16 April 2011

Yes, Joan is Pregnant

Back on March 3 I posted a summary of the final three episodes of season four of Mad Men. Yet, as Cicily reminded me in the comments section at the time, I neglected to mention a rather important datum: Joan's pregnancy. Here is my penance -- the Joan story arc.

We first met Joan (then Joan Holloway), played by red-haired, buxomy Christina Henricks, in the opening moments of the first episode first season, where she was the veteran showing the ropes to the new secretary, Peggy Olson.

We soon learn that Joan has had a long term relationship with Roger Sterling. In episode six of this season, Roger buys Joan a bird. Why? Apparently to keep her company while she is alone in her apartment, so she won't be seeking other men to keep her company while he, Roger, can't be there (because of the wife and stuff.) Joan exhibits an unflustered realism about Roger, as she does about most of what happens in her life throughout the show's run. She says for example, "We both know I'll find a more permanent situation and you'll find a new model. The 61s are coming out soon."

In the second season, Joan briefly seems to have found a new career niche for herself, as Harry (who is now head of the 'TV department' -- actually, he is the department) puts her to work reviewing the scripts of TV episodes to be sure that there is nothing in them that conflicts with the products Sterling Cooper wants to sell. This doesn't last, though, and Joan is crestfallen when Harry finds somebody else to do that work.

Even more important, in this season Joan acquires a fiance, Dr. Greg, and we see that Greg has a dark side. He rapes Joan on a visit to the workplace -- in Don's office, as it happens -- and when Joan abandons her resistance to this she looks resignedly to the drinks cabinet as the camera pans off. Marital rape was generally not a crime in 1963 -- but these two weren't yet married -- yet the event has no repurcussions. Joan has apparently decided that marrying a doctor is the sort of thing she is supposed to do, and the significance of this event is to warn us, and her, what this particular marriage will entail.

In the third season, in July 1963, the Brits are taking over the agency, and Joan is supposed to have a going-away party (doctor's wives don't work). That party, though, is rather rudely overshadowed by a nasty incident with a tractor that crushes one of the Brits' feet. He'll never golf again, as someone remarks.

We see Joan a couple of episodes later working at Bonwit Teller, where snivelling Pete has to go to exchange a dress, for reasons I won't get into. She is there because of Dr. Greg's career troubles.

We catch up with her again when the Americans, dissatisfied with their Brit overlords, leave to start their own agency, and realize in the process that they can't do it without her. She is hereafter Mrs. Harris.

This gets us back to season four. As I've noted in earlier blog entries, Greg's career troubles drive him into the Army, and to Vietnam in the course of this season. On the day when Greg learns that he is headed for that battleground, Roger Sterling decides to re-ignite his old affair with Joan. She proves initially unreceptive, and he buys her a professional massage, which seems to both literally and figuratively loosen her up, as intended.

They have a meal together, and soon after they leave the restaurant, they are accosted by a stick-up man, who makes off with Roger's watch and wallet and Joan's bag. This proves stimulating, and they proceed to have sex in the street. This is the encounter whence comes Joan's pregnancy.

In the following episode, presumably some weeks later, Joan tells Roger she's late. "Very late." The subject of abortion immediately arises, although in coded language. Roger thinks she should have the baby -- after all, Greg could conveniently die in Vietnam, never knowing anything about it. Joan objects to this heatedly.

In a later scene we see Joan in the waiting room of a doctor's office, presumably with abortion in prospect. She speaks to another woman in the waiting room -- that woman is the mother of a 14-year-old pregnant girl, and assumes Joan's situation is the same. Joan goes along with this assumption. But we don't see anything further of Joan in this episode, and the fan sites buzzed thereafter with the question whether she went through with the abortion.

In the season finale there's a neat quiet moment with Joan and Peggy eating lunch together, grousing about Don's engagement to Megan. Joan says, "I learned a long time ago not to get all my satisfaction from this job."

Peggy replies, "That's bullshit," and they laugh.

In the final scene, Joan Harris is talking to her husband, who we see at his base in Vietnam. The conversation makes it clear to us that she did not have an abortion, and that she has told Greg she is pregnant with his child.

That, then, is the Joan saga to date.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.