I know this is two days late and two dollars short, but it was a long weekend after a short vacation. I also read other recaps before I wrote mine, which I don’t usually do, and it threw me off a bit. First of all, I loved this episode as I have loved everything this season, but judging by all the online drooling, this was viewers and critics favorite episode of the season so far. I loved it but it didn’t stand out to me like last season’s midpoint episode “Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency.” That stood out among other, more meandering episodes. “Suitcase” to me was just another outstanding installment in an outstanding season of Mad Men.
Also throwing me off my game were any sports references to the fight between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston. Other recappers are drawing parallels between that fight and Don and Peggy’s “12 round” fight over Samsonite, but something about that wasn’t working for me. Don and Peggy weren’t fighting, they were working. Yes, Peggy was annoyed at having to work late on her birthday and Don yelled at her and she yelled back, and she wound up fleeing his office crying as he yelled after her, “Sorry about your boyfriend!” But I think Don loves that Peggy will challenge him and Peggy loves having someone to challenge. Everybody else will talk about Don behind his back, but the fact that he and Peggy can really get into it says a lot about both of them and the respect they have for each other.
Ah Peggy. She’s absolutely the greatest. Standing at the bathroom mirror, applying lipstick before her big birthday date, the receptionist asks how old she is. “26” Peggy replies, and the receptionist says, “Well, you’re doing quite well for yourself, aren’t you?” Enter a pregnant Trudy who tells Peggy in a somewhat patronizing way, “26 is still very young.” Now there’s your fight. The career woman she wants to be vs. the wife and mother she’s supposed to be. As she tells Don later, “I know what I’m supposed to want, but it just doesn’t feel right.” In the end, she ditches her clueless boyfriend for a late night with Don at the office.
She also runs into her clueless ex-boyfriend, an off the wagon Duck. He’s begging and pleading that he needs her, she’s trying to brush him off. He turns up at the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce offices in a drunken stupor, looking for her. When he finds her there with Don and calls her a “whore,” Don takes a drunken swing at him and there’s another fight for you. And this just moments after she’s lamenting that she’s not as attractive as some of Don’s other secretaries (Ida Blankenship, hellcat, not included.)
And Don must deal with the news of Anna’s death, the last person to know him as his previous self. I simply didn’t like the vision Don has of Anna, and I struggle with whether to give these occasional strange moments storyteller leeway or to stand my ground that they just don’t fit the overall tone of the show. Maybe if he’d still been dreaming, this would have been okay, but as an apparition I didn’t like it.
Finally, my favorite line of the episode was when some of the guys offered to take Peggy out for her birthday and told her they’d let her “talk through lunch.”