I’m not going to lie. Mad Men will likely go down in history as being my all-time favorite show. Sure, there have been shows that have made me laugh, made me think, and pretty much broken my brain (omg LOST) but there’s isn’t a show like Mad Men. Not only does it completely accurately portray a pretty significant and turbulent time in history, but no other show has characters who are so perfectly defined, style so perfectly enviable, and dialogue so perfectly written. Also, no other show on television has a Ms. Blankenship…so there’s there.
This is all to say that I am slightly biased when it comes to Mad Men episodes. Nary a commercial break goes by where an audible “oh my god!” doesn’t escape my lips. It’s that good to me. But this week’s episode, the 7th in this fourth season, the one entitled, “The Suitcase” may have just been the best this show has ever produced.
The episode’s May 25th, 1965 date is significant, of course, because of the infamous Cassius Clay/Sonny Liston fight that lasted exactly one minute and 56 seconds and is still disputed to this very day. It was obvious the path Don’s day was going to go the minute he put $100 on Liston.
While everyone is discussing watching the fight, Don receives word that Stephanie (Don’s very young LA interest) has called and, naturally, he assumes the worst about his first wife. So, he does exactly what Don always does. He drinks. And he works. And then he drinks some more. And then he works some more. And, as he usually does, he ropes birthday girl Peggy into spending the evening working instead of with her boyfriend at a romantic dinner.
Don and Peggy spend the evening sparring and yelling and accusing and yelling some more, but really, they are both using each other. Don doesn’t want to face his call to California…and Peggy doesn’t want to deal with her now ex-boyfriend. There’s nothing-short-of-perfection banter involved, including discussions about Ms. Blankenship’s, um, sex life and Bertram Cooper’s lack of testicles. The two reveal more to each other than they ever expected…
Don: “Somebody very important to me died.”
Don: “The only person in the world who really knew me.”
Peggy: “…That’s not true.”
And she’s right. The two are connected. Because they are exactly the same. Never more excited when they are working on something. Hopelessly lonely. They both watched their fathers die. And the Samsonite suitcase metaphor is flying its freak flag…Peggy’s boyfriend wants her to pack a suitcase and move in with him. Don wants to pack a suitcase and go to California. Roger wants to pack a suitcase into the past. Anna’s packing a suitcase into the afterlife. See, Don, you were right. Jesus, it IS a metaphor.
A ridiculously good one.