The Hobo Code

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"The Hobo Code"
Mad Men episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 8
Directed by Phil Abraham
Written by Chris Provenzano
Original air date September 6, 2007
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"The Hobo Code" is the eighth episode of the first season of the American television drama series Mad Men. It was written by Chris Provenzano and directed by Phil Abraham. The episode originally aired on September 6, 2007 on the AMC channel in the United States.


Peggy and Pete arrive early to work one day and end up rekindling their affair on the couch in Pete's office. Later that day, Don presents Peggy's campaign ideas to the executives from the makeup company Belle Jolie. After some cajoling, the pitch is accepted. Peggy is invited into Don's office to have a drink with the creative team to celebrate her success. After work, she and many of her co-workers agree to go to a bar to celebrate. Art director Sal strikes up a conversation with a Belle Jolie employee named Elliott, while ignoring the advances of a young woman named Lois from the switchboard room.

At Peggy's celebration, Pete cruelly rejects Peggy when she asks him for a dance, telling her "I don't like you like this." He leaves the party, leaving Peggy wiping away tears while she dances the twist by herself. Meanwhile, Sal meets up with Elliott at a bar, and the two men connect with each other over drinks and conversation. However, when Elliott invites Sal back to his room to admire the view, and touches his hand, Sal reacts in shock upon realizing that Elliot is gay. He denies any attraction and quickly leaves in a huff.

Meanwhile, Bert gives Don a check for $2,500, telling him that his talent is appreciated. That night, Don arrives at Midge's apartment, intending to take her on a trip to Paris with the money. However, he finds her with an assortment of her beatnik friends, preparing to smoke marijuana. He agrees to stay with them, despite antagonism from some of Midge's friends. After getting high, Don retreats to the bathroom, where he stares at his reflection in the mirror.

Don flashes back to his childhood as Dick Whitman, spent on a farm during the Great Depression. A transient approaches his family, asking for food in exchange for work. Don's father Archie tells the man to move on, because the family are no longer Christians. Dick's stepmother Abigail refutes this claim, and invites the man to stay for dinner. Over dinner, the hobo is revealed to have good manners and comes from New York. Abigail offers the man money, but Archie takes it back, telling him that he will get paid the next day, after doing some work.

That night, Dick approaches the hobo, curious about his life. The man tells him that he once had a family and responsibilities, but he gave it all up in exchange for the freedom of the road. Dick tells the man that Abigail is not his real mother, and that he is a "whore-child." The man shows Dick the "hobo code," a system of symbols used to communicate with other drifters. One symbol he shows Dick is used to communicate that the owner of a house is a "dishonest man." The next day, the stranger completes his work, but Archie refuses to pay him as promised. As the hobo leaves the farm, Dick finds the symbol for "a dishonest man" carved into a fence post in front of their home.

In the present, Don sees Midge interacting with her friend Roy, and realizes the two of them are in love. He invites Midge to Paris again, and when she turns his offer down, he gives her his $2,500 check and leaves the apartment. Upon returning home, he wakes Bobby and promises never to lie to him.

Cultural references

The employees of Sterling Cooper dance the cha-cha and the twist at the party, held at P. J. Clarke's. Bert champions the philosophy of Ayn Rand, telling Don to read the novel Atlas Shrugged. A telephone operator worries about putting her name on a list due to McCarthyism. The beatniks listen to the album Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis while getting high. Sal is compared with Ernest Borgnine's character in Marty. Elliott claims to have met Robert Mitchum at the bar in his hotel. Don compares getting high to feeling like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, saying "everything just turned to color." Don tells Midge that he "called Idlewild", the name of JFK Airport at the time.


The episode was received very positively by critics. Alan Sepinwall, writing for New Jersey's The Star-Ledger, praised the episode, specifically the subplot about Sal and Elliott, writing that the scene was "superb."[1] Andrew Johnston, writing for Slant Magazine, called the episode "the most polished and, to my mind, the most moving episode of Mad Men yet."[2]


  1. Sepinwall, Alan (September 6, 2007). "Mad Men: Trapped in the Closet". The Star Ledger. Retrieved June 4, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Johnston, Andrew (September 7, 2007). "Mad Men Fridays: Season 1, Episode 8 "The Hobo Code"". The Star Ledger. Retrieved June 4, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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