‘Mad Men’ Recap: Ode to Joan

'Mad Men' hits its stride by letting the ad women lead the storyline.

Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) helps lead the storyline in AMC's "Mad Men."

Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) helps lead the storyline in AMC's "Mad Men."

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Joan and Peggy both started as lowly secretaries (a position that may sill have its perks, as Kate, who is eyeing a career advancement herself, tells Joan, "Well, tonight, we are just a couple of young secretaries," as she flirts with the wait staff.)

Dawn, a rare African-American character – and a minor character at that, before tonight's episode – now occupies that role. Her storyline explores what happens when the sexism that Peggy and Joan have dealt with series-long crashes into the racial tensions that have come to a head over "Mad Men's" course.

Dawn's friend, showing little sympathy over the fact that Dawn may be fired for covering Scarlett's rule-breaking, scolds, "Why do you think she asked you? You can't say no because you are too scared. All they see is, 'Yes sir.'"

Dawn, defending her employers, pushes back, "What am I going to do? Throw a brick through their window? I want to keep my job, so I am going to keep my head down."

Like her SCDP foremothers, Dawn has learned the power of allies. She tells Joan, who appears to have shown her some mercy over the time card incident, "I don't care if everybody hates me here, as long as you don't."

Megan's career is taking off as well, as her TV character gets a major plotline – a steamy affair with one of the main characters. But watching her beg Don for his approval of her filming a love scene – and him granting it temporarily, only to viciously take it away — is cruelly ironic. The staging of her echoes Don's laying of Sylvia, his mistress, moments later.

"You kiss people for money, you know who does that?" Don lectures Megan, after watching her film the scene. But he sees no contradiction in doing the same, for only a penny left under the doormat.

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