Margarine. Ovarian cysts. A bomber jacket. The sudden appearance of a yen for sexual dominance. Dementia. Constant rainfall. An impressive dressing-down from a sometime underling. All of these things are in the mix as Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and Cutler Gleason Chaough merge in this week’s Mad Men.
As you might’ve guessed, it’s total chaos – making for a heck of an episode — and that’s before one of the most nationally traumatic events of the late ’60s takes place. Let’s review the major developments in the John Slattery-directed “Man With a Plan.”
ALL TOGETHER NOW | CGC moves into SCDP’s offices, causing a bit of insanity as everyone tries to figure out who goes where – and who’ll be gone for good when the inevitable staffing cuts take place. Joan and Peggy have a really great moment as the new partner shows the newer copy chief to her old office (which used to be Harry’s). “I’m glad you’re here,” Joan says with a sincerely happy smile, and Peggy responds with an equally cute, “Well, I’m glad you’re here!” But no one’s really glad that Burt Peterson, formerly of Sterling Cooper and currently of CGC, is around… so he’s the first one let go. Roger takes a little too much glee in the dismissal, informing the fuming account exec. “No one fought for you.” Burt sputters,”You’re a real pr–k, you know that?” to which Sterling fires back, “Damn it, you stole my goodbye!” (Heh.)
The partners meet to take stock of their combined accounts, and it’s revealed that Fleischmann’s margarine is interested in being one of the new firm’s first clients. Don, Ted and Pete also make plans to meet with Mohawk Airlines – and Ted, who turns out to be a pilot on the side, volunteers to fly them in his plane. (A pilot, a generally nice guy and someone who gives up his seat to a receptionist? Don’t look now, but Ted’s on the fast track to favorite status with the firm’s secretarial pool.)
LIKE BUTTAH | SCDP’s creative team’s thoughts on Chaough, however, seem more up for grabs. He leads them through a “rap session” to generate ideas for the Fleischmann’s campaign; as he later tells Don, who was 40 minutes late for the meeting (more on that in a minute), “It took 40 minutes to figure out no one knows s—t about margarine.” Don’s never met a problem, be it life-changing crisis or minor irritation, that he hasn’t poured booze on – so he brings a bottle of something or other to Ted’s office and they get soused as they brainstorm about the butter substitute.
A few belts in, Chough is stretched out on the couch and moaning that he needs to eat something. “Doesn’t ice count?” Don asks. (Ha!) They somehow manage to come up with a few good ideas before Ted busts into the creative room to take an impromptu political poll. Peggy is not happy to see her new boss being corrupted by her old boss, and she tells Don so (while wearing a great geometrically patterned skirt, I might add). She’d hoped Ted would rub off on him, not the other way around. “He can’t drink like you. No one can,” she says, and it’s not a compliment. He mocks her notion that the merger was all about getting her back on his team. She warns him to get his act together and leaves with a simple-yet-forceful, “Move forward.” Can’t we just name the new firm Peggy Rules All and be done with it?
Meanwhile, Ted gets a pep talk from the ailing Frank Gleason, who encourages him to let Don be as “mysterious” as he wants: In the end, Frank believes, Ted’s natural ability and inherent greatness will prove he’s just as capable and talented as his Brylcreemed former competitor. And that certainly seems to be true as the two endure some very shaky flying through a storm on the way to meet with Mohawk. After Don sweats through his suit in fear at the bumps and rain, he acknowledges that Mohawk will be far more impressed with Ted’s flying prowess than with anything Draper could think up. “At least,” Don’s probably thinking, “I’ve got my hot little mistress squired away in a hotel room, awaiting my next command.” Yeah, about that…
ROOM SERVICE | One morning while on the elevator in his building, Don overhears the Rosens having a loud argument. Soon after, Sylvia’s calling him at work. “I need you and nothing else will do,” she says. The phrase is apparently some kind of trigger that unleashes the sexually dominant supersoldier lying dormant within Don, because it’s not long before he’s meeting her at the aforementioned hotel, ordering her to crawl on her hands and knees to fetch his shoes, and directing her to undress, get back in bed and await his return.
Sylvia’s a little hard to read at the beginning of Don’s dom turn, but she seems game and crawls under the covers. He calls her later just to remind her, “You’re going to wait there, and you’re not going to know when I’m coming back – don’t answer the phone again.” (Don’t worry, Don; when you test her by dialing back a few moments later, Sylvia’s already letting her fingers do the walking somewhere else.)
Draper continues to power-trip in the extreme, later sending her a sexy red dress from Saks and then making her slowly strip in front of him, telling her, “You exist, in this room, for my pleasure.” (Is he coming off as desperate and sad to anyone else?) Finally, upon his return from the Mohawk trip, Sylvia ends the game – and their affair. “It’s time to really go home,” she tells him gently. “This is over.” He fights her on it, saying, “It’s easy to give up when you’re satisfied.” There’s regret, but no rancor, in her voice when she replies, “It’s easy to give up something when you’re ashamed.” The way Sylvia originally said they couldn’t fall in love made me think the writers would have her fall hard for a callous and ultimately distant Don; having the opposite happen was a pleasant surprise, no?
JOAN MAKES A FRIEND | Bob accidentally walks in on Joan nearly hurling in her office trash can – she has food poisoning, she tells him, and he discreetly helps her to the emergency room. (Side note: When Joan started talking about where little Kevin would end up, did you fear that she secretly has been sick for a while and we just didn’t know about it before now? I really, really did.) Bob proves himself a good doobie by asking her babysitter to stay late and working some magic to help Joan quickly get seen by a doctor. He even stops by the next day to see if she’s OK – the illness turned out to be an ovarian cyst (phew) and to bring Kevin an age-inappropriate-but-still-thoughtful football. Joan’s mom thinks Bob is cute, but Joan says he’s too young. Still, she looks pretty pleased that he visited, and when the partners discuss further staffing cuts at the end of the episode, Joan deftly saves Bob from the chopping block. (In related news, adios Margie and Steve from creative.)
MOM MOVES IN | Pete’s sure that he’s going to be ousted in the merger, and his paranoia isn’t helped by the fact that his going-senile mother suddenly demands a great deal of his time. She shows up at his Manhattan apartment claiming that his father, who died in Season 2, is still alive; when his brother Bud won’t take her home to live with him and her own apartment is uninhabitable, Mama Campbell ends up staying with Pete. (One of my favorite lines from the episode comes when Pete realizes that, while away from the office dealing with his mom, Don and Ted have left to meet with Mohawk without him: “My mother can go to hell — Ted Chaough can fly her there!”) Mrs. Campbell may be slowly succumbing to dementia, but she’s still sharp enough to pick up on cues that Trudy has booted Pete from Cos Cob – and to wake Pete in the early morning to tell him that “they shot that poor Kennedy boy.”
NATIONAL TRAGEDY REDUX | Unlike the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination, Mad Men chose to play Bobby Kennedy’s murder as the final beat of an episode that was all about the chaos associated with change. Whether we’ll see more about the historical moment than Megan weeping while watching the news – as Don sits, turned away from her, lost in his own thoughts (which, forgive me, I don’t believe are focused solely on the country’s loss) – remains to be seen.
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Did you laugh at Ted’s “black or white?” when asking about Draper vs. his secretary? Do you feel sorry for Harry, who never gets to keep his office? How do you feel about the end of Sylvia and Don’s affair? Sound off in the comments!Follow @kimroots