The Suitcase (Mad Men)
|Mad Men episode|
|Episode no.||Season 4
|Directed by||Jennifer Getzinger|
|Written by||Matthew Weiner|
|Original air date||September 5, 2010|
"The Suitcase" is the seventh episode of the fourth season of the American television drama series Mad Men, and the 46th overall episode of the series. It aired on the AMC channel in the United States on September 5, 2010.
The episode was widely lauded, some declaring it the best episode of the first four seasons of Mad Men. Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss submitted this episode for consideration for their nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor and Actress in a Drama Series, respectively, at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards.
The episode focuses almost entirely on the characters of Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss). A deadline is looming over a campaign for the suitcase manufacturer Samsonite. As the rest of the office leaves to follow the May 25, 1965, Ali vs. Liston fight, Don makes Peggy stay behind to work on ideas. He knows she has plans but not that it is Peggy's birthday and the plans are for a romantic dinner with her boyfriend Mark (Blake Bashoff) at the ritzy Forum of the Twelve Caesars. Mark has invited Peggy's family and roommate along as a surprise, and when she tells Don, he says she can go.
Peggy, however, is provoked by Mark's having invited "people who drive her crazy" to what she thought would be an intimate dinner for two and by Mark's response when, after repeatedly postponing her arrival at the restaurant, she decides to cancel the dinner and stay to work with Don. Peggy's mother is not happy about this, and Mark, equally annoyed, breaks up with Peggy over the phone. As Peggy returns to Don's office, they have an argument over Peggy's contribution to the award-winning Glo-Coat campaign and Don's lack of appreciation for her work. She then storms off to cry in the ladies' room. Later in the evening, Don calls her into his office to listen to a tape he has found from Roger Sterling's (John Slattery) memoirs. The two laugh over the intimate revelations about their co-workers and go out for a meal.
Over dinner, and later drinks, the two share personal information. Peggy says that people make jokes about an alleged relationship between the two and that her mother believes he fathered her baby owing to Don's visiting Peggy in the maternity hospital shortly after the child was born. This is the first discussion they have had regarding her baby. Don asks, "Do you know who it was?" Peggy replies, "Of course." Peggy does not reveal that Pete Campbell was the father nor mention what happened to the baby.
Back at the office, Duck Phillips (Mark Moses) shows up, after earlier having tried to recruit Peggy for a new venture. He is drunk and wants to defecate on Don's chair. Peggy runs in, finding Duck with his pants down and squatting over a chair, and tells Duck he's actually in Roger's office. Peggy leads Duck out and Don is shocked to see him in the office. Duck tells a shocked Don he and Peggy were in love, but ultimately she is "just another whore". Don drunkenly swings at Duck, who overpowers him. Peggy gets rid of Duck, and as Don asks for another drink, she asks him "how long [he is] intending to go on like this." An embarrassed Peggy admits to Don that she had an affair with Duck because "it was a confusing time" for her.
Don is avoiding returning a call to the niece of his friend Anna Draper (Melinda Page Hamilton), who is dying from cancer. Before he can make the call, however, he falls asleep in Peggy's lap. In a dream he sees a vision of Anna with a suitcase, and when he finds out she is dead the next morning, he is not surprised.
After a phone call to confirm the bad news, Don breaks down sobbing in front of Peggy. She tries to comfort him when he tells her what happened. Don tells Peggy to go home and rest and to come in later. Peggy, worried about Don, instead goes into her office next to Don's. Later that morning, Don has developed an idea for the suitcase campaign based on the Ali vs. Liston knock-out photo. Peggy dislikes Don's idea, and Don is annoyed. Then Peggy, still skeptical about Don's idea, reassures him that it is good. Don takes her hand in his for a moment, and the two exchange looks before she leaves.
Matthew Weiner compared Peggy's standing at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to his own standing while working under David Chase on The Sopranos. Jon Hamm commended the writers for adding in the conversation that references the child Peggy gave away, calling it "heartbreaking" for Peggy. Matthew Weiner said, "they can acknowledge that that happened. Even though they had sworn to never talk about it together, this is the place that they can talk about it. I also think that Don’s interest in it is really a big part of it." Weiner elaborated on Draper's dislike for Duck, attributing it to Duck's "lack of understanding of creative" and "his alcoholism," while citing Duck's sexual relationship with Peggy, who Weiner said could be Don's daughter figure in that moment.
On the subject of Don's vision of the deceased Anna Draper, Weiner said, "Once the suitcase was in Anna’s hands, which was the last thing that was added to that script, you realize that it’s probably in Don’s mind because what is on his mind is his job. But it’s so symbolic… Every single person has heard some version of this story… when someone important has died, they have had a sense of premonition or visitation."
Matthew Weiner credited the cinematographer Chris Manley and director Jennifer Getzinger for the "gradations of darkness, of afternoon into night into early morning, the way that they’re posed together, it just really made the whole thing work."
Jon Hamm elaborated on the difficulty of filming the heavy emotional scenes with Elisabeth Moss in which Jon Hamm breaks down after learning of Anna's death, saying that "Episode eight, everyone is starting to get exhausted. When we had those lines together, just looking at Elisabeth’s face, when I realized that she’s heard this entire phone call, how completely awash with emotion she was, it seemed like the only response to that was to just completely break down and let it all go. It’s a remarkable alchemy between writing, acting, directing, lighting, and everything else for them to make that a really nice moment."
Originally, during the emotional climax of the episode in which Don and Peggy hold hands, Draper told Peggy "Thank you." The line was taken out in post-production so as to not undermine the visual power of the scene, as the creative team believed the scene was more powerful through nonverbal acknowledgement.
The Ali vs. Liston bout was a rematch of a February 1964 fight (at which point Muhammad Ali was still called Cassius Clay). The fight is noted for Ali's so-called "phantom punch", that knocked out Sonny Liston, as well as for a photo of Ali standing over a fallen Liston, one of the most famous photos in sports history. There were speculations at the time that Liston took a fall on orders from the Mafia. Another sports reference in the episode is found in Peggy's original pitch for the Samsonite ad, featuring football player Joe Namath. Namath, a burgeoning player at the time, would later become a highly sought-after product endorser.
The episode solved a mystery from a previous episode: Roger Sterling's reference to a Dr. Lyle Evans. The name caused much speculation among reviewers, and a spike in Google Searches for the name. Rather than a real-life person, Dr. Evans turned out to be a doctor who once performed an unnecessary orchiectomy on Bert Cooper. The episode ends with the song "Bleecker Street" from Simon & Garfunkel's 1964 album Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M..
On its original American broadcast on September 5, 2010, on AMC, the episode was viewed by 2.17 million people.
The episode received universal praise from television critics and is considered by many to be the series' greatest episode. Toril Moi, contributing to The Wall Street Journal's "Mad Men Conversation", called the episode "deeply compelling". She highlighted two central lines of dialog: Don's "People do things" as an argument against judgment, and Peggy's "That's not true" as a response to Don's claim that he had lost the only person who knew him. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly called the episode "a knock-out", and commented on the "remarkable intimacy" of the scenes between Don and Peggy. The Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik, after some initial deliberation, concluded that it was "a great episode". He pointed out how it made him care about the fates of both Peggy and Don in a way he had not for a long time.
Jennifer Smith at CNN found some of the scenes in the episode among "the most powerful of the entire series". She implied that the performances of both Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss were Emmy material. William Bradley, reviewing the episode for The Huffington Post, also mentioned the Emmy Awards. He called Hamm's performance "fantastic", believing it was "time for him to win the Emmy as best actor". Moss he found "even more of a revelation...as a young woman coming of age". Entertainment Weekly's Karen Valby called it her "favorite Mad Men episode of all time", highlighting the performances of the two main actors.
Actors Elisabeth Moss and Aaron Staton chose "The Suitcase" as their favorite episode of Mad Men so far. Moss said of the episode, "It's the greatest material I've ever had the privilege of acting." Jon Hamm said, "I've never ever worked on something and felt the way I felt after we shot the episode in Season 4 called 'The Suitcase'. That one ... I can't even put it into words."
- Bradley, William (September 6, 2010). "Mad Men: 'The Suitcase' Is Tougher Than Sonny Liston". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
- Lacob, Jace (September 6, 2011). "'Mad Men' Up Close". The Daily Beast. Retrieved March 15, 2012.
- Poniewozik, James (September 6, 2010). "Review of Mad Men, The Suitcase". Time. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
- Winer, Juli (August 23, 2010). "Mad Meme: Dr. Lyle Evans, We Presume?". Vanity Fair. Retrieved August 27, 2010.
- Havrilesky, Heather (September 6, 2010). ""Mad Men" recap: Welcome home". Salon.com. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
- Seidman, Robert (September 8, 2010). "Sunday Cable Ratings: The Glades Down a Little; Rubicon, Mad Men Moreso". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
- Moi, Toril (September 6, 2010). "'Mad Men': A Conversation (Season 4, Episode 7)". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 6, 2010.
- Tucker, Ken (September 6, 2010). "'Mad Men' review: Heavyweight fights". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 6, 2010.
- Zurawik, David (September 6, 2010). "Z on TV: Mad Men: Caring about Peggy and Don again". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved September 6, 2010.
- Smith, Jennifer (September 6, 2010). "'Mad Men' carries heavy baggage". CNN. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
- Valby, Karen (September 6, 2010). "'Mad Men' recap: The sweet science". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
- Furlong, Maggie (January 20, 2012). "'Mad Men' Stars Tease Season 5 And Share Their Favorite Episodes". Huffington Post. Retrieved March 15, 2012.