Mad Men, "5G": just go back to thinking that [Key Series Moments]

As we wait for the arrival of Season Five, currently scheduled to premiere in early 2012, stay tuned to TV Geek Army all summer long to get your Mad Men fix. Here we take a look at a key series moment from Season One, Episode Five: “5G.”


Mad Men’s tag line is “where the truth lies.” After four episodes of being gradually and even luxuriously introduced to the world of Don and Betty Draper and the advertising industry in New York City circa 1960, “5G” jolts us with a deep dive into Don’s back story while examining issues of identity and what people do to maintain a version of themselves that they want themselves and others to see. 

We’ve had a few hints up until this point in the series that the character we’ve come to know as Donald Draper – Korean war veteran and husband and father and Creative Director at the Sterling Cooper advertising agency – is not precisely who he says he is, most notably coming in the form of an old war buddy recognizing him as Dick Whitman on a train in “Marriage of Figaro.”

Because the hints heretofore have been somewhat subtle amidst lots of other stuff going on, it comes as a dramatic wallop when Don’s (or Dick’s, as we soon come to learn) brother, Adam Whitman (Jay Paulson, a terrific character actor who stole many a scene in October Road as Physical Phil), shows up at Sterling Cooper.

“Dick, I thought you were dead and you’re right here!” the so-earnest-it-hurts Adam tells a stone faced Don/Dick at a diner several blocks away from the office. Adam has found a picture of his very alive brother in the newspaper while working as a janitor in midtown Manhattan (in the episode’s opening scene, we see a dressed-to-the-nines Don and Betty return from an awards dinner, where his picture was taken by a reporter).  

The key moment comes late in the episode when Don visits Adam at his apartment, the letter and number of which form the episode’s title. We’re not sure exactly why Don chose to call Adam at night for an impromptu visit as after all Don had tried mightily to sever the relationship completely, such as it is at that point in time, while at the diner: “I’m not buying your lunch because this never happened.”

Inside of 5G, Don says, “Adam, listen to me. I have a life, and it only goes in one direction: forward.”

Then comes a moment that has never happened before or since over the course of four Mad Men seasons: the whiff of a possibility that Don Draper/Dick Whitman is capable of murder. After all, if Adam simply disappears, it removes a major threat to Don Draper’s cover and true identity.

It gets downright creepy and sinister for just a beat as Don asks, “So no Abigail, no Uncle Mac, nobody?” He’s ensuring that everyone else associated with Dick Whitman’s past is now dead (we find out later about Anna Draper, of course, but that doesn’t factor for these purposes) and that Adam is a final living liability on Don’s hands.

Adam continues to make conversation, desperate to reconnect with his brother who has miraculously come back to life.

“Of course Uncle Mac thought you were soft. But you’re not, are you?” Adam says.

“No, I’m not,” Don replies, and then reaches into his briefcase.

Instead of a gun, $5,000 in cash comes out instead. “I don’t want to see or hear from you ever again,” Don says, attempting to buy Adam and the danger he poses out of his life.

“That’s not what I wanted. That’s not right,” Adam says.

“You thought I was dead. Just go back to thinking that.”  

This kind of exhilarating and unsettling storytelling is a perfect retort to the silly argument that “not enough happens” during Mad Men’s early seasons.

By Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader"

About the author

Eric is the publisher and revered leader of TV Geek Army… at least in his own mind. TV Geek Army is a place for serious TV reviews and news for serious fans of great television. Contact: eric-[at] 

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