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Explainer: 'Mad' predictions

  • Image: "Mad Men"
    Frank Ockenfels  /  AMC

    The good news: The return of our favorite drunken retro admen (and the women who love and despise them) will happen! The bad news: "Mad Men" won't have its fifth season until 2012. The worst news: There will only be seven seasons total.

    But there's no crying in advertising. Let's instead look to the near future for the folks of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and see if we can't draw up a fabulous sales pitch for what we'd like to see come next year.

  • Don Draper

    Image: Don Craper
    Frank Ockenfels  /  AMC

    Last seen: This John Cheever antihero in the making continued to drink, womanize and glide through life with a somewhat forced macho exterior. But this past season he also survived being a twice-divorced man, continued to mentor co-worker Peggy, called a (temporary) halt to drinking, started a journal to keep track of his thoughts and took up swimming.

    He also stunned co-workers by taking out a newspaper ad indicating the firm would no longer create cigarette advertisements — then proposed to his new secretary, someone he barely knows.

    What we think is coming: Don's an impulsive, often self-centered guy. (He took a dead man's identity!) His proposal to Megan seemed also off the cuff, and come next season they'll undoubtedly be married, and she'll likely be pregnant.

    But Draper's smooth life as a well-paid adman was on the rocks in season four, and he's going to be stressed out from his faltering firm, his increasingly belligerent daughter and his identity secret. Will he keep from sleeping with his new secretary? Unless she's like the late Mrs. Blankenship, don't count on it.

  • Betty Francis

    Image: January Jones
    Frank Ockenfels  /  AMC

    Last seen: Don's ex has been remarried to political PR man Henry Francis for some time, but her pinched expression last season said she wasn't done cutting ties — and she was still living in the family home.

    But Betty's real issues are only a few years and hormones away. Her daughter, Sally, is growing up too fast and too angry (remember how she cut off her hair?), and already has an eye for the bad boys. Betty and Sally don't know the late 1960s — and its nurturing of teen rebellion/drop-out behavior — is on the way, but we do, and Sally's likely to make Mom's life much, much more challenging before she's even a teenager.

    What we think is coming: Betty will move out of the Draper residence and into a new home with Henry, but there won't be a second honeymoon — the bloom is already off their initial infatuation, and it's hard to see a real relationship emerging. She'll no longer need Henry as a life raft from Don, and she'll start to feel things again for her lying, cheating ex. Those are going to win out as she makes a play to get Don back in her life — and the two may even bond over Sally's inevitable rebel behavior.

    Story: How 'Mad Men' stars are spending their hiatus
  • Peggy Olson

    Image: Elisabeth Moss
    Frank Ockenfels  /  AMC

    Last seen: Peggy has one of the most interesting lives on "Mad Men" — she's the only female creative in the firm and is a loyal employee who also enjoys her singlehood. Last season she made friends with a lesbian Life magazine employee who introduced her to a hip, beatnik crowd (including activist writer Abe, who smooched her in a closet) and split from her boring boyfriend Mark. But at work, she still coped with the slings and arrows that come from being a woman in a man's world.

    What we think is coming: Anyone else surprised at Peggy's green tinge when Don announced his engagement to Megan? It's clear: Peggy feels strongly about Don, though the show isn't ready to explore that relationship. Instead, Peggy may dive into a relationship with someone who helps her skirt the edge.

    As she morphs into her bohemian rhapsody, there's bound to be a conflict with the "straight" working world of admen, martini lunches and women as trophies and arm candy. Will she become alienated and break free — or become just another corporate tool?

  • Joan Harris

    Image: Christina Hendricks
    Frank Ockenfels  /  AMC

    Last seen: Joan's title-only promotion to Director of Agency Operations means her formidable assets are continuing to go underappreciated, though she's started to look out more for her own interests. With husband Greg in basic training, she was more alone than ever — yet keeps her cards close. A rekindled affair with boss Roger Sterling left her pregnant ... but we don't know yet whether she went through with the abortion.

    What we think is coming: Here's a roll of the dice: Joan did not get the abortion and instead has the baby, passing it off as Greg's. Her husband comes back from his tour of duty to greet his toddler, but the secret between them begins to poison their relationship. Meanwhile, Roger will unwisely insist on getting to know his new child. Finances will require that Joan return to work, so she leaves the baby with a nanny (or possibly Greg, newly unemployed) and uses some of her leverage with the boss to inch up her salary.

    Story: 9 shows to watch until 'Mad Men' returns
  • Sally Draper

    Image: Kiernan Shipka

    Last seen: The face of an angel but underneath, a budding hellion. Sally sliced off her hair, hung out with smoker Glen, sassed mommy Betty and ran away from home. And those chats with her shrink mainly just taught her how to squish down that anger. A perfect recipe for disaster once she crosses into adolescence.

    What we think is coming: Much depends on how old little Sally is when season five begins. A mere 11- or 12-year old can't experience the true wonders of bad-girl life like a 13- or 14-year-old could, so let's hope for a multiyear jump in the timeline.

    Say that happens. Now Sally's a budding young woman and is hanging out with older guys in leather jackets, smoking, drinking and hiding it all from Mom. She'll also start to wonder what all of this talk is about hippies and communes and pot. It'll make for great television. Can anyone say "spin-off"?

  • Pete Campbell

    Image: Vincent Kartheiser
    Frank Ockenfels  /  AMC

    Last seen: Blue blood runs through his veins, but Pete is not as charming as he thinks he is and he still acts like life owes him one. Season four's troubles at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, as well as his lingering desire for Peggy, strained his finances and then his marriage. (Wife Trudy wanted them to move to the suburbs) But the birth of their first child helped smooth a lot of issues over ... for now. That said, the child he had with Peggy (she gave it up for adoption) lingers unspoken in the air between them, and at work.

    What we think is coming: Pete lives in "Mad Men" world, in which married men cheat and get someone inappropriately pregnant. History isn’t likely to repeat with Peggy, but like Roger, Pete is drawn to the same flame again and again, so expect some desperate gropings in dark offices late at night as soon as the baby begins to irritate him. But work-wise, Pete is a crafty young man and is likely to be the savior of the troubled firm once he starts playing the right cards.

  • Roger Sterling

    Image: John Slattery
    Frank Ockenfels  /  AMC

    Last seen: Once a tough adman in full control, the fabric of Roger's life is fraying — in no small part thanks to his heavy drinking and sleeping around. He lost the firm's biggest client last season, then failed to man up about it and avoided telling the partners (who, of course, found out). Being at loose ends has left Don to shoulder much of the firm's heavy lifting, so Roger stepped back and lost partner Bert Cooper in the process. His answer? More drinks and a tumble in the sack with old flame Joan.

    What we think is coming: Roger's cravenness could easily slide into the dark side. He might sell out his partners for a cozy job at another firm, and he might decide to sabotage Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce from within. But while Roger is smart, he's not that smart — and a double cross might leave him jobless and friendless, with only Joan's (possible) new baby to keep him sane. At least until Joan's husband finds out.

    Story: 'Mad Men' will be streamed on Netflix
  • Megan Calvet

    Image: Jessica Pare

    Last seen: Arguably, being Don's secretary is a cursed position. His assistants either have doomed one-night stands with the boss, or they keel over midday at their desk. (R.I.P., Mrs. Blankenship.) But Megan managed to catch her boss's eye at just the right time and happily expanded her job requirements to include "nanny" at the end of season four. With proof that she had "wife and mother" written all over her, Don had no choice but to escape single life by proposing.

    What we think is coming: Marriage, likely pregnancy if not full-out birth by season five, though there are several reasons why the pair might not have gotten to the altar yet. If she does stick around, Megan's a character that needs some coloring in. All we really know is she's of "French extraction."

    Likely, she has a secret to be revealed. So what if it turned out that she and Don (who is, after all, using a false identity) were distantly related? It's about time Don showed his true lineage, and it'd be quirky enough to learn that her "extraction" was in some way his as well.

  • And the rest ...

    Will Henry Francis, Betty's new husband, insist they have a child together, then start ignoring the Draper progeny?

    Will Faye Miller, Don's pre-Megan fling, turn up again and turn on the heat between them once more?

    Will Glen Bishop get a motorcycle license and start revving past Sally's new homestead?

    What of Harry Crane, head of the TV ad department? Will this soft-around-the middle but forward-thinking (he is, after all, on the vanguard of TV advertising) young man get more of a story line?

    And Lane Pryce. Will he take another beating from his father, or find some way to stand up to him and help get his firm back on its feet?

    Well, you'll just have to wait — like everyone else — until next year. Until then, settle back and have another martini. It's 5 p.m. somewhere, you know.

    Randee Dawn is a freelance writer based in New York, and was born with a remote control in her hand. She is the co-author of “The Law & Order: SVU Unofficial Companion.”

    Want to get the latest TV and reality TV news? Follow The Clicker blogon Twitter @TODAY_Clickerand "like" us on Facebook.

Discuss: What would you like to see happen on 'Mad Men' next year?

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