Jul 142008

As promised:

In 1960 Don/Dick is 33. So Dick is born in/around 1927.

According to NvK script, Adam is 10 and Dick is 23. Thirteen year split. And so Adam is born in 1940. Which makes him 20 in 1960 when we meet him? Seriously? That guy is supposed to be 20?

Adam is eight years old when he saw Dick on the train. (“I was only eight but I knew it was you.”) Which meant Don was 21. Okay, check.

The photo of Dick and Adam in 1944; so Adam was four and Dick was 17.

According to AMC’s synopsis, Adam is 25. Which is plausible, from the casting.

But if Adam was born in 1940 he couldn’t have been eight when he saw Don on the train, because that would have set it in 1948, and it had to be between 1950 and 1953.

Okay and also? That same, tragically haircutted actor who plays young Dick does not look 13. And yet there he is when his baby brother is born. And his father is already dead.

And then the same kid (and we call him BCD; BowlCut Dick) does have a father. And I know that sometimes the same little kid plays a span of several years, but the issue of who his father is and when he died and suddenly there’s an Uncle Mack was especially confusing because it was Babylon (Ep 6) when he’s 13 but then Hobo Code (Ep 8 ) when he still has a father. And that’s just messing with us, frankly.

This from my sister while I was pretty much in a fetal position trying to chart this out a few months back:

Remember Don said “she buried him and took up with some other man,” implying she hooked up with Uncle Mack almost immediately after Archie died. That’s probably one of the reasons Don disliked her so. His father was no saint, but she could have at least allowed a proper mourning period before remarrying.

And if I may interject here, Don has carried the lovely trait of intolerance for mourning into his adulthood. Carry on, Deb.

Of course, in my mind, I go one step further. I suspect that Adam is actually Uncle Mack’s kid, and not Archie’s. Look at his coloring, look at his face. Abigail and Archie were both dark with angular features. Uncle Mack is sandy with more rounded features“like Adam. I bet Abigail was pregnant with Adam while Archie was still alive, or became pregnant soon after Archie died. To save face or avoid the stigma of being labeled a loose woman, they maintained that the kid was Archie’s. A woman who’s widowed while she’s pregnant is a far cry from a newly widowed woman who becomes pregnant. The irony there is that Don was labeled “whore child,” while Adam was “the first man,” although technically they’re both children of women who would be considered promiscuous by society’s standards. If Don was somehow aware of this situation, I imagine he’d hate Abigail and the circumstances of his upbringing even more, while at the same time, it might also explain his obsession with dark-haired women, as Kay suggested upthread.

Oh. Except I deleted the part where I’d kept the link to the thread. Sorry Kay.

Anyway, I hope that straightened nothing out for you. The answer is, the writers f-‘d up.

We love them anyway.


  44 Responses to “Dick/Don-Adam bizarro-world timeline”

  1. There's math in this.

    I was told there would be no math.

  2. Think you got that pretty much right, Roberta.

    To go a step further, if Adam was Mack's child, then it would also mean that Adam and Dick are not related at all – different fathers and different mothers.

  3. Well, duh!

    And I don't mean duh you, I mean, smack me in the head I forgot to connect those dots!

  4. I thought I read somewhere that BowlCut Dick is played by Matt Weiner's kid. Or do I have that confused?

    I think it's plausible that that actor (Jay Paulson) could play Adam-at-20; he looks older than 20, but then Adam has had a really hard life. Not that that explains anything else about the confused timeline.

    I love that the actor who plays Archie (Joseph Culp) looks so much like a world-wearied, hardened Dick/Don. I also like the theory that Adam is Mack's kid, not Archie's.

  5. Helen's child, Glen, is MW's son — the boy Betty gave a lock of hair.

  6. I took MW's commentary for Nixon v. Kennedy to mean that Dick Whitman was in Korea _before_ the war officially broke out; in the commentary, he notes that the period from 1946 to 1950 had the highest rate of desertions that the Army had seen since the Civil War, which seems odd unless that's when Dick Whitman deserted.

  7. Also, looking at Wikipedia (not the most reliable source, but close enough for gov't work, surely), it sounds like border clashes btw the North and South Korean governments began in 1948, after the country had effectively been partitioned.

  8. Well, I hope my comments don't disappear…again!

    Although I love Mad Men, some of their math and timeline skills are lacking! I let it slide because, well, the show's just so pretty to watch!

  9. ST, I don't believe that Dick Whitman deserted.

    Two men were in the explosion: Don died and Dick had wounds that earned him a Purple Heart and a discharge.

    What Dick did that was dishonest was switch identies with Don, but I don't think he did it to get out of the Army, I think he did it to get out of being Dick.

    It's possible that Dick (as Dick) would not have been discharged. The real Don was close to discharge anyway, so maybe that's why they sent "him" home. But do you really think he thought of that when he switched dog tags? I think he just saw a chance to stop being the person he was.

  10. DL:

    That's true, and I wasn't really thinking about that issue when I posted before. My point is that I don't think there are major continuity problems if you assume that the flashbacks from NvK take place in 1948, before official hostilities began.

  11. Please forgive my randomness….

    I forgot to mention how good the new blog looks, Ladies! Congrats!

  12. Given all that, I choose to believe (read: HOPE) that the changing timeline is simply sloppy work, and not an attempt to go in the direction of whose-child-is-whose-type storyline.

    The relationship between Don/Dick and Adam is a story whose surface has only been scratched, and I’d hate to think that it’s all a misunderstanding.

  13. "I don’t think he did it to get out of the Army, I think he did it to get out of being Dick."

    I think he did it to get out of the army AND to get out of being Dick. I think when most people sign up for military service, they have no idea of what that really entails. It's why the real Don Draper asked Dick Whitman why he was there in the first place: "Are you poor?…They got me with college…" Dick, like many young men of that generation was probably sold on the opportunity, excitement, honor and glory of the service, but then experienced the reality where he was in the dirt digging latrines, getting fired upon, and worse.

  14. I agree with hullaballoo. I always thought Dick took Don's identity because he knew DD only had a few months of service left. Getting away from his old identity and family was a bonus. It seems he could have broken from his family without taking on a new identity. It's not like his family was really wealthy and resourceful and would have been able to track him down if he wanted to disappear. So to me the main reason to take the identity of DD originally was the quick exit from military service.

    And about Adam, even if they aren't "blood related" I think Dick would still think of him as a brother.

  15. He could have escaped his family either way, but there is no chance of them looking for him if they think he's dead. Also, I think that he liked the idea of simply leaving who he was "buried," so to speak, and really being someone else.

    In Don's mind, is he Dick Whitman pretending to be Donald Draper, or is he Donald Draper and Dick Whitman died? I'm not saying he thinks he's the man he switched tags with, but a new person with that name.

  16. A new thought just occurred to me while out on an errand to buy kitty litter…

    What if Dick had some *other* reason to shed the DW identity that we don't know about yet? It could be the reason he joined the military in the first place. (An illegitimate child? A criminal past?)

    Was he running away from something besides an abusive stepmother, which seems he'd have already been able to do by the time he was in his early 20's, if he so desperately wanted to?

  17. That's possible, Wisefish. There's still so little we know. For instance, if he did get a girl in trouble, I've little doubt his natural tendency would be to run from it.

    And of course we are speculating like mad, with no proof, but that scenario would be interesting considering Peggy's possible plight, and what she may have decided.

    It's unclear if Betty became pregnant before or after the wedding, but he had a built in reason to still marry her, really. If she was a girl from back home and the last thing he wanted do was be tied to ruralpossiblepennsylvia?

    And, again, I'm pulling this out of thin air. 🙂

  18. I think Don runs. That's what he does. So maybe he deserted, but I don't know that he hated the Army all that much. It was dirty and scary, but he liked digging holes, y'know? He grew up doing it. And in the Army, he was a man, not a whore-son.

    Desertion seems so calculated, even though, yes, Don/Dick runs. But desertion means realizing that the real Don (TRD) is a short-timer, and making a clear decision. As Rachel says, he doesn't think things through. Being someone else is less thought-out and more like just BLAAAAA RUN!

  19. I agree with Inanna in that its plausible that Adam could be 20 years old. I know these days 20 is the new "10". But "back in the day" when you were 20 (18, 19 etc) you were an "adult". His attitude was quite chipper too, and rather innocent when he met up with Don, so that made him appear young. But it was his overall image that made him seem older. But that kind of dress, and style really aged people. As Joan mentioned in one of the DVD commentaries (sorry, cant recall exactly which one), that when people see her in person (out of character) they're always surprised with how "young she looks".

    This aside, i also agree there is a disruption in the timeline. This must happen quite a bit in the creation process, where the writing is on-going, as opposed to writing a book, where you can go back-to-front to ensure fluidity.

    Also, as per the conversation on Dick/Don's and Adam's parentage. I actually always thought that Dick/Don might not actually even be Mack's child. He only said he was a whore child, but he never said he was his father's, right? He probably never knew exactly. I mean, Mack could have had a sister or someone or an old childhood sweetheart who ended up being a prostitute (it was the depression, right?) and he had made a promise to her to take care of him, or somehow felt responsible for Dick/Don for another reason. I also think that Adam is indeed Archie's child, NOT Macks. Think about it, its the 40's, no one used birth control, why wouldn't Mack's wife have had more children or ANY children with him in all the time they were married? I think he was probably sterile or practicing abstinence (maybe why she was so miserable) and then when she got married again, boom, she got pregnant with Adam right away. In no way do i think Adam and Dick are related, but does that really matter? He was still his brother.

    (sorry for the long post!)

  20. In Don’s mind, is he Dick Whitman pretending to be Donald Draper, or is he Donald Draper and Dick Whitman died? I’m not saying he thinks he’s the man he switched tags with, but a new person with that name.

    I would say that Don is trying to be a new person named Don Draper (that's why I always compare him to Gatsby). But of course he drags Dick Whitman along with him. In many ways Don Draper is a reaction against Dick Whitman. Or maybe what Dick Whitman wanted to be, dreamed of becoming ("Jay Gatsby … sprang from his Platonic conception of himself … he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.")

  21. Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one who is getting confused about timelines. Let me throw another one out there. Betty says she's 28. We know she went to college, then did some sodeling, and she certaunly could have met and married Don very quickly, but how old is Sally? She seems about six, so that doesn't seem to add up. Any answers out there?

    This makes me agree with the sloppy timeline theory, although I don't think the sloppy timeline should prevent there being a great, complicated backstory.

  22. Jay Paulson's bio doesn't list an age, but it says he started acting professionally in eleventh grade (age 16 or 17). His first television role was in 1995. That makes him a minimum of 28 years old as of the filming of Mad Men.

  23. Mel, I was just about to pull the same quote. Wanna see?

    In Don’s mind, is he Dick Whitman pretending to be Donald Draper, or is he Donald Draper and Dick Whitman died? I’m not saying he thinks he’s the man he switched tags with, but a new person with that name.

    What I was gonna say was… I suspect this might be further explored in Season Two.

    And to those who think Adam could pass for 20… while that may be true, the AMC episode guide says he's 25.

    Also, Jungle, Uncle Mack came later.

    1. Archie and Abigail are married
    2. Archie slept with a prostitute
    (technically #s 1 & 2 could be in either order, just close together)
    3. Prostitute gives birth to Archie's son and dies.
    (Deb and I had a long discussion as to how/why Archie was identified as the father. We'll get back to that.)
    4. Archie and Abigail raise the 'whoreson'
    5. Archie dies
    6. Abigail gives birth to Adam, and Uncle Mack is there

    They said that Abigail married quickly after Archie died, so perhaps it was Uncle Mack that she married. But then why does Adam call him Uncle Mack and not daddy? Even if she was having an affair with him and it was his kid while she was still married to Archie… anyone would have had their baby son call her new husband daddy. So it continues to be confusing… but Uncle Mack is not Dick's father.

    Unless… Adam is born, Uncle Mack is there, and he's really an uncle or family friend? And maybe Archie is still alive, he just wasn't in the scene? Maybe Archie died when Adam was seven? That would qualify him as 'daddy', and would contribute to the devastation that Adam went through; losing his father and then his brother within a year/few years.

    Y'know what? I have no idea.

  24. Debra, let's say she graduated from Bryn Mawr at age 21 and went straight to Europe for a summer or even six months. She's home and modeling professionally at age 22 and meets Don. Their romance was brief and Sally came right away (she told her therapist that). Sally appears to be five; if she was six she'd be in school all day and we'd see Betty home with just Bobby sometimes. So she had a baby at age 23 and it adds up.

    It's also possible she's lying about her age, it's not like she isn't vain.

  25. Deb, well done, especially the Sally's not in school yet part.

    I don't think she's lying. Unless she's been lying about her age for years, lying so long she believes it. But she looked so genuinely happy to hear that Helen Bishop is 32, so relieved and proud to be able to say she is 28.

  26. "Also, Jungle, Uncle Mack came later."

    *cringe* i completely inverted "uncle mack" and "archie". What i meant was I don't think Archie is even Dick/Don's father. I absolutely don't think Uncle Mack is. That wouldn't make much sense.

    I can't wait to learn more about these characters and clear up speculations come season 2!!!

    Also, about Betty's age. I think it all adds up to 28 really, agreeing with Deborah, plus when Don had gotten her that white gold watch as a gift, he said it had a small face so that someone young like her could see. Alluding to the obvious that's she's young. Of course she's younger than him, so that might not be the best point.

    I love this site by the way

  27. Meh, no need to cringe. We all do that shit.

    I started this post months ago, with a different focus. Because originally, I wasn't sure that the character of Archie was even supposed to be Dick's father… not in the way that you're suggesting, but like, maybe he was the second husband.

    But the actor, as was mentioned upthread, so resembles an old, worn down version of Hamm… they would not have cast it that way if they wanted to leave it nebulous.

    But Adam's coloring… he doesn't look like any of them. Then again, he was so perfect in the role, I don't think Weiner would have cared what his coloring was.

  28. And thanks!

  29. In regard to comment #2, didn't BowlCutDick, upon the birth of baby Adam, announce, "he ain't mah brother"?
    Perhaps he does indeed know that Adam truly is not his biological half brother. Hmmmmmm.

  30. **Well, I’m glad I’m not the only one who is getting confused about timelines. Let me throw another one out there. Betty says she’s 28. We know she went to college, then did some sodeling, and she certaunly could have met and married Don very quickly, but how old is Sally? She seems about six, so that doesn’t seem to add up. Any answers out there?

    This makes me agree with the sloppy timeline theory, although I don’t think the sloppy timeline should prevent there being a great, complicated backstory.**

    Picture this, Sicily, 1942… oh, wait, never mind. Think back to the pilot. Midge reminds Don that he went through the same cigarette scare 5 years before and that she was personally gratified to find out that doctors smoke.

    Which makes it sound like Don has been with her for a while (as duly noted in his bio here) and tells us that he must have left the furrier and landed a job at an ad agency 5 or more years earlier. Was it Sterling Cooper? We know he'd went through one secretary, but Pete points out in the pilot that Don always gets the new girl. Would 2 count as always?

    However, as noted in another discussion, in Ladies Room it seemed a fairly new occurrence for Don and Betty to dine with Roger and wife. In subsequent episodes there is more of a sense they've known each other for while.

    And he was practically a newlywed when he hooked up with Midge. Scoundrel.

    Anyhow, he works at the furrier, meets Betty, the courtship is pretty whirlwind, and he most leave the furrier pretty early in. I mean, how long would he be at an agency before being a part of a cigarette account to the extent that it seemed to be heavily on his mind, maybe keeping him up at night? Anyhow, it's impressive to see where he is 5 years later — pretty rapid ascension.

  31. I think the Ad Age supplement said he'd been with Sterling Cooper for about 6 years. So he comes in, probably as a mid-level copywriter, works hard, proves his worth on some small and mid-size accounts, moves up to senior copywriter, does well on some of the larger accounts, develops a reputation outside of the agency, gets wooed by other agencies, gets promoted to creative director, comes up with Jesus Over Rio and other "award winning" campaigns, and he's set. Then again, given the third-tier status of S/C, he probably didn't have to exert that much effort to make a name for himself there. I was surprised when Duck came on board and announced that all the executives needed to be wooing clients, because that's typically how it works. Why weren't they already doing this?

  32. I agree with Jungle that Adam could be 20 and the explanation that the clothing aged people. Case in point: In her first movie role in To Have and Have Not Lauren Bacall was all of 19.

  33. Hi, I'm new. I love this site. Great discussions and good writing abound here. I've been enjoying catching up on all these posts. One thing I thought to mention that might be helpful in the timeline/Dick-Don/family tree discussion is the conversation that Don has with Rachel after they make love (finally) in "Long Weekend." Don is telling Rachel that his mother also died in childbirth and that she was a prostitute:

    "I don't know if my father paid her but when she died [the mother], they brought me to him and his wife. And when I was 10 years old, he died. He was drunk who got kicked in the face by a horse. She buried him and took up with some other man, and I was raised by those two sorry people."

    I took this to mean that Abigail was married to his father, Archie, and he cheated on her with a prostitute. The result was Dick and they were stuck with him when the prostitute/mother died. Abigail never let him forget it and when Archie died, she took up with Uncle Mack (if she hadn't already) and then Adam came along.

    Also, re: Betty's age: I noticed that when Glen asked her age, she immediately asked what Helen's age was, then replied with a lower number. I knew several "Aunties" when I was growing up who regularly shaved a few years off their ages. Just a thought.

    Wonderful site. Sorry for the long post.

  34. Long posts rock!

    I don't think Betty was shaving off years, just happy to know she was younger and willing to state her age then — maybe so Glen could tell Helen.

  35. Glass, agreed on both counts.

    Catherine, thanks. I can't believe I forgot that his father died when he was ten… and he is ten years older than Adam. So maybe Adam is his half-brother.

    So. confused.

  36. Just a quick note – the Dick/Don switch couldn't have happened in '48. Remember, the soldier who introduced them was black. Combat units weren't integrated until the summer of '52 (though the army itself was intergrated in '48).

  37. Probably nobody's reading this after all this time but…..it occurs to me that "flashbacks" are supposed to be visual representations of what the character is remembering at the time….and people's memories of ages, dates, times, etc are not always accurate. So perhaps we can put down the "confused timeline" to Don's memory not always being 100% accurate.

  38. Because we have the most recent comments in a sidebar on the left, comments on very old posts still get attention.

    I think you're stretching. Don's memory may be hazy, but I'm pretty sure he knows which war he fought in.

  39. This came up in another thread, the idea of the flashback memories being distorted by well, memory. I think it's stretch too. I just think it's too hard to justify, from the writers perspective. There's been no indication that the flashbacks are not accurate. Last season, on the train exactly matched Adam's description; it perfectly filled in the blanks. The precedent has been set that these flashbacks are being used to give the viewers accurate information, and the production value of them are consistent from flashback to flashback (which indicates that what goes for one, goes for all).

  40. I know I'm way late coming to this thread, but I'm re-watching the Season 1 episodes now for the second time, and…boy, someone did a total botch job on the Don/Dick/Adam/Korea timeline. Don't even bother trying to get it to match, you'll just get a headache. (I already did.)

    Going simply by what made it to air, ignoring what it says in the shooting script or AMC synopsis (because that makes it even more headache-inducing)…

    Dick "became" Don in 1950.

    Adam says he was 8 years old when he saw Dick on the train. That would put his birth date as 1942. He indeed looks to be 8 years old in that sequence.

    But there's no way on earth the little boy in the "Dick and Adam, 1944" picture is 2 years old. Not unless he's some kind of one in a billion genetic mutant.

    When Adam is born, the man (Uncle Mack?) says, in rejoinder to Dick's, "He ain't my brother," that both boys have the same father. Whether true or not, it has to be plausible that they could have had the same father.

    Don tells Rachel his father died when he was 10. That means Adam has to have been born within nine months of Don's father's death for "both of you have the same father" to be even halfway plausible to anyone. So Bowl Cut Dick is 10-1/2 to 11 years old in 1942, and no more than 29 years old in 1960.

    No. It. Does. Not. Fit. Adam would have had to have been 12 years old, not 8, in the flashback, for it to work. The only way it's halfway believable is if Adam is presumed to be not the sharpest pencil in the cup and mixes up "8 years old" and "12 years old," and if he was VERY small for his age when he saw Dick on the train.

    What a mess.

  41. Don tells Rachel his father died when he was 10. That means Adam has to have been born within nine months of Don’s father’s death for “both of you have the same father” to be even halfway plausible to anyone. So Bowl Cut Dick is 10-1/2 to 11 years old in 1942, and no more than 29 years old in 1960.

    Just to confuse things more…

    We learn that Don is actually 36 as of February 14, 1962. This would make him 24 or 25 at the time of his "transformation" in 1950 (we know it was 1950 because in NvK, Pete tells Cooper that "Dick Whitman died in Korea 10 years ago"). If Adam was 8 when he saw Dick/Don on the train, that means Don's 15 or 16 years older than Adam, not 10 or 11. If Archie died when Dick/Don was 10, there's no way in the world he could be Adam's father.

    It also makes you wonder what Don was doing between 1944 and 1950. He was certainly old enough to have served in the tail end of WWII. And for someone wanting to just run away from home, joining the service would have given him an easy out. Even if he didn't go to the War, he still could have left home long before he was in his mid-20s — especially if home wasn't where he wanted to be in the first place.

    It makes my head spin, and I hope at some point they explain all this to us. Unfortunately, Jon Hamm is getting a little advanced in age to continue playing 20 year olds. They may have to get one of the JoBros to play young Dick Whitman at this point.

  42. I suppose it's not IMPOSSIBLE that Dick could actually be a bit younger than Real!Don, but claiming to be Real!Don's age. If Dick is actually closer to 30, it could work.

    Now, he doesn't SEEM closer to 30 than to 36, but I guess it could be argued that he doesn't seem to be a lot of the things he is.

    As for waiting 'til his mid-20's to leave home, a lot of people take a long time to get out of a bad situation. There's the classic dilemma of rather bearing those ills one has than flying to others that one knows not of. Or, he may have felt some lingering responsibility to help out his stepmother and Adam, but it wore off after a few years.

  43. Yeah, I suppose it's possible that Don could have ratcheted his age upward a bit — if in fact he was only 19 and Real!Don! was 33 when the tags were switched (per Pete's revelation that Real!Don! would be 43 if alive in 1960), and he'd be less likely to have his cover blown if he could pass for 4 or 5 years older…AND if Dick looks older than most people would suspect he is due to a tough childhood and hard-drinking, chain-smoking, driven-as-hell adulthood (not to mention a decade's worth of stress from having to keep a secret that could turn his entire life upside down if the wrong people found out)…he could be 29 in '60. I guess.

    But I'm more inclined to think someone fell asleep at the switch when piecing continuity together. Because all that still doesn't explain why Adam doesn't look anywhere near 2 years old in that picture. (Nor does he look anywhere near 18 when Dick/Don meets him in 5G.)

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.