WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from the season premiere of Mad Men
The third-season premiere of Mad Men took the exploration of repressed art director Salvatore Romano's complicated private life to a whole new level.
While Sal (Bryan Batt) is out of town on business with Don (Jon Hamm), the two men wine and dine a couple of stewardesses. As the drinks flow, so does the sexual tension, and in typical Mad Men fashion, Don takes his girl back to his room. And Sal sleeps it off, right? Not so fast.
Sal's self-discovery comes courtesy of an aggressive bellhop, with whom he shares a few hesitant kisses and some heavy petting before a fire alarm cuts short their assignation. It's pretty shocking stuff, even by season-premiere standards.
"I was blown away...when I first read the script, my jaw dropped," Batt said when he stopped by the TVGuide.com offices Monday morning. "He was inebriated, so he was kind of hot and bothered to begin with and he lets down his guard. He was so totally caught off guard, but one thing that's clear is that this is his first time. It's the first time he's ever had those kind of relations, and when you think about it, he really doesn't get that far. It's a kiss and a handshake, and then the [fire alarm] goes off."
Batt said the coitus interruptus is realistic. "It's building for years in him, and this is where it is finally able to happen," he said. "Anybody's first time with anything sexual -- is it ever like you planned it or is it ever perfect? No."
Of course, complicating matters is the fact that suave, womanizing adman Don Draper sees everything as he exits the hotel via the fire escape. Batt, who attended a public screening of the premiere in New York's Times Square (like, actually outside in Times Square), said that that scene got the biggest reaction from the audience.
But it was Don's warning to Sal, by way of a new piece of ad copy, to "limit your exposure," that carried the most weight. Batt said playing the scene wasn't as difficult as you might imagine.
"The writing is so brilliant on this show that, in my opinion, the words speak for themselves and the situation is set up so well that mainly all you have to do is deliver the lines and be as honest as possible," he said. "It's all right there. In my opinion, you can't play that duality -- you can play the emotion behind it... but the result is right there, like Shakespeare."
As for how this revelation will impact Sal for the rest of the season, Batt was, as expected, tight-lipped. "There's some other great episodes coming up for Sal," Batt teases. "It progresses. What's great about the show is that there are quite a few characters. And just when you think you're going to find out more about this person, there's another interesting door that's opened or closet door that's shut."
Even if Batt were willing to let the cat out of the bag, he can't, as the season's final two episodes have yet to cross his desk. "What's wild about it is that we have no idea," Batt said. "I've stopped -- we've all just given up -- with trying to speculate about what's going to happen. Why bother? What the writers and [series creator Matthew Weiner] come up with is so much more interesting and brilliant than what we can even imagine."