Mad Men: “Six Month Leave”

Marilyn Monroe has died. Don learned about it the following morning thanks to the newspaper left at the door of his room in the Roosevelt Hotel… so no, Betty hasn’t let him come home yet.

At the office, all the “girls” are weepy about Marilyn’s death. Peggy, who took the elevator up with Don, says that she’s glad Playtex didn’t go with the “Jackie\Marilyn” campaign, since Sterling Cooper would have to do some massive damage control. Don agrees.

At his first meeting of the day, Don listens as Ken, Paul, Sal and Harry discuss that day’s blood drive. Interestingly, Don is all for the drive, and even gives Paul some pointers to help increase the number of people participating. One of Don’s ideas is a cash bounty… which causes Paul to ask if the bounty is for him or for the people giving blood. “This is for mankind, Kinsey”, Don says. At that same meeting, Harry invites Don and Betty to a Mitch Miller concert hosted by NBC. Don declines (being on the outs with Betty), saying that one of his kids is sick.

Back at his office, Jane gives Don the rest of his schedule for the day, then admits to screwing up: Sally called the office yesterday, wanting to know when Daddy would “come home from his business trip”. Jane, not knowing what to say, told her Wednesday. Don quietly lets Jane know that the matter is personal, and that he doesn’t want her getting involved in his life in any way. He doesn’t even want her giving him concerned looks:

Meanwhile, Pete, Peggy and Sal are in Freddy’s office having a walkthrough of the presentation they’re about to give to Samsonite. Freddy, who is such an alcoholic that no one even notices he’s drunk anymore, turns away from the other workers and then pees in his pants… just before passing out at his desk. Pete and Peggy take control of the situation: Peggy will do the pitch, Pete tells Sal to go to the conference room and look as if he’s been waiting, and also tells Peggy to tell “Freddy’s girl” about the situation.

At the Draper house, Betty is depressed and drunk. Earlier in this episode we saw her idly defrosting the freezer and putting new contact paper in the drawers. By midday she’s drunk and passed out on the sofa when the doorbell rings. It’s Sarah Beth, who’s come over to borrow a dress. Betty and Sarah talk about their men (actually, Sarah Beth talks about her husband and Betty listens). Sarah Beth says that she’s been having “wild” dreams about Arthur Case. She then tells Betty that Don’s “perfect”. As an aside, it shows you how pretty January Jones really is that “sad, depressed” Betty looks like this:

Back at Sterling Cooper, Roger opens the door to his office and sees Joan lying on his sofa. He quips “[m]any’s the time I’ve dreamed of finding you like this”. Roger seems genuinely concerned about Joan, until he finds out that she’s sad about Marilyn’s death. To Roger, Marilyn Monroe was a woman who had everything and threw it all away. Joan sees her as a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the world. Joan tells Roger that one day he’ll lose someone important to him, and that it will be very painful.

I’m not entirely clear as to what happens next. We see Don bringing the kids home from an outing. (Is his “business trip” supposed to be over? Why is then “leaving” again? Will he be “on the road” for weeks or months now?) Don, wanting an answer to give the kids, asks Betty what the deal is. Will he be “on business in Philadelphia” for the next few weeks or months and only come home on the weekends? Or will he just come home? Don tells Betty that it’s up to her. Betty doesn’t have an answer.

The next morning, Don walks into his office to find a bag of brand new shirts from Menken’s. The shirts are from Jane, who said that he “needed a few for his rotation”. This, of course, comes after Don told her to butt out of his personal business. It was supposed to be a nice gesture (and it was, of course), but Don’s peeved that Jane ignored his explicit instructions. Although Don is openly nice to Jane, he’s seething on the inside.

Back at the house, the Draper’s housekeeper Carla bursts in on Betty, who was trying to pry into Don’s desk with a letter opener (she thought it was Bobby making a racket and came in to scold him). Carla offers Betty some martial advice: splash some cold water on your face and go outside.

Meanwhile, Don, Pete and Duck meet with Roger is his office about the “Freddy situation”. Don, ever the loyal boss, butts heads with Roger and Duck, who want Freddy fired. Don has a “boys will be boys” attitude about the whole affair. Pete and Duck leave, and Don and Roger have a heart to heart about “the business”. Roger says that clients cannot find out about this, and that Sterling Cooper will be a laughingstock at other agencies. Roger proposes a “six month leave” for Freddy, from which he will never return. Roger tells Don that the three of them should have dinner that night, when they’ll break the news to Freddy.

While Don meets with Roger, Betty apparently takes Carla’s advice to heart. She goes riding, where she runs in to Arthur Case. Betty invites Arthur to lunch with her and Sarah Beth.

At the office, Paul, Harry and Ken give blood, and while recovering from the procedure, the gang loudly make fun of Freddy, with each employee doing his own frat-house impression of Freddy dealing with his “wet leg”. Don jumps on them, telling them that Freddy just had a bad day and to stop acting like a bunch of teenage girls. Don is so interesting. On the one hand, he’s as much a part of the “Good Old Boys” club as anyone else. We get the feeling that, had this happened 10 years ago, Don would be doing his own impression of Freddie. Yet, Don’s loyalty to his people simply overrides anything else. He can’t bear to see “the gang” make fun of Freddy, and so he orders them to be “more professional”. As we’ll see later in this episode, he’s even a proto-feminist, even if he doesn’t know it yet.

Later that night, Roger, Don and Freddy go out on the town. Over some pre-dinner drinks, Roger tells Freddy that he’s going on a leave of absence. Both Roger and Don say that the “door will be open” for him after that time, even though it’s implied that the door will, in fact, be closed. Freddy protests that the clients love him. Freddy and Roger (as WWII vets) reminisce about “the good old days” of the war and Freddy’s early days at the agency. It’s a sad scene, and it’s very well acted. And the verdict remains the same: Freddy is out.

Roger, who doesn’t really want to fire Freddy, suggests that they “make a night of it”. The three then go to an illegal casino. In an amusing scene, Roger approaches the doorman of the club; the three are drunk as stunks, and Roger can’t remember the password to get in the casino. He gives the bouncer $20 ($135 in 2007 dollars!) and the three are allowed into the club. As the open cargo elevator takes the men downstairs, Roger suddenly remembers the password: “Was it Milwaukee? “Yes, sir.” “Son of a bitch!”

At the casino, Roger makes megabucks, while Don (surprisingly) is a poor gambler. The two sit at a table and talk, where Roger tells Don that he knows his marriage is on the rocks. He knows because Don has been coming in far too early lately, and has his dry cleaning delivered to the office. Roger then tells Don to suck it up and do whatever it takes to get welcomed back home. Don, at the moment, can’t even understand why he should save the marriage. “The kids”, Roger says. Don becomes distracted when he spies Jimmy Barrett across the room. Don walks up to him and punches him right across the face. As you might guess, the Sterling Cooper boys then make a hasty exit:

Outside, Roger and Don say goodbye to Freddy… then head off to another bar. Don admits to Roger that he’s been staying at the Roosevelt. Don then says that instead of feeling sad, he’s actually relieved. Roger then asks if he was in love with the woman he was having an affair with. Don says no, that that would be easier. Don says that “it’s your life”, that you don’t know how it’s going to end and that you have to “move forward”.

At the office the next day, Don asks for Peggy. When she comes to his office, he gives her a gruff “close the door”. Instead of getting yelled at, Don promotes Peggy and gives her Freddy’s accounts. Don then gets serious: he says that he didn’t like walking into an ambush with Pete and Duck. Peggy stutters, eventually saying that she didn’t call Don before because she loves Freddy (Wasn’t it Freddy that initially spotted Peggy’s talent?) To this Don asks “What’s your point?” and he further tells Peggy not to apologize for being good at her job. Peggy says that she “wished it hadn’t happened this way”. Don says that that’s just the way it happened.

Peggy leaves Don’s office and heads immediately to Pete’s office to chew him out for “squealing” on Freddy. Peggy initially uses the moral high ground, and says that Freddy is the reason she’s no longer a secretary… to which Pete says “and I’m the reason you’re no longer a junior copywriter”. He says that they’ll all get raises, and perhaps Peggy will get her own office. Peggy, knowing that Pete’s right (but still hating the way it went down), storms off.

Meanwhile, Arthur meets Sarah Beth for lunch. We see Peggy at home making cookies for her kids – it seems that Betty never even planned to show up for the lunch.

Back at the office, Peggy, in charge of her first campaign, seems uncomfortable in her new role as boss. During a meeting, Duck asks her is she’s OK with the campaign being planned. Peggy hesitantly says “yes”.

Mona Sterling barges in to Don’s office, saying that Roger is leaving her for “a secretary”, thanks to the whole “moving forward” conversation Don had with Roger the night before. Don says that he didn’t mean it that way. Mona storms out, only to run into Roger, who begs her to talk about this. Mona declines. Roger turns towards Jane and tries to comfort her; instead she runs away. Roger and Don look at each other. Roger says that “he can explain”. Don says that he wants her off his desk.


There was more of the “war hierarchy” in this episode. In past episodes, it’s been obvious that the Sterling Cooper men (and their clients) fall into categories: men that served in WWII, men that served in Korea, and men that have not served. Each category is a clique all its own. It’s also a hierarchy, where men that served in WWII rank higher than the “boys that didn’t get the job done in Korea”, who in turn rank higher than men that didn’t serve. Don has to sit quietly while Roger and Freddy reminisce about their WWII days, a club that Don doesn’t belong to.

When the Sterling Cooper boys enter the casino, Freddy mentions that “the champ” is there. After Don punches Jimmy, Jimmy turns to a black guy and says “Hey Floyd, how did I do?”. This is apparently a reference to boxer Floyd Patterson, who became the youngest man to win the world heavyweight championship at the age of 21. He remained world champion until he lost to Sonny Liston on September 25, 1962. Given the date of this episode (around August 5, 1962, the date of Marilyn Monroe’s death), Floyd was still world champ at the time.

At the “after-party”, Roger says that he does better with clear liquors like vodka and gin. Don says that he’s the opposite. Roger begs to differ, because Don had just punched Jimmy. Don then calls the incident “a real Archibald Wittman maneuver”, a reference to his real father. When Roger asks who “Archibald Wittman” is, Don says that he’s “a hothead drunk I used to know”.

Wait – Roger loves Jane? When did that happen? And is it Jane? At the end of the episode, when Mona and Roger are having their conversation, Jane keeps her head down and her eyes on her desk. After Mona stomps off, Roger then tries to put his arm around Jane, which causes her to run away. But isn’t Roger’s true love Joan? Is it possible that Roger slept with Jane (hence Jane getting all teary there thinking that she’s the one he’s leaving his wife for), but Roger’s really planning to make a move for Joan? Could Roger sleeping with Jane also explain how Roger knows so much about Don’s problems as of late – ya know, pillow talk and all that? Doesn’t Roger know that Jane still tries to hit on Don, and that she’s really just the office mattress?

5 Replies to “Mad Men: “Six Month Leave””

  1. Oh yeah – I think Roger is leaving Mona for Jane. Furthermore, I think that’s what Joan was crying about, because Jane – the bitch! – let her know about it.

  2. Say that again? Joan is crying over Roger’s affair with Jane? Oh brother!

    It’s interesting how Don can be so sympathetic over Freddie’s plight, yet distance himself from the misery he caused for Betty. And his act against Jimmy Barrett was so pathetic and childish . . . especially since it was HE who slept with Jimmy’s wife.

  3. I admire what you have done here. It is easy to see you speak from the heart! Extraordinary post and will look forward to your future update.

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