During the agency presentation, the emotionally elusive Draper makes a speech on memory and nostalgia in connection with the client's product, a photo projector carousel (the Wheel), that is so smart and moving that you think the screen is going to explode from such an overload of wisdom. It is far and away the best of the nominated teleplays.
Veith says the episode was written around that speech. Weiner, who writes through dictation said, "Take this down. I'm going to use it somewhere." Several weeks later, they started writing the teleplay with the speech as its bedrock.
"We split the finale on story lines. I want to make that clear," Veith says. "He did the Don and Betty thing, so he has the most amazing stuff with the projector presentation and Betty on the couch [in therapy]. I picked the slides for the projector and contributed the word flash."
Actually, she did considerably more than that. She wrote the story line about Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), Draper's unwed secretary turned copy writer, giving birth to a baby fathered by one of the young executives with whom she works at the Sterling Cooper advertising agency.
And in the kind of truth-at-all-costs storytelling that Mad Men is known for, one of the most powerful moments of the episode comes when a nurse brings Peggy's newborn to her bed and the young woman turns away.
"I actually had to fight for that a little," Veith says. "But that's what I love about Mad Men: No character gets protected. They all do good things, and they all can do horrible things as well."
In trying to create characters who behave with all the contradictions of real, multidimensional human beings, Veith says all the writers "draw deeply from our own lives."
One of the most stunning and discussed scenes in the first season came straight out of Veith's Kingsville past. There is a moment in the ninth episode that finds Betty Draper, the suburban Connecticut mother with Grace Kelly good looks, getting upset after a neighbor scares her children by threatening to kill their dog. The next morning, when Betty sees the neighbor letting his pigeons out for a quick flyover, she walks out into the backyard carrying a BB gun and starts blasting away at the birds.
"That actually happened on the cul de sac that we lived on," Veith says laughing. "The neighbor threatened to kill our dog, Boo, and the next day, my mom went out with a BB gun looking for his pigeons. It was the lioness protecting her cubs. She was my hero."
Veith's mother, Randy, who still lives in Baltimore, confirms the outline of the story, but suggests some "creative license" might have been taken. No matter, she treasures every reference to Veith family history in the show.
"It's become a great game that I enjoy very much," she said last week as she was preparing to leave for Los Angeles to be with her daughter at the Emmys tonight. "The writers take creative license and can retool a story to better mesh with the Mad Men story line, of course, but it's fun to be watching the show and recognize these snippets of our family in the story lines."
And whether or not her daughter is called to the Nokia stage tonight, joining the staff of Mad Men this year and getting nominated alongside Weiner is more than enough.
"I've seen a talented, dedicated woman work very hard at things she is passionate about," Randy Veith says. "Finding that passion is exactly what every parent wants for her child."
online David Zurawik talks more about this story at baltimoresun.com/zontv 60th Primetime Emmy Awards air tonight at 8 on WMAR Channel 2.