Notes: Wisteriafic pointed out a portion of Alan Sepinwall's review for "The Quality of Mercy." He brings up a point a lot of fans made as well in regards to the shift in Peggy and Ted's relationship after "Favors." This is my way of explaining that shift. Here's what Sepinwall observed:
"The show's traditional approach to the calendar, in which each episode in a season takes place about a month after the previous one (this one's late October, after Jackie Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis, but before the election), sometimes means emotional developments happen off-camera. The last Peggy/Ted-heavy episode, "The Better Half," ended with him attempting to put a professional distance between the two of them. Last week's episode suggested that he still had feelings he couldn't entirely hide, but that's still a fair distance from the two of them carrying on like an actual couple. It's not that I don't believe they could have gone from Point A to Point B in the weeks since Peggy killed a rat in her apartment, but that it would have been interesting to see them gradually slip into this mode."
He missed dinner again. Ted placed the call to his former flight instructor and it went on longer than he expected – part catching up, part fulfilling a favor to Don Draper. He tried calling home to explain, but the phone rang and rang and then Jim and Roger were parking themselves in his office wanting to get caught up on Ocean Spray versus Sunkist.
Ted walks into the house ready for a fight, armed with the story of the boy Don knows and draft cards and the returning favors. He isn't surprised the table is clear and there's no plate warming in the oven for him. He follows the sound of the television up the stairs and finds the boys watching while Nan sleeps with a book open on her chest.
He carries his youngest son on his back out of the bedroom and down the stairs. Ted turns the television on, back to the show he interrupted in the bedroom. He sits between the two boys on the couch and asks, "What did you do today?"
He listens to stories about finding a misplaced catcher's mitt, Mad Magazine, and a spelling test. Ted is happy to hear their animated voices. He is relieved they are both so young and so protected from being sent to war. He imagines Don is currently delivering good news to his friends and their child. Ted hopes the arrangement between he and Don means they can get back to work, back to the hopeful place they were at the start of the fight for Chevy and the merger.
The boys lose interest in talking about their day and scoot off the sofa, closer to the television. Ted retreats to the kitchen and opens the refrigerator. He reaches for a jug of cranberry juice and is reminded of touring the plant with Peggy and Pete, of their celebratory dinner afterward, and the rough flight home.
"You okay back there?" Ted asked as he adjusted the flaps, easing the plane into its descent.
Pete leaned back and covered his face with his arm. He muttered something about how he would be fine and blamed the half a whiskey sour he stole from Peggy, not the flight, for the way he retched and sweated.
Ted stole a quick glance at Peggy. She looked amused. Her expression hadn't changed much since dinner when Ted returned to the table after calling home to find Peggy and Pete sipping drinks and sharing a bout of laughter.
The wheels bumped against the ground and Peggy's hand latched onto Ted's knee. He felt the pierce of her nails through his pants. The heat from her palm radiated there long after she unclenched her hold. The plane skidded across the runway and Pete was unbuckling before they made a complete stop.
"Stay put," Ted instructed him.
Pete held one hand to his stomach and the other hovered near his mouth. He breathed heavily and the moment Ted declared it safe to move, Pete was climbing out the narrow door.
Peggy remained in her seat, stifling a laugh at the sight of Pete bolting toward the terminal.
"You weren't kidding that he doesn't like to fly," Ted said.
She shook her head. "I can't blame him, really."
"No. That's terrible about his father. How long has it been?"
Peggy looked upward, counting the years in the scuffs on the low ceiling. "Seven years?" she said, uncertain.
"He must have been devastated."
Peggy shrugged. "I don't… I'm sure he was."
Ted sets the jug and three glasses on the table. He remembers a sense of relief at Peggy's words, at her tone. That she wasn't certain, that she probably hadn't been at Pete's side.
He can hear the television in the other room and it gets louder with the sound of a fight – punches are thrown, furniture broken. The noise is grating. He is tired of fighting, tired of the battles between he and Don at the office and tired of the daily battle not to think about Peggy Olson.
Ted, I have never been less afraid of flying in my life.
What? What does he mean?
He didn't recognize the bitter taste in his mouth as jealousy, not while the three of them were still in the restaurant. Not until he found himself replaying their last few minutes at dinner over and over for days. Ted hasn't been able to stop thinking about that moment, that secretive laugh between Peggy and Pete, a language he couldn't decipher.
Ted fills two of the glasses and carries them into the boys. He knows Nan would throw a fit if she saw them drinking something red near the carpet and furniture and the kids know too; they both look toward the staircase, checking for mom before taking a drink. Their lips pucker and Ted laughs, heading back to the kitchen to pour his own drink. He swallows slowly, thinking of Peggy and the slogans she threw out during the trip, the ideas for radio spots and television commercials bandied about. That was their language – his and Peggy's.
Ted adds more juice to his glass and thinks about going back to work the next day, how different it should be after calling a truce with Don. He knows he has to make it different with Peggy, too. He can't avoid her, can't seethe with jealousy when she shares a smile with someone who isn't him. He can't surrender to his feelings completely, but Ted imagines he can settle for the kind of easy camaraderie he saw between Peggy and Pete in Middleborough.
He screws the cap back on the jug and puts it away in the fridge. He makes a mental note to tell Peggy about the expression on the boys' faces during their first sips, how the tart juice dented their cheeks and puckered their lips.
Ted is on his way to the men's room when he sees Peggy carry her thermos into the kitchen. He takes a detour and follows her. "Good morning," he says.
Peggy turns around from the counter. "Good morning." She fills her thermos with piping hot coffee while Ted opens the cabinet beside her, rummaging for a mug. She sets the pot down, pointing the handle toward him. She hides a yawn behind a closed fist.
"Didn't sleep well?" Ted asks and Peggy shakes her head. "Problems with your tenant?"
"No, not exactly," Peggy says. "I got a cat because-" She pauses. "I got a cat and we're not on the same schedule."
He smiles at the image of Peggy trying to sleep while a boisterous cat walks across the mattress and bats at the draperies above the bed. Ted takes a sip of his coffee. The ceramic sears his palm but he doesn't set it down. "I have a call with Ocean Spray at eleven. You should be on it."
"Oh? Okay," Peggy says.
"We'll call from my office."
Ted turns and walks out of the room, forgetting about his original intent to use the bathroom. He heads toward his office and sets the mug on the edge of Moira's desk because it's the first sturdy surface he reaches. He looks at his palm and presses his fingers against the tender, reddened skin.
He doesn't sit behind his desk for the call. He sits on the edge of the desk or stands beside it or paces in front of it. Ted doesn't want to put himself behind the desk, separated from Peggy and Pete in the two chairs across from it.
The Ocean Spray call goes longer than expected and Pete excuses himself, shutting the door to Ted's office on his way out. The rest of the conversation is the executives bragging about their factory and taking trips into Boston.
Peggy eyes the bar cart and Ted wheels it across the room while the men on the other end of the line chatter. She stands up to fix her own drink and knocks the glass over, spilling whiskey on the carpet. Peggy covers her mouth with her hand and Ted stifles a laugh while he searches for something to wipe the spill.
She mouths, "I'm sorry," while they both kneel down to pick up the glass and the ice cubes and pat the carpet with tissues.
Ted finds her by the elevator and they both ride down to the lobby. "How's the cat?" he asks. "Did you settle on a name yet?"
Peggy shakes her head. "We're getting used to each other."
He walks a little ways behind her but catches up outside the revolving door. "Lunch plans?"
"I don't know. Maybe soup across the street."
"How about cheeseburgers two blocks away?" Ted asks.
They blend into the crowd heading south on Sixth Avenue. Her arm brushes his but he doesn't react. When they reach the diner he holds the door open but he doesn't pull her chair out at the table.
The conference room clears out and Ted is reminded that it's Friday night by the way everyone races out the door. Peggy stands up from her chair and he asks, "Do you have plans tonight?"
"I'm going to see Rosemary's Baby with my friend Joyce."
Ted feels relieved. "I liked it," he tells her. "Have you read the book?"
Peggy shakes her head.
"I'll bring it to the office." He looks at the clock on the wall, at the secretaries parading by with their coats and purses. "You'll have to tell me how you like it."
"It was… inspiring," Peggy says over the rim of a glass of cran-apple cocktail.
Ted spins his chair around to face her. "Inspiring? Rosemary's Baby?"
Peggy tilts her head back, exposing her throat, as she laughs. "The movie was terrifying," she amends. "But it cleared the cobwebs. For St. Joseph's."
He looks at her with narrowed eyes. He gets up from his seat behind the desk and joins her on the sofa. "This I have to hear."
He tells Peggy the idea is brilliant and he clears time in his schedule to talk about it again and again, even though it hasn't been presented to the client.
Ted has Moira pencil St. Joseph's – Peggy on his calendar and then when the two of them meet in his office or hers or the creative lounge, he mostly tells her how amazing the idea is and what restaurant they'll go to when the client signs off. What drink they will toast with when Peggy is nominated for a Clio.
He makes a joke about getting the work for Ocean Spray and St. Joseph's mixed up and they laugh about the idea of the men from Massachusetts receiving artwork about the devil's juice.
Peggy is writing with a pencil, pressing so hard on the paper that she has to lean down and blow flecks of lead away from the page. Ted doesn't need to be in the room. She and Ginsberg and Mathis will update him on the work at a meeting the next morning, but he likes being able to watch her work and hear her laugh and how they can share a look when Ginsberg says something off the wall.
"Chowder really does sound good," Ted says, but they settle for sitting in her office with two bottles of cola and egg salad sandwiches from the lunch cart.
"I know we've been talking about berries all day, but I think I have the right angle for the St. Joseph's spot," Peggy tells him.
He scoots to the edge of his chair.
Peggy describes the scene from the point of view of an infant in his crib and says, "And then the Japanese man, like in the movie, will-"
"There's a Japanese in the movie?" Ted asks.
Peggy nods. She describes the scene and receives a blank stare from Ted. "Are you sure you saw the movie?"
"I guess I wasn't paying close attention. I should see it again. To prove you wrong."
Ted is afraid that running into Don and Megan is going to ruin his experience of seeing the movie with Peggy, but that evening when he's back at home, he can still feel the warmth of her breath when she leaned over to whisper in his ear. He doesn't remember what she said, just how her soft-spoken words tickled his ear and pricked goosebumps on his skin.
He remembers how they shared an armrest, how for a moment he crossed his pinky over hers.
"You're not worried about how that looked to Don and Megan?" Peggy whispers. She has left the door to her office open.
Ted shakes his head. "No," is all he says, because he tells himself it looked like two friendly co-workers settling a bet by seeing a movie together. It's all he says because he wants to be the one supporting Peggy's work and pushing her closer to her first Clio.
Ted blames Don. He blames him for taking Peggy away, for shaming him into keeping his distance from her. He blames Don – he surrendered Ocean Spray for Sunkist, attributed Peggy's work to a dead man.
But Ted knows the moment he truly lost Peggy – knew for certain that he couldn't keep up the pretense of a working friendship to be close to her, that he was losing that battle terribly – was at the movies.
He sat beside her in the dark, pressed shoulder to shoulder, hand to hand. He sat beside her in the dark and spent more time looking down at her lap, at where the hem of her dress rested mid-thigh while she was seated, than he spent watching the movie. He spent more time imagining how it would feel to slide his hand along her thigh, under her dress.
Ted blames Don but he knows the last few weeks were only a temporary ceasefire.
He carries his coffee mug into the kitchen and spots Peggy at the counter, filling her thermos. Ted holds his breath and backs out of the room, back to being her boss and not her friend.