[This! Is! Mad Men! recaps the newest developments of Don Draper and his ragtag group of cohorts. In the spirit of the show, it will often be sexist and drunk. Apologies ahead of time.]
Right off the bat, I’m going to apologize for the brevity of this week’s recap. While I usually use This! Is! Mad Men! as my excuse to wax philosophical, today is Labor Day and I’ve been tasked with addressing some pressing issues. Like sitting around in my boxers, eating junkfood and trying to enjoy my last day of freedom before returning to work. Ahh, what a mission to accomplish!
But how am I feeling after The Suitcase, episode seven of Mad Men‘s fourth season? Optimistic. I’ve made no reservations about the fact that I see Don Draper as descending into a point-of-return in which he’ll lose both his professional status as well as his few personal ties. And while I think Draper is still sinking, this episode tosses him a life preserver. Through his relationship with Peggy Olsen, Don Draper has demonstrated that he is still a human with a beating heart, capable of compassion and understanding.
Throughout The Suitcase, Don puts off phoning California as he knows the news waiting for him on the other end of the line is that Anna Draper has died. In an attempt to ignore this unfortunate duty, he coerces Peggy into staying late at the office. As she puts in overtime, Ms. Olsen misses a surprise birthday dinner thrown by her boyfriend, which finally ends in the dissolution of their relationship. Peggy and Don have a screaming match – she accuses him of co-opting her ideas whilst downplaying her input, he tells her she owes him her entire life. Tears are shed.
At this point, I really thought that Peggy was going to take Duck Phillips’ offer to start a new agency. He might be lonely, irresponsible and even more inebriated than the folks at SCDP, but he still represents an alternative. After having her emotions trampled on by Don yet again, I could envision Peggy jumping ship. I was worried.
But she doesn’t – righteous! Instead, the Madison Avenue’s dynamic duo get their shit together and talk it out. They share a laugh while listening to Roger’s ridiculous memoirs-on-tape; highlights include the fact that Bert Cooper’s testicles have been removed and that Ms. Blankenship was once a sex fiend. At dinner they discuss Peggy’s baby and Don’s affair with Allison. Don reveals that he never knew his mother and watched his father die. Peggy also watched her dad croak, so they have that in common. They head back to the office and Peggy assists Don into the bathroom so he can yak. Then, she breaks up a fight between Draper and the interloping Duck Phillips. After a long day, Don and Peggy fall asleep on the couch in his office.
When he wakes up, Don makes the call to California and hears what he already knows to be true – Anna is dead. He breaks down crying and Peggy consoles him. He tells her that the only person that really knew him died, but Peggy disagrees. It’s a genuinely touching moment, even if it isn’t completely true. Peggy doesn’t know about Dick Whitman, but she knows more about Donald Draper than anyone else. Maybe now that Anna’s out of the picture, more will be revealed. Or maybe not.
In this hour of television, I could see so many different scenarios beginning to unfurl and it made me nervous. Hell, I don’t want Peggy to leave SCDP! Fortunately, Draper has shown that he’s a redeemable character by treating Peggy as a true friend. Sure, she bears the brunt of some of his grief, but then he rights the wrongs. By taking her out. By revealing intimate details of his shrouded past. By defending her honor when Duck Phillips calls her a whore. There’re laughs and shouts and tears and arguments and confidences. And at the end of it, they’re both better for it.
The Suitcase ends with Peggy asking Don whether he wants the door “Open or closed?” as she leaves his office. Don wants the office, just like their relationship, to have an open door. There is room for more growth and maturation, the possibility that they will both allow the other to play a larger personal role. Don’s been a reprehensible drunkard this season, so it’s nice to see that he can still wear his heart on his sleeve. Peggy, by dedicating herself to work and casting aside the boyfriend she never really loved, secures herself a position in the newest wave of Women’s Liberation.
What the hell am I saying with all this? What’s the long and the short of it?
Don Draper and Peggy Olsen are totally BFFs.