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Recap / Mad Men S 1 E 12 Nixon Vs Kennedy

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"Mr. Campbell... who cares?"

On election night (November 8, 1960), the Sterling Cooper staff pulls an all-nighter filled with debauched antics while watching the returns. Pete's ambitions cause him to challenge Don directly. Don remembers his past as a soldier in the Korean War.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: Subversion. Dick Whitman didn't really kill Don Draper, but when he dropped his lighter, the flames caught onto some leaked gas that spread, causing Draper to stumble away while trying to stomp it out. This put him in a dangerous position when their location was bombed again, and he was consumed in a blast that burned him beyond recognition. And so Don took his identity.
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  • Actually Pretty Funny: Ken smiles somewhat at Paul's potshot aimed at him.
  • Amicable Exes: Paul and Joan come to be these, at least for the duration of election night.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: Variation: After more or less stealing his identity, "Don" is tasked with bringing "Dick"'s body back to the states. Although he can't bring himself to exit the train to present the body, he can see out of the train window his family observing the casket.
  • Blackmail: Pete threatens to expose Don's identity if he doesn't make Pete Head of Accounts. Don, deciding it isn't worth having this held above his head, pulls the trigger and has Pete reveal the truth to Bert. Unfortunately for Pete, not only does Bert not believe him, he says that he wouldn't fire Don even if he did.
  • Book-Ends: The episode opens with footage of people preparing to vote for the Nixon/Kennedy election being shown on television. The episode ends with Don watching Nixon's concession speech on television.
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  • Bring My Brown Pants: Don Draper notes that Dick Whitman wet himself during one of the bombardments.
  • Brutal Honesty: Joan doesn't put up a facade when Paul asks her if she liked his play, instead honestly answering "no".
    Paul: The meaner you are, the more I like you.
    Joan: I know.
  • Cassandra Truth: Adam spots Dick on the train, and points him out to his parents, each of whom thinks he's either hallucinating or acting foolish.
    Adam: (looking at the train) There he is! I see him!
    Mr. Whitman: (turns to Adam, but not the train) Who?
    Adam: Dick! He's on the train! I see him!
    Mr. Whitman: (turns Adam back to the casket) No, he's right here.
    Adam: (turns back to the train; sadly) But I saw him. I saw him in the window over there.
    Mrs. Whitman: (harshly) Stop it. No more of that.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Rachel calls Don out on this when he suggest running away with him, and Don notes that Pete clearly is suffering from this regarding his blackmail.
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  • Do with Him as You Will: Bert decides simply to send Pete back to working on his accounts, before turning to Don and telling him that Campbell's fate is up to him.
    Bert: Don, fire him if you want. But I'd keep an eye on him. One never knows how loyalty is won.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Peggy has been crying privately in Don's office, wondering why she's treated so hostilely.
    Peggy: I don't understand. I try to do my job. I follow the rules. And people hate me. Innocent people get hurt, and...and other people - people who are not good - get to walk around doing whatever they want. It's not fair.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The result of the titular presidential election is this to the viewers, but not to the characters, who mostly cling to the belief that Nixon's going to whoop Kennedy's backside.
  • The Glasses Come Off: Harry takes them off while talking to Hildy.
    Hildy: I've never really seen your eyes before.
    Harry: There they are. Just the two of them.
  • It's All My Fault: Peggy finds out that two people got fired after she made a call about her missing items. As she points out, they weren't even at the office to steal her items on election night.
  • Hangover Sensitivity: The guys are pretty dazed after drinking during election night and implore Peggy to keep her voice down.
  • Heel Realization: Paul seems to realize how much of a fool he can be during his conversation with Joan.
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: Ken, Paul, and Lane are seen drinking some kind of substance to get over their hangovers, remarking that it's not for the taste.
  • Insult Backfire: Joan notes that Paul really loves to be called Orson Welles.
  • Karma Houdini: As Peggy pointed out, she deals with her co-workers' crap and two guys got fired for a theft they weren't there to commit, while whoever stole her items got away scot free.
  • Morton's Fork: Duck notes the situation he's in when Cooper asks who he voted for.
    Duck: If I say Nixon, you'll think I'm buttering you. If I say Kennedy, you'll want to reform me. So, uh... I'll say Nixon.
  • Put on a Bus: Rachel essentially ceases to be a main character here, having cut off her relationship with Don.
  • The Reveal: We see just how Dick Whitman came to be Don Draper in a flashback.
  • Shout-Out: Peggy is compared to Broderick Crawford for her ferociousness at finding out who broke into her locker the morning after election night.
  • Stock Footage: Of various newsreels during Election Night in 1960, as well as Nixon's concession speech.
  • Take That!: In-universe version. Paul's play has the main character referring to another one named "Cosgrove" as a hack and boorish natural. Harry immediately starts cracking up.
  • Tender Tears: Peggy, crying alone in Don's office, both because she inadvertently got people fired and because she feels unappreciated by others.
  • Wham Line: Bert Cooper's line to Campbell upon hearing about Don's secret, as seen above.
    • Rachel's line that she uses when breaking up with Don, seen below, can also count as one.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Rachel calls Don out on wanting to drop everything and run away without thinking things through. It causes her to see through Don and the true nature of their relationship.
    Rachel: You don't want to run away with me. You just want to run away. You're a coward.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: When Don calls Pete out on his bluff, the latter wonders if he thinks this trope is in play.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Harry cheats on his wife with Hildy.
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