I don't think any of us saw that coming. Don Draper tries to disappear himself into the middle of nowhere, only to reveal his deepest, darkest secret to a table of strangers. Roy from The Office stops by Mad Men as a war vet slinging whiskey in an old VFW hall, and along with his former military cohorts, gets Don to spill the beans about killing his commanding officer. Of course, Don stops short of telling them the real truth: That he took the man's name and left his real identity behind. It's a powerful, shocking moment, but it leads to great consequences. You see, you can't escape the truth forever. And while Don doesn't get sold down the river immediately, the men know something's up and shake him down for an entirely different reason. And it all leads a step closer to figuring out how Mad Men will end for Don. Well, slightly closer.
The VFW situation is a little ironic considering that even though Don's holding back a lie, this is the most honest he's been in a long while. After one vet talks about killing soldiers in World War II, the others echo that he did what he had to do to come home. Don appears to think he's found his people and feels that he can tell them about his truth: Killing his C.O. with a lighter and coming home. It's an incredibly powerful moment, one that feels even more genuine than when Don left that meeting because he was done with the BS. That moment felt full of ego, this one was completely without it.
Unfortunately, he didn't tell the whole truth and those men knew. They crashed into Don's room, grabbed him and demanded their money, which the maid from the hotel had stolen. Of course, Don wasn't lying about stealing money, but they knew something was off and immediately blamed him, leading Don to confront the young man who cleans his motel room.
"If you keep it, you'll have to become someone else and it's not what you think it is," says Don. "You think this town is bad now, wait until you can never come back." Yeah, because Don knows. Don was that person.
But what happens next is the most intriguing bit: He pays off the vet who owns the motel and agrees to take the motel maid boy with him as he heads out of town. He pulls over, throws the keys to the young kid, and says "The pink slip's in the glove box. Don't waste this." The kid drives away and Don sits on a bus stop bench, waiting for his future to come by. Did he just give the Don persona to this young kid? Having gleamed the most he could gleam from the name?
It certainly seems that way. I'm not sure if that means he's going all D.B. Cooper on us — he looks a little happy for that conclusion and he is carrying a bag that I at least hope has a bunch of money in it. (Road safety rules, Don. Hello!) But something is going to change in a big way. It could mean Don rides off into the sunset — the show has always been obsessed with California — but whatever it means, we're probably not looking at a conclusion that any of us predicted.