Mad Men: Season 1, Episode 12

Nixon vs. Kennedy (11 Oct. 2007)

TV Episode  |  TV-14  |   |  Drama
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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 ... See full summary »



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Lieutenant Donald Draper


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. Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

11 October 2007 (USA)  »

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Technical Specs

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| (archive footage)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The title refers to election night as well as the battle between Don and Pete. Don is Nixon: an older self-made man, who Don even compares himself to earlier in the season. Pete is Kennedy: a younger man with a silver spoon upbringing. See more »


Don's flashback to Korea is dated 1950 and appears to be summer, indicating the beginning of the war, yet Lt. Draper references the Chinese as the enemy. China entered the war in November 1950, at the onset of the Korean winter. See more »


References Highway Patrol (1955) See more »


A Beautiful Mine
Composed by Rjd2
Performed by Rjd2
[theme music performed over opening titles]
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User Reviews

The truth about Don Draper
28 August 2010 | by (Italy) – See all my reviews

Over the course of one season, Mad Men has proved to be particularly good at mixing bits of American history with the characters' private tragedies. This aspect comes to head in the penultimate episode, Nixon vs. Kennedy, which trumps The Hobo Code as the essential chapter of the season for the importance of the major revelation it contains.

As the title suggests, the big event of the episode is Election Night, which the men at Sterling Cooper are watching in the office while throwing a party. Don, now a senior partner, also has to worry about finding a new head of the accounts department, and chooses his old acquaintance Herman "Duck" Phillips (former Desperate Housewives regular Mark Moses) for the job, which Pete Campbell is after as well. Using information he has gathered thanks to a letter he stole from the office, he confronts Don and threatens to blackmail him with a piece of information that is shown to the viewer through flashbacks: a battle in the Korean war which killed one Donald Draper, whose identity was then taken over by one of his soldiers, Dick Whitman.

The Korea flashback is one of the episode's strongest points, using the show's trademark visual flair to frame a couple of scenes that are brutally intense, deliberately clashing with the superficial cool of the '60s. On a narrative level, praise is due for the long awaited final reveal concerning the Dick/Don mystery, the answer proving to be as riveting and thoughtful as all the clues seemed to indicate.

Back in the present, the Nixon/Kennedy "war" is a great way to ground the plot in historic reality, providing ample ground for another conflict, that between Don and Pete, acted out with gusto by Hamm and Kartheiser. Also noteworthy is the addition of Moses to the cast, a cool and charismatic contrast to his creepy Desperate Housewives character. In short, a great foreshadowing of the season finale.

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