Directed by John Slattery, last night's "Mad Men" episode, "A Tale of Two Cities," was worthy of its Dickensian title. The hour had good times, and bad, and everything in between. Joan takes a stand, Chevy is finally on board and Don makes it through an entire episode without cheating on his wife. But we also have near-death experiences, hallucinations, riots and almost-firings. We wouldn't have a "Mad Men" episode any other way.
1. What Joan thought was a date turned out to be a business prospect. Joan's friend Kate, who works for makeup moguls Avon, hooked her up with the new head of marketing for the makeup mogul. Seeing an opportunity to bring in a new client as well as a chance to advance beyond her position as a glorified secretary wrangler, Joan goes into a sales mode. (As a side note, we would hope that our favorite busty redhead would have better taste than this puffy, red-cheeked divorce she thought she was being set up with. Standards, Joanie, standards.)
2. Joan immediately runs to her fellow partner in estrogen, Peggy, to tell her the exciting news about her meeting with Avon. Peggy insists without hesitation that they should tell Ted. Peggy (obviously looking for any excuse to interact with him) feels confident that he will know what to do and will allow Joan to take the lead on the account. She couldn't have been more wrong -- he immediately tells Pete Campbell to take the reins.
3. Seeing herself cut out of the deal that she was responsible for did not please Joan one bit. So she takes matters into her own hands and uninvites Pete to the breakfast meeting that she and Peggy had with the man from Avon. This may ultimately end up being a good move for Joan, but it was also a dangerous one, and Peggy knew it.
4. Upon their return to the office, Peggy let Joan know just how unhappy she was with Joan's decision to go against protocol, and even hit below the belt when she explained that she didn't sleep with Don (possibly insinuating that Joan slept her way to partner?). But when Pete and Ted backed Joan into a corner, berating her for her sneaky actions, it was Peggy who ultimately came to her rescue in her own sneaky and slightly not-totally-true way. Us girls must stick together.
5. Meanwhile, Don and Roger are off to L.A. to pitch Carnation Instant Breakfast. And while Don goes into the trip all work and no play, Roger has much different intentions. He says, with the coolness we love so much about the Silver Fox, "We are conquistadors. Our biggest challenge is not to get syphilis."
6. However, once their particularly heated and tense meeting comes to a close, Don is ready to let loose at a typical 1960s party in the Hollywood Hills, which is overflowing with hippies, hookahs and sunglasses-clad movie folks. Don partakes in some particularly strong hash and hallucinates that a hippified Megan is there, revealing that she is pregnant. If we've learned one thing over the years, it's that drugs and Don to not mix well -- at the end of the night he almost drowns in the pool, but is ultimately saved by Roger.
7. If there was a silver lining to Don's near-death experience, it may have caused him to long for his wife for the first time in his life (though we'll see how long that lasts). The first thing he does once back in the office is to have Dawn get Megan on the phone. Was his hallucination a foreshadowing of another pregnancy to come? We'll have to wait and see.
8. While Don and Roger were California dreaming, their office was going off the rails. In addition to Joan's stunt, we see the evil true colors of Jim Cutler, who is trying to oust the clients and company men of the original SCDP (creating a divide between the men of CGC). He tried unsuccessfully to fire Ginsberg and he happily comes close to losing Sterling's baby, the Manischewitz account. Ted is the voice of reason, saying that they are all one big team and must always work together. There is no, "I" in team -- or in SCDPCGC or it's new, simpler and elegant name, Sterling, Cooper and Partners (SC&P).
9. We're learning more and more about Bob Benson, but the more we learn about him, the more confusing he gets. But we do know this for sure -- he likes to listen to the self-help book "How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling." This dude will do anything to succeed. And he did succeed on one front. He managed to win over Jim Cutler after he chastised Ginsberg for being insubordinate toward his superior, so much so that even after he failed to convince Manischewitz not to put them on review, Jim puts Bob on the Chevy account. Guess there is something to be said for being a kiss-ass.
10. The episode ends on a literal high point, with Pete finally giving in and puffing away on a joint in the office while Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart" belts out over the credits. It's good to see Pete finally let loose, even though it seems as though he's just giving up.
Tell us: What did you think of last night's episode?