Don’s Gone – Meet Dick

 Posted by on April 21, 2015 at 9:33 am  Mad Men, Season 1, Season 7
Apr 212015

To expand a little on a recent comment about New Business, it’s worth exploring the idea that, at this point in the story, Dick Whitman has replaced Don Draper in everything but name. As much as Don had supplanted Dick in 1960, Dick has done the same by 1970.


I’m sure going back over the previous six and a half seasons we could chart the course of this transition. Pete’s discovery of Don’s identity. Betty discovering the existence of Anna.  Giving up the North American Aviation account. Marriage to Megan. Adam.

However, by time we see Don making milkshakes (in the kitchen of The Castle, no less) and spinning yarns about old Uncle Mack (Such a character!), it’s clear that Dick Whitman is currently the Creative Director at SC&P.

Both of Don’s parents are now dead. Those would be Anna Draper and Bert Cooper. Dick’s parents were both gone before his 10th birthday.

What we’re seeing in the dense, if thus far uneven, final episodes of the series, is the completion of the transformation we’ve been witnessing since March 1960.  Don’s pursuit of the broken, albeit honest, Diana feels almost inevitable in hindsight.  It’s no mistake that their short relationship contained a dusting of equal parts sex, impulsiveness, prostitution, mystery and heartbreak.

You don’t have to be Freud (or Oedipus) to put all that together.

When you think back to the Don Draper we met in Season 1, it’s easy to see how deeply he’d buried Dick Whitman.

Question 1: Who’s the last woman on earth that Dick Whitman would marry? Betty Hofstadt.

Don, however, must marry Betty. To paraphrase Roger, Betty’s the other half of the top of the wedding cake. She’s essential to Don being Don.

Question 2: Who’s the woman Dick Whitman is most likely to pursue? Diana the waitress from Racine.

Question 3: What have we seen thrown at Don since Season 1 (besides vagina)? Money, starting with Bert’s $2,500 bonus in The Hobo Code. For a while it was all raises, mergers, signing bonses and guaranteed contracts.

I don’t think he paid Betty anything in the divorce, but we know Megan cost him a cool mil. Plus, um, all that shit in their apartment.

I’d bet Ginsberg’s other nipple this isn’t the last of Don’s money that going to fly out of his checkbook. Don accumulates money, but Dick, as Betty keenly observed, doesn’t understand it. He may well be broke by series end.

What I’m hoping to see in the final five episodes (**sniff**), is a functional, complete composite of Dick Whitman, living comfortably in Don’s skin. I’d love to see the pendulum stop swinging and come to rest peaceably in the middle.

Dick’s openness and simplicity processed through Don’s inquisitiveness, talent and understanding of human nature would be a potent combination, to say the least.

Imagine the Kodak pitch crossed with the Hershey meeting.

Dick Whitman is still searching for the place where he knows he is loved.

Good luck at your next meeting.


  101 Responses to “Don’s Gone – Meet Dick”

  1. Damn. I wish I’d written this.

  2. The theory I have had following the first episode of 2015 is that Don leaves NYC to essentially become Dick again and getting out of advertising. But that theory has one big problem: In the final episode of 2014 Don tries to convince Ted to stay because losing his role in advertising would be devastating – it was for Don when it happened to him and he notes the joy of writing tags again. Your article fleshes things out very well and also settles that conundrum – Don becomes Dick again but stays in advertising. He get’s to do what he loves.

    However, there is one question that remains. In 2015 (well 1970 on the show) Don is questioning how fulfilling advertising is and if that all there is. As Deborah observed in her episode recap for the The Forecast, we have not seen Don participate in the creating work in 2015. I would also note that he appears to be struggling to come up with a vision for the future for the company (something that would have been in his wheel house a five years ago I think – or even as recently as the merger to get Chevy).

    Can he remain in advertising and find that meaning? Probably not, but that’s probably true of almost all of us. Some of Don’s questions are typical of mid-life. We (i.e., those of us at mid-life) are probably all asking is that all there is and what does all of this (i.e. our lives) mean? I think most of us keep asking but come to a, hopefully happy, acceptance of our lives as they are and do the best we can to make our own meaning.

    Like Deborah – I wish I wrote this too! That’s probably true of all the articles posted on the site. Thanks for a wonderful read today. I think about this show a lot and this post really has me lots to reflect on. I appreciate everyone’s hard work on this site. All the best.

    • great read… I’ve often thought Don’s going to go back to being Dick at the end of the series. It might be too pat an ending…

      ps: this is the first time I’ve posted on any article on this site. Thanks for doing such a great job.

      • Or maybe he will just walk away and leave everything now that he knows his kids are ok… Remember in The Jet Set when Joy asked him to go away with her and her friends but IMHO the sight of Christian and his children stopped him???..Maybe now he can just start a new life somewhere searching for joy (not Joy) …and joy is so much better than happiness which is temporary…

        • I really don’t think he could leave his kids, even though he knows they’re ok, and even though they may have moved on from him. His kids are the only love in his life. I just don’t see him giving that up.

          • speaking of his kids…was reviewing season 7 p1, and feel like he is goimg to need to see stephanie…all throughout episode “the runaways” the overuse of don n her used word “family” to describe each other…w the reference to anna n burt parent figures ( brilliant), i think he’s going to need to join the family he knows as dick w the family he knows as don…morphing the sally/ bobby/ gene children w their “cousin” stephanie n her new baby…plus, i need to revisit what he says to sallly about turning into your parents…all the drink n sex that comes from his biological parentt (archie / prostitute) is dead, and w diana, he said goodbye to that part of himself…but the realness of who don/ dick is would connect his adoptive parents’ identity (open simplicity / inquisitive talent). he can fully realize who he is by bringing together all of his children…

          • He may not have to be the one to make that call. It’s no great leap to see the overall series as the process of Dick Whitman selling himself– not just to others as Don Draper, but also selling himself TO himself, in this new life, with the real Dick Whitman being as dead as the real Don Draper actually is– with advertising as the allegory for that process. But product lifecycles do end, eventually; and sooner or later, Don/Dick will run out of sales material… and out of reasons to sell it.

          • You can say what you will about Don’s parenting – but there is a genuine love he has for his children, and Dick is very aware of this!

  3. B. Cooper one of the many things I really like about this is how you don’t throw out the Don side of the ledger but support it right alongside Dick’s. It would be wrong to conclude simply that this guy has to become Dick for there to be a successful transformation, future, whatever. It would be way too easy to say that the moral of the MM story is “just be yourself” because who the heck is that? Like life, MM does not take shortcuts and we viewers are the better for it.

    Each of us is the accumulation of the experiences, relationships and choices we make along the way (and let’s not forget the good ol’ gene pool). Each of us remake ourselves over time. The Peggy of 1970 bears little resemblance to the Peggy of 1960 too its jus that hers was a more traditional transition.

    The cool thing about the whole Don-Dick approach to the evolution of identity thing is that it allows us to see what happens when an entire identity is intentionally and artificially constructed and then place it in a complex and fast paced environment. Yes we all become different people to a greater or lesser extent over time but this approach lets us be witness to the points along the journey when the artificial identity called Don can’t keep the external or internal plates spinning anymore. The identities bump into each other (sometimes literally like Adam or the guy recognizing Dick on the train). We witness the whole thing starting to break down as the driving force of the Don-Dick transformation and arguably MM itself. As you say by 1970 Dick is as much a part of the story as Don and there is no way to divorce the two. The Don identity has been in place as long as or longer than the Dick identity. They are each a part of the canvas and they need each other.

    The trick now is how does the rational, problem solving Don part come to grips with the ancient, subconscious Dick part in a way that is sustainable. The Don of 1960 uses all his energy to suppress Dick and can only move forward. Slowly we have seen Don be forced to allow the Dick part to come to the surface. You’re right, Dick is not as good an ad man as Don but he is not slick but he is genuine and doesn’t look for easy answers. It is by getting in touch with the Dick side of his identity and becoming more fully himself that Don becomes a better father and will finally build other lasting relationships. Unless we flash forward we won’t get to see the full transformation but there is time enough for some clues to show us the path forward.

    • Transformation. That’s the ticket!

      Something is certainly happening with Don, but where will it ultimately lead? Some suggest California, perhaps to build and sell custom cars. He has stated that if he leaves the agency, it won’t be to do advertising. Does the Golden State beckon him? Quite possibly, but not to deal in hotrods.

      If he is experiencing some kind of transformation and he does head West, Don/Dick would be perfectly situated to “sell” the most talked about “product” of the 1970s: ME!

      That decade was known as the Me Generation and California was the epicenter for many motivational/self-improvement/self-awareness groups, organizations and programs. We know that Don doesn’t “sell advertising,” he “sells products.” And in the Me Generation, there wasn’t a bigger product line to be sold than the notion that something important is missing in your life and we can help you look for it.

      No, he won’t go to California and become a messiah or a guru or a knock off of R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, but he could very well connect with some group that’s promoting the possibility of transformation, to seekers of the average, ordinary sort. Just everyday people who managed to survive the 1940s/1950s/1960s and find themselves in the 1970s trying to deal with all the existential questions, emptiness, angst that many people were attempting to dance with back then.

      Too cosmic for Don/Dick? Perhaps, but we’re definitely seeing a shift with him, beyond consumer products and ad campaigns. I have no doubt that given his life experiences and having experienced a profound personal transformation, he could sell the hell outta the ultimate “new and improved!”

  4. As for all the bellyachers who complained about introducing Diane the Waitress into Don’s life as the series winds down… all makes sense if you think of him as Dick, not Don. Thank you, B. Cooper for a wonderful post.

    Between the brilliant writing *for* Mad Men and the talented people who then write *about* it….I fear my brain cells will begin to decrease after May 17. It’s been a great ride.

    • I was saying that same thing in Season 3 when he was seeing Suzanne the schoolteacher. Despite all the bellyaching then, Suzanne was a good fit for Dick and he only got to enjoy the “beginning” of things with her because Betty found the box. MW may have introduced Diana to reinforce the concept of Dick needing a very different type of woman than Don for him to be happy. Perhaps we’ll see Suzanne again – or someone similar – by series end. I really want a happily ever after for Dick Whitman.

    • it was such a great post, i agree!! ps after episode “forecast” the entire diana element makes perfect sense, and i appreciate the diana character in an entirely new way…the don / dick morph idea further solidified ideas that i was grasping at

  5. Don understands money as a tool. When Ted and Peggy were mutually besotted and looking to spend twice-the-budget money on a St. Joesph’s ad, Don tried to quash it (what a tool). When Betty or Megan hits him up for money he uses it to control – asks what happened to the last handout.

    He understands money as a way to solve “problems”. 5G to Adam, a sawbuck to salve Hofstadt Sr’s irritation, a Benjie at Christmas to avoid facing his secretary with whom he broke “his rules”, a pocketful to Midge to escape her hovel.

    He is sometimes impulsively charitable. When a polaroid of Midge and her beat-friend revealed their mutual love, Don countersigned his bonus check to Midge and bowed out. When he drove Suzanne’s epileptic brother to another job, he complied with his request to drop him off and gives him money.

    Yet, Betty is right – Don doesn’t understand money – not like Daddy did, as a means to practical, everyday, mudane ends. Betty got to deal with those (under a “budget” – another control device).

    He is unmoored enough to feel he should resist his agent’s entreaties to purchase. If Weiner chooses to make it an issue, we will see Don in a hotel or a furnished apartment (but not the Waverly pad). I rather doubt it, since our time is running short.

    Little money will fly away, since his moral balance needs reconciling a lot more than his bank balance.

    • plus..w people whom he truly values, he wants to give of himself..again i reference stephanie,,,megan wrote her a check for 1000$ but don wanted to see n care for her…not send her off w pay out

  6. At what point did Dick become essentially submerged in deference to Don?

    It seems he was always Dick with Anna – after she finally broke him down in his apartment, when he told her he would marry Betty, when he visited her bungalow post-Jet-Set-Joy.

    When Stepanie called him “Don” long-distance he didn’t correct her – but that was to acknowledge that she drawled it as a first-time-ever for her.

    By the time he hired himself at Sterling-Cooper, was Dick in the background. And what happened at SC between furs and the Lucky-Strike crisis?

    • Dick was always there but Don had to suppress his past for lots of good reasons at the time including legal reasons but certainly to hold onto his job and Betty. He was also (is still?) ashamed of his past so that not only did he need to cling to the Don persona, he preferred it. But it becomes so clearly exhausting to hold up the whole edifice that we literally see the change on his countenance when he visits California and Anna in S2. Remember Dick checking out the hot rods – like a kid again. Honestly this only works because of JH’s amazing portrayal – c’mon Emmy!

      Anyway the cool part about this ending to the series is that Don no longer has anything to protect or anything to fear. Legally id guess he says Don but has few if any reasons to run from/suppress the Dick persona now.

      The idea of losing everything in order to gain yourself, enlightenment, meaning etc. is a common ingredient of many a religion, myth and good story. I think it is in Faulkner’s story (maybe The Bear?) where the hero Ike loses his compass, and all the other material trappings deep in the woods before the mythical creature will reveal itself to him. Strip away the lies, the artifice, status, trappings and good things will come.

      • I have often thought that to be nominated for an Emmy is plenty of honor. When Weiner and team got 3 out of 5 nominations for best script – that was itself a far greater honor than a single “win”.

        Still, I’d love to see Hamm take home the hardware – not necessarily for the one episode he submits but for the 91 others.

        Dick in California, 1962-ish, with his hair blowing in the wind in that fab convertible – that was very nice to see. He’d shed the Don persona he’d worn with the Jet Setters. He was very guarded in that setting. Even “sophisticated” Don was taken aback by the only (?) sexually-aggressive woman he’d had (since his under-the-covers-deflowering as a teen), her casual familiarity with “Willie” her father, and his apparently omnivorous sexual appetites. Even then, with Anna, the angst was very near the surface – he’s “looking at (his) life scratching to get in”.

        “Dick” in 1970 is so tangled up with regret and longing that seems like he’s still scratching.

        • Season 2 was and is still my prime connection with this amazing series. It is the first time we really see this other side of this individual and so much more. Alongside the wisdom of Anna and the west coast California sun it really sets up the Dick-Don dichotomy.

          I’m actually not in favor or against any single outcome to the show – I’m just thankful the whole thing existed. You know we have already seen everything we need to see and on a personal level it has already given me more than any other fiction on television series than I can imagine.

          All the same my vote is for a final big order of Emmys all around!

          • Hamm will get hos Emmy, as a goodbye present.
            Which is really some sort of diss, when you think about it.

            Wouldn’t it be great, if Don comes up with the “Do you know, me?” campaign for American Express? Did McCann have them as a client.
            It would be perfect.

    • I tend to think of the first 4 eps of Season 1 as exposition to the 5th (5G), where we meet Adam and learn the basic components of his childhood. Before then, Dick was long submerged underneath Don’s veneer, the way Don designed it.

      • I agree with this. Don had buried Dick several years before season one, successfully gone thru the looking glass with nary a peep from his Whitman past. Or, maybe it was the guy on the train? The one that called Dick by name, was that right before Adam found him? Maybe that was a foreboding, but regardless of train guy, the appearance of Adam is what broke the spell and thus began the slow decomposition of Don Draper. Adam’s existence and the fact that he found him in a city of that size through sheer luck (Adam’s finding a trade paper in the trash with Don’s photo) showed Dick/Don just how vulnerable he really is to exposure and that the past is never really gone. And when Adam killed himself as a direct result of Don’s rejection of him, that was another corpse in the real Don Draper’s grave. Come to think of it, since the real DD is in an Indiana grave marked with DW’s name, perhaps Adam is buried right next to him.

        • I believe the grave would be in a Pennsylvania coal town. (Do they ever mention the town by name?)

          I would think Adam would be buried in NYC. I would say a paupers grave, but there was that $5,000 he left to the SRO hotel, but the city took. But maybe they buried him in a paupers grave and pocketed the money be accuse he had no family to notice. 🙁

          Both people cut off from a proper resting place all because of Don. 🙁

          • In the flashback to when Adam saw Dick on the train, there was a train announcement saying they were pulling into Sunbury (or Dunbury or Bunbury, something like that).

            • The town is Sunbury PA. It’s on the Susquehanna River and is about 68 miles (on modern highways) NW of Hershey PA.

              Betty’s home turf in suburban Philadelphia, is 159 miles, to the SE.

        • Some kind of closure with Adam as the only member of Dick’s family to reach out and care would be appropriate for the end of the series – especially given the brutal last parting between the brothers. Don needs a link to the past to move on and especially with that particular part of his past.

      • I’m down with this assessment. But recall the sheer panic quickly overcome by Don’s smooth smoothness when Anna shows up at the car dealership? The terror at being found out was a constant companion for DD!

        • He also freaked out BIG TIME, at the Waverly apartment. He arrived to find Faye slipping a note under his door. Then two men appeared in the hallway that he assumed were Federal agents, there to arrest him for the false answers on the security clearance form that Allison had filled in.

          • Megan filled those papers.
            Allison had run out of there crying, long before.
            Unlike “Megan’.

    • i wonder if we will get a flashback to show the early connection n basis of WHY n HOW he n anna became family like…feels like the flashbacks w her thus far move from her showing up at car dealer to his announcement of betty engagement,,,ive always wanted mire detail on their earliest connections

  7. Loved this when you broached it on the earlier thread, still love it!

    Is there a way Don Draper can use his creative talent to express Dick Whitman’s experiences? There’s a contradiction in there. Advertising is a honeyed lie, as Don told Rachel right from the start, telling her that “love was created by guys like me as a way to sell yadda yadda yadda.” But he always found a truth within the lie, something that was true of himself and his feelings. (There’s also a paradox inside the contradiction, since Don was always falling in love, but that takes us beyond the subject.) Is there something positive he can find in his Dick past? He tried with the Hershey pitch, but no one would buy that.

    The only other time I can think of that Don remembered something sweet from his childhood was in Season One, when Bobby asked him about his (Don’s ) father, what he liked to eat, and Don told the story about the violet candies, the ones in the beautiful purple and silver wrapper. It was a lovely moment, the only good thing he could come up with about Archie Whitman, punctuated by Bobby’s “We have to find you a new daddy.” Is it accidental that a few seasons later we find that Peggy has those same violet candies as a good luck talisman she got from Don?

    I’m expecting one more visit from the ghost of Archibald Whitman, a sign that Don has somehow gotten over his shame and forgiven him.

    • MW has a,ways said Don is a writer. While he’s out that in the service of both his advertizing and life-it had to be lies.

      I had thought in season 7 we woukd see him leaving advertizing for film. And become a writer. A place to tell the true American stories. If the golden age of advertizing was the 60s, there was a kind of golden age in film in the seventies. An independent spirit. A truth telling that shattered the false Hollywood. Think how dated a Doris Day movie became in the space of just a few years?

      But it doesn’t seem like there’s time left for that. :/

      • “there was a kind of golden age in film in the seventies. An independent spirit. A truth telling that shattered the false Hollywood”

        *nods emphatically* That was the period when I became a film buff. And the show has a direct connection to it: Robert Towne, who wrote the screenplays to some of the emblematic films of the era (Chinatown, The Last Detail, Shampoo), is now a consulting producer on Mad Men.

      • What a brilliant observation about the golden age of film! I hope you are correct.

    • They did seem fond (a few times) of the “waking dream” starring young Dick, Archie, and stepmother-harridan. I don’t expect to see Don reconciling with a self-accepting, better future in the form of an accepting Papa Whitman – but would gladly welcome it

    • Very much agree with this thread. (BTW Recall that Archie also liked “ham” – hah!) With this daddy quote wee li’l Bobby also gets the line of the series IMO.

      • “I will spend the rest of my life, trying to hire you”, is the line of the series.
        It’s between the 2 people who matter to each other more than other people on MM.
        Dick Whitman would marry Margaret Olson in a minute.
        Margaret Olson would marry Dick Whitman in a New York minute.
        (Ode to Breakfast at Tiffany’s.)

        • We will not see Don romance Peggy, but….

          If he did make a play and Peggy bought in, it would be an old-fashioned courtship ( “(she’s) tried new-fashioned” ). She’d hold out – at first.

          The transformed Don (Dick) would go along with it. He’d lay down the romance so hard that Peggy would wan’t to give in – and he’d hold out.

          (quite a fantasy, HUH?)

          Now THERE’s a kernal for some fan fic.

        • I’ve been wracking my brain as to why Don didn’t go to California while he was on leave and start writing what would become a great 70s screenplay. (See my posts above)

          The only reason I can come up with was Don had to go back and make things right with Peggy.

          Maybe on the wish list: Don let’s go of SC and whatever money coming to him to go out to LA and meet with Daniel J Seigel (producer)

          And a Peggy takes over the Cali office from LOU! As Lou gets his butt kicked out for moonlighting on company time and his contract expires! 🙂

          Peggy: first woman creative director for SC, and out in LA where advertising and TV
          Starts surpassing New York…

          • If by “on leave” you mean between Episodes 612 and 704, he was (as he explained to Megan) trying to “fix it”.

            She turned that into a self-involved negative (as if he could fix it from LA).

            His pitch to Ted the Depressed was that he woudn’t like it on the Outside.

            Don’s an Ad Man. He doesn’t have a novel in the drawer or even a “Sterling’s Gold”. Remember too that (sometime around Summer Man and Faye) he tore out the journal he started.

            Peggy Goes to LA – that is the first plausible “ending” to her Mad Men arc I’ve seen for awhile. I’d love to see her fire Lou personally (a dish best served cold).

            On reflection, they must trust, or at least respect, Lou a lot to send him to LA essentially unsupervised. He could do some damage if he were so inclined. Perhaps McCann has a good feel for managing so many mediocre staffers – or for Lou himself. Still, he seems to be a creative director in a sales/account-man role. Seems odd.

            • A thought about Don’s journal. It was all about introspection and taking stock, yet he ripped those pages out of the spiral notebook to compose The Letter.

              This season, so far, seems to focus on introspection, reflection, looking deeper and transformation. If past is prologue, this should serve as a magnificent springboard for the end of the series.

            • No, I understood what happened in the show why Don stayed. I meant more of why MW didn’t have him go out to LA to fulfill *my* predictions of what Don should do! 🙂

              I disagree about Lou. Look at a Roger now. Dodging his secretary, going along with the black Irish thugs from McCann…his brief stint as a leader was really short.

              I think Lou was an extra appendage. Had some time left. No one wanted to be in LA, AND I don’t think Roger thinks much of, or has a vision of what the LA branch can be to them. (Neither does Lou)

              Roger is still a NY is the center of the universe guy. I think Lou was jettisoned…jmo

              I’m talking about a more integrated Don/Dick. Dick is the creative engine behind the Don facade. He’s becoming less interested in facades. He’s a writer and a story teller. Remember he once sad all good ads tell a story.

              Glo coat he wanted to make it like a movie, that people would stop and say what is this?

              A little OT but the 2500 word assignment made me chuckle a little bit. Remembering his journal V/O in The a Summer Man, ‘ I never wrote more than 500 words in my life not even in school. Ten paragraphs with 50 words each. God I was lazy. I wish I’d finished high school. Maybe everything would’ve been different…’

              Don ripped out that promising, truthful writing, and threw it away just as he proposed to Megan and threw away the more truthful and promising adult relationship with Faye.

              His journal was interesting! Who writes an interesting journal?

              Lots of people have stories in their drawer. Don has stories in his soul.

            • I think the reason MW didn’t have him go to California is because that is where Don goes to run away. When he originally brought up the idea of moving to CA with Megan, he was trying to run away from the shit his life had become in NYC. I think that him deciding to stay in NYC was him finally deciding to stop running away from his problems (even though he didn’t end up doing much about them in the first part of season 7). If they’d started the season with Don having moved to CA after all that, it would have completely undermined the growth he started showing at the end of In Care Of. That’s also why I’m going to be so disappointed if the show ends with Don going to California. I want him to find peace with his life where he is, not run away again to start over.

            • @MaryAnne I thought that too, but then he wasn’t really cleaning up his shit and was creating more shit in NY for the 1st half of the first half of s7!

              It’s not that I want him to go to California though. But I think a creative job in a truthful medium would be better for him! And there is just a brief window of time for that and it’s happening now and for a few more years…

              It’s also, if keeping with Don as a symbol for America, America turns to LA as it’s center much more so than Manhattan at this point…

              I don’t know! I also want him to stay with his kids! Can you be a movie maker and live in NY? Woody Allen has. Anyone else?

            • Yeah, he did create more shit in NY, but he also managed to reestablish himself in his company and begin to heal his rift with Sally so it wasn’t like he did nothing. He still doesn’t know quite what to do, but he’s trying. I do think he could be a screenwriter and stay in NY.

          • Don is one of the few characters not to have a side project. So he wouldn’t write the screenplay until after he retired.

  8. Does the fact that Dick is guilty of desertion and impersonation of an officer (and identity theft) play into the transformation? The guilt and fear Don carried with him up until he dumped Dr Faye and married Megan appears to have been buried deep. The guilt surfaced when Don met up with the soldier when Don & Megan visited Hawaii but I don’t recall it being much of a focal point since. Since MW delved into Vietnam this past Sunday, perhaps he will revisit the desertion issue and bring that to resolution. Until that is resolved, the Dick Whitman transformation is another fabrication.

    • I doubt the desertion issue will be resolved. I thought and was hoping we would see that issue come into focus in season 6 or at the start of season 7 at the latest. To adequately deal with it would take a good amount of time (at least half season and ideally spaced out over a couple of seasons). A few years back I was convinced that he would get charged and Henry, at the behest of Betty (he is still the father of her children), would use his political connections to get him a pardon.

      Right now, I don’t think there is enough episodes left to deal with that issue properly. My assumption is that story-line does not get wrapped up in a nice bow. In my mind there is only 2 ways they could deal with it: The series ends with 1) Don confessing or being charged and going to jail or 2) the charges come or are about to come and Don leaves NYC to escape them and essentially becomes Dick Whitman again. I just don’t see Matt Weiner ending the series like that.

      Anything else would be difficult to do in 4 episodes unless they do a time lapse segment of big events related to it over a period of a year or so. That’s my hunch but I have been wrong before. Maybe it will turn out that Don’s lighter/the soldier’s lighter become a MacGuffin as many speculated when it happened.

      • I too, don’t think it will be addressed, or consequences paid.

        If you take Don as a symbol for America, the dirty secrets of our true terrible past were coming forth in the sixties. Finally to our awareness.

        But we never paid for our sins.

        Eventually we moved on to 80s greed and Reagan’s America where it all could be swept under the rug vs progressive America. Polarized and odds. As we still are.

        We never solved any of our sins of the past. We never did our time. 🙁

        But, the hope is, for me, that Don comes out on the other side, the side that acknowledges Americas sins and tries to be better. So in that way we have a more integrated, aware and non-destructive Don.

        • I really like that analysis, Peggy Oh!

        • The questions you raise are the more interesting ones I think. We saw him his Greenwhich Village days being introspective but he seems to be at a much deeper level now. Maybe it will lead him to come “out on the other side, the side that acknowledges Americas sins and tries to be better. ”

          Always enjoy your posts Peggy Oh!

          • Thanks! I love reading the posts here! I was on another forum before I came here a few seasons ago, but it was over taken by the dumber and superficial stuff, and got very annoying. It also shut down conversation. Here, people expand on ideas as well as Deliver!

            It’s a pleasure I’m going to miss very much when the show is over!

            • “It’s a pleasure I’m going to miss very much when the show is over!”

              Agreed! I have loved feeling like I’m sitting at the smart kids’ table all these seasons as we have shared on BoK.

        • Peggy Oh!

          Amazing analysis!

        • When I think about America’s dirty secrets being revealed, I think of the seventies, not the sixties. That was the decade when you had Watergate, The Church Commission, and a whole bunch of other hearings and investigations.

  9. Perhaps the end of the series will be that Army MPs come to SCP for Don Draper with charges that he impersonated an officer after he was wounded (and the real Don Draper was killed beyond recognition), fraud and whatever else the Army can charge him with, he’s court-martialed and Dick Whitman winds up not on the Upper East Side, but in Leavenworth!

    • As I noted above, I don’t see that happening. But having said that… a number of people know Don’s secret: Betty, Megan, Pete, and Faye. In real life, that could easily happen as Megan and Faye are not that happy with Don and both Betty and Pete could have reason to turn on him if they so choose.

    • But what’s the statute of limitations on desertion? My guess is that, 20 years later, even if it were legally possible to prosecute Dick Whitman, the government wouldn’t even bother, especially in the middle of an increasingly hated war.

      • I just read of a Marine who deserted in 1965 was arrested 40 years later and charged with desertion. It would appear the military has no statute of limitations for desertion which is an offense under military code enforced by the military.

        Regardless of how the military or anyone else deals with Dick’s desertion, the real issue to me is that Don/Dick brings that aspect of his life to a sense of closure he can live with. He created this myth (his first ad campaign) presenting himself as a hero (a Purple Heart recipient no less). If MW fails to address (or at the very least acknowledge) this aspect of Don’s torment, I will be very disappointed.

        • While there is no statute of limitations on desertion in time of war, was Korea an officially declared “war”?

          • The last formal declaration of war by the US was WWII, so no Korea was not an officially declared war by the United States.

            • Formal war declaration would seem not to matter – 1965 – VietNam was when that Marine deserted. I suppose that desertion charge sends a message to active Marines?

  10. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think the sentence “My name is Dick and I’m an alcoholic.” could be spoken by Don at an AA meeting before the end of the series.

  11. I really like this post. I do think though that what the severely deeply traumatized and abused child-man Dick Whitman saw in Betty Hofstadt (in addition to being the woman he’d never get as Dick) is the deeply wounded and emotionally abused child-woman in her. This also drew them together underneath all those good looks and surface level confidence. This occurred to me after discussing Sally’s take-down of them both moment with a friend of mine. Although she really hit the nail on the head with her assessment of both of her parents and how they use their outer beauty, Don telling her (in essence) “look in the mirror baby, girl… but you can be better than that. “ Because, though Sally has not had the traumatic childhood to the same level as either parent, she has seen a lot she shouldn’t have and is a sad vulnerable little girl, just like Mom and Dad are still sad and vulnerable inside. She is also learning how to use her looks, though hopefully she’ll try to avoid that road because that way is not the way to be a happy well-rounded person.

    It made me so sad when she couldn’t get Don on the phone and was crying for him and then that she didn’t get time alone with him before the dinner with friends so she didn’t get that comforting Daddy voice and/or hug that she really seemed to need at that moment. Instead she saw another parent in a kind of crossing the line moment with one of her peers (though Don’s wasn’t as bad as Betty’s this time just because of the history) which triggered many of the issues she has with her parents so she had it out with him instead. I just hope she doesn’t run away.

    • I think Sally was calling Glen.

      But otherwise I agree with everything!

      • Ahh. See I just “ass”umed she was really upset and was calimg her Dad for a shoulder to cry on and got his answering service. I was worried she was the planning to run away. Glen makes more sense.

  12. One last thought and I’ll pipe down. I don’t really think that it was “Don” all along who had creative/advertising talent. Every single thing that “Don Draper” accomplished was in Dick Whitman his whole life. Dick Whitman could have accomplished all of this. Even if he hadn’t grabbed those dog tags and just was injured and sent home or finished his time and went home. He could have worked on his confidence AS DICK. He could have used the GI Bill to get a college degree. He could have sold himself and worked his way into that job at the fur company and talked his way into a job with Roger. That’s the saddest part. He had so little confidence in himself and his ability he had to take another man’s name to acheive things. But he had such a horrible Dickensian childhood how could he be expected to have the self-esteem to do those things. He might have been a happier man if he had done those things and won the job and the girl as himself. But if no one has ever loved you when you are in your formative years (he was even too old by the time Uncle Mack and Adam came along) how can you love yourself and think you deserve good things.

    • I was just writing a similar thing at the same time as you!

      I agree! Dick is the creative engine.

    • Well said about young Dick’s crippling lack of self-esteem. Remember the first thing he say to the hobo? “Ain’t you heard? I’m a whore child.” He not only believes himself worthless from birth, but he also assumes the whole world knows it. That’s how deep his shame goes, and why he ran so hard from it.

  13. Question: who’s the last person Don would be with?


    Peggy is perfect for an integrated Don/Dick. And it may be his inner Dick (ha) that a Peggy has always appealed to.

    I love the scene last season (sorry last year arg) when they are dancing and Don is startled for a second and raises his head. It reminded me of when he told Megan earlier about how he pretended to love his kids and then one day, when they did something and he realized he loved them, it felt like his heart would burst.

    I felt like it was a little heart burst to realize his feelings for Peggy as more profound than he ever knew.

    And a Peggy, when she softened at dinner with Stevie it was one of the first times we’ve heard her in her softer voice she used to have.

    Though Dick created Don, the real Don draper was not creative. That comes from Dick. I think young Dick Whitman had he met Peggy before he met the woman on the train, would have loved a girl like her.

    Now they are both older and changed. But they both value good work. They both search for a meaningful life.

    Just go back to that good bye scene when Peggy leaves SCDP. Don was more broken up about that than we’ve seen with any of us divorces, or losses, even Rachel and Diana.

    In all cases of Don’ s lost women there is grief, but it is not not a visceral loss. It’s like a loss of direction.

    Only Peggy made him cry.

  14. I don’t think Don is gone. He still keeps doing Don things, but there are more Dick expressions and actions than ever before.

    I said this somewhere else here, but if think Dick started waking up in episode 1, when Peggy woke him up from his sleep on her first day. And btw, he was dreaming about the explosion in Korea.

    They’ve always said it was significant that the story starts on Peggy’s first day.

    Whatever the outcome, I think it’s Peggy that reached the buried Dick Whitman and started the whole unraveling of Don.

    • Peggy Oh, you have amazing insight!

    • Like that cover of New York Magazine said, Peggy has been the true hero of Mad Men all along.
      Hers is the story that will get bow-wrapped.
      DD will be on an endless loop of: How can I find happiness?
      His story will never end.

      • Peggy needs some change too. She’s buried a part of herself, trying to turn into Don Draper too.

        That brief glimpse of softer, impulsive Peggy was really nice. It would be good to see her integrate the Peggy she’s become with the Peggy she was…

  15. As with the unseen man in the Royal Hawaiian hotel ad, he will ultimately shed the Don persona, as it has served its purpose.

    I believe Pete’s friend who had worked at the Defense Department, has moved on and is now at a defense contractor. He isn’t around to blow the whistle, but the paperwork that Allison filled out, with all the fraudulent information, probably still exists. I recall that the way it was left, was that the security check paperwork had not reached a level in the system, where Don would be exposed and SCDP dropped the account.

    If things do go in the “Dick’s impersonation of Don is discovered” direction, it could be as a result of that paperwork somehow coming to light. I’m not sure how, exactly that it would, but since Don/Dick is becoming disenchanted with the ad game and he has pretty much exhausted everything connected to the Don masquerade, all that’s left is for him is to be Dick Whitman and accept whatever consequences that come with that.

    If it’s not the phony paperwork that brings it about, how about this: If Don’s vision about Private Dinkin’s having died in Vietnam means that he really did die, what circumstances arising from that could come to bear? Suppose he’s severely injured in combat and one of the doctors trying to save his life, is Dr Greg Harris. Dinkins dies and his effects must be shipped home. If he still has the cigarette lighter that had belonged to the real Don Draper, perhaps Dinkins and Greg had been acquainted, before he was wounded and died, and he told Greg of his encounter with Don in Hawaii. When Dinkins dies, Greg could tell the military he thinks he knows the guy whose lighter it is and sends someone to NYC to deliver it. The discovery could conceivably play out along these lines, with the phony paperwork also somewhere in the mix.

    This isn’t the ending I’d prefer, but it would fit with the hint that Matthew Weiner gave us recently, that we won’t all be satisfied with how the series ends.

    • Speaking as a Navy Nurse for 10 years, there is no way a doctor would ever have anything to do with the personal effects of a patient who was injured or died. The corpsman or the RN would do that.

      • Great! Another fine theory, shot to hell and blazes!

        I’ll get right on a clever workaround. LOL

        • My theory on that incident is this is Don looking at Dick and thinking it could have been him, a reflection 20 years later, a glimpse of what could have been if not for the dog tag switch.

          • Speaking to nuts and bolts, they didn’t show us when Dick undoubtedly rolled his charred officer and put the fire out on the wallet (without which he’d have trouble pulling off the masquerade).

            (or do soldiers leave their wallets in their footlockers? In that case the dogtags are all Dick needed. They’d give him the rest at his hospital bed).

            • Now days of course it is DNA testing, Vietnam Nam era it was dental records, but a badly burned body is really tough to thing that I never understood was how the uniforms were confused, a PFC wears a different type of uniform even in a combat zone cira 1950 than an O-3 . We know Dick was not burned that badly ( no scars) so his uniform should have given him away. The only way I can see this logically happening is in the frantic rush of a field triage unit, the uniform was cut off and dumped on the floor, and the patient checked for injuries. The only thing then would be dog tags for immediate ID. And not to scare anyone, but people are still to this day despite our high tech modern hospitals, misidentified, babies are sent home with the non-biological parents, and so on. How Dick pulled off being an officer was a damn good trick too.

            • As far as the uniform goes, as I recall they were digging a ditch and were just in pants and t-shirts, so I don’t think that would give them away. I don’t know why he would have had his wallet with him to dig a ditch, although maybe I’m forgetting a specific mention of him having his wallet with him?

            • I don’t remember anything about a wallet either

            • @Donna and Maryann,

              Of course the wallet was in the background – the pieces of the Draper persona were in there to help Dick with his act (though “props” describe them better).

              Driver’s License, SS card, etc. With the DL he could request of copy of the SS card – possibly a birth certificate. Few photo ID’s back then – made the transitition easier.

            • If the Army thought he was Don Draper that is all that really matters. The will arrange for all that replacement data if you are in a combat zone. Just a thought, not sure if this was true in Korea, carrying personal data on you is discouraged so your family is not compromised should be killed or captured, or at least that is what we told.

        • Smiler G, you make it all worthwhile.
          Can’t think of anyone else whose posts make me smile more.
          God, I’m gonna miss jahnghalt, and Peggy Oh, dogintheparthenon, Frank Bullitt, Anne B.
          Thank you, all.

          • Why Katz, whereya goin’?

            • I’m already in May 17th mode.
              The cool kids in this room, are some like extended family.
              A family with nothing but laser sharp, extremely witty members.

              A thing like that.

          • Thanks, Tilden Katz.

            If the conversation here during the run of Mad Men is any indication, I’m pretty sure that a lot of us will still be on BOK, dissecting and discussing the show. The show itself, is a whole unit that stands alone. If that’s all there was, it would be a feast. The commentary tracks on the DVDs or BluRays, enhance the show. Add BOK, Deborah and Roberta, all the splendid guest contributor posters and the vast array of commenting Basketcases and it results in something special and beyond bountiful. I hope we won’t disperse, just because the show will be ending and I’ll lay odds that we don’t.

            • Virtually all of the few TV series I like are covered here – plenty of “current” reasons to drop by.

              One exception – Louie – which is pretty serious for a “comedy”.

  16. I wrote a piece over on my website about Don’s storytelling which I think is probably appropriate to this discussion. An (edited) extract:

    ” I think many of us may have overlooked the meaning of this scene – exactly why Don is telling stories like this in the first place. Because it’s the form not the content that matters.

    And the form is a joke, a shaggy dog story designed to please the women around him, the end goal sex or at the very least seduction. It may be a tale drawing from Don’s experiences in the brothel he grew up in, but it is a highly selective, rigorously edited, narrativised version of those experiences with the painful bits left out..

    In In Care Of Don is compelled to speak by deep sadness and alienation, whereas in Severance everything is calculated and rehearsed. Roger’s response (“He loves to tell stories about how poor he was, etc…) tells us this is one of many tales Don’s now spinning about his prehistory, and possibly one he’s heard before around similar tables, hemmed in by a clutch of other equally forgettable, beautiful women.

    Don’s motivations, I admit, may well be more complex than I have allowed. By bringing it to bay in the form of a joke, he may be exhibiting a desire to control his past, a past which has historically always been a volatile place, erupting here there and everywhere with disastrous consequences. Don may also have become addicted to the adrenal hit that comes with sharing, the light headed “relief” he describes to Lane after catching SC&P’s doomed Finance Officer in the act of embezzling from the company. He may just want to apply the corrective of laughter to the tragedy of those years, and who can blame him? Frankly it’s probably all of the above.

    What it isn’t, however, is confession. When all’s said and done we know Don’s past can’t be contained or managed, rather it has to be deeply felt and understood if he’s ever to truly, in the words of one of his famous catchphrases, “move on”. What Don’s getting here is the thrill of sharing with none of the danger, none of the emotion so vital to the healing process.”

    So, yeah, I’m not convinced Don telling stories about his past is evidence of very much at all. Perhaps that Dick is *more* present, closer to the surface, but certainly not that he’s fully formed. I do however expect much, much more Dick by the end. I’m definitely with you there, Mr Cooper.

    • Point well taken about Don’s edited story in Severance. What he changes/leaves out is far more significant than what he says.

    • Could you post a link to your website? I’d love to read the entire piece.

      • The best bits are there really. I’m not sure about posting links though, because I think it goes against BoK policy. Not sure wether we’re permitted to hawk our own sites here at all.

        I wanted to say a bit more, actually, about Diana. In New Business Don is *clearly* supposed to be understood as one of Megan’s ghouls feeding off the pain of others, and that’s something specific to him, not Dick. I really feel that what Don needs to be doing right now – what he did with Peggy in 7.1 – is helping those around him, not tracking them down and trying to strongarm them into bed or a relationship. The very fact that Don is coming out with all of his “I’m ready” stuff after having known Diana for, like, five minutes tells me he’s not ready yet. He won’t be ready until love and sex aren’t just some selfish working through of his neuroses, and until he can put others’ needs first (the age old Don Draper problem). Nobody watching really thought we should take him seriously in New Business’s final scene, did they? It was just the same tired old cycle beginning all over again.

        Which is not to say that Don shouldn’t spend time with Diana, but he needs to start relating to her differently. A good idea – the unselfish idea – would be to encourage her to see her daughter, or just, I don’t know, bloody well care for her. Or maybe just leave her where she is to work out her own stuff. There’s a lot of stuff needs working out.

        Sorry I know this all looks a bit contrarian, I just think the above post overstates where Don is a little.

        • I meant the best bits are HERE. I cut it down to the meat.

        • Once or twice some years ago, I posted Sepinwall links (which is not self-promotion, I know).

          TK posts one notice per episode. I’m sure he asked nicely first via email. There are three email addresses in the Comment Policy page (link under the “About” dropdown).

  17. I think way back in season 1 or 2, I noted how brilliant Mad Men had been about the Don/Dick story line. A typical show would have milked the “will his secret be discovered” tension for years. Instead Weiner let the secret out early – at least to Bert and Pete – and has spent the remaining seasons exploring the psychological damage the dual identity has caused in our protagonist’s life. However I didn’t realize how much Dick had taken over until this thread. Think of Don with Midge or Rachel in season 1 and Don with the waitress this mini-season. Does anyone think the suave, perfect Don Draper would have looked at Diane or had any issue getting her to do what he wanted? I have no idea how the series will end (although I’m looking forward to the finale event) but I hope it will complete the transformation John Hamm and the writers have taken our character on. I do wonder, though, whether Peggy represents the “real” Dick/Don. She is from a humble background, worked her way up and is brilliant at her work.

  18. Mr. Cooper,
    Once I believed the end of Don Draper as a corporate power player served as my coda. But your insight and analysis of Don Draper’s reversion to Dick Whitman provides clarity to what we have all seen since the summer of 2007.

    Well done, sir.


  19. “I’m gonna cut his dick off, and burn it in hog fat”

  20. I also think that the appearance of Diana has a very deep purpose in this story. A lot of people saw her storyline as a waste of valuable space, but I think that Diana serves as a stand-in for Don/Dick. She is a mirror of both, Dick’s running away from his former life and Don’s behavior when he wanted Rachel Menken to run away to California with him.

  21. “Question 1: Who’s the last woman on earth that Dick Whitman would marry? Betty Hofstadt.

    Don, however, must marry Betty. To paraphrase Roger, Betty’s the other half of the top of the wedding cake. She’s essential to Don being Don.”

    B. Cooper,

    Amazing post! The point about DW needing Betty to become DD is so true.

    I wonder if one reason Don feels more comfortable being DW is the change in society over the 60’s, In 1960, society was not only very racist, but classist. In “Ladies Room,” Don was trying to dodge Roger’s comment that he wondered if Don was from a farm since he dropped his g’s at the end of words. But by 1970 Roger’s own daughter is living as a hippie in a commune.

    May be Don feels more comfortable being DW since the some of the shame he felt about his background is no longer there in a different society.

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