"Mad Men" The Gold Violin (TV Episode 2008) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • To show that he has "arrived," Don buys a new car. Pete, Harry and Ken come up with a plan to attract new business, and Don's secretary makes a serious error, which could mean trouble for Joan. Cooper gets a new piece of office art that attracts the interest of the Sterling Cooper staff.

  • Jane Siegel becomes the center of attention at Sterling Cooper. Her mystique among the accounts boys hits a new high when rumors float around the office of a new abstract painting in Bertram Cooper's office, and what it means. To find out, she leads a few of them in the office clandestinely to view it. The one non-fan of Jane's is Joan. An altercation ensues between the two. Jane manages to wrangle others to her side, most importantly Roger Sterling, but she is now aware that she has to keep her eye on how Joan may get the upper hand in their relationship. On the accounts front, Don and Duck work together to get the Martinson's coffee account, and they go with Duck's idea of hiring the younger talents of Smith and Smith to work on the pitch. As a result, Don reaps the benefits as Cooper and Sterling's choice as the philanthropic face of the company, which includes a new public persona associated with Don's new Cadillac Coup de Ville. Shopping for the car makes Don reminisce about his previous life as a car salesman and again being exposed on not being the real Don Draper. Salvatore has a new crush, that being Ken. Salvatore invites Ken to dinner on the guise of reading his new short story. Salvatore's wife Kitty notices her husband's doting on Ken, but does not understand its full meaning. And Jimmy Barrett extends a personal invitation to the Draper's through Betty to a industry shindig to celebrate the pick-up of Jimmy's new television show, Grin and Barrett. Jimmy implies to both the Draper's individually that he knows of Don's indiscretions with Bobbie.

  • Don is encouraged by Roger Sterling to buy a flashy new car and he has his eye on a Cadillac Coupe de Ville. When Harry announces that he has a private meeting with Bert Cooper the next day, the staff speculates that it's probably to discuss his new, avant-garde painting. Don's new secretary, Jane, suggests they check it out. When Joan hears of it, she takes decisive action over what she sees as a major transgression but Jane has her own plan. When Ken asks Sal to read a new short story, Sal invites him to Sunday dinner. It's pretty obvious that he has more than just a passing interest in Ken. Don and Betty attend a party at the Stork Club hosted by comedian Jimmy Barrett where he tells Betty of his wife's affair with Don.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • "Mad Men" - "The Gold Violin" - September 7, 2008

    Previously On: Don hired some young, funky, hepcat ad wizards on the directive of Sterling and Cooper; Joan admonished Jane to cover up; Ken had a story published in Atlantic Monthly; Jimmy Barrett hit on Betty; Bobbie Barrett went her husband one better and actually shtupped Don; Sal put off an advance by the Belle Jolie lipstick man; Pete tattled to Cooper that Don isn't who he says he is.

    Don is looking at Cadillacs with the help of an unctuous salesman. He sees a man looking at a car. We flashback to see Don working as a salesman in a used car lot trying to sell to a kid and his dad. A blonde comes in looking for Donald Draper. He thinks she's come because of his circular. But she, and he, realize that she's someone from the real Don's life and she recognizes that he's not who he says he is. Back in the Caddy lot, Don is spooked by his memory and leaves hastily.

    Roger approaches Jane outside Don's office and hits on her. She seems uncomfortable and flattered. Don returns and Jane tells him that Bobbie Barrett called again, and didn't leave a message. They enter Don's office and Roger says Jane is probably trying to get Don's attention and then tries to sell Don on a Caddy, about how it's partially about the prestige and that life is short. (Roger has one). Duck joins them. Martinson's Coffee is changing to Martinson Coffee. It seems they're having troubles with their ad stuff, which is good for Sterling Cooper, Duck has been wooing them. The young ad wizards- Smith, the American, and Smith, the German arrive, after hitting on Jane. So, dig it, the American-born Smith reads from a groovy manifesto from a friend in Michigan: a bunch of idealistic stuff about just wanting "to be." He says young people don't want to be told what to do or buy or how to act. They just want to be. They ask Don to listen to something and press play on a tape recorder but before we can hear it, we cut to...

    Ken, Peggy, Sal, and Kinsey working on the Pampers account with a baby doll. Peggy tells the group that Don likes their ideas but wants Pampers to lower their price. Ken can't get them to do that. Jane enters with some feedback from Don. Harry comes in saying it's happy hour. He also brags/mentions he's got a meeting with Bert Cooper. The others talk about how he's calling everyone in and it's just to see what their reaction is to a new painting he bought for $10,000. Harry wonders if they're putting him on. They all talk about who has and hasn't seen the painting and won't share any tidbits with Harry. Jane, who has come in to help clean up, wonders why they all just don't walk into Bert Cooper's office and look at it. Ken explains that that is simply not done. Jane says Bert's secretary won't mind and marches up there to look at it.

    The boys follow, full of trepidation. Cooper's secretary, like Cooper, is gone for the day and the door is open. They all doff their shoes and run in and look at it, all except cowardly Kinsey. Sal, the artist of the group, says "Oh, it's a Rothko, why the hell didn't Dale say that?" Jane calls it "smudgy squares." Harry says there's two options when discussing it with Cooper: liking it because Cooper likes it, or goofing on it because Cooper thinks it's a joke. They all look at it. Ken wonders if it means anything. Sal says he's an artist, and that all art means something. Ken says maybe it doesn't, maybe you're just supposed to experience it and it's like looking into something very deep, like you could fall into it. Sal is impressed by this observation. They all skedaddle.

    In the elevator, Jane remarks, "We could've stolen it, couldn't we?" Sal is horrified and impressed. Ken muses he could write a great short story about it. He brags to Jane about his being published in Atlantic Monthly and that he's a writer. She thought he was an accountant. "Accounts," he corrects. Sal compliments Ken's published story, saying it was beautiful and sad and that everyone read it and was jealous. Ken tries to get Jane to go out with him. She declines.

    At the coffee cart the next morning, Kinsey pumps Ken for info as Joan arrives. She notes to Kinsey that she overheard that Jane, Ken, and he "broke into" Mr. Cooper's office in a threatening manner. He tells her to mind her own business. He says he had nothing to do with it and that nothing happened.

    In the office Smith and Smith are telling Sal that no artwork will be necessary for the Martinson pitch. He is not so sure and sends them on their way. Ken arrives and sheepishly tells Sal that he doesn't think that Sal is like other people in the office. Sal says he isn't so sure about that. What Ken means, it seems, is that Sal was sensitive enough to like his story and admit it. So, he wonders if Sal would be willing to read a new one and give him some feedback. Sal is so touched and honored by the request that he invites Ken over to dinner on Sunday to talk about it.

    In the Martinson meeting Don talks about how young people don't drink coffee and introduces the young ad wizards who are going to change that by saying, "When one is in Indian country one needs a man who knows Indians." Smith gets up and does his shtick about young people not wanting to be told what to do, and that they want to find things for themselves. All Martinson needs to tell young people, says Smith, is that coffee is delicious, hot, and brown and let them figure out the rest. Peggy then gets up to play the jingle we didn't hear before. It's Spanish-flavored music with lyrics about the "exotic" brew of Martinson. The Martinson guy says he doesn't understand. Smith says it's a mood and a feeling. Don says it's more than a jingle. Peggy says it stays with you. Martinson wonders where the artwork is. Don says if he signs they'll show him.

    Harry comes into Cooper's office and Cooper immediately starts going over some accounting figures as Harry stares at the painting. Harry tries to get the conversation going by saying he can't help but look at it and knows it's a Rothko and that he's read about it. Cooper actually asks him about Rothko and what he thinks. Harry deflects the question back, asking Cooper what he thinks. Cooper says no one's ever asked him that, probably because it's none of their business. Harry admits he doesn't know anything about art. Cooper tells him to stick to numbers since aesthetics will likely give him a headache. Cooper does add though that people buy things to realize their aspirations- it's the foundation of their business- and that the painting should double in value by next Christmas. Back to numbers.

    At the Draper house Betty is pulling through Sally's wet hair with a comb. The phone rings and it's Jimmy Barrett. She tells him Don is at the office. He tells her that ABC picked up "Grin and Bear It" and he's having a party at the Stork Club and he wants her . . . and Don . . . to come. He sincerely asks her to come. She says she'll try to convince Don. She hangs up, clearly tickled that he called.

    Duck enters Don's office to tell him that Martinson has signed, he congratulates Don. Don has a drink and toasts Duck and compliments his advance work. Duck declines a drink. Jane comes in and says Mr. Cooper wants to see Don. Just Don. (Not Duck.)

    Don enters Cooper's office, and Sterling is also there. Bert congratulates Don. Roger says Martinson wants to add Don to the board of the Museum of Early American Folk Art. The museum doesn't exist yet but Sterling and Cooper think Don should do it since, as Cooper says, "Philanthropy is the gateway to power." Sterling says they need him to continue his excellence in advertising but also treat it like a bigger business by shmoozing, serving on boards, going to parties. Cooper asks Roger to depart. He tells Don that he knows a little bit about him and that he has now been invited to be a part of the world of powerful men that he clearly aspired to be and it's time for him to embrace that. We cut to Don sitting in the Caddy. He buys it from the unctuous salesman.

    Joan confronts Jane about breaking into Mr. Cooper's office. Jane denies it and claims the men made her do it. Joan doesn't believe that for an instant. Jane asks what's wrong with Joan. She wonders if Joan is the only one in the office allowed to have any fun. Joan is aghast. Jane says she is 20 and doesn't need a mother. Joan tells her to pack up and leave. Jane can't believe it.

    In front of the house Don shows Betty the Caddy. She thinks it's gorgeous. He lets her sit behind the wheel. She thinks it's fancy. He says it was expensive. She says he deserves it, since he works so hard. She says she can't wait to pull up in the Stork Club in this and mentions Jimmy Barrett's party. Don says Jimmy should've gone through his secretary. Betty says Jimmy likes talking to her and then gives Don a kiss. She says the kids aren't home for an hour and should they take it around the block. He says yes, but not in the car.

    Jane is walking out with her box and stops at Roger Sterling's office. She walks in to say goodbye. Roger can't believe it. He offers her a drink since "it's not like you work here anymore." He explains Joan is going through a rough time. He tells her to go home - to the Village it turns out- and by the time Jane comes back on Monday morning it will all be taken care of. She thanks him. He tells her to call him Roger.

    It's Sunday and Sal and Kitty are preparing for Ken's arrival. He comes with flowers for Kitty. (Sal checks his look in the mirror before greeting Ken). Ken calls the very colorfully decorated Romano home "wild." Sal has Ken taste his sauce- his pasta sauce- and Ken says it's better than a restaurant. Ken asks how they met and Sal dismisses the story as boring, which is the first of several dismissive slights to come throughout the evening. Kitty explains that she and Sal met growing up in the same neighborhood in Baltimore. When he moved his mom up, apparently Kitty came too.

    Ken is anxious to hear about Sal's response to his story. Sal loved it. Kitty says he wouldn't let her read it. Sal wasn't sure if Ken would've okayed that. She wonders if one day realtors will show this apartment bragging about how author Ken Cosgrove once ate there. Ken can't believe Sal liked his story - "The Gold Violin," hence the episode title- Sal did. He says it was lovely. Ken says he saw a gold violin at the Met, perfect in every way but couldn't make music. They eat. Sal can't stop adoring Ken with his eyes, actually physically turning his body a little toward Ken, and away from Kitty, at the head of the table.

    The Drapers are on a picnic with the radio from the Caddy playing out to them through an open door. Sally and Betty play checkers until Betty gets tired and tells Sally to play with Bobby. Bobby has to pee and Don tells him to do it behind a tree since no one's around. Sally wants to tinkle outside. Betty says it's different for boys. Don talks about the horrors of his childhood outhouse. Sally asks if they're rich. Betty says it's not polite to talk about money. Bobby is excited that he peed outside. As they get up to leave Don tosses his beer can over by the tree and Betty unloads the detritus of their blanket onto the ground.

    Back at the Romano house Sal asks Ken about Harry's meeting with Mr. Cooper. They talk about work, to the exclusion of Kitty, who tries to include herself at the pauses by asking more general questions like where Ken lives. (Murray Hill.) Sal keeps dismissing these though. Sal asks how Ken ended up in accounts, totally impressed with him and flirting. Ken says he just writes for fun. There is a pause and he says he should go. Sal offers him a smoke instead. They both take one and Ken lights Sal's smoke. No one offers one to Kitty. Ken makes his getaway and thanks them for dinner and reading the story. He says Kitty can read it. She says she can't wait.

    Sal sees Ken to the door and Kitty is not happy. She asks Sal if he wants some pie for dessert and he declines. She gets mad and wonders if he cares if she wants some and then gets angrier talking about how he cuts her out of the conversation. She wonders if he even sees her. He apologizes and says he was rude. She says she tries to include herself and says that a lot of people find her interesting, tearily. He sincerely apologizes and offers to get her pie and take care of the kitchen while she puts her feet up. It's clear that Sal really loves her and is upset that he upset her. Sal sees that Ken left his lighter behind and pockets it.

    The next day on the way into the office, Ken offers Jane tickets to the Mets. She tells him not to lurk at her desk since she's being watched. He sees Sal in the break room and says he wanted to call and thank Kitty but wasn't sure how Italians felt about men calling their wives. Sweetly, Sal says Kitty would appreciate a call. Ken says every once in a while he wishes he wasn't a bachelor and says Sal's home is the way he envisions his one day.

    Jane sits at her desk a bundle of nerves, waiting for Joan, who arrives on cue and asks her what on God's green earth she's doing here. Jane wonders if Mr. Sterling spoke with her. She says no and what would he have to do with it. Jane says Mr. Sterling said he would smooth it over and said that Joan often loses her temper and is impetuous and that it's not serious when it happens. Joan says she sees exactly what's going on.

    Don and Betty arrive at the Stork Club for the party. A man from ABC meets them. Bobbie arrives and says Betty looks stunning. Bobbie has some ideas for ads for the show. Betty goes off to get drinks since they're going to talk business.

    Jimmy arrives to chat up Betty. He grabs some champagne and offers one to Betty since the drunker she is the funnier he becomes. They have a seat. They watch Bobbie, Don, the ABC guy and others talking business. Jimmy likens himself and Betty on the couch to sitting at the kids table. He continues to butter up Betty and talk trash about Don and then Jimmy asks what Betty thinks happened between Bobbie and Don. Betty gets uncomfortable saying she doesn't like what he's saying. He continues malevolently, not letting it go, that clearly something happened between their spouses. Betty gets pale and stalks off saying, "You people are ugly and crude."

    "What people?" Jimmy asks. "You mean comedians?"

    At the Romano house in front of the TV, Kitty needlepoints, Mama Romano snoozes, and Sal smokes, happy to light his cigarette with Ken's lighter.

    Jimmy confronts Don at the coat check and thanks him for giving him everything he ever wanted: the deal with the Utz, the show, the money. He wonders what Don got? Bobbie? "Lots of people have had that," he observes. He again gets malevolent, saying he goes home and laughs at Don. Don tries to dissemble but Jimmy won't let him. saying that if you want to step out on your wife, go to a whore, but don't screw another man's wife. "You're garbage and you know it." Betty arrives and Jimmy's all smiles. "Good night you two, it's been a gas."

    Betty and Don drive home in tense and sad silence. Suddenly, Betty pukes.

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