The Suitcase: Anatomy of a Fight

 Posted by on June 17, 2015 at 10:05 am  Characters, Mad Men, Season 3, Season 4
Jun 172015
That's what the money is for!

That’s what the money is for!

Let’s look back at one of the greatest Mad Men episodes of all: Season 4’s The Suitcase. Here’s how we knew we were gearing up for a titanic fight when Peggy returns to Don’s office after she broke up with Mark.

It’s set up perfectly, Peggy’s resentment of Don, her devotion to her career at the expense of everything in her life … she complains that she couldn’t tell him it was her birthday.

Don: So now this is my fault?

Peggy: Well it’s not my fault you don’t have any family or friends or anywhere else to go …

We know this is a low blow and not 100% warranted. Peggy lashes out and Don picks up on it.

Don: Go. Go run to him … like in the movies.

That line is the kicker that boots this exchange into overdrive, and like so much else great about Mad Men, it’s a payoff from long ago.

Peggy’s line is clearly meant to wound Don.  You can tell Don is hurt by her remark, but he doesn’t address her comment— mostly because she’s right. He responds by calling her average, by comparing her to those women in movies who chase after men who’ve left them. Those saps.

“Go. Run to him,” isn’t advice, it’s derision.

We know from Season 3 (Shut the Door. Have a Seat) that one of the reasons, the main reason, Don values Peggy is because he sees them as both as above the masses … seeing things from a different vantage point, and having insights nobody else can have.  They’re special.

Because there are people out there who buy things, people like you and me.  And something happened. Something terrible.  And the way they saw themselves is gone.  And nobody understands that.  But you do.  And that’s very valuable.

People like you and me. Don considers Peggy his soul mate. They are not the kind that go running after boyfriends.  Work comes first, last and always.

From that moment it’s game on.

If you cut Don, he’s not going to give you the satisfaction of bleeding. He’s going to attack the thing that makes you special.  To Don, and Peggy too, there’s nothing worse than being common.



  5 Responses to “The Suitcase: Anatomy of a Fight”

  1. I have watched “The Suitcase” more times than I can even count. Both Jon Hamm and Elizabeth Moss did an incredible job of acting in that episode. To see Don Draper break down in tears after that phone call just broke my heart. And to see the way Peggy came to his side just melted my heart. I am really glad that the series did not end with those two getting together, though. There is something very special about a male/female friendship that manages to stay just that. They both have equal respect for each other and would never cross that line.

  2. Peggy’s line is clearly a shot at Don, and it does hit. But I’m not so sure that Don’s line is an insult in response, or if he really meant it that way. I didn’t take it that way at the time. Thinking about it now, it feels like a pathetic attempt to help. How pathetic is it for Don Draper, of all people, to give romantic advice? And his remedy is to cite a corny movie cliché as if it was a real possibility. If that’s what’s in his head for solving romance problems, it’s no wonder all his relationships are disasters

    He definitely does see Peggy and himself as being special because of their talent. He says as much in Season 2’s opener, when, in defending advertising from those who devalue it, he says to her, “They can’t do what we do, and they hate us for it.”

  3. In my humble opinion, Don’s response is neither an insult or an offer of romantic advice.

    In this episode Don is avoiding watching the Clay-Liston fight with other people from the office. He is also avoiding the need to return Stephanie’s phone call because he can’t face Anna’s impending death. He also doesn’t like the direction of the work on the Samsonite campaign with the use of Joe Namath as an endorsement (“Endorsements are lazy”).

    For Don, like Peggy, it is all about the work and the creative process. He does see that Peggy is a creative soulmate, a kindred spirit, if you will.

    I interpreted Don’s response to be a rather pathetic plea to goad Peggy into NOT leaving him alone so that he would have to deal with “losing the only person in the world who really knew me.” Don simply can’t ask for help, so he goads Peggy into it by merely suggesting that she would put something, anything before the work. Don’s comment cuts to Peggy’s core, because she wants Don’s respect and she knows the value of the work to him and to her, and she is struggling with romantic relationships. Later at dinner, she admits that by saying “I mean, I know what I’m supposed to want, but it just never feels right, or as important as anything in that office.”

    Don is not one to give romantic advice, but he knows Peggy and he knows the value that she puts on the work. And, he is so afraid of being alone.

    • Ah, this rings true! It speaks to Don’s state of mind that day, and the only way he can ask for help. (In “The Strategy” he wryly tells Peggy that the first thing he does is anger whoever it is whose help he needs.)

      • Ooh…that is a great quote and here it is:

        Don: Well, whenever I’m really confused about an idea, first I abuse the people whose help I need and then I take a nap.

        Peggy: Done.

        Don: Then I start at the beginning and see if I wind up in the same place.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.