Jim and Ted can’t find Don, and the owners of the Sheraton in Hawaii are waiting for him in the lobby. Don is in a bar, getting wasted and engaging in a conversation with a preacher who wants to save the customers from their own certain destruction. It took a night in the drunk tank, an assault on the preacher and a flashback to a childhood in a whorehouse, but Don Draper has finally reached his “come to Jesus” moment. The morning after his stint in jail with the other drunks, Don comes home and starts pouring out the contents of every liquor bottle in his apartment. During the course of just a few days, he has to call Sally to tell her that she’s required to give a statement about the burglar who talked her way into their apartment, only to have his daughter call him out about immoral acts. Then he uses Stan’s idea – no, not just his idea, but his exact words – about setting up a small office in California to serve Sunkist account and make a new beginning with Megan. This pilfered plan infuriates Stan but makes Megan very happy, so much so that she tells the producers of her soap opera to write her character out of the show.
Roger is having his own problems, first with his daughter who is not getting the money she thought her dad was going to give her and her husband for their business venture. Then Roger lashes out at Bob Benson out of jealousy since Bob is fast becoming friends with Joan, bringing gifts for her son, Kevin. He tells Bob that his performance is up for review but what he’s really upset about is that Bob may be playing with Joan’s feelings – something Roger knows a thing or two about.
Peggy is also experiencing an enormous amount of jealousy as Ted’s wife and children come by the office to see him. To get his attention and out of spite, she goes out on a date, dressed to the nines and, as Jim points out, wearing Chanel No. 5. Her date doesn’t go well, but she gets home and finds Ted waiting for her at her apartment. She lets him know how angry she was at seeing his family at the office, but he tells her that he loves her. The two kiss, begin removing each other’s clothes and spend most of the night together. Ted Tells Peggy that he loves her and that two of them should spend Christmas in Hawaii together. Peggy wants no office scandal and says that she’s willing to wait for him. When Ted goes home, his wife says that he’s working too hard.
Pete receives a telegram telling him that his mother has fallen overboard on an ocean cruise she took with Manolo, who, it appears, she married. Pete then leaves for Detroit with Bob, who he blames for Manolo’s actions and what he calls his mother’s murder. Bob insists that he knew nothing about Manolo and Pete’s mother. When they reach the offices of Chevrolet, Pete admire a Camaro Z-28, which the executives tell him he should take for a test drive. Bob has already driven the car and Pete can’t stand the idea that Bob may have already one-upped him. The problem is that Pete can’t drive a stick and backs the car into a large display, damaging both the Camaro and his relationship with Chevy, while Bob watches and gloats. The two ad men return to SC&P and Pete is done with Detroit.
Don is in his office and his hands are shaking, a sign of his withdrawals from alcohol. Ted comes in to see him and wants to take Don’s place in California. Don, at first, thinks it’s because Ted wants to start over with Peggy but Ted wants to save his marriage and needs the transfer to keep his family together. Don insists that he needs to get away from New York, that Megan has already quit her job, so it’s too late to change it now. Ted, before he leaves the office, tells Don to have a drink before they meet with the representatives from Hershey. He’s noticed the tremors and tells Don that you just can’t stop cold.
Don has that drink and walks into the boardroom to sell his idea to Hershey. He tells them a lovely story about his childhood and his dad, how his father would buy him a Hershey bar and what that meant to him. Hershey is the currency of affection. Chocolate represents love to a child. Then he stops and tells the two men that he has something else to say. Don, in front of the executives and his partners, tells the real Dick Whitman story, about a boy who was orphaned and lived in a whorehouse. The only kindness he was shown was by a hooker who had him rifle through the johns’ belongings, looking for money. If he found enough, the young boy could buy a Hershey bar. He’d read about Milton Hershey and the orphanage where children were loved and cared for – that chocolate was the only sweet thing in his life. Obviously shaken, Jim tries to explain it all away by saying that Don is just being modest – it’s all theater and that’s what SC&P is about. Alone,after the meeting, Don tells Ted to take his place in California – an unselfish act, the likes of which we’ve never seen from Don Draper. I don’t think anyone in advertising has witnessed a sale pitch like this one, and I know we’ve never seen Don Draper offer anything that so closely resembled a confession before. It was stunning it’s its sheer rawness and was probably one of the finest moments Matt Weiner has given us. Jon Hamm,as he’s done so many times before, took this scene and gave it everything he had.
Ted then tries to explain everything to Peggy – how he has to go to California with his family. He tells her that if he loses them he’ll get lost in the chaos. Peggy is beyond broken-hearted and angry. When Ted says that someday he’ll thank her for his decision, her reply is that he’s lucky to have a decision. Peggy told him that she wasn’t “that girl” and maybe he saved her from becoming one – she just doesn’t realize it yet. Either way, the decision was all his and all about him. Peggy isn’t the type to run to someone’s wife and spill the beans and, perhaps, Ted counted on that. It was a side of Ted that wasn’t nice and Peggy didn’t deserve it. Don then has to go home and break the news to Megan, who’s reaction is just as understandable and expected. She tells her husband that she doesn’t even know what they’re fighting for anymore. All Don seems to want is his liquor, his ex-wife and his screwed-up kids. She’s right, of course. Don says that they can be bicoastal but Megan is already putting on her coat and walking out the door. She really doesn’t really care what he’s got to say. Too may promises have been broken. Too many selfish actions have been taken. Megan may very well be gone for good.
Pete stops by his house, to deliver some of his mother’s things, talk to Trudy and say goodbye to his daughter. It’s not clear where he’s going, possibly to California with Ted, but he’s starting over somewhere, having been dropped by Chevy. Trudy is very gentle with him and says that he may need time to adjust to the fact that he’s free – of everything. For some reason, I’d like to see Pete succeed, at whatever he’s going to do. He’s become less weasely and a bit more sympathetic.
A meeting has been called on the morning of Thanksgiving, and Don walks in to find Jim, Bert, Joan and Roger waiting for him. They’ve made a decision to give Don some time off with no return date in sight. It could be a few months but the plan is for Don to regroup and then the partners will revisit his position with SC&P. They didn’t say “you’re fired”, but they also didn’t extend an invitation to the New Year’s Eve office party, either. He’s defensive and angry and leaves the meeting only to run into Duck Phillips and Lou Avery, of Dancer Fitzgerald, at the elevator. Their question for Don, as they hold the elevator door, is “going down?’
Roger is at Joan’s place for Thanksgiving. He sees that Bob has also been invited but Joan makes it clear that Roger is there for young Kevin, not back into her life. Don has his kids for the Thanksgiving holiday, as Sally was suspended from Miss Porter’s for buying booze with a fake ID and Betty didn’t want to explain it all to her mother in law in Albany. They drive through a neighborhood that sort of surprises the children, It’s not quite what they’re used to but Don has an answer for them. They’re in front of the whorehouse where he grew up and Sally seems to understand everything just a little bit better. This could be Don’s last opportunity for redemption – through his children.
This episode felt more like a series finale than a season finale. So much happened and so many of the characters’ lives are changing – mostly for the better. It would be nice, if at some point next season, we see Peggy happy, both personally and professionally. Maybe with Don out the way, even if it’s only temporarily, she might have a chance at achieving the latter. As for Bob Benson – his surface has barely been scratched – there just has to be more to him than what we’ve seen so far.