Don and Dick are getting swirly for the first time

 Posted by on October 24, 2008 at 11:38 am  Characters
Oct 242008

I started this post weeks and weeks ago. And now, look where we are.

Last season, the curtain opened on Don Draper. And as we, the viewers, discovered first Don and then Dick Whitman, we also discovered that Don wanted no part of Dick. Almost, perhaps, to the point where he was starting to forget.

Like, he may have, in some part, believed that the man on the train was mistaken.

And it was a little gray there, when he was telling Adam he’d never seen him before how much of that was him trying to send him away, and how much of it was that he’s been living his life so convinced that his past could not catch up with him, that when it started to, he would not accept it. Like a criminal who does not believe they could possibly land in jail. And then when they do, it feels like a dream. A really bad dream. Like that.

Except of course, Don-sans-Dick was the dream, and these intrusions were waking him up.

He never discussed his childhood, not with Betty, not with Roger and Mona over dinner. Betty didn’t even know that his parents were dead. She certainly did not know how he grew up for all she knew, he could have had a nanny. She didn’t know where he was from or anything.

But Don is different in 1962. The events of 1960 changed him.

Curtain opens on Don telling the doctor that his parents are dead.

Now, maybe he was always honest with his doctors. But it was jolting for us to hear it out of his mouth. And so I see it as Weiner’s message to us that something is different.

He told Bobby (Draper, not Bobbie), ˜I told you your grandfather was a farmer’. (I paraphrase.) This was a revelation. I have no evidence of course, but I am pretty certain that the Don Draper of 1960 never spoke to his children about his own past. Not even in that very safe way where he could integrate a farm into the Don Draper storyline and have it go unquestioned. Nuh-uh. I don’t believe he did that before the events of 1960.

And he told Betty that he was beaten. He lies to Betty and withholds from Betty. A lot. But this he told her.

Basketwriter Marly K called him a Moebius strip of a human being. I love that.

Don and Dick have been starting to swirl together, and it has challenged everything that he was and is. We looked at the two men, split in the bathroom mirror, so shaken by who he is that he made Sally leave the room, leave him alone with his fraying selves.

And now is he finally whole?

I can’t wait to find out.


  28 Responses to “Don and Dick are getting swirly for the first time”

  1. I think the whole thing with telling Bobby that his Daddy was a farmer was intensely significant. He was definitely swirlier than in S1.

  2. In 5G, when Peggy comes in with the note that Adam is in the lobby to see him, Don could have simply refused to go out there. He could have hid in his office and never acknowledged Adam's having found him. But he did go out there. So part of him probably wanted to see Adam too. Wanted to reconnect in some way.

  3. I think he is coming to terms that Dick Whitman was actually a better personality than this Don Draper identity he stole. I think he lost himself in the Don Draper idenitity that he thought it normal to cheat, lie, be greedy, and duh of course cheat some more. Once Bobby Barrett revealed that he is getting a reputation, I think he knew then that this fasade of a double identity is catching up with him, an that somehow with the woman he has been with talking about him, its was either going to get back to Betty, or somebody who knew the REAL DON DRAPER. I also think it was Dick Whitman who fell in love with Betty, and that the Don Draper identity. I think Don/Dick is realizing that life as Dick is not really so bad. I think Betty will take him back, because she wants honesty, and if Don comes clean and acts like Dick Whitman like I am guessing he used to be with Betty, their lives will be fuller and richer than before. Like Anna told him, you believe your alone, but your not, you have your wife and you kids. They love you. You love them. I am glad Don went to CALIFORNIA because there he realized just how much his family means to him, and that by him trying to abandon them search for something which is right in front of him already (his family) he doesnt need to runaway anymore, or feel the pressure to find love somewhere else. Betty has been willing to give it to him, but he is so emotionally distant and cruel to her because of the Don Draper persona. I hope he has changed for the good and not for the worst!

  4. I suspect that if things were calm with Betty and they were still together that Don might not have made the trip to L.A. But he had already moved out, and no longer had to report to Betty, so he could do as he pleased. Likewise, if he were continuing the facade he kept up for Betty, there would be no need for self-examination.

  5. When Don told Bobbie Barrett, "I'm not like you," I saw disgust and revulsion. It was an intense gut reaction.

    My husband likes to say, "If you see it, you got it." He means that what we recognize in others is alive in each of us.

    My husband didn't need to say that about Don, in that last scene with Bobbie. It was clear. The disgust on Don's face was almost — but not quite — enough to hide the fear: my God. I am like you.

    A few times this season, we've seen Don confronted with the fact of his broken or sullied identity. We're seeing him more at peace now, back in the skin of the man he was before he added all those later Draper insults to the original Whitman injuries. But it's also, in a way, a dream state: because he's out there in California, hiding out from the life he chose in every deliberate way.

    The most he'll allow is to have whispers of that life read to him from Anna's tarot cards. A big, big part of Dick/Don does not want to go back to that chosen life. I think that he knows what that would mean. It would mean facing the music — which is, unlike the song the kid was playing on Anna's piano, scary to him.

    Betty has thrown him out of the house; Don thought he was not welcome there. He feels disconnected at work; he's been through three secretaries in a few months, and he's had to say goodbye to at least one steady client and a good friend. As partner, these have become his responsibilities. He does not like being partner.

    Dick wants to work restoring old cars. What else is there to say?

    Obviously, Dick/Don loves his children. Those kids are the one area where real continuity between his old life and the one he chose is possible. I too hope that he can pull this off. But I am racking my brain to think of a way he can do this that will not seriously wound Betty — who has, let's face it, been wounded enough.

  6. What he has been confused about, and so have we, is that… there's only one guy. He is one man.

  7. About the cars scene – very strange, it was. Clearly meant to confuse past and present, and hard to interpret (at least for me).

    But what I did notice immediately is the opening shot of the mechanic guy as Don approaches. It's very similar (intentional or not) to the shot of Don's father when he's working on the car in Hobo Code – same angle and camera movement.

    Someone earlier linked the father/son aspect of working on cars and sharing experiences that get passed down. Could only think about how Dick longs for that connection and recognizes it as a huge hole in his own upbringing.

  8. I was also confused about the car scene's place in time: was it supposed to be during this trip or is it a flashback? I watched again last night and came to a conclusion: Just look at his face in each scene and you'll have your answer. I think they might've Botoxed him for the young scenes – he has far fewer lines in his face, especially between the eyes (the "11's") and in the forehead. That would apply to the Christmas scene as well as the scene in which he tells Anna he's met Betty and is going to ask her to marry him. I'm sure MW's brilliant lighting has something to do with it, but there's only so much you can do with lighting!

  9. I have to say, much as I love our MM team, I think the confusion between flashback and "present" (1962) was unintentional.

  10. Agreed. We're all f-ing confused, and I think MW intended the the hints be deliberate.

  11. I thought the car scene was present-day. If you look at his hair, it's the Don Draper cut–the flashback scenes had his hair slicked down and closer to his head.

  12. Seriously Jon Hamm's forehead should get its own special emmy. I notice in the scenes where he's younger his eyebrows look combed up and he looks made up. I wonder if they used something like that tape they used to have on the infomercial.

    But I think Don's been looking a lot more haggard this season than he did last season. He has a pained expression as his neutral face and when there's a reason to look even unhappier he looks downright constipated. He always looks like he has a headache and I wonder if maybe he does from all those cigarettes.

  13. Think the scene with the hot rod guys was present day–when they were referring to the different parts they had combined to build it, one part referenced was a "(19)60 something."
    In this scene, Don also asked for work from the men; didn't get the impression he wanted to leave the area anytime soon. That seemed to change when he went inside Anna's house and she read him the Tarot cards.

  14. Hamm does this thing with his face in the flashbacks … he's wide-eyed and his eyebrows lift when he talks, which he doesn't do in the present-day scenes. He has this open, gee-whiz expression of youth (yout).

  15. *can't*

  16. I only know it because it was the only brand new car my Dad ever bought. It was a huge deal for our family.

    Other than that I wouldn't know most cars from roller skates.

  17. Help – I'm suddenly having trouble with the site! I can't find the "big blog" about Season 2 episode 12 – the one with 300 posts – anywhere. How/where can I find it?

  18. Brenda @4:

    Likewise, if he were continuing the facade he kept up for Betty, there would be no need for self-examination.

    Oh my god, yes. This. Exactly this.

    sommgirl @9, I can’t believe they would have botoxed him – that seems unnecessary. There may have been some heavy-duty makeup work, though. I’ll have to go back and watch.

  19. one way or another – this scene poses problems. When asked about the car, Don is told it is a 60 nailhead engine, 39 lasalle transmission, and a 40 banjo rear end. Don's reply was 2 Fords and a Buick. Only problem is, what we have here is a Buick, a a Ford, and a Lasalle (GM). I also don't find it very likely that the struggling artist used the engine from a 2 year old car for his rat rod. My money is on flashback. Now for the big one… The song playing on the radio is The Sevilles "Treat You Right" Which was released in 1963/1964 Uh-Oh…

  20. I’m trying to decide about the car scene and I think it can’t be a flashback, although I sort of want it to be. The reason is that I saw a 1955 Chevy parked on the street in the background. Sally was born in the spring of 1954, right?

    Unless it’s an error, it has to be 1962.

    What do you think? Did you see the chevy too?

  21. I don’t know how people can tell the years on all those old cars. I was born in 1973 and can’s spot a Dodge Dart from a Chevette.

  22. Agreed. The hot rodder scene was ambiguous and I gave it much thought. Here's my take:
    It was not a flash back. It's 1962 and Don is chilling in San Pedro, living at Anna's and making himself useful (the chair repair scene LOL) shopping for groceries. He's in no hurry to return to NY & SC as is suggested by his inquiry about work (political events of late October 1962 will no doubt provide an external impetus to get him back East).
    In addition to mirroring memories of Archie working on his car in Hobo Code, the hot rodders show him that something uniquely beautiful can be crafted from disparate parts of what would otherwise be old junk. Hummm. much food for thought in that scene for our confused hero.

  23. Jim, I'm having a hard time finding the year of that song. But you're bumming me out. Why they gotta fuck that up?

  24. Cool topic Roberta and great comments.

    Don was good at denying and suppressing Dick in 1960, but is clearly having trouble in 1962 – and now he maybe embracing the Dick Whitman side. (I like the word swirly – gonna have to use that at work!)

    I guess I see the Don Draper “software” as not very robust. It’s beginning to break down on him. This has been accelerated by things like Adam’s death, Bobbie’s comments and especially the new titanium version of Betty. The Don Draper persona is getting flimsy – a veneer really. It held up for about ten minutes in California.

    I loved the B-case discussions about mirrors this season. Don is having a hard time around mirrors – they force him to confront the growing identity issue. Bobbie is verbally holding up a mirror with her comments about Don’s reputation. In both that scene and the famous shaving scene his reaction is visceral. (Not to get too Halloween but maybe he is disappearing like a vampire or something)

    So, if the Don persona is broken – where does he go? Back 100% to Dick W. and fixing cars? Merge the Don and Dick parts and head back to NY? (Michelle has a great observation about the cars and the possibility making something beautiful out of different parts) I don’t know the answer but the journey will be fun to watch.

    However it gets resolved, Anne B is right — the kids are the key. The kids are the grounding element and not just Bobby and Sally but Dick/Don somehow repairing his broken father-child relationship. Deborah noted that Don opening up a bit to Bobby about his father was very significant. I think little Bobby still gets the line of the season: “We have to get you a new Daddy.”

    B. Cooper is on to something with the mysterious car scene. It is ambiguous. I started pretty convinced it was a flashback but you all have convinced me that it is in real time. There is definitely something father-son about that scene. The scene may be in real time, but Don/Dick definitely goes back to some other place. He looks just like a little kid staring in wonderment at the cars and wanting to see them race.

    Anna basically paraphrases John Donne when she tells Don that he is not alone – that he is part of the world and he needs to participate in life. In order to do that he first needs to figure out who he is.

  25. sommgirl, we have a number of navigation tools. On the right is a calendar; clicking a date brings you to the posts on that date, so October 19 should work. You can also simply search (search box is also on the right) for the episode title ("The Mountain King") in this case. Or, you can click the "Previous Entries" link at the bottom of the main page (not inside a post) if you think it's just one page back.

  26. Jim, if the car was 2 years old in 1962, it certainly can't be a flashback to the 50s!

    And he could be using a cannibalized wreck for his 1960 parts.

  27. Oh, and Roberta is the genius here, with Bobby opening Don up and all.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.