When Paul came in hot from LA late in the grays of New York fall sporting his first tan, ever in Season IV ep. 1, it was dismissed (you know, by me) as an exercise in restraint from the rest of the Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce crew — or perhaps, simply a distraction the upstart firm didn't need whilst clinging desperately to its lone cash cow (Lucky Strike and churlish CEO Lee Garner Jr.).

The Thanksgiving-themed episode was rife with broken home allusion and we thought the holiday magic might just end there.

No such luck.

A month has passed and transient Don's still squatting in his lower East Side tenement. He's awakened with a start at 8:30 a.m. (on a workday) to the pounding of neighbor Nurse Phoebe's hammer.

The Disheveled Don count season IV is already at 9 ...or about three times that of the first three seasons combined.

If Jon Hamm has never experienced a paint-blistering hangover, hand that man his first Golden Globe.

Nurse Phoebe (yes, complete in full nurse regalia, including hot nurse hat) takes pity on Don then and when he stumbles down the boozily down the same hallway that eve, taking out Christmas decor and looking every bit the wreck he is on the inside.

She asks where (and how) he got that way; when his reply is simply work, she asks if his Wee Small Hours version of the once venerable ad exec. is under the employ of the White Horse Tavern.

Seeing a man out of time, Nurse Phoebe queries whether he's like this all the time — or if he's a Christmas drunk; Draper, still able to jab off the ropes says "I don't hate Christmas, I hate this Christmas."

Nurse Phoebe switches to Flo Nightengale mode and enters Don's Den of Inequity.

His drunken self thinks he's about to score, but she's only there to help, and not in that way. She removes his coat and shoes. In half-pass-out, Don asks her blindly what she sees in hospital work.

"My father was a drunk," she begins, telegraphing her pity for neighbor Don the Drunk. "I love working at the hospital - people comin' into work people leavin' it - everything happens there."

Fade.

Phoebe's got a syrupy Oklahoma accent and is the kind of single, but lonely woman Don would've preyed on in a past life. Perhaps his pendulum swing to pathetic is too dramatic. If Season III's theme was change and Season IV is littered with hints of how a collective deals in an aftermath, Creator Weiner seems to be piping Don fastballs either in anticipation of a glorious late-season comeback or a terse exit (themes of death already, really? It's not even season VI).

Weiner also reintroduces the harbinger of Don's demise as he brings back Freddy Rumsen— the drunken master, the talented copywriter who wet himself before a client meeting; 16 months later all rehabbed and bringing with him a $2 million client in the form of Ponds cold cream.

Freddy is predictably paired with Peggy, whipsmart(er) and more confident by the minute, she has no qualms meeting Freddy's condescending tone head on with some carefully chosen words of her own. Freddy, the AA sponsor, is soon found out to be a relic, living off blurred notions of a playbook that no longer exists at SCDP.

"It's not just about the client it's everything we do here," Peggy says to her Freddy Foil, "things are different than this."

Course, Peggy gets hers when new boyfriend Mark (convinced that the estranged mother of one is still saving herself for whatever it is he's offering) calls her "Old-Fashioned" with her prudish behavior.

The Motivational Research Group comes in to introduce consumer evaluations which they'll use to help get to the client's real feelings below the surface. This kind of personal evaluation shows that times are changing and people are becoming more open and trying to go deeper. True to form, Don can't handle this and quickly excuses himself when the surveys are passed out. Not only does he have to learn to answer for himself as the face of the company, but people are starting to ask more personal questions in general, and he has to learn to answer to them as well. He needs to be able to fill out one of these surveys -- he needs a backstory.

A few other things about this meeting: Looks like they got a conference table, congrats. It's nice to see Joan in the meeting. Harry is hilarious -- quickly grabbing four cookies and then aggressively guarding his paper.

Later, at the Christmas party when Dr. Faye Miller

Lee Garner Jr

Nor did the tan zingers tumble from the lips of now-funny-again Roger Sterling.

don: (heammered)  work phoebe: where do you work - white horse tavern don: I don't hate christmas, I hate this christmas phoebe:

peggy: It's not just about the client it's everything we do here - things are different than this

peggy: nothing makes old ladies look good - there's something about putting it on - everyone's right about you - you're old-fasioned, you know that

roger: listen olivier...

(very purposeful x-mas in july)

xmas plan small talk at the xmas party; don aucopulcco

weiner couldn't help but jab at today's tea baggers ... if they pass medicare, they won't stop till they ban personal property;

lee from lucky strike... joan saves the day: we have gifts, girls and games -

little scarsdale boys trashing the kitchen

embarassing officeconga line led by joan

lee - put it on roger, put it on...

(touched by his gift) ... aally's room fine... with a present on the bed

woman from presentation: confronts don

don: disappointed - I thought you came to flirt - you came to fight... woman: we're both in the same business- and I'm not embarassed to say it's all about helping people sort their biggest conflict; in a nutshell, what I want vs. what's expected of me...

don (still invites her to dinner)

woman: you'll be married again in a year... I'm sorry, noone wants to think they're a type

(his apartment closely resembeles the digs of a beat poet- nice cheerios box on the counter) and sleeps w/his asistant

christmas doesn't sem like christmas...

freddie- when they give you that santa suit- theer's a bottle already in the pocket

roger: my father used to say this is the greatest job in the world excecept for one thing- the clients

don: I've probably taken advantage of your kindness on too many occasions; I just wanted to say thank you for bringin g my keys

(handed her a bonus check- worst. timing. ever.) $100 - cash... she goes back to typing

peggy does b/f who thinks he deflowered her: 'do you feel different?'

"Christmas Comes but Once a year"

peggy: It's not just about the client it's everything we do here - things are different than this

peggy: nothing makes old ladies look good - there's something about putting it on - everyone's right about you - you're old-fasioned, you know that

roger: listen olivier...

mark: you're so old-fashioned peggy: no I'm not mark - in sweden, they make love as soon as they're atracted... peggy: you're never going to get meto do what swedish people do

don: (heammered)  work phoebe: where do you work - white horse tavern don: I don't hate christmas, I hate this christmas phoebe: my father was a drunk... I love workign at the hospital - people comin' into work people leavin it - everything happens there

(very purposeful x-mas in july)

xmas plan small talk at the xmas party; don aucopulcco

weiner couldn't help but jab at today's tea baggers ... if they pass medicare, they won't stop till they ban personal property;

lee from lucky strike... joan saves the day: we have gifts, girls and games -

little scarsdale boys trashing the kitchen

embarassing officeconga line led by joan

lee - put it on roger, put it on...

(touched by his gift) ... aally's room fine... with a present on the bed

woman from presentation: confronts don

don: disappointed - I thought you came to flirt - you came to fight... woman: we're both in the same business- and I'm not embarassed to say it's all about helping people sort their biggest conflict; in a nutshell, what I want vs. what's expected of me...

don (still invites her to dinner)

woman: you'll be married again in a year... I'm sorry, noone wants to think they're a type

(his apartment closely resembeles the digs of a beat poet- nice cheerios box on the counter) and sleeps w/his asistant

christmas doesn't sem like christmas...

freddie- when they give you that santa suit- theer's a bottle already in the pocket

roger: my father used to say this is the greatest job in the world excecept for one thing- the clients

don: I've probably taken advantage of your kindness on too many occasions; I just wanted to say thank you for bringin g my keys

(handed her a bonus check- worst. timing. ever.) $100 - cash... she goes back to typing

peggy does b/f who thinks he deflowered her: 'do you feel different?'

"Christmas Comes but Once a year"