Don Draper's fever dream on Sunday night's episode of Mad Men demonstrates just how deeply the show will go to reveal the psychological void of its damaged lead character.
The episode, called "Mystery Date," got great mileage out of its title. Although it more obviously refers to a commercial product advertised on television that catches the eye of Don's daughter Sally, it makes a much darker impact later in the episode. The mystery date turns out to be a female whom Don was once involved with, and who comes to him in a dream.
In the early part of the episode, that same woman bumps into Don in an elevator with current wife Megan by his side. Megan -- she knows about her husband's randy history and calls his modus operandi a "careless appetite" -- is none too pleased with this elevator interaction.
Don, who's feverish with a bad cough, leaves work early and falls into bed. Suddenly, the take-charge elevator gal is in the room and, despite Don's protests, impossible for him to resist sexually. When she says she'll be back, Don retorts, "I better not see you again, you're not going to ruin this," referring to his new life with Megan.
To protect his territory, Draper does the unthinkable: he strangles his night visitor, shoves her under the bed -- a protruding, ruby-red high heeled shoe evokes Oz's Wicked Witch's apparent co-opting of innocence -- and conks out. The next morning, he tells Megan she needn't worry about him.
"The assaultive, aggressive, demanding female that Don Draper experiences in his dream represents aspects of his feminine side, which Jung calls the anima," says Anita U. Greene, a Jungian analyst in a private practice, in Amherst, Massachusetts.
These traits are really aspects of himself -- his own aggressive behavior and predatory proclivities. When a feminine figure with those traits appears in a man's dream, it generally means that the man is not cognizant of those characteristics in himself in real life, and so he projects them onto a female. It shows how unaware Draper is of that side of himself and how unrelated he is to the Feminine.
Greene explains that by strangling the woman in his dream, he's trying to kill off that part of himself that seduces women as a matter of course. Theoretically, that type of action might be seen as a good thing, but it seldom works. "Draper would have to acknowledge those traits in himself in order to change," she says.
So how seriously should we take Don's statement to Megan, "You don't have to worry about me," alluding to his commitment to be faithful to her?
"The fact that Draper has sex in his dream shows he is still very attached to that side of himself," says Greene. "He thinks he can handle it, but the dream says he can't."