'Mad Men' Season 4 Recap - Rolling Stone
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‘Mad Men’ Season 4 Recap

Catching up before Sunday’s Season 5 premiere

Mad Men

Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson and Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the episode titled 'The Suitcase.'

Michael Yarish/AMC

When Mad Men returns this Sunday after a 17-month hiatus, the whiskey-swilling, secret-keeping Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce crew will meet with an audience salivating for answers following the Season Four finale. Has Don married his secretary? Did Greg Harris find out that Joan’s baby is actually Roger’s? Will Peggy get the professional respect she deserves? Is the struggling ad agency still in business? To get you prepped for the fifth-season premiere, here’s a refresher on what happened to your favorite Mad Men characters from November 1964 to autumn 1965.

Don Draper

No longer living the archetypal American dream, the erstwhile Dick Whitman is divorced, residing in a sparse bachelor pad in the West Village and sleeping with an endless parade of nameless women. Despite his descent into a pathetic existence (punctuated by the mid-season death of Anna Draper), Don remains a virtuoso at his job. When Lucky Strike unceremoniously dumps SCDP, prompting other clients to follow suit, Don runs a full-page letter in The New York Times, stating that SCDP will no longer do advertisements for tobacco products. While the fallout includes layoffs and Bert Cooper‘s resignation, SCDP subsequently lands a meeting with the American Cancer Society, which is interested in an anti-smoking campaign.

Although Season Four acknowledged the changing times with references to the Beatles, Andy Warhol and sit-ins, Don only proved his inability to evolve. By the season finale, it’s clear he can’t survive without the traditional family setting, having impulsively proposed to his French-Canadian secretary, Megan Calvet. Megan is smart and beautiful, and she trumped Dr. Faye Miller by being a more compassionate mother figure to Don’s children – but is Don doomed to make the same mistakes he did with Betty?

Peggy Olson

Peggy’s battle for equality in the male-dominated advertising industry continued in full force during Season Four, eventually coming to a head in the critically acclaimed episode “The Suitcase.” During an all-nighter, Peggy finally castigates Don for his lack of appreciation. But it’s a short-lived victory. When she singlehandedly keeps SCDP from going under by bringing in the first new business in 10 weeks, her recognition is usurped by Don’s engagement.

Still, if there’s anyone who can drag SCDP kicking and screaming into the turbulent Sixties, it’s Peggy. In this season, she makes friends with Life photo editor Joyce Ramsay, who brings her to underground warehouse parties and introduces her to political writer Abe Drexler. Soon enough, Peggy is suggesting Harry Belafonte as a spokesperson for racist client Fillmore Auto Parts and having afternoon quickies with Abe in her office.

Pete Campbell

Throughout Season Four, Pete’s main adversary remained his insecurity. He reached his breaking point when North American Aviation, which he grew into a $4 million account, requires a government background check of several SCDP employees. The investigation would certainly uncover Don’s identity secret (Pete’s known since Season One) and make imprisonment inevitable. Backed against a wall, Pete drops NAA as a client, resulting in bitterness toward Don. “How is it that some people just walk through life, dragging their lies with them, destroying everything they touch?” Pete laments to his wife, Trudy. But Don recognizes the financial sacrifice Pete made for his mistakes, especially now that the Campbells have become parents to a baby girl, Tammy, after years of infertility. When Lane Pryce requires each of the SCDP partners to put up collateral in order to keep the company running, Don returns the favor by paying Pete’s share of $50,000.

Joan Harris

The no-nonsense redhead continues to manage SCDP with an iron fist, even garnering herself a (title-only) promotion to director of agency operations. But her professional achievements pale in comparison to her personal life, as she ended the fourth season with a bombshell. Following a friendly dinner with Roger Sterling, Joan and her former lover are robbed at gunpoint. Her vulnerability compounded by the fact that her Army-doctor husband, Greg, has recently been called up to serve in Vietnam, Joan immediately falls back into old habits and has sex with Roger right in the street. Their one night of passion results in a pregnancy, but Joan manages to convince Roger that she went through with an abortion. Yet in the season finale, we see her on the phone with Greg (already in Vietnam), happily conveying the news that he’s going to be a father.

Betty Francis

Don’s ex-wife’s misery has so permeated the people around her that even her new husband, political adviser Henry Francis, is showing signs of weariness. And now that Sally Draper is approaching adolescence, Betty is faced with being the parent of a teenager (boys! DIY haircuts! Masturbation!). Except that Betty confuses her blossoming daughter for an evil conspirator hell-bent on embarrassing her. Her answer? Send Sally to a shrink! And when Dr. Edna suggests Betty revisit the idea of seeing her own therapist? Betty insists she’s content just talking to Dr. Edna – a child psychologist. Dr. Edna may be on to something, though: When creepy kid Glen Bishop (remember how he ogled Betty on the toilet?) resurfaces after a two-season absence, his affections having moved from Betty to Sally, Betty’s jealousy is so intense that she demands Henry relocate the family from Ossining to Rye, just to punish her daughter.

Roger Sterling

After years of breezing through life, having inherited everything and worked for nothing, Roger Sterling‘s lackadaisical work ethic finally catches up to him. While enjoying a liquid lunch with Lee Garner Jr., Garner drops the bomb that Lucky Strike, Roger’s only client (and SCDP’s biggest moneymaker), is leaving. A humiliated Roger concocts a ruse in which he ostensibly flies to North Carolina for an emergency meeting with Lucky Strike – when in actuality he just hides out in a midtown hotel. Eventually, Bert Cooper takes Roger to task: “Lee Garner Jr. never took you seriously because you never took yourself seriously.” At season’s end, Roger’s outlook is even more uncertain than that of SCDP – he continues to ignore his twentysomething wife, Jane, and instead pine for Joan, who ends their affair shortly before revealing that she has kept his baby.

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