Mad Men

Drinking with Draper

Episode Seven: the questionable deeds to which straight whiskey leads.

By Jessica Voelker September 28, 2009

Duck and Peggy. Shudder.

Confession, Mad Men fans. I’ve been putting off writing a Drinking with Draper post today because it’s difficult for me to think about the Duck/Peggy tryst. “I love the smell of liquor on your breath.” Um, barf me.

Alright, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, here’s my take on the episode: what we have is several characters engaging in reckless behavior. Bored as Mme Bovary, Betty calls up Henry, the man who was besotted with her uterus at the country club party. The ostensible reason for her call is provided by the junior league, but Henry catches the subtext immediately and they plan to meet on Saturday afternoon. Don, meanwhile, picks up some hitchhikers, takes their drugs, and parties with them at a roadside motel. Dumb dee dumb dumb dumb. And then of course we have Miss Peggy, making the decision to sleep with the supremely unappealing Duck. Shudder.

In Don’s adventure we see again a shifting society taking its toll on the characters. In these early days of Vietnam, the established middle class has not yet learned to fear hitchhiking youth—they do not know that this generation is poised to turn against them, to reject the world they have created. Don pays for his naivité with an emptied wallet, a very undignified butterfly bandage on the bridge of his nose, and what we can only imagine as the hangover of a lifetime.

Peggy, meanwhile, seeks out the channels by which to create her identity, learning the ways in which her gender can both be an advantage and a setback. She goes to a hotel room to meet Duck and return the scarf he’s sent her, and he asks her what she’d like to drink. She says she’ll have what he’s having (deferential). He’s an alcoholic, of course, so he’s having nothing. Okay then, says Peggy “I’ll have some whiskey.”

“You’re really Don’s girl, aren’t you?” Duck replies. Then Peggy—likely still smarting from Don’s earlier comment: “You have a job that a grown man would be happy with”—retorts that she grew up on whiskey. This is obviously bullshit. We know very well she grew up on communion wine and guilt. Still, she’s asserting her identity apart from her boss and apart from a man. She can do what she wants. And what she wants, apparently, is to sleep with Duck.

Which is definitely gross, but what I can’t decide is whether or not it’s an empowering move for Peggy. The sexual revolution is upon these people, but the men are still controlling the shots. So has she done something to assert her independence as a player in this corporate game, or is she so insecure that all it takes is a (admitedly very lovely) Hermes scarf and a job offer to get her in bed? It’s a question to discuss over a nice glass of whiskey. Here are some good places to get one:

For variety and local color, try the Whisky Bar, now with a new paint job. Word to the wise, however: do not eat there. For a well-curated list of whiskeys (including Japanese whisky, which is a must try) head to Liberty. The Bookstore Bar, meanwhile, specializes in scotch and kindly service.

Find previous Drinking with Draper posts here.

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