We will have our full Mad Men recap up later, but I’m sure some of you who — like me — tend to overthink Mad Men may have been kept up last night wondering who the hell Emily Arnett was, the blonde woman who interrupted Don Draper’s dinner with the other ad firm. She looked really familiar, suggested that Don looked familiar to her, and offered her, uh, self to Don, letting him know where her room was.
I think what bugged some of us was the striking resemblance that Emily Arnett had to Stephanie, Anna Draper’s niece from season four, with whom Don got close while visiting Anna. Stephanie was also the person who called to inform Don that Anna had succumbed to her cancer.
They are not, however, played by the same actress. Stephanie was played by Caity Lotz, who many may know now from her role in Arrow, while Emily Arnett was apparently played by Hart of Dixie’s Brandi Burkhardt.
But was the resemblance intentional? Was it coincidental? What was up with that scene?
Truthfully, I don’t know. The superficial answer is, despite their protestations to the contrary, Emily Arnett was actually a prostitute paid by the firm wooing Don Draper to sweeten the deal, as well as let Draper know that they are familiar and accepting of his past, philandering ways.
The reading-too-much into Mad Men explanation, however, suggests that the resemblance was intentional, and that Stephanie’s presence was there to recall Dick Whitman, since Anna and Stephanie were one of the few people who actually knew about his real Dick Whitman past. This goes to inform one of the major thematic through-lines this season, which is Don confronting his true self, being honest with others, and dealing with the consequences of that, good or bad.
In either respect, the important take-home from Emily Arnett’s appearance is that Don is a changed man, inasmuch as he’s moderated his alcohol intake and placed a priority on his work over random hook-ups. The fact that Emily Arnett bore a resemblance to Anna, with whom Don was smitten, only serves to highlight that even more. If he’s willing to turn her down, then he really does care more about his career.