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How the Threesome on ‘Mad Men’ Saved Don Draper’s Career

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Don's never won by sleeping with just his wife.

At the end of last night's episode of Mad Men, one thing is for sure: Don Draper is back. Don Draper was neutered — both professionally and sexually — for the first five episodes of Season 7. By the end of the episode titled "The Runaways," that anemic version of Don has fled, and been replaced with his daring, cavalier, all-chips-in younger self.

Don has spent the first episodes of this season in a holding pattern, on his best "scripted" behavior at SC&P. Trying to remain sober has proved a disarming experience for Don, who reports  begrudgingly under a vengeful Peggy and a stern Lou Avery. When his "niece" Stephanie — the niece of the late Anna Draper, calls asking him for financial assistance through an unexpected pregnancy, he immediately decides to get on a plane to Los Angeles to see and aid her. For Don, Stephanie is a last vestige of home. He may have Megan, Sally, Bobby, and even Betty, but Stephanie is Don's last reminder of the one person who ever really knew him. So, of course, the beautiful Stephanie, who Don has already hit on in the past, is a threat to Megan's tenuous marriage, even if she's eight months larger.

Which is why Megan, who has been confined to Flinstone's "Wilmaaaa!" territory with Don's intermittent comings and goings, tries to fight back for Don's attention the only way she hasn't tried before — with a threesome. Megan hosts a bohemian party amongst her acting friends and dances to a live French band, reminiscent of her Season 5 performance of  "Zou Bisou Bisou." Only this time, the attempt at seducing her husband seems a little more desperate. Unmoved, Don leaves with Harry Crane, only to return later to a trashed home filled with only Megan and her attached-at-the-hip new friend Amy, who are both incredibly stoned.

Getting into bed alone, Amy comes to the door, claiming that Megan suggested Amy tuck Don in. For a season filled to the brim with Megan's own (rightful) sexual paranoia, it's a bold move. "Kiss her, I know you want to," Megan tells Don. He obliges, but it's uncertain whether the threesome that ensues is full of any earnest desire as much as it's a biological reaction to two attractive young women straddling him. Megan's threesome is of a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," mentality. It's an odd gift sent to Don as a way to offer him something more than Stephanie, more than family.

In the morning, as Amy awkwardly shuffles out with a, "Hello! Goodbye," it's evident that the threesome hasn't unlocked the part of Don Megan hopes it would. Instead, Don Draper, creative director, is reborn. The old Don becomes reactivated as he shows up to a meeting uninvited between Lou and Cutler with Commander cigarettes. Lou and Cutler are well aware Don was the one who once penned the New York Times piece trashing Lucky Strike years back, and that the new account would force Don out of the business. “I just keep thinking,” Don says to Commander as he interrupts the meeting, “about what your friends at American Tobacco would think if you made me apologize, forced me into your service." Don's winning them over. If the threesome of the previous evening has been a little lackluster, the one between Lou, Cutler, and Don is fiery. "You're incredible," Lou tells Don, not insincerely. If sleeping with a woman who wasn't his wife is what brought the old Don back, then it seems to be his only winning creative formula.

In a season so far tempered by the ominous arrival of computers (that according to Ginsberg, "turn us all homo") and a host of characters that are sobered by the injustices of their careers, and romantically stagnant, the passion of "The Runaways" turned the season around, and turned Don around with it. It wasn't Betty-era Don who came alive after his threesome — it was Rachel Menken, Bobbie Barrett, Midge Daniels, Suzanne Farrell, Faye Miller-era Don, the one who took what he want when he wanted it. For Don, that virility and sense of entitlement brought on by his affairs might be what turns him on in the board room. I hope, for our sake, that he stays back on top.

Image via AMC.