We've seen that steel stirrup before. On the very first episode of Mad Men it was Peggy in that creep doctor's office. She wanted contraception; he threw around the word ''strumpet'' and told her to ''slide her fanny down, I'm not going to bite you'' before making a winking leer over Joan's sex life. He wasn't as obnoxious to Joan's face. Though who is really? She wants to get pregnant before Greg ships out and needs to know if her past abortions have rendered her infertile. The doc only performed one of those abortions and I bet many of you likewise wondered if Roger had been the Daddy.
It was a clever conceit to take us back to the beginning at the start of the episode. Because this turned out to be Don's last chance to visit with his own humble beginnings, or at least to have them generously reflected back at him. He made a pit stop on his way to Acapulco — and I'm frankly glad we were spared any scenes of Don holding an umbrella drink — to visit with the beatific Anna Draper. Something about the bulk of these California scenes admittedly left me a little cold. The writing seemed stiff and I'm not sure the actress playing young Stephanie could keep up with Jon Hamm. I appreciate that Anna is Don's one family member who sees only his best core self, while having great compassion for the demons that shroud it. But a little unconditional love goes a long way. I think one ''I know everything about you and I still love you'' negates the need for a ''I want you to do everything you want to'' and ''Stay as long as you want.''
Anna's comely niece showed up in short shorts and the three went out drinking. Stephanie, a poli sci major, of course thinks the game of advertising is built by crooks for suckers. Don wanted to smell her pretty hair. Both of them couldn't imagine anything more tedious than someone preaching to them the word of the Lord. Anna being Anna just wanted everyone to be happy and pass the grass, wouldja. Don got on my nerves telling Anna about how Betty fell out of love as soon as she saw the real him. ''Oh Dick, I'm sorry she broke your heart,'' said Anna. Don sighed, with a half-hearted ''I had it coming.'' Too little, too late buddy. I genuinely love the fact that this show encourages its viewers to be routinely aggravated by the hero.
Don drove Stephanie home so she didn't get picked up by some creep hitchhiking. (Should have kept running, Suzanne.) Of course he went in with his patented lean-in but she backed him off with the news that Anna is dying of cancer and doesn't know it. You know the s--- has hit the fan whenever Don assumes the titular stance of the show — stiff on a sofa, wracked by emotion, clutching a cigarette. Chastened by Anna's sister, reminded that he's just ''the man in a room holding a check book,'' he tried to do right by leaving her in peace. The scene of their final goodbye was great. ''Goodbye, Anna.'' ''Goodbye, Dick,'' she said off camera, as we watched Don realize that he was also in effect saying goodbye to Dick. ''Mr. Draper, Mr. Draper?'' an anonymous voice intoned as we hung on Hamm's sad face.
NEXT: Don and Lane's big night out