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'Mad Men' recap, 'To Have and to Hold'

AdulteryMad Men (tv program)Times Square

"The only thing worse than not getting what you want is someone else getting it," Roger said in season five.

In "To Have And To Hold," Don not only loses what he wants to someone else, but he also watches the defeat unfold right in front of him.

This ties in seamlessly with the theme of unattainable desires and gluttony, straight from Dante’s “Inferno.” (Last week episode’s focused on the lust -- did the heavy-handed theme of prostitution give it away?) But the one appetite Don couldn’t and probably won’t ever be able to sate? His never-ending search for happiness, or what Sylvia suspects, peace.

Don has been drifting apart from Megan. She too can see it, but has been too focused on her budding career. Up next for the most famous maid in TV land? A love scene. Exciting for her, not so much for the husband.

So, how’s Don going to react? Arlene, the lead actress and wife of head writer, Mel, says they’ll take him out to dinner to break the news. Load off Megan’s mind, it seems. But that’s not quite what they want to tell Don.

“We’d like to be friends,” Mel says all too suggestively. Don and Megan politely say that they are friends. The couple insists: “We’d like to be better acquainted.” (Did I miss a wink and a nudge or something? Because they were coming on really, really strong.)

Don, getting the sex party invite loud and clear, says they can get to know Megan on set. “That’s work, this is play,” Mel hints. Don looks terrified -- more terrified than during Megan’s Bisou dance. Finally the sex-craved couple of 18 (!!!) years relents and indulges in dessert. That’s one way to fill the orgy void. Don and Megan leave dinner unscathed and unsexed.

The next day, Don goes to the set to watch Megan’s love scene, which is every bit as uncomfortable for Don as the dinner the previous night. Corrine, her soap character, repeatedly resists the male lead until he is on top of her on his bed. The bed, she points out, he shares with his wife. Just as Don meets his own mistress in her husband’s apartment while he’s on call.

The unease and regret sinks in. He looks more alone than he did watching her on her commercial set at the end of season five.

“You like to watch, do you?” Arlene coos. We already know that’s a big old “yes” after seeing him peep in on his “Uncle” Mac have sex with his stepmom in last week’s episode. But when watching Megan, it’s more for penance than for play.

After finishing the scene, Megan, surprised to see him, greets Don with a kiss. They head to her dressing room, where Don lays on the guilt. “Were you going to brush your teeth before you came home?” Don snaps.

(Side note: When Sylvia wiped the side of her lip after their elevator kiss before Don walked to his apartment, all I could think was, “Does he really go kiss his wife with his mistress’ slobber still over him? Couldn’t he at least brush his teeth?” I’ve never seen him make a beeline to the bathroom once after his affairs. Comforting to know he claims to care about hygiene as much as he does fidelity.)

Megan accuses him of ruining her happiness when things start going great for her. He’s never even visited her on set before (tsk tsk), so why did he show up today unannounced? Is his ever-lingering guilt coupled with jealousy causing him to lash out? Or is his career, limping after losing Heinz to Peggy and Chaough, making him a killjoy? He could at least be somewhat congratulatory for her accelerating career.

He leaves Megan crying in her dressing room and heads to Sylvia’s apartment. There he finds a penny under the mat, her signal that Arnie is at the hospital. In the bedroom, he touches her cross necklace and asks her to take it off. Though it means nothing to him, he says it means something to her.

“So after I leave, what do you do, get on your knees and pray for absolution?” Don asks. “I pray for you,” she admits. “For me to come back?” Why, of course, Don, it’s always about you.

“For you to find peace,” she says. He slides cross to the back of her neck so that it’s out of sight and kisses her again, finishing the most ineffective confessional and the broadest metaphor on “Mad Men.”

Don’s betrayal isn’t limited to just his marriage. He’s not satisfied with just Baked Beans and is going after Ketchup -- the Heinz accounts, not the actual food. He and Pete meet with Teddy, completely absolving his loyalty to Raymond.

To add to the sleaze factor, they meet in Pete’s wife-approved (well, soon-to-be ex wife) bachelor pad. Even worse? Pete tries peddling it off to Don, who shoots it down: “I live in Manhattan.” You can almost hear the “duh,” especially since he doesn’t even have to leave his building for a booty call.

Back at the office, Don meets Stan in a private room to work on the secret campaign for Heinz Ketchup. Stan lights up a joint and passes it to Don, insisting that it clears out the cobwebs. “I think we should order lunch,” Stan says with a stoner laugh.

Their munchies gluttony clearly inspired their pitch, filled with mouthwatering burgers and fries. But just like with the Royal Hawaiian pitch, Don and company leave out a key element in the ad: the product they’re selling. No ketchup bottle, no dice.

“Let me chew on it,” Teddy says.

The SCDP gang walks outside shocked to see Ted, Peggy and another CGC employee. The standoff was tense. I was waiting for sagebrush to drift across the screen. A few exchange of words and the second ad team is off to pitch their idea. Pete and Stan walk to the elevator, but Don stays to eavesdrop.

Peggy, never sharper or more confident, gives her pitch, adding, “I always say, ‘if you don’t like the conversation, change it.’”

Don is dumbstruck. That’s his line! She’s channeling Don better than Don is. And their ad is much better: A big bottle of ketchup with the promise of a 50-foot billboard in Times Square. Just what Heinz was looking for.

Not to sound like a narc, but grass isn’t your thing, Don. Just stick to your creative naps and movie theater outings. It certainly works for your former protégé Pegs. Proof? Heinz bought CGC pitch right on the spot.

Don, Pete and Stan are at a bar nearby feeling dejected and spat out. Later Ted and Peggy walk in to boast about their big win. Then Ken rushes to tell them that Raymond found out they were courting Heinz Ketchup. Yes, there is something worse than someone else getting what you want: Losing what you already had for your archrival to swoop up. Don storms off in typical Don fashion.

As Stan leaves, he flips off Peggy behind Ted’s back. So goes her last friend at SCDP. You can tell it stings, but with each sip of her midday victory drink, her eyes say, “Eat your heart out, Don. This is what you’ve been missing.”

While Peggy’s been adding a win to the women’s workforce column, Joan’s stuck in a glorified secretarial position. Sure, she’s still a partner. But none of that of matters when your colleagues knows how you really climbed to the top. All she has to show is the title without the authority.

When finding out Scarlet, Harry’s secretary, left early and had Dawn clock her out, Joan fired her. Harry came back to the office to find a tearful Scarlet carrying her boxes. He tells Joan that she’s not firing her, and he won’t take her “petty dictatorship.” Harsh, but Joan keeps her cool and heads to the partner’s meeting.

(Side note: That’s the second time a man has undermined Joan firing a secretary. The first was Jane when Roger came to her rescue. At least that time it was a partner overturning her decision when she wasn’t a partner. This time Harry isn’t a partner and she is.)

You’d think Harry would have had enough questioning Joan’s authority, but no. He goes to the partners meeting, saying he’s earned a partnership, unlike Joan. “I’m sorry my accomplishments happened in broad daylight,” he says. Ouch. It’s what every Joan fan was dreading, but knew had to happen eventually.

She then drowns her sorrows by heading to a Mod bar with a friend, and making out with a turtleneck/vest-wearing guy named Johnny (somehow that combo works on the kid -- maybe it’s the psychedelic lights or his name is so similar to Joan’s). The best part? He says he wants her. Sweet recognition at last.

Later Dawn tries to make amends with the timecard debacle. Joan then puts her in charge of the timecards and supply closet. No, that’s not a promotion; it’s a punishment, Joan says.

“I don’t care if everybody hates me here,” Dawn confesses, “as long as you don’t.”

“We’ll see,” Joan says coolly. Here’s hoping. SCDP needs another Peggy. With Joan as a mentor, Dawn just might fit the bill.

MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM "TO HAVE AND TO HOLD"

BEST ROGER LINE: “Should we fire him before he cashes his check?” Roger says to Bert after Harry proclaims his value to the company.

MOST PLAUSIBLE CONSPIRACY THEORY: Stan’s sneaking off to the secret boardroom has Ginsberg suspicious. He suspects Stan of putting aluminum foil up in his office. Is that to keep aliens like Ginsy from reading his thoughts?

MOST OBLIVIOUS EMPLOYEE: “Where were we?” one of the partners asks after Harry’s hissy fit. Meredith reads the minutes: “‘Meredith, why don’t you step out?’” The partners stare at her. “Oh,” she says, finally getting the hint, and awkwardly steps out of the boardroom.

BIGGEST SUCK UP: After the copywriters question Stan’s ethics and possible spy affiliations, Bobby asks Don, “How are you, Don?” Don walks away. What’s Bobby up to? I don’t trust someone so young and clean-cut in a room with grass-smoking, fringe-wearing hippies.

SECOND BIGGEST SUCK UP: “Harry has great ideas,” Scarlet beams. Maybe that’s why he wanted to keep her so bad.

BEST LINE THAT SUMS UP SCDP: “Everybody keeps their head down.” – Dawn

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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