It’s no secret that Don Draper isn’t the man he used to be — and we don’t just mean Dick Whitman. Over the course of these past 25 episodes, Don’s gone from lovable cad to unsympathetic prick. But when did Sterling Cooper’s once-beloved creative director turn into Tony Soprano? Using our patented Drape-o-Meter, which measures the likability of any Mad Men character on a period-appropriate scale of JFK (likable) to Richard Nixon (unlikable), we track his decline — after the jump! Oh, and spoilers ahead, obviously.
When first we meet Donald Francis Draper, the handsome creative director of Sterling Cooper advertising, he’s sitting alone in a swank Manhattan bar, stressing over an ad pitch, emptying glasses of rye, and smoking his weight in Lucky Strikes. In other words, he’s totally awesome.
Don, you dog! Draper spends the night with Midge Daniels, his bohemian sex buddy, and the very next evening it’s drinks and flirting with Rachel Menken, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy department-store owner. Oh, and the pitch meeting with the tobacco company went great, by the way – Don isn’t the kind of adman who lets his philandering affect his job performance, mostly.
Oh. It would appear he’s also not the type adman who lets his beautiful wife and children affect his philandering.
While his wife, Betty, visits the hospital to get some weird hand-numbness thing checked out, Don skips work for sex with Midge. When Betty sees a psychiatrist, with the suspicion that her condition could be psychological, Don has more sex with Midge. Then he calls Betty’s doctor to find out everything she said. But it was 1960! Didn’t everyone do stuff like that back then?
At his daughter’s 6th-birthday party, an obviously miserable Don drinks four beers, one mixed drink, and a glass of rye, then drives to the railroad tracks, drinks some more, and stares into space. He returns several hours later…
Don clashes with office weasel Pete Campbell after the junior account executive goes above Don’s head, selling a client on one of his own ideas. It was nice to see Pete put in his place – but his idea was kinda better than Don’s.
After winning an award and appearing in Ad Age, Don is paid a visit by his heretofore unmentioned brother, Adam, who calls him Dick. Don is thrilled to hear of his mother’s death from stomach cancer and later gives Adam $5,000 not to contact him again. Even so, it could’ve been worse, we suppose – didn’t it seem like he was reaching for a gun instead of money?
Out at the Gaslight with Midge, Don is asked by some smelly beatnik how he sleeps at night. “On a bed made of money,” he fires back. In your face, hippie!
After dinner at the Drapers’, Don’s co-worker Roger makes a drunken move on Betty. When she tells Don what happened, he gets physical and blames her: “You made a fool of yourself! Sometimes I feel like I’m living with a little girl.” This was probably uncalled for.
Two days later, in an awesome act of revenge, Don bribes the operator to take the elevator out of service, then joins Roger for a lunch of booze and oysters. Returning to work, after climbing up 23 flights of stairs, Roger barfs on the carpet in front of Nixon’s campaign staff. Well played, Draper.
After taking a hit from one of Midge’s marijuana cigarettes, Don has a flashback to his childhood. Turns out he was the son of a prostitute mother and an alcoholic father. Now that the name-changing and past-escaping make sense, for the first time ever, we feel a little sorry for him.
Until his brother, Adam, hangs himself two episodes later, that is!
Pete finds out about Don’s past and tries to blackmail his way into Sterling Cooper’s vacant head-of-account-services position. Don threatens to kill him: “If your information is powerful enough to make them do what you want, what else can it make them do?” Could Don really murder a guy? He wouldn’t, right?
Just when we were worried he’d lost us, Don skips family Thanksgiving in favor of delivering the ad pitch of his life for Kodak’s latest slide projector. His emotional speech, using Draper family photos, reduces a pair of Kodak executives – plus one bespectacled Sterling Cooper media buyer – to tears. Does anyone know where we can buy a slide projector?
Fighting it all the way, a deflated Don is forced to inform an executive from Mohawk Airlines that Sterling Cooper has decided to terminate the company’s account so they can pursue the bigger American Airlines without a conflict of interest. This stinks, and Don proves himself to be, weirdly, one of the more principled guys in his office.
Oh dear. Following an unfortunate incident in which a large, important woman is compared to the Hindenburg by insult comic Jimmy Barrett , it’s up to Don to negotiate an apology – which he accomplishes by finger-blasting Barrett’s detestable wife, Bobbie, in a fancy restroom. After this it was hard to feel the same way about Don again – and that goes double for anyone who watched this episode with his parents.
We learn that Don has taught his 8-year-old daughter, Sally, how to mix a Tom Collins. There was a time when this might’ve been adorable. Okay, it is still adorable.
In the midst of a heated argument over Don’s stubborn refusal to beat their children, he shoves Betty.
Bobbie suggests that she and Don take a late-night drive to her Long Island beach house, but a soused Don has other plans and swerves into a ditch. After failing a sobriety test, he calls poor Peggy to come pay the $500 fine for his DUI and makes her babysit Bobbie while her injuries heal. Christ, he’s becoming such a jerk!
After Bobbie ruins the mood during a hotel-room quickie by mentioning Don’s citywide reputation as a popular cocksman, he does the first sensible thing he’s done in episodes: ties her up and leaves.
After thanking Don for helping him land a TV deal, Jimmy Barrett gives it to him with both barrels: “You don’t screw another man’s wife. You’re garbage and you know it.” These days, we’re not totally sure we disagree.
Betting that he can get his own wife to buy Heineken if he pays to have it put on an endcap at the local supermarket, Don is proven right and wins an account with the beer company. Betty is, quite understandably, pissed to be the subject of his little experiment. This is probably the last time Heineken ever pays for product placement in an episode of Mad Men.
During a night of drunken carousing with Roger and copywriter Freddy Rumsen, Don sees Jimmy Barrett and clocks him unconscious. Still, if Don needed to punch a guy, we guess he could’ve done worse.
Betty’s father suffers a stroke, and she and Don stage the world’s most strained reunion for her folks. Following a half-hearted attempt at make-up sex (“We were just pretending,” says Betty), she throws him out of the house again. He nearly tears up, and we want to feel bad, but, come on, he totally deserves this.
On a business trip to California, Don ditches a meeting to cavort with a bunch of weird horny Europeans, leaving Pete to fend for himself against a pair of Lockheed Martin executives. This sort of thing would’ve been hilarious in Season 1, but Pete has long since grown on us and Don’s already in enough trouble.
Still AWOL in California, Don visits the wife of the widow of the real Don Draper, the guy he swapped dog tags with in the Korean War. He scores a few minor points here for not appearing to have slept with her (too much). Anna does a tarot reading and hints that Don can be “reborn” anytime he wants to. Still, though, barring a miracle on this weekend’s finale, we’re quite inclined to spend the show’s upcoming hiatus hating his guts.