Have you ever sent a eligible bachelorette flowers on Valentine’s Day unexpectedly? How did she react? Did she ever approach you about it? Or maybe she blamed you for tying her brain in a knot and, maybe, you didn’t send the flowers in the first place. Peggy found herself in a similar predicament in the latest episode of “Mad Men,” finding flowers on Shirley’s desk and assuming they were for her, though unsigned. The long stem roses left without a card tricked her into thinking Ted was playing a cruel mind game with her from California.
Peggy is demoralized by the way Ted left for the west coast. She shed her stone image behind the safety of her apartment door in the season seven premiere, but couldn’t keep her emotions out of the office on the holiday for lovers. A few scrambled, scratchy messages to the California office later, Peggy laid down, threw back a drink and wondered. What was she thinking about? The situation, which had a reasonable explanation, didn’t settle down after Shirley told Peggy the flowers were from her fiancé; instead, it heated up, because, now, why wouldn’t Ted send her flowers. Nobody wants a bouquet more than the woman who has a dozen roses taken from her because they were sent to the wrong address. The delivery alone plants the seed, but in Peggy’s case, the seed is somewhat spontaneous, like a magic nut on the ground that grows into a tree.
She spent the first episode of this season with a tennis racket, swatting away any and every reference to Ted, in a slow, external success, but the battle with herself is a bigger one. Ted left on uncertain terms. Peggy didn’t get closure and now her false bravado refuses to accept any. Shirley’s flowers are another example of what Peggy doesn’t have. She doesn’t have a ring on her finger. She doesn’t get flowers on Valentine’s Day. She doesn’t have a dinner date. All of it suggests she’s closer to California than she cares to admit. The woman who spent so many years vying for respect, now desires affection, but the difficulty of a new boss, Lou Avery, keeps her from chasing it.
Don is in a different, but comparably uncertain, situation, when Sally forces the truth out of him about his job after she walks into his office and finds Lou, instead of her father. Don is on a very serious leave of absence from the firm, one which he thinks will end soon, but one that looks permanent. All of his relationships should be judged on who knows about his unstable work. Sally is the only person who knows outside of the office, but she had dumb luck finding out, as usual.
Even so, Don’s slight not to tell Megan or Betty is suggestive of the relationships he has with two of the women in his life. He had flowers sent to Betty, but does she really need to know? He continually leaves Megan in California, using work as an excuse as he did in the premiere. He’s doing his best to stay in love with Megan, but his lie and his distaste of the bicoastal lifestyle are two important factors. Sally, who always brings out her father’s honesty, suggests: Just tell Megan you don’t want to move to California. Her morality is so integral to Don’s life, even though she’s growing up before our eyes with cigarettes, address books and promises to wait around until Betty is in the ground. She needs Don to write a note to her school, excusing her absence. When Don asks what to write, Sally, in the midst of Don’s boldface lie, answers: “Just be honest.” So many of her lines this week were loaded with ulterior meanings and motives, like their conversation in the car when she suggests that she didn’t tell Don what she knew because it’s more embarrassing for him that way.
But Don shows time and time again how much he cares about Sally. He accepts her for the rebelling teenager she is, suggesting they dine and ditch at a highway diner. But one thing he isn’t good at is showing his emotion. He seems oblivious to the fact that several circumstances brought he and his daughter together on Valentine’s Day and is even more struck by Sally’s matter-of-fact “Happy Valentine’s. I love you” comment, before she shuts the car door and walks up the steps of her dormitory. There, Don sits almost confused and watches his daughter walk through the front door. Only then, when he wants to say “I love you too,” is it too late. This is still an important interaction, though, because Sally is one of the deeply rooted reasons why Don’s shy about moving to California permanently, whether anyone wants to admit it or not.
He doesn’t itch for the lifestyle Megan has started in California and even a simple decision like getting bigger television turns into an argument they don’t have time to hash out. He doesn’t like the seclusion of the hills or the fake, buttered personalities of people Megan works with. Megan doesn’t see depth, she sees what’s on the surface. She wants to look like a struggling actress when she doesn’t have to and she secretly isn’t, which is a naive way to live. If Don’s going to move to California, he’s going to set roots the way he wants to. The big television set shows the differences in Don and Megan’s ways of thinking. The bigger, the deeper the roots, but Megan is interested in being moveable, more free-spirited. Don can only handle that in spurts, so he returns to a quiet apartment and empty days in the city.