“I’m Peggy Olson And I Want To Smoke Some Marijuana”
August 31, 2009
First off, wow, what a great episode. I watched it this week with some people and everyone agreed that this one was a step above the abysmal season premiere and the better (but still improvable) episode from last week.
Secondly, I think what made this episode so strong was that all the storylines, while very different, had to do with class in one way or another. They all had a similar theme on a very basic level. There was Peggy’s new secretary being critical of Peggy smoking pot and Peggy defying the suggestion that she wasn’t doing what she really wanted to do in life; there was Betty’s father constantly blaming Carla the black housekeeper about the money Sally stole just waiting for proof that Carla was the thief —and eventually is proven wrong learning that Sally stole the money but still hypocritically not bringing down the hammer on his granddaughter (by the way, didn’t you just love that Carla didn’t take the guy’s suspicious inferences lying down?); and then there was that little bit with Paul Kinsey who we thought came from money but found out that he was a scholarship student at Princeton. All good, all interesting, all similar. And my favorite was the interaction between Don and Roger, the two characters I like most.
Don went to the country club (where blackface was the entertainment, a personal disappointment for me since I like Roger but in this episode he was less the capitalistic wit and more the elitist racist jerk) and felt most comfortable with the cocktail waiter —so comfortable that he talked about his past, his real past. “I’m at work disguised as a party,” Don explains. That whole interaction between Don and Connie the Cocktail Waiter really stuck out to me. I suppose the idea behind all this was that you could take the countryboy out of the country but he’ll still feel less comfortable with the countryclub boys than he will with the country boys.
It was also interesting to see Roger and Don fight. They’ve fought before, yes, but this was different. This feud wasn’t at work where they’re virtual equals. At the country club we saw where both characters are actually most like themselves: Don with a server and Roger with a richer more exclusive crowd. Roger revealed that with that whole bit about how at the club he could choose the people who could see him happy, an exclusiveness that Don is all too familiar with. That was brilliant.
As for Joan, I’ve been skeptical of that storyline with Greg for some time but now I have a great deal more confidence in it. Clearly Joan and Greg aren’t getting along, fighting over who’s in charge just not with each other but with other people and Joan wins when she can but as Greg demonstrated with making Joan play the accordion, Joan is still constrained by her gender. If things go well with their family and Greg becomes Chief Resident (which now seems less than certain) he’ll fulfill his warnings that Joan “better watch out” about becoming pregnant. Nobody really thought she wanted to lose more of her independence by becoming a mother and now she’s told that she doesn’t really want to get pregnant now. So now her suspicions that having a child won’t be great have been reinforced. I think this will all come to a boil as will the shadow of Joan’s rape. I’ve got to admit, I’m waiting for Joan to lose it with Jane and Greg, maybe in that order. Hopefully her revenge will be strong enough to reflect her anger. In the last two seasons Joan’s wrath was portrayed as an unbeatable punishment but in season 3 she seems much more powerless. There was something about when she was singing that made her seem so weak and defeated.
As an actress, Christina Hendricks was at her best in this episode and it was an episode full of excellent acting. I think I heard a line in the song Joan sang that sums up the episode’s quality nicely: c’est magnifique.
UPDATE: I was most struck by Hendricks in this episode (and even included the French in my post). The New York Post has a blog post titled “Joan’s ‘C’est Maginifique’ Was Just That” that’s pretty similar to the pun I used. The Post also found a Youtube clip of Joan playing the accordion: