"Dec. 13, 1963: The day four guys shot their own legs off." - Roger Sterling
At the midpoint of Mad Men's stellar third season, Don Draper signed a contract that began his downward spiral. Since July 23, 1963, campaigns have failed to impress hotel tycoons, affairs have happened, secrets were uncovered, and declarations of no love were made. But no matter how Roger Sterling sees Dec. 13, it is no doubt the day that Don Draper picked himself up from rock bottom and started his climb all over again.
And he's not alone: Don recruits Bert, Roger and Lane to strike out on their own to avoid becoming cogs in the machine known as McCann Erickson, who has bought Putnam Powell and Lowe and, by extension, Sterling Cooper. With a plan that feels hatched out of Ocean's Eleven or any other great caper movie, Don convinces Lane to fire the three partners at Sterling Cooper. They then set out to recruit a skeleton crew to join them in stealing everything that might get the new agency off the ground.
Since he's at the bottom looking up, Don finally takes some advice from Roger: "You're no good at relationships because you don't value them," Roger says, and Don listens. He starts by telling Roger that he was wrong to hog the Hilton account, that he sells ideas but has no business babying clients. Admitting his failure as an account man also helps Don reel in Pete. Peggy requires a much more genuine sales pitch, but ultimately she comes on board.
The one relationship that Don has most devalued, however, can't be repaired. Betty, with Henry Francis at her side, consults a divorce attorney and flies across the country to end her marriage. Don's furious, then defeated, but he ultimately takes a (final?) lesson from Archibald Whitman. By sticking with the cooperative now known as Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, Don can perhaps ride out this storm. Or at the very least, he can still try to be the father to his children that Archie never was to Dick.
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