MAD MEN: 12. "Nixon vs. Kennedy," 10/11/07

TV Arts

Spoilers for last week's episode, "Nixon vs. Kennedy," 10/11/07.  I
probably won't see tonight's episode until Friday or Saturday.  Please 
bear that in mind when responding.


"Dick and Adam, 1944" on the back of a photo.  That in itself is
problematic, since Adam said he was eight years old in what turns out to
be 1950.  That would put him around two or three in 1944, and that
didn't look like a three-year-old on the horse.  It's strange that they
should be such sticklers for period detail in the sets, props, wardrobe,
hair, and makeup, but not care that much about how well the characters'
ages match the actors' looks.  (I've been working on a fanwank about how
smoking prematurely ages the skin, but I don't think that explains that
six- or seven-year-old on horseback.)

Joan's look after Salvatore kissed her made me wonder if she suspected
he was gay.

FINALLY, some more hard info on Dick Whitman's time line.  The
discrepancy between character ages and actor ages is even worse than I

    * According to the Dept. of Defense (as reported by Pete), Dick
Whitman died in Korea in 1950.  It would have been the latter half of
1950, since the U.S. didn't commit troops until Jun. 30, and Dick
Whitman obviously wasn't the first on the beach.  (In fact, given Lt.
Draper's remark about not mistaking him for Chinese, it sounds like it
was the last quarter of 1950 when Dick reported to him for duty.) 
Assuming a prompt processing of Don Draper Mark II back to the States,
that means that he arrived back in Bunbury with the body of Don Draper
Mark I and was spotted through the train window by Adam Whitman while it
was still the latter half of 1950.  At the latest, assuming a few weeks
of convalescence, red tape, and traveling, he was spotted by Adam in
January or February of 1951.

    * Back in the diner, Adam Whitman told Don that he was only eight
when he spotted Don in his uniform through the window.  Therefore Adam
was born in the latter half of 1941 at the earliest, and in February of
1943 at the latest.

    * Adam couldn't have been older than 19 when he died, and could
conceivably have been as young as 17.  (It seems to me, as I read
between the lines in the IMDb, that Jay Paulson, the actor who played
Adam, has turned or will turn 27 or 28 in 2007.  No wonder I couldn't
get a handle on the Whitman brothers' ages.)

    * Adam was born between one to nine months after Archie Whitman
died.  Therefore Archie Whitman died no earlier than October 1940, and
no later than January of 1943.

    * Don said he was ten years old when his father died.  Therefore he
was born no earlier than October 1929.  Therefore he's no older than 30
when the story starts -- just four years older than Pete -- and 31 in
"Nixon vs. Kennedy."  (According to the IMDb, Jon Hamm, the actor who
plays Don Draper Mark II, was 35-36 when _Mad Men_ was shot.)

    * From the sound of it, though, Dick Whitman enlisted as soon as he
was eligible to get away from his home life.  (I'm assuming Uncle Mack
and Abigail wouldn't let him enlist at 17, because they wanted his
unpaid labor on the farm.)  I'm guessing he did it after the U.S.
started sending troops, because the real Don Draper sounded incredulous
that Dick had enlisted when he was likely to end up where he did.  That
would place Dick Whitman at 18 in mid-to-late 1950, and first in line at
the Army recruitment office.  This would put him at 27 when the story
began, only one year older than Pete Campbell.  Just looking at Jon
Hamm, I can more easily believe he's 43, as the real Don Draper would
have been, than that he's 27.

Presumably, Dick actually is a deserter as Pete accused, since he seemed
to be freshly assigned to the Korean front lines after his training, so
he still had most of his enlistment yet to serve, not the "80 days" left
to Don Draper, which they let him finish out in the Reserves stateside. 
It's either strangely sad or else extremely lucky that no one's ever
come looking for the real Don Draper.  Dick didn't have time to find out
if Don had anybody waiting for him back home.

While it was an accident, Dick Whitman was nevertheless responsible for
killing Don Draper.  I don't think they give out Purple Hearts for
accidentally banging yourself up either, so that's a fraud too.  I
wonder why he hasn't ditched the medal and why he keeps it at the
office.  To remind himself that it's all in how you sell the product,
not what's inside the box?

As I suspected, Don's first impulse when threatened with exposure was to
leave town and start over somewhere else.  It worked once before.  I'm
not sure whether Rachel managed to shame him into staying, or if she was
wrong about how essential she was to the way he envisioned his future. 
Probably the former, since he likely didn't envision her staying with
him if he was exposed.

Whatever effect Rachel had on Don, I was surprised and impressed that he 
subsequently both stayed and refused to give into blackmail, even if it 
could have cost him everything.  I wasn't too surprised that Bert Cooper
backed Don up completely, though.  Don is a financial and emotional 
investment for Cooper.  Pete's just an old New York name.  Cooper looks 
at Don and sees himself, the same way Don looks at Nixon and sees 
himself (except less well marketed).

I'm less confident of Roger's reaction if he should find out, but now
that Don's job is secure, everything else should fall back into place
for Don.  Even if Pete were to blow the whistle to Betty, I'm sure she'd
collude in preserving the lie.  She's even more financially and
emotionally invested in maintaining the image of "Donald Draper" than
Sterling Cooper is.

The only people left who might be motivated to expose Dick Whitman are 
the U.S. Army (I don't suppose there's a statute of limitations on 
desertion, because of the treasonous implications?) and the real Don 
Draper's loved ones, if any.  (I still wish that someone had rushed into 
the room and saved Adam Whitman at the last second, but I also recognize 
that would be a cheat.)  I suppose Pete Campbell might still drop a dime 
to the Army out of spite, but it would cost him his job.  On the other 
hand, Don can't fire Pete now, because it would probably involve facing
criminal military charges.

While selling the lie may have become so much a habit of Don's adulthood
that he doesn't know how to break it, I don't see any good reason for
him not to confess to his wife now, to make himself completely
blackmail-proof.  With his boss and his wife in on the big secret,
there'd be no reason for Don not to go looking for Adam to reestablish
some kind of relationship, only for him to get the bad news.

I'm not sure how badly Don's relationship with Rachel has been damaged. 
I think those two are in love, though, and the women in this story
always seem to forgive everything in the end, so I assume she'll
eventually take him back.  There's no cold, calculated advantage to him
confessing everything to her, since he'd have to admit to desertion on
the battlefield and identity theft, and she's already shown repugnance
at his cowardice in wanting to run out on his life the second time. 
However, she's the only one he's shown any inclination to confess to.

Ha! That's exactly what I thought, too, but my husband said it was my
imagination. I figure that Joan's been mauled by half the men in
Manhattan and she knows the difference between a kiss from a man who
likes woman and one from a man that doesn't.  I liked how it didn't
change anything for her, she still danced with him and had fun, but
just that she knows this. 

I also liked the scene with Joan and Ken, is it (I get those frat boys
mixed up)? He asked what he did wrong and she said he has a big mouth.
He tried to correct her, that he hadn't told anyone anything about
them, but she restated, clarifying that he *has* a big mouth. He
didn't tell anything, but he would have if they had continued, or gone
further. In an episode where several people didn't "think things
through" (a phrase used several times), she had done just that,
thought through exactly what would have happened.

: I also liked the scene with Joan and Ken, is it (I get those frat boys
: mixed up)?

That was Paul Kinsey, the guy who showed Peggy around the building early
on and then put the moves on her.  Ken Cosgrove's the tall, slender,
most fair-haired one of the bunch.

: He asked what he did wrong and she said he has a big mouth. He tried
: to correct her, that he hadn't told anyone anything about them, but
: she restated, clarifying that he *has* a big mouth. He didn't tell
: anything, but he would have if they had continued, or gone further.

That exchange was unclear to me.  While they seemed to be talking about
Paul trying to score with Joan, I wasn't sure exactly when he was
supposed to have put the moves on her.  It wasn't in that episode, nor
in any previous episodes that I could recall.  My first guess was that 
Paul's one-act play was about his fantasized affair with Joan, which now
the people at the office were going to assume actually happened, and
that pissed Joan off.

Alternatively, maybe the play was a self-aggrandizing version of a real
fling he had had with Joan at one point (although exactly when isn't 
clear, since Joan seems to have been seeing only Roger from the office 
for some time now).  Therefore to write it all down and then have it 
performed in the office was what she was referring to as his "big 
mouth," and he sensed that she was displeased with him.  Because other 
than that, we haven't seen Paul be more or less of a blabbermouth than 
any of the other rank-and-file ad men at the office.

If that wasn't it, then I just have to shrug it off to a long-standing
unrequited attraction of Paul's that Joan has always discouraged, but
which hadn't been raised as an issue onscreen until that moment. 
Usually I like it when they don't spell everything out for us, but in
this case I could have stood for them to connect another dot.

In the pilot, Joan is walking Peggy down the row, discussing
"mistakes" and as they pass Paul and he says hello, Joan says, "like
that one." 

A repeat of the pilot come on in 5 minutes, so I'l have to look for