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Don Draper did not have the best plan last night. At least, not the best plan to watch unfold.
"Man with a Plan," the seventh episode of the sixth season of Mad Men, felt inert compared to the fast-paced little number that was last week's merger extravaganza. Four storylines occupied the hour: the pissing contest between Don and Ted Chaough; 50 Shades of Don Draper, an erotic story by Don Draper, with human props by Sylvia Rosen; Joan's ovarian cyst and the rise of Bob Benson; and, just in time for Mother's Day, Pete Campbell's mother's dementia.
He's a sonofabitch, but you have to give the episode to Pete and the blackly comic moments with his mother. There's nothing better than watching Campbell gets his sideburns into a knot, and Mrs. Campbell's mental deterioration did the trick. She's crashing at his bachelor pad because she can no longer take care of herself (or fix her own G&Ts), and it has Pete running back and forth between the office and home. The night's single funniest line came from Pete, who suggested that Ted could fly his mother to hell in his airplane.
That's right, Ted Chaough is a pilot, and the funniest visual of last night came during a flight upstate to attend to a small account that was jeopardizing the firm's relationship with Mohawk.
The first of Don's plans last night involved asserting himself as head swinging dick around the office, a position he locks down with frat-house scare tactics.
He invites himself into Ted's office armed with a bottle and two glasses, a Trojan Horse meant as a peace offering after showing up late to a meeting (he was out balling/degrading Sylvia in a hotel room). Don's olive branch turns out to be a regular branch that he uses to beat Ted into submission with. He gets him roaring drunk while they talk about the margarine pitch, and the day's work ends with Ted sleeping it off in the office. Point: Don.
To retaliate, Ted offers to fly Don to a meeting with one of Campbell's accounts. They have to negotiate a rain storm that leaves Don shook. For Ted, it's all business casual. Point: Ted.
Back on the ground, Bob Benson helps Joan to the hospital because she's feeling ill. Mad Men boasts some excellent hospital scenes, the lawnmower aftermath in particular, but last night's Benson-hosted affair was nothing for the record books. Still, there's something weird about the furniture polish bit he busts out to get Joan to see the doctor early. Benson is something like a super spy of ass-kissing, but where the hell did the inspiration for that come from?
Bigger question: Why have Don and Sylvia act out the same situation multiple times? Was it so that certain members of the viewership could feel hot and bothered, as Sylvia did?
Let's see: Don gets a call from Sylvia, asking him to come see about her. Old boy feels desired, gets off on it, and tells Sylvia to meet him at a hotel. Once there, he initiates a game where she has to bend to his will. If you guessed that his will involves more fucking, you're a good guesser. He repeatedly asks her to undress for him, in that Scruff McGruff "Take a Bite Out of a Woman's Agency" way he has.
The game ends with Sylvia calling it quits. This marks, I think, the first time since Rachel Menken in the first season that a woman has ended an affair with Don. Perhaps now Don will take the plunge into hellfire that so many of us have been predicting since this season began. After all, Megan did bring up going to Hawaii again, and everyone knows Hawaii is the destination for suicide.
But she proposes that plan before the assassination of Bobby Kennedy on June 5, 1968. Yes, in 1968 the bullets are flying so freely that Weiner and company don't even dedicate an entire episode to RFK. Blood is commonplace. Like a pop song.
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Written by Ross Scarano (@RossScarano)
GIF by Demeurer