Sterling Cooper was, if not Peggy’s first job out of secretarial school, certainly a very early job; she was 21. She immediately took to Joan as a mentor, and Joan immediately treated her as a protégé to be groomed. Part of the hostility between Joan and Peggy, especially in Season 1, is that this was a poor fit for that kind of relationship.
In The Suitcase, we learned that Peggy’s father dropped dead right in front of her when she was quite young. It’s no wonder, then, that Peggy seeks the guidance of a father-figure.
Don fulfilled that role beautifully. As difficult, and sometimes cruel, as Don has been to Peggy over the years, he’s always been fully a mentor; recognizing talent, grooming abilities, encouraging growth. If he’s also slapped her down, well, Peggy wants a Daddy, not a buddy, so a slap-down isn’t the end of the world.
Peggy went straight from Don to Ted. If Ted is closer in age, and more romantic than fatherly, he’s still a mentor, still someone who nurtures her talent and praises it.
When working for Lou Avery, Peggy is totally at sea. She has no idea how to work for someone who is just her boss. She doesn’t understand what to do, because she’s never done it. Part of her hammering and hammering at the “conversation piece” idea for Accutron in the beginning of Season 7 is that she’s accustomed to great work being acknowledged as great, and she really has no clue what you do next in this situation.
Peggy wants her mentor back. She wants great ideas to be the rule.
Did you park your white horse outside? Spare me the suspense and tell me what your save-the-day plan is.
Peggy to Don: The Strategy
Most of Season 7.1 is spent with Peggy hating Don, but she needs his mentorship, and she needs the simple gift of someone with ideas.
NOTE: This was written before The Forecast aired, but I think it’s so consistent with my understanding of Peggy that she can’t stand doing her own performance review. Without Daddy reviewing it, it’s just not good enough.