MAD MEN: Season 1 Episode 12 – “Nixon vs. Kennedy”
Viewed late at night, on the proverbial couch, with friends.
This episode of Mad Men takes place during the Nixon and Kennedy election. The office gathers around the TV with copious amounts of alcohol to watch the action. As the numbers get closer and the crowd gets drunker, one of the ad guys, Ken, chases down Allison, a secretary, as his friends shout out colors. He tackles her to the floor and lifts her skirt to find out what color her underwear are – blue. Everyone laughs and the viewer is relieved that Gloria Steinem exists.
Earlier that day, Pete Campbell discovers that Draper is considering hiring another ad guy for a job that Campbell wants. Instead of handling it with dignity, he goes the high school route and attempts to blackmail Draper with the information he’s found in the box he stole in the last episode. Draper runs off to Rachel Menken asking her to run away with him to LA, but she soon realizes he doesn’t want to run away with her – he just wants to run away. Draper returns to the office, calls Campbell’s bluff, and hires the other guy. When Campbell goes to the big cheese to tell him that Draper’s real name is Dick Whitman, Cooper says he doesn’t care. In a flashback, we learn how Draper became the infamous Don Draper. He basically got sent to a two man camp and when the other man died in an accident, Draper stole his dog tags.
This episode gives us a lot of background on Don Draper. When he was at his two man post, the two men come under attack. When it’s over they both light cigarettes and his superior points at some liquid at Don’s feet, when Don accidentally drops his cigarette, they realize it was gasoline. The explosion kills the real Don Draper and the new Don Draper gets sent back home, new identity and all. This brings up a lot of questions about Draper: Is he a coward? Or was it survival? Why did he abandon his (now dead) brother like that? And what kind of butter fingers does he have to go around dropping his cigarette in gasoline? Still, this episode might be the most character development of Draper I’ve seen all season.
Also in this episode, Peggy Olson is starting to get on my nerves. While she’s learning to be a go-getter and I thoroughly approve of that, she can also be a whiny goody two shoes. Olson is so too pure to be pink it hurts (two Grease quotes in two posts – this is what a steady diet of kitschy pop culture gets you, my friends).
I have to admit, I didn’t really step outside of my normal viewing habits with this show. I was already considering it when I realized it was an option for our blogs. I tend to shy away from things that become rife with mainstream popularity, but I generally end up gimping on to the wagon a year or two later, as I’ve illustrated with this blog. The real reason I considered watching this show are the costumes. A subject I’m so excited about, I’m saving it for next time.