For a Good Time, Call . . . – A Recap of Mad Men’s “The Suitcase”

 

Coincidentally, both the best . . . and the worst nights of your life tend to be the ones that end like this . . .

Sunday night’s episode of Mad Men reminded me of one of those long crazy Friday nights during college.  The ones that seem to go on forever, traversing across varying locations, moods, and states of inebriation, all the while, becoming increasingly more bizarre as the hours wear on.  Nights like these will ALWAYS bring you closer to the people with whom you spent them — even if you can’t remember everything that happened, and some of the stuff you do remember, you wish you could forget . . .

Unfortunately, for Don, WE will remember EVERYTHING he did last night.  We even have the incriminating pics and GIFS to prove it.

Don’t worry, Don.  At least you didn’t hook up with Miss Blankenship!

“HEY!  It was just that one time!  Why are you cutting my balls off  . . . again!”

So, without further adieu, let’s relive the wildest and craziest, yet most heart-warming, night in Mad Men history!

Tuesday Night’s All Right for Fighting

Note:  This poster is from the FIRST Liston / Clay fight, which took place in 1964.  The rematch referred to in this episode, occurred on May 25, 1965, which, I guess, makes Peggy a Gemini . . .

When the episode opens, Harry is doling out tickets to his fellow ad men, so that they all can watch the Liston / Clay fight, which will be streaming live from a movie theater.  (Pretty high tech for 1965 – no?)

Typical Guy Banter abounds.  The men insult one another’s masculinity (or lack thereof), excessive frugality, and religious affiliations.  They then start arguing over who will win the big fight and placing bets.

Then Don shows up at the office two hours late for a meeting.  He is clad in his sexy bowler hat, but is looking slightly less than sexy, with his rheumy bloodshot eyes, cradled by both dark circles and bags the size of Samsonite suitcases.

Jerky “I can’t work naked in front of Peggy, without getting a hard on” Stan tries to kiss Don’s butt, by making some lame comment on how “Sonny Liston would be a great ad man.”

Uhhh . . . Stan?  You’ve got a little something on your nose.

To which, Don replies, “Clearly, he’d be a better one than YOU Yes, he would.  I’ll put my money on Clay.”

(Sidenote:  It’s interesting how, Don put money on Cassius Clay in the office pool.  Yet, he derided Clay’s arrogance, during his evening with Peggy, AND claimed to have LOST money, when Clay knocked out Liston.  Coincidence?  Or was Don so drunk, he simply forgot who he put money on?)

Don then calls the guys and Peggy into his office, so they can pitch him their proposed television advertisement for the Samsonite account.  In my opinion, the gang puts on a pretty good show.  The pitch is a football-themed celebrity endorsement, starring Joe Namath (Who knew he’d been playing for that long? Not me . . .).  The concept was that a Samsonite suitcase was so strong that Namath’s “wimpy girlfriend” (Peggy) could protect him from being tackled, using the suitcase alone as a shield.  But the best part of the pitch, in my opinion, was New Guy Joey, who does a pretty adorable Namath impersonation.

Unfortunately, he was fully clothed, at the time.

Sadly, Don does not have the same soft spot for Joey Baird that I have.  He despises the pitch.  And, after letting the guys off with a slap on the wrist, he REALLY gives it to Peggy.  “I’m so glad you are at a place in your career, where you feel comfortable failing,” he remarks cuttingly, with the officious air of an impossible-to-please father, who asks his daughter, who just got a 98% on an exam, where the other two points went.

Duck, Duck, Goose-d!

Duck Phillips:  The best man to bone, during a presidential assassination.

A miserable Peggy, who’s pretty much having the worst birthday morning EVER, arrives back at her desk, to find flowers and a gift from a guy who’s name, appropriately, rhymes with F&*k.

“I’m going to give you a go around, like you’ve never had.  Quack!  Quack!”

At least SOMEONE has remembered her birthday!  Peggy calls Duck to thank him for the flowers.  He then tells her that just CAN’T WAIT for her to open his AWESOME birthday gift.  She does so, while he’s on the phone with her.  And it’s . . . wait for it . . . a . . . business card.

That was LAME, DUCK!  Get it . . . “lame duck” . . . because his name  . . . nevermind.

Apparently, Duck has “big plans” to go all Jerry Maguire on the advertising world.  And he wants Peggy to leave HER job, so that she can play the Renee Zellwegger part.

“You complete me, Peggy Olson.  I’m starting my own company!  Who’s coming with me, aside from this fish?”

However, since Peggy’s no dummy, she sees right through Duck’s “marvelous offer.”  “You got fired . . . and you’ve obviously been drinking,” she replies matter-of factly, politely blowing off his claims of love, and his intense “need to see” her.

Well, played Peggy.  Why spend your night with an Ugly Duck-ling, when you can have a Swan?

 OK . . . it’s an alcoholic, and, sometimes, VERY mean, Swan . . . but it’s a Swan, nonetheless.

The Art of the Backhanded Compliment

In the bathroom, Peggy encounters two women, both of whom, in their own “really nice” way, make her feel like total crap.  The first is receptionist, Megan . . .

. . . who’s prissiness, intelligence, and ability to make “kindly” cutting remarks, make her the quintessential Joan 2.0.  When Peggy tells Megan her age, Megan replies in a manner that deftly straddles the line between jealous, uninterested, and vaguely patronizing, “Well, aren’t you doing well for yourself,” she coos.

Worse, is Pete’s wife,Trudie . . .

 . . . who is SO pregnant with Pete’s baby, she’s about ready to pop.  (Look familiar, Peggy?)  After remarking on how “witty” Peggy is, Trudi tries to “comfort Peggy” with a not-so-subtle jibe at her rapid approach toward spinsterhood.  “26 is still very young,” she offers “sweetly.”  (You know, that’s the thing about Trudi . . . I always want to hate her.  But I really believe that she thinks she’s being nice, in this situation.)

Meanwhile, Don blows off Roger, who is being faced with a forced evening of sobriety . . .

 . . . when he is tasked with watching the fight, alongside a client, who just so happens to be a recent graduate of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Don opts instead to stay in the office and work on ideas for Samsonite account.  He’s also hoping to avoid making a phone call that he KNOWS will bring him bad news . . .

If you recall from a few episodes back, Anna Draper  . . .

 . . . the only woman who ever seemed to truly love Don, warts and all, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  And so, when Don receives an urgent phone call from Anna’s niece, he knows the worst has occurred.  Yet, he can’t bring himself to return her call, just yet, because doing so would make the loss real.

But if Don’s working late, to avoid his problems, he’ll be damned if Peggy isn’t working with him . . .

Short Fuses and Broken Engagements

Peggy is about to head out of the office for an “oh so romantic” night out with her, about-as-exciting-as-a-root-canal boyfriend, Mark, when Don calls her into his office, to discuss the Samsonite account.

After taking a big fat dump on all of her ideas, Don, once again, treats Peggy like a child, forcing her to bring her artwork into the office, so they can go over it together.  “We’ll do this RIGHT NOW!”  He scolds.

Assuming the petulant teen role, Peggy rolls her eyes, and mumbles under her breath, causing Don to yell that classic parental unit phrase, “What did YOU SAY?”

I half expected him to add the also ever popular:  “Don’t you dare talk back to me!  I do too much for you to be treated like this.  Do you want to be grounded?”

But he didn’t . . .

“If Daddy wasn’t always ignoring me, so that he could drink and screw secretaries, he’d probably say those things to ME too . . .”

Peggy’s spanking is briefly interrupted, by a series of phone calls from, Wet Blanket “Yes, I AM that Important” Mark, who keeps wondering why she is so late for dinner.

As it turns out, Mark is not alone.  After all, his idea of a romantic dinner, apparently, involves having a lively party, filled with wild and crazy guests . . .

Don’t you wish you were there?

To be honest, I’m not quite sure WHY Mark thought it was a good idea to invite Peggy’s ENTIRE family, who she despises, to her private birthday dinner.  He said it had something to do with her always wanting to be surprised.  But I don’t really buy it.  Here’s hoping he wasn’t planning on proposing . . . because that would be all kinds of pathetic .  . . and, yet, would fit his character completely.

Anyway, so, Peggy keeps blowing off dinner, to continue being spanked by Don.  So, Mark is hurt, not to mention, completely humiliated, in front of Peggy’s parents.

“I haven’t been THIS embarrassed, since I had to wear those ridiculous glasses on Lost.”

Eventually, Peggy’s MOTHER picks up the phone, and tells her she should feel lucky that a “catch” like Mark is interested in her at all.  Mark takes back the phone and agrees with Peggy’s mother.  Then he sort of / kind of dumps Peggy.

Peggy returns to Don’s office, so that he can yell at her some more.  When she accuses him of never thanking her for her good work, Don basically tells Peggy that she should be happy she even HAS a job.  Peggy finally breaks down.  She rushes off to the bathroom, where she bursts into tears.

The whole thing was so heartbreaking, and awful, I almost didn’t want to watch the rest of the episode.  But, BOY, am I glad I did!  Because THIS was when things got FUN!

The Life and Times of Roger Sterling / The Lack of Balls of Bertram Cooper . . .

 .  . . and the sexy lady behind it ALL!

Ever since the ridiculously incompetent Miss Blankenship replaced Allison as Don’s secretary, I spent a lot of time asking myself two questions: (1) Why doesn’t Don FIRE her, already?; and (2) How the heck did she even GET this job?

Both of those questions were answered tonight.

Early on in the episode, Peggy actually read my mind, and ASKED Don question 1, regarding Miss Blankenship.  To this, he replied, “Joan knew exactly what I needed, and she gave it to me.”

AHA!  Don accepts Miss Blankenship as his punishment for crossing the line with Allison!  She’s also the ONE woman in the entire office, Don would NEVER sleep with.  It makes a lot more sense now . . .

But the answer to question 2 is a bit more interesting, especially since, the way Don found the answer, helped him to smooth things over with Peggy . . .

Peggy was busy stewing in her office, when Don called her back to his.  “NO!”  She yelled out, poutily, at first. 

And yet, a perpetual glutton for punishment, back to Don’s office, Peggy went.  There, she found Don listening to Roger’s dictation of his memoirs.  Clearly, the writers were holding out on us, with the memoir excerpts they provided last week.  If you recall, these included tittilating tidbits like Roger’s favorite flavor of ice cream, and why he didn’t like Laurel and Hardy.  But this NEW stuff was JUICY!

“Don’t worry, Mr. Cooper.  Your secrets are safe with ME!”

According to Roger, Bert (1) was jealous of Sterling due to his “youth;” (2) did the horizontal mambo with Miss Blankenship on multiple occasions; and (3) LITERALLY has NO BALLS!

The heretofore morose Don can barely keep the sh*t-eating grin off his face, as he listens to Roger drunkenly detail his coworker’s deepest darkest secrets.  Peggy, to her credit, feigns some disapproval at her boss’ unusually gossipy behavior.  Yet, even she can’t help but laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.  It’s the first nice moment these two have had with one another the entire episode.   Then, it gets interrupted by an intruder . . .

“MOUSE!”  Peggy cries, before hopping up on the office chair, like a TOTAL girl.

Don, being the “man,” gets on all fours, in hopes of trapping the critter in his SAMSONITE suitcase, but, fails.  Peggy helps him to his feet (sweet moment #2), and Don sheepishly invites her out to a birthday dinner at the local diner.

A Date with Don Draper

At the diner, Peggy and Don converse with the ease of old lovers.  Yet, they share with one another the type of quirky minute details about themselves, typically associated with first dates.  Don briefly discusses his time as a soldier in World War II (without revealing his Dick Whitman woes, of course).  Peggy explains she has never been on a plane, both express a desire to go to Greece.  Bboth admit that they each tragically lost their fathers at an early age, and were forced to watch them die.  Despite the serious nature of some of these conversations, the mood was light, and both characters seemed completely at ease with one another.

This girly gabfest continued at a local bar, with the Liston / Clay fight blaring on the radio, in the background.

At the bar, Don and Peggy discuss Peggy’s insecurities about her personal appearance.  She admits that everyone at work assumes that Peggy slept with Don to get her job.  But, at the same time, can’t imagine why Don would ever engage himself romantically with someone like Peggy.  Apparently, Peggy’s mother assumes Don is the one who knocked her up, because HE is the only one who visited her at the hospital.  (Interesting!) 

Don also inquires after the father of Peggy’s child, but she wisely does not reveal it.  Additionally, Peggy makes some offhand remarks regarding Don’s tendency to sleep with his OTHER secretaries (read: NOT Peggy).  To these insinuations, Don replies nonchalantly with a “these things happen” sort of statement.

After the Liston / Clay fight, Peggy and Don head back to the offices of SCDP.

It’s Potty Time!

Throughout the course of the evening, we have watched Don transition from angry belligerent drunk, to funny drunk, to sweet “I love you, man” drunk.  But by the time Peggy and Don return to their offices, Don has reached Drunk Defcon 5.  “I think I’m going to be sick,” mumbles Don, as he lurches into Peggy, her arm wrapped around his shoulder, as she tries desperately to keep him from belly flopping onto the floor.

Suddenly, the dynamic between these two has shifted.  Throughout the early portion of the evening, Peggy was the petulant child, and Don was the alternatingly stern, and concerned, father.  For the remainder of the episode, Peggy will be the mother, and Don the child. 

After a few moments of deliberation over which stall to use, Peggy ultimately takes Don to the men’s room, where he rushes to the toilet, and begins to vomit uncontrollably. 

The sound is truly nauseating, as it echos throughout the white bathroom, which is completely pristine and spotless, save for a single line of grafitti.  “For a good time, call Caroline.”  (That Caroline must be a pretty busy lady, if she’s servicing THIS entire office, of horny men!)

To Peggy’s credit, she barely even crinkles her nose — no small feat, as the smell must be AWFUL!  She instead waits patiently for the retching sounds to cease, offering Don a glass of water that he refuses.  It is then that she sees a stranger lurking in the hallways . . .

It’s DUCK!  And he’s WASTED too!  When Peggy finds him, he’s got his pants around his ankles, and is farting . . . like . . . really . . . LOUD!

“I’m taking a dump in Don’s office,” explains Duck, as if defecating on a corporate executive’s leather couch is the most natural thing in the world to do on a Tuesday night.

“This is Roger’s office,” Peggy explains, without nearly as much irony or humor, as you would expect, in such a situation.  (Clearly, she’s seen EVERTHING now!  Nothing will shock this girl, anymore.)

Peggy tries to get Duck to leave, but he keeps babbling about how much he LOVES her, and why won’t she return his calls, and blah, blah, blah. 

(Oh, yeah!  This one’s a keeper, Peggy.  You sure know how to pick ’em!)

Don returns from vomiting, and is shocked to find his nemesis manhandling his daughter lover best friend protege.

“You have no business being here,” slurs Don, undoubtedly assuming that this was the man who knocked up Peggy.

Baby Duck

Then, Duck, automatically assuming Peggy is SLEEPING with Don, calls Peggy a whore.

“Oh no, he didn’t!”

Then, came the BEST PART OF THE EPISODE!  Don protects Peggy’s honor, by PUNCHING DUCK IN THE FACE  . . .

. . .  or at least trying to.  Then  . . . the two roll on the floor fighting like a bunch of schoolboys . . . only much older, and WAY more liquored up . . .

Unfortunately for Don, Duck has WAY more experience being an alcoholic than him, and therefore, has a slightly higher liquor tolerance.  He ultimately gets the best of Don (or, perhaps, Don was simply overpowered by the rank smell of Duck’s earlier farts).  Don, eventually, cries “uncle,” and Duck lets him go.

The End of Innocence

Once Peggy has shipped Duck off to the Drunk Tank, she returns to Don’s office, and the first thing he wants is another drink.  SERIOUSLY, Don?  This is getting a little ridiculous.  Get thee to rehab, go!

Peggy reluctantly pours Don a drink.  However, in the time it takes her to cross the room to give it to him, he nearly passes out.  Continuing to play the maternal role, Peggy allows Don to put his head in her lap, and she rubs his head until he falls asleep.  Awwwww!

That night, Don dreams of a youthful Anna, waving at him cheerfully, as she heads away to heaven, carrying a Samsonite suitcase, of course!

The following morning, a very hungover Don, finally gets the courage to call Stephanie in L.A., who informs him, just as he suspected all along, that Anna has died.  Peggy wakes up just as the phone conversation is concluding.  Her and Don lock eyes, and he immediately bursts into tears.

It is the most vulnerable we have seen Don Draper, since the show began, and it is heart-wrenching.  Peggy’s eyes well up, as she experiences her boss’ agony right along with him.  “What happened?”  She asks.

“Someone very close to me has died.”

“Who was it?”  She asks, cautiously approaching him.

“She was the only person who really knew me,” Don replies morosely.

“That’s not true,” whispers Peggy, as she gently rubs his back.

A Brand New Day

A few hours later, a bedraggled Peggy visits a newly freshened up Don in his office.  Undoubtedly, she is expecting him to pretend the previous night did not happen, as he has done with Peggy so many times in the past.  But now, as the two look over new advertising concepts, Don reaches out and grabs Peggy’s hand.  The gesture almost exactly mimicks the rebuffed attempt at affection Peggy made toward Don in the Pilot episode. 

This time, however, Peggy takes Don’s hand in return.  The act is a mutual acknowledgment of what these two have experienced together, as well as the evolution of their personal and professional relationship.

You know, I have to say, this was one of my favorite Mad Men episodes of all time.  I have no doubt that both Elisabeth Moss and Jon Hamm will choose scenes from this episode to include in their 2011 Emmy consideration reel.  “The Suitcase” had a little bit of everything: humor, poignance, character development, twists, major reveals, and a whole lotta potty.  What more could a fan ask for? 

[www.juliekushner.com]

8 Comments

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8 responses to “For a Good Time, Call . . . – A Recap of Mad Men’s “The Suitcase”

  1. I loved your recap, and I’m jso ealous I don’t have the time to write about this show much anymore!

    My favorite part of the show last night was when Don took that wild swing at Duck and missed. Totally made him look pathetic, and thus, utterly believable as a man in decline.

    I love how Don is slowly revealing his true self to people-such as telling the waitress he bedded last week that his name was Dick; telling Peggy he grew up on a farm, his father died by getting kicked in the head, and he never knew his mother.

    • Hey, girlfromtheghetto! Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words! 🙂

      Good eye, regarding Don and the missed punch! It’s funny. I was so shocked when I saw Don throw that swing, I didn’t even look to see whether it connected or not. The next thing I remember, Don was on the floor. And I found myself wondering why Duck showed no signs of injury whatsoever.

      Interestingly enough, the blog that linked to this post (Jeff Lowenstein’s Blog), made a nice comparison between the Don / Duck fight, and the Liston / Clay fight featured in the episode. It’s amazing how many little things Matt Weiner inserts into this show! You couldn’t possibly catch them all after a first-time watch.

      You also bring up a really good point about Don’s beginning to reveal his inner self to others, even as he continues his downward spiral. It’s as though that shell that kept him “together” is cracking at the surface, and revealing all that as red and raw inside. On a positive note, however, I suspect (and hope) that once Don gets out from under all this, he will be better able to emotionally connect with others — something he was never really able to do before.

      I’ve been loving this season so far, haven’t you? The only weak points, in my eyes, have been the Betty storylines. She just bugs me . . .

  2. Pingback: Mad Men Episode, David Remnick on Ali and Liston | Jeff Kelly Lowenstein’s Blog

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  4. my favorite line of the episode:
    “Every morning you should be thanking me–and Jesus–that you get to see another day.”
    classic Don.

    • So, true. That’s definitely the type of withering thing you could picture Don shouting at Betty, during one of their old knock down / drag out fights. I guess Peggy was Surrogate Wife tonight after all. It’s just too bad it made her cry. 😦

      I think I have two favorite Don lines this week:

      (1) “Ida was a hellcat? Bert has no testicles? Roger’s righting a book? Come ON!”

      and

      (2) “Man was not intended to fly.” – as said by Don in that hilarious high-pitched voice, as he impersonated one of his old war buddies.

  5. Pingback: Swimming with Sharks – A Recap of Mad Men’s “The Summer Man” | TV Recappers Anonymous

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