(Warning: Mad Men spoiler alerts ahead—if you aren’t caught up on the last few weeks of Season 3, and don’t want to be, don’t read this post!)

“Don, open the drawer or I will.” ….holy $%@&!

This is 2 weeks late in coming but let’s talk about Episode 11 of Mad Men’s third season; it’s the one we’ve all been waiting for, right? Betty confronts Don about his past, evidence of which was kept in a shoebox in a locked drawer in his desk, and Don comes clean and tells her everything, everything! (Well, not about the school teacher sleeping in his car, but everything else.) Don’s face has never been so stricken and I, for one, thought he was going to bolt for the door. Incredibly, he stays, Betty pours him a drink, and he tells the truth.

Out of their conversation comes some of the best Mockingbird fodder I’ve ever seen on TV. As he starts to explain, Betty asks, “What would you do if you were me? Would you love you?” and Don replies, “I was surprised you ever loved me.” This is something profound that we never knew before, Don Draper feels unlovable. He goes through it all, the prostitute mother, the stepmother, and finally breaks talking about his brother Adam who committed suicide after coming to find Don and being turned away. In tears, he says, “He wanted to be part of my life. I couldn’t risk all this.”

What we have here is the transformation of a man, by the truth about who he really is coming to light and his wife not giving up on him. We see it the next morning, when he sees the old photos lying where he left them the night before, and lets them stay there. When he walks down stairs and kisses his children and puts his hand behind Betty’s head and looks into her eyes. When he calls the school teacher and breaks off the affair. When Carlton asks him during Halloween, “And who are you supposed to be [dressed up as]?” Don has the contented (and scared?) look of a man who is no longer hiding. This is transformation!

Sure, it’s also Mad Men…Betty’s losing it by the day and I’m not holding out for a complete Gospel metaphor all the way through to the finale this weekend. But what made this episode so thrilling was that Mad Men got real: we all feel like Don. We all have that one thing (or many!) that makes us unlovable, that we know if people ever found out about, we’d just die. But what we all long for is for those things to come to light, and to not die. To be free from our past, from things we’ve done, and still be loved.