This week on Mad Men: everyone is horrible to each other and more important historical figures die. Party! Some weeks I feel the ultimate goal of the show is to get all the viewers drinking as heavily as Don Draper. This was one of those weeks.
Before I get any further, I wanted to direct your attention to this excellent piece by Dustin Rowles breaking down a lot of themes, jokes, and callbacks from previous seasons, as well as his theory as to how the show will end.
The show tonight seemed to be about transitions. The biggest transition being, of course, the merger of SCDP and CGC. Ted attempts to make the best of it, acting friendly towards the creatives at SCDP, making sure all the ladies at the partner meeting have chairs even when Pete commandeers one, and diving right in to work on a campaign for Fleischmann’s margarine. Ted is rewarded by Don drinking him under the table in a show of dominance (or on top of the table, as that’s where Ted falls asleep) and Peggy has to go tell her old boyfriend to quit giving her new boyfriend such a hard time. Ted gets Don back, though, when he flies himself and Don up to a client meeting in his private plane through a rain storm and shakes Don up pretty hard. Ted, meanwhile, remains cool as a cucumber in his fancy bomber jacket and aviator glasses. Excellent work, Ted.
As Don goes to work, he hears Sylvia throwing Arthur out, and later gets a phone call from her saying that she needs him “and nothing else will do.” So he orders her to a hotel, where he then proceeds to order her to stay put and wait for him, and then sends her a dress to wear. It’s all very S&M by someone who doesn’t know how to do S&M properly. After a day, Sylvia announces “it’s over” thanks to a dream that she had. Don is the one who ends up being more distraught over the fact that their affair is over. Not what I would have expected prior to this episode. Don goes home to Megan, who’s trying to talk to him about possibly going on another vacation that’s not about work, but Don just tunes her out.
Pete is also dealing with transitions, but in his case it’s more about his mother. Mrs.Campbell has apparently been deteriorating off screen and has wandered into Pete’s apartment, not 100% sure of what year it is, what time of year it is, or who she’s talking to at any given moment. Pete tries to get his brother to take their mother home, but Bud refuses and says Pete gets to take care of her for a while because her apartment’s not fit to live in anymore. Handling his mother causes Pete to miss the meeting with Mohawk that Don and Ted fly up for, and he’s getting frantic about his future at the company. And the fact that his mother is seriously ill, but since he flat out says, “My mother can go to hell,” at one point I think the job is a far more pressing concern for him.
While attempting to keep the office running smoothly during the merger, Joan begins experiencing serious abdominal pain, which we later learn is the result of an ovarian cyst. Bob Benson, scrappy young up-and-comer, catches her hunched over a trash can in her office looking as awful as we’ve ever seen Joan look and manages to quickly and quietly get her out of the office and to a hospital. At the hospital, he also manages to get Joan bumped to the front of the queue by lying to the intake nurse. When he stops by Joan’s apartment to make sure she’s ok and to bring over a gift for her son, Joan’s mother makes sure to bring him in and praise his efforts effusively in front of Joan. After he’s gone, Joan demurs that he’s just worried about his job and not interested in her, but her mother tells her not to judge people so harshly. And as many things as Bob has done that seem 100% geared towards advancing his career, taking Joan to the hospital and making sure she saw a doctor quickly didn’t feel like one of them. Sure, he’ll carry around extra coffee until he finds someone important who’s looking for a cup, but I think he took Joan to the hospital out of genuine concern for her. It does end up paying off, though, as his name comes up as someone to be let go and Joan deftly shifts focus off him.
Roger has a fun little episode working out the details of the merger and getting to fire Burt Peterson again, which he takes a great deal of joy in. And we all should, because it’s a thing of beauty to watch. It’s nice to see Roger perky again.
In the last scenes of the episode, we see Pete’s mother waking him up to tell him Kennedy was shot. Pete assumes she’s just out of it and remembering JFK and tells her to go back to bed. Then we see Megan watching the news of Robert Kennedy’s assassination and crying as the news footage shows him lying on the ground surrounded by the crowd. He’s not dead yet, but as we know, he will be soon.