Excess Baggage

Episode Commentary: The Suitcase

On episode seven of the fourth season of Mad Men, a looming deadline for Samsonite hangs like a dark cloud over the main characters at Sterling Copper Draper Pryce and sends floods of Peggy’s and Don’s personal baggage, cascading into the workplace.

The episode begins with Don throwing out the creative team’s idea for a Samsonite commercial involving a football metaphor. This leads to Peggy having to work late with Don, despite having a birthday dinner planned with her boyfriend. She calls the restaurant twice to delay, but subsequently relents to her responsibilities and cancels her dinner plans completely.

In the following scene, Peggy finally confronts Don about not receiving credit for her idea he turned into a commercial that won the firm a highly coveted advertising award (an award everyone perceives as another of Don Draper’s many professional triumphs). An argument ensues, in which a red-faced Don screams, “you should be thanking me, along with Jesus, when you wake up, for giving you another day.” At those words, Peggy bursts into tears and rushes out of the room but eventually returns to work with Don on Samsonite.

She joins Don in drinking, but it is apparent that he is becoming more and more drunk as the night goes on. In the pocket of his suit jacket is a message he received earlier that day from California with a note “Urgent” on it. Knowing that he has to face the death of the woman whose husband’s identity he stole (the only woman who knew all of his secrets and still loved him despite of it) he does not call, until the next morning when he confirms she has died.

“Duck” Phillip (Mark Moses), former head of accounts at Sterling Cooper, gets screen time in this episode. He pursues Peggy (the two were once lovers) first over the phone and then barges into the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to defecate in what he thinks is Draper’s office.

Somehow by the episode’s end, Don realizes a fresh angle on Samsonite, based on the historic picture of Cassius Clay standing over a KOed Sonny Liston. However, the biggest question for this season is not how can things be tied up neatly, but it may be what Peggy said to an already drunk Don when he asked for another drink, “how long are you going to go on like this?”

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Ken Francis

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