Friday through Monday in late March or (probably) April 1965, plus flashbacks to approximately 1955. (Stan reads April’s Playboy; Harry references May episodes of Peyton Place.)
Don and Peggy meet with Danny Seigel, a stunningly incompetent copywriter who is related to Roger’s wife. He has five variations on “A cure for the common…” After he leaves, Peggy fishes for a compliment about Glo-Coat, doesn’t get it, and then asks Don if he’s excited about his Clio nominations—the awards are that night.
Then Don and Peggy discuss Vick Chemical. She’s behind and blames Stan Rizzo, the art director; Don’s not having it and gives her a Monday deadline.
Roger is dictating his memoirs to Caroline when Don comes in, referring to Danny as a prank. They laugh, but Roger says Danny has to be hired because of Jane.
Roger meets Don at Heller’s Luxury Furs; Roger is buying, Don selling. When Don sees Roger’s card, he asks if he can call, but Roger says no.
Joan and Roger are in a hotel room. It appears to be the very beginning of their relationship. Roger gives her the fur. Roger sees that Don had put his book into the fur box, which annoys him.
Present day; still Friday
Roger calls Caroline back in for more book dictation.
In the conference room, Harry, Lane, Peggy, Joey, Don, and Pete wait for Life Cereal. Joan comes in to tell them that the client’s plane is grounded in Philadelphia; she breaks out the booze. There’s only an hour until the Clios, Peggy is unhappy she wasn’t invited.
Stan Rizzo is showing Megan and Clara a Lyndon Johnson campaign ad that never aired (the KKK ad), which he created when he was with DDB. Peggy wants to meet with Stan, who is instantly rude to her.
As the Clios are about to begin, Ted Chaough greets Don and Roger at the bar; they exchange barbs. Ken Cosgrove and Phil from Birdseye greet Joan and Pete; Phil lets slip that “the old team” will be back together. Ken is embarrassed, Pete upset.
As the ceremonies are about to start, Duck Philips, very drunk, makes a loud scene and is removed from the room.
In the bullpen, Stan and Peggy are trying to work; Stan talks about his work on the Johnson campaign, Peggy says she had a lot to do with Glo-Coat, and is angry at the lack of acknowledgment. Stan continues to insult her.
Underneath the table, both Don and Roger squeeze Joan’s hand while awaiting the winner to be announced. When Don wins, he is hugely happy, kisses Joan, shakes Roger’s hand, and grins enormously.
Megan suddenly appears; Life Cereal rented a car and is at the office right now. Don, intoxicated with both the win and alcohol, and over Pete’s objections, insists the meeting can occur.
Harry is regaling the Life people with his knowledge of the next few weeks of Peyton Place while they drink. Don, Roger, Pete and Joan arrive, laughing; Roger and Don take a victory lap with their award. Don’s presentation is drunk and sloppy; he talks about nostalgia in a way that recalls his great Carousel speech but stammers around the concept. The cereal folks like the concept but not the tagline. Pete suggests that Don work on the tagline for a few days, but Don wants to shoot out something off the top of his head. It’s awful and embarrassing; he throws out a dozen or so, including “A cure for the common breakfast.” The Life people love that one; Don doesn’t realize he’s lifted it, but when Peggy tries to tell him afterward, he yells at her about Vick’s and orders her and Stan to spend the weekend at a hotel working on it. Peggy next tries to tell Lane, but Pete urgently wants to speak with him and bowls past her.
Peggy looks at Stan, who is laying on a table.
In Lane’s office, Pete asks if they are merging with Geyer. Lane says no. Pete says he ran into Kenny and Lane reveals he wants to hire Ken because Roger is “a child” and Pete can’t handle all the accounts himself. Plus, Ken will bring accounts with him.
The Pen and Pencil
Don, Joan, and Roger toast with the Clio. Lots of ad men are celebrating there. Don “rescues” Faye from a conversation with someone; he flirts with her, and suggests they leave together. She turns him down.
Stan is reading Playboy and insulting Peggy; telling her she’s too dull to be attractive to Don, but that she’s his favorite, likening her to a dog. She asks him why he isn’t a nudist since he always talks about how freeing it is. He said he would if she didn’t inhibit him. Calling his bluff, she strips. He’s embarrassed but she immediately gets to working on cough drops, while noting that he has an erection.
The Pen and Pencil
The evening’s drinking proceeds. An attractive woman wants to know if Don is available, Joan sends her to him. Roger displays jealousy towards Don because he doesn’t get an award for what he does, and Joan tells him he’s being morose.
Roger is waiting for the elevator when Don comes up. At first Roger blows him off, but Don insists on buying Roger a drink; later Roger is obviously drunk and Don gets him a cab.
Present day; still Friday
Peggy, naked, is focused on cough drops. Stan isn’t paying attention and she again remarks on his erection. He’s again embarrassed and gets up and gets dressed, telling her she wins. She’s pleased.
Don makes love with the woman who sought him out at the bar. Afterward he falls asleep. We watch the sun come up as he is passed out in bed.
The phone rings, with Don in the same position. Betty is angry that Don hasn’t shown up. He thinks it’s Saturday, but it’s Sunday. He says he’s “under the weather” and apologizes. She hangs up on him.
In bed next to him is a waitress named Doris whom he clearly doesn’t remember. He looks aghast. She calls him Dick. He hustles her out, unable even to make eye contact.
He pours a drink and passes out on the couch, where he stays all day. In the evening, Peggy knocks on his door to tell him that he stole the Life Cereal tagline; he doesn’t even remember using it. She tells Don he has to fix it and leaves, disgusted.
Pete is at his desk when Lane knocks. Pete tells Lane he wants to meet with Ken in the conference room when he arrives (to go to lunch with Lane).
Peggy and Stan Rizzo show Joey their sketches for Vick’s. Peggy makes a veiled reference to Rizzo’s “little thing.”
Don arrives, and asks Miss Blankenship to call the bar to see if his Clio is there. When he enters his office, Danny is waiting for him. Don wants to pay him for the “cure for the common” idea, but Danny insists he wants a job, not money.
Pete asks Lane for privacy, and then makes sure that Ken knows that if he comes to SCDP, he needs to remain aware that Pete is his boss. Ken, deflated, assents.
Don tells Peggy that Danny has been hired. Peggy is disgusted, then she sees Ken and gives him a big hug.
Roger is again dictating about his childhood when Don comes in to tell him he hired Danny. Roger shows Don that he has the Clio, but first Roger wants to be thanked for his part in Don’s success.
Don arrives for work at Sterling Cooper. Roger doesn’t remember hiring Don, and it’s unclear whether he actually did, or whether Don has conned him, although the way Don rolls his eyes suggests the latter.
“Up the Ladder of Success” plays as the episode ends.