It's been almost 18 months since the most recent episode of Mad Men. Do you even remember what happened? Something about a pregnancy and an engagement and financial ruin? With the premiere of the fifth season this Sunday, we have a primer on all the happenings of fledgling ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and its employees.
Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce
SCDP came out of the gate strong for an upstart, winning a Clio Award for its Glo Coat floor wax commercial. The company was able to expand the staff and even bring on former Sterling Cooper employee Ken Goscrove as an account executive. But, due to the foibles of some of the firm's partners, SCDP was unable to land certain accounts. Bridges were burned with Honda motorcycles after WW II vet Roger Sterling insulted the Japanese executives in regards to the war. And the deal with North American Aviation was soured after Don Draper forced Pete Campbell to withdraw the bid after he learned that the Defense Department would have to conduct a security clearance on him. He feared that they'd discover his true identity as a military deserter. The worst blow however came when Lucky Strike—a legacy account from Roger's father—decided to leave SCDP for another agency. When the news of that went public, a third of the company's billings jumped ship. Layoffs were a necessity. Lane Pryce came up with a strategy that could keep them afloat for six months until they landed new accounts: The senior partners (Sterling, Cooper, and Draper) had to kick in $100,000 while the junior partners (Pryce and Campbell) had to put up $50,000. In the midst of the bad press following their loss of Lucky Strike, Don decided to "change the conversation" and penned a letter run as a full-page ad in the New York Times about how Lucky Strikes didn't fire them, instead, SCDP decided to quit representing tobacco companies because of the health risks that had been linked to cigarettes. It led to SCDP landing a PSA for the American Cancer Society. It was free work, but the ACS has powerful, rich people on its board, so it opened a huge door of opportunities. Additionally, Peggy Olson managed to break their losing streak by landing the first new account since the Lucky Strike debacle.
Dealing with the aftermath of his divorce and the death of his close friend Anna (the real Don Draper's widow), Don's alcoholism became more and more apparent. (Peggy even had to help him out one night when he puked in the office bathroom.) Despite the initial success of his new company, his personal life continued to spiral out of control as his boozing and womanizing affected his office life like it never had before. He slept with his secretary, leading to her tearful resignation, and requiring Joan Harris to assign a very elderly woman—Mrs. Blankenship—to his service. (She was so elderly, in fact, that she died on the job.) Don then entered into a relationship with SCDP's consumer researcher Dr. Faye Miller, but became engaged to his new pretty young secretary before even breaking up with her. On the precipice of the possible ruination of SCDP, Don pulled it together in an attempt to save the company in a way that he was never able to pull it together to save his interpersonal relationships. Struggling with duel identities—Don and Dick, womanizer and family man—Don decides to be more honest about who he is by bringing his children to California and introducing them, in a way, to Dick Whitman, but ultimately reverting back to what he knows, by asking his secretary Megan to marry him. Joan's prediction for the marriage is that "he'll probably make her a copywriter."
Last season, Peggy mostly dealt with trying to gain respect in the male-dominated workforce, particularly amongst the boys club of SCDP freelancers, one of whom she fired after he told an off-color sexual joke about Joan Harris. Despite being established as a creative powerhouse, second only to Don, she's insulted that some of her coworkers think she slept with Don to get her job. She began dating Abe Drexler, a political writer. Peggy is actually the one who helped save SCDP by landing the firm's first new account since Lucky Strike bailed out, but felt like this accomplishment was out-shined by Don's new engagement.
After Joan's husband Greg leaves for basic training she has a one-night stand with Roger (in the doorway of an apartment building) immediately after they're mugged. The tryst resulted in a pregnancy and she and Roger visit with a doctor who reprimands Roger for "ruining her" and recommends a place for Joan to "take care of it." However, in the abortionist's waiting room, she meets a woman her age who is there to get an abortion for her daughter. The woman asks Joan how old her daughter is. This conversation was pivotal for Joan, and she ultimately kept the baby, although she lied to Roger and told him it had been taken care of. She was shown traveling on a bus at night, presumably for a surprise visit to her husband at basic training before he was deployed to Vietnam, so that the timing would add up a little better. Her coworkers were still unaware of her pregnancy at the end of the season, although she had told her husband. At work she was promoted to Director of Agency Operations at SCDP, a promotion in title only.
Starting a new company has forced Roger to establish himself as an actual successful business person instead of merely dining out on his late father's accomplishments. It proves to be a difficult task. Even getting his memoir, Sterling's Gold, published isn't much of a feat. The book is thin—printed proof that he hasn't done much with his life. The only thing he brings to the table at SCDP is Lucky Strike, an account he inherited from his father. It's his sole account, but also the firm's biggest. However, he loses the account to another firm, but doesn't disclose this to his coworkers, and they must learn from outside sources. Depressed, he turns to Joan. Although they have a brief night of passion, she refuses to rekindle their romance.
Betty's marriage to Henry isn't the happy ending she was hoping for. He's beginning to see her flaws and recognize her childishness as she is still dwelling over her ex-husband Don and clashing with her daughter Sally. After Sally gives the one-two punch of running away from home and getting caught masturbating at a sleepover, Betty sends her to therapy. It's Betty, however, that benefits most from visiting with the therapist, and refuses the child therapist's recommendations for an adult psychiatrist. After she discovers that Sally has befriended the neighbor boy Glen, Betty decides to put the house for sale. Sally's friendship with Glen is so bothersome to Betty that she eventually fires Carla, the longtime nanny, after she discovered that Carla allowed the boy into their home to say goodbye to Sally. Henry becomes furious with her and it only exposes another crack in the foundation of their relationship. At the end of the season, Betty hands off the keys to the Ossining home to Don and learns of his engagement.
Pete was having a lot of success at SCDP, bringing in a lucrative Vicks account, via his father-in-law, but has to cover for Don over the loss of a North American Aviation account, in order to protect Don's secret identity. However, he gets reamed out by his coworkers for the loss, and thus feels unappreciated for everything he's done for the company. After suffering through some fertility issues, Pete's wife Trudy becomes pregnant and gives birth to a baby girl. Now a family man, Pete wonders if his job isn't too demanding. Attending the funeral of another ad man—whose eulogy all but illustrates how he abandoned his wife and daughter for a modicum of success—makes Pete pensive. His father-in-law pressures Pete into leaving SCDP for another agency where he'd make more money. By the end of the season, Pete is required to come up with $50,000 to help keep the agency afloat for another six months, but he doesn't have it. When Trudy discovers that he has applied for a loan, she automatically thinks that he's going to surprise her with a house, but when she learns his plan to sink it into the company, she forbids him from doing so. In the end, however, he learns that Don has already put up his share of the money, an unspoken thank you for not outing him about his true identity.