No one’s ever really gone in the Sterling Cooper universe. Season one beatnik mistress Midge popped back up in season four, teaching us all a valuable lesson about the costs of heroin abuse. Duck Phillips was very present in seasons two and three, sort of faded out, and suddenly reappeared this season. Freddy Rumsen reemerged after a years-long absence. Paul Kinsey vanished and then reappeared as a Hare Krishna, with poor, dopey Harry along for part of the ride. Glen Bishop is never far from Sally’s heart. Even the marginal Danny showed up again this week, and he was only on four episodes. All of this points to one question that hangs over the final three episodes of this season: Where is Sal?
Can Sal come back, please? We haven’t seen him since season three’s “Wee Small Hours,” when Lucky Strike’s Lee Garner Jr. came on to Sal, a panicked Sal balked, and Garner got vindictive and demanded his termination. But Sal was so great! Remember this scene, where his sad wife Kitty (Sarah Drew, now weeping it up on Grey’s Anatomy) suddenly realizes her husband is gay?
In early seasons, Sal’s closeted-ness helped amplify the themes Don embodied: That many of us live lies, that people see what they want to see, that the lens of today is different than that of yesteryear. And that sort of ran its course. But now that Don has scootched his way toward sociopath, there are themes the show’s exploring through other characters that Sal’s reappearance could help deepen. With Peggy, it’s whether we can really be who we want to be. With Roger, it’s the ways in which we overestimate other people’s personal agency. And with Megan, it’s a question of whether you really, truly, actually love anyone. All of those are Sal-adjacent ideas!
Hear my plea, Mad Men. Bring back Sal. Though I’d settle for Dr. Faye.