Seven years ago, in Mad Men’s pilot episode, Don Draper looked Rachel Menken in the eyes and told her love doesn’t exist, that “what you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons.” Now, that same man who insisted less than a decade ago that “you’re born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts” is sitting at a lunch meeting saying “I’m just looking for love.”
Sure, it’s a half-sarcastic response to being caught taking lunches by a rival from McCann Erickson, but as the Valentine’s Day-based “A Day’s Work” progresses, it’s obvious Don’s telling the truth. After all, isn’t that what we’re all really looking for, in some form or another? To know we’re loved?
Of course, there are all kinds of love, and the romantic one takes a backseat this week to a few different types of platonic affection. What the folks at Sterling Cooper love more than anything else is work, and this week’s episode was all about what happens when the feeling’s mutual. It’s no accident that most of the romantic language this week was business-related: The McCann guy tells Don his firm would “love a chance to tell you how handsome you are.” Jim Cutler refers to Don as “our collective ex-wife who still receives alimony.” When Pete reels in a SoCal Chevy dealership, Ted asks “Did you kiss the man or not?” and when Cutler responds with friction, Roger says “Pete caught him; let Pete mount him.” (Which, admittedly, is probably more of a hunting reference, but given Pete’s activities with his real estate agent girlfriend Bonnie this week, the double meaning seems likely.)
But for all the men in suits wooing other men in suits, it was the women who were feeling the love at work this Valentine’s Day. When Lou Avery asks for his own secretary because Dawn is still handling Don’s correspondence on top of his, Joan reluctantly swaps her with Meredith, but Bert balks at the idea of an African-American woman sitting out front at reception. But then Joan gets her own office upstairs in accounts after Cutler realizes she’s been working two jobs, and she puts Dawn in her old office, presumably promoting her to head of personnel. That feeling of being appreciated at work is worth way more than those flowers Roger sent her, and Joan’s paying it forward, letting Dawn (who, like Joan, is whip-smart but underestimated by most) know her talents haven’t gone unnoticed.
Of course, being “loved” at work pales in comparison to the real deal, and it seems as though Don is finally realizing that it’s not all about how many nylons you sell, thanks to a series of fantastic interactions with Sally. After losing her purse while in town for her roommate’s mother’s funeral, Sally stops by the SCP offices looking for her dad (who hasn’t told her—or Megan, for that matter—that he’s not currently working). Of course, she finds Lou Avery instead, so she waits for Don at his apartment and catches him in another lie when she asks where he was and he says he was at work. Because she’s loyal to Don (and honestly, along with Peggy, a member of the Don Draper Secretary Hall of Fame at this point), Dawn calls Don to tell him Sally stopped by, and—ever the hypocrite—Don gets irritated with her for not being upfront with him. “It’s more embarrassing for me to catch you in a lie than it is for you to be lying,” she tells him before finally revealing she knows Don lied to her about Sylvia too. “Do you know how hard it was for me to go to your apartment? I could have run into that woman. I could be in the elevator, she could get in, and I’d have to stand there, smiling, wanting to vomit while I smell her hairspray.” When Don offers a quiet apology, she responds with “Please stop.” He insists he won’t stop the car, but that’s not what Sally means. “Stop talking,” she clarifies.
Don’s a professional talker, though, paid to sell clients on ideas and customers on products, regardless of whether or not the lines he spouts off are true. But the Hershey’s meeting was the beginning of something for him, and he comes clean to Sally, explaining he didn’t tell her he wasn’t working because he was ashamed and that he got put on forced leave because “I didn’t behave well. I said the wrong things to the wrong people at the wrong time. I told the truth about myself, but it wasn’t the right time.” Is Don finally done lying to Sally (save for a jokey fib about them walking out on the check)? He’s learned the truth is a fireable offense in advertising, but he seems to have finally grasped the value of it in his personal life. When he drops Sally off at school, she casually drops six little words that could potentially change Don Draper for good: “Happy Valentine’s Day. I love you.”
The look on Don’s face says it all; he’s clearly touched and surprised. He grew up in a toxic household, raised by parents who never wanted him, and he’s spent his entire adult life toiling in unhealthy relationships and destroying the good ones. The concept of unconditional love is foreign to him. That his daughter could love him despite all of his transgressions is a shock to him. But as he watches her climb the stairs, The Zombies’ “This Will Be Our Year” plays (“the warmth of your love’s like the warmth of the sun, and this will be our year/took a long time to come,” “now the darkness has gone,” “and I won’t forget the way you said ‘Darling, I love you’/You gave me faith to go on”), offering some encouraging signs of what’s to come for Sally and Don. Whether he realized it or not, all Don’s ever really wanted is love; maybe now he can stop looking for it in business meetings after finally—finally—discovering he’s had it all along.
—Peggy’s storyline about mistakenly assuming her secretary Shirley’s flowers were actually for her from Ted also dealt with the embarrassment of being caught in a lie. The general message of this whole episode, in fact, seemed to be that the truth will set you free. An angry Peggy insists Shirley should have just told her the flowers were hers instead of letting her embarrass herself, and a wise-beyond-her-years Sally tells Don to “just tell the truth” when writing her note excusing her absence and later tells him he should just be honest with Megan and tell her that he doesn’t want to move to California.
—Also, it’s a little worrisome how just the thought that Ted might’ve sent her flowers can make Peggy completely unhinged. Get it together, Peg. We’re rooting for ya.
—What was with Shirley and Dawn calling each other their own names?
— “I thought she meant low-class, like a secretary.” Sally’s classmates are the worst.
— “I’d stay here till 1975 if I could get Betty in the ground.” Ouch. I guess Sally only loves one of her parents.
— “Feb. 14: Masturbate gloomily.”
—I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Pete can’t be completely satisfied for more than one episode at a time, but his whining about his role in California, that he’s unsure if he’s “in heaven or hell or limbo” was a nice tidy allusion to everything that state has symbolized for Don on the show.
—So Shirley’s with Lou Avery now and Dawn’s head of personnel. Does this mean poor Peggy is stuck with Meredith?
—Joan mentions that she has “some accounts” now (as in “more than Avon.”) Given that Don and Peggy both mention the Butler work this episode, I guess we’re supposed to assume she signed Butler after all?
— “I’d hate to think of you as an adversary.” But…isn’t that how you’ve been thinking of Roger all along, Jim?
— “I’m so many people.”