'You Make Me Sick': On Mad Men, the Lowest of Don Draper's Many Lows

One of my favorite scenes was, of course, the wee-hours phone call from Peggy to Stan. I'm a big sucker for those, as I think we've established already, and this one, with Peggy's coy "I could make it worth your while" to coax Stan over to her apartment, was a tantalizing tease for Peggy-and-Stan fans like me: Now that Abe's out of the picture, can they please, please become a thing? In a broader sense, too, that call also further underscored the fact that while Peggy and Stan remain technically platonic friends, sex has never been that far out of the question for them. They're a different sort of friends from any other cross-gender friendship on Mad Men, I think—they let the lines blur sometimes between truly-just-friends and sexy-friends. Is that sustainable? I think we'll probably find out.

I liked the scene where Peggy and Pete shared a laugh in the restaurant about Pete's mother. After Pete's mother made Peggy uncomfortable by unwittingly making the rare direct reference to Pete and Peggy's baby, it was nice to see them giggle together as friends just one scene later. Look how far they've come, et cetera.

And I loved, in the most heartbreaking way, the scene at Ted Chaough's house. His wife clearly knows what's up, and she seems to know Ted better than he knows himself ("I know you like having a young copywriter in your airplane"; "I know you like facing Don Draper every morning more than the clients"). Her earnest words to Ted illustrated what SC&P looks like from an outsider's perspective, and it's not pretty. Peggy and SC&P are getting in the way of what Ted's wife understandably wants for her husband and for his ability to play his role in their family. Ted's wife's requests—that he spend more time at home and actually enjoy it—are perfectly reasonable ones, and seeing Ted come home later on and hang out with his boys, careful to let his wife get her rest, made me feel kind of terrible for how eagerly I've bought into the drama of the Peggy-Ted dalliance.

Bob Benson, you dodged a bullet with this one

Eleanor, I think you're right about that Don-and-Sylvia-getting-caught encounter being the most graphic sex we've seen on Mad Men to date. Ironically, I think that sex scene and its aftermath ranks somewhere on my list of Don Draper's unsexiest moments of all time (somewhere behind the few times he's puked onscreen). We tend to see the sexier parts of sex on this show—the anticipation-heavy foreplay and then the afterglow—but the actual sex act generally gets glossed over. The fact that Sally caught her dad in the throes what's arguably the least glamorous part of sex made this whole scene so, so much more unbearable. Obviously it's rough to find out your dad's cheating on his wife, and it's rough to have to think about either one of your parents having sex at all (as Pete reminded us)—so to have to deal with both at once... yikes. Poor Sally. After inadvertently walking in on Roger Sterling getting oral sex from her step-grandma last season, then walking in on her dad having sex with her maybe-crush's mom, spending the last few years hanging out with creepy kids like Glen, Sandy the violinist, and now this evil Julie, plus, you know, having Betty Francis for a mom, it's hard to say who exactly is the worst influence on Sally.

And speaking of Pete: It may not make sense now, Bob Benson, but you dodged a bullet with this one. We've touted Pete as the socially progressive SC&P staffer because of his views on race, but this episode showed his attitudes toward sexuality—be it homosexuality or just non-traditional sexuality—aren't nearly as accepting. (For the time period, that's not all that surprising. But even back in Season 3, Don showed humanity and discretion after finding out Sal Romano was a closeted gay man, so we've seen Mad Men characters handle it better than Pete does.) I think you're right, Eleanor, to say Bob's on his way out, and I think he probably knows it.

Amy, you're up: Your reactions on Don and Sylvia and Sally's big awkward surprise? What's next for single Peggy? And how about Ted and Don's shaky peace agreement—should we be taking over-under bets on how long that lasts?


Sullivan: Wow. My high school Model U.N. competitions were nothing like that. The only conceivable teeny tiny upside to Sally's traumatic surprise is that it redeemed one of the many Dick Whitman flashbacks we've been treated to this season. The scene immediately recalled Dick peering through the keyhole to see his stepmother on her back as their new landlord claimed her.

If Don were the self-aware type, he would be worried not only about the possibility that Sally will tell someone but also that he's just poisoned his daughter's view of men the way his own view of women was warped and shaped at a young age. In a way, that would be more tragic. Dick Whitman grew up knowing his mother was a prostitute and spent part of his childhood literally living in a whorehouse. But Sally—despite the rough spots you mentioned, Ashley—has largely maintained her innocence. The closest she's come to having a boyfriend was creepy Glen, who was actually pretty sweet to her. She's still at the age where she can develop a massive crush based on two minutes of seeing a boy in the lobby. And I found most endearing and heartwarming the warning Sally gave Julie about boys not liking her if they knew she wasn't prepared for Model U.N. Please don't let go of that, Sally. There are men who like smart women.

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