The question is whether the other three partners and Joan would go along with it. Would Lane (who also respects Joan, but needs the agency to do well enough to justify his “bonus”), Roger (who has very complicated feelings, but largely protective ones, for Joan) and Bert (who is old-fashioned but also inscrutable) all be so desperate for this client that they would also be willing to play pimp? And would Joan be willing to sell her body at any price?I don’t know, and I imagine I still wouldn’t know even if I took days and days with this review. Weiner and co-writer Semi Chellas clearly want us to view it as a desperate situation where the agency’s future so rests on this one pitch that the men would be willing to sacrifice Joan’s virtue for it. And they want us to see Joan’s current circumstances as perhaps not desperate, but difficult enough that a partnership stake in the agency would be worth such a sacrifice.
If you buy that the partners would be willing to sell Joan, and that Joan would feel the same way, then this is an all-time great episode of the series. But if you don’t, then it’s Weiner and company making the characters act against their natures to fit the theme.
You’ll notice Pete is immediately removed from the equation, because Pete is a terrible person and would obviously do it. He even volunteered to make the call himself. But if Sepinwall is going to invoke the Plot Twist That Will Not Be Named as an (indirect) comparison, then the motivations of the remaining three partners warrant some further thought (Sidenote: could you imagine the talk Coach Taylor would have needed to have in that situation? Might have been – and this is heresy, I know – above his paygrade. But probably not.)
Lane probably would. Although he tried to plant one on Joan after Pryce-Campbell I, his feelings toward Joan have always been more about her accepting him at the firm and understanding his value as he understands hers. Besides, he’s so consumed by his monetary issues and the pending bonus bomb that he couldn’t separate his angst that there isn’t $50,000 to give her from his actual feelings that she deserves a partner role, even if this is the only way she could get it.
Bert is a little bit of an enigma, but his knowing comment that “this is dirty business” suggested to me that, while he knew this was seedy, it wasn’t his first rodeo. He also has been front and center in declaring the impact a car can have on an agency. A little surprising? Maybe, but only a little. As he told Don when he was scolding him about his happy marriage, this is his business.
And so we’re left with Roger. A man who has loved Joan for the duration of the series and has a child with her. Who just recently stated how it has annoyed him for years to watch her receive flowers from other men. For him to sign off (And quickly! With the only caveat being he won’t pay for it.) is maybe the biggest leap, until you recognize that the only thing more important to Roger than Joan is Sterling Cooper and its expanded sequel. Remember, despite his considerable pride, this is a man who, when Lee Garner, Jr. said “Jump!” he asked “In which Santa suit?” If Jaguar is the difference between SCDP making the leap or withering on the vine – and it could easily be, even though we haven’t been told as much – then it is, unfortunately, not a stretch at all for Roger to agree. After all, other men have always had Joan. But Roger has never been without the family business.
So it’s decided, then – all-time great episode.