I know I keep saying each episode is the best one ever, but The Suitcase is one of the best episode of Mad Men ever. Matt Weiner and the cast won a well-deserved Emmy Award for Best Drama Series.
This week’s episode, The Suitcase focuses on Don Draper, Peggy Olsen and their evolving relationship. Amidst the excitement of the upcoming Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston boxing match, Peggy works with Stan, Joey and Danny on the Samsonite commercial. Their idea involves football player Joe Namath. Don hates it. “Endorsements are lazy” and sends them back to the drawing board.
A drunken and recently unemployed (probably due to his behavior at the Clios) Duck calls Peggy to wish her a happy birthday. He also sends her some business cards for “Phillips-Olson Advertising,” naming her Creative Director. Quite a change from the expensive perfume and Hermes scarves he used to send. Duck is just a few steps away from Skid Row.
Don and Peggy Work Late
Don receives an urgent message from Stephanie in California. He knows the call is about Anna and postpones returning the call. Instead he handles it in same manner as he has handles all his recent problems, by drinking.
In no mood for the big fight, Don cancels his plans to watch the fight with Roger and Freddy Rumsen. Instead, he decides to stay in the office to work on the Samsonite commercial. Peggy is on her way out to celebrate her 26th birthday with Mark. Don catches her before she leaves and asks to see the Samsonite revisions. Dissatisfied with her work, he insists she stay to work on it with him. Peggy calls Mark at the restaurant to say she’ll be late.
Don and Peggy continue to work on the commercial, working much later than Peggy anticipated. Mark calls Peggy at the office, telling her he has her whole family waiting at the restaurant. When Peggy tells Don about her ruined dinner plans, Don tells her to go and he’ll work on Samsonite by himself.
Peggy calls Mark at the restaurant to cancel the evening. Her mother grabs the phone and scolds her, which infuriates Peggy. She is upset with Mark for trying to score points with her family, they fight and break up.
Now Peggy is mad because she has to work late, because she broke up with her boyfriend and because she is 26 years old with no husband in her future. In 1964, being 26 and unmarried means you are on you way to spinsterhood. She is also mad with Don. The resentment about not receiving any credit for her ideas on Glo-Coat has built up to the boiling point. Don explains to her that all creative ideas belong to the agency.
Don: I give you money and you give me ideas, and . That’s how it works. You should thank me every morning when you wake up, along with Jesus that I am giving you another day.
Peggy: You never say thank you.
Don: That’s what the money is for!
Peggy runs off and cries in the bathroom. Meanwhile, Don searches for a tape for his tape recorder and finds one in Roger’s office. He calls Peggy back to his office and plays the hilarious tape of Roger’s memoirs; where he refers to his affair with the young Ida Blankenship, the “queen of perversions,” and reveals that Bert Cooper lost his testicles in an unnecessary surgery.
Don takes Peggy to a diner, where they share french fries and Peggy confides her feelings about her singleness and her lack of desire to be married. Don talks about his childhood, or should I say Dick Whitman’s childhood. This conversation is different. They talk as equals, as friends.
Later, they stop at a bar to listen to the fight. Over more drinks, Peggy tells Don that everyone in the office thinks she slept with him to get her promotion. “‘Like it’s so funny because the possibility was so remote.” Don tells her it’s not because she is not attractive, but he has rules about work. Don asks Peggy if she ever thinks about the baby. “Of course I do,” Peggy replies. As the evening passes, you see the shift in Don and Peggy’s relationship.
They return to the office. Peggy helps a very drunken Don to the men’s room, where he runs into a stall, falls to his knees and pukes like a dog. Geez, Don. That’s gross! Peggy hears a noise and spots the drunk Duck entering Roger’s office, where he lowered pants to leave Draper a little present. Geez, Duck, get a grip.
Duck sees Dons (in his puke stained shirt) and assumes Peggy and Don are having an affair. Duck calls Peggy a whore. Don and Duck wrestles Don to the floor. Two sloppy drunk men fighting is kind of pathetic.
A sad, dejected Don goes back to his office and asks Peggy to pour him a drink. “How long are you going to go on like this?” she asks. “I have to make a phone call, and I know it’s gonna be bad,” he says. Peggy sits beside him on the sofa; Don rests his head in her lap and falls asleep.
Late in the night, Don wakes up to see a vision of Anna carrying a suitcase. She smiles at Don, turns, and then fades away. At daybreak, Don calls Stephanie to hear the news that Anna has died. He hangs up the phone, his eyes filling with tears and when he sees Peggy looking at him, he burst into sobs. It is clear now, that the impending loss of “the only person in the world who really knew” him was partially to blame for Don’s drinking problem. The loss of his family and his one true friend has left Don adrift. Who will rescue him?
Peggy falls asleep on her office sofa until Stan blows a horn mid-morning to wake her up. She walks over to Don’s office, where he shows her a Samsonite concept based on Clay’s victory. Don takes holds Peggy’s hand gently, for just a moment, as if to say thank you.