Episode 1.12: Nixon vs. Kennedy


November 8 and 9, 1960

November 8, 1960
Sterling Cooper
We open to a news broadcast about election day; Bert Cooper turns off the TV. Don enters to introduce Herman “Duck” Philips to Bert.

In the bullpen, the guys are discussing an election party at the office after close of business. Don walks Duck through the office to show him out, giving the guys a chance to discuss him they discuss him. Then Don comes back in.

Pete tries to barge into Don’s office but Peggy stops him. Once properly let in, Pete asks Don about Duck. Pete asks for the job of Head of Account Services, but Don is not buying it.

Once Don and Cooper have cleared out (Pete is gone as well), the office converts itself into a huge party. The TV gets pulled out into the main area, and the booze is much free flowing.

Paul drains the last of the liquor, and then persuades Joan, the ultimate gatekeeper, to get créme de menthe out of the supply closet.

Ossining: The Draper residence
Sally changes the channel to news of the election, Betty is on the couch watching with her. Don comes home. Sally asks about the electoral college.

Sterling Cooper
The party has gotten pretty wild. Ken chases (literally) Allison to get her panty color (blue). Peggy leaves.

Manhattan: The Campbell apartment
Trudy finds Pete (in his pajamas) looking through the box of Don/Dick’s old photos. Trudy finds it disturbing and encourages him to give it back to whomever it belongs to. (Did she look through it? She knows it’s not Pete’s.)

Sterling Cooper
Ken comes out of Paul’s office with his arm around Allison. Claiming he was in there looking for absinthe, he reveals Paul’s play, Death is My Client.

A reading of the play is staged. Joan and Sal star, and Joan seems to have gained inside information about Sal after their stage-kiss.

As the party proceeds, there’s dancing, and Harry kisses Hildy. Uncomfortable, Harry goes into his office, apparently getting ready to leave; she follows him in, and massive making out and door shutting ensue.

By around 3 am, the news says that election results are still not in and th candidates have said goodnight to their supporters. Most of the staff is asleep in chairs and on couches. Joan and Paul talk about why she ended their affair (Paul, as it turns out, has a big mouth), and they cha-cha together with no music, Joan with no shoes.

Wednesday, November 9
Sterling Cooper
Harry and Hildy wake up together and it awkwardly crosses over to painful. He discovers his glasses are broken in half; trés metaphorical. She puts her bra on and assures him it meant nothing. As she sneaks out of his office, we see Allison sneaking out of Ken’s office.

Peggy arrives at work, horrified by the state of things. There seems to be menthe-colored vomit in her wastebasket. In the break room (dumping the basket) she encounters Ken, Sal and Paul, hung over and still irreverent. She also discovers that her locker was broken into; her extra blouse and her ˜mad money’ ($3) are gone. She tells the boys she’s reporting it to building security.

Bert is getting a massage in his office when Don comes in. They discuss the election. Don says it “doesn’t seem fair,” which bemuses Bert.

Pete arrives at the office carrying the shoebox, rudely blows past Peggy, and shows it to Don, explaining that it had come to him by mistake (sort of is true), and at the same time pushing Don about considering him for the Head of Accounts position. Pete then reveals he knows that Don’s real name is Dick Whitman, that according to records, Dick Whitman died in Korea in 1950, and basically that Don is an impostor. He threatens (by strong implication) to bring this to Cooper if Don doesn’t give him the promotion. Don keeps his cool during the entire exchange, denying it and trying to make Pete feel foolish, but he also shows Pete the other side of a move like this, saying that a person with a secret worth keeping might be dangerous.

Flashback: Korea 1950
Dick gets put on an assignment with just he and the officer at the post, Lieutenant Donald Draper.

Sterling Cooper
After the confrontation with Pete, we see the panic that has set in. Don opens the box and sees the photos.

Menken’s Department Store
Don arrives at Rachel’s office. He tries to persuade her to run away with him. At first she is charmed, but then she sees that he is in some kind of reaction/panic mode (but won’t say why), that this offer has little to do with their relationship, and that he hasn’t thought it through. They argue, and she asks him to leave in a tone that sounds permanent.

Sterling Cooper
Back at his office, Don is still in a terrible state. He finds Peggy crying in his office, he gives her a drink. She tells him that two innocent people were fired over her theft. She says it “isn’t fair” that bad people get away with things, and her words give him the courage to do the next right thing.

Don thinks, leaves his office, and goes to Pete’s office. He tells him there is no way he is giving him the job, and he can do what he wants. He then heads straight to Cooper’s office, with Pete scampering behind him, and tells him that he’s hiring Duck Phillips. Pete then tells Cooper that Don isn’t who he says he is; he is an impostor, possibly a deserter. And Bert Cooper stops the world by saying, “Mr. Campbell, who cares?”

Flashback: Korea 1950
While Dick is digging a hole, there’s an attack. Afterwards, Lt. Draper points out that Dick pissed himself. Nervously, Dick lights a cigarette, drops his lighter into gasoline, and the explosion kills Lt. Draper, burning him beyond recognition. Dick switches their dog tags.

Dick wakes up in the hospital to discover that he is being called Lt. Draper; he is awarded a purple heart and discharged. He is asked to bring home the body of “Private Whitman.”

A train in Pennsylvania, 1950
Now Don Draper, the former Dick rides the train to Dick’s hometown with the coffin containing “Private Whitman.” As the train pulls into the station, he spots his own family. He tells the chaplain that he cannot go through with it, and stays on the train. But his little brother Adam spots him through the window. Adam tries to tell his mom and Uncle Mack, but of course, they know that Dick is dead and that Adam is just wishfully imagining things. Dick/Don retreats into the body of the train to the sounds of his little brother calling his name. A beautiful woman offers to buy him a drink.

From one train to another: Don gets off the commuter train, and arrives home. Betty’s asleep on the couch while the television shows Nixon giving his concession speech.

Back to Season 1 Episode List


  3 Responses to “Episode 1.12: Nixon vs. Kennedy”

  1. […] Awhile ago we got into a feisty discussion about Rachel’s reaction to Don wanting to run away in NvK. […]

  2. […] my initial viewing of Nixon vs. Kennedy, way back when, I couldn’t help but think of the 2000 election […]

  3. Two interesting things about this episode in light of season two:

    1) Duck was responsible for bringing American Airlines to Y&R, which helps explain why Roger and Bert are willing to listen to him in "Flight One", and might even suggest that MW had some thoughts about the AA storyline earlier than a lot of people have supposed.

    2) Don says that Duck is from Young & Rubicon, a real agency here, but in season two it's established that he's from Putnam, Powell, & Lowe, which as far as I can tell is fictional. Presumably the change was made because MW wanted to involve Duck's parent company further into the storyline.