Three weekdays (of which days two and three are consecutive) in early September, 1965
Don meets with Raymond, a representative of Heinz beans, vinegar, and sauces. Although Raymond is excited about Don’s ideas, he wants to wait six to eight months before making a move, because he isn’t sure that SCDP will be in business that long.
At lunch, Sally asks if she can eat dinner with Henry and Betty, rather than with her younger brothers. Betty agrees to think about it.
Jeff Atherton paints the dire position of SCDP, and suggests they go after tobacco products. He has set up a meeting for SCDP with Philip Morris’s new brand for women.
In quick succession, Roger and Bert, in Roger’s office, discuss going after bigger business, Lane and Price, in Lane’s office, discuss cutting staff, Harry and Ken discuss whether Harry has any future, back to Roger and Bert, back to Ken and Harry, this time with Ken complaining, back to Pete and Lane, and then to Faye and Don.
Faye and Don first discuss the new cigarette opportunity, then she brings up Heinz. Megan is visible in the background, positioned between them (although in a different room).
In a yard, empty lot, or park, Glen and Sally talk about his football uniform and her psychiatry. He offers her a cigarette, she says no.
Time Life Lobby
As Don walks through the lobby, Midge calls out to him; he’s surprised and happy to see her. She asks him if he has freelance art work for her. They let each other know that he’s divorced and she’s married. She invites him to dinner and he agrees.
Dr. Edna’s office
Sally and Dr. Edna play Go Fish while talking. Dr. Edna suggests that Sally has made a lot of progress, and now that school has started, should only come once a week.
Midge introduces Don to her husband, Perry. When Midge excuses herself to “freshen up,” Perry shows Don a painting of Midge’s and suggests he buy one. Perry then more or less offers Midge’s body to sweeten the deal. Don is uncomfortable. Then Perry lets slip that Midge tracked Don down. Then he hits Don up for money so he can shop for dinner. As soon as he leaves, Midge calls Perry an idiot and a drug addict. Don realizes Midge is also an addict, and asks her about it. She’d like to quit, but can’t, and using is “a full-time job.” He gives her all the cash he has on him for a painting and leaves.
Dr. Edna’s office
Betty is meeting with Dr. Edna, talking about her marriage (not about Sally). When Dr. Edna brings up Sally and reducing sessions to once a week, Betty becomes anxious. Dr. Edna suggests that Betty needs time to talk about her own issues, and recommends a colleague. Betty dials back her anxiety, puts on a formal face, and speaks as if she’s only there for Sally. Edna sees what she’s doing and allows it.
Don is preparing for his Philip Morris meeting. He’s nervous, reciting tongue-twisters. He calls Peggy in to discuss strategy. Megan comes in to say Atherton is on his way up. Don joins the partners, who are all gathered in the lobby. Atherton arrives and tells them that Philip Morris has decided to go with Leo Burnett. Roger calls Atherton an asshole.
As the partners all walk back in, everyone watches. Bert kicks Harry out of the conference room so that it’s partners only. Roger says he wants to go after bigger fish; Pete points out that he, and not Roger, is beating the bushes for business. Lane has spoken with the bank; in order to get an extension on their line of credit, they need collateral to the tune of $100k each from the senior partners, and $50k each from Lane and Pete. Meanwhile, at either end of the conference room, Peggy, Harry, and Ken have their ears to the walls to listen in. Don leaves.
In the lot/park, Sally tells Glen her dream of flying. They discuss death and eternity.
Pete comes in to speak with Don. He’s concerned because he doesn’t have the $50k. Then Peggy comes in; she suggests a name change or somehow changing the conversation. Don doesn’t see how.
When Pete comes home Trudy asks him about a call from the bank regarding a loan application. She thinks it’s for a home in Greenwich, but when he tells her the truth, she’s furious. She wants him to leave SCDP.
Don comes home, sees Midge’s painting, and is about to ditch it, but when he picks it up he becomes captivated by it and stares at it for a long time.
He sits at his desk, tears out and discards the journaling he’d done earlier, and begins to write: “Why I’m quitting tobacco.” We see Don write the letter, then edit it.
Next Day (Day Three)
From Don’s apartment to SCDP
We continue to hear him narrate the letter as we see him leave, go for his morning swim, and then cut to others reading the letter as a full-page ad in the New York Times, first Henry, then Pete, then Roger, then Danny in the elevator, with Joan and others reading over his shoulder, and finally Stan reads the last line aloud in front of Megan and five other employees. As Stan finishes, Don walks in. He’s greeted with silence. Megan tells him he’s received calls from reporters, citizens, people from the agencies mentioned in the letter, and Emerson Foote. The partners are all waiting for Don, and as soon as he’s in his office, they all march in, angry.
Megan interrupts the shouting to say that Senator Robert Kennedy is on the phone, but soon it’s apparent that it’s Ted Chauogh pranking him.
The argument resumes, and Bert Cooper, furious, quits the agency. After the rest of the partners are gone, Lane tells Don he needs his “contribution” by close of business. When he leaves, Megan apologizes for letting Chauogh’s call through, and says she loved Don’s letter.
In the creative area, they’re all discussing it. Harry has received a bunch of prank calls. Bert comes through and says goodbye in a final way. Megan calls Peggy into Don’s office; Peggy looks terrified. Don asks her who she can live without; she’s enormously relieved that she’s not being fired.
Betty is driving and sees Sally walk into the lot/park and meet Glen. She runs out of the car and chases them down on foot. Glen runs away and Betty marches Sally home. She tells Sally she doesn’t get her bike back (it was left there). She also tells Sally that Glen is bad, and when Sally defends him, she sends her to her room.
Megan and Don are coming back from coffee and see Faye. In his office, Faye explains that Atherton has resigned so as not to lose future cigarette business. Don apologizes and kisses her. She points out they can now date in the open. On her way out, Faye says goodbye to Peggy. Peggy is upset that she’s losing, essentially, a role model. Faye doesn’t quite understand Peggy’s overtures of friendship, and says goodbye warmly but professionally.
Henry arrives home early enough to have dinner with the kids, and sits down. Betty describes the neighborhood as “low-caliber” and wants to move. Sally and Betty silently exchange looks, and Sally leaves the table. Betty says “she’ll get over it” kind of smugly. In her room, Sally weeps on her bed, holding Glen’s lanyard.
In the conference room, Joan and Lane say it’s time to start firing people. Roger has heard from the American Cancer Society, which wants to discuss an anti-smoking campaign. Lane and Pete are disgruntled by the notion of free work, but Harry and Ken note that there’s prestige and contacts from it.
Pete then takes Lane aside, concerned because he doesn’t have the money. Lane tells him Don paid his share.
The firings begin with Danny. Soon Stan and Peggy are watching people leave, some in tears. Don looks down the hall at all the sad people who’ve been fired.
The credits roll to the song Trust in Me by Etta James.