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Mad Men Recap: ‘The Suitcase’

September 6, 2010

Poor Peggy.

Let me just preface this recap by stating that the episode resonated deeply with me.  I found Peggy’s story moving and indicative of a time period that thankfully has passed us by.

‘The Suitcase’ begins with the creative team hashing it out over the best way to sell Samsonite suitcases.

It is Peggy’s birthday, and she receives an unexpected phone call from Duckie, asking her to join  his new creative team as “Women’s Director”.  He tempts her with the mammoth account at Tampax.  This is exciting, until Peggy realizes that Duck is not representing any legitimate agency, and is trying to entice her with pipe dreams.

Don receives word from his always tactful secretary that Stephanie from California tried to call. Remember, this is his ex-wife Anna’s niece.  He picks up the phone, but ultimately dismisses the message.

Roger continues to be a frat boy, and laments to Don that he is dreading spending the evening with some clients at a boxing match, which has become the hottest ticket in town. His reasoning?  They are members of AA, and he won’t be able to drink around them.

Peggy and the creative team pitch their idea for Samsonite luggage to a dismissive Don.  After they suggest Joe Namath, Don snarls, “Endorsements are lazy.” Even more scathing is his personal attack of Peggy,  ”I’m glad this an environment where you feel free to fail.” Yikes.  That doesn’t seem fair, at all.

Back at the office, Joan pops in on a brainstorming session, telling the  creative types that she doesn’t appreciate the mess that they are leaving.  One brave soul offers up, ” Although I am payed less, I am still not a janitor.”  Joan offers up the stink eye.

Peggy is primping in the bathroom at the office for her birthday dinner, and a very pregnant Trudy makes some small talk.  When Trudy and Peggy emerge from the bathroom, a terrified look overcomes Peter. He has no idea that the two women had a harmless conversation.

Just when Peggy is getting ready to leave she makes the mistake of checking to see if Don needs anything.  It’s a huge error, as Peggy is drawn into a moping Don’s office, presumably under the pretense of tweaking the Samsonite account.  For reasons unknown, Peggy decides to stay and help Don brainstorm, despite the fact that he is acting like a complete asshole.

Meanwhile, her boyfriend Mark calls from a restaurant, where he is waiting with her entire family  to surprise her for her birthday. After dancing around the surprise, Mark finally comes clean, and actually breaks up with Peggy, because she appears to be choosing work over him.  Her family seems all too eager to side with Peggy’s boyfriend. How outrageous for a woman to choose her work over a doting man.

When Don realizes that it is Peggy’s birthday, he passive-aggressively apologizes, but in the same breath essentially tells Peggy she needs to get over birthdays.  She is, after all, of the advanced age of 26.  Geez.

We finally get to see Peggy unleash on Don, calling him out for taking credit for her idea and winning the Clio award.  His response? “That is what the money is for!”  It is a true statement, but it is also a cold one. He also callously points out that at her age, Peggy ought not be counting her ideas, she should  be thanking him for the opportunities she has been afforded.

Peggy (played by Elisabeth Moss) promptly gives a performance that quietly and effectively broke my heart.  Her gut-wrenching response to Don is the stuff Emmy awards are made of. Well done Elisabeth. You rock, dear, and you plaintively speak to the unappreciated masses of women in the workforce.

After Peggy and Don return from dinner and a drink, Peggy is treated to Don puking his guts out in the office bathroom.   Peggy gently tries to act as caretaker and confidant.   There was a lingering hand touch that makes me question the future relationship of the two.

This was an emotionally powerful episode about two head-strong individuals dueling, but ultimately gaining mutual respect for one another.

The emotional intensity was diffused by some funny moments.  Who will ever forget Duckie dropping his pants in front of a horrified Peggy to leave Don a “present?”   Don also found some of Roger’s recordings for his “memoirs” and proceeds to have a chuckle at the man’s expense.  Roger prattles on about his sexual prowess, and how Bert was threatened by his virility. We also find out a few salacious secrets about Bert, and his lack of balls, quite literally.

Though Elisabeth Moss stole the show, a second viewing allowed me to really pay attention to Jon Hamm’s performance. Wow.  That’s all I can say.

It is befitting that when Don sees Anna’s ghost, she is smiling and holding a suitcase.

What were your thoughts?  I absolutely loved this episode.

To read previous recaps, click here.


5 Responses to “ Mad Men Recap: ‘The Suitcase’ ”

  1. kapellmeisters on September 6, 2010 at 1:42 am

    best episode of the season

    “people do things”

  2. Charlotte on September 6, 2010 at 10:11 am

    I didn’t think him clasping her hand was sexual at all. I think it represented two people who clashed and connected during a dark night of the soul.

    Roger wasn’t bitching that the client he was with was a drinker. It was just the opposite. He’s bitching that the client and Freddy are members of AA and he has to hear their stories of being drunks and now being sober.

  3. AnnR on September 6, 2010 at 11:52 am

    First of all “D I C K” was never married to Anna, that was the real Dons wife, and “d i c k ” did divorce her so he could marry Betty. We did not learn anything new about the reclusive Don’s childhood. Only Peggy did not know about it and now she does. I thought the info about Ms Blankenship was funny. She must have had a wild “time” with Bert.

  4. Shannon on September 6, 2010 at 12:03 pm


    Thanks for clarifying the AA bit. I had that written down incorrectly in my notes because I thought that Roger was being facetious, but I went back and watched it and you are absolutely correct.

  5. Ally on September 7, 2010 at 1:44 am

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Don connects with Peggy in this new way, on the day he knows (even before the phone call) that Anna has died. He needs a woman to play that role in his life — that of an asexual nurturing, understanding female — and now Anna is gone, he is recasting the part.

    It was an interesting writing decision for Don to cry “uncle” in the fight with Duck. Is this a repetition of his choice in Korea? Or did he just realize he was too drunk to be effective? In discussions, I find that people are so attached to a heroic vision of Don Draper (based I think on the emblematic way he was portrayed in season 1 and 2), that even as scenes like this pile up, they just can’t let their daddy, alpha-male, hero worship figure go.

    Finally, the ad Don comes up with is, again, a tweaking of Peggy’s idea. A sports figure embodied by the suitcase, kicking the butt of weaker sports figures embodied by another suitcase. And then on top of it all, he wants her praise and approval, after he is so stingy with his.

    It was a terrific episode, but quite a swerve in terms of style — suddenly a great deal of direct, emotional talk, revelations and resolutions, versus the long pauses, meaningful yet irresolute looks, and inconclusive conversations, that have dominated the last two seasons.