Natural Selection

 Posted by on October 19, 2010 at 2:00 pm  Season 4
Oct 192010

A scene about half-way through “Tomorrowland,” Mad Men‘s Season 4 finale, pointedly shows Bobby and Sally, on their California trip, having a heated “debate” in a restaurant about evolution. As with most spats between young siblings, things get heated and Sally knocks over her milkshake.  At that moment, observing her calm response to the strawberry mess, Don seems to cement his choice of Megan over Faye.  This illustrates a naturalistic (almost Darwinistic) motif that is developed throughout the episode.

Life Finds a Way

Henry angrily tells Betty that there are no “fresh starts” in life.  Instead, “life carries on” regardless of what we may want.  As Don outlines to the American Cancer Society, adults realize that they are subject to capricious whims of the natural order and ultimately death. Frank Keller, Don’s accountant, furthers the naturalistic imagery by suggesting that Don view his investments in SCDP as “planting seeds” which he can hopefully “harvest” later.  Along those lines, when signing SCDP’s first account since the loss of Lucky Strike, Peggy and Ken meet with executives for the Topaz account are named “Woodman” and “Garten.”

The “Gene” Pool

One could connect the scene at the hotel pool with Don’s attempt at “evolving.”  After some coaxing, Don agrees to go swimming with Sally, Bobby, Megan and Gene.  In a way, the trip inspires to Don to change just like the prehistoric fish mentioned by Sally who emerged from the oceans to live on land.  Interestingly, by referencing the Bible during that same exchange, Megan appears to be somewhat of a Creationist.

Winners and Losers

According to Darwin, nature selects “winners” solely on the basis of which species is best suited genetically to its environment. This “contest” is driven by the occurrence of random mutations in the DNA of various organisms that give them an advantage over their competition. There is no merit or fairness involved. It is, as Henry might say, life carrying on oblivious to the individuals disrupted in its wake.

Megan tells Don that she couldn’t succeed as an actress because of her teeth (a genetic flaw). Earlier, Joyce’s friend Carolyn Jones, which is the same name of the actress who played Morticia (from “mort,” or death) Addams, complains about the capricious manner in which she lost her modeling job with the Topaz campaign.

The way Megan and her blond ex-roommate are at one point staged in front of Don seemingly allows him to contemplate the merits of his brunette secretary versus Faye (and perhaps Betty).  Like nature, Don gets to choose.

Peggy later feels threatened by Megan. Regardless of what Peggy has accomplished for SCDP, her career is subject to the whim of forces outside of her control.  Peggy landed Topaz.  But Megan got a diamond.

A New Species

Ken Cosgrove, by refusing to reach out to his future father-in-law to help get business from Dow, suggests that he is the most highly evolved of the characters portrayed in the episode.  Ken, wearing a brown suit in sharp contrast to the dark suited Don, Ken and Roger, makes it clear that he will not mix work with his personal life. The other three react to this as Neanderthals might have upon first encountering the more advanced Cro-Magnons.

“Tomorrowland’s” final shot shows a contemplative Don gazing at the world outside of his apartment window. From his expression, it’s clear that he, like the audience, is not sure if his latest adaptation will be a successful one.


  78 Responses to “Natural Selection”

  1. Poor little long-suffering Bobby had (what I consider) the best line of the whole episode … (paraphrasing from memory … hotel room scene talking about Disneyland rides)

    “I don’t want to ride an elephant … I want to fly a jet!”

    Should be the tag line for the whole season?

  2. Bobby echoes his father from the previous season: “I want to build something!”

    “Peggy landed Topaz. But Megan got a diamond.” Brilliant. Fascinating post!

  3. Don Draper does not believe in love. He told us so in the very first episode:

    “What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons.”

    Interesting, then, that Peggy lands Topaz Pantyhose at almost the precise moment that Don is announcing his love for and engagement to Meagan.

  4. Well, I wrote this two posts back, but i see you’ve moved on, and in a way it’s more relevant here. Apologies for repeating myself (edited):

    I suspect (I’m pretty sure) that Matt Weiner subscribes to the view that (most) people don’t really change – or evolve. We’re seeing that with Betty already. Sometimes in a crisis, people will change enough to get out of the crisis. Don did that with his drinking. Faye was showing him ways of changing deeper down, to which he was a little bit receptive after the crisis with the government investigation. Now that crisis is over. As Roberta and others have pointed out, that way is hard, and Don does not have the motivation to change. Much easier to fall in love. Megan is different enough from Betty – it appears – that his next marriage won’t follow the same patterns, exactly, that his first marriage did. Her warmth and motherliness will smooth a lot of ways. But her age and different expectations from Betty’s will bring different conflicts with Don that he may be no better prepared to resolve – though, who knows? That’s what the next two seasons will show us. I’m guessing, though, that the final episode of the final season will show Don’s personal life, his second marriage, breaking up (or broken up) again because of his internal problems that he has never resolved.

  5. Megan got the rock but Don is no jewel. How different is he from the Fred MacMurray character in ‘The Apartment’? DD in his Rat Pack cool ways is a dinosaur. He was wrong about Muhammad Ali and Joe Namath this year. They both represent the coming age-‘ the magnitude of me’ attitude that will charm the bejesus out of the media, and will overwhelm the old-school Midwestern modesty of ‘you don’t talk about yourself’. When Marlene Dietrich told Orson Welles’ bloated, corrupt cop in ‘Touch of Evil’; “You have no future, your future is all used up”, she may as well have been talking about Don. DD better keep Pegs happy cause she’s future cognizant. The symbolism of her being the one to break SCDP’s client dry-spell and ‘saving’ the agency serves as a harbinger of things to come. Start the countdown to how long it will be before Lil Peggy Olsen from Ms Deaver’s secretarial school is sitting in Don’s chair. You can almost hear the theme to Kubrick’s 2001 in the background.

  6. To # 5, re: “Start the countdown to how long it will be before Lil Peggy Olsen from Ms Deaver’s secretarial school is sitting in Don’s chair.”

    I hope so!

    And I hope that Betty’s realization that things are not perfect with Henry Francis, that in some ways Henry dismisses and disrespects Betty similar to Don (not in the same universe as Don, but just a touch of that), will start Betty on a road toward recovery and healing. Betty breaks my heart. Unlike most, I don’t hate her at all. I hate her failings and the effect on her children, but I really feel for Betty.

    Faye and Peggy are “my girls!” I hope they both have positive outcomes alhtough we’ll likely not see Faye again.

  7. To # 5, re: “Start the countdown to how long it will be before Lil Peggy Olsen from Ms Deaver’s secretarial school is sitting in Don’s chair.”

    I don’t think that’s the way it plays out.

    With Bertram Cooper’s resignation, there’s an open spot for a senior partner (if the agency makes it until season 5!) I’m assuming that Pete gets a full partnership (they don’t even have to change the “C” in the agency name), and that in order to keep Ken Cosgrove and his accounts (which, according to him, represent 30% of the agencies billings) they offer Ken the vacated Jr partnership vacated by the promoted Pete Campbell.

    And meanwhile, Peggy gets a pat on the head from the boys for being such a stalwart.

    I’m just guessing that this issue of conflict is a major issue in season 5, and that the Joan/Peggy scene at the end of the last show foreshadows that conflict.

  8. I think that you have hit upon why the finale was so polarizing.

    There have been two basic views about Season 4. First was the “Don is on a dark descent” school. Those folks tended to fixate on Don’s drinking, diminished mojo at work and with the ladies to support their belief that MAD MEN is the story of the Decline and Fall of the Dastardly Don Draper. The events of “The Suitcase” and “Summer Man” mostly quieted those voices.

    The second school has focused on the rise of Peggy and (to a lesser extent) Pete. The notion is that they are rising so quickly that they will quickly supplant and replace Don.

    What both schools shared was an idea that Season 4 was linear. Either Don was declining, Peggy was rising, or both. “Tomorrowland” refutes that idea. Don, Peggy, Pete, Joan and even Ken are all changing, but none are moving consistently in any direction. It has all been random.

    Those random changes leave them better adapted for their changing environment in some ways and more poorly adapted in others. Older characters have less capacity to adapt than younger ones. In some cases not changing is inconsequential (Roger) and other times it is harmful (Bert Cooper) or even fatal (Miss Blankenship). Sometimes adaptations are beneficial (Peggy) and other times they are destructive (Midge).

    It is all devoid of any moral dimension.

  9. “And meanwhile, Peggy gets a pat on the head from the boys for being such a stalwart.”

    Unfortunately, that is a very realistic scenario.

  10. #5 tilden katz Start the countdown to how long it will be before Lil Peggy Olsen from Ms Deaver’s secretarial school is sitting in Don’s chair. You can almost hear the theme to Kubrick’s 2001 in the background.

    OT… It’s funny you should make that reference. I didn’t mention it in my post because I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but the two shots of Don leaning forward and lost in thought reminded me of the apes in 2001’s “Dawn of Man” sequence gazing ahead expectantly at nothing in particular the night the monolith arrives.

  11. A beloved and accomplished media educator I knew (turned a university’s student newspaper into a legitimate publishing enterprise) always said, “Progress is crisis-oriented.”

    That’s a fundamental aspect of writing drama, too.

    Another source whom I can’t recall from the many books I have reviewed, cited the anthropological evidence that evolutionary and social progress — especially in primates — occurs from acts of cooperation, affinity, and love.

    So personally I have no problem — I have hope, even! — for Don as a character, as he makes a huge decision based on love, and only love, which transforms how he looks to the primates in his customary den.

  12. Tilden, I have a different view of Don. Don is a man with a stolen identity but he is a self-made man, embodying the American dream in part, with real accomplishments and real talent (and real flaws). Peggy has talent but I still don’t think it matches his and, even in a completely fair world in which Peggy would be treated fairly, and not as a young woman, there are certain qualities or legs up that Don has that she lacks, such as the wisdom that comes with about 20 more years. Peggy plus Faye would be a real career knockout.

    Don is curious about alot of things. He doesn’t always agree that the new is best (such as Ali’s outsize self-promotion), and I tend to agree with him often on those pronouncements. (Remember: “The young don’t know anything. They don’t even know they’re young.”) I suspect MW often does, too.

    Do I sound like I’m in love with Don Draper?! Yes, a little.

    I agree with you on big things for Peggy in the future. I would love to see Don and Peggy duke it out at rival firms!

  13. #8, Dean, great insights.

  14. How may Peggy get there? Roger is already an archeological find. DD is Sr Partner. Pete n Kenny are accounts obviously. Lane will be running the day-to-day unless his pop finishes him off first. Hey, Creative is open! Some boogeyman from the past buggers Don and he goes to the big house. Pete and Peggy (say that fast 5 times) are at the head of the table. Respect the Pegs.

  15. #14 tilden katz re: “How may Peggy get there?”

    Well, speaking of natural selection and/or survival of the fittest, Peggy has almost all the pieces of the puzzle. All she has to do is eventually have that drink with Dr. Faye Miller, get her to spill her guts so she can flesh out the whole Dick Whitman/Don Draper story. Then go to Pete and blackmail him over their baby and get Pete to corroborate the Dick/Don cover, turn Draper/Whitman in and ascend to partner and creative director.

    Now certainly Duck would have done it. Ted Chaogh would do it. Pete actually tried to do much the same thing in season 1, Bert Cooper blackmailed Don into signing the contract in season 3, and at the end of season 3, Don/Roger/Bert/Lane cooked up a scheme that was almost as unethical in order to start their new agency.

    The question is… it’s the sixties and are there many women around who can act as ruthlessly as their male counterparts to survive and thrive?

  16. I’ve been watching Mad Men since the series premiered-one question I have is: why is Betty so angry with Glen? I remember an episode from either the first or second season, where Betty comes upon Glen in his family car while his mother is inside a business. He says he is not supposed to talk to her; Betty says something to the effect that she doesn’t have anybody else to talk to. Does anyone remember this, and what happened to make Betty become so angry with Glen?

  17. #16 midwest madfan “Why is Betty angry with Glenn?”

    In season 2, Glenn developed a really severe crush on Betty. At the time, Betty was feeling neglected by Don, and instead of immediately discouraging it, she actually enjoyed the attention. I think, at one point Glenn got so carried away that the little pecker actually wanted to take Betty away from all this. At some point Betty came to her senses, ended the flirtation but, in typical Betty fashion blamed Glenn for being a little creep.

  18. Huge apologies up front for this question as it’s completely off topic. I’ve searched through the blog archives here and can’t find the answer.

    Why does Don Draper consider himself a deserter? From what I remember, two people were in Korea, one was KIA, one was honorably discharged. Even if Dick hadn’t switched dog tags I’m not seeing anything that adds up to a desertion charge. Because he did swap tags, he could be charged with impersonating an officer. Desertion? How? In addition, the DoD has no clue about his change, so why would they be searching for a dead man? What did I miss to change the situation?

  19. I do remember that, and Glen asking Betty for a lock of her hair; she responds by cutting off a little piece of her hair for him. Glen’s mother found out and read Betty the riot act at the grocery store. I love the character of Glen and what he brings to the show; so damaged from his own broken dysfunctional family. Also loved Glen and Sally’s scene during the season finale; hope that story line continues into Season 5.

  20. #19… yep… you remember more than I do. I forgot the lock of hair discovery.

    In a perfect world, Betty’s realization of all her previous screwups would have made her more understanding when Sally was caught “groovin'” to Ilya Kuryakin.

  21. Ann, I am Don’s biggest supporter and it KILLS me to point out his flaws. I’m so disappointed with his IMHO ‘betrayal’ of his friendship/confidant/fave colleague/teacher’s pet cocoon he had with Peggy. A deed that this indifferent universe should punish. As it were, Peggy would NEVER betray DD. She worships him too much. When Don rounded up his magnificent 7 to staff his new agency he spoke to Pete and Peggy and told them they were the future. Isn’t it all kinds of significant that the MM story thread was started on Pegs’ 1st day? To me it means it will end with (OMNISCIENT VOICE) with her marrying (that’s out) or supplanting Don. In 1960 it was inconceivable at SC that someone could ever fill the great genius’ shoes. Especially him. So MM will show the humble Alpha to the Omega arc of his successor. I’ve said it before: Peggy is Michael Corleone.

  22. #18

    Dick would be a deserter because I think Don’s tour of duty was just about up, while Dick Whitman had just gotten to Korea so after recuperating he would have gone back.

    And although the DoD wouldn’t be aware of Dick/Don, on a security check they might notice that Don’s fingerprints on file don’t match those of the ad-man Draper. For that matter, if the 1960’s Don Draper were ever finger-printed they’d have two different sets of prints on file for the same SS#. Although I don’t know how obsessively they cross-checked those things back in the pre computer/imaging days.

  23. It would be desertion as Don Drapers tour in Korea was up and he was going home, but Dick Whitman’s tour was not. When he left Korea as Don Draper, the Army assumed Dick Whitman was dead (he delivered the body as Don Draper), and then left the Army. But if Disk Whitman was not dead, then he was a deserter.

    That said, I’ve indicated before that the statute of limitations applies and I’ve spoken with JAG friends of mine. The Army cannot/would not bring him up on charges at this late date. They possibly could do something with any financial issues ($$) Dick took from them as Don, but probably not. The mostl likely thing it would be would be a major PR embarrassment.

  24. #22 re: “That said, I’ve indicated before that the statute of limitations applies and I’ve spoken with JAG friends of mine. The Army cannot/would not bring him up on charges at this late date.”

    So Faye’s advice to Dick (to turn himself in and ask for clemency) was correct. In fact, although it would be a PR embarassment, it might also be an attention grabber.

    I’m betting that Dick/Don reveals to Megan some version of the story.

  25. #21. Thank you so much! What I was missing was that Dick had just started his tour of duty.

    The security clearance paperwork is another problem I let slide for the sake of “TV reality”. In the real world the current Don would have had to provide his fingerprints for that comparison to take place, which he hadn’t done so there wouldn’t have been any reason for his paperwork to be “flagged”. In addition, the forms used for background investigations require answering a number of pages of personal information/history that his secretary wouldn’t have been able to complete. The only paperwork discussed was a short form he supposedly signed to start the process. Eh, TV magic I guess.

  26. They possibly could have flagged it because certain things that were put down for Dick/Don wouldn’t have matched up with the real Don. At that point, they would have asked for more information, maybe fingerprints, etc.

    The REAL DANGER would have been that Dick/Don had signed FRAUDULENT papers for that security clearance, not that they would finger him for desertion. And THAT could have sent him to the Federal Pen (especially in those day) for a LOT of years!

  27. #22. Yes, I believe that is correct. The only way I see “Dick” being brought up on charges would be for pay collected in excess of actual rank/grade, which he would have to repay. That and perhaps having his awards stripped, which as you noted might lead to PR mess.

  28. 22:The mostl likely thing it would be would be a major PR embarrassment.

    Which would be enough if a man believes his career is his identity, and he believes he can keeo the charade up for a while. I think Don Whitman should go restore and sell classic cars in San Bernardino, but Don likes where he is. And he would be totally through in advertising and NYC.


    I’m willing to give anybody a break, so isn’t Betty absolutely right about Glen?

    “You could be friends with anybody.”

    Exactly why has Glen picked Sally to hang around with? Creeepy.

  29. #25 True… I think Don put down his real (Dick’s) age on the info, which was younger than the real Don Draper’s age, and stuff like that.

    And although Don might have been on the hook for providing fraudulent info to the Feds, if he’d turned himself in, I’m assuming he would have avoided prosecution for that.

  30. #27 re: “Exactly why has Glen picked Sally to hang around with? Creeepy.”

    Well Betty is a babe and then some (or at least as how she’s portrayed by the Mad Men crew) and Sally (as daughter of Betty and Don) hit the lottery in the gene pool, so I’d give props to creepy Glenn for taking the big picture on this one.

  31. #4 berkowit28

    I do believe at one point in MW’s DVD commentary he said just that, that he doesn’t believe people change, ultimately, at their core. I do think, connecting to the theme of this thread, that he probably feels that people can adapt to their challenges to a degree, which is why the characters do achieve hard-won victories on occasion, and even sometimes alter their circumstances, the most obvious being Dick’s escape from his childhood via Don Draper.

    Whether or not we can assume that that ability to adapt will lead to evolution is the big question. Don was presented with a true opportunity to evolve through Faye and rejected it. I think that we, as viewers, have an emotional investment in seeing the characters evolve as well as thrive, to become better people. Especially in the case of Don. It’s not enough to see him succeed in business, as he will most inevitably do. We want him to be less destructive to himself and to others. But, as #8 Dean points out, the universe of Mad Men does not have a moral dimension. Good people can triumph doing bad things; bad people are capable of achieving good things. We may want characters to progress but there’s no guarantee that they will–Peggy, as talented as she is, may never achieve the kind of success that Don has because of the sexism in the culture. As Dean says, I think we are all over the place as to what we both want and expect of the characters, and Tomorrowland is polarizing because of it.

  32. The extra pay wouldn’t have been much as Don was leaving the service almost immediately (and they didn’t exactly pay a lot even to officer’s in those days). Maybe a few hundred dollars.

    And yes, if the feds came to him about it (if they hadn’t withdrawn the applications), I’m thinking he would be between a rock and a hard place. Fake it, with the chance of prison time, or admit it and possibly be ran out of town on a rail.

  33. I don’t get this thing I keep seeing that Bert Cooper’s name would be removed from the agency if he retired, and isn’t it lucky Pete’s name also starts with a C. Do advertising firms do that? Law firms certainly don’t, founding partners’ names stay long after their deaths. But maybe advertising is different?

  34. #25. Yes. His secretary should have been fired for this with no excuses.

    Even if Don was really “Don” his secretary couldn’t have filled in the blanks. This is one of the reasons I think Megan is subversive in some way. Back then there was no way a civilian could have gathered enough information on another person’s background to complete their security clearance paperwork.

  35. #30 Spike: Well said. And I’d like to ad that as we watch, we bring ourselves into the show as well. It’s the Heisenberg principle in action, only for TV. In fact there is the STORY, and then there is the story for and to each of us. We see Don, Roger, Peggy, Pete, Faye, Megan, Betty…and we see ourselves, or we see other people we’ve know. Don may be the ex-husband or boyfriend, Peggy may be the sister or girlfriend, we may think we are Don or Pete, Faye or Megan (or at least see ourselves in them), and therefore symphathize with them and their circumstances or think poorly of them because they don’t overcome (in fact like us or unlike us). The story is both the same for all of us….and different to all of us.

  36. #32 They usually keep the names of departed partners, in both law firms and ad agencies. Depending upon how prestigious the new partner is they may or may not add the name to the letterhead.

    In the 60’s Richard Nixon joined the prestigous NY law firm of Mudge, Rose, Guthrie and Mitchell, and they immediately added Nixon’s name to the front… Nixon, Mudge, Rose and Mitchell. They kept Nixon’s name, even after he had left firm to become President. Then they expunged his name (and Mitchell’s too!) after Nixon resigned in disgrace and Mitchell went to prison.

    In the 80s I happened to be doing business with the firm and mentioned Nixon’s prior affiliation and they looked at me like they’d never heard of him!

  37. I would have to break out my dad’s old 50s version of the “Manual for Courts Martial,” and not my 1984 version [around the time I last tried a court-martial] if I were to deal with all the ‘could Don be prosecuted?’ talk, but I don’t think that is productive in understanding where the series stands after four seasons. I think, instead, that Matt’s analogy to Darwinism is apt, and that MM, like life itsownself, isn’t necessarily linear; randomness has its place. The Gene Pool [love that pun!] expects nothing less. Don, while not exactly jumping the shark, is taking a chance, leaping into the pool, inspired by the strange chain of events that put him and toothy Megan Von Traap in sunny California with an engagement ring, the kids’ biology talk, a spilled HoJo milkshake, and Megan’s last clean dirndl. Are there any better reasons to think the Fates want our protagonist to take (“again,” per soothsayer Peggy) another wife?

  38. Total digression, but is Sally’s hair showing roots? Sometimes when kids get older their blonde fades into light brown. Thus, roots.

    Just asking.

  39. #32. I agree. A new firm with an old respected name on their shingle isn’t going to remove it unless they have to. Cooper’s name would stay.

  40. #36. I asked because it is something that seemed to be very important to the character of Don, and from what I remembered he wasn’t actually a deserter. His deserter problem was enough to give to give the character panic attacks and change some previous decisions, and I couldn’t make heads or tails of why it existed to begin with.

    I agree with you that “real life” rules don’t weigh in on where the character is going. Occasionally, just once in a blue moon, a writer will pick up on something you don’t expect. Like maybe a 1965 UCMJ or Manual for Courts Martial.

    Nah. probably not.

  41. #39 AdGirl re: “I agree with you that “real life” rules don’t weigh in on where the character is going.”

    Except in this instance, it is very important (to me, at least) if Don tells Megan of his situation before they marry. If that wasn’t hanging over their heads, then worst case, for Megan, is that Don resorts to his philandering ways, the marriage ends, Megan gets a huge settlement and ends up running the first bi-lingual Day Care center in Greenwich CT, where kids can spill their drinks without fear of retribution.

    But if Don ends up disgraced and/or in prison then Megan is s.o.l. I think it’s very important (to the character’s motivations) how Don handles this and how Megan reacts.

  42. This season Peggy has been empowered; she can remain working with Don or move on. She has developed skills that include working for tough demanding boss.He has humiliated her in ways that could have broken a lesser person. She has become a competent copywriter.
    Remember! Peggy Olson would still have remained in the secretarial pool under Joan’s thumb if it were not for Freddy Rumsen. It was as important to her as Dick Whitman becoming Don Draper was.
    Dick Whitman and Peggy Olson are two hardscrabble people. They are the Ameican Dream of rising above their station in life.
    #12, Ann you are right on! Draper knows in his gut that Peggy must move on although his brain will deny this. I hope that Season 5 will explore this.

  43. Maybe someone can straighten me out on this. When “Don Draper” came home from Korea (really Dick Whitman), weren’t people waiting for him? His parents, family members, college buddies, and so on? How did “Don” avoid them all? How could “Don” have basically dropped off the face of the earth for all of them? Could Anna have fended off every aunt, uncle, cousin, and friend of the real Don?

  44. #1 Re. “I don’t want to ride an elephant – I want to fly a jet!” I grew up in Anaheim in the 60’s, so Disneyland was a backdrop to my childhood (you could see the Matterhorn from our backyard on clear days, and the fireworks every night). For anyone who might *not* know, the Dumbo ride and the Jets ride were similar, but the Jets were faster, and much higher off the ground and much scarier. Also, the elephant/Dumbo ride was in Fantasyland, not Tomorrowland; I like that layer to the quote.

  45. #42: Keep in mind that Anna herself didn’t know what happened to her husband for a long time. I don’t know how many years passed between the time that he disappeared and the time that she tracked down Dick at the car dealership. But I do recall she said to him, “You’re a hard man to find,” so it appears she had been looking for leads for a quite a while.

    Once she found out the real truth, I’d imagine it was fairly easy for her to tell a lie. She probably just told people that Don had been MIA and then a military official finally contacted her to tell her he had died. She was officially the next-of-kin, and no one she knew would ask her to see the death certificate.

  46. “Ken Cosgrove, by refusing to reach out to his future father-in-law to help get business from Dow, suggests that he is the most highly evolved of the characters portrayed in the episode.”

    Ken’s refusal, to me, suggests that he’s all about self-preservation and personal comfort, and couldn’t care less about the survival of the agency.

    Ken pointed out that he isn’t like Pete Campbell.

    Initially, this made me recall how Pete brought in the Clearasil account, as Season Three closed, when he (& Trudy) sought her father’s assistance. Then, this season, he dumped his father-in-law’s Clearasil account, because of the conflict with Ponds.

    Then, I thought back to Season Two, when SC was trying to grab the American Airlines account.

    At first, Pete spurned Duck’s request to assist that effort, since Pete’s father had died in a recent American Airlines crash. Ultimately, he helped Duck and met with the American guy. As things turned out, SC didn’t land the American account, but it wasn’t due to anything that Pete did or didn’t do. I think that Duck even mentioned how Pete had gone way beyond the call of duty.

    Ken may handle (and be responsible for) 30% of SCDP’s clients and business, but he is proving himself unwilling to move out of his personal zone of comfort, when it comes to helping the agency to grow and thrive.

    Given that, I would hardly consider Ken to be “evolved”.

    “Self-interested,” yes – but not “evolved”.

  47. Thanks, Mad Chick. It seems to me that “Don” (really Dick) did tremendous harm to lots of people. Can you imagine being the real Don’s parents (the parents of a college-educated Army officer) and having your son just disappear after being discharged from the Army? This seems to me to be one of the worst things that Dick Whitman did–yet it’s never really dealt with on the show. And neither is the pain that Anna caused to the Draper family by covering up for “Don.”

  48. #5 Tilden, the biggest difference between Don Draper and Fred MacMurray’s character is that Don is single. He has not been having an illicit affair with Megan. He does not stash her in an apartment, nor give her grounds to commit suicide. They had sex — at her instigation — but otherwise it’s apples and oranges. Also remember that in the movie, Shirley McLaine ends up with Jack Lemmon.

    As for how Peggy will make it, this will happen one of two ways. 1) She will marry a client, a la Mary Wells Lawrence, who will create an agency around her. 2) She will leave SCDP and become a partner elsewhere. Her success most likely will not come at SCDP unless Don promotes her.

  49. Re the real Don Draper’s family – as far as I can remember, there has never been any mention of any parents, siblings, aunts, uncles etc., at all, either by Anna or her sister (who Don D originally wanted to marry until she married someone else first, so he “settled” for Anna with her limp.) So there may have been no one else to mourn the real man – and Anna wasn’t all that broken up, just annoyed that he hadn’t come home after discharge to her.

    Both men would have been entitled to basic benefits but we have no indication that Dick/Don ever took advantage of them. At this point we are now about 14 years after Dick becomes Don and the military is busy gearing up for the little conflict in southeast Asia. A good lawyer could quietly broker a deal with the US Army (pro bono advertising work?) and ahefty fine to clear the matter up with nary a ripple. Then NO ONE would have any leverage over him.

  50. #45 SmilerG
    I think Ken is the most evolved. Ken is self interested and behaves in his own interest. He is refreshing in his self awareness. As long as he truly continues to act in his self interest he is more evolved than the often self-delusional partners. Much of their unhappiness seems to stem from not knowing what is in their interest.

    #14 DavidOglivy
    “Don/Roger/Bert/Lane cooked up a scheme that was almost as unethical in order to start their new agency”

    In Darwinism “unethical” is meaningless. In advertising (and law for that matter) it’s what you call someone who’s broken no laws but does not act in your interest.

    When you consider Lane about to be flung off to India and firm sold for a handful of shekels what those men did was heroic in it’s pure unemotional self-interest.

  51. A couple of weeks ago we all had a lively discussion of the security clearance issue. Apparently people who did not follow that and also never filled out the paper work for a background check while the FBI was doing those have no clue about the process. Unfortunately a major problem we have in these discussions is the fact that holding any level of security clearance is itself a secret. No sane person will confirm or deny having held a clearance. With that disclaimer what I can share is that from 1959 until 1970 I administered a department where most employees needed clearance.

    Please remember that we have to respect Mad Men Logic, which differs from history. Closer to the way security clearance is the feature film “Above and Beyond” about training the B-29 crews which dropped both “Big Ones” to end WWII.

    When a contractor, such as NAA, needed people cleared they sent the request to DoD. A notice would be sent to each individual to make an appointment with an FBI field office. The person needing the clearance would go to that office, along with ID, such as a passport, with a SS card.

    The first step, after checking the ID, would be for an FBI technician to roll two full sets of finger prints. After that the applicant would sit at a desk while being observed to fill in the form, which was several pages. Once the form was completed, the applicant’s signature was witnessed and notarized, making it a sworn affidavit.

    Before field agents started asking questions the finger print department would run the prints. Since putatively Don Draper was a decorated US Army Lt, the starting point would be Lt Drapers prints taken by the DoD or Army, a copy of which were on file with the FBI. That comparison would be done within a day of the application reaching FBI headquarters.

    The second the two sets of prints fail to match, the investigation became a criminal case. Had the prints matched, the FBI still would have run them looking for a criminal history. With the failure of the original match they would search the entire print collection. They would have found a match with Pvt Dick Whitman, who the Army considered dead.

    The FBI never disclosed reports until an investigation was completed and reviewed by several levels of FBI supervisors. Therefore nobody, including Pete’s friend, would have know how the investigation was progressing. Dropping the NAA account would not have sidetracked the investigation.

    Now the investigation would be more directed, since to the FBI Dick Whitman was a potential spy and at the very least committed perjury. In 1965 Don/Dick’s legal woes would be the perjury and not the desertion. Betty committed obstruction of justice when she lied to the FBI agents.

    Could the US Attorney make a case against Betty? Perhaps not, but she would have been arrested along with Don/Dick. The case against Don/Dick would be very solid, but to ensure that probably Betty would be offered a plea deal. Remember, she was no longer married to Don/Dick when she lied to the FBI, so her testimony could be compelled.

    It is very hard to go back in time to guess the outcome for Don/Dick. He might have pled guilty to spare Betty standing trial, since Don/Dick had no viable defense. There would have been no good outcome for an actual Don/Dick in those days when keeping defense secrets was so vital.

    Fortunately there is Mad Men Logic so Betty gets to move to Rye (a fitting place for Don considering his favorite drink) and Don gets to become engaged to Megan.

    Still, we hardly know what the future holds. MW is currently quoted as saying deals for Season Five are not set. When contract talks dragged on between Seasons 2 and 3 the eventual contracts were for Seasons 3 and 4. Given the success of Season Four it should be a cinch, but it is called “Show Business” for a reason. As Lance says, “Costs must be contained!”

    We all hope for the best.

  52. Thanks Carroll for the real scoop. Fascinating!

  53. I believe the clause which most applies to Dick — at least in the current UCMJ (code of military justice) — is “Fraudulent separation” meaning, for example, obtaining a discharge under false pretenses. That certainly describes what Don did. He pretended to be a short-timer in order to get the hell out of Korea and the Army. I’ve always assumed that the idea of using his new identity to avoid returning to his grim family life came to him later on as he recuperated from his burns in the military hospital.

    BTW, I tried to write a BoK guest article about this subject but the TV/media relations person at the Pentagon has himself been MIA. I did talk to him once and he said he’d get back to me but he hasn’t. Too bad, it’s clearly a topic some of us would like to explore.

  54. Don’t partners have to buy their way in? Or at least throw in a few bob when necessary? Peggy doesn’t have the deep pockets the others have (hello, institutional sexism).

    Dow, though…that could create an interesting dilemma for Peggy, if that relationship with SCDP happens. They made Agent Orange; they were a focus of antiwar protests, and Abe and the rest of her crowd will be all over that. Also, ’66 is when second-wave feminism first started to form, from women who were involved in the civil rights movement who were tired of being treated like doormats by the men. Hmmm…

  55. If Don is really smart and foward-thinking, he’ll wait a few years then publicize his status as a deserter.

    When the flower children appear on the scene, Don will be able to convince clients that, as a deserter, he’s in tune with the vibe of all those anti-war college kids in the 18-34 demographic.

    I can’t wait for 1967 to see Don bust out a Fu Manchu moustache. Well, okay, he might not go that far but by the end of the ’60s, even buttoned-down businessmen were rocking the long sideburns and groovy neckties and turtle-necks. That should be a scream, eh?

  56. Exactly why has Glen picked Sally to hang around with? Creeepy.

    For one thing, they’re both kids with divorced parents, which was far rarer in the ’60s than it is today; that alone is enough to give them a bond. For another, they’re both seeing “professional help” (and Glenn seems to be coaching Sally on what answers to give), so Sally probably appreciates somebody who understands her problems and doesn’t judge her. Misery loves company.

  57. Don was Fred MacMurray when he was married to Mrs Francis. Did Pete pay into the partnership? Or was he rewarded with it, for bringing over his $8 million bag of goodies to the new agency? Like Nixon’s road to 1600 Pennsylvania, Peggy’s route to the partnership can be had by walking over a number of carcasses. Bert is out. Roger w/o Lucky Strike—-forget it. Kenny can someday tire of working in a company that has a real hand-to-mouth feel or become exasperated by some other fashion. Lane could have a stroke, etc. I can not stress enough the importance of MM starting with Peggy’s arrival. The circle will be completed by her, not Don (even though MM is Don’s Dark Journey). Peggy is Don with more obstacles thrown in. She is the most compelling character, with so many angles from which to play her from. Like Seinfeld said; “no matter how much we love them, children are ultimately here to replace us. What’s the first word they laearn? Not momma or dadda, its bye-bye”. Peggy is Don’s figurative child, his creation. God bless the child that’s……………………………

  58. L-E-A-R-N. Yikes.

  59. Well, in keeping with the Darwinian theme…

    The song Megan sang to the kids in California was il était un petit navire, a traditional French song popular in Quebec. The song is about a boat that never sailed before which goes out to sea, but the crew didn’t plan properly are are without food. So they decide to eat the youngest crew member. The unfortunate soul prays for a miracle, which comes when fish suddenly jump onto the ship.


    Here are the translated lyrics:

    There was a little ship
    That had never sailed

    Oh eh oh eh oh eh mate
    Mate sail onto the sea
    Oh eh oh eh oh eh mate
    Mate sail onto the sea

    It began a long travel
    On the Mediterranean Sea

    After five or six weeks
    The food ran short

    They drew straws
    To know who would be eaten

    It fell to the youngest
    Though he wasn’t very fat

    They tried to find the way
    The poor child would be cooked

    One wanted him fried
    Another wanted him cooked

    While they were discussing it
    He climbed up the main topsail

    He prayed to the heavens
    Questioning the infinity

    O holy Virgin, o, my lady
    Forbid them to eat me

    At once, a great miracle
    Was performed for the child

    Small fishes soon jumped by thousands
    into the ship

    They were gathered, they were fried
    And the little ship’s boy was saved.

  60. #56 I would add that Glen has grown out of his initial creepiness. Note that he knocked on Sally’s bedroom door and asked if she was decent. No more walking in on ladies while they’re using the restroom. He’s evolved.

    #59 Awesome! Les chansons Quebecoises are so freaking creepy.

    Slightly OT but maybe interesting: Matt nailed the significance of the brand name Topaz. Before reading this post, I was pondering what it might mean, and I remembered the play ‘Topaze’ by Marcel Pagnol. (Thanks, high school!) If I remember correctly, it’s about an idealistic teacher who tells his pupils that the key to success is honesty. He loses his job and finds work as a secretary. He realizes he’s smarter than his boss and eventually outmaneuvers and replaces him by abandoning his own code of ethics.

  61. One more thing. I think Megan says to the Draper kids, “Bonne nuit, les animaux.” Good night, animals.

    Correct me if I misheard that one.

  62. # 59 : You’re absolutely right, and I agree that “il était un petit navire” is a pretty sordid song. Being French, I had to learn the song in primary school (or was it in kindergarten ? I don’t remember), and I remember being litteraly creeped out by the lyrics.

    # 61 : That’s correct. Plus, when she phones her mother, she says “Mum ? It’s me. I got news, put also daddy on the phone.” (I don’t remember exactly but it was something approaching)

    Anway, I have to say this blog is absolutely fantastic 🙂 I could spend hours reading to every articles/debates/thoughts ! It’s all very interesting, and it helps the pain of having to wait a year to watch the new season of what probably became my favorite show ever.

  63. the last scene he was looking “out of” the window of that crappy apartment with fear to that stupid Sonny and Cher song…now go back one year..the last scence of the finale last season he was looking “into” the same apartment with hope to that great Roy Orbison song…What a difference..

  64. # 59 Anna + Dick – Thanks so much for the translation
    to #61 Dianna

    “.. I think Megan says to the Draper kids, “Bonne nuit, les animaux.” Good night, animals.”

    That’s what I heard too but I’m not sure – …. Don also called them roosters.

    Did you notice how Don flopped on the bed, arms at his side!

    I always feel relieved when Don is with the kids.

    He has evolved from when he was un petit animal”- poor Betty has not.

  65. # 33 tonya – Re: Pete Campbell getting the “C” in SCDP. That’s basically the same deal Ted Chaough offered him. 😉

    # 46 SmilerG Says: I see your point. But I still tend to agree with #50 Galapagos Bill regarding Ken.

    #64 Galapagos Bill
    Did you notice how Don flopped on the bed, arms at his side!

    Just to put a fine point on it, the exact line Bobby has about evolution is how snakes used to have legs but lost them. Hmmmm

  66. Not that MW likes complexity, ambiguity or anything but…is Don the fish that flops into the boat to feed to save the poor little French speaking children?

  67. GB, that does fit! Though the cannibalism imagery makes me a bit squeamish (BUT they did put the song in there).

    59 Anna + Dick 1964 – Wow indeed. It’s interesting how this is the 2nd episode to include a “kids” song with serious/dark lyrics (“Rock Candy Mountain” in “The Summer Man”)

  68. #10 Matt, I hope we never lose your stretchy observations. They amuse me, make me think, and — truth to tell — I often think the same things but don’t say so! Cool. But not as cool as when you come up with something like this below. I never in a million years would have thought of it, but in some weird way it makes sense, too. Nice.

    “…the two shots of Don leaning forward and lost in thought reminded me of the apes in 2001′s “Dawn of Man” sequence gazing ahead expectantly at nothing in particular the night the monolith arrives.”

  69. #66, didn’t Don also offer to “throw (the kids) a herring” when he jumped in the pool? Lots of fish in this episode!

  70. But — kids love creepy stuff — that song is 100% age appropriate and not so different from the many songs I learned in camp — Great Green Globs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts, to name one.

    Thanks for the translation — I am tickled by the song!

  71. Great post, Matt. (Again!)

    You know I gotta argue with it, though:

    Peggy landed Topaz. But Megan got a diamond.

    A diamond, huh? That’s a good thing?

    To people born in the part of the world I was (East Africa), diamonds mean something other than everlasting love. They mean death: more precisely, murder. Someone, at least one person, probably died for that thing on your hand.

    In the case of what Megan now wears on hers, isn’t this a fairly exact description of the chain of events that involved her own engagement ring?

    Topaz, by contrast, is lovely. Yes, it’s cheaper: but it comes in a whole range of colors (which can go with anything) and ranges of clarity. (Lemon topaz is my current favorite.) Far as I know, no one has ever gone to war, employed armies of children and per-adolescents, or murdered the equivalent of whole cities of people, over this humble stone.

    Of course, in 1965 no one has heard of blood diamonds. Megan feels singled out in her great good fortune; Peggy feels overlooked in the lack of attention paid to her effort. Each woman is justified in feeling these things.

    But the translator of all things is time. Time will tell the story on this one as well; and I for one can’t wait to see it.

  72. #71 Anne B: Regarding a topaz vs. a diamond —- I don’t think Peggy sees it your way either literally or figuratively 😉

    But your comment reminded of a great Walter Houston (Howard) speech from The Treasure of the Sierre Madre:

    Howard: Say, answer me this one, will you? Why is gold worth some twenty bucks an ounce?

    Flophouse Bum: I don’t know. Because it’s scarce.

    Howard: A thousand men, say, go searchin’ for gold. After six months, one of them’s lucky: one out of a thousand. His find represents not only his own labor, but that of nine hundred and ninety-nine others to boot. That’s six thousand months, five hundred years, scramblin’ over a mountain, goin’ hungry and thirsty. An ounce of gold, mister, is worth what it is because of the human labor that went into the findin’ and the gettin’ of it.

    Flophouse Bum: I never thought of it just like that.

    Howard: Well, there’s no other explanation, mister. Gold itself ain’t good for nothing except making jewelry with and gold teeth.

  73. Well, we know that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Jessica Pare said in a recent interview that the ring is gorgeous – about 1 1/2 carats. How did Don afford this? I want to know more about the real Don.

    Evolution was a major theme in The Sopranos.

    I’ve been re-watching episodes on demand, and I think Joan’s baby may be Greg’s. She may have gone into the doctor’s office and he (I guess the doctor wasn’t a woman) may have told her she was further along than she had thought. To Roger, “We averted a tragedy.” Roger or Greg – what a case for evolution.

  74. Matt, this is a fantastic article! Really creative and insightful.

  75. # 50 . I fully concur. When you are by yourself, and there is no one else, what exactly is ethical behavior?

  76. #72, Matt:

    I love the dialogue. That’s perfect.

    Not to mention ironic, in light of the more recent uses of some of those old mines in Mexico:

    #75, Lonesome Georgem:

    You may have just asked the best question anyone ever has, on this board. Well done.

  77. I haven’t read all the entries and I apologize if I’m repeating someone else’s observation, but I thought that seeing Don stop and think for a while and then deciding to”take the plunge” into the pool with Megan was a wonderful visual metaphor–MM loves to give us those in Mad Men. But, it wasn’t just a plunge he took, but a joyful, child-like tucked-knees plunge with a lot of exuberance. And of course everyone got wet, which is what that is designed to do, but that was telling too. Because what Don has decided to do by taking the metaphorical plunge with Megan will affect his whole clan. Lovely little bit of storytelling.

  78. Under common law, an indictment of criminal fraud requires the state to prove 1 )that the indicted party make a representation that 2) was false and 3) material in some way; that this representation was made by the defendant with 4) knowledge of its falsity or a reckless disregard for its truth or falsity; that the defendant had 5) an intent that the representation be acted upon when (6) the hearer who 7) had a right to the truth was ignorant of its falsity and 8) the hearer’s relied on its truth; and that 9) the hearer’s consequent and proximate injury was caused as a result.

    There are alao civil laws against fraud.

    In a strict legal sense, every check Don has ever signed, every lease he has ever entered into, every mortgage he has ever assumed, and every paycheck he has ever cashed as “Don Draper” therefore represents an indictable count of fraud. His Social Security account (assuming he has one — not everyone did), his arrest for drunk driving, his marriage registration, and his divorce decree are all legally null and void. He has represented himself as ‘Don Draper” when he is not Don Draper.He is a fraud.

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