Merging isn’t without its problems on Mad Men. “Man With a Plan” focuses on the currently nameless agency, along with all the trouble it creates. With John Slattery in the director’s chair, the episode held a certain air, but it wasn’t enough to hide a slowly creeping oversight.
- Director: John Slattery
- Writers: Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner
- Cast: Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Elisabeth Moss, Robert Morse, Rich Sommer, Aaron Staton, Kiernan Shipka, Mason Vale Cotton, Christopher Stanley, Jessica Parè, Jay R. Ferguson, Ben Feldman, Nancy Linsky, James Wolk, Kevin Rahm, Linda Cardellini, Michael Gaston, Craig Anton, Harry Hamlin
Episode Title: “Man With a Plan”
The merging agency attempts to pacify conflicting clients while Pete deals with an unexpected visitor.
- Room 304: We expected Don and Sylvia’s relationship to come to ahead, but not like this. After overhearing Sylvia scream her husband out of their house, her need for Don was unavoidable. Here he makes his heart’s constant longing plain to see. After imposing his dominance over Sylvia to keep her in their hotel room, his manipulations might have seemed like foreplay. They were his attempts to mold her into all he’s ever wanted: a woman who tends to his every need whenever he arrives. It’s unclear whether Sylvia realized this, or if her dream laid ground for her to slink back to her husband. Either way, it left Don drowning in the life he chose, watching Megan talk as he comes to terms with the loss of yet another mother figure.
- Control: Ted and Don are the only ones actively volleying for control in the face of the merger. A fitting tag would be the childish limerick you show me mine and I’ll show you yours. Don drank Ted under the table and Ted made Don squirm while he flew them to calm a client. Both putting their best assets on display was entirely encapsulating. Ted’s collapse in the middle of the creative office and Don’s rarely witnessed self-consciousness was most entertaining. It’s clear they work well together, but hopefully their bravado will continue to fuel our fancy.
- Bothersome Benson: We’re still no closer to cracking the elusive nut that is Bob Benson. Finding Joan trapped in her office by crippling pains, he utilizes his greatest character trait—his knack for being annoying. At the hospital, he used a quality we’ve yet to see, an uncanny ability to lie. Getting Joan into immediate care was appreciated. Anyone who can spin the truth that quickly deserves a watchful eye. Sidling up to Pete has proved fruitful but helping Joan saved his job. He developed into a slightly interesting character. With a possible Joan flirtation, his presence continues to plague us.
- The Merger: Slattery’s influence as director was on full display during Roger’s firing, or re-firing of Burt Peterson. The scene encapsulated the hilarity that Roger often couples with heavy hitting remarks. Likewise, the scene where Ted wallows in drink was exemplified by the humor of his collapse and Peggy’s disapproval of his state. Slattery should be championed for injecting laughter into this serious show. Still as the merger has ended and the cuts have been made, one glaring absence can’t be ignored. Peggy said she spoke with Dawn, but Don’s secretary was noticeably absent from her desk. We hope it’s an indication of more intrigue for Don’s secretary, instead of foreshadowing of her departure.
- The Influence: Peggy’s flame for Ted is still burning bright, though he’s seemingly unaware. Reprimanding Don for getting him drunk made her look like a girl with a crush. It also afforded us our first private confab between Peggy and Don. Peggy gave us a peek at her overblown sense of importance: she believed the merger to be about Don having her under his wing again. It makes her more like her mentor than either would care to admit. Although Ted didn’t pay Peggy hardly any attention, his praise of her margarine memory had the spark of infatuation. He wasn’t alone either. Marveling at Peggy’s impressive brain doesn’t mean the fences are properly mended, but Stan may be inching closer to renewing their camaraderie.
- Mother May I: It’s not that we didn’t enjoy the appearance of Pete’s mother, we just don’t understand it. Since she’s been embroiled in dementia since his father’s demise, her arrival created the expected problems. Drawing Pete away from work at a time when he needs to establish his position in the evolving agency. It was a brief moment of suspense, but ultimately his place is secure. Pete’s character was on full display, unseating a woman just to secure a chair in a meeting and playing on his mother’s memory to ensure complacency.
“Man With a Plan” made new problems plain, but the most glaring was Don’s. His one pathetic, “please,” to Sylvia was more painful than anyone else’s woes. Pairing the death of Bobby Kennedy with the upbeat “Reach Out of Darkness” was puzzling, but no more than the state of the rest of the characters. We need to see more development for the rest of the cast’s stories. Otherwise this will be another year of Don, and that might not be something the series can endure.
Mad Men airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on AMC.
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