On the season finale of Mad Men, Don remembers how to be a person about four months too late and in the worst possible setting. And Peggy might be learning how to be Don, except better, because she’s not carrying around a giant piece of baggage named Dick Whitman.
As the Sunkist deal has been finalized, there are plans to establish a small, satellite office in California to handle the account. Stan asks Don if he can have it, because he’d like to “build something” and turn one desk into an office. Don shits all over this idea, telling him it’d be a demotion and LA sucks. At least, that’s what Don thinks until a tense conversation with Sally sends him to a bar, where he punches a minister and wakes up in the drunk tank. The next morning he pours the booze down the sink and tells Megan he wants to make a fresh start, in California. Where he can “build something” and turn one desk into an office. Megan is overjoyed at what this means for them, and what this means for her career. Stan, when he hears about it the next day, is significantly less pleased. Particularly since Don couldn’t even bother to come up with a line of bullshit to pretend he didn’t wholesale steal Stan’s plan.
Later, however, Ted comes to Don to ask for the California position. He’s realized that he’s in love with Peggy, and if he stays in New York he’ll end up destroying his family to be with her. Going to California, with his family, is the only way he can see to really keep himself faithful and keep his family together. Don rejects him, saying that Megan has already quit her job and he can’t unring that bell. However, after making relating a perfectly lovely (and false) childhood anecdote to Hershey’s in a pitch meeting, Don spots Ted looking like he’s going to barf, start crying, or both at the same time. Apparently moved to sacrifice himself for the other man’s happiness, Don drops the bullshit at the EXACT WRONG MOMENT and tells all about his sad brothel childhood and how sad and brothel-y it was. Hershey’s is still involved, but in a light no one would want for their product. The rest of the SCP men stare at him like he just started speaking in tongues, and then do their best to hustle Hershey’s out before Don can drop his pants and literally take a shit on the table in front of them. After they’re gone, Don tells Ted he can have the California spot. THINK YOU COULD HAVE DONE THAT WITHOUT RUINING THE PITCH, BUDDY!
Don tells Megan that they’re not going to California, and as she’s already been written off her soap, she’s mad. She doesn’t say the word divorce, but she does say, “We don’t have kids, I don’t know why we even bother,” and storms out of the apartment even as Don pleads that they can be bicoastal until they figure out something else. Things go from bad to worse as a special partners’ meeting on Thanksgiving morning is convened specifically to tell Don that he’s taking an indefinite leave of absence. As he walks out, he runs into Duck bringing in the man that may be his replacement. However, Don still manages to rally a bit and goes to pick up his kids for Thanksgiving. They take a long detour to the house where Don was raised, and he lets his children in on a tiny piece of the man he really is. Well, a more endearing piece of the man he really is than the one Sally got an eyeful of.
Ted is struggling with his feelings for Peggy, and after he brings his wife and kids to the office she ups the ante by walking into one of his meetings all dolled up for a date just to let “them” know she’s leaving early for a date. Ted is waiting for her when she gets back to her apartment, and they act on their mutual attraction after Ted promises her that he’ll leave his wife. In the afterglow, Peggy assures him that she can wait for him to tie things up properly but once he gets home to his wife the weight of what he promised her seems to fall on him. He then approaches Don about taking the California desk for the sake of his marriage and family.
When he goes to tell Peggy, she’s mad at him, and she has every right to be. But it won’t change Ted’s mind, and he’s gone. Our last shot seems hopeful for Peggy, though, as it finds her sitting in Don’s chair in a pose eerily familiar to those of us who regularly watch the opening credits.
Pete is thrilled to be on the Chevy account, but gets a serious damper put on his excitement when he gets a telegram saying that his mother was lost at sea. Where she was on a cruise with Manolo, who she recently married. Pete accuses Benson of being in on it and throws an awful lot of ugly insults and suppositions at him. Benson gets him back, though, when he figures out a tricky way to show the Chevy executive that Pete can’t drive. Off the account, Pete returns to New York to settle his mother’s estate and pack up to go to California with Ted. So I guess it’s not just a one man office anymore? While taking some furniture to his former home, Trudy points out that he’s managed to get himself something of a fresh start free from some of the responsibilities that had been crushing him. Maybe it will be good for him.
Roger is having some family issues too, as he decides to pull out from the son-in-law’s business. Margaret throws a fit at him, and un-invites Roger to Thanksgiving. Then he sees Benson giving Joan a gift for Kevin and hauls the younger man into his office to vaguely threaten him for fooling with Joan’s affections. When Joan hears about Margaret shutting Roger out from Roger’s secretary Caroline, she decides to let Roger be a part of Kevin’s life. He shows up to Thanksgiving to see Benson carving the turkey, but seems happy enough to have contact with his son for now.
Sally is at Miss Porter’s still, but she’s being summoned by the NYPD to give a statement about the burglar who broke into the apartment. When Don calls to tell her she needs to get out of class for a day to do that, she throws it back in his face and hangs up. Then Betty calls Don to tell him that Sally has been suspended for buying beer and will have to come home over Thanksgiving. So both Don AND Sally turned to alcohol after their phone conversation. Don seems to have taken some of Sally’s criticism to heart, and when he takes her and the boys to the house he grew up in she gives him an appraising glance. It’s not forgiveness, and probably won’t ever be, but she seems to appreciate the gesture.
Next season is the last season, so it’ll be interesting to see where they take Don now that they’ve alienated him from his children, his work, and his current wife. What does his leaving the office mean for us getting to see the other characters on the show? Will we be checking in with Ted and Pete in California? How awesome will Peggy be? Will Don die at the end, or will he just stop being Don? So many things to look forward to!