What did happen in Season One?

 Posted by on July 26, 2008 at 7:59 pm  Characters, Season 1
Jul 262008

Many months ago I wrote a post called 9 months for Don. It was inspired by an idea Matthew Weiner had sparked. I explained it then:

Weiner, at the oft-quoted Jacob Burns Film Center event, talked about the influence of the film the Apartment. We’ve heard this a lot, and the film itself is alluded to in Babylon. But what Weiner discussed was how in the Apartment, most of the movie is set-up. Exposition. The bulk of the film is the audience and the characters discovering the circumstances that are already in occurrence.

So there are these two components in storytelling; exposition and occurrences. So much of Season One was discovery… in this episode we find out that (Don is married. Betty had been a model. Don had a secret identity. Paul and Joan had dated. Roger has been having an affair with Joan.)

You get it. Things that had happened in the past, or were happening in the present. Reveals. And I wanted to draw the distinction, to actually sequester the events of Season One. The topic came up recently, and I pretty much promised I would do this. Also, promised myself. I really, really wanted to write this before Season Two.

Plus Deb and I are a little sick of hearing how this is a show where nothing happens. You’re all making it sound like Seinfeld, forfucksake. (Well, not really most of you, but a lot of people out there.)

Anyway, here it is, the sequel…

9 months for everyone

Don Draper (I’ve lifted this directly from the original post)

  • He gets a new secretary. He recognizes her talents and promotes her to copywriter.
  • His wife grows increasingly unhappy and strange. After Betty has a car accident with his children, he reluctantly sends her to a psychiatrist with whom Don covertly discusses her progress.
  • He fires Pete Campbell, only to have him unfired by his superiors. He gets a big fat bonus. He gets seriously wooed by a bigger agency, and as a result gets an even bigger fatter raise. His direct supervisor and sometime partner-in-crime has a non-fatal heart attack in his presence. He heads up several successful campaigns, brings in new clients, and loses one account. He is made partner.
  • He leaves his mistress of (seemingly) many years
  • He meets and falls for Rachel Menken. He reveals things to her that have never been revealed. She leaves him.
  • His secret past is discovered, and he is blackmailed. He does not give in, and the truth is brought to his boss. Who doesn’t care.
  • He falls down a flight of stairs. Ow.
  • He smokes pot.
  • His younger brother comes to him out of his lost past, and Don pushes him far away. After a few months, Don has a change of heart and tries to contact Adam, only to discover that he has committed suicide.

Pete Campbell

  • He sleeps with Peggy on the night of his bachelor party, then marries Trudy. Months later the affair is rekindled, but he quickly puts an end to that party.
  • He pitches copy to a client behind the creative team’s back, and gets fired for it (despite the fact that the copy was a perfect fit for the campaign, and the client bought it). He is immediately un-fired.
  • He asks his father for money, and is rejected. He is coerced by his wife into taking money from his intrusive father-in-law, and he and Trudy buy an ambitiously pricey upper east side apartment.
  • He gets a short story published (or at least a publication offer) in Boy’s Life magazine.
  • He buys a rifle.
  • He develops an advertising/media idea based on a college prank. The idea gets kudos from Bert Cooper.
  • He steals a personal package from Don, and uses it to blackmail him for the position of Head of Account Services. He goes as far as revealing his findings to Bert Cooper, but the blackmail attempt is ultimately rebuked.
  • He agrees to start a family, and in exchange…
  • …his father-in-law brings his Clearasil advertising needs to Sterling Cooper.

Peggy Olson

  • She starts a new job as secretary to Don Draper at Sterling Cooper; her first job in Manhattan.
  • Has what may be her very first gynecological exam, and goes on the pill.
  • She sleeps with Pete Campbell (in all probability her first), knowing that he is about to be married. After months of him ignoring her, they pick up the affair, and immediately put it back down.
  • She goes on one terrible blind date.
  • She gains weight.
  • She discovers masturbation.
  • She is recognized as having potential talent, and Is given a writing assignment. The copy is incorporated into an active ad campaign. After a second successful writing assignment, she is promoted to Junior Copywriter.
  • She gives birth to a baby boy that she hadn’t known she was carrying.

Betty Draper

  • Her mother dies three months before the pilot (this is recent enough and significant enough that I included it).
  • She gets into a minor car accident caused by her hands going numb. This leads to her entering psychoanalytical psychotherapy, as medical doctors have not been able to diagnose the numbness.
  • She babysits for the nine year old son of her divorced neighbor. Betty gives him a snip of her hair, despite some strange behavior on his part (which includes, but is not limited to, the hair request). Eventually his mother confronts her and insinuates that Betty behaved inappropriately, and Betty slaps her in the middle of the grocery store.
  • She is offered, and excitedly takes, an opportunity to model for a high-profile campaign. After losing the gig, she lies to Don, saying that she prefers being at home.
  • She shoots at her neighbor’s pigeons.
  • She discovers masturbation.
  • She discovers (or acknowledges) that her husband cheats.
  • She discovers that her husband has been calling her therapist.

Rachel Menken

  • Falls in love, starts and ends a relationship with Don.
  • Heads up the re-invention of her family’s department store, overseeing all concepts and working directly with Sterling Cooper on the project.

Other characters

  • Roger Sterling has two heart attacks.
  • Harry Crane cheats on his wife with Hildy, a secretary at the office (literally), and gets thrown out of his house.
  • Ken Cosgrove gets a work of short fiction published in the Atlantic Monthly.
  • Midge Daniels ends a relationship with Don (he pretty much did the ending).
  • Francine Hansen has a baby girl, and discovers her husband has been cheating.
  • Salvatore does not date men.

Sterling Cooper

  • Successfully recampaigns Lucky Strike, Belle Jolie, and Bethlehem Steel.
  • New clients: Menken’s Department Store, Clearasil, Relax-i-cisor and Kodak.
  • Woos Nixon For President as client for 1960 presidential election; does some spec work, but fails to gain them as a client.
  • Loses Dr. Scholl’s as a client.
  • Seeks Israeli Board of Tourism as a client, loses to McCann-Erickson.
  • Junior partner has two heart attacks at the workplace and must take medical leave.
  • Under pressure from clients, Creative Director Donald Draper is promoted to partner.
  • Draper, as partner, institutes search for new Head of Accounts, eventually hiring Herman ‘Duck’ Phillips.
  • Promotes Peggy Olson from secretary to Junior Copywriter, the first woman copywriter since WWII. Assigns her to a high profile account (Clearasil).


  7 Responses to “What did happen in Season One?”

  1. The funny thing is that Seinfeld _also_ had a lot happen in every episode (one of them–the backwards one–spanned a decade, as I recall). Once you get a reputation, it can be hard to dislodge.

  2. Hee, every time I wanted to add something, found out it was there. Good job.

    Maybe there is a bit of an overshare, but we're just assuming Peggy and Betty discovered masturbation. I get it was a different time, and I'll reluctantly concede Peggy, but I'm thinking that a woman who thinks about and longs for her husband, a man who is gone a lot, a woman with a clearly good libido, didn't just discover it.

    There had to be at least one night where she lit the candles, he decided to work late, and Magic Time!

  3. I do know that it was an assumption, Ms D, and certainly in Betty's case, it was the fantasy that was especially bold. But I'm standing by my assumption.

  4. I have to agree with Roberta here. She seemed surprised.

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  6. Things happening is not a plot.

  7. I beg your pardon?

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