The last time Don and Peggy ran into each other at the movies, it was the denoument of season 5. They were both alone, seeking some time away from the advertising world, and it was the first time we ever saw them as equals. That feeling of the trust and comfort that comes with a shared past that filled that moment was a(nother) turning point in their relationship, and a treat to watch. Although there was, of course, an elephant in the room and its name was Ted Chihuahua.
This time Ted was right there, on what could only be called a date with Peggy. And for all Don’s dismissive “You’ve been on a soap opera too long” comments to Megan about his lack of interest in the situation, the first thing he does after that encounter is to call off the Juice Armistice.
Ted’s arguments in the meeting when Don gives the “good” news about Sunkist remind me a lot of Don’s own in Season 2, Episode 2, “Flight 1.” That’s the one where Sterling Cooper makes the decision to get rid of small potatoes account Mohawk Airlines in favor of chasing hot ticket American. Don’s paradoxical loyalty when it comes to clients showed that he does have some moral scruples somewhere in there, and he truly felt bad about breaking Mohawk’s trust.
Add that to the mix of his sincere gratitude to Ted for what he did for the Rosens’ son, and the fact that he would have said no to Sunkist just to annoy too-cool-for-the-East-Coast Harry Krane, and we’re left with the knowledge that it would take something pretty huge to trump all that and make him go after Sunkist instead of Ocean Spray the way he did. It’s obviously to do with Ted’s relationship with Peggy, but why? Seth Stevenson at Slate put it well when he asked, “[I]s Don longing for that chaste, spiritual/creative connection he and Peggy used to share and no longer do? Or is watching Peggy cavorting with Ted forcing Don to realize that his feelings are slightly murkier?” I really hope it’s not the latter, because Season 4’s “Suitcase” did such a good job of taking murkier feelings off the table, and Don and Peggy’s relationship has always been so fascinating in part because she’s the one woman (other than Anna, and really, didn’t Suitcase set Peggy up as Anna’s replacement in his life?) that he seems to truly just not see in that way.
Which brings us to that weird argument he has with Ted after St. Joseph’s Fire. In a way it’s exactly what Ted needs to hear. Yeah, they have all been there; their judgement clouded by love/lust/whatever you want to call it. And yeah, cooler heads need to call them out on it so the company doesn’t suffer, but of course it’s more personal than that.
“I know your little girl has beautiful eyes.” (Does he really think that? Why does he call her a little girl?)
“We’ve all been there- well, not with Peggy.” (Is he just clarifying? Or did I catch some disdain in his voice, as if he’s saying Ted’s such a dork that he didn’t even have the sense to put his career on the line for someone hotter?)
I think the answer to Don’s motivations here lie in what he says to Peggy later, that Ted is “not that virtuous. He’s just in love with you.” In implying to Peggy that she only sees so much good in Ted because she’s flattered by his interest, he shows off his own ennui with the whole idea of human relationships and their vulnerability to individual perception.
So, why does Ted and Peggy’s relationship get under Don’s skin the way it does? Does he want Peggy as his own personal pet protege forever? Is he realizing he might want a piece of that after all? Is he jealous that their flirtation growing out of a mutual love for their profession reminds him of what he used to have with Megan? Does he want to save Peggy’s innocence from an entanglement with a married man because he failed to protect his daughter from being scarred by his own personal failings?
Is Kenny’s eye gonna be ok, or what?
And what were the circumstances under which Lee Garner, Jr. made Roger hold his balls?
Until next time,