Oh Peggy. Peggy, Peggy, Peggy.
You know it’s a good episode when Ida Blankenship‘s zingy racist one-liner (“If I wanted to see two Negros fight, I’d throw a dollar bill out of my window”) is the least interesting thing that happens. Don’s alcoholism is getting to be a bit tiring, so I appreciate Matthew Weiner giving him a come-to-Jesus Allah Flying Spaghetti Monster Peggy moment in this episode.
It is February 25, 1964, and the men of SCDP have tickets to see Muhammad Ali fight Sonny Liston. Peggy, newly-hired Danny, newly emasculated Stan and Joey are trying to sell Don on a Samsonite commercial with Joe Namath. When the Samosonite team enters Don’s office, Peggy remarks that that she thought the meeting was at nine.
“It’s eleven fifteen,” she says.
“I’m late. You’re not. Good work so far,” Don replies.
Don immediately shoots the Namath idea down, declaring endorsements lazy. Back in her office, Peggy gets a birthday gift from Duck- flowers and a set of business cards with the words “Phillips-Olson Advertising.” Peggy calls Duck to thank him, and he begs her to join him, becoming increasingly drunk and maudlin.
Ida marches through Don’s office, delivering an urgent message from California. Don lifts the receiver and places it back down to go fix a drink. Roger bursts in, complaining about having to see the fight with teetotalers Freddy Rumsen and Clay Rutledge from Pond’s. Don begs off, deciding he has to work on Samsonite. On her way out, Peggy runs into a very pregnant and slightly condescending Trudy in the restroom. Old Peggy would have been undone by this. New Peggy gives her a slight smile, a microsmirk at Pete, and is summoned to Don’s office.
Peggy, who is on her way to her birthday dinner, shows Don, at his request, a few ideas. He completely shits on all of them, and tells her “we’re going to do this right now.” Peggy calls Mark (who is surprising her with her family and roommate) to tell him she’ll be late. Don continues to shoot down her ideas. After a few questions, Peggy decides it’s not worth it, tells him it’s a brilliant idea, and again gets ready to leave. Roger calls, pointedly telling Don that he thinks Don prefers working. (And delivers another zinger: “This guy Rutledge killed a guy with a motorboat. You know what gets you over something like that? Drinking!”)
Mark tells Peggy her whole family is waiting as a surprise, and Peggy says she’ll leave immediately. Don, who is wobbling drunk, yells at her, tells her to get over birthdays, and summarily dismisses her. Peggy calls Mark back, cancels completely, earning a scolding from her mother in the process, and more or less breaks up with Mark.
Peggy marches into Don’s office, makes herself a drink, and has it out with Don. After he yells that she doesn’t have to be here, Peggy coolly replies:
“I do have to be here. Because of some stupid idea from Danny, who you had to hire, because you stole his other stupid idea, because you were drunk.”
They keep going, and finally Peggy gets to the meat of issue- the Clio and the Glo-Coat campaign.
Don: “It’s your job! I give you money, you give me ideas.”
Peggy: “You never say thank you!”
Don: “THAT’S WHAT THE MONEY IS FOR!” (coughAllisoncough)
“Everything to you is an opportunity. And you should be thanking me when you wake up, along with Jesus, for giving you another day!”
Don and Peggy slowly thaw after their flight, and Don takes her to a diner for dinner. Back in the office, Don is obliterated, vomiting in the bathroom, when Peggy finds Duck trying to take a dump in Roger’s chair, thinking it Don’s. Duck, also drunk, calls Peggy a whore, and he and Don start fighting, as only two completely drunk, middle aged men in suits can do. She gets Duck out, and Don falls asleep in Peggy’s lap. (there is a ghost, and I’m not mentioning it other than to say it was way, way too hamfisted.) Waking around dawn, Don calls Stephanie in California to learn that Anna has died. He keeps proposing things to take care of- the funeral arrangements, the house, only to find out that Stephanie has settled everything. Peggy wakes up as Don begins to sob, asking what happened. Don breaks down, saying “Someone very important to me died. The only person who ever knew me.”
Don sends Peggy home, instead she sleeps in her office and is woken by Stan, Joey and Danny. She walks into Don’s office, where he is sitting, in a clean shirt and tie, with a Samsonite campaign based on this photo of Ali and Liston. He grabs Peggy’s hand and holds it briefly while explaining the image and sends her home to clean up.
“Door open or closed?” she asks.
“Open.” Don replies (symbolism!)
Apologies for the long summary, but as Jay Smooth tweeted, this might very well have been the best hour of television since “The Wire” ended. There’s a lot to unpack in this episode, so I’m throwing it to the commenters: Duck vs. Don. Did anyone else worry Don might actually sleep with Peggy? Why didn’t she tell him the baby was Pete’s? Ida Blakenship as a sexual deviant? Why only the two-second appearance by Joan, in light of the previews from next week? Is there any significance to Peggy’s birthday being the same day as the fight? Have at it y’all.