Mad Men, Season 4

Week 7: Roger Sterling's Titillating Memoirs
Talking television.
Sept. 6 2010 12:33 PM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 7: Roger Sterling's Titillating Memoirs

Don Draper (Jon Hamm)

Wait, wait, I've got it: Samsonite—tough enough for the ghost of the wife of Don Draper … and tough enough for you.

John Swansburg John Swansburg

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

The least surprising revelation in this episode was that Roger used his romantic prowess to win the attentions of Ida Blankenship. Anyone who grew up on The Karate Kid could have told you that the young Blankenship was a hellcat. Finding out how Dr. Lyle Evans got a reputation around the office—now that I didn't see coming. 

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"You're witty," Trudy tells Peggy in the ladies room. "I always assumed that, but it turns out it's true." Take the compliments where you can get them, Pegs. As you noted, Michael, Don pulls no punches when Peggy complains that he didn't acknowledge her contributions to the Glo-Coat spot. ("It's a kernel" he says of her contribution—ouch.) Don treats Peggy like she's a needy, ungrateful child who doesn't recognize all that her hardworking father has done for her. Yelled at by her father figure, Peggy burst into tears and storms off to her room.

Thankfully, Don turns out to be one of those tough-love dads whose irascible exterior disguises a genuine affection for his child. I think the writers wanted us to wonder whether Don and Peggy's funny night on the town—Greek diner, dive bar for the radio broadcast of the fight—might end with a less chaste interlude on Don's couch. But Don's compliments to Peggy felt to me like a father's slightly awkward pep talk to his insecure daughter. While "you're cute as hell" may sound like a Don Draper pick-up line (it's right up there with "I like the way you smell"), in this context, it had a surprising sweetness to it.

At the risk of hyper-extending my metaphor, the scene in which Peggy sees Don break down after learning of Anna's death also had a father-daughter feel to it, conjuring the heartbreak of the first time you see a parent cry. I loved how the camera turned from Don's stricken face as he hung up with Stephanie to Peggy's wide-eyed countenance. She's heard the whole conversation; she's realized that even tough, never-fazed Don is vulnerable. And that he's profoundly lonely. It's time for the child to console the parent. Peggy assures Don that Anna isn't the only person who really knows him, and after the eventful night of May 25, 1965, we know that she's right.

Don, meanwhile, wakes up on May 26 with a new perspective on Samsonite. He's embraced both Cassius Clay and the idea of a celebrity endorsement, which he'd knocked when Peggy and Co. presented the Namath pitch. I liked how Peggy crankily critiqued the idea until finally admitting her objections were just the sleep deprivation talking. She's pulled a Draper-style all-nighter, but she hasn't quite mastered Don's art of slicking back the hair, pulling a fresh shirt from the desk drawer, and forging ahead as if he'd gone home at 5 p.m. and gotten 40 winks. Something tells me it's a skill she'll soon acquire.

Julia, this episode revealed you to have been totally right that Miss Blankenship (aka "The Queen of Perversion") is a punishment from Joan. Perhaps you can prognosticate on these subjects: Are you confident that Don and Peggy's relationship—both personal and professional—has changed for good after their night of fighting, making-up, drinking, mouse-hunting, and platonic napping? Don has a tendency to behave one way while drunk, another when sober, though that little hand squeeze Michael mentioned suggests he's not forgotten the events of the night before, or their meaning. And does Don's willingness to open up to Peggy, to tell her about his youth on the farm and even his brief experience in Korea, indicate to you that he's finally ready to let down his guard about his past?

I feel for you, Mark—birthday dinners are the pits.

I would like to take this moment to acknowledge Jody Rosen, Slate's music critic, who has been maintaining for over a year that Jane Siegel is Jewish. It took joie de vivre to bed Bert Cooper's secretary; it took chutzpah to marry Don's.

I want to hear Tape 3,
John

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