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Mad Men recap: Penny Serenade

Joan goes out with a friend, Harry throws a tantrum, and Don’s affair deepens

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Jordin Althaus/AMC

Mad Men

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Elisabeth Moss

R-E-S-P-E-C-T/Find out what it means to me.” – Aretha Franklin, “Respect,” 1967

Everyone’s looking for their fair due this week: Joan is tired of still being treated like Queen of the Secretaries despite holding a partnership, Harry is upset that everyone views him like the whiny little goober he is, Megan doesn’t understand why Don can’t respect her and her job enough to let her perform in the soap’s love scenes, Dawn is trying her best as the agency’s token black hire, and Peggy earns some of her former employer’s begrudging admiration by taking him on in a fair fight. Like Aretha, all they want is a little respect, but in the world of Mad Men, respect isn’t something given, it’s taken.

What Don and Pete would really like to take is Heinz Ketchup, and so they set up a clandestine meeting with the department head that has the illicit air of an after-work tryst. Ketchup is a sexy, shapely bottle of prestige—how could they resist?—but meanwhile Heinz Baked Beans is the easily jealous spouse waiting at home with the rolling pin. Thus everything about “Project K” must be done in secrecy, to the point where Stan is forced to work in a darkened office with tin foil blocking every window like some crazed nut worried about the government beaming messages into his brain. While Ginsburg and the rest of the creative pool try to guess what the “K” stands for (Kellogg? Kenmore? Koka-Kola?) Don and Stan share a joint to clear out the mental cobwebs, but instead of kickstarting their minds it just goes to work on their stomachs. “I think we should order lunch,” says Stan before they both break out giggling. On a side note, Stan’s beard is easily one of the show’s greatest creative decisions this season, beating out Pete Campbell’s extra-length side-burns and Ginsburg’s cop-stache for the honor of Best New Hair.

The pitch the team eventually comes up with invokes the product without showing it: pictures of french fries and hamburgers with the too-simple tag “Pass the Heinz.” They leave feeling good, before running straight into Ted Chaough and Peggy in the hallway waiting to give their own presentation. It’s clear that someone let the cat(sup) out of the bag. This is the first time, as far as we know, that Peggy and Don have come face-to-face over the same client and it’s hard to gauge exactly how Don feels about this, probably because he doesn’t know himself. It’s especially hard to tell if he’s honored or betrayed by Peggy ripping off one of his trademark sales lines: “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation.” But the sight of the master standing outside the door eavesdropping on his former apprentice’s rival pitch speaks volumes. To be honest, neither team’s campaign is all that electrifying, and Heinz ends up going with an unseen pitch from J. Walter Thompson, a real ad agency.

Both teams rendez-vous afterwards and the bad news is compounded when it turns out the head of Vinegars, Sauces, and Beans found out about the meeting and will be pulling Heinz Baked Beans from SCDP. So not only did they step up to the plate and strike out, but they also accidentally hit themselves in the face with the bat. Peggy, on the other hand, is riding high, having held her own against her former sensei. Will this be only the first of many Peggy/Don battles? And will they be able to keep it professional and not let the competition poison their personal relationship? Stay tuned.

NEXT PAGE: An affair to remember…