Mad Men S1:E5 The Newkie Award: New-Key and/or Nuke-ee?

January 18, 2018

Don’s award has two meanings

The title of Don’s award, Newkie, has two meanings. The title can be interpreted as New-Key or Nuke-e. New doors & new possibilities or Armageddon & scorched earth.


Don’s destroys the past to open the door of the future

Don is adjusting to life with a mistress. To adapt, he must remove love from his home life, must distance himself from Betty and the kids. However, to kill “family-Don” of the present, he must kill family-Don of the past.


Killing his past

The latter half of this double homicide (suicide?) involves Adam. Don’s actions lead to Adam’s death. The dealings with Adam also, in a sense, lead to the deaths of Uncle Mack and the stepmom, the remainder of Don’s former family. This new vacuum coincides with the Draper’s family picture at the end of the episode.


The “big hole” in the Draper picture

While looking at the photograph, Francine introduces a concept that is pivotal to understanding Don. She says that there’s a “big hole” in Helen Bishop’s family portrait, loosely comparing Don to ex-Mr. Bishop.


Don and holes

The very first thing his mother says to him is, “Dick Whitman, stop digging holes!” (ep 8) Later, during one of the series’ few flashbacks, Private Whitman is given only one assignment before becoming Donald Draper: he is told he will be “doing all the digging [for] fighting positions on four sides.” Using the transferred material from the hole, he fortifies his position. Similarly, Don is creating a hole in his family and moving that energy elsewhere to feel safe. He is nuking familial Don, both past and present, as the new key to individual Don.






Don becoming an individual

The episode’s pitch introduces Don’s psychic setup. Kinsey separates modern man’s life into business, family, and leisure. After noting it’s complexity, he offers the private account as the calamine. Having bills “sent to the office, not your home” grants the male monetary separation from family, allows him to safely have a mistress.


All in Don's head

The above pitch is closely tied to Don’s psyche, and the psychic-nature of the episode is hinted at in the first five minutes with three head references. First, the magic of a peak evening ends when Don and Betty clunk heads. Second, the Newkie award switches when Don shuts the door to the bathroom, or “the head” (see S1E2 analysis). Lastly, Peggy informs Don that his underlings said “the Newkie Award went to [his] head.” 





Other happenings

Pete, the fisher of men, tries to whore out his wife. The plan fails and he hypothesizes his story’s low placement next to “exploding cigars.” Peter is good at his job, but is not respected like Ken. Pete’s ability to mold to clients is “too modern,” just like his story where the hunter “imagines what the bear is thinking.”


Pete and Ken are meant to be compared

Ken’s stories are also revealing, but he will be discussed another time.

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