"Mad Men" Nixon vs. Kennedy (TV Episode 2007) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • Election night arrives and the staff of Sterling Cooper has a party while watching the returns. The election is close and it's obviously going to be a long night. Now a senior partner in the firm, Don Draper must hire a new head of account services, a post that Pete Campbell yearns for. Aware of Draper's secret past, he tries to strong-arm him into giving him the job. With his secret out, Don panics and he asks Rachel Menken to run away with him. Regaining his composure, Don calls Pete's bluff leading to a confrontation with Bert Cooper.

  • It's US election day, 1960. With Bert and Don having left the office for the evening, a planned underground election party breaks out in the office. The upbeat mood of the party is largely dependent upon how Nixon is faring, but free flowing and large quantities of alcohol combined with something found in Paul's office change the focus of the gathering away from election results. With Don being made partner, he is in charge of hiring a new head of account services, a job which Pete is eying. It doesn't seem to be in the cards for Pete as Don has publicly paraded a series of candidates through the office, with one, Herman Phillips - nicknamed Duck - taken in to see Cooper. Pete contemplates using insider information - information he stole from Don's office - to get what he wants, not thinking that Don would have any other option than to give him the job. Don turns to the one person he feels he can, not so much for advice but for comfort. But the plight of someone else in the office may provide Don with a different perspective.



The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • It's election day, and Cooper turns off his TV, cutting off a news segment on how Americans are rushing to the polls. Don enters with Herman Duck Phillips, who had been in London with Y&R, a bigger agency. He, however, is eager to return to New York and even more eager to take the open job -- Head of Account Services -- at Sterling Cooper.

    After Cooper finishes grilling the candidate, Duck and Don walk by the other ad men, whove been chatting about who might be president by the end of the night. Hes the best one Drapers paraded around, Ken says, regarding Duck. Lets see if Cooper is smart enough to know that.

    Pete then goes into Dons office to make his case for why he should get the position. I have the loyalty of our most important clients, he says, mentioning Calvin Highland and Lee Garner. These men trust me. Don suggests that Pete, whos been with the company for two and a half years, be patient because hes still at the point where someone will always be his senior.

    When Don heads home for the night, he notices Paul, Harry, Joan, Ken, Hildy and some others standing around quietly. As soon as the elevator doors close behind him, the group squeals with laughter. Drinks are passed around and a TV is wheeled out into the bullpen. They flip it on to an anchor reporting that Senator Kennedys odds for victory are a grim 22 to 1. They applaud. Paul pours scotch until the bottle is empty. They are going to need more liquor.

    As the night goes on and the numbers get closer, the group gets friskier. Allison walks by and Ken starts to chase her as Paul and Harry shout colors. Ken pulls Allison to the ground and hikes up her skirt to reveal her panties. Who had blue? he shouts back. As everyone laughs, Peggy and Marge stand expressionless. I used to think Id find a husband here, Marge says. Peggy just leaves.

    Pete, sitting in the dark living room of his apartment, leafs through Adams shoebox. In it, he peers at dog tags, letters and photographs, one of which shows a young Don and Adam riding horses. He flips it to see Dick and Adam, 1944 written.

    Just then, Trudy walks in. Shes noticed him sneaking around with that box and wonders why he wont return it.

    Back at Sterling Cooper, Ken comes out of Pauls office with a stack of papers. Death is My Client -- a play in one act by Paul Kinsey, he reads. Paul, embarrassed, tries to get it back. Its not long, however, before hes instead positioning actors around the room and directing the ad hoc production. Joan holds the script as Salvatore, playing Tolefson -- the hero -- reads lines over her shoulder. As he scrolls down the page, he notices a gripping scene. He and Joan look at each other, and Sal pulls in for a dramatic kiss. The audience cheers as they kiss.

    Just then, the TV turns up to show that Nixon took Ohio, a pivotal victory. They cheer, dance and embrace. Harry plants a kiss on Hildy, who returns the gesture. Shocked by his own action, Harry retreats to his office. She follows, and they kiss again.

    The next morning, Peggy arrives to see the office in shambles and people, coffee in hand, walking around painfully in last nights clothes. She smells something pungent at her desk -- her trashcan is filled with vomit.

    Don enters Coopers office, confused by three different newspapers with three different results. A recount of the election means 30 days without a president, which is no way to win, according to Cooper. If Kennedy is willing to buy an election, hes probably willing to play ball with us.

    Then, Pete brings Adams box to Don in his office, and when he makes no more progress with the promotion, Pete reveals that he knows Dons past. According to his friend at the defense department, Dick Whitman died in Korea 10 years ago. A man named Donald Draper dropped off the map although hes 43 years old.

    Don recognizes the attempt at blackmail but doesnt back down. If your information is powerful enough to make them do what you want, what else can it make them do? he says, fuming. Pete leaves, and Don rips open the box.

    He flashes back to a dirt road in Korea in 1950. A lieutenant watches as Dick jumps out of the back of an army truck and is disappointed to see that only one soldier -- he needed 20 for his mission to build a field hospital. Dick introduces himself. The lieutenant follows suit. Draper. Its Lieutenant Don Draper.

    Back in his office, Don puts the shoebox in the same drawer as the Purple Heart.

    He goes to Rachel Menkens office with a sudden desire to go to Los Angeles with her for good. Although he piques her interest, she reasons that she has a store to run and he has a family. They fight, and she realizes that he doesnt want to run away with her. He just wants to run away.

    Don returns to the office and approaches Pete, passing a TV with Kennedys face. "I thought about what you said, and then I thought about you and what a deep lack of character you have," he says, adding that he will hire Duck. Pete threatens to go to Cooper, but Don calls his bluff and walks out to give Cooper the news. Confused at how Don would rather lose it all than see him succeed, Pete follows Don into Coopers office with him. Don tells Cooper hes hiring Duck, then looks to Pete. Pete returns the glance and tells Cooper how Don is really Dick Whitman, a deserter and criminal.

    "Who cares?" Cooper replies as Don calmly lights another cigarette. "This country was built and run by men with worse stories than whatever you've imagined here."

    Don flashes back to Korea. Dick stands in a trench when Lt. Draper storms out of his tent. Thunderous mortar explosions get closer until gunfire erupts and bullets zoom by their heads. As quickly as the attack began, it ends. The two light cigarettes when they notice a stream of liquid at their feet. Lt. Draper thinks Dick wet himself, but when Dick drops his cigarette, they realize its gasoline.

    They run as a fireball drops them to the dirt. Moments later, Dick wakes up and struggles to lift his body, with his arm and ribs broken. He sees whats left of Lt. Don -- guts open, intestines strewn on the ground, flesh charred. He finds Dons dog tags and pulls them from the body. He rips his own off before dangling Dons around his neck.

    The next day at the military hospital, Don receives his Purple Heart and news that he's going home -- with the task of returning Dick to his family. When Don and an army chaplain arrive at the rural Pennsylvania train station where the Whitmans stand waiting, he tells the chaplain he can't do it. He watches from a distance as the casket is set near 10-year-old Adam. Just then Adam looks toward the train and makes eye contact with Don. As the train pulls away, Adam shouts: "There he is, I see him!"

    Don, back to reality and at home, turns on his television and watches a replay of Nixons concession speech.

    The firm contemplates making some advertisements for candidate Nixon.

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