Television, like advertising, is typically a swift-moving beast. But it’s been a staggering 17 months since Mad Men aired its last episode. At the time, no one could have predicted that it would be March 2012 before AMC aired the highly anticipated fifth season of Mad Men, which returns this Sunday evening with a sensational two-hour season premiere.
The reasons behind the delay are known far and wide, as protracted and very public contract renegotiations behind the scenes of Mad Men resulted in a longer than expected hiatus between seasons, and the show’s devoted audience is only too keen to catch up with the staffers of 1960s advertising agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Strict embargoes on the content of the season premiere (“A Little Kiss”) prevent us from spilling too much about the long-awaited return, but creator Matthew Weiner will surely allow it to be described as gorgeous, provocative, and well worth the wait. Despite its, er, rest, Mad Men isn’t at all sluggish; in fact, Season 5 kicks off with an installment that propels the plot, the characters, and some of the show’s most important themes, amid a turbulent time of change that is personal, political, and social.
Given the lag between seasons, it’s only natural that you’ve forgotten the details about what happened during Season 4. Just who did Don (Jon Hamm) end up with at the end of the season: was it vivacious secretary Megan (Jessica Paré) or driven career woman Dr. Faye Miller (Cara Buono)? Why was Lane (Jared Harris) beaten by his severe father? What passed between Joan (Christina Hendricks) and Roger (John Slattery)? Who was Miss Blankenship (Randee Heller)? From Don and Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) to Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) and Sally (Kiernan Shipka), get back up to speed on all of the players before the new season of Mad Men begins.
Don Draper (Jon Hamm)
Season 4 began with a question: "Who is Don Draper?" It was posed by an Ad Age reporter who was writing a story about Don and the success of nascent advertising agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, but Don was reluctant to speak about himself. Don adjusted to life as a bachelor, living in the West Village, and frequenting prostitutes. (He especially enjoyed being slapped around.) His post-divorce relationship with Betty was strained at best, and he also attempted to get back in the world of dating, going out several times with actress Bethany Van Nuys (Anna Camp).
En route to Acapulco for the holidays, Don made a stop in Los Angeles to visit Anna Draper (Melinda Page Hamilton) and was stunned when he learned from her niece Stephanie (Caity Lotz) that Anna has cancer and only a few months to live. While he tried to talk to Anna about her condition, Don found that he couldn’t bring himself to do it and instead left, after signing his and her names (“Dick + Anna, ‘64”) on the wall. At work, Don met Dr. Faye Miller (Carla Buono), a freelance consultant doing market research for the agency who predicted that he will be married again in a year.
On the night of the office Christmas party, Don drunkenly slept with his secretary, Allison (Alexa Alemanni), and then refused to acknowledge their illicit affair. Allison then broke down during a market-research session and threw a brass cigarette dispenser at Don, quitting. She was replaced by Ida Blankenship (Randee Heller), a gruff and inept career assistant who had previously worked for Bert Cooper (Robert Morse). Don’s drinking habits took a nasty turn and he blacked out, waking up in bed with a different woman than the one he went to bed with, an entire day unaccounted for in his memory. He began to date Faye, while keeping their relationship a secret from their coworkers. Don was forced to introduce Faye to Sally when she turned up at the office. While Faye attempted to calm a tantrum-throwing Sally, she proved to be useless and Sally turned to receptionist Megan Calvet (Jessica Paré) for comfort.
Don learned that Anna had died before he got the chance to say goodbye. He broke down in front of Peggy, and told her that the only person who truly knew him had died. They shared a moment, one that isn’t dismissed by Don but rather reaffirmed the following day.
Don began to write a journal. Paranoid upon learning he was under investigation for a security-clearance request, Don told Faye about Dick Whitman. After Miss Blankenship’s unexpected death, Megan was placed on Don’s desk as his new assistant. She told Don that while she is a bit of an artist, she would eventually like to do what he and Peggy do. Working together, they shared a kiss in his office and ended up having sex on Don's couch. After Lucky Strike pulled out of the agency, Faye broke her moral code and got Don a meeting with Heinz. Don ran into his former lover, bohemian artist Midge Daniels (Rosemary DeWitt), and realized that she and her husband were both heroin addicts. Reluctantly, he bought one of Midge’s paintings.
After Philip Morris canceled a pitch meeting, Don ripped out the pages of his journal and wrote a New York Times manifesto about the tobacco industry entitled "Why I'm Quitting Tobacco," without consulting the partners. The partners freaked out, and Cooper threatened to quit. Megan loved the letter, while Faye was forced to resign. Don met with the American Cancer Society about a possible anti-smoking campaign.
Don took the kids to California, with his assistant Megan acting as babysitter. Visiting Anna’s house, Don told Sally and Bobby that he is sometimes called “Dick,” and introduced them to Stephanie, who gave Anna's old engagement ring to Don. He had sex with Megan again, and the kids took to the calm and collected Megan quite easily. Upon returning to New York, Don proposed to Megan and offered her Anna's ring. Megan said yes. The two told the partners and Joan about their engagement. Later, Don told Peggy that Megan reminds him of her and that she is a “role model” to Megan. Only after telling the agency staffers of his engagement, Don broke up with Faye over the phone. Furious, she told him, "You only like the beginnings of things." Don and Betty met once more at the house in Ossining, and shared a drink. After learning that Don is getting married, Betty turned over the keys to the house.
Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss)
At the beginning of Season 4, Peggy was dating Mark Kerney (Blake Bashoff), who believed her to be a virgin. The two eventually slept together, with Mark thinking that it was Peggy’s first time. Mark attempted to throw her a surprise birthday dinner and invited her entire family; when Peggy found herself stuck at work with Don, she argued with Mark and he broke up with her over the phone. Peggy ended up spending the night at the office with Don and comforted him after he learned of Anna’s death. Don squeezed her hand the next day as a sign of friendship and acknowledgement of what had passed between them. At work, Peggy was forced to deal with a rocky relationship with art director Stan Rizzo (Jay R. Ferguson). When she forced them to work in the nude, Stan conceded the upper hand to Peggy, and they moved past their struggles for the time being.
Peggy became friends with Life magazine photo editor Joyce Ramsay (Zosia Mamet), an out lesbian who drew Peggy deeper into the counterculture of 1964-65. At an underground party, Joyce introduced Peggy to her friend Abe Drexler (Charlie Hofheimer), a beatnik journalist. Peggy discovered the body of Miss Blankenship after believing her to be sleeping at her desk. After a number of incidents involving Joan, Peggy fired entitled freelancer Joey Baird (Matt Long) and ran afoul of Joan, who did not thank her for stepping in. Abe surprised Peggy at work with a controversial article he had written called "Nuremberg on Madison Avenue," which Peggy ripped up in front of him, saying that she could lose her job because of it. After running into him at Jones Beach, Peggy had sex with Abe and they began a relationship.
Stan tried to kiss Peggy; when she rebuffed him, he let her give a key presentation with lipstick on her teeth. Peggy and Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) pitched to Topaz Pantyhose and they won the account, the agency’s first new business since Lucky Strike pulled out. Peggy was taken aback to learn about Don and Megan’s engagement, her own news seeming trivial to Don. She confided such to Joan, who said that Peggy shouldn’t be surprised and that Don will probably make Megan a copywriter and that he’s no different than any of the other men at the office.
Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks)
Still married to her handsome doctor husband, Greg (Sam Page), Joan adjusted not only to her new life as the wife of a military doctor in basic training, but also to more responsibility at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Despite their turbulent history (Greg raped Joan previously), the couple was looking to start a family, even with Greg’s plans—and the Vietnam War—rendering their future rather uncertain. Despite her new role at the agency, Joan found herself fighting battles on multiple fronts: with freelancer Joey, who drew a crude sketch of Joan in flagrante delicto, and with Lane, the latter of which results in a misunderstanding with mixed-up flowers and the firing of Lane’s assistant. At home, Joan attempted to be stoic about the uncertainties swirling around her, until she cut her finger while making freshly squeezed orange juice for Greg and opened up about her isolation.
With Greg gone, Joan found herself getting closer to Roger again. When the two were mugged at gunpoint, they kiss and then have sex on a deserted street. Joan found herself pregnant, but knew that Greg couldn’t be the father. She went to an abortion clinic (she has already terminated two pregnancies in her life), and quickly ended her affair with Roger. Joan was promoted to Director of Agency Operations, but discovered that there was no pay increase with the title change. At the end of the season, it was revealed that Joan never got an abortion, and Greg believes the baby is his.
Roger Sterling (John Slattery)
Still married to Jane (Peyton List), Roger wrote a book, Sterling’s Gold, which revealed details about Bert Cooper—that he had had his testicles removed in error—and that he had once been sexually involved with the “queen of perversions,” Ida Blankenship, whose unexpected death at the office shook him.
Deeply afraid of losing his position of power at the agency, Roger kept the loss of the Lucky Strike account a secret for a month. When Ken Cosgrove learned of the truth, Roger pretended to have been blindsided and went so far as to fake a trip to see Lee Garner Jr. (Darren Pettie) to get him to reconsider. Roger confessed to Joan that he was still in Manhattan and the he knew about Lucky Strike for a month. (In the end, rival BBDO gets the account.) As the season ended, Roger received a copy of his book. He signed a copy for Jane, inscribed “To my loving wife.”
Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser)
After nearly giving up on having a child, Pete learned that Trudy (Alison Brie) was finally pregnant. He manipulated his father-in-law Tom (Joe O’Connor) into giving him the entire Vick Chemical account, a major coup both for Pete and the agency. But Pete’s victories were short-lived when he was forced to work alongside one-time rival (and sometimes friend) Ken, and must drop a hugely lucrative North American Aviation account—which he wrangled while Don went missing in California in Season 3—when Don realized that he would fail the security clearance. Pete very reluctantly backed out of the deal, telling the partners that he had made an error and insulted a general in the Department of Defense by leaving his name off of a vital form.
Trudy went into labor while Pete was on the back nine, Pete's father in law tried to get him to leave Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce after Lucky Strike pulled its account, and Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm) tried to lure him away. Trudy gave birth to a daughter, and later refused to let Pete put money into the firm to cover payroll costs when she discovered he was applying for a loan. But, perhaps in payback for the North American Aviation situation, Don ended up paying Pete's share, and the two shared a look of acknowledgment.
Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka)
In freefall after her parents’ divorce and her mother’s remarriage to Henry (Christopher Stanley), Sally was not coping well with her new familial situation, a latchkey kid, used to her mother not being there and only seeing her father every other weekend. While purchasing a Christmas tree, Sally ran into neighborhood peer Glen Bishop (Marten Holder Weiner), and the two began a friendship. In an act of rebellion, Sally cut her hair while Don was on a date, and received a swift slap across the face from Betty when she learned of her daughter’s action. At a sleepover, Sally was caught masturbating while watching The Man from U.N.C.L.E., mortifying Betty, who believed that Sally needed to psychiatric help. Sally began seeing child psychologist Dr. Edna Keener (Patricia Bethune) four times a week. It appeared that she was making progress until an incident when Sally ran away, hopping on a train to see Don and surprising him at his office. Sally and Don fought as Sally refused to go back home with her mother, and she stumbled in the hall, falling on her face and allowing herself to be consoled by Megan.
Don surprised Sally with Beatles tickets, resulting in a rare smile from Betty. She continued her weird friendship with Glen, who broke into the house and trashed every room save for Sally’s bedroom, leaving her his lanyard as a coded message. Later, she secretly met Glen after school repeatedly. Her sessions with Dr. Edna sessions continued, with Dr. Edna acknowledging that Sally has managed to control her anger toward her mother, pretending not to show it to Betty while processing it. Betty caught Sally and Glen heading towards their secret place, and she forbade Sally from seeing him and decided that they would move. Glen visited Sally at home to say goodbye and they hugged. Sally sobbed on her bed, knowing that she would never see Glen again.
Betty Francis (January Jones)
Still living in the house she shared with Don, Betty and Henry continued to have issues in their relatively new marriage. At a Thanksgiving dinner at Henry’s mother’s house, Betty attempted to force-feed Sally sweet potatoes, resulting in her gagging and Betty dragging the girl away. Despite a deal she had made with Don that she would move out of the house, she and Henry continued to stay there, as Betty had made no attempt to find a new place to live. Her seething anger against Don bubbled up constantly, as Betty repeatedly told her husband that she hated Don and wanted him dead. Henry cleared out the garage and left Don’s boxes on the street, after he intentionally ran into them with his car. Betty reluctantly told Don about Gene’s birthday party, but the two managed to have a civil moment, and she told Henry, “We have everything.”
When the Department of Defense began a security clearance investigation for Don and showed up at the house, Betty kept Don's secret and didn’t tell them his true identity. It seemed as though Betty was achieving catharsis through her own informal visits with Sally’s therapist, Dr. Edna, who tried to recommend a psychiatrist for Betty, but Betty wouldn’t relent and Dr. Edna agreed to continue seeing her once a month. Betty fired housekeeper Carla (Deborah Lacey) after finding Glen in the house and refused to let her say goodbye to the children. Betty and Don had a final moment in the house they once shared, drinking together and then going their separate ways.
Lane Pryce (Jared Harris)
Alongside Joan, Lane had segued into a position of power at the agency, virtually running it while leaving creative matters to Don and sales decisions to Pete. However, his personal life was in turmoil, as his relationship with his wife Rebecca (Embeth Davidtz) had grown considerably strained and she returned to England without him. Alone at the office with Don over a holiday weekend, the two partook in drinks, a movie (Godzilla!), and hookers. After a fight with Joan, his relationship with Rebecca grew even more troubled when the florist mixed up the flowers meant for Joan and Rebecca. (His assistant was instantly fired by Joan.)
Lane’s overbearing father Robert (William Morgan Sheppard) arrived to take him back to England. Lane refused to go back to his family and introduced Robert to his new girlfriend, Toni (Naturi Naughton), an African-American Playboy Bunny. Irate, Robert severely beat Lane with his cane handle and then treaded on his hand, telling him, “Get your home in order, either there or here.” Lane decided to take a brief leave of absence and traveled to England. When Lucky Strike pulled its account, Lane returned to New York with his family.