Nixon vs. Kennedy
Nixon vs kennedy
Season 1 Episode 12
Air date 11 October 2007
Written by Lisa Albert
Andre Jacquemetton
Maria Jacquemetton
Directed by Alan Taylor

Indian Summer
The Wheel


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.


It's November 8, 1960, election day, and Bertram Cooper turns off his television, cutting off a news segment on how Americans are rushing to the polls. Don enters with Herman Phillips, who had been in London with Y&R, another ad 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 Advertising Agency.

After Cooper finishes grilling the candidate, Herman Phillips and Don walk by the other ad men, who've been chatting about who might be president by the end of the night. "He's the best one Draper's paraded around," Ken says, regarding Herman Phillips. "Let's see if Cooper is smart enough to know that."

Pete then goes into Don's 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, who's been with the company for two and a half years, be patient because he's still at the point where someone will always be his senior.

Ken allison nixon vs kennedy

Ken teases Allison, in Nixon vs. Kennedy.

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 Kennedy's 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. Joan then grants them entry into Sterling Coopers storage closet, where they are allowed to take bottles of the overstocked rum and creme de menthe.

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 I'd find a husband here," Marge says. Peggy just leaves.

Pete dons box nixon vs kennedy

Pete looks through Don's box, in Nixon vs. Kennedy.

Pete, sitting in the dark living room of his apartment, leafs through Adam's 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 Vogel walks in. She's noticed him sneaking around with that box and wonders why he won't return it.

Back at Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency, Ken comes out of Paul's 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. It's not long, however, before he's 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.


Joan and Sal reading Paul Kinsey's script. Episode, Nixon vs Kennedy.

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 walking around painfully in last night's clothes, coffee in hand. She smells something pungent at her desk -- her trashcan is filled with vomit.

Don enters Cooper's 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, he's probably willing to play ball with us."

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

Don recognizes the attempt at blackmail but doesn't 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.

Rachel don nixon vs kennedy

Rachel comes to terms with her relationship with Don, Nixon vs. Kennedy.

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 only one soldier because he requested twenty soldiers for his mission to build a field hospital. Dick introduces himself. The lieutenant follows suit. "Draper. It's Lieutenant Don Draper," he says to Dick.

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

He goes to Rachel Menken's 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 doesn't want to run away with her. He just wants to run away.

Pete burt don nixon vs kennedy

Pete runs to Burt in a moment of desperation, Nixon vs. Kennedy.

Don returns to the office and approaches Pete, passing a TV with Kennedy's 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 Herman Phillips. 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 Cooper's office with him. Don tells Cooper he's hiring Herman Phillips, 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 korea nixon vs kennedy

Don's flashback of Korea in Nixon vs. Kennedy.

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 has wet himself, but when Dick drops his cigarette, they realize it's 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 what's left of Lt. Don -- guts ripped open, intestines strewn on the ground, flesh charred. He finds Don's dog tags and pulls them from the body. He rips off his own before dangling Don's around his neck.

Don train nixon vs kennedy

Don leaving his old life behind, Nixon vs. Kennedy.

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 Whitman's 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 Nixon's concession speech.


  • Jon Hamm broke his hand during the rehearsal for the explosion scene from Korea, one of the first scenes shot during this episode. Because of that, his right hand is concealed for most of the rest of his scenes.
    • Jon is wearing a cast on his right arm during the first office scene with Pete.
    • Certain scenes show Jon’s swollen right hand, particularly when he first comes home and picks up Sally.
    • Janie Bryant, the costume designer, had to cut Don’s suits so Jon’s cast could fit.
  • In the commentary track for season 1, Rich Sommer says that the cast mates were originally going to use real alcohol for the party scenes, but forgot to bring any. This was also his favorite day of shooting for season 1.
  • The scene with Ken chasing down Allison and revealing her panties is based off a real practice from the time called “scuttling”. They would actually take the woman’s panties off during the real version.
  • One of the only improvised scenes in the show is when Stephanie Courtney takes Peggy’s drink and pours it into her cup after Peggy leaves.
  • An extra actually spilled some “alcohol” on herself and the clip made it into the show, which can be seen after Joan kisses Sal.
  • Joan mentioning Orson Wells and the line “you look so different when you're drunk” come Matthew Weiner, who said both of those things to Michael Gladis during the pilot shoot and the post-pilot party, respectively.
  • Harry’s glasses in the show are Rich Sommer’s real glasses. A screw was taken out to make them look broken.
  • Pete wasn’t supposed to back up when Don comes at him, but that was Vincent Kartheiser’s natural reaction.
  • This is the favorite episode of the season for both Jon Hamm and Rich Sommer.


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Seasons of Mad Men
Season 1 • "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" • "Ladies Room" • "Marriage of Figaro" • "New Amsterdam" • "5G" • "Babylon" • "Red in the Face" • "The Hobo Code" • "Shoot" • "Long Weekend" • "Indian Summer" • "Nixon vs. Kennedy" • "The Wheel" •
Season 2 • "For Those Who Think Young" • "Flight 1" • "The Benefactor" • "Three Sundays" • "The New Girl" • "Maidenform" • "The Gold Violin" • "A Night to Remember" • "Six Month Leave" • "The Inheritance" • "The Jet Set" • "The Mountain King" • "Meditations in an Emergency" •
Season 3 • "Out of Town" • "Love Among the Ruins" • "My Old Kentucky Home" • "The Arrangements" • "The Fog" • "Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency" • "Seven Twenty Three" • "Souvenir" • "Wee Small Hours" • "The Color Blue" • "The Gypsy and the Hobo" • "The Grown-Ups" • "Shut the Door. Have a Seat" •
Season 4 • "Public Relations" • "Christmas Comes But Once a Year" • "The Good News" • "The Rejected" • "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" • "Waldorf Stories" • "The Suitcase" • "The Summer Man" • "The Beautiful Girls" • "Hands and Knees" • "Chinese Wall" • "Blowing Smoke" • "Tomorrowland" •
Season 5 • "A Little Kiss, Part 1" • "A Little Kiss, Part 2" • "Tea Leaves" • "Mystery Date" • "Signal 30" • "Far Away Places" • "At the Codfish Ball" • "Lady Lazarus" • "Dark Shadows" • "Christmas Waltz" • "The Other Woman" • "Commissions and Fees" • "The Phantom" •
Season 6 • "The Doorway, Part 1" • "The Doorway, Part 2" • "The Collaborators" • "To Have and To Hold" • "The Flood" • "For Immediate Release" • "Man With a Plan" • "The Crash" • "The Better Half" • "A Tale of Two Cities" • "Favors" • "The Quality of Mercy" • "In Care Of" •
Season 7 • "Time Zones" • "A Day's Work" • "Field Trip" • "The Monolith" • "The Runaways" • "The Strategy" • "Waterloo" • "Severance" • "New Business" • "The Forecast" • "Time & Life" • "Lost Horizon" • "The Milk and Honey Route" • "Person to Person" •
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