After about a year in the new firm, it appears he has just woken up to the fact that he has his own agency. He doesn't just have to play the game - he is the game.
The episode opens with an Ad Age interviewer asking Don, Who is Don Draper? He, of course, being Don Draper, hides behind the answer. "In the midwest we were raised to think that talking about yourself is rude." But that is the question. And has been for the entire series.
Of course, the Ad Age article doesn't shine the best light on Don - more pompous than modest. The top brass, are pissed off, see this as a missed opportunity for the agency to promote themselves. When it's suggested he get another interview to combat the disaster, Don questions how he would do it differently, using the same line he's probably used his whole career - as all good creatives do - "my work should speak for itself." But Burt Cooper's response said it all. Paraphrasing here... "Turning your creative success into business is your work."
Ahh, a creative turned business man. Right. Lightbulb.
Cut to a meeting with what is the stereotypical client - in Mad Men days and today. They claim to want to move forward and adapt to the changing landscape, compete with their competitors. But when it comes down to it - what they really want is for everything to stay the same, so they don't have to change. An impossible client, an impossible problem to solve. Fence straddlers, thinking they can stay firmly rooted in the past, while competing in the present. As Don bluntly says, you've got to decide what you want to be.
And Don, right there, answers that question for himself. No fence sitting anymore. Past Betty, past being what he thinks he should be. He jumps to the future.
When he presents his Big Idea to these clients, and they reject it as too racy - "we're a family company" - Don walks out. And he's not interested in having Pete calm the waters, convince the clients to give them another shot at presenting. "You're missing the point," he mumbles, and goes right back in and pretty harshly kicks the client out the door. "Pick up your things and leave." Then immediately asks his secretary to set up the WSJ interview.
His whole career - his whole life - he's struggled over who he is, who he wants to be, what people want him to be. He made the bold move to leave Sterling Cooper and start his own agency. But hadn't yet figured out what that meant - for the agency or himself. Until now.
Don Draper wholeheartedly and confidently trusts his own creative instincts, and doesn't much care what the client thinks, or anyone else for that matter. He believes that HE defines the agency, that his creative genius should speak for itself. And now, he doesn't just have to say it, he can act on it. The epiphany. I know who I am, who I want to be, what I want this company to be...
The episode ends with Don telling the reporter exactly who Don Draper is.
Confidently knowing what you stand for, what your company stands for, makes everything else flow easily - defining the work you do, who you want to hire, how you want your employees to represent you (telling Peggy that she needs to be more aware of how she represents the agency) and the kind of clients you want to work with. He doesn't want to work with just any client. He wants the smart clients, the creative clients, the one that will love and embrace his ideas...And because Don Draper is the man, he can do that. Kick clients out of his office because he doesn't want to work with them.
For anyone who works with clients that they don't want to, who do it only for the money, because it's how things are done, Don Draper is a hero. "If only...." Of course, aside from being a character on TV, he also doesn't live in the recession era 2010 - where often times agencies are forced to take on clients they don't really want, or who don't necessarily help build or further their business, and then as an added bonus, the agency ends up having to cut into profits in order to take on that business. Unfortunately, the reality of our economy. But also, the reality that most agencies aren't as clear about their WHY, or as bold enough to execute on it.