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LadyGhosts of TV Past

LadyGhosts of TV Past: Mad Men: “Nixon vs. Kennedy,” and Pete vs. Don

Previously on Mad Men:

Peggy got a raise and a little satisfaction if you know what I mean. Betty was repressed. Don made partner. Pete was mean to Hildy. Mona told Bert to go to hell, and Roger might meet him there.

A black and white television news program explains that it is Election Day and voters across America are still voting. Someone shoeless, so it has to be Bert, and it is, clicks off the television in his office.

Don knocks and enters, introducing someone as “Herman Phillips.” Herman prefers to be called “Duck,” but he never told Don that, so Don passive aggressively continues to call him Herman. Duck/Herman was over in London, but wants to head back to the good old US of A to head up Accounts at Sterling Cooper. He’s a fast talker, this one. Bert asks him who he voted for, and Duck says that if he says Nixon they’ll think he’s buttering them up, and if he says Kennedy they’ll want to reform him, so he’ll say Nixon anyway. Bert is skeptical.

The Smarmies are planning an office party. Pete has a previous engagement at his in-laws, but Harry’s free because his wife is at the phone company, which is a “war zone” on election night. Paul says he better hope she means she’s working and not hanging out in the kind of war zone they’re planning. Harry reminds Paul that it’s his wife they’re talking about. Ken doesn’t care who wins, so long as they all get laid. Paul agrees.

They catch a glimpse of Don and Duck heading out the door, and Ken says, “That’s him! Duck Phillips! I know his name!” Pete: “Because it’s Duck?” They trade rumors that he fell apart in London, had an affair, got divorced, and lives in a hotel. He’s damaged goods, and the idea is that SC is bargain hunting for a new Head of Accounts. Pete looks perturbed as always.

So it’s off to make Peggy’s life difficult, where he acts as if she is bludgeoning his balls off for, you know, doing her job and buzzing Don to let him know that Pete’s arrived.

Pete’s actual aim is to harangue Don about “taking me seriously as a candidate.” Don’s like, “candidate for what?” Heh. Pete throws a minor hissy fit about his value to the company. Don remains unimpressed.

Harry sees Don out the door, makes sure he make it to the elevator, and then shouts to Ken, who gleefully announces the start of the party. They set up a TV, and all the booze in the office, which is plentiful, but clearly not enough because soon they begin eyeing Don’s office for reinforcements, which are still being guarded by Peggy. Ken thinks they should ask her to join them. Paul offers up his absinthe. Joan shows up to ask for a refresher on her drink and learns that they’re running low. She agrees to let them into the supply closet, but they can only have rum, crème de menthe, and dog biscuits from it. Works for them, and soon they are filling a water cooler with suspicious green liquid.

At the Draper residence, Sally in a tutu is changing the channel while Betty reads on the couch. “Stop that, you’re going to break it,” Betty parents. Sally finds a channel with polling results on a chalkboard. “Look, they’re doing math!” Oh, to be six.

Don arrives home. Betty is pleased, since she wasn’t expecting him. Sally isn’t supposed to be up still, but she announces that she’s watching the news, and she wants to know what the Electoral College is. Don doesn’t think that’s an appropriate conversation for children. Don’s television announces that Kennedy is closing the gap.

At the office, no one seems to be paying much attention to the polling because they are busy watching Ken chase and tackle a secretary to find out what color her panties are. Ugh. Okay, then. Other junior executives decide this is a good game, and Peggy decides it’s time to go home.

Pete, in his pajamas, is pouring over the contents of Don’s PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL box from last week. Trudy catches him, and demands to know what it is. “My father has a box like that, and I looked at it when I was a little girl and it was a mistake.” She doesn’t want secrets. Pete just admits he can’t sleep. Trudy says she knows, and she also knows the box is not his. She tells him to give it back.

In the office, Ken and Allison, the tackled secretary, went looking for absinthe and found something potentially better: one of Paul’s plays. Paul tries violently to get it back, but not before Ken gets some of the better bits out. A staged reading is devised. Sal’s mad he has to be the protagonist, ostensibly based on Paul. He wanted to play the other character, who, from Paul’s spitting description, can only be Ken. The scene ends with Sal and Joan kissing “passionately.” The office claps wildly, but Joan looks like she’s figured something out.

The green liquid in the water cooler is getting low, and dancing has broken out. Joan has clearly decided that even if he’s not the kisser she expected, Sal makes an excellent dance partner. The television announces that Ohio has gone to Nixon, and the office cheers. There is much embracing and kissing. Harry kisses Hildy on the mouth, and she kisses him back. She admits she’s tipsy, and he runs away, but she follows to apologize. Harry says no, it was his fault. He takes off his glasses and says he’s drunk. Hildy: “I’ve never seen your eyes before.” Harry: “There they are. Just the two of them.” #loldrunkpeople. They start kissing and close the door.

Paul is the only person left watching the returns, but it’s still uncalled. Joan turns off the television and slips off her heels. Paul invites her to sit down, and she declines. Paul chuckles and points, “You can’t sit down in that dress.” Joan, proving him wrong, joins him on the steps. Paul asks what he did wrong–it’s implied he is speaking of their relationship. Joan says he has a big mouth. He admits that he does, and he isn’t proud of it. He asks if she liked the play. She didn’t. Paul sighs and says that the meaner she is, the more he likes her. Joan knows. He asks her to dance. They do, and it’s adorable.

In the unforgiving morning light, the phones are ringing, and Hildy and Harry are in a state of undress on his couch. Harry wakes up first, and prods Hildy, who murmurs that it’s cold in there. Harry agrees, and kicks her off of him to get dressed. Somehow he broke his glasses, and Hildy quietly says she hopes she didn’t step on them. The glasses are a metaphor for his marriage, y’all. We’re getting a fair amount of side boob in this scene.

Hildy recommends an optometrist, and says she doesn’t want him to be worried, it didn’t mean anything. She sneaks out of his office, as Allison sneaks out of Ken’s.

Peggy picks her way through the chaos of the typing floor to her desk, where she discovers that someone has puked something green into her trash. Lovely.

The Smarmies are guzzling whiskey in the break room, and they yell at Peggy when she comes in to empty her gross trash can and demands to know who stole the money and blouse from her locker.

Bert is getting a massage when Don comes to ask him what the hell is going on with the results, which are still unclear. Bert alleges voter fraud pushed Kennedy over the edge. Don says they should demand a recount, but Bert thinks they don’t want to win like that. He thinks if Kennedy’s willing to buy an election, he’s probably not too down on the corporations, so it’ll be okay.

Pete arrives at Don’s office. Peggy, again, asks where he thinks he’s going. Pete says if he were her he would be very careful from now on about the way she speaks to him. He’s carrying the box, which he tosses on Don’s desk. He says it came to him by mistake, which is”¦sort of the truth? Not at all? He asks if Don’s reconsidered his qualification for Head of Accounts. Don has not. Pete closes the door. Don tells him to spit it out, so he does. He lays it all out: Don’s name is Dick Whitman, which is funny because Dick Whitman died in Korea, and also funny is that Don Draper is 43, which Don doesn’t look by 1960 standards I guess. Pete says he wishes he knew more, and probably so do a lot of people. Don responds by telling Pete to get out and stop making a fool of himself. Pete makes it clear that this is a blackmail proposition. He wants the Accounts job. Don stands, and Pete backs up cautiously, and calls Pete out on the pretty unsubtle blackmail. Don: “When you threaten someone in this manner you should consider that if your information is powerful enough to make them do what you want, what else can it make them do?” Pete wants Don to think about it.

Don keeps his cool until Pete has left the room, then rushes to the desk to look at the contents of the box, which are exactly what he feared they would be.

Flashback time:

An army truck drives along a dark road. It stops to drop Dick off somewhere–one recruit when the man in charge asked for twenty. The man in charge brings him into a tent and introduces him to the company, which includes the two of them and no one else. The man in charge is an engineer, and the rest of the company was gone when he got there. They’re fighting five miles away. He asks Dick if he wants to join them there, Dick hesitates, and the man informs him that the answer is no. Dick is there to dig the fighting positions for a field hospital. Sounds like fun.

He asks what Dick is doing there. Dick volunteered. So did the other man, but he did it for the college money. He’s almost finished, though. The man asks Dick what misconception made him join the Army, a movie? Dick just wanted to leave. We know why. “I’ll bet you’re reconsidering if this is a step up,” says the man.

Back in the present past, Don leans on his desk in a panic. He lights a cigarette, picks up the phone, and puts it down.

In another office, a secretary buzzes Miss Menken and says Mr. Draper is there to see her. She asks the secretary to hold her calls. Don kisses her desperately and launches right into it. He wants to run away with her. She thinks he’s talking about a vacation. He’s says he has money. So does she, but she also has a job. She finally asks if he’s well. He isn’t. She asks if something happened to Roger. Nope. Something happened to Don, but he doesn’t want to talk about it, he just wants to go. He asks if this is what she wants? She does, but she never thought it would happen. She can’t just leave right now. She says maybe by this weekend, and then stops. No, this isn’t how she thought it would be. Don wants to know what the hell difference it makes. “We’ll start over like Adam and Eve!” Rachel: “What are you, fifteen years old?” Emotionally, yes. She wants to know what about his children. He insists that he’d provide for them, and she realizes that he absolutely has not thought this through. She feels sick. Don, sweaty, insists he knows exactly what he wants. She points out that what he wants involves leaving his children without a father. He asks sarcastically if she’s really having an attack of conscience, but she says that she’s just appalled because she doesn’t know him. He says desperately that she knows more about him than anyone, but she reminds him that he won’t even tell her what happened. “Why are you doing this to me? What kind of man are you?” He starts to explain, but she continues, with tears, “You don’t want to run away with me, you just want to run away. You’re a coward. Please go now. Get out.”  He does.

Don returns to Sterling Cooper to find Peggy crying in his office. He yells at her that this is his office, “Does that door mean nothing to you?” She apologizes, but cries harder. He softens, and tells her to calm down. He didn’t mean to yell at her. He fixes her a drink. She just wanted to get away from them all. A couple of people got fired after she called security to report the theft of her things. People who weren’t even in the building when the theft occurred. Don says he needs to be alone. She understands, but she also doesn’t understand that she tries to do her job and follow the rules and people hate her for it. Meanwhile other people who are not good get to do whatever they want. She echoes his words from earlier:”It’s not fair.” Don tells her to finish her drink.

That was a talking to that even Rachel could not have provided.

Don is walking with purpose. He is walking with purpose to Pete Campbell’s office.

“I thought about what you said. And then I thought about you and what a deep lack of character you have.”

Pete’s not getting the job. Pete gets threatening. Don: “You haven’t thought this through.” Pete thinks he has, but as soon as Don takes off out the door and across the office, Pete is panicked on his heels. Don is going to Bert. “So you would rather blow yourself up than make me Head of Accounts?” asks Pete. The silence and continued walking toward Bert’s office gives him the pretty obvious answer there.

Pete continues chasing and whining, “Why can’t you give me what I want?” which we’ve heard before, though directed at Trudy. “Why, because your parents are rich?” asks Don, “Because you went to prep school and have a five dollar haircut? You’ve been given everything.”

There’s some frantic removing of footwear at Bert’s door, which I always enjoy.

Bert says that if they came to drown their sorrows, they’re SOL because he’s not much of a drinker. Don came to tell him that he’s hiring Duck as Head of Accounts. Pete seethes. Don looks at him pointedly, and Pete goes for it, spilling everything he knows. Bert stands, looks from Don to Pete, and says, “Mr. Campbell, who cares?” Not Bert Cooper, that’s who. “This country was built and run by men with worse stories than whatever you’ve imagined here.” Bert suggests Pete put his energies into bringing in accounts. Pete, disappointed beyond measure, leaves.

Bert says Don can fire him if he wants, but he suggests holding onto him. “One never knows how loyalty is born.”

Flashback!

Dick is digging a hole. He pauses for a moment, when the other man comes running and jumps in the hole with him. They are being shelled. The man counsels Dick to keep his head, and not shoot at anything unless it shoots at him, and to shut up and stay down. The shelling stops, but they don’t know if it’s over. After a moment, they stand and light cigarettes, and the man points out that Dick wet his pants. Dick, trying to brush off the stain, drops his lighter and ignites the gas on the ground. Then everything is fire and smoke.

He lies in a hospital bed with bandages and his memories are spliced together with the ones from the explosion. A doctor addresses him as “Lt. Draper,” and he stumbles over burning earth to find the charred remains of the other man. The doctor starts, “On behalf of the president, and the citizens of theUnited States of America,” Don kneels next to the corpse, “I present you with this Purple Heart medal. The concussion was minor, you’ll feel like yourself in a week.” Or never again. He is informed he’s being released to the reserves for the last eighty days of his service. “You’re going home.” Dick, bloodied and burned, pulls off his dog tags. The doctor tells him he’s going to be okay. He peels the tags off of the burned man’s body. They’d like him to escort Private Whitman’s body home. He puts on the dead man’s tags. “I think it would mean something,” says the officer. The officers and the doctor move to the next bed.

Dick, now Don is on a train with another officer. The other man announces that this is their stop. He watches the coffin being unloaded, and tells the other officer to just go. He can’t. The other man thinks he understands.

Little Adam, looking away from the coffin, sees Dick/Don and points, “He’s right there! I see him!” His father corrects him, that his brother is inside the coffin. “But I saw him, I saw him in the window.” “Stop it,” his mother snaps.

“It must be hard for you. Did you know him?” asks a pretty girl on the train. “A little,” responds Don. “You’ve got your whole life ahead of you,” she tells him, “Forget that boy in the box.” She offers to buy him a drink.

The train starts to go, and Adam runs after it, calling “Dick!” Don walks to the bar.

On the train to Ossining, Don picks up his hat and disembarks.

Betty is asleep on the couch as Nixon concedes. We pan back, and Don stands, hands in his pockets, in front of his sleeping wife.

Next week:

End of Season One, guys!

By (e)Kelsium

Kelsium lives in Southern California with her partner and collection of almost (almost!) kill-proof plants. She enjoys the beaches, but finds the lack of acceptable bagels distressing. She considers herself an expert in red lipstick and internet rage.

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