Sunday, July 25, 2010

Nixon vs. Kennedy – Mad Men Episode Summary 1.12

Nixon vs. Kennedy Mad Men Episode SummarySynopsis: With Roger Sterling still recovering from his heart attack, Sterling Cooper is in search of a new head of account services. Don Draper parades the candidate Herman “Duck” Phillips, irritating ambitious young ad executive Pete Campbell who has his eye set on the job. He becomes even more annoyed at learning that Don is not even considering him for the position, and decides to threaten the creative director with divulging his secret to the senior partner. Meanwhile, it is Election Day, and except for a few everybody decided to stay at the office to follow the returns.

Episode Summary: Don Draper introduces Herman “Duck” Phillips, a candidate for the head of account services, to Bertram Cooper. Duck has an impressive resume having worked for Y&R, a large advertising agency based in London, and landing the American Airlines account for them. But Cooper does not appear all that pleased with him. Rumor has it that Duck got involved with a woman he met at the British Museum. Soon after, his marriage and career was in shambles causing him to return to New York as a jobless divorcee who lives in a hotel. Having heard the background of who looks like the best candidate Don Draper has for the job, Pete Campbell could not be more irked. Pete believes that Don had not taken him seriously as a candidate for the head of account services despite his impressive track record with their clients. He was right. Don has no intention of even considering Pete for the job. Much to the young account executive’s chagrin, Don sees that Pete lacks experience, and probably maturity to handle such a responsibility.   Continue reading...

It’s Election Day, and although the Nixon camp did not enlist the services of Sterling Cooper to help with their campaign, everybody is still anxious as to the results of the election. The moment Don Draper stepped out of the office; the employees of Sterling Cooper turn the place into a bar as they gather around the TV set with booze in their hands joining the anticipation of electing a new president. So far, so good, their candidate Richard Nixon continues to have an overwhelming lead over John F. Kennedy. The night is still young, and already, the office is running out of drinks. If not for Joan Holloway who gave them permission to raid the supply closet, everybody would have been parched.

Don Draper arrives home earlier than expected much to his wife’s surprise. He is completely unaware of the state of the office, and probably does not much care. With alcohol pouring out of the water cooler, everybody is pretty much drunk like a skunk. Ken Cosgrove starts with the games by running after a secretary, and pinning her down to look at the color of the underwear she’s wearing. Because everybody’s intoxicated, nobody realizes the inappropriateness of his or her actions except maybe for Peggy Olson who actually worked her full shift. Meanwhile, Pete Campbell did not join the festivities at the office. He is at home sitting on his couch going through a shoebox of Don Draper’s personal belongings. Pete received the package by mistake, but decided to take it home with him nonetheless. His wife who had seen the contents of the box finds it peculiar that her husband has been keeping it tucked away in their closet as if it is his own.

Ken Cosgrove continues to cause a stir when he rummages through Paul Kinsey’s office, and pulls out a play that his colleague wrote. He begins reading aloud Paul’s play entitled Death is My Client. After a round of laughs, the office becomes silent as they gather around to watch the play with their fellow co-workers acting in it. Joan Holloway and Salvatore Romano play the lead characters, and their colleagues were utterly amused especially when Salvatore goes into character, and passionately kisses Joan. After five gallons of alcohol, everyone is up on their feet and dancing pausing only to hear that Nixon won the state of Ohio. The news only became fodder to what already is a raucous night at the office causing the two least rowdy employees, Harry and Hildy, to act uncharacteristically as the two passionately kiss. Harry Crane who is happily married, and who was supposed to be out with his wife that night could not feel guiltier. Hildy apologizes, and he does the same. However, the sincerity of their apologies brought them together. Harry and Hildy make love in his office, while the rest of their co-workers all tired and drunken camp outside listening to the news. Morning came, Harry and Hildy wake up in each others arms, and the reality of what they had done starts to sink in. Peggy Olson arrives at work like any other day, but finds the office in an absolute mess with her co-workers struggling to return to normalcy. Peggy Olson becomes furious at the sight of vomit in her wastebasket, and learning that her locker had been ransacked. All is pretty much a blur to everybody who spent the night at the office. The same can be said about the election.

Don Draper arrives at the office, and having read three newspapers all having different results, he runs straight up to Bertram Cooper’s office knowing that he has inside scoop. Nobody knows yet who won the election, but rumors of cheating had been flying around. Richard Nixon might request a recount, but the reality of the matter is that the cards are not in his favor. Pete Campbell, on the other hand, has in his hands something that could put Don Draper in his mercy. Still eyeing the head of account services position, Pete decides to use it to his advantage especially with Don showing no intention of considering him for the job. He tells Don that he knows that he has been living a lie. Having done his research, he lets him know that Don is in reality Dick Whitman. A soldier who died in the Korean War, and that the identity he had assumed is that of an older man. Pete threatens to divulge the information to Bertram Cooper, but all can be forgotten if only Don will reconsider his qualifications for the head of account services. Don Draper though clearly threatened tries to keep his composure despite being faced with the possibility of his secret being exposed. The moment Pete Campbell stepped out his office Don Draper opens the package, and finds inside it his dog tag and some old pictures of the life he tried so hard to hide. Disturbed at learning that Pete, of all people, had found out his secret, Don rushes to Rachel Menken. He without saying anything about the incident that brought about his sudden decision to leave, asks her to leave the life she knew and run away with him. Rachel Menken caught unaware by her lover’s demand to drop everything and forego the life she has for him becomes furious, and sends him away.

Don Draper troubled for his future returns to his office only to find Peggy Olson in tears. Seeing her in his office made him furious, but seeing that the young woman is distraught he decides to listen to her troubles. Peggy inadvertently caused the termination of a janitor and an elevator attendant after she complained about the ransacking of her locker. Both of whom were not even in the building at the time of the incident, but were unfortunately used as scapegoats for the wrongdoing of her coworkers who turned their office upside down with their raucous partying. Don Draper who has bigger problems of his own could not be of any help to Peggy, but him taking the time to listen was enough.

Don goes on to deal with his own problem. He goes to Pete Campbell to personally tell him that he has decided to hire Duck Phillips despite the young ad executive’s threat of exposing his real identity to Bertram Cooper. In fact, Don Draper boldly marches up to the senior partner’s office to tell him the truth.

Pete Campbell could not fathom how the man would risk his career instead of just handing him the job he wanted. The fact is Don Draper could not bring himself to let the young man who had always gotten everything he wanted in a silver platter to get the job the same way he always did. Pete has never had to work hard in his life, because everything was afforded him, and Don Draper has no tolerance for this. Don followed by Pete enters Bertram Cooper’s office to tell him that he is hiring Duck Phillips to be their new head of account services. Pete Campbell then divulges the truth about Don Draper that he is in reality Dick Whitman, and might very well be a deserter if not a criminal. Bertram Cooper though taken aback at what he had heard does not really care about the secret the young ad executive had exposed. True or not, Cooper finds that there’s no benefit in pursuing Don Draper’s real identity, and that Pete Campbell should put his energy into bringing in accounts than finding dirt on his superiors. Bertram Cooper gives Don the authority to terminate Pete Campbell if he wishes, but tells him that he might want to put a close eye on him saying that one never knows how loyalty is born.

Don Draper recalls his past as a young soldier in Korea. He was then Dick Whitman assigned to help the engineer Sergeant Don Draper build a field hospital. The two of them make up the whole company assigned the rigorous first task of digging fighting positions. Dick Whitman volunteered to join the war in an attempt to leave behind the life he knew. In the middle of their digging, their camp comes under attack. They survived the attack, and celebrated with a smoke. Don Draper noticed that the intensity of the ordeal caused Dick Whitman to unknowingly piss himself. Dick in an attempt to dry his pants accidentally drops his lit cigarette lighter onto the ground wet with gasoline. Seconds later, the fuel tank explodes. He survives badly wounded, but Sergeant Don Draper was burnt beyond recognition. He switches dog tags with the dead sergeant, and everybody is none the wiser. In fact, at the army hospital he was even awarded a Purple Heart, promoted to Lieutenant and was released to the reserves for the last eighty days of his active duty. He, however, was given the task of bringing home the dead body of Private Whitman. Private Dick Whitman now assuming the identity of Lieutenant Don Draper arrives homes in Bunbury. He watches his family through the window on the train as they receive the casket of what they all know to contain the body of Dick Whitman. His younger brother, Adam, who was only a child back then sees him peering through the window, and points at him but his parents would not believe him. Dick Whitman, now Don Draper, stays on the train. He watches Adam as he runs to the train that had started to pull away calling for him. With that, Dick Whitman leaves his life behind him to make himself a whole new life as Don Draper.

Don Draper returns home to his wife and children who knows nothing of his past or any of events that happened that day. He finds his wife, Betty, asleep on the couch in front of the television missing Richard Nixon’s speech acknowledging his defeat. The United States of America now has a new president – John F. Kennedy.


Watch the Mad Men Episode Nixon vs. Kennedy
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Anonymous said...

Hi, there's a little mistake: "Pete received the package by mistake, but never bothered to give it to the rightful owner. " It's not true: Pete took it from Don's office.
Thank you for your guides!

comprehensive episode guides said...

Good catch! Thank you for the correction. I read and watched Indian Summer again to confirm. Although it's true that Pete received the package by mistake, the mailroom guy mistook him as Don since he was sitting at his office, he intentionally took the package home with him.

I'm glad that you enjoyed the guides.

Not Gross said...

It's a little late, but I just saw the episode. Don Draper was already a lieutenant when Whitman arrived. The ceremony at the hospital was to aware the Purple Heart for his injuries.