[SPOILER WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from the most recent episode of Mad Men.]
"My jaw dropped; my heart sunk," Bryan Batt tells TVGuide.com of his reaction to reading a climactic scene from Sunday's episode of Mad Men between Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Salvatore Romano. "It's so heartbreaking."
When one of Sterling Cooper's most lucrative clients propositions Sal, Sal turns him down, which leads the client, the heir to the Lucky Strike cigarette fortune, to insist upon Sal's dismissal. It's particularly unsettling that Don does the firing, since it was he who witnessed Sal's near-romp in Baltimore and warned him only to "limit [his] exposure." Batt said Sal's real shock is the realization that he no longer has an ally in Don.
"I do feel Sal felt very betrayed because there are many different options that could have come into play to save his job, but none of that was exercised," Batt says. "Don didn't do anything; he basically washed his hands and did not believe Sal when he told him the honest truth. It's the ultimate case of sexual harassment meets homophobia. Sal is completely innocent. He played by the rules, he did what he's supposed to do, and he gets punished for it. It's quite sad."
The million-dollar question, of course, is whether we've seen the last of Sal. Batt is expectedly tight-lipped, but he thinks viewers shouldn't lose all faith. "Hope springs eternal," he says. "I can't talk about future episodes, but so many people love the character and really identify with him and want to see more of his story. I would hope that Sal will come back. There's a million ways he can come back. Matt is such a brilliant writer, so there's a plethora of opportunities."
But if Sal's role on the show isn't finished, will he be different the next time we see him? After all, Sal's final scene shows him calling from a phone booth in a seedy section of Central Park to tell his wife he'll be "working late," which Batt says wasn't always scripted that way. "Originally for that scene, it was raining outside and I was on the street. But there were rewrites, the direction changed and the phone booth was put in the Rambles in the park, leading us to believe that that is Sal's future - going to this anonymous place to have sex."
But Batt holds out hope for something brighter for Sal. "Part of me wants so much for him to be who he is, but by the same token, it's heartbreaking because he's married," Batt says. "When you think about it, Sal's the only one who has not been unfaithful to his wife. So even though we tend to think that's what going to happen, I didn't want to go there just yet ... it's not written, so it's all within the minds of the viewers and what people perceive to happen."