At the beginning of season 4 Faye told Don that within a year he’d be married again. Maybe, maybe not. But I think it’s safe to say that Don’s a man who needs a female anchor in his life. If not to keep him from the drinking and the philandering, then for his emotional well-being.
Don gets word from California that Anne’s passed. Well, he doesn’t get word so much as he gets a phone call. He knows what the news is and is so scared of it that he spends the rest of the day hiding from it, choosing instead to busy himself with work. He gives up his ticket to that night’s fight between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston and throws the creative team’s Samsonite pitch out the window (or maybe off the Eiffel Tower?). I guess you could even make the argument that Don knew what he was doing, that he was purposefully making more work for himself.
And Don did what he needed to do to keep Peggy in the office, too. If not for the entire night, then at least for a little while. When he asks Peggy for a sneak peak at what else creative’s come up with, she realizes that trying to get away from him is a losing battle and that her birthday’s been effectively canceled. And it was kind of a breaking point for her. For five years she’s been missing birthdays and dinner and long nights spent alone with back issues of Harpers Weekly. Plus she was coming off Don’s Cleo win for the Glo Coat ad, and all frustration and resentment bubbled up to the surface and came spilling out.
Once you saw that “The Suitcase” was written by Matthew Weiner, then Don’s argument with Peggy about what exactly she’s paid for seemed to take on a special significance. Weiner’s gotten a reputation for being somewhat arrogant and very controlling. And so everything Don says could be seen as directed at the show’s writing staff. The whole thing took on even more significance when you listened to his Emmy acceptance speech from that very same night, in which he awkwardly tried defending himself, swearing to everyone present that he was so grateful for all the feedback he received on the show’s scripts. I don’t know if this could really be classified as a scandal, but definitely one of those things that make you go, “Hmmmmm,” hmm?
So they fight and Peggy storms out of his office, only to be called back in a short time later when Don stumbles across a recording of Roger’s memoirs. This makes me wonder if Don’s the type of guy who doesn’t see the point in grudges, or if he was just drunk enough to quickly forget about it. There were a few revelations about Bert Coopers balls and Roger’s sexual adventures with Mrs. Blankenship, and then the episode settles into that meaty character stuff it does so well. No fireworks. Just a completely honest and personal conversation between the two, and it had to be one of the most compelling the show’s ever given us. It showed that, for all the baggage these two people carry, they really do care about each other. They’ve both got skeletons in their closet, so they see each other as kindred spirits.
There were so many great beats between the two of them throughout the night, it’d be hard to rank one as the best. Don telling Peggy why he never tried sleeping with her. Peggy taking a swipe at Don over Allison. And Don’s question, “You don’t want to start giving me morality lessons, do you?”.
“The Suitcase” also saw the return of Duck Phillips. With those business cards he had made up for Peggy, you couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for him. But as soon as he started in with all that, “I need you baby,” stuff, he was suddenly pathetic again. I wonder if that perception has anything to do with the fact that, “I need you so bad, baby,” is kind of a stereotypical phrase.
When Don finally calls California that morning, after falling asleep in his office with his head in Peggy’s lap, he breaks down, and I don’t think he could have done that in front of anyone besides her. There’s a link between him and Peggy that he really doesn’t have with anyone else. And after seeing Anne’s spirit or whatever you want to call it the previous night, you could say that Peggy’s been christened the new Anne.
There’s an understanding between the two characters that wasn’t there before, and Don’s acknowledgment of that was nice cap to the episode. When Peggy asks if Don wants his door open or closed before leaving, Don’s, “Open,” may have been a little too on the nose. But it’s nice to think he may be heading on an upward trajectory.