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    All 90 Episodes Of "Mad Men" Ranked, From Good To Perfect

    How'd you like that series finale?

    AMC / Justine Zwiebel / BuzzFeed

    The Mad Men series finale was polarizing, with its wild tonal swings, its too-pat closure of some stories, the disappearance of Don as an active participant in his life, and its seemingly ambiguous ending β€” until you realize that it's not ambiguous at all, at which point it might seem too cute. To have an ending that some people will worship, and others will hate feels right for Mad Men, a historically important show that was never a mass hit, unlike its AMC brethren The Walking Dead or, as the years went on, Breaking Bad.

    No one knew Matthew Weiner's Mad Men was going to change television forever when it premiered on AMC on July 19, 2007. For the TV business, the quality of dramas on basic cable was about to hit its apex, and Mad Men would soon start collecting the Emmys to prove it. For fans, Mad Men's visual beauty, its attention to history, and its rigorous narrative complexities were their own rewards. Of course, it was never the most fun show of television's second Golden Age. And there are plenty of people who loved Mad Men's beginnings more than its later developments β€” those who watched it for period kitsch or jokes about how kids used to put dry cleaning bags on their heads would soon be disappointed, as Weiner drilled down into his characters and story and began to veer from gimmicks.

    If you watched Mad Men for seven seasons, then you may think, like I do, that there were no bad episodes. So to rank them is an exercise in the relativity of excellence; an excuse to rewatch them in a compressed period of time (as opposed to the years over which I had originally seen them); a new way for me to see all seven seasons as one whole story with strengths (and sometimes tiny weaknesses) and callbacks; a personal exorcism that evoked laughter and tears; and, as someone said to me recently, something that could be perceived as trolling. It certainly was a show that inspired its fans to know an inordinate number of episode titles: There will be fights.

    However you feel about the finale itself β€” and, without the benefit of time to add perspective, I am very mixed (see No. 42, where I have slotted it) β€” Mad Men gave us these people: Don Draper (Jon Hamm), Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), Joan Harris (formerly Holloway, Christina Hendricks), Betty Francis (formerly Draper, January Jones), Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka), Megan Draper (Jessica ParΓ©), and dozens and dozens more. Mad Men's 10-year sweep of a crucial time in American history was told through these characters, and it was both particular and huge: a story about class striving, women, passing, de facto racial segregation, New York City, the call of the West, American ambition β€” and so on. Mad Men constructed a whole world.

    And it was terribly sad to say good-bye. But as Don Draper would say, we have to move forward. Wait! In the series finale, "Person to Person," someone finally told him that's actually terrible advice. How great was that?

    90. "Mystery Date" (Season 5, Episode 3)

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    Writers: Victor Levin and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Matt Shakman

    There's one supremely satisfying scene in "Mystery Date." Greg (Sam Page) has returned home β€” permanently, Joan thinks β€” from Vietnam. He's never met Kevin (who is actually Roger's son, but Greg doesn't know that). After a seemingly happy reunion, Greg tells Joan that he has to go back to war; later, she finds out from Greg's mother that he volunteered to go back. After fighting with him about it for a bit, Joan tells him to leave forever. "I'm glad the Army makes you feel like a man. Because I'm sick of trying to do it," she says. "The Army makes me feel like a good man," he snaps at her. Joan's answer is what we've been waiting for since Season 2's "The Mountain King," when Greg raped Joan on the floor of Don's office. "You're not a good man," she spits at him. "You never were. Even before we were married. And you know what I'm talking about." Greg is shocked. And then he leaves Joan's life forever. I don't necessarily buy that Greg would know what Joan was talking about, this awful thing that they have never discussed β€” but I'll take it.

    Other than that, "Mystery Date" offers us a feverish Don who is frightened of Megan's jealousy, so much so that he cheats on her in his fever dreams, and then strangles the woman (played by MΓ€dchen Amick) when she taunts him. The Chicago nurse murders of July 1966 loom over the proceedings here β€” as death and violence do over all of Season 5 β€” and bring out a campy dynamic between Sally and Henry's mother, Pauline (Pamela Dunlap).

    89. "The Fog" (Season 3, Episode 5)

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    Writer: Kater Gordon

    Director: Phil Abraham

    Season 3 was still building its foundation at this point. Don's flirtation with Sally's teacher Miss Farrell (Abigail Spencer) begins, even as Betty is in labor and seeing things, including her dead father. Betty has the baby boy she thought was going to be a girl; Don has a protracted and uninteresting exchange with a prison guard in the hospital's waiting room for expecting fathers.

    At work, Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) is nickel-and-diming everyone over expenses and costs. And Duck (Mark Moses) reappears, having landed at Grey β€” we haven't seen nor heard from him since his meltdown in "Meditations in an Emergency." He wants to poach Peggy and Pete to come work with him, but he gets off on the wrong foot with Pete by saying, "You two have a secret relationship." He means they cover for each other, but it sends Pete into a panic. Peggy decides that if Duck wants to steal her, she must be worth more, and asks Don for a raise. After he tells her no, blaming Lane's cheapness, she looks at all the presents he's gotten for the baby and says, "You have everything. And so much of it." It's a resentful thought, but Moss delivers it dreamily. Peggy is realizing how things work.

    88. "New Business" (Season 7, Episode 9)

    AMC

    Writers: Tom Smuts and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Michael Uppendahl

    A year from now, were I to watch all of Mad Men over again again β€” AND I MIGHT β€” it's possible I would put this episode last. I actively disliked it, which isn't true of any other episode. But I am left thinking that it might be pivotal for some reason; I also have no perspective on it since it is so recent. The sad-sack Diana character (played by the compelling Elizabeth Reaser) serves as a device to show us that Don is incapable of figuring out his past mistakes, and he will never change. That would be OK to demonstrate. But these fawning attempts to get her to respond to him… who is this man? Is the point that Diana is such a blank space and black hole that we're meant to think that Don has finally gone insane? He hasn't made this much of an effort before, especially with someone who isn't responding. (And why should she? Her daughter died, and in mourning, she left her remaining daughter and husband in Racine, Wisconsin, in order to live in a permanent state of grief.)

    When Don tells Diana they need to leave his apartment because Megan is coming to get her things, Don, atypically, says to her, "I think if I were you this would bother me. And it shouldn't. Because it's almost over." Don in 1970 is a little less perfect looking, and a little sloppier. But he's still Don β€” except in this Diana story. (His strange behavior led to speculation that Diana doesn't actually exist.)

    Speaking of people behaving uncharacteristically, Megan's re-entry into the action in "New Business" is disappointing. While Don and Roger are talking about divorce, Don says, "Megan is not Jane." Roger responds: "So she never said you squandered her youth and beauty? Used up her childbearing years? Thwarted her career?" By the end of the episode, Megan has received a million dollars from Don, all of their designer furniture, and, yes, she has said those things to him. She squawks, "Why did I believe you? Why did I believe the things you said to me? Why am I being punished for being young? I gave up everything for you." (She's 30, by the way, if my math is right.) The episode ends with Don seeing his empty living room β€” get it, he has nothing, yada yada. There have always been two readings of Megan β€” that she's a good person or that she's a user β€” and "New Business" seems to land squarely in the latter characterization. A disheartening end for Megan.

    87. "Tea Leaves" (Season 5, Episode 2)

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    Writers: Erin Levy and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Jon Hamm

    The theme of old versus young dominates this episode, but first: Fat Betty! To mask January Jones' pregnancy, Weiner constructed a storyline around her weight gain β€” and a meme was born. It turns out that Betty, who we know was an overweight kid whose mother emphasized looks and vanity, is just depressed and eating too much. But first she has a cancer scare that causes her to lean on Don for emotional support. Megan doesn't understand why Don is so upset that Betty might be sick, and Betty doesn't even tell Henry (Christopher Stanley) that she told Don about it. In other words, things aren't entirely over between them, at least when something like this comes up. "Birdie," Don says on the phone, using his nickname for her to calm her down. "Say what you always say," she says. Don answers automatically: "Everything's going to be OK." (It's a phrase she's bucked up against in the past β€” most meaningfully in "The Grown-Ups" β€” so it's an especially interesting moment. And it's also notable to see how differently Betty reacts here compared to her terminal diagnosis in "The Milk and Honey Route." )

    For no believable reason other than to make Don and Harry (Rich Sommer) look especially square, the two of them go to a Rolling Stones concert where they encounter pot-smoking teenage girls. Elsewhere in "Tea Leaves," Pete belittles Roger after he gets back Mohawk Airlines as a client, and Betty eats Sally's ice cream after she gets the good news that the lump on her thyroid is benign. Peggy hires Ginsberg (Ben Feldman) in this episode, and through his eyes we see something Mad Men only shows us occasionally: the cult of personality around Don. Also, things are changing at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Don's new secretary Dawn (Teyonah Parris) is black, and Ginsberg is Jewish. "Turns out, everybody's got one now," Roger says to Peggy about a Jewish person working at the company.

    86. "Flight 1" (Season 2, Episode 2)

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    Writer: Lisa Albert and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Andrew Bernstein

    The news of a plane crash β€” American Airlines' Flight 1 β€” dominates this episode. (It was based on a real crash from March 1, 1962.) Pete's father was on the plane, a fact that Pete can't process. He's so shocked that he goes to Don, of all people: "You know what?" he asks. "I don't think I'm going to tell anyone. Am I going to cry." It's not a question in his inflection, and the answer ends up being no. The thread of "Flight 1" is putting emotions aside for business. Don has to fire Mohawk Airlines as a client because Duck is going to try to get American; Pete, horrifyingly, is enlisted to help that cause.

    Also, someone makes a copy of Joan's driver's license, which reveals she's 31, and puts it up in the break room. Joan asks, "Is it so hard to just leave everything at the door and just do your job?" It's rhetorical, but Peggy answers: "I look forward to it." (She's working hard in this episode to forget that she had a baby, so of course she does.)

    85. "Collaborators" (Season 6, Episode 2)

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    Writers: Jonathan Igla and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Jon Hamm

    In Season 5’s "Signal 30," Don mentions to the madam of a Manhattan brothel that he grew up in a whorehouse. "Collaborators" begins to show his life there in flashback. (Brandon Killham plays young Dick.) There's a bit of narrative dissonance here, since for the first few seasons of the show, Don's secret past seemed to be in total that his name was Dick Whitman, his mother had been a prostitute who died giving birth to him, and that he switched identities with the real Don Draper during the Korean War. That was the story he told Rachel (Maggie Siff), Betty, Faye (Cara Buono), and anyone else he confessed to. Season 6 is when this other chapter of Don's life (Dick's life) unfolds and becomes canon. So was he not telling Betty the whole truth, then? This whorehouse time seems important, and like something she would have wanted to know β€” it was also traumatic enough that you would think he would have told Rachel in his grief in "Long Weekend." Do other people wonder about this, or am I alone?

    Anyway: An affair with Sylvia (Linda Cardellini) is what's triggering these memories in Don. He's sneaking around, and enjoying it β€” not even Megan telling him she had a miscarriage can derail him. (Don's sexual morality is reserved for work, where he has an unpleasant encounter with Herb from Jaguar, played with sleaze and heft by Gary Basaraba, and almost tanks the entire Jaguar account in order to best him.)

    While Don is successfully conducting an affair, Pete fails at one. By having an assignation with a suburban neighbor at his new Manhattan pied-Γ -terre, he manages to get caught by Trudy (Alison Brie) in a way even she can't ignore. "There's no way for me to escape," she tells him, scornfully. "To not be an object of pity, while you get to do whatever you feel like." She throws him out. Finally. (For now!)

    84. "At the Codfish Ball" (Season 5, Episode 6)

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    Writer: Jonathan Igla

    Director: Michael Uppendahl

    This is the episode in which we meet Megan's mother (Julia Ormond) and father (Ronald Guttman) and discover that a little of the Calvet clan goes a long way. Marie and Emile are among the only Mad Men characters that never deepen beyond caricature. She's dissatisfied and resentful; he's an angry communist academic. They, especially Emile, don't like Don, and they're right. "His manners are studied," Emile says to his wife and daughter in French. He's right about Megan too: She doesn't care about advertising, even though she's gifted at all of the aspects of the job. (She snatches the Heinz Beans account from the precipice of defeat, impressing everyone, but most of all Don.) "Don't let your love for this man stop you from doing what you want to do," Emile says to Megan. Considering that Megan sold herself to Don as a protΓ©gΓ© to both him and to Peggy, this will be the downfall of their marriage.

    There's a parent-child theme in "At the Codfish Ball," and it's not only the Calvets. Sally accompanies Don, Megan, Roger, and the Calvets to the ball, where Don is receiving an honor from American Cancer. And when she walks in on Roger getting a blow job from Marie, she can't find solace among these careless adults, but does call Glen (Marten Weiner, the son of Matthew Weiner) at boarding school later to make her feel better.

    The other miserable parent in the episode is Peggy's mother (Maya Turley), who disapproves of Abe (Charlie Hofheimer) moving in with Peggy without marrying. And as with Megan's father, she knows when her daughter is pretending. "I think Daddy would want me to be happy!" Peggy yells at her mother. "No! He'd be mad at you the same way I am. Because you are selling yourself short."

    83. "For Those Who Think Young" (Season 2, Episode 1)

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    Writer: Matthew Weiner

    Director: Tim Hunter

    "For Those Who Think Young," the Season 2 premiere, began the tradition of Mad Men seasons starting slow. It's Valentine's Day, 1962, 16 months since the Season 1 finale, which took place on and after Election Day in 1960. Don is trying to be good, he tells his doctor during a physical, and we also learn at this checkup that he's 36 years old. At the office, Peggy is thin again (after a mysterious disappearance) and is pretty well integrated in the copywriting job Don gave her at the end of Season 1. Paul (Paul Gladis) has a beard; Harry's wife is pregnant; Pete's wife desperately wants to be pregnant; Duck and Don are trying to work together; and there's now a copier machine that Joan can't figure out where to place. Don has a new secretary, Lois (Crista Flanagan), whom Peggy hazes. "You were crying in the break room, which I have specifically forbidden," Joan tells Lois later in the episode. Lois was painted as a woeful idiot in Season 1 when she developed a crush on Sal (Bryan Batt). But here, Peggy is establishing herself as Don's mentee, a cut above her secretarial roots.

    At home, Don and Betty are getting along on the surface, but they're having sexual problems β€” or Don is, anyway. He's been reading Frank O'Hara poetry, and at the end of the episode, he sends a copy of Meditations in an Emergency to someone to whom he writes, "Made me think of you." Don is still keeping secrets. (We find out in "The Mountain King" that he sent it to Anna Draper.)

    82. "Love Among the Ruins" (Season 3, Episode 2)

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    Writers: Cathryn Humphris and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Lesli Linka Glatter

    The Season 3 premiere ("Out of Town") dropped us into the newly merged world of Sterling Cooper and Puttnam, Powell, and Lowe, but "Love Among the Ruins" takes a step back and plants seeds for the rest of the season β€” it's springtime, after all. Betty's father, Gene (Ryan Cutrona), who is increasingly unwell and unable to live alone, moves in with the Drapers; Peggy is exploring her power as a sexual person (she picks up a Brooklyn College student for a one-night stand); Don sees Miss Farrell for the first time; and, most important, we begin to get the idea that the merger was perhaps ill-conceived. After meeting with and eventually winning the yet-to-be-built Madison Square Garden as a client, Lane tells Don that the home office in London doesn't think it will be worth it financially. "Why the hell did you buy us anyway?" Don asks, frustrated. "I don't know," answers Lane.

    81. "Seven Twenty Three" (Season 3, Episode 7)

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    Writers: Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Daisy Von Scherler Mayer

    "Seven Twenty Three" offers some narrative experimentation, in that we see flashes from Don's, Betty's, and Peggy's lives that end up occurring later in the episode. It doesn't really pay off. But the events of the episode are important enough, with Conrad Hilton (Chelcie Ross) offering Don his New York hotels as a client, Betty coming up with an excuse to call and later meet with Henry, Don getting into a dangerous situation with hitchhikers who mug him, and Peggy pushing Don too far in this episode. It's not unreasonable for her to ask to work on the Hilton account, but if she's going to always ask him for things, eventually he's going to take his misery out on her. And he does. Under pressure from the company to sign a three-year contract, he snaps: "You were my secretary. And now you have an office and a job that a lot of full-grown men would kill for. Every time I turn around, you've got your hand in my pocket. You want a raise; you want this account. Put your nose down and pay attention to your work. Because there's not one thing that you've done here that I couldn't live without." Moss tears up just the right amount here. And it drives her into Duck's bed.

    In the end, signing the contract is a non-event, since Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) β€” who knows Don is not who he says he is β€” simply blackmails Don into doing it. "After all, when it comes down to it, who's really signing this contract anyway," Bert says, satisfied.

    80. "Souvenir" (Season 3, Episode 8)

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    Writers: Lisa Albert and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Phil Abraham

    "Souvenir" marks the beginning of the end for Betty and Don β€” or one of them, anyway. Henry kisses Betty for the first time, a memory she can't erase even after she impulsively joins Don on a Conrad Hilton–commanded trip to Rome. They have such a good time that when they get home, Don thinks their honeymoon spirit might carry over β€” but no.

    "Souvenir" has become an infamous episode because it's when a significant number of viewers assumed β€” from what we were shown β€” that Pete rapes his neighbors' nanny. Alone in his apartment during the dog days of August, he runs into Gudrun (Nina Rausch), the German nanny on his floor whose charges are away. She's crying because she has ruined her boss' dress, which Pete decides to fix for her: He goes to Bonwit Teller (running into an ashamed Joan, who is working there) and swaps it out for a new one. He expects the favor to be returned sexually, but Gudrun tells him she has a boyfriend. Pete gets drunk and goes back to her, telling her that he feels he deserves to see the dress on her. She takes him into her bedroom, where he closes the door, tells her he wants to kiss her, and kisses her. She kisses him back as he moves her toward the bed. In the aftermath, the kids' father comes to see Pete to tell him she spent a day crying; and Pete himself appears to have a festering guilty conscience β€” more than any guilt we see him experience any other time.

    It seemed clear: Pete raped her. But both Kartheiser and Weiner have said over the years that it's not the case. Kartheiser told the Wall Street Journal a year after the episode aired, "That actress just didn’t want to smooch me. She changed the whole course of Pete Campbell. And Matthew [Weiner] was all, 'You didn’t rape her! I don’t know why people are saying you raped her! That wasn’t supposed to be rape!'" Personally, I'm fine with a Mad Men in which Pete is a rapist β€” but it would be better for the character's development if Weiner meant that to be the actual text instead of an accident. It's a show in which authorial intent has always been paramount, so this is a pretty fascinating, and disturbing, mishap.

    79. "Hands and Knees" (Season 4, Episode 10)

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    Writers: Jonathan Abrams and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Lynn Shelton

    "Hands and Knees" tees up stories that pay off at the end of Season 4, but doesn't get far on its own. Joan tells Roger she is pregnant, that it's his baby, and that she's going to get an abortion. Lane's terrifying father (W. Morgan Sheppard) comes to get him to bring him back to London and to his family, and we find out that Lane is in scandalous love with a Playboy Bunny named Toni (who is black, and played by Naturi Naughton). Lee Garner Jr. (Darren Pettie) gives Roger the devastating news that Lucky Strike is dropping SCDP. Roger begs him for 30 days so he can try to figure out what to do, and Lee says OK.

    Separately, when SCDP comes close to getting lots of money from North American Aviation, an account Pete has been working on since "The Jet Set," the company runs security checks on everyone who'd be working on the account β€” which sends Don into a panic. After Faye watches Don break out in a sweat, think he's having a heart attack, and vomit, he tells her about his real identity. It brings them together...for about a minute. It's Megan who can actually serve his needs when she brings him the Beatles tickets he's been waiting for so he can take Sally to go see them at Shea Stadium. And at the end of the episode, Don really looks at Megan for the first time. He has just told Faye his secret, and she feels closer to him than ever. But if it seemed on first viewing of "Hands and Knees" that Faye was someone Don wanted to know him, looking back, she just happened to be in his presence when he was so anxious about being discovered that he had to talk to somebody.

    78. "Chinese Wall" (Season 4, Episode 11)

    AMC

    Writer: Erin Levy

    Director: Phil Abraham

    More water-treading in the episode that follows "Hands and Knees." Ken (Aaron Staton) runs into an acquaintance who tells him that Lucky Strike is dropping them, so Roger has to come up with an elaborate fiction that he hadn't known. He even fakes flying to North Carolina to meet with Lee Garner Jr. β€” when in fact, he's hiding in a Manhattan hotel room.

    Joan is the only one he tells, which leads to a terrific, revealing scene with them when he comes to her apartment to be taken in by her (and, pointedly, not by Jane, his wife). Joan puts him off sexually. "You always say that," Roger says. "And then you come back to me because we belong together." He continues: "I need you right now." "Because I'm a port in a storm?" Joan asks, frustrated. "No, because I feel like shit and you care about me," Roger shoots back.

    Roger and Joan's relationship is rarely at the center of Mad Men, but it's a unique, deep portrait of two people who know and love each other. Hendricks and Slattery always play off each other perfectly; Joan and Roger are two people who aren't usually taken seriously in their lives, but they have each other.

    The title of "Chinese Wall" refers to a rule Faye has with her clients, which Don manipulates her into violating because he's desperate to find new business. By the time she comes back to him and tells him that she's set up a meeting for him with Heinz, she has no idea that he's already moved on β€” with Megan: This is the episode when they get together for the first time.

    (Oh, and there is a scene in "Chinese Wall" that is the flip of Don's failed attempt to inspire the troops toward the end of Season 7. As things start to fall apart for SCDP because of Lucky Strike, Don gives one of his rousing speeches: "We're going to overcome this and succeed tenfold β€” and it will be exhilarating!" "Time & Life" is exactly three seasons later β€” that's a great payoff.)

    77. "To Have and to Hold" (Season 6, Episode 3)

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    Writer: Erin Levy

    Director: Michael Uppendahl

    Betrayal is the theme of "To Have and to Hold," which takes its title from Megan's soap opera. Megan gets word from Arlene (Joanna Going) β€” a star of the show and the wife of its producer, Mel (Ted McGinley) β€” that she'll be getting her first love story, and she tells Don in order to be straight with him. A dinner with Arlene and Mel in which they unsuccessfully hit on Don and Megan seems to bond them together in horror, but by the end of the episode, Don is once again having sex with Sylvia. He goes to her after a vicious fight with Megan in her dressing room when he visits her to watch her kiss another man. "You kiss people for money," Don bellows at her. Megan replies witheringly: "You couldn't stop it. So I guess ruining it was enough for you."

    Oy, these two. Don also cheats on Heinz Beans in order to try to get Heinz Ketchup. They think they're the only agency in the running, but after Stan (Jay R. Ferguson) confides in Peggy during one of their nightly phone calls β€” they're at rival agencies at this point β€” her boss Ted (Kevin Rahm) finds out and worms his way in. Neither agency gets it, but Raymond from Heinz Beans finds out, and calls Ken irate β€” he fires them from the account.

    In other betrayal news, Joan's friend Kate (Marley Shelton) visits, and though she's married, she wants to have a one-night stand and drags Joan along with her. She also tells Joan how impressive her life is, which Joan needs to hear, considering Harry has humiliated her in front of all the partners. (She fired his secretary for having Dawn punch her time card for her, and Harry goes into a rage. "I'm sorry my accomplishments happen in broad daylight and I can't be given the same rewards," he yells in the conference room. He demands to be made a partner, but Roger and Bert scoff at him.)

    And: In the first scene in Mad Men's history that's a conversation between two black people, Dawn meets her friend Nikki (Idara Victor) at a diner, and we get to see what Dawn really thinks of her job: "Everybody's scared there. Women crying in the ladies room, men crying in the elevator." Sounds right!

    76. "Babylon" (Season 1, Episode 6)

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    Writers: Andre Jacquemetton and Maria Jacquemetton

    Director: Andrew Bernstein

    The women of Mad Men deepen in this Season 1 episode. We learn that Joan and Roger are having an affair, and it's the start of the dynamic we see between them for years to come: He is overly effusive, and she protects herself. She has to, of course. "Do you have any idea how unhappy I was before I met you?" he asks her in their hotel room. "I was thinking of leaving my wife." On Mother's Day, Betty is in a confessional, open mood, and tells Don how much she wants him. "I mean it; it's all I think about every day," she tells him. He responds: "You have me. You do."

    But of course that's not true. He's pining for Rachel Menken, whom he cajoles into lunch with the excuse of asking her for ideas for an Israeli tourism board pitch (a tiresome thread through the story). But he can't get Rachel, so he settles for Midge (Rosemarie DeWitt), and as a result ends up in a folkie coffee house listening to poetry that begins, "Last night, I dreamed of making love to Fidel Castro…" Seeing Don in a coffee house with Midge and her angry hippie friend reminds viewers that there is another world outside of Don's, and it's about to take over. "How do you sleep at night?" Midge's friend asks him, after finding out Don is in advertising. "On a bed made of money," Don answers.

    Most important of all, "Babylon" is the beginning of the ascent of Peggy. During a focus group on Belle Jolie lipstick with all of the Sterling Cooper women, she inadvertently shines. "Here's your basket of kisses," she says to Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray), handing him back the tissues the women used. It ends up being her first opportunity to help write copy after Freddy tells Don, "She really stood out, brainstorming-wise." The seeds of Don thinking of Peggy differently have been planted β€” by Freddy Rumsen!

    75. "Marriage of Figaro" (Season 1, Episode 3)

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    Writer: Tom Palmer

    Director: Ed Bianchi

    This is a moody episode β€” you may remember it as the one with little Sally's birthday, when Don, trapped by his suburban life, leaves to go get her cake and never returns. (Though he does eventually come back with a dog for Sally.) Pete gets back from his honeymoon to an office prank: "Who put the Chinaman in my office?" he asks, after discovering an Asian family and a chicken waiting for him. Don and Rachel kiss after forging what seems to be an actual bond. Season 1 is when Mad Men was on the nose in showing us that look, pregnant women used to smoke and drink with impunity (embodied in Betty's friend Francine, played by Anne Dudek). We also meet Helen Bishop (Darby Stanchfield), the new divorced woman in the neighborhood who is a threat to conformity, and her son, Glen (Marten Weiner, the son of Matthew).

    "Marriage of Figaro" is also when we first hear the name "Dick Whitman" after Don runs into a long-lost army pal on the train. "Old Dick Whitman β€” what are the chances?" the guy says to him. Don is destabilized for the rest of the episode. And so are we. Watching this episode the first time, I wondered whether Mad Men was for me. It offers much more now.

    74. "My Old Kentucky Home" (Season 3, Episode 3)

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    Writers: Dahvi Waller and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Jennifer Getzinger

    On a Saturday, in two different worlds, Roger and Jane (Peyton List) have a garden party while Peggy, Smitty (Patrick Cavanaugh), and Paul smoke pot at the office while brainstorming for a Bacardi account. There are a few classic bits of dialogue in this episode, such as, "I'm Peggy Olson. And I want to smoke some marijuana." And when Roger decides to call Don on his icy treatment, he says, "You know, my mother was right. It's a mistake to be conspicuously happy. Some people don't like it." To which Don responds, "No one thinks you're happy. They think you're foolish." The Conrad Hilton character is introduced here; he and Don, who doesn't know with whom he's speaking, have a conversation over a drink as they both escape their respective parties. And Henry, an acquaintance of Roger's, flirts with Betty right from the start, even though she's clearly pregnant. "I wish you were waiting for me," he says to her upon first meeting. Later, Bert introduces her and Don to Henry, whose name she hadn't gotten even though he does touch her stomach.

    It's also an episode for the Mad Men musical theater kids to shine β€” the actors themselves, that is: Joan sings in French and plays the accordion to impress Greg's boss; Pete and Trudy clear the dance floor during the Charleston; Paul sings to prove he can; and Roger serenades Jane β€” in blackface.

    73. "The Inheritance" (Season 2, Episode 10)

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    Writers: Lisa Albert, Marti Noxon, and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Andrew Bernstein

    Betty's father, Gene, has had a stroke β€” another one, as she finds out β€” and she and Don have to pretend they're not separated when they go to visit to see whether he is OK. He is not OK. He doesn’t know who Betty is, and he says inappropriate things. Everyone is pretending otherwise (it's a house full of people faking things) except for Betty's childhood maid, Viola. "He's very, very sick," Viola tells Betty. "You don't know how nice it is to hear someone say that," she answers. When Viola says it will only get worse, Betty breaks down: "I'm an orphan." Viola hugs her: "You're supposed to take care of your husband and your beautiful children now. They are yours." Don is not Betty's β€” though they do have sex in this episode, and conceive Gene 2.0 β€” but in Viola (Aloma Wright) it is nice to see someone Betty loves who loves her back.

    As soon as she and Don get back to their house, she sends him away again, but she does get to pass on the comfort she received from Viola: to Glen. He's run away, and has been hiding in the playhouse in their backyard. "I came to rescue you," he says to Betty. "Did you bring your cape?" she asks. (But he's serious β€” and when she calls his mother, because of course she must, he turns to Betty and says, "I hate you.")

    Back at the office, Don realizes that there's not much tethering him there, and he decides to accompany Pete to a convention in Los Angeles (taking Paul's spot). It's the show's first trip to Los Angeles, a place of symbolic significance for Mad Men. Peggy puts it perfectly: "I've heard it's very hard to get anything done there because of the weather, you know? People don't work."

    72. "Indian Summer" (Season 1, Episode 11)

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    Writers: Tom Palmer and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Tim Hunter

    Besides an October heat wave, the through line of this episode is women's orgasms through mechanical means. Peggy gets her second account, one that leads to her first promotion, from a mechanical weight-loss thingamabob that turns out to be a vibrator. "You definitely feel something that I think some women would like to feel," she says to Don after road testing it, and being very surprised. Roger comes back to work too early after his heart attack in order to show the Lucky Strike guys that he's OK β€” but he collapses in front of them instead. Which then results in Don's promotion: Bert makes him a partner. "Peggy, we have both had very good days. You may leave your post," Don says to her toward the end of the episode. He's going home to Betty, who is so starved for attention at this point that she has rubbed up against a rumbling dryer while fantasizing about an AC salesman who got close to her in recent days.

    "Indian Summer" sets things up for the Season 1 finale: Don gets closer to Rachel, Don's long-lost half-brother Adam Whitman (Jay Paulson) commits suicide, Pete receives the package Adam sent to Don, and Peggy's form continues to expand.

    71. "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" (Season 4, Episode 5)

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    Writer: Erin Levy

    Director: Lesli Linka Glatter

    Season 4 is sure-footed and tonally even until this episode, which is scattered by Mad Men standards. Ted Chaough, from the firm Cutler, Gleason, and Chaough, and whose last name Don mentioned in "The Rejected," emerges as a rival here. A New York Times reporter calls Don to ask him about something Ted said after he gets the Clearasil account: "Every time Don Draper looks in his rearview mirror, he sees me." Does Don have a response? "I've never heard of him," he says, lying. They end up competing over Honda motorcycles, an account Roger, who fought in World War II against the Japanese, is hell-bent on losing before they even begin. He bursts into their initial meeting with Honda: "We don't want any of your Jap crap! So, sayonara!" As it turns out, Honda was never really in play anyway, but Don does figure out a way to trick Ted and come out on top. (This time.)

    With his family life, Don is not doing as well. Sally has begun her many years of acting out β€” as she should β€” first cutting her own hair and then touching herself (and getting caught) at a sleepover. Betty, who I would argue until now has been doing the best she can as a parent, handles all of this terribly. She slaps Sally after the hair butchering, and shames her after the masturbating. "You don't do those things," she says. "You don't do them in private, and you especially don't do them in public."

    This episode may signify the moment when a sea of Mad Men viewers turned against Betty forever, if they hadn't already. I always found her to be a fascinating portrait of a sad, lonely woman caught between generational possibilities and expectations β€” that she will ultimately die having been thwarted and disappointed so often makes her story that much sadder. However you feel about Betty, she does get Sally help in the form of a doctor who won't spill her secrets to an authority figure. Which turns into a session for Betty herself. "I feel like Sally did this to punish me somehow for everything," she says.

    70. "The Doorway" (Season 6, Episode 1)

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    Writer: Matthew Weiner

    Director: Scott Hornbacher

    A doleful two-hour opener for Season 6 that answers the fifth season's cliffhanger β€” if there was even a question β€” about whether Don would begin cheating on Megan: Yes.

    Since Don doesn't speak to another person for the episode's first seven minutes, the proceedings all have a dreamy quality. Death is in the air, as it was throughout Season 5. Don is reading Dante's Inferno on a Hawaii beach during a work-sponsored reconnaissance trip with Megan for the Royal Hawaiian Hotel; Roger's mother dies; and Roger's shoe-shine guy dies (which is what finally causes him to cry).

    Most significantly, Don and Megan witness their doorman's collapse and his revival at the hands of Dr. Arnold Rosen (Brian Markinson), their neighbor, along with his wife, Sylvia. It seems like Don has finally made a friend in Arnold β€” who even says while visiting Don at the office, "All right, enough flirting…" But no, he hasn't. He is fucking Sylvia and they are both betraying Arnold, a heart surgeon whose professional life Don finds admirable.

    It's Slattery who gives the episode a jolt, as Roger deals with his mother's death, at first glibly and then wretchedly. Her funeral is a wonderful sequence, with Roger now the unlikely patriarch, a wasted Don vomiting on the floor, Roger storming out because his ex-wife Mona (Talia Balsam) brings a date, and then Roger going upstairs to sulk. When Mona finds him, we get another example of the chemistry between this real-life couple β€” Slattery and Balsam are married β€” as he hits on her and she rejects him. "Roger Sterling, no matter what you do, everyone loves you," Mona tells him. "What you're seeing is them worried about how you feel about them." Also, seeing Roger in psychoanalysis is a wonderful thing, especially because he can't stand a one-way conversation, and his doctor keeps having to reprimand him.

    Elsewhere, Betty makes a very strange child-rape joke to Henry about one of Sally's friends ("She's just in the next room. Why don't you go in there and rape her? I'll hold her arms down.") and visits an East Village squat (she dyes her hair black afterward). Bob Benson (James Wolk) has joined the firm, and Ken is onto him immediately. Peggy is doing well at her work at CGC, and while out from under Don's thumb, she is able to freely use his methods. Megan has just started on To Have and to Hold, and her character is villainous. (Some Mad Men viewers, the Megan-hating kind, might have thought this turn spoke to them.)

    Roger gets the best line of "The Doorway," though. After Don frightens the Sheraton clients with a campaign idea for Royal Hawaiian that conjures images of suicide for them, Roger asks him, "What's the matter, you didn't get all of your vomiting done at my mother's funeral?"

    69. "Time Zones," (Season 7, Episode 1)

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    Writer: Matthew Weiner

    Director: Scott Hornbacher

    In the Season 6 finale, "In Care Of," Don told a riveting, moving story about his horrible childhood, confessing another important truth about his life in the brothel. Unfortunately, he did it during a Hershey's pitch, and was suspended as a result. Two months later, he's so desperate to keep up the façade that he's working that not only has he not told anyone in his life that he's on leave — not even Megan — but he's also playing Cyrano to Freddy Rumsen, who freelances for Sterling Cooper & Partners and other agencies.

    Don does visit Megan in L.A., and things are strained between them β€” not that they talk about it honestly. He does open up to a stranger (played by Neve Campbell) on the plane back to New York. "She knows I'm a terrible husband," he tells the woman, easily. "How long have you been married?" she asks. "Not long enough," Don says. "I really thought I could do it this time."

    If Don is at sea out of the office, Peggy is lost within it. She is still intensely pained by losing Ted β€” to his wife and kids, to Los Angeles β€” and seeing him at work during a brief visit reopens the wound. Also, Don's replacement, the blowhard Lou Avery (Allan Havey), doesn't try to hide his dislike of Peggy. She doesn't stand a chance with an old-school hack like Lou, but if it's making her appreciate her relationship with Don, she doesn't let on. "I don't know, Peggy. I guess I'm immune to your charms," he tells her. It's all too much for her to handle. Alone in her apartment at the end of the episode, when she finally doesn't have to appear to be holding it together, Peggy is struck down to her knees by grief.

    68. "A Tale of Two Cities" (Season 6, Episode 9)

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    Writers: Janet Leahy and Matthew Weiner

    Director: John Slattery

    We start to see the true colors of Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin) in "A Tale of Two Cities" as he begins to plot against the SCDP half of the agency, even as the merged company finally comes up with its new name: Sterling Cooper & Partners. Also, Joan takes her first step toward being an account executive, and she does it with Peggy's (at first reluctant) help. Joan's friend Kate (whom we met in "To Have and to Hold") is now at Avon, and has set Joan up with its new head of marketing. Joan thinks it's a date, but is pleasantly shocked when he starts asking her professional advice. She seizes the opportunity to land Avon as a client; unsurprisingly, no one at work thinks she can do it, so she has to sneak around Pete to assert herself. Peggy at first scolds Joan for roping her into this scheme, and they bicker about it, with some old resentments bubbling up. "You were so brave letting Don carry you to the deep end of the pool," Joan says. Peggy answers defensively, as if by rote, not realizing that she'll be hurting Joan's feelings when she says, "I never slept with him." Joan is wounded for a moment: "Congratulations. You really are just like them." In the end, Peggy rescues Joan from Ted and Pete, who've taken her into the conference room to yell at her for going for Avon on her own.

    These machinations are more pleasurable than the episode's tale of the other city: Don, Roger, and Harry go to Los Angeles to try to woo Carnation and Sunkist. They go to a party, where they run into Danny Siegel (Danny Strong), the wee erstwhile SCDP employee who's gone Hollywood; Don smokes from a hookah and hallucinates β€” and then he falls into the pool and nearly drowns. (Mad Men usually excels in drug scenes, which is hard to do. But not here.)

    67. "Long Weekend" (Season 1, Episode 10)

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    Writers: Bridget Bedard, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Tim Hunter

    Roger has a heart attack and a temporary come-to-Jesus moment, Joan's hardened shell cracks, Betty's father has already found a replacement for her recently dead mother, and Don finally gets Rachel Menken to have sex with him.

    All of this happens on a sweaty Labor Day weekend episode in which the men of Sterling Cooper also realize that Richard Nixon, their preferred candidate and client, is going to lose to John Kennedy. With his wife away for the long weekend, Roger tries to get Joan to go see The Apartment with him. "The way those men treated that poor girl, handing her around like a tray of canapΓ©s?" she answers. Clearly, she's seen it. She opts for a night out with her roommate, Carol (Kate Norby), who unexpectedly professes her sapphic love to Joan (who is not receptive).

    Roger is left to woo a 20-year-old who's come in for a casting, and when they have sex for the second time on his office floor, he has a coronary. Luckily, Don is there to clean up after him. It also gives Don a good excuse not to go down to Cape May to meet Betty and the kids. He ends up pouring himself into Rachel's apartment and, after they have sex more heartfelt than Don is used to, he tells her that his mother was a prostitute, she died while giving birth to him, his father and stepmother raised him, and then after his father died, he lived with his stepmother and another man. "I was raised by those two sorry people," he says mournfully. (Lived with them in a whorehouse, he means β€”Β but again, that important part of Dick's story wasn't part of the narrative then.)

    66. "The Color Blue" (Season 3, Episode 10)

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    Writers: Kater Gordon and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Michael Uppendahl

    A key moment in Mad Men occurs in this episode: Betty discovers Don's past. He leaves the key to his desk drawer β€” the one in which he's secreted away evidence of his former life, but also his possible future one with all that cash β€” in a robe she washes, and she finds it in the dryer. She's triumphant at first, but then as she goes through the money, the Whitman family photographs that include her husband, the dog tags that say "Whitman, Richard," a deed to a house in Long Beach, California, and divorce papers from a woman named "Anna Draper," she gets freaked out. Understandably. Part of her longs for a dramatic confrontation with Don β€” or whoever he is β€” and she sits with a glass of red wine, a cigarette, and the box waiting for him to come home. His affair with Miss Farrell is in full swing, though, so he never does, so Betty decides to silently resent him instead. It's the 40th anniversary of Sterling Cooper, and there's a black-tie event at the Waldorf to celebrate. "I want to show you off, Bets," Don says to her on the phone. Little does anyone know β€” except for Lane, who is not happy about it β€” that the Brits of PPL are planning to sell Sterling Cooper.

    65. "The Arrangements" (Season 3, Episode 4)

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    Writers: Andrew Colville and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Michael Uppendahl

    There's a lot going on in "The Arrangements": the agency gets a new client β€” an idiot rich kid, Horace Cook Jr. (Aaron Stanford), who is determined to spread jai alai in America; Sal gets a chance to direct a commercial for Patio, Pepsi's new diet soda, and while acting out his vision of it (an adaptation of the title song from Bye Bye Birdie) for his wife, Kitty (Sarah Drew), she realizes he's gay; Peggy decides to move to Manhattan and her mother's spiteful response β€” "You'll get raped, you know that?" β€” is less than ideal (though Peggy's sister insists, "That wasn't so bad"); but most of all, this episode is a moving portrait of the relationship between Betty's father, Gene, and Sally.

    What began as her reading to him (and stealing money from him) in "My Old Kentucky Home” expands to a loving understanding. Sally doesn't care if he forgets things; he pays attention to her. One of the pleasures of watching Mad Men has always been watching unlikely characters come to the forefront β€” and here is when Shipka showed us what she could do. After her grandfather dies in the A&P (off camera), Sally is despondent. She sits under the dining room table listening to Don, Betty, Betty's brother William (Eric Ladin), and William's wife (Megan Henning) talking about Gene. When she hears them laugh, she yells at them: "He's dead! And he's never coming back! Nobody cares that he's really, really, really gone."

    Betty sends Sally off to watch TV, and she lies in front of a news broadcast showing an image of Thích Quảng Đức, the Vietnamese monk who self-immolated in protest of the South Vietnamese government on June 11, 1963. This is what happens when there's no grown-up around to care about Sally.

    64. "Man With a Plan" (Season 6, Episode 6)

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    Writers: Semi Challas and Matthew Weiner

    Director: John Slattery

    Don tries power games both at work and in his affair with Sylvia, and neither works.

    The merged agency of SCDP and CGC is now in effect, and Don decides he needs to one-up Ted, his former competitor, by getting him wasted at work. We get a fun glimpse into what we didn't see in "For Immediate Release," which is their brainstorming process together. Ted asks, "Is this going to be Detroit again? You're going to lie down on the couch while I pace?" Instead, Don flattens him with alcohol. Peggy is onto Don, though. She says, "When you told me about the merger, I hoped he would rub off on you. Not the other way around." Don can't believe her hubris, that she thinks merging the agencies was a ploy to get her back. "Peggy, he's a grown man," he says dismissively. Throwing his own advice from "The New Girl" back at him, she replies, "So are you! Move forward." Ted soon gets a leg up on Don when he flies them in his private plane in a rainstorm to go see Mohawk Airlines as Don white-knuckles it.

    Simultaneously, Don β€” who is at this point completely checked out from his relationship with Megan β€” is engaging in sexual dominance games with Sylvia during assignations at the Sherry-Netherland hotel. He sends her a dress from Saks to put on and wait for him, and when she thinks that means they're going out, he says in his Don Draper-iest baritone, "Why would you think you're going anywhere? You are for me. You exist in this room for my pleasure." Sylvia is into it, but in the end, it seems to push her to dump him. "It's easy to give up something when you're satisfied," Don says, trying to change her mind. Sylvia's response: "It's easy to give up something when you're ashamed."

    Meanwhile, Bob Benson, the charming sneak, manages not to get fired by helping Joan when she's sick at work; grateful afterward, she convinces the other partners that he's less expendable than someone else as they make a layoff list. The episode ends on June 5, 1968, after Bobby Kennedy is assassinated. It's such a horrible flashback to JFK's death that Pete thinks his dementia-stricken mother (Channing Chase) is mixing up time (and Kennedys) when she wakes him to tell him the news.

    63. "Out of Town" (Season 3, Episode 1)

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    Writer: Matthew Weiner

    Director: Phil Abraham

    Don and Betty are back together (after the events of "Meditations in an Emergency") and she is visibly, uncomfortably pregnant. They even seem a little happy. But happiness in Don always comes with darkness, and this season premiere opens with Don warming milk for Betty as he imagines the scenario of his own birth. First, he sees Abigail Whitman (Brynn Horrocks) giving birth to a stillborn. Then he sees Archie (Joseph Culp), his father, going to a prostitute, who says to him, "You don't have a sheath." She has sex with him anyway, gets pregnant, gives birth, dies, and then baby Dick is taken to Abigail and Archie's house to begin his miserable life. But it's all good at the Draper house! Really, things seem OK right now.

    At work, the PPL managers have taken over, and for the first time we see Lane, who has an imperious assistant, John Hooker (Ryan Cartwright). (Peggy calls him Moneypenny behind his back, and in a delightful conversation with Joan, Joan snaps, "Don't call him that. He hates that!") Ken and Pete are now running accounts together, and while Ken is fine with the divided job, Pete, predictably, is not.

    Don and Sal travel to Baltimore together to assure their London Fog account that all is well after the merger. They have a drunken dinner with some stewardesses from their plane, one of whom goes up to Don's room with him (answering the question of whether happiness with Betty inspires fidelity). Sal goes to his own room, and calls up for someone to fix the air conditioner. After a handsome elevator man fixes it, he makes a pass at Sal, who trembles with happiness as they begin to fool around. That this encounter is not only interrupted by a fire alarm, but also that the hotel evacuation allows Don to see what was happening from the fire escape underlines Sal's tragic situation. Luckily, Don has too many secrets to care about anyone else's, as he makes clear to Sal during their trip home.

    62. "Three Sundays" (Season 2, Episode 4)

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    Writers: Andre Jacquemetton and Maria Jacquemetton

    Director: Tim Hunter

    "Three Sundays" has a deliberate lazy Sunday feeling to it β€” at one point, Don and Betty get so drunk hanging around their house and drinking Sally's all-vodka Bloody Marys that they forget to give their kids dinner. Sunday means church for some, and this episode is when Peggy meets Father John (Colin Hanks), her family priest who is drawn to her. It's also when Roger β€” who has been careful since his heart attack β€” dips his toe back into hedonism again after he meets Vicky (Marguerite Moreau), an expensive prostitute.

    And most important, Don and Betty clash over parenting: As in, Betty wants Don to be one. In Betty’s rigid, perfection-seeking estimation, Bobby is misbehaving β€” by spilling and breaking things β€” and she thinks the solution is for Don to spank him. It's a can of worms Betty shouldn't open. After Sterling Cooper puts in a massive effort to get to pitch American Airlines, a subplot that began in "Flight 1," their contact there is fired so they don't stand a chance.

    Don comes home from this frustrating experience to Betty scolding him about disciplining Bobby (then played by Aaron Hart), and he flips out, scaring all of them. Don shouts at Betty: "You want me to bring home what I got at the office today? I'll put you through that window." She shoves him; he shoves her back. Later in bed, Betty wants an apology. "He's a little kid," Don tells her. "My father beat the hell out of me. All it did was make me fantasize about the day I could murder him." Another window opens into Don's childhood β€” and yikes.

    61. "Waldorf Stories" (Season 4, Episode 6)

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    Writers: Brett Johnson and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Scott Hornbacher

    In retrospect, "Waldorf Stories" is memorable for not only introducing Stan, but for immediately bringing Stan and Peggy together β€” to clash. Naked! Stan is the new art director as of this episode, and Peggy tells Don, "Your new art director has been waiting for synchronicity." They get stuck together on a deadline, and since Stan has told Peggy that "man's natural state is nude," she challenges him to work naked. It's a staring contest that she wins (because he can't stop having an erection).

    Peggy is upset that Don hasn't thanked her for her work on their Glo-coat campaign, which wins a Clio; and Roger is upset that Don hasn't thanked him either. Roger has mentioned before that he discovered Don, and here is when we see that play out in flashbacks. A cheaper-looking, eager-to-please, more bright-eyed Don works at the furrier where Roger has gone to buy Joan a fur coat. Don sees a way in with Roger, and by the end of the story, he has gotten Roger so drunk that he hires Don (or Don is at least able to convince Roger that that's what happened). Present-day Don suffers from similar blackout problems. They leak into his personal life β€” after he wins the Clio on a Friday, he goes on a bender that lasts until Sunday, and he misses picking up his kids.

    And while drunkenly pitching a campaign to Life cereal, he ends up stealing the tagline ("The cure for the common breakfast") of an idiot job candidate β€” Jane's cousin Danny Siegel β€” whom he then has to hire as a result. Duck is the cautionary tale, though. At the Clios, he heckles the presenter in front of the whole room, and has to be escorted out.

    60. "The Runaways" (Season 7, Episode 5)

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    Writers: David Iserson and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Christopher Manley

    The episode in which Ginsberg cuts off his nipple and Don and Megan have a threeway! It's a lot. The signs are there from the beginning that Ginsberg isn't only an eccentric, but delusional. He first appears in "Tea Leaves" after Peggy hires him even though he says everything wrong you can possibly say in a job interview. In "Far Away Places," he tells Peggy he's from Mars. He's never had sex and can't deal with women. He lies about living with his father. He's also brilliant, and people didn't know as much about mental illness in the late '60s, so his co-workers laugh it all off. But things worsen for Ginsberg when Harry's computer arrives at the office. "What am I, Cassandra? That machine came for us!" he shouts, among other things. He has a psychotic break, and presents Peggy with the nipple he has cut off. "It's my nipple," he says. "It's the valve." Ginsberg is then taken away on a stretcher and we never see him again.

    Over in Los Angeles, a pregnant Stephanie (Caity Lotz) β€” Anna's niece β€” calls Don from Los Angeles for money and support. He tells her to go to Megan, who at first greets her warmly, only to grow increasingly jealous of Stephanie's beauty and her connection with Don. (Dick, actually.) By the time Don is able to get out there, Stephanie, whom he was desperate to see, has left with a $1,000 check from Megan. She got the message.

    Megan has a party for her acting friends, and Don is not into it; he goes to a bar with Harry, who tells him that SC&P is trying to get a Philip Morris brand of cigarettes as a client β€” meaning, they would have to fire Don because of his New York Times letter blasting the tobacco industry. Don is pissed, but before he can think too much more about it, Megan and her friend Amy (Jenny Wade) lure him into sex. It's a last-ditch effort by Megan; she's seen someone who is truly close to Don, and it's not her and never will be.

    Don leaves the next day and crashes the cigarettes meeting with a strategy: How great would it look for Philip Morris to appear to have brought Don Draper to heel? Don puts Lou and Jim in a cab after impressing the smoking guys. "You think this is going to save you, don't you," Jim says. It's not a question.

    59. "The Grown-Ups" (Season 3 Episode 12)

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    Writers: Brett Johnson and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Barbet Schroeder

    Now that the truth is out between Don and Betty (see "The Gypsy and the Hobo"), they could at this point move forward, as Don would surely term it. But they don't; their relationship is dead, and Betty is the one who ends it. "I want to scream at you for ruining all of this," she says to him. "Then you tried to fix it. And there's no point. There's no point, Don." He has been treating Betty like she's a child, or like she's a hysteric, for the duration of Mad Men, and that's how he tries to deal with this situation too. "Bets, don't. You're distraught," he says.

    But Don is the one who seems insane in "The Grown-Ups," which is when the show dramatized the characters' experience of the Kennedy assassination. He keeps saying everything will be OK, when it is clearly not the case. Earlier in the episode, at ill-timed wedding of Margaret Sterling (Elizabeth Rice), Don forces Betty to dance, and says to her, "Hey. Everything's gonna be fine." Her answer is sensible: "How do you know that?" He kisses her, which is partly public performance and partly that Don, who is paid to communicate, doesn't have an answer. That kiss helps drive Betty to Henry, who tells her that he would like to marry her. Having extracted that promise, Betty is done; Don doesn't stand a chance.

    Peggy and Don end up alone in the office on the day of Kennedy's funeral. At least the two people who have trouble handling emotional crises have each other.

    58. "Dark Shadows" (Season 5, Episode 8)

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    Writer: Erin Levy

    Director: Scott Hornbacher

    It's Thanksgiving time, 1966, and everyone's being competitive. Megan is jealous of her friend for getting to audition for (though they don't say the name) the vampire soap opera, Dark Shadows; Don is competing with Ginsberg, who he's realized is very good at copywriting; Roger is competing with Pete, and is trying to get a Manischewitz account behind his back; and Betty is feeling competitive with Don and Megan, especially after she sees their slick Park Avenue penthouse for the first time.

    She's feeling so spiteful β€” and is in an especially bad mood because she's dieting β€” that she tells Sally about Anna Draper when Sally is working on a family tree for school. Betty says it like it's nothing. At first, she gets what she wants from that, causing discord between Sally and Megan/Don. When Don is about to call Betty to yell at her, Megan insightfully says, "You think this is an accident? If you call her, you're giving her exactly what she wanted: the thrill of having poisoned us from 50 miles away." Later, Don tells Sally about Anna, and is honest about her. Sally realizes she had been to Anna's house (in "Tomorrowland") after Anna had died, and asks Don whether she's put that memory together correctly. "Yes," he says. "And I really wish you had met her."

    Roger is competing not only with Pete, but also with Jane's post-divorce apartment, which she told him she wanted so she could have a fresh start in a place with no memories of him. He ruins that for her by seducing her there after a dinner with the Manischewitz people (he asked her to pretend they were still together so they could see he had a Jewish wife). The next morning, she's sorrowful in a way we haven't seen Jane before. "You get everything you want, and you still had to do this," she says.

    But it's Betty on Thanksgiving Day who puts the exclamation point on the episode's theme. As they go around saying what they're thankful for, she says, "I'm thankful that I have everything that I want. And that no one else has anything better."

    57. "The Benefactor" (Season 2, Episode 3)

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    Writers: Matthew Weiner and Rick Cleveland

    Director: Lesli Linka Glatter

    Season 2 starts to go somewhere with this episode. Not coincidentally, Don also breaks his streak of loyalty to Betty by cheating on her with Bobbie (Melinda McGraw), the wife/manager of the insult comedian Jimmy Barrett (Patrick Fischler), who is the spokesman for Utz potato chips. Bobbie is aggressive with Don, grabbing him in his car when he tries to fend her off. Then Don uses that move against her when he and Betty are out to dinner at Lutece with Bobbie, Jimmy, and the owner of Utz and his wife, whom Jimmy had viciously insulted with fat jokes. Jimmy needs to apologize, but Bobbie tells Don that not only will Jimmy not, but also that she demands a raise for him β€” at which point, Don shoves his fingers inside her, and says, "Believe me, I will ruin him. Do what I say."

    Betty is having a more innocent dalliance: a flirtation with Arthur Case (Gabriel Mann) at her riding stables. He cites an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story to Betty β€” "A Diamond as Big as the Ritz" β€” but she doesn't get the reference. Still, that doesn't mean he doesn't keep acting like a Fitzgerald character to woo her. "You're so profoundly sad," Arthur says. "No, it's just my people are Nordic," Betty answers.

    The episode's title refers to what the Utz owner is to Jimmy, and why he must apologize. But it's also the name of the controversial episode of the (real) television show The Defenders that Harry tries to get Belle Jolie to advertise during because it's about abortion, and he knows every woman will find a way to watch it. Belle Jolie says no, but for having the good idea, Harry gets a raise and promotion to be the head (and only staffer) of Sterling Cooper's new TV department.

    56. "A Night to Remember" (Season 2, Episode 8)

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    Writer: Robin Veith and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Lesli Linka Glatter

    "A Night to Remember" is an interesting bookend to "The Benefactor" β€” Glatter directed both, and seeing Jimmy's Utz ad causes Betty to kick Don out of the house. He's gaslighting her about his affair with Bobbie (see more in "The Gold Violin"), and she can't take it anymore. It's as if Jimmy is talking to her in the commercial: "Am I crazy? I don't think so," he says. Betty is tired of being just a prop for Don. She throws a dinner party for his work people even though she's upset at him, and he turns her (inadvertently) into a one-woman focus group when she's bought Heineken for it β€” just as he had said at the office, every housewife would want to buy it if they made it look fancy in the grocery store. "Bets, I use our life all the time," he tells her after the party ends and she's hurt and angry. Don’s lies are starting to drive her insane, and she goes through all of his stuff β€” finding nothing (because she hasn't yet opened the desk drawer). "I would never do this to you," she says to Don. "How could you do this to me?"

    55. "Ladies Room" (Season 1, Episode 2)

    AMC

    Writer: Matthew Weiner

    Director: Alan Taylor

    This is a character-building episode, and one in which we meet Bert Cooper for the first time. There's also a smart sequence in "Ladies Room" when Peggy, who is already tired of the men at work β€” except for Pete, who is on his honeymoon β€” watches them looking at her. They are leering, if not predatory; she has been subjected to a gross Ken in this episode, and fended off the kiss of Paul, who had actually seemed like he was going to help her professionally by telling her that she might want to become a copywriter. When she complains to Joan β€” "I'm from Bay Ridge! We have manners!" β€” Joan is no help: "You're the new girl, and you're not much, so you might as well enjoy it while it lasts," she replies. Seeing things through Peggy's eyes does last, though β€” and Mad Men told us all the way back in its second episode that her gaze was crucial.

    Betty provides the parallel story to Peggy's in "Ladies Room." Her mother, we learn, died three months ago, and her life is so empty and she's so nervous that she's been losing feeling in her hands. She even crashes her car with Sally and Bobby in the back because she can't steer. On top of everything, Don is a stranger to her β€” "Who's in there?" she says to him while he sleeps. Don sends her to a psychiatrist (Andy Umberger), who reports everything back to him. "She's a very anxious young woman," the doctor says on the phone. "I think you're doing the right thing."

    54. "Six-Month Leave" Season 2, Episode 9

    AMC

    Writers: Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Michael Uppendahl

    Well, someone is listening to Don's "move forward" advice β€” and it's Roger. After Freddy gets so drunk at work that he pisses himself before an important client meeting, Pete tattles on him. Roger decides to fire Freddy, and takes a reluctant Don along with him to do it. It's a debauched night, with all three of them getting wasted, Freddy getting maudlin ("If I don't go into that office every day, who am I?"), and Don running into Jimmy and sucker-punching him. They say good-bye to Freddy and continue drinking. "That was a real Archibald Whitman maneuver," Don says to Roger about the punch, a bitter inside joke to himself. Roger presses Don for details on his separation from Betty β€” he's noticed that Don is obviously not living at home. He assumes Don feels guilty, but no. "Most of the time I'm just relieved," Don says, adding, "You have to move forward." The next day, Mona comes into Don's office to yell at him for inciting Roger. Don has no idea what she's talking about, but it becomes clear soon enough. Roger is leaving Mona for Jane. Roger is moving forward! And Peggy is moving upward, getting all of Freddy's old clients.

    (You may remember this episode more for the historic event swirling around it: the death of Marilyn Monroe, which Joan in particular mourns.)

    53. "The Gold Violin" (Season 2, Episode 7)

    AMC

    Writers: Jane Anderson, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Andrew Bernstein

    Don may be killing it at work β€” and he buys a Cadillac to reward himself for it β€” but his personal life is increasingly gross. And so is his Cadillac by the episode's end. Betty vengefully pukes in it after Jimmy tells her that Don and Bobbie clearly had sex: "All I know is I know her and you know him and there they are and they don't care where we are," he says. Jimmy is more explicit with Don: "You don't screw another man's wife. You're garbage. And you know it." Don does know it. Thinking about buying a new car makes him remember the first time he met Anna (Melinda Page Hamilton)β€” she finds him at a used car dealership where he is working.

    Don isn't the only one in "The Gold Violin" coming down from a high. Joan fires Jane (deservedly β€” Jane is awful), but Jane goes to Roger and appeals to him. It's not enough for Jane that Roger tells her just to come in on Monday as if it didn't happen, she has to lie about what he said to her, leaving Joan feeling betrayed. (We never see the actual origins of Jane and Roger's affair, so this is probably it.)

    The title of the episode is the name of Ken's most recent fiction effort, which he gives Sal to read. Sal invites Ken to his house for dinner where we see his veneer of a home life with Kitty. Sal's sole focus is on Ken, and he leaves Kitty out entirely. After Ken leaves, Kitty confronts Sal: "Do you even see me here?" Poor Kitty. And poor Sal.

    52. "Wee Small Hours" (Season 3, Episode 9)

    AMC

    Writers: Dahvi Waller and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Scott Hornbacher

    More than a full season later, poor Sal indeed. In its broad themes, "Wee Small Hours" is about privilege and secret lives. Don ends up firing Sal in this episode because Lucky Strike's Lee Garner Jr. makes a grotesque, drunken pass at Sal, which he rebuffs. Unfortunately, Lee then can't stand to have him around, so he demands Sal be fired (without saying why). When Sal tells Don what happened, he doesn't appear to believe that Sal said no (after all, Don never does). "Who do you think you're talking to?" he asks. Don has disgust in his voice β€” "You people," he adds.

    Maybe Don is smarting from his own experience being toyed with by a rich person: His father-son dynamic with Conrad Hilton reaches its apex in "Wee Small Hours," and then comes crashing down. Don listens to every word Connie says, especially when he's telling Don, "You're my angel, you know that? You're like a son." But he doesn't literally think Connie means he wants his Hilton campaign to revolve around putting a hotel on the moon. And that's the end of the parent-child relationship. In their parting, Connie speaks to Don cruelly: "What do you want from me, love? Your work is good. But when I say I want the moon, I expect the moon." Rich people expect you to do whatever they want on Mad Men.

    And after Connie cuts Don loose, Don returns to what he knows best β€” cheating. This is when he begins seeing Miss Farrell. Little does he know that Betty is also conducting an affair with Henry. She writes him letters in her head, but when they finally share a passionate kiss alone in his office, she says that it's too "tawdry." Betty is the marrying kind.

    The words of Martin Luther King Jr. loom over this episode. It's September 1963, and the 16th St. Baptist Church bombing has just happened. In Mad Men's world that means that Betty feels right saying to the Drapers' nanny, Carla (Deborah Lacey), who is listening to King's speech at the little girls' funeral, "It's really made me wonder about civil rights. Maybe it's not supposed to happen right now."

    51. "Maidenform" (Season 2, Episode 6)

    AMC

    Writer: Matthew Weiner

    Director: Phil Abraham

    Don has been smug about Duck, and has kept him at a distance β€” so much so that Duck says he still feels like an outsider after 18 months. But they have more in common than Don thinks. Duck's weakness is alcohol, and he wants to succumb to it. And so he has to say good-bye to Chauncey, the dog who loves him: He can't have a conscience around.

    Don has an awakening after Bobbie β€” with whom he's in a sexual relationship of mutual loathing β€” tells him that "the full Don Draper treatment" is a thing women gossip about. "I wanted it and I got it and it's better than they said," she tells him (after he's already told her to stop talking). He is horrified, and leaves her tied to a hotel room bed. At home the next morning, he is shaving, and Sally comes in for what should be a cute scene. "I'm not gonna talk," Sally says. "I don't want you to cut yourself." It's a close echo of his ugly conversation with Bobbie, and the full weight of what Bobbie said hits him as he looks in the mirror. (There could be a museum installation called "Don Draper Looks in the Mirror and Doesn't Like What He Sees." Next year at the Whitney!)

    50. "5G" (Season 1, Episode 5)

    AMC

    Writer: Matthew Weiner

    Director: Lesli Linka Glatter

    "I have a life. And it only goes in one direction: forward." That's what Don says to Adam, his half-brother, who has turned up at Sterling Cooper after seeing Don's picture because Don won an award. Adam is the overt sign that Don's identity is tenuous and that his life is falling apart (something Midge says to him in this episode). After all, he has several double lives happening at once β€” Adam is the first to ask, "Who is Donald Draper?" which is something we will hear again. And since Don is unwilling to give up his life, Adam is the one who has to go. There's something off about him anyway; if Don has managed to emerge from the hell of his childhood with a ruthless practicality, Adam's empty eyes and naive approach show that he bears its scars.

    We learn a few biographical details about Don/Dick here. That there was someone named Abigail whom Adam calls "mom," but Don says, "She wasn't my mother β€” she never let me forget that." In the end, he gives Adam $5,000 in cash to go away, and then has to tell Betty that they're "not that flush right now" when she suggests maybe they should buy a summer house (since Don hates her father, who owns a place in Cape May).

    In "5G," Peggy is starting to become an unwilling participant in Don's deceptions, and she confesses to Joan that she doesn't like it. "This job is odd," Peggy concludes.

    49. "Shoot" (Season 1, Episode 9)

    AMC

    Writesr: Chris Provenzano and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Paul Feig

    Everyone at Sterling Cooper starts to notice that Peggy has gained weight. When Joan talks to her about it, Peggy gets angry, and says, "I know what men think of you. That you're looking for a husband. And you're fun. And not in that order."

    But this episode is Betty's, and at one point Don says to her, "I would have done anything to have had a mother like you. Beautiful and kind, and filled with love. Like an angel." He's telling her that after she’s been used as part of a McCann-Erickson attempt to woo Don away (yes, we saw Richard Greene playing Jim Hobart this early in Mad Men). Betty has been tossed aside by them; her revived modeling career is over. So Don has gotten what he wanted twice: a raise from Roger to a $45,000 salary, and Betty at home where he wants her. Nevertheless, in Betty's brief time going back to work, we learn that she met Don when she was modeling for the fur company where he worked, and before she knew it, they were engaged and she was pregnant. "We moved to Ossining," she tells her psychiatrist. "Suddenly, I really felt so old." She also reveals that her mother was weight-obsessed, which was hard for Betty because "I like hot dogs." She reveals an anger toward her mother that she takes out on her doctor. "You don't listen to what I say, and then out of nowhere, you provoke me," she says to him.

    Betty shooting at pigeons β€” as she takes revenge on their neighbor for scaring Sally and Bobby (then Maxwell Huckabee) by threatening to shoot their dog β€” is the episode's famous final image. Mad Men over the years has developed a steady stable of directors, but "Shoot" is the only episode Feig (Freaks and Geeks, Bridesmaids, The Heat) ever did.

    48. "Christmas Comes but Once a Year" (Season 4, Episode 2)

    AMC

    Writers: Tracy McMillan and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Michael Uppendahl

    Dr. Faye puts Don in his place for the first time (but not the last), telling him, "I always forget: Nobody wants to think they're a type." If you don't know the significance of Megan, which no one watching this episode in August 2010 did, you didn't notice that both Dr. Faye and Megan are introduced in this episode. Dr. Faye has that scene with Don in which she shows herself to be formidable β€” and Megan is in it for two seconds when Joan asks her to do something menial.

    For the first three seasons of Mad Men, Don certainly had Sad Man potential, but it's in this episode when we see how other people are starting to see him. Joey (Matt Long), then the new guy, calls Don "pathetic" behind his back. His nurse neighbor, Phoebe (Nora Zehetner), says to him, unsolicited, "You're always drunk when you put your keys in the door. It's not good." And Allison (Alexa Alemanni), his secretary β€” his finally competent secretary β€” who is so good at her job that she blends into the background, gets choked up when she reads Don a letter from Sally with her and her brothers' Santa lists. Sally asks for a necklace and the next bit is, "Most of all, I'd like you to be here on Christmas morning to give it to me. But I know you can't be." Don is drunk and divorced and sexually irresponsible. Which is how he ruins his working relationship with Allison, who comes to his apartment only because he drunkenly forgets his keys at the office Christmas party and she has to bring them to him.

    Some ancillary characters get time in "Christmas Comes but Once a Year," which features the return of Freddy (it's not going to work out); Glen (it's not going to work out); and Lee Garner Jr. (it's really not going to work out). But Peggy gets the episode's best line, presented without context: "You're never going to get me to do anything Swedish people do."

    47. "The Rejected" (Season 4, Episode 4)

    AMC

    Writers: Keith Huff and Matthew Weiner

    Director: John Slattery

    "I wanted you to know I'm very sorry. Right now my life is very" β€” that’s how Don begins a letter of apology to Allison, who has broken down and told him she can't work for him anymore. He has hurt her to the point of indignity: "I don't say this easily, but you're not a good person!" she yells at him. She also throws something at him, causing breakage (and a scene at work). But Don's life is too "very" for him even to complete that sentence, so instead of doing so, he drunkenly collapses onto his couch.

    Joan's revenge on Don for this secretarial messiness takes the form of the delightful Miss Blankenship. Abe is also introduced in this episode, via Joyce (Zosia Mamet), whom Peggy meets in the Time-Life elevator. There's now a visible difference between Pete's trajectory and Peggy's, as demonstrated in the front of the office when Peggy is going to lunch with Joyce and her new arty friends, and Pete is going to an accounts lunch with his father-in-law and the SCDP higher-ups. They look at each other through the glass door, and they both feel a little sad in the scene, composed by first-time Mad Men director Slattery. (In "The Rejected," Trudy finds out she's pregnant, which is mostly happy news for Pete, and complicated news for Peggy.)

    Megan, notably, gets to really talk for the first time in this episode. During a Ponds focus group β€” led by Faye β€” she talks about her beauty regimen. "I'm of French extraction, and my mother has beautiful skin, and she never washes her face." Speaking of foreshadowing, when Harry, Pete, and Ken have lunch, and Pete asks Ken what it was like to work at McCann, Ken says, "It's the worst agency I've ever seen. The worst. My mother was a nurse at the state hospital in Vermont, and that was the last time I saw so many retarded people in one building."

    46. "Favors" (Season 6, Episode 10)

    AMC

    Writers: Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Jennifer Getzinger

    The rivalry between Don and Ted, at first as competitors and then as colleagues, is a layered one, in part because it exists more in Ted's and Peggy's minds than in Don's. They are scripted as opposites, but also cast that way: Rahm is light where Hamm is dark; Rahm has an open face that contrasts with Hamm's intense furrow; Rahm's voice is a tenor that sounds boyish compared to Hamm's low growl. At SC&P, they play chess with Peggy as a pawn, but Don's heart isn't usually in it: He has bigger problems, always. In "Favors," he's learned that the Arnolds' son, Mitchell (Hudson Thames), is likely to be drafted to go to Vietnam imminently, and he becomes fixated on helping β€” Don even puts the company's relationship with Chevy at risk by bringing it up at a work dinner, thinking maybe a company with defense contracts could help. At that point, Ted steps in, but instead of pillorying Don for his foolishness, he offers to help Mitchell. "But first you're going to have to stop the war," he says. Don misunderstands, because he just doesn't think about Ted that much: "I can't stop the war, Ted!" Ted responds, "Don't be an asshole, Don. The war you're waging on me. You're going to have to lower your weapons." It's not hard for Don to agree, since he's not really doing it on purpose, he's just doing what he wants without thinking of anyone else: as ever.

    As a reward for Don's help, Sylvia offers reconciliation, and that's when one of the most cringe-inducing moments in Mad Men's history happens: Sally walks in on Sylvia and Don having sex. "You make me sick!" Sally screams at him during dinner in front of both Megan and her friend. It's a shift for Sally that will have resonance throughout the rest of the series.

    Elsewhere, the subplot of Pete having to deal with his mother β€” which will wrap up violently and hilariously in "In Care Of," the Season 6 finale β€” yields a fun scene between Pete and Peggy when she tells him that his mother told her that she and Manolo (Andres Faucher), her nurse, are romantically involved. "Stop it, please!" Pete yells. "I don't even want to think about her brushing her teeth!"

    45. "Blowing Smoke" (Season 4, Episode 12)

    AMC

    Writers: Andre Jacquemetton and Maria Jacquemetton

    Director: John Slattery

    Season 4 inverts the usual pattern of Mad Men's seasons in that it starts out strong and then falls off a bit β€” until now. The kindling in "Hands and Knees" and "Chinese Wall" catches fire here: Don is completely panicked and desperate and they're not making any inroads with new clients β€” because no one thinks they'll be in business in six months.

    Running into Midge, who has turned into a junkie and has manufactured their meeting to seem like serendipity, for the first time in years doesn't help his nerves. After it's clear why she has found him (money), she describes heroin to Don as "like drinking a hundred bottles of whiskey while someone licks your tits." But he does buy a painting from her that ends up inspiring him (as does a conversation with Peggy in which she parrots back to him one of his mantras β€” "You always say, 'If you don't like what they're saying about you, change the conversation'"). Don writes a manifesto called "Why I'm Quitting Tobacco" and sends it to the New York Times. In it, he blasts cigarettes as a doomed product, and scolds the agencies that work with tobacco clients. "A product that never improves, causes illness, and makes people unhappy," he writes. "But there was money in it. A lot of money."

    When he comes into work the next day, everyone has read it β€” everyone. But Don's partners are furious at him. "No one asked you to euthanize this agency," Lane says. Don responds, "It's an ad for this agency. If you don't understand it, you shouldn't be in this business." Pete attacks him too: "You did what was best for you. Because you're impatient and childish." Don asks, "So no one is happy about this?" Roger shrugs: "I don't know. It's good not to be the reason this place went down anymore." Even if Don's strategy saves SCDP (which it does, of course), they still have to fire people. (Like Danny!) And the partners do have to put up cash to float the agency, money that Pete, a new father, doesn't have β€” and Trudy forbids him from putting any money in, anyway. (Don pays Pete's share.)

    Faye has to resign from SCDP because she can't afford to alienate tobacco clients, and she thinks this means that she and Don can come out as a couple now. As she goes, she makes a dinner plan with Don β€” somewhere public, she says. "Have your girl make a reservation," she says airily. Don's girl indeed: Slattery, who also directed this episode, constructs a sly shot early on in which Don and Faye are meeting in one room and Megan is in the background between them on the other side of a glass wall.

    It is possible, I think, to appreciate both Faye and Megan as characters, and to wish that Don were the sort of person who wanted to be with Faye but will only be with Megans. Because that is fascinating. And Megan in these early days is sharp, subservient, and optimistic, which is what Don wants. "I just love that you did it," she tells Don about the tobacco letter. "It feels different around here."

    One thing about this episode I had forgotten: Dr. Edna (Patricia Bethune), Sally's psychiatrist, tells both Sally and Betty that she has gotten better and doesn't need to come as much. "I said I'm very proud of you," she says to Sally. "Did you hear that?" Sally receives that compliment, and feels good. Betty, however, doesn't believe that Sally has improved, and also doesn't want to give up Dr. Edna for herself. Dr. Edna tells her frankly, "Betty, you can talk to me. But you know, I'm a child psychiatrist." Sadly, that's what Betty needs, and she manages to bend Dr. Edna to her will.

    Betty also catches Sally hanging out with Glen, which finally prompts her to want to move from the Draper house. Just to make Sally miserable. Sally goes to her room crying. "She'll get over it," Betty tells Henry.

    44. "A Little Kiss" (Season 5, Episode 1)

    AMC

    Writer: Matthew Weiner

    Director: Jennifer Getzinger

    The events of "Tomorrowland" β€” Don's shocking marriage proposal to Megan β€” take place in October 1965, and "A Little Kiss" picks up during Memorial Day weekend more than seven months later. (Though it was 18 months later in real life; Weiner's contract dispute with AMC occurred between Seasons 4 and 5.) In this season premiere, Don and Megan are now married, living in their fancy apartment, and have developed an intense sexual dynamic that affects everyone around them β€” in part because it's a spectacle. Not only do they glide into work late, and not only has Don promoted Megan to copywriter, but when she throws him a surprise 40th birthday party, she also stages a performance (it's "Zou Bisou Bisou"!) that scandalizes Don and all of their guests. While gossiping later with Joan, Lane refers to it as "a burlesque." Harry is cruder about it, saying to Stan, "I would have stood up and grabbed her little French behind…" Megan overhears this soliloquy, mortifying them both β€” but his vicious desire for her will circle back in Season 7 in "New Business."

    SCDP's financial crisis has stabilized, but Roger doesn't have much to do. While paying Harry off to switch offices with Pete (to prevent Pete from taking Roger's office), he tells Harry that he tried to get Jane to talk to him in a French accent after the party. "Nothing doing," he says. "She doesn't speak French, doesn't like me." (Roger represents the ugly pitfalls of marrying a secretary, and it's right there for Don to see if he thought of it.)

    Joan has had her baby, Kevin, and her mother, Gail (Christine Estabrook), is helping her take care of him. But all Joan wants is to work. When she sees SCDP’s ad in the paper saying they're an equal opportunity employer β€” a joke on Young & Rubicam, whose idiotic executives dropped water bombs at civil rights protesters β€” she panics, thinking she's going to be replaced. Lane assures her, "Mrs. Harris, the books have practically been held together with spit in your absence!" She cries with relief: "I just keep thinking about what's going on here, and I missed it too much. It's embarrassing." As an act of further kindness, Lane says, "It's just a matter of time before they find out I'm a sham."

    Sigh, Lane. Looking back, the signs of his downfall are clear. He's already in financial trouble (his son's tuition is late); he finds the wallet of a stranger and becomes obsessed with the man's mistress, even stealing her picture. For now, he's doing his job well, even when pranks like the equal opportunity ad mean they have to hire a black person they can't afford in order to avoid looking racist themselves.

    43. "Severance" (Season 7, Episode 8)

    AMC

    Writer: Matthew Weiner

    Director: Scott Hornbacher

    The beginning of the end of Mad Men β€” and if you thought the show was going to make a big deal of graduating into the β€˜70s, you were wrong. It's April 1970 (we last saw everyone in August 1969) and SC&P is now a subsidiary of McCann, operating (they think) independently. The signs are there that soon things will suck, though. Roger allows McCann's Ferg (Paul Johansson) to fire Ken too easily β€” Ferg is still holding a grudge from when Ken worked with him last time. "So you're gonna fire me because I hurt Ferg's feelings?" asks an incredulous Ken. He gets revenge by becoming the head of advertising at Dow (even though what he should be doing is writing fiction). Another terrible sign is that when Peggy and Joan have a meeting with McCann guys about Topaz pantyhose, they sexually harass Joan. She has the appropriate response when talking to Peggy afterward: "I want to burn this place down."

    Don is once again a bachelor; he comes home alone to four messages from four different women on his answering service. But he's haunted. And as he searches for connection, he thinks of Rachel Menken, whom he last saw when he ran into her in Season 2's "The New Girl," and she told him she was now Mrs. Katz. He trumps up a work reason to have business with Menken's department store, and asks his secretary Meredith (Stephanie Drake) to call her, only to find out that she died the previous week. In the hands of the bubble-voiced Meredith, the delivery of this news is almost funny, but he's shocked, saddened, and then goes to sit shiva for Rachel. As he lays out the events of his life to her sister, Barbara (Rebecca Creskoff), who knows full well who Don is once he introduces himself to her, they sound bleak. He asks how Rachel was. "She lived the life she wanted to live," she tells him pointedly. "She had everything." Don says, "Good," knowing that he will never live the life he wants to live, and has close to nothing.

    But Rachel isn't his only projection. Early in the episode, he meets Diana, a waitress at a greasy spoon diner that he and Roger and their three dates are slumming at; she's reading John Dos Passos' The 42nd Parallel, the first of the U.S.A. trilogy, which is a vast story told through an array of characters (sound familiar?) about the American boom in the 20th century. Don thinks he knows her, and when he returns to the diner another time, she takes him out to the alley and has sex with him, assuming that's why Roger left her a $100 bill for an $11 tab. Don tells her about Rachel's death. "When people die, everything gets mixed up," she says.

    Is Don really going to utilize the sorrow of another wounded, dark-haired woman in order to explore his own anguish? Is that all there is (a song we hear twice in the episode)? We will see where we end up; I trust Mad Men!

    42. "Person to Person" (Season 7, Episode 14)

    AMC

    Writer: Matthew Weiner

    Director: Matthew Weiner

    In the series finale, Don finally comes back to himself, but we don't get to see it. Throughout "Person to Person," he becomes even less recognizable than he has been throughout the final episodes. Sally tells him Betty is sick, and instead of coming home immediately, he ends up in an absurd situation with Stephanie β€” who is also behaving uncharacteristically. She, like Diana, has given up her child, and she too feels terrible guilt about it.

    She and Don go to a place that appears to be Esalen, the real-life retreat in Big Sur, California (which still exists), and while Stephanie ends up ditching it, Don stays, and finally hits a low point. He calls Peggy, and β€” yes, I burst into tears during this wonderful scene. "I messed everything up," he tells her. "I'm not the man you think I am." Peggy can't believe what she's hearing: "Don, listen to me. What did you ever do that was so bad?" Don answers: "I broke all my vows, I scandalized my child, I took another man's name and made nothing of it."

    Truly gripping, stirring stuff. And when Don ends up hanging up on her, shaking and unable to get up off the ground, I'm sure we all wondered, Were those opening credits telling us all along that Don will kill himself? The cliffs are right there.

    It makes sense that he ends up snapping out of his sorrowful state by going to a group therapy session β€” drawn in by a guru played by Helen Slater (Supergirl indeed!) β€” and hearing an office drone type, the sort of person Don would never have a second of patience for at work, talk about the mundane miseries of his family and work life. Don is able to extend himself to this man, who begins to cry β€” and then Don joins him, breaking down, weeping, and hugging him. Don would rather have this new, odd experience of giving himself to a stranger than to his children, his dying ex-wife, or his friend Peggy who is now worried about him. Though that feels entirely correct, at the same time, I would rather see Don and Peggy together again one last time, or Don with any of the other people on the show.

    But Weiner has never written Mad Men that way, serving what we want β€” and that is what works for the show. The events in New York are all careening to a more satisfying β€” yet nearly pandering β€” end. I will not say I didn't want Peggy and Stan to get together, because I did; and I also will not say that I didn't want Joan to ditch Richard (or make him ditch her when he realized she wasn't the fun diversion he sought) and start working again, forming her own company, no less β€” because I did. And yes, I want Roger to leave half of his money to Kevin!

    Again, though: Since when does Mad Men care what I want? More saliently, there was a rush to those scenes, particularly in Stan and Peggy confessing their mutual love, that felt unearned. And in a visual check-in with all of Mad Men's main characters before we see Don for the last time, I was thrilled to see Pete, Trudy, and Tammy arrive in style in their new Learjet life, and sad to see Betty, sick and sitting at the kitchen table smoking while Sally does dishes. But it all felt too easy. And Mad Men was never easy.

    When we see Don for the last time, he has found peace again. The meditation leader says, "The new day brings new hope. The lives we've led, the lives we've yet to lead. New day, new ideas, a new you." Does it sound like a Don Draper ad pitch? Because that's exactly what Don is thinking about: It turns out the most important thing Peggy said to him during their phone call was "Don't you want to work on Coke?"

    Don will go back to the real world. He will get his job at McCann back. And he will create the 1971 "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" ad that that we see as Mad Men's final song and imagery.

    In my dreams, he and Peggy do it together. That's the real thing.

    41. "The Summer Man" (Season 4, Episode 8)

    AMC

    Writers: Lisa Albert, Janet Leahy, and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Phil Abraham

    Despite Mad Men's 1960s setting, and despite some of the characters' resemblances to the fiction of John Updike and John Cheever, the show's tone is strikingly different from those chroniclers of that era's malaise. Weiner collapses that difference in "The Summer Man," which is narrated by Don's journal writing β€” and yes, Don not only sounds like a Cheever character in his internal monologue, but he also swims like one. If keeping a journal is the way we present ourselves to ourselves, here Don is aspiring to be better. "They say as soon as you have to cut down on your drinking, you have a drinking problem," he writes. He wants to "gain a modicum of control over the way I feel. I want to wake up, and I want to be that man."

    This episode is the first after the events of "The Suitcase," and in the wake of Anna's death, is Don trying to change? He doesn't say that, exactly. But he is drinking less. He is trying not to ruin a potential relationship with Dr. Faye by having sex with her right away. And he braves showing up at Gene's second birthday party despite how poisonous things currently are between him and Betty. (In Don's narrative, Gene was "conceived in a moment of desperation, and born into a mess.") Betty isn't buying any of Don's current presentation, though. Francine says to her, "Carlton calls him 'that sad bastard.'" Betty yells, "That's an act!"

    Also in the wake of "The Suitcase," Don gives Peggy more authority β€” to fire Joey, the art guy who has behaved repulsively toward Joan. We've never seen a character behave this way toward Joan before, and it's shocking. "What do you do around here besides walk around like you're trying to get raped?" he says to her, oozing hatred. When Peggy does fire him, he doesn't take her seriously. "See?" he asks. "This is why I don't like working with women. You have no sense of humor." Joan can't bear to thank Peggy, or even be gracious: Joey has wounded her that much. "All you've done is prove to them that I'm a meaningless secretary and you're a humorless bitch," Joan tells a confused Peggy.

    In more pleasurable office interactions, this episode is really the apex of Miss Blankenship (Randee Heller). Don: "Good morning, Miss Blankenship, how was your surgery?" Miss Blankenship: "It was a nightmare. The ether and the blindness and then I got the goggles." Don: "So everything's good?" Miss Blankenship: "I'll tell ya, I was blind and now I see." Don: "Good. If you need more timeβ€”" Miss Blankenship: "I'm fine, Roger. [Long pause while Don looks amused and horrified and confused.] I'm kidding around here!"

    40. "New Amsterdam" (Season 1, Episode 4)

    AMC

    Writer: Lisa Albert

    Director: Tim Hunter

    Mad Men's first ever Pete-focused episode shows us his vulnerabilities. Trudy, who has been only a symbol so far, but now takes the form of Alison Brie, wants to buy an apartment that they can't afford. Pete asks his parents for the money, and his father (Christopher Allport), a bigot and a blowhard, shames him; Trudy's parents then give them the money without a second thought, much to Pete's chagrin. We also see Pete's professional ambitions β€” he wants to be an ideas man, not a schmoozer, and his ambition bites him in the ass when he pitches an idea to a Bethlehem Steel client that gets back to Don. (Because the client likes it.) Don and Roger try to get him fired as a result, but Bert forbids it because, we learn, Pete's mother is from an old, formerly rich Manhattan family, the Dyckmans. (This name-check is a reference to a real New York family, and the title of the episode tips its hat to that thread running through Mad Men β€” something Don does not have access to, or even knowledge of.)

    Up in Westchester, Betty begins to get involved in Helen Bishop's life: meaning, Glen's life. While babysitting, Betty snoops through Helen's bathroom drawer (and finds a diaphragm), and has her first creepy encounter with Glen. He walks in on her while she's peeing, and then asks for some of her hair. Glen: "Your hair is so beautiful, you look like a princess." Betty: "I don't know about that." Glen: "Can I have some?" She does it! Wonderful weirdness here, and the beginning of new depths for Mad Men.

    39. "The Beautiful Girls" (Season 4, Episode 9)

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    Writers: Dahvi Waller and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Michael Uppendahl

    If the title underlining this episode's theme felt a little too on the nose at the time, in retrospect, "The Beautiful Girls" is pivotal. Roger and Joan get mugged after a friendly, nostalgic dinner while Jane is away and Greg is still in basic training (but has learned that his next stop is Vietnam). Having experienced a fright, which Roger handles efficiently and gallantly, they end up in a corner having sex β€” and producing Kevin, as it turns out.

    In another inappropriate work romance, Don and Faye have begun a relationship. But as soon as it begins, Faye is put to a test that Don denies he administered: Is Faye good stepmother material? The answer, they find out after Sally runs away to Don, is a disastrous β€œno.” Don is used to asking the women in his life for help with domestic things, no matter how wrong it is or how little they can be of help. And Sally simply doesn't want anything from Faye β€” she doesn't take to her. But she does want Megan, who is practically a stranger to Don at this point. When Sally falls down, Megan effortlessly comforts her.

    Weiner always put Megan and Faye in the same spaces together, and it seemed that Faye was going to be an important person in Don's life. But as we know well now, but knew less then, Don can't deal with someone like her. And he doesn't know how to treat her other than how he treats every woman in his office. He makes that literal when he asks Faye to take Sally back to his apartment after she's shown up unexpectedly: "I would have my secretary do it but she's dead," he barks at Faye. (Yes, indeed: Miss Blankenship dies at her desk in "The Beautiful Girls." In "The Suitcase," we found out that she had once been one of the beautiful girls herself. Her death is a haunting event, especially to Bert and to Roger: "I don't want to die in this office," Roger moans to Joan. "I almost have. Twice.")

    38. "Lady Lazarus" (Season 5, Episode 7)

    AMC

    Writer: Matthew Weiner

    Director: Phil Abraham

    From the Mad Men pilot, it was clear that Joan is nearly always right. And when Megan quits SCDP to pursue acting, and Joan tells Peggy, "Peggy, she's going to be a failing actress with a rich husband," she is once again right (though Megan ends up as a failing actress with a rich ex-husband). On the flip side, Peggy is often wrong. She can't get out of her own head or look past her own desires and ambitions enough to see things for how they are (and we love her for it). Her response to what Joan says about Megan is, "I think she's good at everything." That doesn't seem to have ended up being true of Megan and acting. As Don says to Megan when she wakes him up in the middle of the night to tell him that she wants to quit her job and act, "Sweetheart, sometimes we don't get to choose where our talents lie."

    The Season 5 death theme is strong in this episode. Pete becomes suddenly and morosely obsessed with Beth (Alexis Bledel), the depressed wife of his commuter frenemy Howard (Jeff Clarke), and mentions to Howard that his life insurance even pays out for suicide. In another eerie moment, Don stares down into an empty elevator shaft that he could have stepped into.

    But "Lady Lazarus" is also funny. After Don mentions to Megan that he can't keep up with music, she gives him The Beatles' Revolver to listen to. He gives "Tomorrow Never Knows" a shot, and rejects it unequivocally, choosing to go to his bedroom to drink alone. The best bit, though, is when Don keeps calling for Megan at work when she's lied to him about where she is β€” she's at an audition β€” and Peggy can't stand to talk to him on the phone again. He calls, Peggy answers. "Hello? Peggy?" She yells, "Pizza House!" and hangs up on him.

    37. "Commissions and Fees" (Season 5, Episode 11)

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    Writers: Andre Jacquemetton and Maria Jacquemetton

    Director: Christopher Manley

    The black cloud hovering over Season 5 bursts in "Commissions and Fees," with Lane at the center of the β€” I will let you play out the rest of the metaphor here.

    Everyone is celebrating getting Jaguar, but Bert finds the check Lane forged with Don's name (see "Christmas Waltz") and confronts Don about it. Don then goes to Lane, who is largely unrepentant since he's become so full of accumulated resentments about money. He gives Lane the weekend to figure out "an elegant exit," and as they talk, he mistakes Lane's position in life for his: "You'll tell them that it didn't work out," Don says. "Because it didn't. And you'll tell them the next thing will be better. Because it always is." He assumes that Lane will feel relief after being exposed, just like he always does: "I've started over a lot, Lane. And this is the worst part."

    But Lane is not Don. And when he goes home to his wife, Rebecca (Embeth Davidtz), who wants to celebrate, he can't stand it anymore β€” especially after she's bought him a Jaguar as a surprise. In short order, he tries to use the car to kill himself through carbon monoxide poisoning, but it won't start (a repetition of a joke about what terrible cars Jaguars are); he goes to the office in the night and hangs himself; the next morning, Joan discovers his body. It affects everyone, but particularly Don, who was keeping Lane's secret and thinking he had done the right thing by him by preserving Lane's dignity and employability. But Don wasn't really listening to him, and now he knows that.

    Lane was a transitional but important figure for Mad Men. He got Don, Roger, Pete, Bert, and Peggy out of PPL, but as we saw repeatedly, he was never able to carve an important space for himself in SCDP. The same cannot be said for Harris, who played Lane with nuance, wit, and depth.

    There are other developments in "Commissions and Fees" as the fifth season starts to close. Sally gets her period for the first time while she plays hooky with Glen at the Museum of Natural History. Panicked, she realizes that maybe her mother is good for some things Megan isn't β€” like actually being a mother instead of a cool mentor. Betty is sweet to her as she talks about the responsibility of being a woman: "Maybe you'll have a beautiful girl. And you can tell her all this."

    Also, now that Don has snapped out of his sexual haze with Megan, he is applying his ambition to work, and he and Roger go after Dow through Ken's father-in-law, Ed (Ray Wise). As Roger and Ken work out the particulars of Ken's non-involvement, we see that Ken has been shoring up resentment toward Pete. Seemingly uncharacteristically, Ken says, "Pete doesn't go to the meeting. And Pete doesn't go to any meetings."

    36. "The Better Half" (Season 6, Episode 8)

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    Writers: Erin Levy and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Phil Abraham

    At the end of "The Better Half," Peggy is literally standing in between Ted and Don. And she knows she is figuratively standing between them, too, which is all the more confusing for her since she now has strong feelings for Ted. She has broken up with Abe β€” or rather he has broken up with her β€” under dramatic circumstances: She stabbed him in the stomach by accident when she thought he was a robber in their apartment! She blames him for their move to the dangerous Upper West Side to begin with (for anyone from New York, or even anyone familiar with New York real estate, the menace of the Upper West Side is a great joke). But Abe is the one who gets to leave, and she has to stick it out β€” it will end up being worth it, Peggy!

    Megan and Don continue to be distant, but a weekend in which Don goes up to visit Bobby (the final actor to play him, Mason Vale Cotton) at summer camp and has a one-night stand with Betty ends up pushing him back to Megan. With distance and with Henry, who loves and covets her, Betty has gained wisdom about Don. "That poor girl," she says about Megan. "She doesn't know that loving you is the worst way to get close to you." When Don sees her with Henry the next morning, he comes back to Megan and tries to pretend that he missed her. "Well, I miss you all the time," she says. (This scene is the one when Megan famously wears the Sharon Tate T-shirt, setting off a zillion theories that Megan would soon die an ugly, Manson-y death. Her move to Los Angeles, of course, perpetuated that notion.)

    Poor Roger, meanwhile, is being rebuffed everywhere he turns, especially when it comes to his children. Margaret forbids him from seeing her 4-year-old son alone anymore after he takes him to Planet of the Apes. He cites Don's recommendation of it for kids (see "The Flood"), which causes her to lose even more faith in him. "We're probably going to have to get rid of the dog; he's that afraid of fur," Margaret says. Roger then turns to Kevin and Joan, only to find Bob Benson at her apartment. (The continuing joke about people at work either not remembering Bob or, if they do, hating him is terrific.)

    Bob is clearly gathering intel on everyone; now he has something on Roger, and Joan also tells him that Pete's mother is in need of nursing help. Bob has just the idea for Pete: Manolo, who Bob says recently nursed his father back to health.

    35. "Field Trip" (Season 7, Episode 3)

    AMC

    Writers: Heather Jeng Bladt and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Christopher Manley

    After months without his job, Don is so desperate to go back to work that he agrees to onerous rules that he will surely violate. And these are terms he agrees to after a day of being humiliated and kept waiting in the creative lounge in full public view. He will not be allowed to be alone with clients; he has to stick to a script in meetings, and that script will be approved by the partners; he can't drink in the office; and he will have to report to Lou. The partners are treating Don like he’s a child, and surely they assume he’ll quit, especially after that final insulting β€” and absurd β€” rule. But Don surprises them: "OK," he says. He's spent the day waiting for this verdict as if he were being kept in stocks. When Peggy finally comes to see him, she says, "Well, I can't say that we miss you." He grimaces, and says, "Thank you, Peggy." He's there to take it, whatever they give him.

    Don has realized his whole self is wrapped up in his job, and when he tries to explain it to Megan, who also is losing confidence in her career, it doesn't even make sense. Finally confessing to her what happened, she sees things for how they are: "So with a clear head, you got up every day and decided you didn't want to be with me," she says. After Roger invites Don back, Don calls to tell Megan what he thinks is the good news, "I just thought that if you found out what happened, you wouldn't look at me in the same way," he says. "I can't believe after all this time, you don't know me," Megan responds. "I know how I want you to see me," he argues. Don is someone who gets in his full Don costume β€” his suits, his always-shaven face, his slicked-back hair β€” just to greet his secretary who is bringing him mail. There is only one image of himself that he likes, and he thinks that's true for the people in his life too. It's sad.

    But not as sad as Betty's day as a chaperone for Bobby's field trip to a farm. This story was a killer at the time, but in retrospect: man. Bobby is ecstatic that she's there, talking nonstop (as she smokes incessantly) and beaming. "We were having a conversation!" he says to his teacher on the school bus who has stopped to talk to them. They have a great time until Bobby gives away Betty's sandwich in exchange for candy, not realizing she would actually want to eat it. She shames him and stops speaking to him, shutting down entirely. Later at home, Henry asks Bobby what happened. "I wish it was yesterday," he says. Henry goes to talk to Betty, and Gene is curled up next to her, asleep. "Do you think I'm a good mother?" she asks Henry. "Of course," he says, reassuringly. "Then why don't they love me?" Betty asks. She means the reverse, of course, at least that day.

    Brutal to watch then, even worse to watch now.

    34. "The Phantom" (Season 5, Episode 12)

    AMC

    Writers: Jonathan Igla and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Matthew Weiner

    After its strong fifth season, Mad Men sets up what's to come in "The Phantom." Since SCDP is finally thriving β€” and they're even going to get that second floor, finally (see "Public Relations") β€” Don must find misery somewhere. So things are becoming progressively worse between him and Megan. Also, Lane's suicide by hanging has conjured visions of Adam's death, and Don starts seeing him everywhere. As far as Mad Men finales go, "The Phantom" doesn't leave you stunned, but it has some great moments. Roger takes acid and stands naked in the Stanhope Hotel window; Don becomes emotional while he watches Megan's acting reel, and decides to help her get a commercial audition that will drive them further apart; and Peggy, exceling at her new job at CGC, goes to North Carolina (flying for the first time!) for a Philip Morris pitch, and sees two dogs fucking outside of her hotel room window.

    But the episode's emotional core belongs to Pete, whose ill-fated affair with Beth comes to a woeful end. She calls him to meet for sex at the Hotel Pennsylvania, where she had once stood him up, and tells him that she's about to get electroshock treatments and won't remember him after. She sees a similarly depressed person in Pete, which is an insightful view of him. He goes to visit Beth in the hospital and, no, she doesn't remember him. He pretends he's visiting a friend who is there, he says, because he got involved with another man's wife. "When it went away, he was heartbroken," Pete tells her. "And then he realized everything he already had was not right either. And that was why it had happened at all. And that his life with his family was some temporary bandage on a permanent wound."

    The episode ends with Don leaving Megan's commercial shoot for a bar where a woman tries to pick him up. "Are you alone?" this stranger asks Don β€” and the screen goes black. But it's Pete you're left thinking about.

    33. "The Flood" (Season 6, Episode 4)

    AMC

    Writers: Tom Smuts and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Christopher Manley

    Betty shows in "Field Trip" how difficult being a loving parent is for her; before that, Don did even more explicitly in "The Flood."

    This is the episode in which Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated, placing the show firmly in the chaos of 1968. Everyone is overcome except for Harry, who thinks that there shouldn’t be so many news specials preempting regular programming. After going with his boss Mayor Lindsay to try to calm the city, Henry decides that he's tired of being the man behind the man (especially because he has no respect for Lindsay) and that he wants a state Senate seat that's been offered to him. Betty is pleased.

    Because Mad Men is a particular slice of culture and time, the whiteness and Christianity of its characters has always been purposeful. But as the '60s have progressed, the door has opened a crack, and "The Flood" shows Peggy, Don, Megan, and Joan trying to figure out their place in this violent tragedy. Peggy hugs Phyllis (Ya Ani King); Joan awkwardly hugs Dawn; Pete tries to talk to his Chinese food delivery man; and Don, who can't deal with any emotional outpouring, brings Bobby to see Planet of the Apes instead of going to a vigil in Central Park that Megan takes Sally and Gene to. "I knew you wouldn't go," Sally says to Don as they leave the apartment.

    Bobby and Don enjoy the movie so much that they decide to see it again, and in between showings, Bobby talks to the black usher about whatever comes to his mind β€” he just wants to connect with him. "Everybody likes to go to the movies when they're sad," Bobby says finally. Don is clearly moved. But we don't know how much until he talks to Megan later, who is berating him for not being there for his kids when something like this happens. After saying that he has been faking love for them since they were born, he says, "Then one day they get older and you see them do something. And you feel that feeling that you were pretending to have. And it feels like your heart is going to explode." Sheesh.

    32. "The Monolith" (Season 7, Episode 4)

    AMC

    Writer: Erin Levy

    Director: Scott Hornbacher

    Such a great Roger episode. Margaret, who in the Season 7 premiere called him and asked him to brunch to tell him she's forgiven him, has ditched Brooks (Derek Ray), her husband, and Ellery, her son, to go live on a commune upstate. Like Thelma and Louise in Upper East Side costumes, Roger and Mona drive up to go get her β€” and it goes terribly. Margaret is now Marigold, and though she has peaceful surface, her rage is easy to access. It doesn't take long for her to oust Mona from the property. "I'm grateful," Margaret says manipulatively about her newfound happiness. "I don't have to lock myself into a bathroom with a pint of gin every day." Mona storms away, but Roger spends the night, thinking he can warm her into the idea of coming home to Ellery. When it becomes clear she's in a sexual relationship with one of the other hippies, he's had enough, and tries to physically drag her away. They both fall in the mud: literally and figuratively. "How could you just leave him?" Roger asks her. "He's your baby?" Margaret gets mean again: "How did you feel when you went away to work, Daddy?" He goes away, defeated. (Rice always did a very nice job as Margaret in all of her iterations: from rich brat, to bitter daughter, to starry-eyed, angry cult member.)

    Don reaches a crossroads with his demotion, and nearly blows up his work life β€” until Freddy Rumsen steps in. Freddy is the only person Don knows is in AA, so when he gets drunk in his office β€” breaking one of the conditions of his return β€” after Peggy has asked him to do something menial for the Burger Chef pitch, it's surely not an accident that Don calls Freddy to ask him to a Mets game. Don wakes up on his couch at home the next morning with Freddy there. He asks Don why he's ruining this second chance. "I want my job back," Don says. "How the hell do you think that's gonna happen when you're at the bottom of a bottle? You know you never have to have another drink again." Freddy tells him to "do the work."

    And he actually gets through to him. Peggy has worked herself into a state about what she's going to do about Don's insubordination. But she doesn't have to worry about it. "I'll have your tags by lunch," Don tells her without pride.

    31. "The Mountain King" (Season 2, Episode 12)

    AMC

    Writers: Matthew Weiner and Robin Veith

    Director: Alan Taylor

    Don is escaping at Anna Draper's house on the beach. "I have been watching my life," he tells her as they sit peacefully on her porch. "It's right there. I keep scratching at it, trying to get into it. I can't."

    There was a time I felt the same way about the character of Don Draper, but by this point in Season 2, that began to change. What a slow, beautiful unfolding of a person. Through Anna's eyes, we see the real Don β€” which is ironic, of course. And considering the toxic state he and Betty are in during this episode, watching him in a flashback remembering how he told Anna about meeting Betty is close to shattering. "I just like the way she laughs," he says. "And the way she looks at me." Hamm has a slackness in his face in these flashback scenes that work to make him look not only younger, but also less hardened. And now that we've met Anna, we know how much she's always on Don's mind: In her house, he comes across the copy of the Frank O'Hara book he sent her in the season premiere. There's a simplicity to their relationship despite the insane circumstances that brought them together. "I've told you things I've never told Betty," he says. "Why does it have to be that way?" The episode's final image of Don in the ocean echoes what Anna tells him during a tarot reading: "You are part of the world."

    What he's missing at work is that the agency is going to merge with PPL and he's going to come back to a different company.

    And in further ugliness, this is the episode in which Joan's fiancΓ©, Greg, rapes her on the floor of Don's office. She pretends β€” to him, to herself, and to Peggy, who is truly moving up in her career (and into Freddy's old office) β€” that it never happened. Joan wants this one thing in her life to work and be good. And she will not let go of it. (Yet.)

    30. "The Hobo Code" (Season 1, Episode 8)

    AMC

    Writer: Chris Provenzano

    Director: Phil Abraham

    This episode is notable for setting up the tragedy of Sal, who refuses the charming, kind advances of a work client. But "The Hobo Code" is also the first Mad Men episode to draw explicit parallels between Don and Peggy β€” when both of them have a professional triumph, they're then knocked down personally. In Peggy's case, the Belle Jolie clients love her angle for their lipstick campaign (not that she gets to present it to them) after Don bullies them into buying it. Flushed with her triumph, and literally skipping in the office, she organizes a celebration at P.J. Clarke's. She convinces Pete to come β€” they had sex for the second time at the beginning of the episode β€” and then he cruelly dismisses her. "I don't like you like this," he says. He means he doesn't like her when she's happy and excited and proud and changing her life. It crushes her.

    In Don’s case, Bert gives him a $2,500 bonus amid a speech about Ayn Rand, and how he recognizes a self-interestedness in Don that he thinks is a good thing. Don decides to celebrate with Midge, and asks her to go to Paris with him; because she already has plans to get high with her friends and listen to Miles Davis, she says no. Don stays with her and the hippies, gets high, and has flashbacks to his bleak childhood when a hobo (Paul Schulte) came to stay with them. We learn a few things about Don/Dick in these flashbacks, especially when Dick says, "Haven't you heard? I'm a whore child." When Don is ready to leave Midge's, he realizes she's in love with her friend, his rival from "Babylon." (Good-bye, Midge. We won't see you again until Season 4.)

    Slightly brokenhearted, and still fucked up, Don goes home and wakes up a confused Bobby. "Ask me anything," Don says. "I'm tired," answers little Bobby. "Ask me," replies Don. "Why do lightning bugs light up?" Bobby asks. "I don't know," Don answers. "But I will never lie to you." Bobby hugs him.

    29. "The Milk and Honey Route" (Season 7, Episode 13)

    AMC

    Writers: Carly Wray and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Matthew Weiner

    At the beginning of "The Milk and Honey Route" β€” the title is another hobo reference β€” Don has a nightmare that he's pulled over by a cop. "You knew we would catch up with you eventually," he says to Don. The show has overtly circled back to the idea of Don's past catching up with him. And what he learns while marooned in a tiny Oklahoma town because his car has broken down is that being physically away from his life doesn't make him immune to those hauntings, nor has he escaped trouble. He gets sucked into a strange little vortex of veterans and a kid with grifter ambitions (with whom Don has a series of homoerotic encounters). Surrounded by these people, Don finally gives voice to one confession he's never made: that Don Draper's death in Korea was his (accidental) fault. This whole plot has a menace to it, and it's odd that Don wouldn't pick up on that. It's certainly not the fantasy painted for him as a child in "The Hobo Code," when the Whitman family visitor made escaping responsibility seem easy and romantic. ("I had a family once β€” wife, job, a mortgage," the hobo told Dick. "I couldn’t sleep at night tied to all those things.") Don gets beaten up, the vets take his car because they think he stole money from him, and when he finally gets out of town, he ends up shedding the Cadillac, which once meant so much to him. He gives it to the young grifter, and waits for a bus instead, heading to parts unknown.

    I did not care for this whole turn. I did care, though, about being surprised that Pete is going to end up moving to Wichita, Kansas, to work for Learjet and reconciling with Trudy. Considering that he barely ever seemed not to feel stultified by and resentful of family life, I like my expectations being subverted. And now I see a few things: They never did get divorced. And what Pete says to her is true: "I never loved anyone else. Never." (Whether he ever loved Trudy is another question.)

    But in this episode, it was the story of Betty's terminal lung cancer diagnosis that got me. (I wasn't alone, of course.) In so many ways, the show has revolved around the idea of smoking and its dangers: Don's job in "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," the Mad Men pilot, is to help Lucky Strike obfuscate that smoking will kill you. When he takes the stance against cigarettes in "Blowing Smoke," it's a purely cynical play, but everything he says is, as he knows, true. Most of the characters on Mad Men smoke incessantly, and most of them drink to excess. It's one of those things that began as part of the show's joke, and evolved into several characters' pathologies: Don is a blackout alcoholic who sustains himself at rock bottom. His smoking has always been relentless. My father smoked like these characters, and he died of lung cancer when I was 9 years old, so I guess I have been waiting for this to happen.

    But of all of them, I didn't think it would happen to Betty β€” and in the exact same way as my father: a broken rib that resulted in a doctor's visit that yielded a terminal diagnosis. (My father died two and a half months later.) Being attached to a show is not always an overtly personal thing, and Mad Men hasn't really been that for me. I love these characters, but I haven't felt like I am any of them, or that they reflect my experiences. So… geez β€” that was unexpected. And cathartic, actually, watching it live on television on Mother's Day, and seeing Betty, a character for whom I have rooted, handle herself with grace and with compassion for Sally. Most of all, I liked seeing Weiner speak about his own good-bye through Betty: "I fought for plenty in my life. That’s how I know it’s over. It’s not a weakness. It’s a gift to me: knowing when to move on."

    28. "Christmas Waltz" (Season 5, Episode 9)

    AMC

    Writers: Victor Levin and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Michael Uppendahl

    "Christmas Waltz" activates the two key plots for the rest of the fifth season: Lane's fall and the pursuit of Jaguar. At the beginning of the episode, we find out that Lane's financial situation has gotten worse, and he owes taxes in England, due immediately. His solution to this crisis is both ill-chosen and surprising, since he not only steals money from the company by pretending they've gotten a $50,000 surplus that's in fact an advance, but he also forges Don's signature on a check. These are the decisions that will lead to his shame and suicide.

    With Jaguar, Pete has been pursuing them, and it's paid off. They're going to pitch them in the new year. At first, Pete is annoyed that no one seems to care about his hard work. Bert has an explanation: "They're lemons. They never start." Eventually, though, Don leads the charge enthusiastically, telling the whole company that they will do nothing but try to get Jaguar for the next six weeks. "Prepare to take a great leap forward," he says. "Prepare to swim the English Channel and then drown in champagne."

    Before that speech (the kind that by late in Season 7 no one listens to anymore), Don takes Joan β€” who has been served with divorce papers from Greg, and is so outraged that she screams at Meredith β€” on a reconnaissance mission to a dealership with him. They pose as a hot couple, and get the salesman to lend them the XKE, the "most beautiful car ever made." The two of them go to a bar, and here it's as if Weiner decided to write fan fiction: What if Mad Men were the love story of Don and Joan? For this one scene, it is. They flirt, they compliment each other, they talk nostalgically about their sordid pasts. "My mother raised me to be admired. But no flowers from you," she says to Don. "You scared the shit out of me," Don answers. "Burt Peterson told me you were the one person in the agency I shouldn't cross. He and Freddy had a standing argument that you were a lesbian." Joan laughs: "You think they never brought that up with me?"

    Mad Men has its regular pairings β€” Don and Peggy, Don and Roger, Peggy and Stan, etc. β€” and obviously those work with precision. But there are also times when the show throws Roger and Peggy together, or Don and Joan, and it's not only delightful, but it feels almost illicit. (For more Don and Joan, there's also the ER waiting room scene in "Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency.")

    Somehow Megan figures out that Don was up to no good, and scolds him when he finally arrives home. It's a horrible fight, but it also sounds like one of their foreplay ventures. That's what Don thinks, anyway. Don: "You like to get mad." Megan: "No, I don't." Don: "That's what gets you going." Megan: "That's not what this is." And it's not. She makes him eat dinner with her at their table. Their sexual thrall is turning in on itself, and what they're left with is ugly and depressing.

    Speaking of which, we see Paul for the first time since the agency split in "Shut the Door. Have a Seat." He's become a Krishna! But he's an ambivalent one who writes terrible spec scripts for Star Trek, and Harry becomes enmeshed in his mess temporarily. It's a slightly ridiculous turn, but Mad Men is good at showing the casualties of 1960s indulgences through characters who were once more central (Paul in this case, and, of course, Midge the junkie).

    27. "The Forecast" (Season 7, Episode 10)

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    Writers: Jonathan Igla and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Jennifer Getzinger

    This is more like it, backend of Season 7. As Roger asks Don to look into the agency's future for a McCann presentation, he and Betty both realize that they're looking into their rearview mirror. For Betty, that comes in the form of Glen Bishop, of course, who has grown up so much that she doesn't even recognize him. He visits Sally before she sets off for a teen tour for the summer, and he sees Betty for the first time in years. She's forgiven him, finally, for irrationally resenting him for being a weird kid with whom she couldn't resist entering into a bizarre and inappropriate dynamic. And she understands why he's enlisted to go to Vietnam, even if Sally doesn't. When Glen returns to see Betty alone, she does finally put up a barrier between them: after he makes a move on her! Maybe Betty, who has no idea she is sick at this point, is finally realizing that if she's going to pursue psychology as a profession β€” something we've seen her benefit from over the years β€” she should try to set some limits herself. It's an uncomfortable scene regardless, and we can assume it’s the end of Glen as a trope for the show. (Good luck in Vietnam, Glen!)

    Don has a harsher awakening. He's become the sort of middle-aged man who realtors boss around. Melanie (Rachel Cannon), who is trying to sell Don's apartment, says, "You know what it looks like? It looks like a sad person lives here. And what happened to him? He got divorced, spilled wine on the carpeting, and didn't care enough to replace it." (Was real estate less customer service–oriented in 1970? Harsh.)

    At work, Don gives Mathis advice for how to fix a relationship with a client he offended, and when the advice backfires, Mathis comes into Don's office raging. Don is incredulous: "That account was handed to you, and you made nothing of it because you have no character." Mathis no longer gives a fuck: "You don't have any character! You're just handsome! Stop kidding yourself!" Don is shocked, especially after Mathis tells him that Roger always says back in the Lucky Strike days that Don was just eye candy for Lee Garner Jr. β€” it's a small shift in perspective that has never occurred to Don.

    Sally sums it all up after she thinks Don is flirting with her teen tour friend in the same way Betty flirts with Glen. She points out her friend is 17, and says, "But it doesn't stop you. And it doesn't stop Mom. Anyone pays attention to you β€” and they always do β€” and you just ooze everywhere." Maybe Don is learning from what Mathis told him. "You're a very beautiful girl," he says. "It's up to you to be more than that."

    Maybe next summer Sally can intern for Peggy, who knows exactly what she wants: to be the first woman creative director at the agency.

    26. "A Day's Work" (Season 7, Episode 2)

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    Writers: Jonathan Igla and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Michael Uppendahl

    The centerpiece of this exemplary Mad Men episode is the slow reconciliation between Don and Sally, whose relationship was poisoned in "Favors." Sally was so angry at and sickened by Don that she went away to boarding school. But in "A Day's Work," she goes to Manhattan for the funeral of her roommate's mother, and decides to go shopping with other school friends. (As they discuss the plan, Sally says to her pals, "I'd stay here until 1975 if I could get Betty in the ground." If she remembers saying it, she'll be sad about having that thought later in life.)

    She loses her purse, and has to go to Don's office, which is how she is the first of the people close to him to find out that he's on leave. He lies to her about it until Dawn calls to tell him Sally was there. "Why would you just let me lie to you like that?" Don asks her as he drives her back to school. Her answer is withering: "Because it's more embarrassing for me to catch you in a lie than it is for you to be lying." They stop at a diner, and she's sullen. Then Don comes clean: "I told the truth about myself. But it wasn't the right time. So they made me take some time off. I was ashamed." Sally isn't quite there, yet. "What was the truth?" she asks, still suspicious. Don is, again, forthright: "Nothing you don't know." As they say good-bye when he drops her off, Sally says, "Happy Valentine's Day. I love you." She says it so casually; it means everything to him, though.

    This sequence, the first of several like it in this first half of Season 7, feels like Weiner is wrapping up relationships. Not that these people will be done with each other, and there will be closure that stays closed, because life is not that. But that a possibly irreparable rift like the one between Don and Sally can be repaired: They're in each other's lives forever even if we won't see them anymore.

    25. "Public Relations" (Season 4, Episode 1)

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    Writer: Matthew Weiner

    Director: Phil Abraham

    When members of the press received Mad Men premiere screeners, they came with a note from Weiner specifying what he didn't want spoiled in anything written before it aired. That is annoying and persnickety, of course. But always on the list is the time period in which the episode is set: And that truly is (was!) one of the pleasures of watching a new season of Mad Men. Where are we? When are we?

    "Public Relations" is the season premiere after the events of "Shut the Door. Have a Seat." when Don, Roger, and Bert stage a coup and start their own agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. So how's it going? Yet that's not the question that kicks off "Public Relations," since this is Mad Men and we have to return to our overarching theme: "Who is Don Draper?" That's the first line of Season 4, delivered by a reporter from Advertising Age who is interviewing him. Being interviewed seems to signify that things are going well, especially since he appears to have made a splash with a campaign for Glo-coat, a floor cleaner. And the new office looks sleek and busy. But within minutes, we find out that they're overpaying for it, they lie about having a second floor, and they don't have a conference room table yet. It's been 11 months. And it's hand-to-mouth. Things get worse when the article about Don comes out: It calls him a "handsome cypher" and compares him to Dorian Grey. They even lose jai alai as a client because of it, since Don didn't mention him. Lucky Strike is the majority of their business, Lane informs them forebodingly.

    Don's personal life is tenuous also. Roger sets him up with a friend of Jane's (Anna Camp) who thinks Don is "handsy." He's in a dark apartment in the West Village where he hosts a prostitute on Thanksgiving who slaps him around. And he sees his kids one night at a time β€” but not Gene, whom Betty won't let him lay eyes on. The only constant is the Draper house, where Betty and Henry (who have married) are squatting, paid for by Don. When he calls them on it, Henry says, "Don, it's temporary." Don snaps back at him, "Believe me, Henry, everybody thinks this is temporary."

    By the end of the episode, things start looking up, or at least Don stops being passively slapped around β€” to make up for the Ad Age disaster, he gives an interview to The Wall Street Journal, spinning the plot of "Shut the Door. Have a Seat." into the mythology of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. "So I walked into Lane Pryce's office and I said, 'Fire us.' Two days later, we were operating out of the Pierre Hotel. Within a year, we had taken over two floors of the Time-Life Building." Mad Men's unusual pacing usually means its season premieres can be relatively shaky β€” but not this one.

    24. "The Good News" (Season 4, Episode 3)

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    Writers: Jonathan Abrahams and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Jennifer Getzinger

    The holidays don't bring out the best of people like Joan, Lane, and Don. Joan would at least like to try, but Greg's schedule doesn't allow them to have any sort of New Year's holiday. Instead, she's going to the doctor to find out whether she should be able to get pregnant (yes) and is at the office bickering with Lane. He apologizes by sending her flowers β€” with an inappropriate note. "I thought American men were bad enough," she screams at him. It turns out the mix-up is the fault of his secretary, and Joan got his wife's note (to whom he's also apologizing). The misunderstanding builds to a wonderful scene with an imperious, flustered Lane, an irate Joan, and a bumbling Sandra, his secretary (Bayne Gibby, Gigi from The Comeback). When Joan tells Sandra that it's "egregious" she can't accept responsibility for her mistakes, Sandra says, "I don't know what that means." Joan replies, "It means I can't believe I hired you."

    Don has New Year's plans to go to Acapulco, but when he stops at Anna Draper's house for a night along the way, he learns from her niece, Stephanie, that Anna has metastasized cancer (and, in a weird β€˜60s twist, hasn't been told that). The knowledge razes Don. Anna is the only person Don talks to unbidden; he drops all of his defenses β€” and Hamilton plays Anna as a completely open person without making her seem passive, or like a saint. Before he learns of Anna's cancer, he talks to her frankly about how he actually felt about confessing to Betty. "I could tell the minute she saw who I really was, she never wanted to look at me again," he says. "Which is why I never told her." Anna, warmly, says, "Oh, Dick. I'm sorry she broke your heart." Don answers, "I had it comin'." He's not entirely different with Anna β€” he does hit on Stephanie, who is then a college student at Berkeley: "You're so beautiful. And young." In return, she tells him the sad news about Anna β€” and that he can't say anything to her about it.

    He manages to keep up the lie, but can't bear going to Acapulco, so he goes back to the office. He and Lane, drunks without families, get to know each other as a result. They go to the movies, get steak dinners, go to a club where a comedian heckles them for seeming gay, and have sex with prostitutes at Don's apartment. The episode ends with Don, Pete, Joan, Lane, and Bert having their first meeting of 1965.

    23. "For Immediate Release" (Season 6, Episode 5)

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    Writer: Matthew Weiner

    Director: Jennifer Getzinger

    There's a subset of Mad Men episodes in which things unexpectedly blow up. "Shut the Door. Have a Seat." splits Don and co. away from PPL to form their own agency; "Tomorrowland" is a personal explosion, when Don proposes to Megan.

    "For Immediate Release" falls into the work detonation category. Don and Ted both realize that the sizes of their cool boutique agencies don't match the scope of their professional ambitions. So on the eve of pitching Chevy separately, they join together and win the account. And then they fly back to New York and tell Peggy what's happened. She can't believe it when she walks into Ted's office and sees Don sitting there, but he knows he has to win her back. "I did this wrong once before," he says to her, all charm. "So let me tell you how great it's going to be." Peggy is confused about working for him again, especially now that she's begun having feelings for Ted. But this win is all Don and Roger β€” Pete is too busy self-destructing after Don tells Herb, the disgusting Jaguar dealership guy, to fuck off over dinner. Don losing Jaguar derails the IPO Pete, Bert, and Joan have been secretly planning, and Joan is angry, especially when Don acts like he did it for her. "Don't you feel 300 pounds lighter?" he asks her. Nope: "Honestly, Don, if I could deal with him, you could deal with him. And what now: I went through all of that for nothing?"

    Joan isn't the only one upset at Don. Pete is furious about it too. He goes to a brothel while trying nominally, or at least because he is lonely, to get back together with Trudy. And there he runs into Trudy's father. Pete thinks they have achieved mutually assured destruction and neither one will ever breathe a word of this, so he's shocked when Tom (Joe O'Connor) pulls the Vicks account from SCDP. When Pete goes to blackmail him, he's shocked again that Tom is outraged, saying to Pete, "You have no business being a father." Pete walks out with nothing except the knowledge that he can hurt Trudy even more, despite Tom saying to him he knows Pete would never tell Trudy where they saw each other. There, Tom is wrong. "I guess it doesn't matter that I caught him in a midtown whorehouse," Pete says to Trudy in pure spite. "With a 200-pound Negro prostitute."

    It's one of Pete's lowest moments, and Brie plays Trudy's hurt and disgust perfectly as she recoils from him, finally seeing the worst of her husband. That these two will reconcile is a miracle!

    22. "The Crash" (Season 6, Episode 7)

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    Writers: Jason Grote and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Michael Uppendahl

    "The Crash" is the funniest Mad Men, and also features its creepiest sequence. At the beginning of the episode, Don is sick with a terrible cough and he's sick of working on Chevy, which has been rejecting every idea they have. (In "The Crash," we see Ken being hazed by the fratty, wasted Chevy executives who will later cost him an eye β€” and it is hilarious.)

    Don is also obsessed with Sylvia, and pretty much stalking her, lurking outside of her apartment's service entrance. "If you ever really cared about me at all, knock it off!" she tells him on the phone. Don has a flashback to an illness he had as a child in the whorehouse during which Abigail wouldn't care for him, but one of the prostitutes, Miss Swenson (Megan Ferguson), takes him into her bed. (When he feels better, she takes "that boy's cherry," and then tells everyone she did, resulting in Abigail beating Dick.)

    Because Don is ill, Jim Cutler decides that he'll get his quack doctor to come to the office to give everyone shots. They make everyone high and hyper and fun. (Ginsberg is sober, but he sounds exactly like the trashed people do β€” because he's crazy.) The dialogue during the brainstorming scenes contains gem after gem. Mathis: "Four score and seven years ago, this country had some memorable happenings!" Don to Ken: "The timbre of my voice is as important as the content. I don't know whether I will be forceful or submissive, but I must be there in the flesh." Stan has 666 ideas; Ken literally tap-dances, and when Don asks him how he learned, he says, "My mother. No: my first girlfriend." All of Don's lines are a parody of his character; he's not only on speed, but he's also sick with a fever, so he's doubly Don. "In my heart, I know that we cannot be defeated!" he tells the room.

    At home, Megan and Don's scheduling conflicts have led to Sally babysitting for Bobby and Gene by herself. Don, in his Sylvia obsession and general stupor, leaves their back door open, and an elderly black woman lets herself in to rob them. When Sally comes upon her, the woman introduces herself as Ida (Davenia McFadden), Don's mother. She's convincing! Especially to Sally, who knows so little about Don's past. These scenes are hair-raising; you watch wondering whether Don's carelessness and narcissism will end up getting his children into a terrible, violent situation. When Bobby wakes up, Sally whispers to him that she thinks Ida is lying. Bobby asks, "Are we Negroes?" This is how much of a stranger Don is to his children! Eventually, Ida leaves, and by the time Don comes home β€” to the kids, Megan, Betty, Henry, and a cop β€” Betty tells him what happened. "Some elderly Negro woman held your children hostage and robbed you blind!" Don collapses.

    When he calls Sally later to check on her, she says, "I asked her everything I know, and she had an answer for everything. Then I realized I don't know anything about you." Don tells her it was his fault, that he left the door open β€” and then dispenses terrible advice as he tries to soothe her: "You did everything right. Try and forget about it."

    21. "Lost Horizon" (Season 7, Episode 12)

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    Writers: Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Phil Abraham

    What is surely Mad Men's final Peggy-Roger duet is its best ever. Neither one of them is ready yet to go to their new offices at McCann, so they're lingering at the abandoned SC&P space. Roger is playing the organ like the Phantom of the Opera when Peggy comes upon him, scaring him. "I have a heart condition, you know!" he barks. Peggy responds, reasonably, "Believe it or not, I'm not scary. Organ music is scary." They decide to have a drink. At first, she keeps trying to leave, saying to Roger, "You clearly don't need help; you need an audience." Roger: "McCann made you wait, you can make them wait." Peggy: "I'm not enjoying this!" He then gives her Bert's old painting. "It's an octopus pleasuring a lady," Roger says. A few drinks later, Roger is playing the organ again while Peggy is roller-skating around the empty office. It's fantastic. When she shows up the next morning for her first day at McCann, she is hungover and full of confidence.

    Joan, on the other hand, is doomed from the start, just as she predicted to Pete in "Time & Life." The men there are disgusting, and they just have no idea what to make of her. They insist on having her work with a man, and she goes from out of the frying pan (Dennis, an idiot who offends her clients) and into the fire (Ferg, who sexually harasses her). She tells her successful businessman boyfriend Richard (Bruce Greenwood) that she wants the $500,000 she's still owed. He makes suggestions, but Joan creates her own path: "I wonder how many women around here would like to speak to a lawyer," she says to Jim Hobart. He scoffs at her, but when she says, "I guess you didn't see the headlines about what happened at Ladies Home Journal, or Newsweek," he offers her half the money she's due. Roger advises her to take it, so along with a framed picture of Kevin and her Rolodex, Joan walks out of the job she had worked and sacrificed for.

    Don has walked out, too, in search of Diana. After a brief, warm interlude with Betty ("Knock 'em dead, Birdie," he tells her about starting school) he decides to drive to Racine, Wisconsin, to find Diana. He sees the wreckage she left in her ex-husband and daughter. "She's a tornado, just leaving a trail of broken bodies behind her," her ex (Mackenzie Astin) tells Don angrily. "I'm sorry," Don responds. "I was worried about her. She seemed so lost." Who is this Don who cares about lost people, and worries about them? By the end of the episode, he's off again, picking up a hitchhiker who wants to go to St. Paul, Minnesota. The end credits song is "Space Oddity" by David Bowie, which is about an astronaut who gets lost in space and never comes home. Don is certainly floating in a most peculiar way.

    20. "The Jet Set" (Season 2, Episode 11)

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    Writer: Matthew Weiner

    Director: Phil Abraham

    There are Mad Men fans devoted to "The Jet Set," which breaks the show's format β€” or, if Mad Men doesn't have a format, its rules. It's dreamy to the point where you wonder whether it's imaginary. It's mostly set in California, where Don and Pete have headed for a convention (in "The Inheritance") to lure aerospace business.

    At first after they get there, Don, whose luggage has been lost by the airline, is rigid with Pete and all about work. But soon he disappears to Palm Springs with a bunch of nomadic Euros. The jet-setters are so outside of the show's suited, 1950s leftovers aesthetic that they seem unreal: a feeling enhanced by Don fainting poolside from heatstroke as soon as he arrives at their mid-century Palm Springs squat. Don is lured into the bed of a 21-year-old, Joy (Laura Ramsey), who barely can answer any of his biographical questions. But Don fits into this imaginary world β€” for obvious reasons.

    All of which makes him think of Anna Draper, whom he calls at the end of the episode (though we don't know whom he's calling at the time). "Hello, it's Dick Whitman," he says into the phone, jarring our ears. "Yeah. I'd love to see you. Soon." He writes down her address in Joy's copy of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury β€” signifying something! (As does Don's suitcase when it shows up at his family's house when he no longer lives there. And no one answers the door to receive it.)

    "The Jet Set" is pretty packed with plot developments, and there are important events in New York, too. Roger, smitten, gets engaged to Jane. Kurt (Edin Gali) comes out to all the young jerks he works with who have mistaken him for going on a date with Peggy: "I make love with the men," he says. "Not the woman." The reaction to his announcement is predictably awful after Kurt leaves the room; Sal's face is a tragic mask as he listens. And most important to the show's future, Roger tells Duck he's not doing a great job, so Duck goes to his former British employers at PPL and stirs up a possible merger for Sterling Cooper. With β€œThe Jet Set," Season 2 begins to gather steam taking it to its end, and it's almost brash. But as Kurt says when he gives Peggy a makeover and cuts off all her hair, "Eet's OK! Eet's good!"

    19. "Meditations in an Emergency" (Season 2, Episode 13)

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    Writers: Kater Gordon and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Matthew Weiner

    Looking back through all of Mad Men, the characters' lives have changed so much in 10 years that it's easy to forget that most of them have also been trapped at one time or another. In October 1962, the time of the Cuban missile crisis and when the Season 2 finale takes place, both Betty and Don are stuck. Having tried to move forward separately, they conclude that they have to go back to each other. It's an especially reluctant decision for Betty, and one she makes only because she finds out she's pregnant. Don, having dropped out in California, simply drops back in, which infuriates her. "It must be nice, needing time and just taking it," Betty says when he shows up at the stables. She does get him to admit, a little, that he cheated. "I was not respectful to you," he finally tells her. It's not enough for her yet, and she sends him away again. Only after he sends her a loving, pleading letter and she fucks a stranger in a bar is Betty ready to sacrifice her pride, her sense of righteousness, and her correct assessment that their marriage sucks.

    The episode's β€” and the season's β€” final moments are her telling him that she's pregnant. Betty waits for his reaction. Don looks down. He reaches for her hand. They hold hands. Neither of them speaks. Both Hamm and Jones are unnerving in this scene; they're finally touching, and maybe even telegraphing some love, but the space between them is huge.

    Earlier in the episode, Pete and Peggy also face each other and talk about a pregnancy β€” because this is when Peggy finally tells Pete, and perhaps tells herself, what happened. Pete confesses to Peggy that he loves her, which he may or may not mean. Peggy doesn't care anymore, anyway. "I could have had you," she says, shocking him. "I could have shamed you into being with me. But I didn't want to." She articulates what Betty yearns for, but isn't in the position to consider: "I wanted other things," Peggy says. Pete is teary-eyed: "Why would you tell me that?"

    Don and Peggy are the characters who usually mirror each other, but in "Meditations in an Emergency," it's a poignant foursome. Professionally, Pete and Don are both doing well in the merger, even though Duck tries to pit them against each other. Pete, who has finally gotten praise from Don β€” "Did you ever think I left you there because I thought you could handle it?" Don says to him when he explains his disappearance in "The Jet Set" β€” chooses to be loyal to Don. He tell Don that Duck is going to be the president of the merged agency. Instead of being ambushed by that news, Don is able to strategize, and decides to walk out, causing a panic among the partners that will benefit him. He solidifies his value and reveals Duck to be a flawed leader in one move. As Pete says about the Cuban missile crisis, "I bet the Russians are reconsidering now that we made a stand."

    18. "The Gypsy and the Hobo" (Season 3, Episode 11)

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    Writers: Marti Noxon, Cathryn Humphris, and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Jennifer Getzinger

    A variation in the show's persistent "hobo" theme, which represents the way Don sees himself.

    In this episode, the confrontation between Betty and Don about his real past is a 14-minute sequence that takes place in several settings in the Draper house. Hamm and Jones both change gears a number of times throughout. Betty starts in a calm fury, downshifts to stupefied and hurt, and ends up wounded, shocked, sympathetic, and maybe even loving. Don starts out defensive but soon collapses into shame and terror β€” he then tells Betty how he became Don Draper and about his childhood, and he's bereft and confessional (in every sense of the word).

    Hamm isn't a showy actor, but he is more demonstrative than Jones, and they perform these scenes β€” which are like a short, one-act play β€” perfectly together. Betty, angry: "What would you do if you were me? Would you love you?" Don, open and self-loathing: "I was surprised that you ever loved me." Betty, lashing out: "I can't trust you. I don't know who you are." Don, pleading: "Yes, you do." Goddammit, it's so good: When Don finally tells her about Adam's suicide, it's like, good night, everyone, I must take to my bed. Also, there's a sense of hope that you have watching their communication, which is finally honest.

    As we know now, that did not end up keeping them together. (Nor did it end up being the whole story of Don's sad past.) But it is the beginning of a new relationship for Don and Betty. And that's the last we see of Miss Farrell, too, who seemed like she had a real connection to Don but, as is the case so often, was a fleeting object of his attention. The episode is set during Halloween, and everyone is either wearing a costume or removing one. Sally and Bobby are the Gypsy and hobo of the title.

    (The other important things that happen in this episode are Joan-and-Greg–related: First, she smashes him in the head with a vase, which is very satisfying. Later, he joins the Army, because that's the only way he'll get to be a surgeon. Good riddance.)

    17. "Tomorrowland" (Season 4, Episode 13)

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    Writers: Jonathan Igla and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Matthew Weiner

    "Tomorrowland," or the folly of Don Draper.

    But before getting to that, one bit of fallout from Don's spontaneous proposal to Megan is a delightful conversation between Peggy and Joan. Peggy is floored when she learns of the engagement, and confused when Don says to her, "You know she reminds me of you. She's got the same spark. I know she admires you just as much as I do." She goes straight to Joan. "Can you believe it?" Peggy asks rhetorically. Joan puts on her knowing sage persona: "Happens all the time. They're all just between marriages β€” you know that." They continue to commiserate: Joan has gotten a promotion with no pay bump and no celebration; Peggy and Ken signed Topaz, SCDP's first new business since Lucky Strike left, and no one cares. Joan β€” who is secretly pregnant here β€” says, "Well, I learned a long time ago to not get all my satisfaction from this job." Peggy calls her on it: "That's bullshit." They both laugh, genuinely and hard.

    When a man like Don marries his 25-year-old secretary, it affects all of the women around him. Peggy feels belittled; Joan is exhausted. Faye is dumped and heartbroken. "Just get to it," she says to Don when he calls her, knowing what's coming. "I hope you're very happy," she says through tears. "And I hope she knows that you only like the beginnings of things." Faye is an expert in behavior, but that's not 100% right about Don. His addiction to moving forward (into Tomorrowland, perhaps) is what propels him. "Things aren't perfect," Betty tells him at the end of the episode as they stand in the emptied-out kitchen in their former home. "So you'll move again," Don replies, articulating his life philosophy.

    Going to California with his kids, a mythical place for Don that represents both his past and a potential future, and saying good-bye to Anna's house, sends him into a crisis. When Stephanie gives Don the engagement ring the real Donald Draper had given Anna (because Anna wanted him to have it), it's like he's carrying a loaded gun. Megan presents herself as a ready-made wife and mother β€” and servant. "You said you didn't have any experience," he says to her after watching how happy she makes Bobby and Sally, "and you're like Maria Von Trapp." At least Don is trying to stop lying about who he is to new people. Megan asks him about the ring, and he says, "It's been in my family. Not my family, really: It belonged to someone very important to me."

    A lot of fans reacted angrily to "Tomorrowland" and its dramatic ushering in of Megan Draper, a divisive character. But it made β€” and still makes β€” complete sense to me. Watching it now, their eventual destruction is clear from the beginning: Megan saying she doesn't want to be an actress, as well as Don saying to her, "I feel like myself when I'm with you." (Remember, this season began by asking Who is Don Draper? Answer: still not sure!)

    This episode also features Betty's worst moment ever: firing Carla for letting Glen visit Sally. As they fight about it, Betty takes umbrage at an imagined slight from Carla, and shouts at her: "Where are your kids? Are they all doctors and lawyers?" Carla answers calmly: "You'd best stop talking now." Knowing that Betty was raised by her nanny, Viola, her decision not to let Carla say good-bye to the kids is especially brutal. We never see her again. As a confounded Henry screams at Betty after this irrational decision: "There is no fresh start! Lives carry on!" Not according to Don. But Henry is right.

    16. "Red in the Face" (Season 1, Episode 7)

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    Writer: Bridget Bedard

    Director: Tim Hunter

    Season 1 of Mad Men introduces us to each character in wonderfully subtle ways; it never seems overtly episodic. With his wife Mona out of town, Roger is bored, and Don is forced into a situation in which he has to invite Roger home for dinner. Betty and Roger have more in common than either of them do with Don, who is left out of their conversation β€” what's sad is that both Roger and Don take this dynamic to mean that Betty is attracted to Roger. He makes a pass at her, which she thwarts without angering him. Don is furious at her, though, and punishes her for the rest of the episode. (She takes it out on Helen Bishop, whom she slaps inexplicably in the grocery store, after Helen β€” rightly! β€” points out that Betty should not have given her hair to Glen.) Since Don can't be angry with Roger, he takes a different tack, palling around with him to excess. They drink martinis and eat oysters and cheesecake before meeting with the Nixon campaign. And when they have to hike up 23 floors β€” "My name is on the building," Roger says. "They can wait for me." β€” Roger vomits everywhere and in front of everyone. Don, the younger man, the man who served in Korea instead of World War II like Roger, is winded, but fine. Don's smirk after he leaves Roger the wreck says everything we need to know about what he thinks of his rich-kid boss.

    15. "Nixon Vs. Kennedy" (Season 1, Episode 12)

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    Writers: Lisa Albert, Andre Jacquemetton, and Maria Jacquemetton

    Director: Alan Taylor

    In this Election Day episode, there are two clashes, both of which are close calls. Nixon and Kennedy fight it out, with the corpses of Chicago putting Kennedy over the top. And Pete and Don finally get all of their animosity out in the open, with Bert adjudicating after Pete comes to him and tells him Don is actually a man named Dick Whitman. Pete wants to be head of account services (Duck is about to get the job), and he is sure that Bert will side with him and fire Don. But after Don calls Pete's bluff, Bert's reaction is shocking: "Mr. Campbell, who cares?" he asks. Pete, stunned, responds, "What?" Bert asks again: "Who cares?" Given the election, Bert is in a world-building, yet practical mood, and he is betting on Don. "This country was built by men with worse stories than whatever you've imagined here," he tells Pete.

    And it's true, what Pete imagines is not what actually happened, which we see in a flashback: Don, then Dick, is in Korea, and gets stationed with an older officer named Donald Draper (Troy Ruptash). When Draper dies in an explosion Dick accidentally caused, Dick, though hurt, is cognizant enough to switch his dog tags with the unrecognizably dead man. He wakes up a Purple-Hearted hero and a new person, one tasked with bringing Dick Whitman's body home to his family. (And so we see a heartbreaking scene Adam described in "5G" in which he saw Dick looking through the window of the train as the family received the coffin. No one believed Adam then, of course.)

    Pete's scheme does cost Don, though. Before Don resolves to face Bert, he goes to Rachel, desperate and sweating, and asks her to run away to California with him. She's horrified that he would leave his children. "You don't want to run away with me, you just want to run away," she concludes, and kicks him out. As we know by Season 7, Rachel haunts Don. But if Mad Men viewers late in the show’s first season thought that the drama's main arc would be Don perennially under siege because of his secrets, Weiner showed us here that this show would be different. And Pete, as we see throughout Season 2, culminating in its finale, doesn't turn out to be the enemy Don thinks he is. Which Bert already knows. "Don, fire him if you want," he says. "But I'd keep an eye on him. One never knows how loyalty is born."

    14. "The Quality of Mercy" (Season 6, Episode 11)

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    Writers: Andre Jacquemetton and Maria Jacquemetton

    Director: Phil Abraham

    After the shameful event of "Favors" β€” Sally walking in on Don and Sylvia having sex β€” a few things have happened. Don and Megan's attempt at reconciliation has fizzled; they're not even trying anymore. Sally has decided not only that Betty is her preferred parent, but also that even so she would like to ditch both Betty and Don by enrolling at Miss Porter's. And Don is mourning Sally. Megan finds him asleep in the morning in Sally's empty bed, curled up and on his side, which is not his usual corpse-like sleeping position. (Later, he adopts it at work too.)

    What isn't atypical of Don is that he is incredibly hungover, and, as always, refuses the food Megan offers him. (Does Don ever eat on Mad Men when someone urges him to? I can't recall a time.) At SC&P, there are two different workplace twosomes that are heading toward resolution. One is Pete and Bob Benson, a relationship that has reached a crisis point after Bob made a subtle pass at Pete in "Favors" by putting his knee up against Pete's. "You should watch what you say to people," Bob says menacingly after Pete recalls the incident. Pete calls Duck, who is now a headhunter, and tries to get Bob another job, only to find that nothing Bob has told him β€” that he went to Wharton, that he was high up at Brown Brothers Harriman β€” is true. What are the chances, Pete wonders, of running up against two people who aren't who they say? He's certainly learned from his dealings with Don. He tells Bob he won't expose him and that he doesn't have to leave his job. "I would like to think that I have learned not to tangle with your kind of animal," Pete says. "I'm off-limits." (He also asks that Bob get Manolo away from his mother, but he'll be out of luck there.)

    The other office couple is Ted and Peggy, who are acting out their love through diligent, overly enthusiastic creative work. They look silly, and they even take other people with them, forcing Don to pretend to be a baby ("Waah waah waah!") and Joan to be a "Jewish neighbor lady" ("How about a bowl of chicken soup?") in their Rosemary's Baby–themed St. Joseph's ad idea. For once Don has to act like the adult, telling St. Joseph's that it will be much more expensive than they had budgeted, and bringing Ted back to Earth. "Everybody sees it," Don tells Ted. "Just ask your secretary. Your judgment is impaired. You're not thinking with your head." Ted, who has a wife and two sons, is stunned. Peggy is furious at Don β€” this is the widening of the rift between them β€” to which he says, "He's not that virtuous. He's just in love with you." Peggy says, "You're a monster."

    Speaking of monsters, as foretold in "The Crash," the Chevy brutes nearly kill Ken. They shoot him β€” accidentally β€” during a hunting trip. "Did I tell you that on the way to the hospital they tried to stop for lunch?" he asks Pete. Considering what a smarmy asshole Ken was at the beginning of Mad Men, his evolution into a decent person with artistic leanings has been among the show's most satisfying.

    13. "Far Away Places" (Season 5, Episode 5)

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    Writers: Semi Challas and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Scott Hornbacher

    We see the events of a weird, important 24-hour period in the lives of Peggy, Roger, and Don from their different points of view. Peggy is set to present another attempt at SCDP's long-gestating Heinz Beans campaign she's been working on closely with Megan; Roger and Jane take acid; and Don and Megan have an atrocious, foreboding fight.

    At this point, all we know about Roger and Jane's relationship is that it's toxic and he seems to hate her, so when they go to a dinner party that ends with the guests taking LSD, it seems like a terrible idea for the two of them. What follows, though, is the best (and least annoying/indulgent) drug-taking sequence ever on television. It ends with Roger and Jane deciding to divorce, but in an unexpected, touching, funny way. Roger: "What time is it?" Jane: "How can a few numbers contain all of time?" They lie on the floor and talk about how their marriage is over. "You don't like me," Jane says. "I did," Roger says sadly. "I really did." When they wake up in the morning, Jane doesn't really remember the conversation. "You said so many amazing things," Roger reminds her. "You were speaking German." Jane is even more confused: "I don’t know German." Without acrimony, she tells him their divorce will be expensive. "I know," he says.

    Don and Megan, who by the second half of Season 7 are Roger and Jane, open a rift between them during a work trip to Howard Johnson's upstate. Megan doesn't want to go β€” she wants to stay with Peggy for Heinz β€” but Don pulls her out of work because he wants to have fun with her. They have a terrible fight in the Howard Johnson's restaurant when she says she doesn't like the orange sherbet. "I'm sorry," Megan says. "Maybe you could make up a little schedule so I'll know when I'm working and when I'm your wife. It gets so confusing." They tear into each other passionately, and Don ends up driving away, leaving her. When he comes back, she's gone, which terrifies him. By the time Don finds her at home, he's incapable of showing her how scared he was, and continues the fight, chasing her like a true psychopath around their sprawling apartment. "Every time we fight it just diminishes this a little bit," Megan says to Don as they lie breathless on their floor. (Roger and Jane also found themselves on their apartment floor having a similar conversation.)

    Peggy's story is the first we see in this episode: As she fights with Abe, she blows the Heinz pitch (by trying to channel Don, who can bully clients into accepting ideas, which Peggy cannot pull off), goes to see Born Free, gives a hand job to a stranger in the movie theater, and falls asleep at work (also channeling Don). The inventive "Far Away Places" packs a lot in.

    One haunting bit in retrospect: Ginsberg is still new to the agency here, and everyone treats him like he's an amusing sideshow. But he and Peggy have the saddest conversation about his father who shows up at work. When she asks Ginsberg about him, he tells her he's from Mars. "That man, my father, told me a story I was born in a concentration camp, but you know that's impossible," he says. "And I never met my mother because she supposedly died there." He adopted him from a Swedish orphanage. Peggy looks at him with sympathy: "Are there others like you?" Ginsberg looks so lonely when he answers her: "I don't know. I haven't been able to find any."

    It's Bert who gets the episode's last word, though, when Don and Megan show up (looking perfect despite everything), and he tells Don he needs to return from "love leave" after the debacle with Heinz. "It's none of your business," Don says. Bert answers him evenly: "This is my business."

    12. "Time & Life" (Season 7, Episode 11)

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    Writers: Erin Levy and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Jared Harris

    "Hold on! This is the beginning of something! Not the end!"

    That's what Don shouted at his fleeing SC&P employees who didn't buy his and Roger's assurances that everything was going to be all right even though the agency is officially being swallowed up by McCann. When Roger sold the company, it was a Hail Mary effort to both save the agency and to prove himself to his father figure, Bert. It turned out to be a temporary respite. "Time & Life" plays with the Mad Men conventions we've seen so many times now: Can our superheroes save the day at the last minute? They always have. Can Don deliver a galvanizing speech? He always has. So what a clever, poignant turn to see Don fail to bend people to his will. Not that you even blame Jim Hobart and Ferg: Don's presentation about why they should all get to move to Los Angeles as "Sterling Cooper West" is half-assed, and unworthy of him.

    Apart from this disaster β€” that the company is soon to cease to exist β€” a few other important things happen in "Time & Life" (the title refers to the Time-Life Building, where SC&P has resided since it split off). Most crucially, Peggy finally gives voice to the question of what happened to her baby boy β€” and more important, how she feels about it. Given that her reaction to being pregnant and giving birth was to completely disconnect from her body, it would be natural for Mad Men viewers to wonder whether Peggy thinks about, or even recalls, that she had a baby and gave him up for adoption. But in a moving conversation with Stan, during which both actors tone down their usual fun dynamic to get serious, she tells him what happened.

    It's a crier. Peggy says: "He's with a family. Somewhere. I don't know. But it's not because I don't care. I don't know because you're not supposed to know. Or you can't go on with your life." It's also an insightful, sly, and feminist look into how Peggy in 1970 would look back at her choices from nine years earlier. Before she uses the first person and makes it clear she's talking about herself, she lectures Stan about what his own mother might have been saddled with. "Maybe she was very young," Peggy says. "And followed her heart, and got in trouble. And no one should have to make a mistake just like a man does and not be able to move on. She should be able to live the rest of her life, just like a man does."

    Oh, it's so good! And these two β€” they've had a lovely friendship that has built since Stan's first appearance in "Waldorf Stories," carried through their nighttime phone calls when they were briefly at rival agencies, and recovered from their kiss in "The Crash."

    The episode's other callback is less layered, but still meaningful: when Roger tells Don that he's now with Marie. Don is about to judge Roger, as is his reflex. But Roger calls Don on his bullshit. "When I married my secretary, you were hard on me," Roger says. "And then you went and did the same thing." Don has no answer to that: "You know what? For the second time today, I surrender. I'm happy for you." It's cold comfort, but Don gets a small bit of closure himself in "Time & Life" when Ted apologizes to him. "I always felt bad about taking your spot when I saw what happened to you," he says. "It should have been you out there, not me."

    11. "The New Girl" (Season 2, Episode 5)

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    Writer: Robin Veith

    Director: Jennifer Getzinger

    What a pivotal episode for both Don and Peggy. Don gets into a drunken, car-rolling accident with Bobbie, and when he doesn't have enough cash on him to pay the fine ($150 since he was over the legal limit of 1.5%), the only person he can think to call to bring him the money is Peggy. It's visibly clear from Don's and Bobbie's injuries that they were both in an accident, so Bobbie needs to keep out of sight. She ends up going home with Peggy to her Brooklyn apartment and staying there.(Bobbie tells Jimmy she's at a "fat farm.") Being complicit in Don's messy life makes Peggy remember her time in the hospital, which would have been endless had she not gotten a surprise visit from Don, who tracked her down out of concern. "What's wrong with you?" he asks. "I don't know," Peggy answers. "Do whatever they say," he tells her, leaning forward intently. "Peggy listen to me: Get out of here. And move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened."

    This moment is when Weiner laid bare Don's ethos β€” one he had more briefly articulated to Adam in "5G" β€” and the way he has been able to live. Everything we see happen to Don needs to run through this filter: This never happened.

    During her hideout days, Bobbie does give Peggy some advice: "You're never going to get that corner office until you start treating Don as an equal," she says. And so Peggy is "The New Girl" β€” she calls Don by his first name for the first time after this pep talk. (Joan, who has gotten engaged, is also a new girl; and so is Jane, who is Don's latest secretary, and the person who is actually called the new girl in this episode.)

    10. "The Strategy" (Season 7, Episode 6)

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    Writer: Semi Chellas

    Director: Phil Abraham

    Joan turns down Bob's proposal to be his beard, and Roger gets the idea that McCann might be a factor in SC&P's future, but this episode is really all about Don and Peggy. When Don is allowed back to SC&P after his suspension, he is subordinate to Peggy. He's furious about it at first (in "The Monolith"), but once he gets used to it, he's really good at telling her he'll do whatever she wants. It's another fan fiction moment that reminds me of the Don-Joan bar night of "Christmas Waltz." Here, it's What if Peggy were Don's boss? They think they have a final plan for Burger Chef, and then Don subtly hints that there might be another way. Peggy shoots him down, but then can't get the doubt out of her mind. Alone at the office on a weekend day, she takes it out on him. "I'm going to do whatever you say," he says. "So you're going to pitch the hell out of my shitty idea and I'm going to fail!" Peggy replies, frustrated. "Peggy, I'm here to help you do whatever you want to do," he reiterates. He's really trying to help; he's not being manipulative. Here's the most fan fiction-y line of all from Don: "Whenever I'm really unsure about an idea, first I, uh, abuse the people whose help I need. Then I take a nap." "Done," Peggy says.

    They spend quality hours together for the first time since the debacle with Ted, and maybe even since she left SCDP for CGC. They talk, they drink, they say sad things to each other. She tells him she just turned 30. "I worry about a lot of things," Don says to her with care. "But I don't worry about you." "What do you have to worry about?" Peggy asks, still not seeing the reality of his life. He answers her completely honestly: "That I never did anything. And that I don't have anyone." (And the amazing thing about Peggy is she doesn't have anything nice to say back to that! I love her.) She starts to cry β€” but then she has a great idea for Burger Chef. Frank Sinatra’s "My Way" begins to play on the radio, and the two of them dance closely and hold each other.

    If you think it can't get better, Don and Peggy take Pete to a Burger Chef restaurant to convince him to switch strategies: He had wanted the campaign to be about mothers in their homes; she wants it to be set in the restaurants. "As long as it's still about moms," Pete grumbles. "It's about family," Peggy says. "Every table here is the family table." "I hate even the word 'family'!" Pete says, still not convinced. "It's vague." Don supports Peggy; Pete reluctantly agrees. Then the camera pulls away from the three of them as they eat, looking from the outside in at these people who've been so close for nine years now.

    If "The Strategy" had been the series finale of Mad Men, I would have been fine with that.

    9. "Waterloo" (Season 7, Episode 7)

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    Writers: Carly Wray and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Matthew Weiner

    Bert Cooper dies in "Waterloo," the final episode of the first half of Mad Men's seventh season. What we don't know at the time of his death is that any version of Sterling Cooper will soon die along with him. Weiner scripted Bert as an eccentric: a devotee of Ayn Rand; an insightful businessman with a laconic, sometimes withering authority; and a man ahead of his time on shoe removal. He dies while watching the Apollo 11 astronauts walk on the moon β€” he's with his housekeeper, and looks at the television with wonder. "Bravo," he says.

    Roger is not only personally struck down by Bert's death; he knows now that Jim Cutler will get what he wants: to fire Don for violating the rules of his return. (When Don crashed the cigarettes meeting Jim and Lou set up in "The Runaways," he was in breach.) Bert had only just told Roger, "You're not a leader," and it's driving him crazy β€” so he takes drastic action, and meets with Jim Hobart of McCann. The terms of the deal Roger brokers seem perfect: They'll all be rich, they'll retain their independence, and Don can stay. (Of course it was too good to be true!)

    Before this temporary rescue, Don, Harry, Pete, and Peggy have gone to Indiana to pitch to Burger Chef, and it's been agreed that Don will do it. Roger calls Don to tell him about Bert, which will mean the end for Don. β€œPoor Bert," Roger says. "I should have realized it was the end. Every time an old man starts talking about Napoleon, you know they’re gonna die.” Don tells Peggy she has to do the pitch so Burger Chef doesn't get alarmed when the person who sold them the campaign is pushed out. "I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t know you could," he says to Peggy.

    Don is shaken, and obviously he doesn't want to lose his job β€” he has nothing at this point: When he tells Megan earlier in the episode that he could move to L.A. since they're about to push him out, she doesn't answer. Which is how he knows their marriage is over. β€œI’ll always take care of you,” he says. β€œYou don’t owe me anything," she answers, crying.

    In the end, Peggy gets Burger Chef, Don helped her, and it seems like SC&P's safety has been secured. So why is it that Bert's ghost sings to Don "The Best Things in Life Are Free"? In the episodes that follow, during Don's self-exile and walkabout, we'll learn how much Don took Bert's advice to heart.

    8. "Signal 30" (Season 5, Episode 4)

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    Writers: Frank Pierson and Matthew Weiner

    Director: John Slattery

    After a few below-par episodes of Mad Men, "Signal 30" sneaks into Season 5 and sets it alight. If you don't remember "Signal 30" by the title, here are some reminders: It's the one when Don fixes the sink in a T-shirt; when they go to the Manhattan whorehouse (and Don for the first time says that he grew up in one); when Pete is obsessed with the teenage girl in driver's ed; when Pete and Lane box; when Lane kisses Joan (and she's so sweet to him about it); and when Lane says, "Because he was caught with chewing gum on his pubis!"

    The fifth season reveals Pete Campbell's depths, and explores the mundane tragedies of his life, many of which are self-inflicted. Through Mad Men's arc to this point, Pete has always been with Trudy and he has always been a striver at work. Now that he and Trudy have a daughter and a suburban house, and he's not only good at his job but also recognized for that, he's in a confused state. He takes a driver's ed class since he never learned to drive because of his Manhattan upbringing (I can relate, Pete), and finds a college-bound woman to want. She flirts with him, but as soon as someone age-appropriate joins the class, Pete is ditched. And he can imagine how she thinks of him because it's what he thinks of himself. After he and Lane have a fistfight in the office, and Lane wins, Pete rides down in the elevator with Don. His face is beaten and swollen. "Why are we even having a fight at work?" he asks plaintively. "This is an office. We're supposed to be friends." And then he pauses, and starts to cry. "I have nothing, Don." (I'm crying typing this.)

    Pete Campbell! He presents such a conundrum. He's a prick and a lech and a child and a rapist. He is, as Lane calls him before their fight, a "monster" and a "grimy little pimp." He's also trapped in a life that he never chose. He is a yearning, lost person. Sometimes he can be sweet, and often he's right. And Kartheiser is so good at making Pete's vulnerable side overtake his dickishness in flashes that it's impossible to imagine anyone else playing him.

    As far as the rest of the episode goes, "Signal 30" sets up so many things for the rest of the season. After the Jaguar account (temporarily) falls through, Lane asks Joan, "What do I do here? Truly?" And Don, whose hard-luck narrative of his early life has always focused on the farm days with his father, shifts his story forward to his post-Archie life. At the fancy Manhattan brothel where he, Roger, and Pete take Lane's friend from Jaguar, Don does not partake. The madam wonders whether he's a cop, and then whether he's gay. "I grew up in a place like this," he tells her out of nowhere. When she says there aren't other places like it, he says, "You're right, it wasn't as nice. We called it a whorehouse."

    7. "The Other Woman" (Season 5, Episode 10)

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    Writers: Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Phil Abraham

    "The Other Woman" directly followed "Christmas Waltz," which illuminated, and deepened the bond between Don and Joan. Mad Men's presentation of Joan β€” and Hendricks' portrayal of her β€” has always been a balancing act, and I can't remember another depiction in pop culture of a female character like Joan. She knows the sexual power she has, and she has a certain amount of control over that part of her life; yes, she's gotten things because of the way she looks. (She and Don have that in common, though of course it's very different for a man.) That she finds glory in this part of her life, and that she allows herself to be worshipped and has found strength in that, has been fascinating to watch. The show has worshipped her as well, and its treatment of her doesn't feel wrong or sexist: Joan is a full character to us, and we see the ups and downs of her life.

    All of these complexities are made literal in "The Other Woman" when Herb β€” one of the Jaguar dealer’s association representatives, and a crucial vote for SCDP in its campaign to get the account β€” tells Pete and Ken flat out that if he gets to have sex with Joan, they would have his vote. Ken is horrified, but Pete is not. (Lane called Pete a "grimy little pimp" in "Signal 30," foretelling that he's capable of considering a proposition like this one.) There's a series of meetings, conversations, and arguments with different sets of partners β€” and with Joan herself, who says to Pete, "You're talking about prostitution." To which he responds, "I'm talking about business at a very high level."

    Don is not only repulsed by the idea, but also insulted by the thought that his creative work alone won't be enough to get them the account. Lane, thinking of his own troubles, which are about to become insurmountable, is the one who gives Joan a reason to say yes. He tells her "a partnership yielding a 5% stake in the company itself could take care of a woman and a child for a lifetime." She hears him, but also looks sad: "Here I thought you were trying to stop this because you have feelings for me." Lane's suggestion is what Joan ends up deciding to do, unbeknownst to Don, who comes to her apartment and thinks he successfully stops her. Don: "I wanted to tell you it's not worth it." Joan: "I was told everyone was on board." Don: "I said no and they voted when I left the room." Joan: "You're a good one, aren't you?"

    We think he's stopped her too, but no, that would be too simple for Mad Men, and too patronizing to Joan. As Don presents to Jaguar in metaphors laden with thoughts about desire and acquisition, we see Joan's unpleasant sexual encounter with the grotesque Herb, who treats her as an object. "Now I don’t know how much longer I can restrain myself," Herb says to Joan. "Let me see 'em."

    They get the account, and Don realizes what happened only when he sees that Joan is now a partner. He's in a foul mood about it (rightly), and that's when Peggy β€” whose stories often run parallel to Joan's to signify their different paths β€” tells him she's quitting to go work for Ted. "I want you to know that the day you saw something in me, my whole life changed," Peggy says to Don as she begins giving her notice. Don, blindsided, reacts angrily at first ("Let's pretend I'm not responsible for every single good thing that's ever happened to you," he snaps), but then when she goes to shake his hand, he kisses it and won't let go. Don and Peggy do sometimes express their feelings for each other physically; it's an incredibly moving moment. And Peggy is sad β€” but only until she gets to the open elevator, when her face breaks into a smile.

    Mad Men has rarely been a show that's stirred controversy or incited topical debates, but "The Other Woman" was quite polarizing: Would Joan have sold herself to Herb for an SCDP partnership? I was interested in the outcry arguing that the show didn't present the story believably. But I thought this twist was of a piece in building of Joan's character and story β€” and in what it revealed about each of SCDP's men too. I've also loved how the repercussions of her decision continued to play out, both in her economic freedom and in more sour echoes. Whatever side you fall on, certainly we see at the end of the series that Joan is officially done being sexually mistreated at work.

    6. "In Care Of" (Season 6, Episode 12)

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    Writers: Carly Wray and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Matthew Weiner

    It's Thanksgiving 1968, and it's been a violent year for the country and a reckless year for Don. As he has sunk lower, he's thought more and more about his childhood in a Pennsylvania brothel, and those memories spill out at work. During a Hershey's pitch, which he is sure won't go anywhere to begin with, he tells the company's executives that he used to get Hershey bars as rewards from one of the prostitutes he lived with. "I would eat it β€” alone β€” in my room. With great ceremony. Feeling like a normal kid." Then he adds, "It was the only sweet thing in my life." Hamm is choked up, confessional, and far away in this scene. The whole episode gets the best of him, as Don goes from his nadir (spending a night in the drunk tank for punching a minister) to a place of hope (deciding to steal Stan's idea to move to Los Angeles to save his relationship with Megan) to self-immolation in this Hershey's meeting. "You shit the bed in there," Roger shouts at him afterward.

    But it's a sign of Don's debauched, skewed thinking that he doesn't even realize that what he's done is beyond the pale. He's actually surprised when the other partners put him on leave with no end date. At the elevators, he runs into Duck with Lou Avery, a rival ad man we saw once before in "For Immediate Release." "Going down?" Lou asks Don smugly. For now he is, Lou!

    With one part of his life wrecked, Don sets about fixing another. Sally has been knocked down by his gross behavior, and before she's destroyed permanently, he needs her to understand him. He picks the kids up for Thanksgiving (Sally has already been suspended from Miss Porter's for drinking) and takes them to see where he grew up. It's decrepit. Bobby and Gene are too little to understand, but Sally looks at Don β€” and Don looks back at Sally β€” and she understands something about her father: that he was impoverished in every way a child can be.

    While Sally is starting to forgive Don, Peggy, sadly, is not. She blames him for the destruction of her love affair with Ted; in the game of musical chairs over who will move to L.A., Peggy is the one left standing. This is the episode when Peggy and Ted finally have sex, and she thinks that they will now be together forever. But that thing that she thinks about Ted β€” that he's a good person β€” gets in the way, and in the end, he needs to get away from Peggy to save his marriage. She's mad at Ted for deciding what's best for both of them ("Someday you'll be happy I made this decision," he tells her patronizingly. "Well, aren't you lucky," she responds spitefully and correctly, "to have decisions."). But it's easier for her to lash out at Don, and to literally take his seat.

    Heavy stuff, especially when you realize that this is the death knell for Don and Megan. "You want to be alone," she says to him, still intent on moving to L.A., even without him. "With your liquor and your ex-wife and your screwed-up kids." Luckily, the death β€” more specifically, the probable murder β€” of Pete's mother lightens the episode. When he gets the call from the cruise line telling him she's overboard and missing, and that oh, she and Manolo married, it's right when Bob and Pete are leaving for Detroit. Bob asks how he is, and you know Pete's response: "Not great, Bob!"

    As Judy Collins sings over the Don-Sally scene at the episode's end, "Something's lost, but something's gained, in living every day."

    5. "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (Season 1, Episode 1)

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    Writer: Matthew Weiner

    Director: Alan Taylor

    How totally fascinating to watch Mad Men's pilot after all we've been through together. As with any pilot, the show was finding itself. There's some jarringly jazzy music in there! And the Don of March 1960 wasn't Don as we now know him β€” he's uncharacteristically nervous about pitching Lucky Strike, and he's overly aggressive (for Don) both in reaction to Pete ("No one will like you") and when dealing with Rachel Menken ("I'm not going to let a woman talk to me like this!"). But the episode sets up so much of what was to unfold so wonderfully: Don as advertising genius, especially while under pressure; Don as mystery man; Don as womanizer; the fratty atmosphere at Sterling Cooper, led by Pete; Don and Pete as rivals; Joan as our guide through all things, especially womanly ones; and Peggy, Don's new secretary, as an unpredictable striver. There's also the show's art direction and costumes, which we now take for granted as the best ever, but were unprecedented in 2007. Oh, and let's not forget the show's kicker. The episode ends with Don, whom we've seen ask Midge to marry him, and who says things like, "I'm living like there's no tomorrow because there isn't one," taking the train home to Ossining, New York, where his beautiful wife and children live. A loving Betty happily greets him in their bed, and the pilot's final image is Don caressing the heads of his sleeping children with Betty watching from the doorway. If Mad Men is simultaneously a character study and an examination of America during a period of huge societal change, this image tells you everything you need to know about both.

    4. "Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency" (Season 3, Episode 6)

    AMC

    Writers: Robin Veith and Matthew Weiner

    Director: Lesli Linka Glatter

    This episode features what is possibly Mad Men's most shocking β€” and certainly it's most darkly funny β€” moment ever. But before that, let's get to the other stuff, because every minute is great. Sally doesn't like baby Gene; it seems like she resents him, which is a natural assumption, and Betty and Don aren't mad at her for it. But it turns out she's scared of him, because he looks like her dead grandfather, and has his name too. It leads to a lovely moment between Don and Sally at the episode's end, when he tries to make Sally feel better (and succeeds). "This is your little brother," he tells her. "He's only a little baby. We don't know who he is yet, or who he's going to be. And that is a wonderful thing." It's easy to think of Don and Betty as awful parents, because β€” well, they mostly are. But sometimes they are understanding and loving and kind, and they extend themselves beyond their limitations as people.

    Elsewhere, Conrad Hilton calls Don in this episode, having tracked him down, and that relationship β€” with its immediately fraught power dynamics β€” begins. The other thing that isn't The Thing in "Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency" is that Joan's Greg isn't made chief resident, and the life she has been dreaming of will not be hers. Unfortunately, she has already quit Sterling Cooper, which is making everyone very sad.

    And she shines in the episode's main plot, which is: Lane announces that their British partners at PPL will be arriving for a surprise visit. No one knows why, but it turns out that they are going to reorganize the business: Roger is left out entirely, Lane is going to be moved to Bombay, and the only person who gets a promotion is Harry. The person making the announcement is Guy Mackendrick (Jamie Thomas King), a PPL star, who will take over Lane's job, running Sterling Cooper with Bert and Don. No one is happy, but they have to pretend otherwise, and during the celebration for Joan's departure, Smitty and Lois begin drunkenly riding a John Deere lawnmower around the office. Lois ends up running over Guy's foot, effectively severing it! There are so many remarkable layers to this accident that underline Mad Men's narrative excellence. The story has seemed like it was going to be one thing: saying good-bye to Lane, introducing a new character, roiling resentments. And then, poof, Guy is gone as quickly as he came. Surprisingly gone, actually. At the emergency room when the PPL men talk to Don and Joan, Don is shocked by their callousness: "The man is missing a foot. How is he going to work?"

    So instead of recalculating new relationships, "Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency" reinforces existing ones β€” between Don and Roger, and Don and Joan. As the latter pair wait for news in the ER, Joan says to Don about Guy, "I bet he felt great when he woke up this morning." And then: "But that's life. One minute you're on top of the world, the next minute, some secretary is running you over with a lawnmower." (Joan knows that better than anyone.) The acting in this episode is peak, with Hamm embodying Don as loving father, as cowed supplicant trying to impress (Hilton), and as a guy who really knows how to laugh at Joan's jokes (something we so rarely see Don do).

    But this is Hendricks' episode, as she careens from disappointed wife to ultra-efficient office manager with emergency medical skills. Oh, and the fact that it's Lois that causes the accident is perfect too. Her entire arc as office moron has built up to this bloody, brilliant moment.

    3. "The Wheel" (Season 1, Episode 13)

    AMC

    Writers: Matthew Weiner and Robin Veith

    Director: Matthew Weiner

    By its first finale, Mad Men had found itself. Don β€” and Hamm's performance β€” had evolved into the Don we now know: low-voiced, repressed, layered, lying, and pouring himself into his work. He finds out that Adam has committed suicide, and he is brought low by guilt.

    But his pitch for Kodak's new slide projector, "the wheel," offers him an opportunity to shill his own beautiful family images at the same time that he is clarifying his feelings. Which are that he sort of wishes he were the person who wanted to spend Thanksgiving with them β€” but he doesn't. Betty wants Don to be that husband, too, but instead she has started to figure out that she is living with a cheater who also calls her psychiatrist behind her back. Who is the only person for her to talk to? Unfortunately, it's Glen. Betty runs into him as he waits for his mother, and she can't help herself. "Glen, I can't talk to anyone," she says. "It's so horrible. I'm so sad." He puts out his little mittened hand to her. She cries. "Please β€” please tell me I'll be OK." He answers: "I don't know. I wish I was older." It's an incredibly moving scene between two emotional freaks who have somehow crossed paths.

    At least Betty realizes that she's losing it. Peggy, on the other hand, goes into labor, thinks it's stomach problems, goes to the hospital, and is told she is pregnant and having the baby β€” and she doesn't believe the doctor! "That's not possible," she says before collapsing. She lies alone in a hospital bed, refusing to meet or hold or feed the baby.

    Don, her other half, is also alone. He sells Kodak so hard on his family, and life being a carousel, not a wheel, that he almost believes it himself. He fantasizes telling Betty and the kids that he's changed his mind, and can come to Thanksgiving after all. But it's a fiction. In reality, he's returned to an empty house. In bringing Mad Men's first season to a close, Weiner is showing us the opposite final image from the pilot: Don is now deeply alone. Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" (anachronistically) plays over Don's pensive face and, for once, Don seems to be unable to heed its message of denial.

    2. "Shut the Door. Have a Seat." (Season 3, Episode 13)

    AMC

    Writers: Matthew Weiner and Erin Levy

    Director: Matthew Weiner

    By the end of its third season, Mad Men had taken risks, and showed that Weiner was never going to do what you might think. But nothing prepared viewers for "Shut the Door. Have a Seat." which blows up the entire show. When Mad Men began, Don Draper worked at Sterling Cooper and was married with children. By the end of "Shut the Door. Have a Seat.," he's left the agency and Betty and Henry are on a plane to Reno so she can divorce him. Don finds out at the beginning of the episode β€” from Connie Hilton, of course β€” that PPL is selling Sterling Cooper to McCann. The idea of working for McCann is repellent to Don, who tells Connie, "It's a sausage factory; I turned them down three years ago."

    After that, every scene is propulsive for both the story and the characters. Don and Roger make up (really, this time); Lane becomes their unlikely spy and savior; Joan is a crucial player in the dead-of-night sneaking; and Pete excels. Most movingly, Don finds the words to tell Peggy how much she means to him. He tries this first: "You were right. I've taken you for granted. And I've been hard on you. But only because I think I see you as an extension of myself. And you're not." When that doesn't work, and she thinks that he'll cut her off if she says no, he surprises her: "No. I will spend the rest of my life trying to hire you."

    In the other part of his life, the split with Betty is sad only because the kids are devastated. But Betty is happy. And Don is fine; he's with the new family β€” his work family β€” that he got to create himself. Everything about this episode is great.

    And that goes for nearly every bit of dialogue too. But a few of my favorites are when Bert yells at Roger before he's on board with the split: "You sold your birthright so you could marry that trollop!" And after Roger inadvertently is the one to tell Don about Betty and Henry: "I was gonna tell you! No, I wasn't." And finally, after Don comes to the office to help poach every file they can on the clients they're stealing, he sees Joan, whom Roger has called when he realizes they don't know where anything is. "Joan," Don says. "What a good idea."

    He seems truly happy. As are we.

    1. "The Suitcase" (Season 4, Episode 7)

    AMC

    Writer: Matthew Weiner

    Director: Jennifer Getzinger

    "The Suitcase" is the story of the night Don knows that if he returns Stephanie's call, he will find out that Anna died. So to delay that as long as possible, he tortures Peggy, not knowing at first that it's her 26th birthday. (And after he does know, not really caring about it.)

    It's May 25, 1965, and everyone else at SCDP has gone to watch the Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston fight, but Don holds Peggy hostage, ostensibly to work on a Samsonite campaign. But really, it's because he can. Or as Peggy puts it to Don, "Well, it's not my fault you don't have a family or friends or anywhere else to go." (She's so right that Don doesn't even flinch at that; it's just one tiny part of their back-and-forth.)

    For some of us, Mad Men is the tandem stories of Don Draper and Peggy Olson, as well as their relationship together. Their ease around each other, their resentments toward each other, the way they can take resentments against other people out on each other β€” it's a living thing, their dynamic. "The Suitcase" is a two-hander for Hamm and Olson in which they both get to show their best. They go from laughing at the discoveries of Roger's recordings for his book (Don: "Ida was a hellcat? Cooper lost his balls? Roger's writing a book?") to peacefully sleeping on Don's couch together.

    Don finally does call Stephanie. And after she tells him that yes, Anna is dead (which he knew, because he saw her ghost holding a Samsonite suitcase), he hangs up and sees Peggy looking at him. The look on Moss' face β€” wholly sympathetic, and full of anticipatory worry on Don's behalf β€” is a Peggy we've never seen, and Don knows it's OK for him to break down in front of her. "Somebody very important to me died," he says. "Who?" Peggy asks. "The only person in the world who really knew me," he says. "That's not true," Peggy says simply.

    And it's not. There are a few times in Mad Men's many years when we see a glimmer of the person Don could have been if his early life had been different and β€” well, if everything else had been different too. In this one night, Peggy and Don scream at each other, eat and drink together, cuddle, and talk about their fathers' deaths. Don vomits in front of her; Duck humiliates Peggy in front of Don by showing up at the office, revealing their past affair and intending to shit on Roger's chair. Weiner's script, Getzinger's intimate direction, Hamm's and Moss' performances β€” "The Suitcase" is a transformative episode of television.

    At the end, when the workday has begun and Peggy looks like hell and Don looks great, he sends her home to shower. She points at his door: "Open or closed?" she asks. "Open," he says. In Don and Peggy, Mad Men shows a certain sort of man on his way down, and a certain kind of woman on her way up: They meet in the middle, and they hash it all out. And we got to watch them.

    Note: Both Season 5 and Season 6 begin with two-hour episodes β€”Β "A Little Kiss" in Season 5 and "The Doorway" in Season 6. Those each count as one episode, and therefore Seasons 5 and 6 are 12-episode seasons in this list.

    Trudy and Pete clear the floor doing the Charleston at Roger and Jane's garden party in "My Old Kentucky Home." In "Lost Horizon," the end credits song is "Space Oddity." An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the dance and misstated the name of the song.

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