The Carousel: Revisiting Mad Men: Season 4, Episode 7: “The Suitcase”

“The Suitcase” is one of the best episodes of Mad Men, if not the best. We’ve decided to do something a little different for this review – a good old fashioned Crosstalk!

I hope it’s as fun for you as it is for us!

TOUCHDOWN SAMSONITE!

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Miss Rim – I found it instructive to watch the last few minutes of the previous episode, “Waldorf Stories.” Don wins a CLIO and goes on an epic bender, going to bed with The Cake Topping Lady on a Friday and waking up with a waitress named Doris on Sunday – when he was supposed to pick up the kids. He also pitched Danny Siegel’s “cure for the common” breakfast to Life Cereal in an overconfident, triumphant, drunken moment, and Peggy had to bust in on him and tell him he cribbed the idea and to fix it. (Which meant hiring Danny.)

He left his CLIO statue at the bar, Roger rescues it for him and demands a compliment. In a series of flashbacks, we see how Don got his job at Sterling Coo. Don shows up for work his first day and Roger was so drunk last night he can’t remember if he hired him or not.

With all of that in mind… I wonder if you have any comments about Don and Peggy’s mindsets coming into this episode?

Spiny – I think Peggy’s anger during “The Suitcase” is maybe 5% about Don “making” her work on her birthday she barely cares about. Let’s say the remaining 95% is evenly split between general resentment for the way their partnership has developed and what people think of them, and very specific resentment that she wasn’t invited to the CLIOs and she probably doubts she’ll ever be included in public-face-of-the-company ritzy things like that.

She doesn’t get invited to Roger’s parties, or her coworkers’ after-hours hangouts, or the all-girls events for secretaries, or creative-client meetings at strip clubs, either, and she keeps quiet about those things and never complains. But it wears on you.

As far as Don’s mindset, I don’t think the CLIO or his bender has been on his mind like it has for Peggy. This episode is where he turns the corner on being in the moment and aware of what’s happening to him.

The only thing you need to know about him going in is that he just found out Stephanie tried to call, and he can guess why, and that is the ONLY thing he’s thinking about for almost the entire episode, as he tries to think about Samsonite instead.

My question: What Don gets out of this night, and what he gets from Peggy, is obvious. If she hadn’t been there to support him it’d be a lot more messy (literally, since without her he would’ve
puked not in the toilet). What benefit do you think Peggy got out of this night and from Don, if any?

Miss Rim I think you are right on the money about Peggy giving 5% or less a shit about her birthday. Her boyfriend Mark is BOR-ING and planning a dinner with mom, Anita, Jerry, and her prim roommate was not the way to Peggy’s heart. SO I think she stays to work with Don because she’s needing his approval, and it’s way more interesting than that dinner, and it’s more important to her to get Don to respect her than her birthday celebration. “That’s what the money is for!”

I think what Peggy gets out of this episode is finding out that Don is vulnerable and needs her, and that she is a driven “career gal,” and Don may not be the best mentor professionally.

I wonder how this drives her arc in the next seasons, because we see that all these relatively powerful men are sort of ridiculous. My next question is how the show implied that Peggy is Don’s new Anna Draper? How did that land for you? And what of the suitcase motif?

Spiny I don’t love the idea that Peggy is Don’s new Anna, just because Anna’s role in the show was always to be “woman Don needed to keep him sane, but who probably didn’t need Don” [what he offered her in return was financial, and it was important to her but she wouldn’t be, like… homeless without him]. And I think it’s doing Peggy a disservice to claim that being the main guy’s cheerleader is even part of her role on the show.

BUT I think it’s important to Don that he has someone in his life who doesn’t judge him and who refuses to get involved in all his personal drama. Which is what Anna was. And Peggy sees him cry and scream and throw up, never acting surprised or judging, other than to ask how long he can keep doing it. She also consistently chooses not to get involved in his love life, in his secret past life drama people hint at, or anything else.

When Peggy says it’s not true that Don has no one who knows him, and Don seems to accept / take comfort in that, it’s not because Peggy knows him in the same literal way Anna did. Peggy doesn’t know a TON of things about him. Not just Dick Whitman – she knows nothing about his relationship with Betty or his kids. She says this episode that she didn’t know he was in Korea, and that’s something EVERYONE knows. He’s got a Purple Heart in his desk. His veteran status was discussed in that 50th-anniversary S-C speech Roger gave to hundreds of people.

It’s that Peggy sees him at his worst and it doesn’t change how she views him, and in fact she doesn’t NEED or WANT to know most of what there is to know about his life, because she’s already set on what she thinks of him.

That makes her know him in a very different way from Anna, but a more powerful way. Peggy never wants to know the sordid details of Don’s past that other people hint at, or what he’s up to personally, but I think she and Don both know that nothing she could find out would change things between them at work. That’s knowing someone in a different way, is when you’ve made up your mind about someone and they can’t talk you out of caring about them.

OK, last question for Miss Rim before we wrap up… what do Bert Cooper’s missing testicles symbolize about the state of American conservatism in 1965? Nah, I’m messing with you.

Miss Rim That’s a great take and feels very true. I think Anna and Peggy are the only women who don’t want to f-ck Don Draper (give or take an S1 episode) and Don has no idea how to make a female friend that he can’t f-ck, or how to make a friend… period.

[Miss Rim got tied up but will answer very important question about Bert Cooper’s balls in the comments.]

Stray Observations:

Whoops, Spiny forgot to answer the suitcase part of Miss Rim’s question. But my answer is boring! Like in season 2, it symbolizes the nomadic and transitory and mercantile way Don approaches life. Like what he learned from the hobo, except in this case it’s a classic Depression lesson he learned from Uncle Mack.

“Playgrounds,” and the little moment with Trudy. This episode is all the closure I needed on Peggy’s pregnancy. Anything past this point that might also reflect on it is appreciated but unneeded.

“If I wanted to see two Negroes fight, I’d throw a dollar bill out my window.”
Ida Blankenship, hellcat, astronaut

Don doesn’t think Joe Namath is famous enough to sell stuff in 1964.

We know very little about the Liston vs Clay / Ali fight, so I’m eager to learn about the historical significance especially as it applies to this episode. We do like the touch of nobody being willing to call Muhammad Ali by his chosen name yet, though. Don rolls his eyes when he says it.

Spiny is better at fashion, but here’s a thing: http://tomandlorenzo.com/20…

[Spiny here: I’m surprised Tom and Lorenzo didn’t mention that the color palette of Peggy’s cute brown-and-yellow dress EXACTLY matches the color palette of Don’s swirling puke stain on his shirt, because it jumped out to me first time watching as probably a deliberate, twisted act of costume-pairing. Behold puke palette.]

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