Christmas Comes But Once is the second episode of the fourth season of the AMC television series Mad Men. In spite of the theme of the episode being around the holiday season, this episode premiered on August 1, 2010. The story and script for this episode was written by Matthew Weiner and directed by Phil Abraham.
In this episode, it's Christmas and divorce is in the air. For Don Draper, the holiday is anything but merry. Freddy Rumsen visits Roger Sterling and offers the agency Pond's Cold Cream, worth $2 million, in return for a job. Freddy, clean and sober for sixteen months, alludes to being in a "fraternity" with the client. Freddy's only request is that Pete Campbell, who got him fired from the old Sterling Cooper, does not handle the account.
Roger accidentally invites the agency's biggest client, arrogant Lucky Strike heir Lee Garner, Jr. to the office Christmas party, which was originally planned on a shoestring budget. The firm gives Garner a Polaroid as a Christmas present--a subtle slap to Kodak, Polaroid's largest competitor, which is a client of McCann-Erickson, the purchasers of the original Sterling-Cooper. Joan Holloway quickly steps in to help make the celebration more extravagant for Lee, who shows up to the party with increasingly ridiculous demands. Lee eventually forces Roger to don a Santa suit and let party-goers sit on his lap, which makes everyone uncomfortable, especially Harry Crane.
A consumer-research company pitches its services to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and the company's female representative, Dr. Faye Miller, asks senior staffers to complete a very personal questionnaire that asks for family history. Don abruptly excuses himself from the presentation. In Ossining, Glen Bishop has returned, now focused on Sally Draper rather than Betty Draper. Glen reaches out to Sally, offering her advice on dealing with divorced parents. He later calls Sally at home to talk about her new life with Betty and Henry Francis, and she tells him that she misses her Don. Late that night, Glen and a friend vandalize the Draper house, except for Sally's room, where he leaves his lanyard on her pillow as a calling card.
Peggy Olson has her own dilemma; a conflict with her boyfriend Mark Kearney, who is pressuring her to have sex before marriage. Mark ironically acuses Peggy of having traditional values and being "old-fashioned," when we know that Peggy has modern ideas about almost everything from career to sex. In previous episodes Peggy has had casual sex with at least one man she met in a bar, she slept with Pete, which resulted in an unexpected pregnancy, and she has an ongoing affair with Duck. Freddy Rumsen suggests avoiding sex before marriage if she wants Mark to ever respect her while also suggesting that refusing to sleep with him is, for the man, "physically uncomfortable." Peggy sleeps with Mark, leading us to wonder if she's attempting to do exactly the opposite of what Rumson recommends (given that she's told him he's old fashioned and is, herself, constantly making choices not to be), or if she's decided that Mark is not her "final" partner and therefore his respect is not worth courting.
After drinking himself into oblivion, Don engages in a one-night stand with his secretary, Allison, who has been extra attentive to him all week. The next morning, Allison's smile fades when Don hands her a "Christmas bonus" and curtly tells her that he "really overdid it." Don leaves the office for the evening, carrying the presents that Allison picked up for his children, and doesn't look back.
Special thanks to the MadMen Wiki for the summary.