This week on Mad Men, the women without a plan seem to be outperforming the men in the decision-making department. Episode 7, “Man With a Plan,” presents a merging SCDP with CGC in a state of clutter and commotion.
Concocted of a drunken albeit creative scheme between Don and Ted, the combined power of both agencies succeeded in laying waste to the competition and snaring the Chevy account. Score!
But now the clash of corporate cultures is cranking up, and on SCDP’s turf at that. All hail the duo of pissing contests between Don and Ted!
Dare we admit they’re made all the more amusing by the urine reference, as Joan finds herself stuck in a drab and leaky ER?
This promises to be anything but a smooth organizational transition. Then again, what merger is? Are we witnessing the less polite version of the once-upon-a-time British invasion of Sterling Cooper?
Ah, but this is different. We have Peggy caught between dueling allegiances. We have Ted and Don with dramatically different styles, though theoretically, they’ll be squared off as equals. We have no John Deere mowers in the wings. As for smooth? Don Draper may be smooth, but he doesn’t do smooth. Not very well, or for very long.
Calling Maxwell Smart! Make That Ginger and the Professor?
Who has a shoe phone? Can you spell KAOS?
Maxwell Smart may not make an appearance to clean up the mess (or better still, the more level headed Agent 99), but chaos, clamor, and competition are the name of the game at the moment. And shall we commence with Don and Ted’s Big Adventure?
First, we have a tussle over margarine, Fleischmann’s to be exact. Second, in a pair of pissing contests over alcohol capacity, it’s an easy win for Don. That adolescent achievement is quickly overshadowed when Ted flies them to Mohawk and through a storm, as even Don concedes “whatever I say, you’re the guy who flew us up here in his own plane.”
Still, the rival Ad Men seem to hold their own…
Meanwhile, SCDPCGC (for lack of other name for the entity) is bustling: half-opened boxes are stacked, carted, and wheeled around. Secretaries pop in and out of offices. Doors are opening and closing (and slamming shut). The corridors are teeming and jammed. Arguments break out over clients, over accounts, over roles.
It’s in this disorder of Ted’s new office that he and Don brainstorm, and Mr. Chaough likens the client and competitive space to the characters of Gilligan’s Island, as Don tries to follow. Was that Blue Bonnet as “Ginger, the red-headed Marilyn Monroe?” Was that Parkay as the Professor?
Then the “mysterious and eloquent” hero revs up his storyteller’s engines and paints his latest canvas: an ambiance, an aroma, a feeling – a sumptuous and hearty meal of eggs and pancakes and syrup with… you got it, a pat of Fleischmann’s margarine, melting on top. And a campaign is born, and like most births – painfully, noisily, messily – and with ample anesthesia.
Don and Sylvia
My, my. Whose book is Mr. Draper borrowing from as he overhears a row between Sylvia and Arnie, then exploits the situation by locking up the pretty (and willing) Mrs. Rosen in the Sherry Netherland? He commands her to stay naked, stay there, and “ask no questions,” as he enacts his own “shady” version of domination and submission, which he shows no sign of relinquishing until Sylvia has had enough.
There is little titillation as these scenes play out. Instead, they’re unnerving as Don’s dip into the humiliation tank recalls his times of wanting to be punished in bed, a few seasons back. Of course, we’ve seen glimpses of sexual games in his marriage to Megan, but this is something else. Why does he need this absolute control over Sylvia? Is Megan’s success fanning the flames? Is this some mid-century male midlife crisis? All of the above, or more to the dark underbelly of Dick’s life that we’ve yet to uncover?
Don demanding that his mistress crawl across the room to fetch his shoes? Very unsettling. His stony expression belies a nastier need to rule this roost and take no prisoners, even in his fantasy prison with Sylvia as his precious prey.
But she’s had enough and says “this is over.” Don counters with a return to tenderness, kissing her hand, adding: “It’s easy to give up something if you’re satisfied.”
Sylvia’s having none of that, and replies:
It’s easy to give up something when you’re ashamed.
Don made his bed, and now he can’t lie in it.
Oh wait. Of course he’s lying in it. Lying to Megan that is, each night he crawls back to her and lays down at her side in their bed.
Was Don’s plan to force Sylvia to leave him, because he couldn’t leave her? If so, it worked. Yet judging by the stricken look on his face, if that was the plan, he’s unhappy with the consequences. More likely, his tumble into Mistress-as-Pleasure-Prisoner was hatched spontaneously, in some reactive mode to whatever is amiss for Dick-Don-Dick.
Note a superb moment as this pair rides together in the elevator where the season began, and where once they couldn’t keep their hands off each other. Now, they stand motionless (nice contrast to the office), with a marked space between them. She looks down, her shame evident. He looks up, seeming to suffer.
Pete, Bob, Peggy, and Megan
Poor Pete. That little tumble down the stairs not long ago? That’s bubkis, baby, compared to the fall he’s worried about now!
His Mama is his seeing his dead Papa. She’s descending into dementia and disoriented, interrupting him at work, starting a fire in his apartment in the city, occasionally lucid, and plenty mean. Pete’s already bothered over his place at the table; he’s certainly a man without a plan when it comes to whatever he needs to do next.
And then there’s Bob. Solicitous Bob. Coffee-fetching Bob. Bob who finds Joan doubled over in pain and has the finesse to whisk her discreetly out of the office to the Emergency Room, and sweet talks her into an examining room after a long wait.
His head was on the chopping block; Joanie saves his job.
Let’s give it up for the brief reference to the May 1968 protests in France, as students took to the streets. (Sylvia’s son is in France; the US is not the only part of the world undergoing violent civil unrest.)
Surely we’ll encounter fireworks between Cutler and Roger in the future. (What’s not to love about Harry Hamlin in that role? Roger needs a foil, and Cutler may be just the ticket.)
Peggy trying to mediate between Don and Ted? Her cooler head (again) prevailed, as she gives Don a stern talking to after his alcohol-inspired slap down of Mr. Clough. Ms Olsen says:
When you told me about the merger I hoped he’d rub off on you. Not the other way around.
The dialog continues:
Don: He’s a grown man.
Peggy: So are you.
And at the dawn of this new age, where is Don’s secretary? Her absence is notable though her name is mentioned as the partners run through possible headcount cuts, and the question is asked – is she white or black?
In the background as the episode closes, news of Bobby Kennedy’s shooting plays on the television. The date is June 5, 1968. He was shot three times. (And the room number at the Sherry Netherland as I recall was 503. Matt Weiner does enjoy his details.)
And the man behind the assassination plan? Do we ever really know the Man with the plan?
As the episode comes to a close, Megan, who has done an expert job of not explicitly confronting Don’s distance, faces forward and watches the news of the RFK shooting with tears in her eyes. Don finishes dressing for work, and sits on the side of the bed, his gaze fixed in another direction.
Images, Michael Yarish. Click to access originals at AMCTV.