Mad Men, Season 3, Ep. 13: Shut the Door, Have a Seat.

The great strength of Mad Men‘s finales always seems to be their hotly anticipated one-on-one interactions between characters.

In “Shut the Door, Have a Seat,” the third-season closer, we finally got to see Peggy have it out with Don; Don have it out with Betty; Roger call Don to task for his nastiness since the Jane courtship; Pete relish being courted by the higher-ups… and so on and so forth.

It was a dazzling episode, pretty much from the first scene—when Connie drops the bomb on Don, about Sterling Cooper being sold to and absorbed by McCann Erickson. Finally, the stars in Don’s eyes dull, as he lambasts Connie for using the word “son” as a guise for and precursor to abuse. He also venomously blames Connie for forcing him into signing the contract he’d successfully avoided at Sterling Cooper for years.

Connie’s revelation sets up the professional focus of the finale: the covert creation of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce! After leaving Connie, who withdraws his promises of business now that Sterling Cooper will be no more, Don begins visiting his superiors with the idea that the partners can divest from McCann Erickson, steal supplies and clients from Sterling Cooper, and form a brand new, grassroots agency.

Bert is the first approached; he isn’t a very hard sell. Though Connie claimed McCann would send Bert out on an ice floe when they took over, the Bert we saw this episode was far from a man resigned to old age and retirement. His face positively glowed with mischief and purpose in every scene from the one in which he embraced the new company idea to the very last frame. When he said to Harry Crane, upon inviting him into their secret Saturday planning-and-theft meeting (disguised as “carpet cleaning,” to deter employees from coming up to catch up on work over the weekend) that if he didn’t agree to join them, “We’ll have to look you in the storeroom until morning. I’m sure you understand,” we knew Bert would be down for building another empire from the ground up.

Roger was a bit more difficult to convince—but only because of his ongoing beef with Don. Roger was the first, but not the last of the episode to call for Don’s admissions of wrongness and sincere apologies. “You aren’t good at relationships,” he hissed, “because you don’t value them.” When Don immediately objected, saying that he valued his relationship with Roger, Roger called bullshit and Don, finally, admitted that it was his failed deal with Connie that’d helped him see the light. He’d let himself be fooled by silver-tongued flattery, when he should’ve been making amends with his true allies.

If you thought the confrontation with Roger would be the roughest of the ep, shame on you! Don still needed to woo Peggy to the new company, after all–and this following a season’s worth of largely unprovoked verbal abuse. His first attempt is met with Peggy’s awesome smackdown: “I don’t want to make a career out of being there so you can kick me when I fail!” (This, following her pretty fantastic observation that Don hadn’t even asked her to accept a position with his new agency, but instead had assumed she’d trail the suits to the promised land like a faithful family puppy.)

Later, having been humbled by a host of unexpected events at home, Don revisits Peggy, this time at home and, in one of those season-ending breathtakers Mad Men‘s become known for, he broaches the subject of hiring her far more gingerly and sincerely. “With you or without you,” he closes, “I’m moving on. And I don’t know if I can do it alone. Will you help me?” After having listened to Don admit that his life as he knew has been destroyed and he doesn’t like who he’s become, especially how he’s treated her (“I’m only hard on you because I think of you as an extension of myself–and you’re not,” he confesses.), Peggy tearfully tests him. “What if I say no?” she presses. “You’ll never speak to me again.”

With his wide, glassy, readable Dick Whitman eyes, Don answers, “No. I will spend the rest of my life trying to hire you.”

I swear, this is the closest I came to crying while watching this series since the, “I had your baby and I gave it away” speech Elisabeth delivered to Vincent in the Season 2 closer.

Speaking of tearjerking moments, let’s discuss Betty and Don breaking the news of the divorce to Sally and Bobby. Continuing her trend of outspokenness, Sally greets the news with open contempt and blame-placing for Betty. “Are you making him leave?” she accurately demands, then accuses Betty of driving Don away by making him sleep in Gene’s room. Then, she turns her venom on Don: “You say things and you don’t mean them,” she spits, “and you can’t just do that!”

As we (and Don) know, Sally has simply and eloquently summed up the whole problem with the Don Draper persona. And when Bobby grabs Don and refuses to let him go, Don is forced to try a different tack, since his cold declarations of fact have fallen flat with his children. “Nobody wants to do this,” he coos to Bobby. “But I need you to be a big boy.” It’s a wonderful scene, particularly as it ends: Betty looks vaguely ashamed and very sorry that the conversation with the kids has taken such a heartbreaking turn and interestingly, Don is the only parent either of the kids reached for, for reassurance or comfort.

But now, of course we need to backtrack. This whole sad scenario was set in place, unwittingly, at a bar. When Don admits to Roger that things aren’t looking good with Betty, Roger lets slip that Betty has taken up with Henry Francis (intel he culled from Margaret, who we know is friends with Henry’s daughter). Roger is sincerely sorry to have been the one to break the news. He claims he would’ve told Don earlier, but he thought we knew. But it’s pretty obvious he didn’t tell him because of their bitter feud. Now, “just when things were almost normal” between them, Roger points out, he hates being the bearer of such embarrassing news.

Don flies into a typical rage back home. And though he manhandled and verbally abused Betty, I loved some of the writing and acting in this scene. “You’re so hurt, so brave, with your little white nose in the air,” Don seethes. “You never forgave me,” he says, becoming Captain Obvious for a second. He calls Betty a whore and a “little Main Line brat,” in front of their infant and it’s horrible, of course, but it’s also clear that his tantrum is fueled by panic and rejection and a deep sense of loss (both of control and affection). We know this isn’t the first time Don has pushed and pulled and shoved Betty (we saw it first season), but here, Betty’s totally over it. She lays down the law, stating immovably that Don will grant her the divorce and won’t contest, even as he threatens to take the kids. (“God knows,” he says, “they’ll be better off.”)

This isn’t the final word on these matters, of course, and after Don has made amends with Roger, Peggy, and even Pete(!), he revisits the Betty situation, first in a last ditch effort to convince her she’s the same weak-willed flower whose hands wouldn’t stop shaking in Season 1. Then after failing at that, he calls her from the new hotel office where Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce will operate, and concedes. “I hope you get what you always wanted,” he says and, for one of the first times ever, he’s being honest with Betty. “You’ll always be their father,” is her reply, suggesting that she was far more affected by that scene in the living room with the kids than she thought she’d be.

When last we see Betty, sitting next to Henry Francis on a plane headed for Reno, holding Don’s fidgety infant in her arms, she looks anything but content. I, for one, hope this whole house of cards with Henry comes crashing down during this six weeks they’re to spend in Reno “establishing residence.” He’s moving too fast and his strangely unconditional and abrupt willingness to father three kids he’s never even met is wildly suspect.

There’s one more thing I’d like to discuss at length, then we’ll hit on a few more loose ends. I know this is ridiculously long, but how can I end this recap without talking about the partners’ home visit to Pete?!

Interestingly, Pete is one of the partners’ first choices of potential employees to poach. Apparently, his attentiveness to client needs (a skill he’s acquired under Don’s regime) placed him head and shoulders about Ken Cosgrove, whose style is to “make the client feel as though he has no needs,” by any means necessary.

While the partners are finally ready to offer Pete the adulation he’s longed for, for three seasons, Pete’s flexing his newly acquired defiance muscles, calling in sick to interview with other agencies.

So when Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce comes knocking at his door, it’s fun to watch him go from boyish fear of being caught playing hooky to confident power player on the front line of a new business venture. He even gets to hedge, make the suits sweat, and demand a bit of groveling, especially from Don. Don, at this point in the episode, has no problems obliging. It’s weirdly gratifying seeing him ingratiate himself to Pete; it’s a role reversal for the ages.

There’s a lot more that should be covered: the Dick Whitman flashbacks, detailing Archie’s death and shedding light on Don’s aversion to “joining”/contracting; the return of the radiant, triumphal Joan(!); Peggy and Pete “sharing the desk”; Pryce’s bucking the British system; the awesomeness that was Ken Cosgrove *and* Paul Kinsey being left to sink with McCann Erickson… and so on.

Tell us all about your reaction to this episode (and the season at large) and weigh in with speculation about the series reboot. (Though I’m glad they didn’t reintroduce him last night, doesn’t it seem obvious that Sal will return as Art Director soon, or is that just wishful thinking?)


slb (aka Stacia L. Brown) is a writer, mother, and college instructor in Baltimore, MD. Check her out here: and here:
  • He called Betty a “Main Line” brat. Main Line is a well-to-do neighborhood in Philadelphia.

  • slb


  • Scipio Africanus

    I’ve been trying to figure out how Jon Hamm manages to effect the Don Draper and contrast it with the Dick Whitman look. I finally figured it out – Don Draper always seems to be squinting and seems to have an (up)tightness in the upper face region. Dick Whitman releases those muscles and lets his eyes open more and fuller.

  • ladyfresh

    how how how have they managed to have me root for Don? and not stand betty?

    i should be sympathetic to her, he cheated repeatedly but she is still the character i have the most disdain for…

    (she left the kids with the maid for 6 weeks! didn’t even leave them with their father!)

    it used to be pete but he has stopped his pathetic behavior (one last horrid hurrah with the neighbors nanny though)

    Don actions make him abhorrent but i like his character. I root for him in his confrontation with betty. though i shouldn’t and it’s absolutely shameful how he shook her about. but i was SO satisfied with his line of “everyone’s bad and your good”

    omg good for peggy i know she as still smarting after his dressing down. she knows her worth and is not going down without a fight and getting her due and boy oh boy was the “peggy get me coffee. no.” SATISFYING

    how can roger usually…always be right? he has the instinct for relationships they showed us where his initial sensitivity stems and where it may have gone awry but he pegs Don and their relationship everytime it seems, but he gets Joan wrong. Joan will be wife #3

    that pryce phone call was SO satisfying.

  • SA

    This episode was so so good. And the best of the season in my opinion. There wasn’t a moment you could look away because everyone and every scene was just that great. And I too almost cried in that scene between Peggy and Don. I love their interactions. Sally is awesome and I hope they bring that actress back and don’t age the character too much. I have to say, I also hope Betty’s relationship with Henry falls flat on her face and she’s left alone without the house or the kids or anything. I know that seems mean, but I really don’t like the character. I’d be happy as a clam if they didn’t bring her back, just write her out. But I know that’s not going to happen.

  • SO SATISFYING. “Happy Christmas!” I want to watch it again for that line alone! :)

    A friend of mine critiqued last week’s episode as being too heavy-handed in forcing the random lives of these individuals to line up with significant historical moments. I think things like JFK’s assassination can trigger wake-up calls like Betty’s realization that she no longer loves Don, but I thought this episode, w/o its overt inclusion of American History, was so much better and so satisfying.

    I love Betty’s spine and her snobbishness. The latter seems true to her, even if it’s abhorent. I don’t get the Henry Francis nonsense and I’m personally disappointed in her moving from one breadwinner to another so easily. Apparently we’re not at the level of personal development where Betty becomes a single mom of 3 kids. I guess if it was 1973, maybe…

    Yes, Sal is so totally coming back. That felt anvil-ish despite him not being in the episode at all.

    So much good in this episode!

  • SA

    I totally forgot about Betty leaving the kids. When the show comes back on please let Don have those kids. He’s right-they would be better off without Betty.

  • Betty’s no great mother, but this concept that Don is somehow significantly more engaged in his children’s well-being and upbringing is too much for me. The guy disappears at will to CA and to other women’s beds. At least Betty is around, and her parenting style may not be much different than any other moms of the period. She’s just ICE.COLD.

  • Actually, Main Line is a region of affluence near Philly, I believe. There’s a range of suburbs to which it applies, and it’s mainly a synonym for old WASP $$/breeding/culture.

  • ladyfresh

    I wouldn’t have gone that far either. I’m sure Don’s patience would be at it’s limits with 24/7 exposure as well. but what they have shown is Don is more sympathetic and intuitive with the kids. I’m still eh with both parents frankly

    My main complaint in this episode, i realized this morning, was that she kicked the father out of the house only to leave as well….and from what i remember it’s for 6 weeks, which is ridiculously insensitive and negligent to me.

  • And doesn’t Carla have kids?

  • ladyfresh


  • keke

    Nice recap slb…but I gotta ask you about something in particular:

    “on still needed to woo Peggy to the new company, after all–and this following a season’s worth of largely unprovoked verbal abuse. His first attempt is met with Peggy’s awesome smackdown: “I don’t want to make a career out of being there so you can kick me when I fail!” slb

    I’m a little surprised with your take on this considering that you have not really been a Peggy fan this season. And if I recall correctly, you didn’t necessarily think that Don was wrong for snapping at Peggy when she asked for that raise. Has something in particular prompted the change in your opinion of Peggy or have I misread your views on her character?

    Still, I too thought the scenes with Peggy were wonderful and I enjoyed watching Don eat humble pie and mend his work relationships this episode. He really had to really fight for his professional career. In the scene with Bert where Don exclaimed “I wanna work!” is when we actually saw him express real appreciation for his career. No matter what becomes of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, this was his shining moment. About time!!!

    Roger was back with his great one-liners, and Pryce finally stuck it too the Brits. And I love Trudy and Pete together. A real power couple. There will be a lot of sexual tension running through that hotel room….we have Pete and Peggy sharing a desk. Joan and Roger working together again. I’m looking forward to season 4.

    Harry Crane is the weakest link at the new ad agency. Maybe he will grow now that the company is starting from the ground up.

  • slb

    I’m still not a Peggy “fan” (though I do respect the character–and marvel at the actress who plays her) and I stand by my assertion that Don’s criticism bore validity, but I did also concede that his delivery of that criticism was overly harsh and aside from the episode recapped that took Peggy to task there was at least one other I *didn’t* recap that helped me gain a bit more perspective on some of the views raised in that initial post. Don *was* lashing out at Peggy this season and even though she *was* prim and smug in ways that really bothered me, he *did* go overboard in his delivery of criticism.

  • keke

    Ah, I see, thanks.

  • I can’t tell if you’re disagreeing or getting outraged at the thought. I could be confusing stories, but I thought she had a family of her own….

  • Excellent point on the sexual tension – a bit early for the end of the decade’s love-ins, but maybe they’ll be trailblazers… :)

  • Trudy & Pete = power couple – totally! I’ve been trying to put my finger on them… I loved his instruction for her to call someone “and try to sound like a secretary!” or some such. :)

  • quadmoniker

    Yep, you’re right. It’s where I went to school, which is the same school Betty was supposed to have gone to (Bryn Mawr.) And it means she’s totally a brat.

  • I’m a little fascinated by the flashback scenes, all of which are lost since this was such a dense, delicious episode. But the “I’ll drive it to Chicago myself!” scene with Dad Whitman and getting kicked in the face, and killed, all due the the man’s own hubris seems to be a little heavy-handed in the foreshadowing department to go ignored.

    Anyone else with me?

  • quadmoniker

    She has hinted at it before I think. Who knows what she has to do with her family when Betty calls her on one of her whims.

  • quadmoniker

    I really don’t think this Betty and Henry Francis thing is working out at all so, prediction! we find Betty and Don in the middle of a horribly ugly New York divorce in the fall.

  • Syreeta

    ir’s funny. the thing don always feared came to pass –trapped in his job, betts discovering his true identity– and he didn’t run. i love what connie said to him, and ostensibly inspired him to become a complete person, launching a second act for don. don draper 1.0 was dick whitman’s second act. and i didn’t hate all the flashbacks this season. they were certainly heavy handed in places and a touch too expository, but i let them take me where they may. so watching dick whitman’s nightmare parallel with don draper’s nightmare, was interesting.

    betts *sigh*. i’m not surprised that she went from one man to take care of her to another man so shortly after the death of her father. i love what grandpa gene said to sally in the kitchen so many episodes back, ‘you’ll be ok.’. grandpa gene saw sally’s confidence and fire. i can’t wait to watch that fake romance go all yellow wallpaper and fall apart. she’s learned nothing, at least not yet.

    peggy/don scene is the hotness. what did peggy say earlier in the season? ‘it’s nice to feel wanted.’ that scene was simultaneously heartbreaking and seductive (is that the word?) that conversation was about work and not about work. ‘i’ll spend the rest of my life trying to hire you.’ what! translation – you’re my first and every relationship going forward will be measured against you.

    what i love, love, love about the show are the silences. within such discreet dialogue you’ve got gorgeous, gorgeous moments, emotional, that hold so much more meaning because they’re holding back a deeper truth. maybe that’s why some of the flashbacks grated a little.

    i can’t wait to see sal again in season 4!

  • When last we see Betty, sitting next to Henry Francis on a plane headed for Reno, holding Don’s fidgety infant in her arms, she looks anything but content. I, for one, hope this whole house of cards with Henry comes crashing down during this six weeks they’re to spend in Reno “establishing residence.” He’s moving too fast and his strangely unconditional and abrupt willingness to father three kids he’s never even met is wildly suspect.

    This. Francis doesn’t even know Betty, but he’s already more or less declared his eternal devotion to her. That she would jump headlong into marriage with a dude she barely knows because he fits the bill (dashing, wealthy, not-so-vaguely paternal) is yet another reason to hate this character, who made some serious strides in the second half of the season.

  • mga

    Hi all!

    First, I have to say that I can barely contain my excitement about the finale, so therefore it is imperative that I finally comment on this great blog. I will try to channel my emotions as best I can.

    G.D.: As a modern lady it *is* hard to swallow Betty’s impulsive and questionable jump into this new marriage. In the real world life is usually just not romantic enough to want to marry a man you have spent a total of 10 hours with, have never slept with, and who’s mother-in-law you haven’t yet met. But I must say that I think in the context of this show it makes perfect sense. Setting aside all things Francis has in common with Don (money, class, power, social status), he has clearly offered her the one thing she ever needed from Don that she didn’t get: Francis always puts Betty first. Remember when he asked her to come to his office after they kissed? Betty asked why he made her come to him, or something to that effect, and Francis replied “Because you’re married”. He obviously respects her, and made her come to him, offering her a choice and again, respect, that Don never gave her and certainly never gave to any of his mistresses. He is willing to take care of her children, of her, and he consistently shows that he will make her happy and put her first. This is all she ever wanted from Don. Whether this will actually happen in the future season is irrelevant for now, what’s important is the picture that has been painted.

    With all of that said, I despise Betty’s character like no other on this show. She is a spoiled, ice-cold bitch and this storyline suits her shallow, barnacled heart.

    Happy Christmas.

  • Now THAT was a fucking season finale!

    I don’t even have to say anything slb – you did such a good job with the recap (brava!)
    No lie, I was having the shittiest day and this episode totally made it better. I was cheering for everyone on this one.

    – I wasn’t as able to control myself slb – Peggy and Don made me cry. I never would have expected this show to do that. It was so masterful how you could see all of the layers of that relationship at once – the mentor, the secret-keeper, the father figure – the sob caught in Pegg8y’s throat, Don’s naked neediness…just…WOW.

    – But you know who else did too? Joan. I was so fucking happy to see her!!! My mom came into my room to ask what on earth was the matter with me, because as soon as they had that scene in the office where they realize they can’t find anything and Roger says “Let me make a call” I yelled out “JOAN’S BACK!!!!!!!” And then having Joan and Roger working side by side again…sigh…I was so satisfied I could have purred I swear.

    – Lane was pitch perfect. I’m so glad to know we’ll still have his company in season 4.

    – Lol @ Harry always ALWAYS being clueless. And nervous. And hungry.

    – Question though, now that Kinsey, Cosgrove and co. have been left behind will there be the chance of some feuding in between them ans new rogue outfit of SCDP? That ought to make for some good TV.

    Anyway, right now, I’m finna find something to help me come down – this ep left me feeling like I needed to roll over a light a cigarette, and I don’t even smoke. lol.

  • I don’t know that Betty believes in this Francis thing either. I don’t get the sense that she totally trusts him or really believes he’ll amount to all that much either. In the scenes where he’s making all these promises to her, she either protests or just gives him a “yeah, ok, whatever,” look. In this episode, talking to the attorney, it doesn’t even seem to occur to her that Henry would want to be sole provider.

    But, really: what else can she do? She can’t even get a divorce from her philandering, disappearing, fake-identity having husband on her own (she’s tried it twice now). The only time divorce has been a real possibility has been this time, when she has Henry to speak and manhandle people on her behalf. And we saw from her interactions with the divorcee down the street that she can’t really yet conceive of a life alone with kids. Her own father called her “a housecat”. Whatever ability she had to make it on her own when she was single and working as a model has not totally returned to her yet, though I think it is well on its way.

    And though I’m not a Betty stan, I do think people are a little hard on her parenting and I am not that impressed with Don on that front. It’s much easier to be all nurturing and attentive and zero in on the issues when you only see the kids for like an hour a day (if that).

    Am I the only one who kinda wanted either Pete or Peggy to walk (or at least to put up even more of a fight)?

  • ladyfresh

    i’m getting outraged and reminded at the same time
    i forgot she had a family
    and i’m disgusted with betty hopping on that plane at this point

  • Does anyone else think maybe Betty’s using Henry, not necc. consciously, but that she’s kind of just leaning on him through this? I just don’t buy that she buys his promises, but having a male escort through this process certainly makes her life easier. I don’t know…

  • PS: I also thought Don said to Peggy, “I WON’T spend the rest of my life trying to hire you” thus giving her an ultimatum. But I couldn’t tell…

  • belleisa

    I don’t think this is going to work out either.

    When Henry tells Betty that she shouldn’t take anything she was entitled to from the divorce, I thought “all he’s doing is marking his territory Betts.” She was so proud of his response, his promise to care for her and her family.

    It’s the only time I’ve ever wanted to see Betty’s world crumble.

  • no. he said, “I WILL spend the rest of my life…”

  • Yeah, when I watched it twice, I just didn’t hear that. I thought about rewinding and putting on CC, but figured I liked the story line better if he said “will.”

  • quadmoniker

    Yeah, I agree that her jumping to Henry Francis makes sense in the context of the show and that it has a lot to do with Henry treating her like a little princess and being the hearing who rides in to save her. I also think it has to do with her need for a picture perfect life. He has to be rich and powerful for her to fit into the kind of house she wants. The problem with Don was that she no longer saw him the same way she did before she knew about the Whitman truth. It was a blemish on her little family picture, and Henry doesn’t have that. He’s already been vetted, and she pretty much knows where she comes from.

  • quadmoniker

    I know. I think I was the only person somewhat happy to see Don blow up at her. I’m in a tough spot. Obviously I can’t cheer for abusive husbands, but I cheer for Don over Betty almost every time.

  • quadmoniker

    And yeah, you’re right, Henry just wanted Don out of the picture.

  • ladyfresh

    yes. i’m thinking this is another the source of Don’s and everyone’s upset.

    we are supposed to pride ourselves on being agents of our own agency. so while we have a woman who is in a predicament (more vague american dream) supposedly of her own agency and with a man who supposedly helped her achieve it she realizes on the surface she is where she wanted to be but there’s alot underneath she did not bargain for.

    as opposed to ‘pulling up herself up by her bootstraps’ and getting out on her own, she takes up with another male to achieve her goals (which are still vague mainly she wanted out and is getting out)

    so…i’m fine with her leaving (ok not really quiter!) but the selfish and dependent way of doing so is irritating to my sensibilities.

    oddly though if i had a friend in a similar predicament i’d probably advise her to use whatever whoever she can to get out on a self preservation tip

  • Joanie’s Girl

    By way of correction, you quote Peggy (in her first conversation with Don about joining the new SCDP) as saying, “I don’t want to make a career out of being there so you can kick me when I fail!”

    If memory serves, Peggy actually said, “I don’t want to make a career out of being there so you can kick me when YOU fail!”

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. Kind of changes the point she was making.