Is 'Mad Men's Joan Becoming an Account Man? The Season 7 Premiere Hints At Her Future

Dear, sweet Joanie. When Season 6 of Mad Men ended, Joan Harris had come a long way since we first saw her in Season 1, being cruel-to-be-kind to new girl Peggy Olson and telling her to put a bag over her head to evaluate her strengths. We know that Joan of Season 5 sacrificed herself to Herb of Jaguar in return for a partnership at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (now Sterling Cooper and Partners, to avoid the moniker of the Seven Yankees), and though it was a painful price to pay, Joan held her own in Season 6 as a partner at the boys' club agency where she's been working for over a decade. So, what's going to happen to Mad Men's Joan on Season 7? Will she finally get the credit she deserves for "being the person who thinks of what the client wants before they do?"

Season 6 was a growing pain for Joan — she brings in the Avon business on what she thinks is a date, she loses it to Pete Campbell and his receding hairline, and she steals it back, looping an unwilling Peggy into cahoots with her. She's reminded by her visiting friend who is excited by playing telephone with waiters and kissing boys at the Electric Circus that Joan is no longer the gal she used to be; she has bigger ambitions now, for herself and her son, Kevin, than to be a femme fatale. Joan forms a strange bond with our favorite stranger, Bob Benson, who comes to her rescue when she has an ovarian cyst and takes her to the beach in the shortest, most adorable shorts this side of 1970. Joan also begins to repair with Roger, the father of her child, but as she reminds him in at Thanksgiving dinner at the end of Season 6, she is letting Roger into Kevin's life—not hers. She also means business, and it's stunning to see her sitting with the partners in "In Care Of" and telling Don Draper he has been DISMISSED, INDEFINITELY. All her power-suit reminiscent outfits in Season 6 paid off.

Season 7 starts with Joan thinking she's going to become Ken's right-hand account man—with Bob in Detroit and Pete in California, he needs some help. Yay! We're thrilled for Joan! Until we realize the dinner she goes to with the young new head of marketing, Wayne Barnes, at Butler footwear wants to effectively fire Sterling Cooper and Partners. Instead of spilling the beans to Kenny, though, Joan goes back to school — that is, she goes to a business school to discuss strategy with a professor so she can one-up that little dweeb from Cougar Town who's the marketing head at Butler. The professor is impressed with Joan's business acumen, which she didn't get from earning an MBA but from slogging through the trenches at Sterling Cooper for sixteen long years.

The crowning jewel of Joan's trajectory in "Time Zones" is the way she takes control of the phone conversation with Barnes; "tell me what to do," he pleads pathetically. "Tell them we cancelled the meeting," Joan says (we love that she took off her earring for the phone call she's making out of Kenny's office.) It's refreshing to see Joanie finally take her rightful place as an account man, even if Ken does tell her later that she should stay out of his office. But the way she handled the Butler marketing head shows just how much Joan has learned in all her years cleaning up messes at Sterling Cooper. She's gotta stay out of Ken's office — but does that mean she'll be getting her own soon?

Image: Michael Yarish/ AMC