Mad Men, Season 5

Megan and Sally Might Actually Be Friends
Talking television.
May 14 2012 3:03 PM

Mad Men, Season 5

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Megan might be the most together character in the history of Mad Men.

Mad Men (Season 5)
Megan and Sally

Still by Michael Yarish/AMC.

Last night we witnessed the most unrealistic moment in the four-plus seasons of Mad Men thus far—more far-fetched than a lawnmower accident on Madison Avenue, harder to believe than Stan Rizzo’s facility with Percy Bysshe Shelley. Roger Sterling seems to have purchased—and closed on—a Manhattan apartment in something like two weeks. Even in John Lindsay’s New York City that was impossible, no matter how many Benjamins you’ve got in your pocket!

Julia, that’s a great point about how envy blinded nearly all of our heroes this week. I noticed a similarly unpleasant streak in the crew at SCDP. Looking back through a year’s worth of ads, Joan tells Don he should be proud of the team he’s assembled as creative director. But this episode was all about individuals looking out for themselves. Hoping to win all the glory, Pete keeps his friend at the Times to himself. (Deliciously, SCDP gets bumped from the article by a firm whose group shot looks “like Peter, Paul, and Mary.”) Peggy thinks she’s Roger’s go-to woman for “ad hoc” creative work—until she realizes that he just turns to whoever is most useful to him in the moment. (Jane knows how that goes.) Ginsberg hopes Don will sell his campaign with the same gusto with which he sells his own, but Don is determined to put Ginsberg in his place or to prove the Draper magic is still there. Either way, this isn’t about winning one for the firm; it’s about Don’s ego. (On a different show, Don might have learned his lesson by seeing his idea fall flat—I love that on Mad Men his poor form is rewarded by winning the account.) As a team, SCDP is like the mid-1970s Red Sox, whose lack of camaraderie earned them the unofficial slogan “25 guys, 25 cabs.” Roger even wishes he could have his own elevator.

What do you guys make of Sally’s relationship with Megan as it unfolded this week? I was a bit surprised that Sally was so angry at Megan for not telling her about Anna Draper. How dare my stepmother of little over a year not inform me that my father had a secret marriage! But Sally’s anger makes sense insofar as she sees Megan not as a stepmother but as a friend. Indeed, their fight played out like one between equals, with Sally trying out some adult turns of phrase (“Just keep digging yourself deeper”) and Megan reduced to some childish ones (“I am your friend, you know”). It didn’t feel all that different than Megan’s spat with her friend Julia.

The role of step-parent is never an easy one, and certainly Megan’s situation is particularly fraught. But once again this week we saw her display great emotional intelligence, recognizing Betty’s scheming and not allowing Don to play right into his ex-wife’s hands. Megan’s decision to treat Sally as a friend seems similarly wise. Sure, there are perils to that approach—Sally will sometimes expect a level of friendship that Megan can’t provide. But Megan seems to have recognized that Sally doesn’t want another mother—she wants a confidante and a mentor. Someone to help her navigate an adult world she desperately wants to understand—and someone who will also give her a gentle kiss on the forehead when the weekend’s over, because she’s not quite an adult, yet.

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John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

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