Chickens come home to roost, as Mad Men deals with the fallout of several recent events: Roger’s heart attack, Peggy’s success writing copy for Belle Jolie, and Don pushing away both his half-brother and his wife out of his personal life.
“Indian Summer” finds Mad Men following up on plot threads from throughout the season and pushing them farther along towards the finish line of the first season, with only two episodes left after this one.
The episode starts with revisiting Don’s estranged half-brother, Adam Whitman. We see he’s still living in the same pay-by-the-week dump where Don left him in “5G.” Adam didn’t take Don’s advice to take the five grand of money and start a new life far away from New York City. Without his mom, Abigail, Uncle Mack, or his brother, Dick, in his life, he sees no reason to keep on living. He prepares a package of photos to be delivered to “Donild Draper” at the Sterling Cooper agency on Madison Avenue, pays for its postage with the desk clerk, heads back up to his apartment and hangs himself. Don won’t find out about the box of photos or the suicide for a little while, but suffice to say that both will leave a lasting impact in the life of Don Draper.
After his heart attack the previous month (we’re told the Indian Summer of the title is in October 1960), Roger is still not doing well. Lucky Strike, by far the firm’s largest client, is worried. Roger comes in the office for a meeting with Lucky Strike’s Lee Garner Sr. and Jr. It’s all for show, as Roger doesn’t look any better than he did when Don sat by his hospital bed. Bert and Don ask Joan to use her makeup to make Roger look a little less like a dead man walking, but it’s all for naught, as Roger has another heart attack a few minutes (and a couple of puffs on a Lucky) into the meeting. Mona is furious at Bert, saying she didn’t know a price could be put on human life, but she didn’t check on that with Bert.
Lee Garner Sr. also has some words for Bert: Sterling Cooper needs to firm up its management in case Roger can’t return, and he’d recommend starting these efforts by showing Don Draper how he is appreciated by Sterling Cooper. Bert makes Don a partner in the firm, with a 12.5% ownership stake, and tells Don to start the search a new head of accounts.
Betty is happy with the news of Don’s good fortune at work, but can’t resist getting under his skin to get his attention. She tells him that an air conditioning salesman visited their house earlier, and she let him in to learn why their house is losing cool air. In 1960, it was a major breach of proper etiquette for a woman who is home alone to let a strange man in to her house. Don flies off the handle–just the reaction Betty had hoped for. She later tells friend and neighbor Francine about the incident and can’t hold back a smile when she talks about Don’s protectiveness.
But the whole reason for getting under Don’s skin is that Betty is still feeling a major gap between her and Don. She is not feeling loved or wanted by Don. Later on when doing the laundry, she enjoys the vibrations of the washing machine a bit too much and has a fantasy about the AC salesman. For someone like Betty, who was brought up to believe that her whole worth in life was based around her looks, it is devastating to her that Don is showing so little interest in her sexually.
Peggy also receives sexual vibrations from an unexpected source, by way of her second writing assignment. It’s for a supposed weight loss device, the Relax-a-Cisor. The idea is that it vibrates a woman’s stomach area to simulate the exercise of calisthenics, but it’s actually just a vibrator that brings women to orgasm. After receiving the assignment, Peggy is shy about talking about its “benefits” with Don. She also is suspicious about getting an assignment for a woman’s weight-loss product. Although she doesn’t want to confront it, it’s obvious to everyone else in the office that Peggy has put on quite a bit of weight.
Pete seems to be the only one of the office gang not happy for Don’s promotion to partner. While Harry and Ken see it as a good thing–old guys move out, leaving room for younger guys to get promotions–Pete doesn’t think Don is deserving of the partnership, or the responsibility of picking the new head of accounts. After Don leaves early and tells Peggy to do the same because they both had a good day, Pete sits in Don’s chair for a bit, feet up on the desk. Adam’s package of Whitman family photos gets delivered to Don’s office…and into’s Pete’s hands.