We got a taste of Christmas in August on the Mad Men episode “Christmas Comes But Once a Year.” People were jolly, and bitter, and functionally drunk. Sometimes all at once.

Don and Peggy endure the holiday party in "Christmas Comes but Oncea Year." Photo: Mike Yarish/AMC

If there’s any lesson in this episode that I learned, it’s that no matter how many times I despise Don Draper, bottom line – I have compassion forĀ  him. This episode made a strong case for feeling empathy for Don. As he told the pretty neighbor down the hall, “I don’t hate Christmas. I just hate this Christmas.” For all the times he’d taken his family for granted, cheated on Betty, left his kids to spend the night with various women, yadda, yadda – there was a part of him that liked his family unit. And we’re programmed to feel most attached to them during the big holidays. This was Don’s first holiday away from his family, so it was tinged with remorse.

There’s an air of tragedy around Sally Draper, and we heard her confess some of her grievances on the phone to Glenn. “I hate it here, I really do. Every time I go around a corner I keep thinking I’ll see my Dad.” Sally had even reached out to her father, writing him a letter where she said what she wanted most was for him to be there on Christmas morning. Betty would never give up the kids, but she certainly has never treated them very nice. But the interesting part of all of this is how Sally is growing up, and now boys call the house. Even if it’s just one boy, and it’s Glenn. He’s taken an interest in her, and maybe the two will bond over their situation. But with Betty having to move, will Sally and Glenn’s friendship break up before long?

Lee Garner Jr. showed up, and all but demanded (or did he?) a proper Madison Avenue Christmas party. The office had to scrap plans of their tiny shin-dig, and pull out all of the stops, almost like they were all a performing circus for his benefit.

Peggy finally decided to sleep with Mark, even though she doesn’t feel invested in the relationship and he had assumed she was a virgin. Instead of someone who can be a partner, is he just another man who wants to put her in her place – blinded by stereotypes?

And while it wasn’t a “finally” decision, we saw Don decide to go for Allison. Well, not so much “go for” as “have at her.” He had to coax her into it, and when she gave in you could practically see the stars twinkling in her eyes. She wants to save him. But he doesn’t want to be saved. She kissed him sweetly on the mouth before she left, but the next day he did everything possible to ensure that he knew there was nothing going on between them. Do you think that’s the last we’ll see of that twosome? Allison isn’t someone Don’s ever been interested in, but she’s convenient. Of course, next up on Don’s line-up could be nurse Phoebe or Doctor Faye of the Motivational Research Group…

What did you think of the episode? Do you think Peggy wants to marry Mark? Do you think Allison will resign? What do you think Glenn will do to get Sally’s attention next? Will Betty have more than just a few lines in the next episode? And does Joan still carry a torch for Roger? (She did wear that red dress!)

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