I've never talked about Mad Men here but I've been getting into this big discussion about this week's ep and just how much of a jerk Don was with Peggy (answer: a big one!). I wrote this response about the contrasting scenes between Don/Peggy and Duck/Peggy, and figured I'd put it up here if anyone who watches the show is interested.

Without taking apart the scene where Don reams Peggy out, some see Don as unbearably sexist and proving Peggy should take Duck's offer to leave Sterling Cooper. To me, Don's being an ass, but would have been much the same ass if she was a male junior copywriter he suddenly saw as too grasping. The main difference, had she been a guy, is he would have said "you started in the mailroom" instead of "you started as my secretary" and "you have a job a man twice your age would appreciate" instead of "you have a job a full-grown man would appreciate." The sexism is there, as always, but I feel like she was basically treated as a gender-neutral employee (on a day when his/her boss is taking his frustrations out on a subordinate).

I mention that just to get my own reading of the scene in there, to contrast it to what I saw with Duck. Maybe I've read too many fairy tales, but that's what it played like for me. Don's telling Peggy she's not that special (compared to other young copywriters), that she needs to "put her head down" and work hard right now and learn. Duck, by contrast, is wining and dining her, sending her expensive, feminine gifts. At his hotel room he tells her she is special, she's worth so much. He even moves into how special she is as a woman--how did he not notice her before? Indeed, yes, why did he overlook her for all that time he saw her everyday if he finds her so irresistible? Interesting.

People have noted that Don knows how to sell products (his letter to Betty asking her to take him back) but Duck is the accounts man--he woos clients by promising them the best at his firm. Which is where Pete comes in for me. Pete's also an accounts man, and he seemed to see all this as exactly that. His Cuban cigars must not be so rare if Duck's sending them as a gift. (Peggy's Hermes scarf comes from the same place as Harry's baby gifts--Hermes is a client of Grey's.)

That seems significant in an ep that subtly pointed out Peggy's naïveté about things outside the things she's learned so far. Pete, who's just as ambitious as Peggy--and more underhanded about it--looked at the bigger picture with Duck, thought about Duck's history, about his antagonistic relationship with Don, about what Duck could be angling for here beyond just a good creative/account team. (Pete's also gone through being dressed down by Don but later being told he was "ready" finally.) Peggy dismissed those things, was annoyed at Pete for bringing it up, for "infecting her with his anxiety" when she was feeling special.

But I can't help but feel like Duck's the wrong choice here. Not necessarily for sex if that's what she wants, but as the promise of a better job where she'd be more appreciated. He's an accounts man telling her what she wants to hear (the opposite of Don here definitely). When she pressed him about the job she'd have if she left SC it was actually more of a lateral move than an upward one, but he rather glossed over that as something not to think about, to just focus on the future (as opposed to Don's order for her to not think about the future right now).

Especially since this ep also showed Peggy making mistakes in this area, being clueless about other things going on in the office to the point where Pete asked her if she "lived in a cave." She was late finding out about Hilton and failed to take the temperature of the room correctly when she went in to see Don--her straightforward, honest approach that had served her in the past backfired. In fact, she may have had a skewed view of how well it had worked before, not realizing how much her timing etc. played into her success. It's not the first time Peggy's attempt to be honest and do the right thing backfired--she reported when her mad money was stolen and was then shocked by the response. (The building fired a black employee not even there that night.)

So this ep really made me feel like she was one of those heroines in a fairy tale in danger of trusting the wrong guy. Don's being beastly at the same moment Duck becomes oh so sweet and tempting (even getting all "no means maybe" when she called him), and dismissing Pete's paranoid calls to "beware" as annoyances interfering with her enjoyment. She doesn't want to think about those things, even when they're exactly what she should be thinking about when it comes to Duck. (Also I can totally see Pete as a tiny Disney animal in a fairy tale fluttering around while no one pays attention.)

So far she’s stuck with SC, so maybe she got what she wanted without leaving. But it does make me wonder about Duck's line when they're having sex: I love the taste of alcohol on your breath. Does Peggy it's a compliment to the physical sensations of being with her no matter what they are? Does she know the guy's a dry drunk and really is sucking in her alcohol fumes like a vampire? We shall see.

I just thought it was a cool vibe to get in the ep. And it certainly fits well with Don's own cautionary tale: Don't pick up creepy, high teenagers who are hitchiking Don.
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