. Secondly, she's Joan Harris and Joan Harris does not do this.

But after her chat with Lane, Joan decides she can do this, but it comes with a tremendous power play: She tells Pete she wants a partnership, and not a silent one. She wants 5 percent of the business. She wants documents by the end of the day.

Pete agrees, and actually offers his hand out for a shake (Pete Campbell No Soul Moment No. 45 of this episode) which Joan refuses to accept.

"Which one is he?" Joan asks, looking out at the Jaguar people.

"He's not bad," Pete responds.

"He's doing this," is Joan's counter.

It must be noted that in between these scenes, we see Pete read "Goodnight Moon" to his daughter at home and it does nothing to erase his boundless misogyny. He's also unfeeling when it goes to Trudy stressing that she wants a second child, when all he wants is his own apartment in Manhattan to work on the Jaguar deal, when we all know what that means is "his own apartment to fantasize about Rory Gilmore."

Moving on, Pete tells Don that the deal with Joan has gone through and Don is outraged. They finally have a good pitch for Jaguar, courtesy of Ginsberg ("At last, something beautiful you can truly own") but even without it, Don wouldn't stand for this.

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