The 5 Best Things From Mad Men, “New Business” (7×09)

As an academic, overanalyzing and historicizing is kind of my thing, but since Mad Men spawns more think pieces than any other show on the air, we’re going to do this a little differently, and just focus on the best stuff.

1) Peggy is flummoxed by Pima Ryan.

I’m not quite ready to call this the half-season of Peggy Olson, but since Don’s storylines have mostly consisted of squinting in vague confusion at various women, Peggy’s certainly the more interesting one. Here, Peggy hires a cool, confident, menswear-loving celebrity photographer named Samantha “Pima’ Ryan (a delightful Mimi Rogers) to shoot a campaign for vermouth, and the star power nearly overwhelms the poor woman. First, Peggy basks in the praise, especially after Pima calls her powerful immediately following some lewd banter by Torkelman (who is, empirically, the worst) about giving both the vermouth and models to some execs. Then, Peggy’s left stammering, flattered but destabilized, when Pima flirts with her over some negatives. The older woman’s seductive overtones, as she purrs that she can capture Peggy’s deer-in-the-headlights look, completely demolishes Peggy’s posturing confidence. Finally, when Peggy finds out that Pima’s advances actually worked on Stan, she realizes Pima’s no better than the rest of them: an advertiser and hustler.

2) Pete Campbell, comic relief. 

When Don shows up for a morning golf meeting in a suit, sans clubs or appropriate pants, he dismisses the gaff, saying “I’ll throw my tie over my shoulder and roll up my sleeves. They’ll love it.” “They probably will,” Pete grunts, begrudgingly. No matter how hard Pete tries, he’ll never be cool or appear effortless. He’ll always be the striver who gets taken advantage of by those that can sniff out his desperation and disappointed. Pete seeks Don’s advice on getting a divorce: “You think you’re going to begin your life over and do it right, but what if you never get past the beginning again?”

3) Megan Draper’s swan song; or, why Roger Sterling is always right.

If there’s one thing Roger Sterling knows, it’s young women squeezing him for money. Don, bless his heart, thinks his divorce will be different from Roger and Jane’s – he’s trying to keep it civil, and to be as accommodating as possible. But Don is wrong; Megan is angry and unhappy, and takes out the frustration from her family’s judgement and her stalled career out on Don. After Harry Crane – gross, creepy Harry Crane – basically tells her that she needs to screw him in order to get his help reviving her career, she snaps. Just as Roger warns, she tells Don he ruined her life and that she gave up everything for him, and everything is his fault. Don’s solution? A cool million dollars. Megan exits, stage left, back to California and out of Don’s, and our, lives.

4) Marie Calvet, liberated woman.

Megan’s very vengeful, very frugal, very French Canadian mother is the best thing about the character. Julia Ormond returns to New York to help move Megan out of the Manhattan apartment once and for all, and when Megan runs off to her ill-fated lunch with Harry, Marie decides to get revenge on her former son-in-law by stealing ALL his furniture, not just the few pieces Megan wanted. When the movers demand more money – “Extortion!” she screams – she turns to Roger for the cash, and solace. “Take advantage of me,” Marie pleads. At the episode’s end, instead of returning to Canada with her dour, religious daughter Marie-France, she chooses to leave her husband and shack up with Roger. As Megan breaks free, so does her mother, although Marie’s break includes a sense of elation absent from her daughter’s divorce.

5) Meet the new gal, same as the old gal.

In the elevator up to Don’s apartment, he and waitress Diana run into Dr. and Sylvia Rosen. The good doctor is drunk, and makes lewd comments about Don bringing the restaurant home. Sylvia, on the other hand, just looks bemused at Don’s new tastes. Diana’s no fool, and immediately catches on to what Sylvia was to him, but to her credit she breezes right past it when Don denies it. That type of thing doesn’t matter for what she wants from Don.

Honorable Mention:

Megan’s bleeped f-bomb when she finds Roger and her mother together; Caroline and Shelly sharing the job as Roger’s secretary; Betty & Don’s easy post-divorce banter; Don refusing to give Henry a milkshake; Peggy’s bold and bright green printed dress; Ed.