Mad Men s4e7: The Suitcase

“My uncle Mac said he had a suitcase that was always packed. He said, ‘A man has to be ready to go at any moment’..

“..Jesus, maybe it was a metaphor.”

Where do I even begin with The Suitcase? What can I say? It’s probably my favourite episode of the entire series, one of the best for sure. I’ve got a lotta feelings here.

In life, who truly knows us? Sure, you can be close with people, but you’re never inside their head. What happens when the last vestige of who you really are through a human connection fades away? The hell do you do next?

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Peggy and Don both terrified of the phone and what news is on the other end. Stephanie rings and leaves word from California, and Don knows it’s not good news. Picking up the phone, he hesitates.. and picks up a bottle instead. Here we go.

It’s Peggy’s birthday, and drunkass Duck is on the line, begging her to meet up and throw him a bone via manipulation.

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I SEE YOU.

Megan and Peggy have a fun interaction in the ladies’ room; the forward thinking Megan compliments her for being 26, lets her know that she’s doing a-OK in life. Whereas Trudy emphasises that “26 is still very young”, reminding her that she’s unmarried and without some baby. Woof. As Trudy goes off with Pete to enjoy her evening, Peggy goes back to Don’s office to wrap up. Or maybe not.

Bland boyf Mark is surprising Peggy with dinner at a fancy Italian place.. and has invited her mother, sister/brother in law, and roomate along for the ride. Equal parts awkward and infuriating, Peggy finds out as she delays the dinner repeatedly to help out with Samsonite. When he reveals he’s there with all those people she can’t really stand, Peggy is enraged. 

Has this guy learned a good goddamned thing about her during their time together? Not bloody likely, but it’s also unclear what she’s offered; after all, she was doing a virgin impression for him at first. They break up over the phone.

I feel like I understand the aspect of Peggy that is a little tonedeaf to other people’s feelings, because I can certainly be like that in life. Pegs is whip-smart and can be very kind and empathetic, but she can also be oblivious, especially when it comes to other people’s subtle reactions. It’s clear that she wants marriage and a family in the abstract, as these things she Should Want(TM), but the actual realities of being in a long-term relationship are too much for her. She feels more drawn to her career and the office than she does to Mark, and let’s be real, Mark sorta blows anyway.

Peggy knows Don at least as well as Anna, and I think just a shade better. The details of how Dick became Don don’t matter as much as who Don is now due to all those deets. She’s seen him at his best and at his worst. I don’t think Anna ever really did, since California was Don’s New York palate cleanser. On the west coast, he was neither Dick nor Don, but sort of a hybrid; the person he might have been if not for the intense self-loathing and running. And I’d say it’s a lot harder to know and love Don in New York than that vaguely breezy California guy. But Peggy does.

And we’re right back to The Hobo Code, with Uncle Mac’s escapist advice ringing true to Don. But come on.. you can’t run forever, as much as you may try. Your problems will follow you everywhere if you don’t face that shit head on and fucking deal with it. It’ll hit you all at once.

Both Don and Peggy have painful memories that bubble up in mental reruns, things they’d rather forget, just like the rest of us. It’s revealed that Peggy witnessed her father’s violent death, just as Don did. Two people who know each other exceedingly well can articulate entire paragraphs by saying very few words. They sort of dance around what they’re trying to say, but the other person understands it intrinsically.

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image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Peggy lets him know that her mother thinks he’s the one who knocked her up in Season 1, since he was the only person who visited her in the hospital. People make fun of her at work, assuming she got the damn job by banging Don. Humiliating and sad, but Peggy persists. The evolution of Peggy and her creative career is absolutely fascinating. And it’s worth noting that Don is interesting because of his past, but Peggy is interesting because of her future.

Meanwhile, Drunk Duck pops to SCDP to take a shit in Roger Sterling’s office, mistaking it for Don’s like a truly gross maniac. In one of the best drunk sad sack man fights ever (spurred by Duck referring to Peggy as a whore), Don badly throws a punch and Duck then throws him to the ground, boasting about killing a bunch of people in Okinawa. Jesus Christ dude, simmer down.. why you gotta make it weird?

Apologising for Duck’s behaviour and about how long ago all that gross sex was, Don doesn’t judge. He gets it.

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Waiting to ring Stephanie and get confirmation of what he knows must’ve gone down is killing him. Anna is such a special person to him, and Peggy can see he’s clearly in pain. The thing is, Anna needed Don/Dick at that point in her life. Her husband was dead, and she was alone.. and then she tracks down Don and he’s just as alone and in need of a connection. It would take a far more cynical person than Anna to turn him in once she heard him out all those years ago.

I think what’s so great about Don and Anna’s friendship is that it’s a mutual relationship where each is able to get something from the other and give something in return. A sense of comfort, no judgement, ease. Being faced with the reality of these things disappearing in her death is haunting Don.

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With Peggy asleep beside him on the couch, a vision of Anna appears to Don. She’s holding a suitcase and smiling, radiant, as she walks off. Don finally rings Stephanie around 5.30a, confirming the worst; Anna passed away in the night. Putting the phone down and making level eye contact with Peggy, he wholly falls apart, sobbing.

“What happened?”

“Somebody very important to me died.”

“Who?”

“The only person in the world who really knew me.”

“That’s not true.”

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As the morning stretches on, SCDP is back to the usual bustle. As he shows her an idea for Samsonite, Don holds Peggy’s hand for a beat, subtly acknowledging their night. The gesture alone speaks volumes as they both take a moment.

“I know what I’m supposed to want, but it just never feels right.. or as important as anything in that office.”

Mad Men s4e4: The Rejected

“You can’t tell how people are going to behave by how they have behaved.”

ATTENTION! I have an urgent and horrifying news story: Don continues to be entirely obtuse. More on that at 11.

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Lucky Strike call realness. || image courtesy of Imgur

During a particularly prickly conference call with Lee Garner Jr, Don receives a letter with a photo from Anna and relaxes for a hot second. Note how Don now has photos on his desk, a callback to Conrad Hilton’s criticism from Season 3.

This episode focuses a lot on Peggy and Pete, and how wildly their paths have diverged. These days, Peggy is largely confident and happy with who she is; she gave up Pete’s baby and that life she’s ‘supposed’ to want to pursue something she actually wants — a life of her very own. She’s an influential part of SCDP, works hard and has a lot to show for it. She’s in a place where her confidence and earnestness are revered, and finds fulfillment in her career. Sure, her new friend Joyce seems “pretentious” according to SCDP receptionist Megan, but Peggy dreamily responds with admiration to that remark.

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image courtesy of TomandLorenzo

That Kool-Aid is powerful, though. Even with all of this good shit, she still tries on Faye’s engagement ring while the focus group is in full swing (to Don’s amusement). And when she hears Trudy and Pete are gonna blow out a baby, it understandably throws her for a bit of a loop. Her mixed feelings aren’t regret or ~feelings~ per se, but rather just a lot of emotion that came back to the surface after being dormant for so long. It’s complicated. Et cetera. It’s like when an old ex gets engaged, and you pause for a beat. You don’t give a damn about that guy, but it’s still dissonant for a second.

Trudy’s pregnancy takes Pete entirely by surprise, especially since he got the news dropped on him by the father in law when he was supposed to be firing Clearasil. Pete had no interest in adoption, and wasn’t sure he wanted a kid in general –- probably due in part to his own dysfunctional WASPy upbringing, and a tinge of the betrayal he felt from Peggy’s confession in Meditations in an Emergency –- but when he learns that he’s knocked up Trudy, he realises that, like the wife he truly needs and learned to love, it is indeed something he yearns for in his life.

Pete and Pegs may work in the same place, but they are in two distinctly different worlds. That shot of them catching each other’s gaze from different worlds through the glass SCDP doors is weighty; she’s heading out with her fun, colourful bohemian friends, he’s with the old money crowd in suits. Gotta live your truth.

In the focus group for Pond’s, there’s a fucking enormous meltdown of entirely too many lady feelings. Faye tries valiantly to get the girls to yap about the ritual and treating yourself to prove that Peggy’s pitch is the right way to go, but it all goes right back to Freddy’s hysterically dated marriage-centric idea. The only one who responds to Peggy’s idea is Megan, who shares a story about her mother’s AM routine.

And when Allison eventually cracks, Don squirms in his seat.

Good god, that man is fucking obtuse. Finally admitting they had a bang after Allison backed him into a corner, she states that she’s going to resign her position, requesting a letter of recommendation. And being the world class shithead that he is, Don tells her to write one herself on his letterhead and he’ll sign it; now, this ain’t an uncommon practice, but GOOD LORD, Draper, can’t you see that she’s desperately trying to get you to recognise her value in some capacity? Allison responds by hurling an object across the room at him in anger.

“I don’t say this easily.. but you are not a good person.”

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This explosion of emotion and noise is another symptom of a Don who ain’t very good at being Don Draper right now; he’s full on human mess edition, sitting alone at the office until the soothing hum of the floor waxer lulls him home. When he gets to his apartment, he begins typing a letter to Allison, apologising and saying “my life is very”.. stopping dead. Very what? A raging tire fire? Mortifying? A dumpster apocalypse? Oof.

Whatever his life may be at this moment in time, and the important people in it, is very much not something he had planned to be living when we see him in the pilot.

Ah, Miss Blankenship! A bright spot in this episode. As always, Joan reads between the lines and understand exactly what Don needs and gives him an hysterical older lady secretary to replace Allison. 

The research has come in, and sure enough.. Pond’s should be linked to matrimony. Sigh. Don brings up a good point arguing for Peggy’s vision for the Pond’s campaign over Freddie’s. Maybe this is a campaign so new and bold that people don’t yet have a context for it; there are women who feel this way and they’re simply not being reached.

(But hey, look at Megan from that focus group! She not only kept her shit together the whole time, she also related to the idea, showing that Peggy’s pitch and Don defense of it are on to something.)

“Why are you being so hostile? You think I’ve never had this argument before?”

“Because you go in there and you stick your finger in people’s brains and they just start talking just to be heard. And you know what? Not only does it have nothing to do with what I do, but it’s nobody’s business!”

Christ.. way to dropkick a hornet’s nest, Faye. Don is such an intensely private weirdo who won’t share jack shit about himself on principle, so he’s lashing out. He doesn’t like his creative process being fucked with, he doesn’t want anyone knowing a damn thing about him, and he certainly believes that past behaviour is not always predictive of future behaviour, implying he’s living proof.

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I SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING. || image courtesy of ONTD 

But.. it’s true when it comes to Peggy, Pete, and Ken, and most of the other significant characters in this episode. They have changed and evolved, right along with the world here. They do some shit in 1965 that their 1960 selves would definitely not have ever believed. They’ve rejected parts of themselves from before, whether for better (a more adult Pete, a bolder more confident Peggy) or worse (a drunk sad sack Don, a stressed out Kenny). The evolution of these characters is equal parts fascinating and true to life.

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image courtesy of TomandLorenzo

Peggy heading out to the warehouse art haus video party in Washington Market and snogging new guy Abe in a closet during a police raid is absolutely NOT something 1960 Peggy would have done.

In the closing scene with the elderly couple in the hallway, Don pauses before closing his door. The wife is ambling up the hallway to her husband in their door, emphatically asking if she got pears. This is a life Don doesn’t think he’ll have a shot at anymore, that bizarre sort of intimacy and deep connection with another person. I mean, he deffo won’t if he keeps up this convoy of drunken mayhem and getting slapped by hookers. It’s no way to learn how to be actually intimate with anyone.

“Hello, 1925. I’m not gonna do that.”

 

Mad Men s4e3: The Good News

“I could tell the minute she saw who I really was, she never wanted to look at me again. Which is why I never told her.”

Woof, lots to chew on in this episode. Anna Draper is dying (unbeknownst to her), Don’s last living positive link to Dick Whitman. In his vulnerable state, Don lets Lane see a glimpse of who he really is, even though it’s Sad Sack Drunk Don.

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YES, CALIFORNIA DON || image courtesy of Tumblr

Visiting with Anna is the only time we see Don truly relaxed. He actually enjoys human connection with her in a way we don’t really see otherwise. And hearing the awful news from her niece Stephanie (and then seeing him revert to Don Draper mode by taking charge with Anna’s sister), it’s just fucking devastating.

It’s enormously hard to see him struggling over whether to tell Anna the truth, given that he knows just how much a truth bomb can blow it all to hell. Maybe Don was afraid it would snuff out the most dear relationship he has  at this point, as his truth-telling ended his life with Betty.. or that maybe he believed that not knowing the truth would be a gift to her somehow, letting her enjoy her short time left in blissful ignorance. Anna is the only person in his life to love him unconditionally.

“Well, I saw something once, and I’m telling you.. it knocked me sideways. I started thinking of everything I was sure was true, and how flimsy it all might be.”

“You don’t need to see a UFO to know that.. that’s not a great way to think about things.”

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On the other side of the coin, I don’t know if Anna would have loved the ‘real’ New York Don Draper. She also didn’t have to deal with the consequences of Dick Whitman’s lies for a decade, the way Betty had to. Anna has never seen that side of him.

Looks like Don is still trying to convince himself that the reason Betty cast him aside was his destitute upbringing, which ain’t the real root of the issue. Instead, he chooses to block out the reality that his lies had an emotional impact upon Betty for such a long time that at the end of it, she was legit yelling about how she had tried so hard to understand him and couldn’t, due to the way he entirely shut himself off from her. Oof. Don can’t take responsibility because he’s looking at things all wrong.

At the office, things are thankfully a little more normal. Allison appears a touch woeful about her New Years plans (going out with big group of girls) in contrast to Joan asking Peggy’s plans, seeming envious of the potential freedom of going out with ladies and having a blast.

And hey, how much longer before Joan dumps that absolute dickbag of a husband? It’s such shit to see the incredibly capable Joan in a relationship with a self-involved manbaby who treats her like an infant. She wouldn’t put up with that at work– look how she put Lane in his place re:flower fuckup. Watching her weep as Greg stitches her up, knowing it’s all a disaster and this dude doesn’t know a damn thing about her.. rough.

Coming into the office on New Year’s Day, Don is surprised to see Lane; they were both supposed to be on vacation, after all. These guys bond in the best way possible; getting loaded and heading to the movies to see some explosions with Gamera. That scene is a real treat with Lane shouting at some uptight lady in pidgin Japanese, surrounded by handjobs galore.. aces.

Lane and Don’s friendship is born in rather dire sad sack circumstances. They’re pretty different guys. Don is this confident suave guy who’s (supposedly) got it all figured out, and Lane is trying to find his place in the world, trying to stand out and not just be complacent and do what’s expected of him all the damn time.

“You remind me of a chap I knew in school. We followed him around in a pack, and he didn’t notice we were there.. He died in a motorcycle crash.”

Lane admires Don and wants to be liked by him, or even to be more like him. And Don is so lonely at this point in his life that he wants to be liked by literally anyone in that same dark headspace to understand him.

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image courtesy of MadMenWiki

At drunk man steakhouse dinner, Lane opens up that his marriage is on the rocks; shit sounds dire, and that bouquet of roses cockup didn’t help. Having learned from the nuclear disaster of giving Roger advice, Don holds back — Lane feels he should make some grand sweeping gesture, seeking Don’s approval. Instead, he paraphrases something Faye said to him during the SCDP Christmas party that clearly resonated.

“Is that what you want? Or is that what people expect of you?”

Pausing and staring at Don levelly, this is a thought that has never occurred to Lane. And this ain’t the first time we’ve seen Don internalise advice or an observation and pass it off as his own; in Season 1’s Nixon vs. Kennedy, Don responds to Pete’s hilarious blackmail attempt with “You haven’t thought this through”.. which is exactly what Rachel Menken countered with when he suggested that they run off and start a new life together. Like all of us, certain shit sticks with him and rattles around in his brain.

Aaaand, enter the high class hookers.

I think a crucial point in Don’s success as a married hot guy and his failure as a divorced guy is pretty plain; a married man offers nothing but a dick-go-round because he’s attached, while a single (even divorced) man could be a potential future husband and — as Freddie Rumsen reminded us — it’s not always wise to bang it out with a man if you intend to marry him. Women treat the no-future man a lot differently than they treat the maybe-future man. So, it’s not wholly shocking that Don keeps striking out; his status implies a different set of possibilities than it used to. He’s got an asterisk. When Stephanie asks him if he’s married or divorced, he wonders why he can’t just say he’s single and be done with it.

But generally, Don is struggling. It’s borderline uncomfortable seeing him make moves on women that appear uninterested. While he may have been on top of his banging around game the past 3 seasons, his perf family helped establish that part of him. He seems uncomfortable with being divorced, almost as if he’d rather be married and fucking around than single and searching.

“But nobody knows what’s wrong with themselves.. and everyone else can see it right away.”

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Gentlemen, shall we begin 1965? || image courtesy of MadMenWikia