With the exception of “Mystery Date”, this season of Mad Men has been rather light on Joan – in fact, I’d considered that the single flaw (if you can call it that, since the season has been fantastic thus far) of this season of Mad Men, that my favorite character was rather absent.
Four episodes later, we’ve gotten another Joan-centric episode and it was perfect.
“Christmas Waltz” takes place, you guessed it, at Christmastime. And poor Joan was gifted with divorce papers, at the office, courtesy of Greg. She kicked him out, yet he was leaving her? It wasn’t fair. Joan used to get called to the lobby to sign for flowers and now it was divorce papers, and she took that painful unjust truth out on the ditzy receptionist.
The tantrum was great – it had been awhile since we’d seen Joan’s claws come out – but what followed was better. Don walked in on the outburst, and smoothly removed Joan from the office, giving her his coat. They headed off to Jaguar, because Don had promised Pete he’d learn a little something about the cars. SCDP is back in the running for the account, which means everyone – especially Don – needs to be pulling their weight over the holidays.
Don and Joan posed as a rich, happy, married couple and took a sexy red convertible out for a spin. They ended up at a bar, where they talked about how happy Don is and how miserable Joan is. They talked about how Don never made a pass at Joan, and how he was terrified of her when he first came to the agency. Bert Cooper had told him Joan was the one person he did not want to cross, and it’s true. The scene was perfect – there was just the right amount of innocent flirting mixed with the comfort of two people who’ve known each other a long time. Joan and Don have never been best friends, but they have worked closely together for a very long time and there’s a closeness that that brings.
Joan and Don are so wonderful together that I was dying for them to get together, even though I don’t want that at all. Did you guys feel that way? Pragmatically, I do not want these two characters hooking up. But, oh my, do they ever have chemistry.
Joan told Don that he doesn’t see the appeal of a Jaguar car because he’s happy, and he doesn’t need it. But as we saw him drive the car back to the dealership, drunk and angry, you could tell he did love driving the car. Because he’s not nearly as happy as everyone thinks.
The fight between Don and Megan after seeing a play that criticized consumerism, and therefore advertising, brought more of Don’s feelings about Megan quitting her job to the forefront. He hasn’t exactly hidden his anger about that move, but they haven’t exactly talked about it either.
When Don returned home from his adventure with Joan drunk, Megan was furious. She knew he’d been missing from work since lunch, and even if it was all perfectly innocent it takes a certain lack of caring to not call, to let her think he’d been off doing something else. She smashed her plate of food against the wall and then forced him to sit down and eat with her. And then, she did what someone really needed to do – she reminded him that he loved his work long before she’d ever been in the office.
There are two ways to look at what Don did next. One is that Megan’s words actually inspired him to remember his passion for the job. The other is that their honeymoon phase is over – they fight, he doesn’t call when he’s going to miss dinner, he hates experimental plays and thinks she has a disrespect for what he does. Don was on “love leave” and now he’s officially back to work, and that could mean bad things for his marriage. Either way, the speech Don gave at the Christmas party, that was classic Draper. It takes a talented man to tell a group of people that they’ll be working like dogs over Christmas and have them cheer and applaud at the end of it. It’s something that, as we witnessed, Pete Campbell will never be able to do.
And then there’s Paul Kinsey as a Hare Krishna. The movement would have just begun in New York in 1966, and I completely buy that Kinsey would have gotten sucked in. Kinsey, who had a black girlfriend just because it made him look cooler. And I completely believed that Harry, too, would get so quickly sucked in by the group after his original skepticism.
Paul was left behind when everyone left Sterling Cooper, and Harry was not. Paul’s career slid down, down, down until he ended up with the Hare Krishna, while Harry has experienced relative success. I understand why Harry was so eager to help Paul.
Yes, Harry slept with Lakshmi, the woman Paul loved. That wasn’t a beautiful moment for him, and Harry continues to be a seriously flawed man who both loves his family and seems to be miserable in his marriage. But when he discovered that Lakshmi only really cared about Paul’s gifts as a recruiter (“he really knows how to close”), he did what he could to get Paul away from them forever. Even though Paul’s spec script for Star Trek was terrible, Harry gave him $500 and encouraged him to take off to L.A. and pursue a career in writing.
Meanwhile, we got a long overdue Lane Pryce storyline. His character has been rather underdeveloped this season – remember the odd story about the girl’s wallet? – and if he’s the one who ends up stepping into the hypothetical empty elevator shaft this season, I wouldn’t necessarily miss him. Certainly not nearly as much as I’d miss Roger, or Pete. And at this point, one can certainly understand how Lane might end up offing himself.
Lane has serious financial woes – he owes $8,000 in taxes to England, and had no way to pay. So he took out a loan for $50,000 (I believe in the name of the company) and announced that there was surplus money that would allow for Christmas bonuses. When the other partners wanted to hold off on that news, he forged a cheque for himself so he could pay the bill in time. And then, when Mohawk pulled their ads because of the strike, the partners decided that they would all forgo their bonuses and only give them to the staff – a way of keeping morale up as they would also be asking everyone to put in long hours over the holidays to work on the Jaguar pitch.
Lane’s stiff, British pride and stoicism has prevented him from confiding his problems in anyone and it can only end badly. Joan will find out, or Don, and I’m not sure what will become of him. What I do know is that Lane seems the kind of gentleman who would rather die than face such humiliating. I won’t be surprised if that happens. (So now we have three people on death watch, don’t we?)
Tags: Mad Men