As Sterling Cooper shuts down for Labor Day weekend, 1960, Roger Sterling engineers a get together with Don Draper and the new models of Cartwright double-sided aluminum (and suffers life threatening results) while Joan and her roommate make their own time on a hot night in the big (and lonely) city.
When model Mirabel alerts Don and Eleanor (Mirabel’s twin) to the fact that Roger is suffering from a heart attack (after she and Roger were attempting a second romp), Don’s professional (and perhaps survival) instincts take over and he quickly has the two girls call an ambulance and leave. As the EMTs are taking Roger to the hospital, Don gives him a good hard slap to the face to remind the muttering Sterling Cooper partner that, “Mona… your wife’s name is Mona!” Don’s intense tone here is somewhat reminiscent of when he tells an institution-bound Peggy “how much she won’t remember” in a Season Two flashback just after she has given birth to Pete’s child, a condition she could not consciously accept. Don’s ability and capacity to compartmentalize is lockbox strong, and he occasionally will dole out his methodology to those close to him when the situation calls for it.
At the hospital, we see a very different Roger: gone is the effortless satirical tone, the world weary charm, the nihilistic appetite for life and women and booze. He’s had a major coronary, and he’s scared. He takes a moment to venture into brave new ground with Don, who is by his side. “Do you believe in energy… I don’t know, a soul?” he asks. Don for his part answers in a way that is core to his own personality and makeup: “What do you want to hear?” Roger then reveals more about himself: “God… I wish I was going somewhere.”
Before Don can respond, Mona comes in and Roger not only remembers to use her name, but breaks down and cries, telling her how much he loves her. We believe that he does in this moment, just as wholeheartedly as he enjoyed his romp with Mirabel earlier in the evening. It’s an honest moment that while funny and tender and sad and slightly confounding is strikingly true to the real world at the same time. And it’s a lovely televised moment in showing off how gray the tones of real life often are.
As Margaret is brought in and husband, wife, and daughter embrace, Don is shown looking in from behind glass. Once again, he’s observing his life as though from afar. The implication is that while he has mastered almost all of what it takes to be a high powered New York City executive with its trappings and excess, he hasn’t a clue about how to take true ownership of his own life. “After all,” we might imagine Bert Cooper saying. “Who is really leading Don Draper’s life anyway?”
As we wait for the arrival of Season Five, currently scheduled to premiere in early 2012, stay tuned to TV Geek Army all summer long to get your Mad Men fix. Here we take a look at a key series moment from Season One, Episode Ten: “Long Weekend.”