If there is one thing this Sunday night’s episode of Mad Men taught us: behind every great man is a helluva strong woman. And there’s a very good reason we stand behind our men… they don’t have eyes in the back of their head, but we have eyes in the front of ours.
I know this site is called Chick Flick Critic, so I should probably stick to reviewing movies. However, I am a complete sucker for badass women and the women in Mad Men’s “Mystery Date” episode were one ball-busting set of B.A.M.Fs. I won’t review the whole episode here (which may have been one of my favorite Mad Men episodes ever) but I will take the time to applaud each mad lady for having – as Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s newest copywriter Michael Ginsburg might say – some serious chutzpah.
Let’s start with Ms. Zou Bisou Bisou herself – Megan Draper:
I admit – when Megan’s character was first introduced last season, my catty girl instincts came out and I was all ready to write her off as a French-Canadian slut who sleeps with her boss. And when Don proposed to her in last season’s finale, I was all ready to write him off as another sad, predictable man who thinks only with his penis and picked his hot, young secretary over the intelligent and elegant, but older, Dr. Faye Miller. But then Season Five came, and Megs went ahead and seduced me with that sexy French song-and-dance number of hers in the premiere episode. Then, when Don acted like a royal Dick Whitman about the rad surprise party she threw him, she tortured him by cleaning the apartment in her underwear and being all “I’m so hot but you can’t get this” (of course he’s Don Draper so he did end up getting it, but whatever). Finally, in the latest episode, they confronted the big question that has been on all of our minds since the finale: is Don a changed man or will he keep his adulterous ways? In “Mystery Date”, Megan and Don bump into Andrea, one of his previous lovers, during a very awkward elevator ride. But instead of passively aggressively letting her discomfort brew inside of her all day like ex-wife Betty, myself, and most other women would do, Megan confronted Don right at the office coffee maker. She was all, “Hey player, I know you fucked every woman up and down Madison Avenue – twice – but you’re with me now. So if I have something to worry about, I deserve to know now.” And even though I am sure she knows Don will eventually cheat on her (otherwise what kind of show would it be?), at least there is the satisfaction that she scared him so much that he had a freaking crazyass nightmare about murdering the elevator bitch.
SCDP’s number one guy’s girl, Peggy Olson, also wore her sassypants for this episode. Sick of giving Pete Campbell a high horse to ride like a rodeo clown, Roger Sterling panics when he realizes it’s Friday night, the Mohawk Airlines campaign outline is due Monday, and he was too busy with his office drinking/flirting/sleeping (in that order) to get it started. He offers Peggy a measly $10 to not only complete the whole pitch over one weekend, but to lie to Campbell by saying Roger asked her to do it last week. With her stockinged legs crisscrossed over her desk, and Bourbon in hand, she sizes his desperation up and responds: “$10 for the work. But the lie will cost more.” CHA-CHING! $10 soon becomes $410 – cash – which is a boatload of money in the 60s, especially for a woman. When he tries to argue, she threatens to take his watch too and he bolts out of her office so fast, her door doesn’t even get the chance to hit him on his way out. Peggy has another great scene in this episode, where she drunkenly bonds with Dawn, the lone black employee, confessing that it’s hard acting like a man at the office and she isn’t sure if she wants to bother trying anymore. A brief, but strong, moment of female solidarity fills the air – but it is quickly marred when Peggy goes to leave the room and both women realize that she is leaving her purse (filled with Roger’s money) with Dawn. Peggy is immediately ashamed of her momentary prejudice, and decides to leave the purse alone regardless of her suspicions. Hoes before dolla dolla bills, y’all.
The number one performance of the night goes to my favorite fiery femme fatale: Joan Holloway
Harris. In “Mystery Date”, Joan’s cry-baby husband, Greg, returns home from Vietnam on a 10 day leave, meeting his (but really Roger Sterling’s) son for the first time. The reunion conjures up a truly passionate welcome back kiss, causing me to momentarily forget how much I despise this man. Greg (understandably) can’t keep his hands off his Joanie, so he sends her mother on multiple beer runs with the baby so that the two of them can have sexytime. However, the reunion bliss comes to a screeching halt when Greg’s parents force him to admit to Joan that he has volunteered to go back to Vietnam for another year. Now Joan generally doesn’t take crap from anyone – which is why we love her so much – but Greg has always been the exception. Here, though, she doesn’t disappoint. After a sleepless night, she emerges from her bedroom, looks at Greg dead-on with her killer Medusa eyes, and goes, “I’m glad the Army makes you feel like a man, cause I’m sure sick of trying to do it.” Atta girl, Joanie! He responds by telling her that the army makes him feel like a good man and FINALLY, Joan says what we have been waiting three seasons for her to say: “You’re not a good man. You never were. Even before we were married.” BOOYAH. You tell that asshole! I was beginning to think she would never confront Greg about how he raped her in Don’s office in Season 2. But finally, she does and WOW was it worth the wait. Kudos to Christina Hendricks for pulling it off so powerfully! Greg storms out in his typical huffy puffy fashion, and I kind of wanted Joan to yell after him, “By the way – the baby isn’t yours. It’s obvious science, you idiot. No wonder you couldn’t get a job as a real doctor!” But whatever. The scene was still awesome the way it was.
At the core of the episode is the story of the 1966 rape-and-murders of 8 nurses in Chicago and the haunting idea that you never really know whether a prince or a dud stands on the other side of that door. For once, the “high heel” is not a symbol of sensuality… it is a symbol of vulnerability. Sure, Cinderella finds her prince… but was it really all that safe for her to be running around the castle with one shoe on at midnight? Some women (like Megan, Peggy, and Joan) are able to overcome these demons and send their “duds” right back through the door they came in: Megan sends Don home from work with his cold, Peggy sends Roger walking out of the office that he gave her back in Season 2, Joan sends her husband a-packin’ out of their apartment. Other women, like Sally Draper, end up hiding under a bed like the 9th nurse. It is a really interesting episode, particularly from a female perspective, and I would highly recommend it to any woman – whether they are a Mad Men fan or not.