A day in late October, then October 28 through 31, then a day or days after that. The “Hilltop” commercial aired July 1971.
Note on dates: Halloween decorations are visible throughout. The land-speed record that Don tells Sally about on day 2 was broken Friday, October 23, so it’s after that. Day 4 is a Friday, since Sally is coming home from school for the weekend and Henry is at work, so it is most likely October 30. There is no reason to assume days 1 and 2 are consecutive, although they’re very close together.
Day 1: A weekday in late October 1970
The Utah Salt Flats
Don is racing a car. He comes into a garage, discusses the car with two young guys, who want to race it, and want Don to stake them.
Roger meets with Caroline and Meredith. They discuss that Marie Calvet is arriving from Canada to see Roger, and that they haven’t heard from Don. Roger explains he has to fire Meredith, because with Don gone, he can’t justify two secretaries. Meredith takes it well.
At a traffic meeting, Peggy asks Stan why they’re off the Chevalier account. Stan isn’t concerned, but Peggy asks Lorraine, the traffic manager. Lorraine gets political, but Peggy outmaneuvers her, and gets back on the work.
Don, in bed with Eve, a young woman from the race crew, realizes she’s been in his wallet. He makes her get his money out of her purse, and then he pays her for sex and takes the rest back. Then he kisses her.
Wednesday, October 28
Joan arrives at a hotel room she’s sharing with Richard. He has cocaine for them to try. He wants her to leave New York, he asks her for a future with him.
Pete’s going away lunch is supposed to be Peggy, Pete, and Harry. Pete comes into Peggy’s office, she’s jammed up and can’t get away for lunch. He shows her the gifts he received and gives her the cactus. Harry comes in, Peggy tells him she’s not joining, he gets huffy. Pete gives him the cookies Sarah (his secretary) baked. When Harry leaves, Peggy points out they’ve never had lunch in the past.
Peggy says she’s happy for Pete. Pete says Peggy is really going places. She says “A thing like that” to him. He says he’ll be back and leaves.
Don, on the phone with Sally from his motel, talks about auto racing. He hears something is wrong in her voice, and presses her to tell him what’s wrong. She tells him that Betty is dying.
Sally says Betty wants the boys to live with Uncle William, Don counters that he’ll come home and the kids will live with him. Sally says she’s thought it through and the boys should have stability and stay with Henry.
Don calls Betty, who is noticeably sick and coughing. He again says he’ll come and take the boys. She points out he hardly sees them, and can visit exactly as often as he did before. She is tender, calling him “Don, honey”. They cry together.
A restaurant, New York City
Joan joins Ken for lunch. Ken needs an industrial film made and doing so is competitive at Dow, where he now works. Producing the films is lucrative. He wants Joan’s resources of people who’ve created good films in the past.
Thursday, October 29
The two racing guys wake Don up–he fell asleep in his clothes. They offer to pack for him. He’s drunk and wobbly. He wants to be dropped in Los Angeles.
It’s morning. Joan calls Peggy to arrange a meeting. Because Peggy is so busy and they can’t meet soon, Joan makes the offer over the phone: Peggy can write the Dow script. Peggy at first says no but the money is amazing and she agrees.
Don comes to see Stephanie, who greets him as “Dick” and hugs him. Don has come from Los Angeles, he’s hot and exhausted and asks for liquor. He tells her he’s retired, and asks about the baby. She’s angry, thinking her parents sent him. She reveals the baby lives with his paternal grandparents.
Don gives her Anna’s ring, explaining his marriage is over and Anna wanted Stephanie to have the ring. Stephanie tells Don she’s going on a retreat and he can crash there while she’s away. He falls alsleep on the couch.
The Stanhope Hotel, New York
Roger and Marie are in bed after sex. She has returned from Canada, having gone there to divorce Emil, but she speaks kindly of him. Roger gets jealous. They argue. She feels threatened that he will disappear or leave her for a secretary. She kicks him out of the room.
Friday, October 30
Stephanie wakes Don, she wants him to come with her to the retreat.
The Francis home, Rye, NY
Sally walks in for the weekend, finding Bobby scraping burnt toast and Gene is opening cheese. Bobby tells her he knows Betty is dying, and wants to know when. Sally is honest with him and teaches him how to make dinner without burning it.
California, Esalen or a similar retreat center
A hippie leads Don and Stephanie to a cabin. Don mocks the seminar schedule, Stephanie tells him to be open.
Saturday, October 31
Roger, returning from breakfast with Kevin, asks to speak with Joan. He tells her he revised his will so that most of the estate is split between Ellery and Kevin. He explains he’s getting married to Marie and that he wants to make sure he’s set everything up appropriately. She thanks him.
Don watches people doing tai chi from a distance. Stephanie collects him for a “seminar”—a workshop or encounter group experience. Don’s arms are crossed. Don is supposed to be face to face with a woman and communicate non-verbally; he looks away, she shoves him.
A restaurant, New York
Over breakfast, Joan gives Peggy a generous check for her work. Joan is excited about the idea of starting a production company, she suggests calling it Harris Olson. Peggy isn’t sure. Joan is surprised at Peggy’s hesitation. She can find another writer but the partnership offer is for Peggy only. Peggy downs her drink.
Another seminar, led by a woman named Sheila. Don listens while Stephanie talks about feeling judged. A woman (Angie) immediately assumes Stephanie wants to be with her baby. Angie says she’s sad, yet it sounds angry; Angie was abandoned by her mother. Stephanie cries and runs out, Don gives Angie a dirty look and runs after her. Outside, Don grabs Stephanie’s arms and her that true believers think differently, and that he wants to help her, offering to move to California. She says he’s not family. Don tells her she can forward, she tells him that won’t work.
Stan stops by to say goodnight to Peggy. She offers him a drink and tells him Joan’s offer. He tells her she’s talented, and can do anything, but that isn’t what she wants; she’s letting “be your own boss” get in the way of her actual goals. She gets argumentative and calls him a failure. He says “there’s more to life than work” and walks out.
Don, in bed, sees Stephanie come into the cabin. He goes back to sleep.
Joan pours coffee for Richard. She can’t go on a trip with him, she has a business meeting. He realizes she’s starting a business. He feels rejected by it. He knows it will take her time, energy, and attention. He wants her to choose him or the business, she says she’d never make him choose.
The phone rings, which becomes the issue, because she wants to answer it. She answers and he leaves her.
Don finds that Stephanie has left. He wants to leave, but Stephanie took the car. He’s stuck there for a few days.
At McCann, Peggy takes a call from Don, who has called her immediately after finding out he can’t leave (he’s still holding his bag). She’s angry at first, but hears the despair in his voice and starts being comforting, but also firm, telling him to come home. He weeps his goodbye to her; it sounds final. He hangs up. Crying and shaking, Don falls to the ground.
Peggy phones Stan, telling him she just got off the phone with Don and she’s worried. He comforts her. She apologizes for what she said the day before. She tells him she’s staying at McCann, he says he’d have missed her if she left.
He confesses his love for her. She’s shocked and can’t breathe, but gradually realizes she’s in love with him too. While she’s still on the phone, he arrives at her door. She says “I love you” and they kiss.
Don is still sitting by the phone when Sheila comes up. She asks if he’s on drugs. She wants him to come with her to a seminar, he says he can’t move, she asks him to help her, reaching her hand out. At first he doesn’t move, but she brings him into a seminar. He sits down, with a faraway stare, as someone who introduces himself as Leonard takes the chair to speak.
Leonard says he’s not interesting, that people don’t see him. Don suddenly starts listening to him. Leonard wants to be loved but realizes he doesn’t even know what love is. Don is now rapt with attention. Leonard recounts a dream of being on a shelf in the refrigerator, and being left in the dark while happy people have a meal together just outside. He weeps. Don goes to him and embraces him, they cry together.
A day or several days later
Pete, Trudy, and Tammy get out of a limo and onto a Learjet.
Joan gives Kevin to her mother, Gail, who leaves. Maureen, her former babysitter, answers the phone, she’s now Joan’s secretary, and Joan has named her company Holloway Harris.
Roger and Marie, wearing wedding rings, have breakfast.
The Francis home
Sally does dishes while Betty sits at the table in her favorite spot. She looks drawn and much thinner.
Peggy is typing at night. Stan comes up and rubs her neck, then kisses her forehead.
Don looks out to the ocean.
A day or so later
Don sits at a dawn meditation. He oms and smiles. It slides into the July 1971 “Hilltop” Coca-Cola commercial, with people singing I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.