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Mad Men: "Man With A Plan" OAD 5/12/13 ***SPOILERS***


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#1 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 04:40 PM

When I saw the title of this episode - "Man With A Plan" - I kept looking for someone who had what I understand to be "a plan", someone who was addressing a longer term goal. I didn't recognize that is was presented as a solution to the challenge of how can Ted deal with Don?

"If I wait patiently by the river, the body of my enemy will float by," says a dying Frank Gleason to Ted Chaough.

Ted responds, "Such a waste of energy."

"Give him the early rounds he'll tire himself out. Go home shower, walk back in there like you own half the place," Frank advises from his hospital bed.

 

More about the nascent Ted and Don partnership rivalry later. It is a longer term element in the overall story arc that involves deconstructing Don Draper, "deconstructing" in the sense of dismantling or exposing the existing structure.
 

The over-40 generation of advertising men we have seen on this show - the mad men - are "opportunists" in every sense of the word.

 

opportunist.jpg

 

Part of that is because opportunities arise quickly and they have to respond or lose. In this context winners do seem to be those willing to sacrifice ethical principles - after all, the goal is to adequately overstate the benefits of owning or consuming a product so that people will buy it.

 

We all know that Don Draper is a "construct" created by the ultimate opportunist, Dick Whitman, a man carrying a lot of childhood psychological pain, a man who in a moment of tragedy saw and took an opportunity became Don Draper. That psychological pain keeps coming back to haunt him, and us, this time expressed in one word, a plaintive "Please."
 

This season it appears that the women of "Mad Men" are piece-by-piece razing the structure that is Don. Last week Joan challenged his assumption that he had the right to decide the fate of the company.

This week, after he plays the "I can drink you under the table because I'm a better man" game with Ted, Peggy tells Don to quit the games with Ted and chastises Don: "I was hoping he would rub off on you, not the other way around.  Move forward."

 

But this episode adds a new element in Don's struggle with the women in his life.
 

Every generation has it's 50 Shades of Grey, books like 9½ Weeks in the 1980's, The Story of O first published in English in 1965.

Also in 1968 there was the Ingmar Bergman film Shame which explores the things people will do to survive in extreme circumstances, like war.
 

Sylvia...she plays his game as a submissive, because she needed him.

We first realize something significant is happening when the show opens with Don in the elevator. The door is open and a suitcase sits there, waiting. Obviously, it didn't push the button. In case you don't remember, there was an episode in Season 5 The Suitcase which involved the death of Anna, the only woman Don ever had an honest relationship with, a relationship ironically built totally around his identity dishonesty. (Elevators and suitcases are significant throughout "Mad Men.")

 

Don and the audience hears Arnold and Sylvia fighting. Obviously Arnold is headed to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Last week he quit his job because the New York hospital he works in blew his chance at heart transplant fame. Sylvia clearly doesn't see Minnesota as an opportunity for a better life. She even snipes at Arnold that he might need some money to take with him.

She calls Don, who's at the merger choas of the office feeling like things are out of control, and she says:  "I need you. And nothing else will do." Someone needs him at the very moment he's losing control. Without going over the details, he tells her things like "You exist, in this room, for my pleasure."

But just when Don has moved into this fantasy,after flying to see a client he returns to the room to find her dressed to leave.

She told him she'd had a dream that he died when the plane crashed and Megan cried on her shoulder at the funeral, and she went back to Arnie.

 

"It means you missed me," a confused Don asserts.

"It's time to really go home," Sylvia states.

 

Don lamely tries: "It's easy to give something up when you're satisfied."

Sylvia crushes him with "It's easy to give something up when you're ashamed."

"Please," Don begs.

Yes, Don is at a panic low point again. I don't know why Sylvia has this level of emotional impact on Don, an impact we haven't seen since Anna.
 

As with all the episodes, much is there to write about:

  • Pete's panic is Don's multiplied as he doesn't even have a chair in the Board meeting and now has his addled mother living with him in the apartment.
  • Joan is in pain and the curious character new to the season, Bubbly Brown Nose Bob, who comes to her aid, getting her to the hospital, manipulating the front desk to get her in to see a doctor - we learn it was only an ovarian cyst; Joan then saves Bob's job.
  • Roger again get's to fire Burt Peterson after a merger.
  • The whole chaos of office assignments, client assignments, clerical assignments, and Peggy looking at that darned post could be a separate discussion.

But the interesting contest is going to be Ted and Don. After the drinking debacle and getting advice from Frank - the man with a plan, Ted essentially puts Don into his small plane to fly up through a storm. They are traveling to settle their client Mohawk airlines. In response to Ted starting a discussion on how to deal with Mohawk, a sweaty Don says:  “No matter what I say, you’re still the guy who flew us up here in his own plane.” Don knows he's no longer the only guy in the room that matters.

And we can't forget this is 1968, for many the end of hope as they knew it. The assassination of Bobby Kennedy occurs at the close of the episode - it is not at the center of anything. Pete's mom wakes him to tell him that Kennedy boy got shot. He thinks she's befuddled just remembering Jack Kennedy.

But the end scene is the news story airing on the bedroom TV in the background, Megan sitting on the bed crying and Don looking ...what... sad, worried, or lost.
 

mm606.jpg

 

In a strange juxtaposition of sounds, we hear the TV news report of Bobby Kennedy's assassination - by a combination of circumstances, it sounds more like a cell phone video we see today of a tragedy - combined with the end music, an odd upbeat positive song "Reach Out of the Darkness" by the American folk duo Friend and Lover:

 


I think it's so groovy now
That people are finally getting together
I thinks it's so wonderful and how
That people are finally getting together
Reach out in the darkness
Reach out in the darkness
Reach out in the darkness
And you may find a friend

I knew a man that I did not care for
And then one day this man gave me a call
We sat and talked about things on our mind
And now this man he is a friend of mine
Don't be afraid of love
Don't be afraid, don't be afraid to love
Everybody needs a little love
Everybody needs somebody
That they can be thinking of

 

 

You can hear the song:

 


Edited by phrelin, 13 May 2013 - 04:57 PM.

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#2 OFFLINE   spartanstew

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 05:43 PM

Great recap, enjoyed this episode.  Things are certainly getting interesting.   But my favorite part was hearing Reach Out of The Darkness.  It inspired me to cue it up and play the whole song off my computer.


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#3 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 06:06 PM

I don't know if I really bought the extended sex game Don was playing with his middle-aged and relatively unattractive mistress. When he heard them fighting from the elevator, the real Don should have been sent scurrying in the opposite direction. He hates commitment and available women, he wants them unavailable and secret. This Don seemed like a real dope, playing this kid's game with a very adult and sophisticated woman. I understand the point of the plot, Don's manufactured world and persona aren't working anymore, but it just doesn't seem like anything the aloof and manipulative Don would do. It was like a teenaged boy's fantasy or something--this guy is way past that childishness. And Sylvia is such slim pickings, they never established much of depth in that relationship. Anna was huge, Don could be a little boy with her, she was his mom, it was very deep and rather beautiful and moving.

 

Interesting that Ted was using the classic pop psychology 70's-style "encounter group" process in the creative meeting. A man of the future. Old Skool divide-and-conquer self-made-man (literally) Don had an instant aversion to it: "I think we can get this margarine thing done between the two of us."

 

What does Don really want? He used to want the stable home life with Betty. Then he wanted cheap and tawdry cheater sex. Then back to love and stability with Megan. Now he wanted extended power fantasies with Sylvia. But what does he really want? Death??


Edited by Maruuk, 13 May 2013 - 06:08 PM.


#4 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 08:40 PM

Very interesting episode. We are really seeing Don's increasing disconnect with reality. He has shut out everything in 1968, from the way that business is done to the way women are treated, ultimately to one of the most important stories of the decade. He almost makes it happen by sheer force of will, but he can't, in the vernacular of the time, "maintain.

Phrelin, are you saying that Sylvia was reading The Story of O? I will take you at your word but I thought it was The Last Picture Show. Is there an authoritative screen shot? It's more likely you're right. Note this that I just found: http://weblogs.lib.u...ad-for-mad-men/

Maruuk, old friend, your standards are quite high; while there is only one woman for me, I don't consider Ms. Cardellini middle-aged or relatively unattractive. I guess it's the eye of the beholder

At any rate, I enjoyed the episode, although I really didn't like Don and certainly didn't identify with him. I liked Ted a lot more, actually. As a young creative I might be inspired by Don but I would be encouraged by Ted. I'd love to have drinks with Cutler and Sterling; those guys know they are the senior members and they're enjoying the ride.
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#5 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 08:46 PM

Oh, by the way, has anyone figured out the name of the new agency? Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Campbell, Harris, Cutler and Chaough? SCDCHCC is a bit long... Or is it just SCDP without names attached?
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#6 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 11:05 PM

There's one shot where Sylvia turns around and you can see the middle-aged cottage cheese cratering on her thighs--yuck! Don/Dick, you can do waaaaay better! Like right in your own bed, right now!

 

Was I the only guy who sized up Ted's devoted little cutie as Campbell or Don's next sport f***?

 

I thought that whole Joan helper deal with Nebbish Boy was really sweet. But how is an ovarian cyst some little trivial deal like a headache you can deal with in an hour??

 

I guess this is gonna be Joan's next BF. Think they'll twist it in some kinky way they always do with poor Joan?


Edited by Maruuk, 13 May 2013 - 11:09 PM.


#7 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 11:32 PM

Phrelin, are you saying that Sylvia was reading The Story of O? I will take you at your word but I thought it was The Last Picture Show. Is there an authoritative screen shot? It's more likely you're right. Note this that I just found: http://weblogs.lib.u...ad-for-mad-men/

I wasn't referring to what she was reading which as you note was The Last Picture Show. Rather, I was just noting that books like The Story of O through to 50 Shades of Grey appear and become popular. It's a cultural thing and they tend to make certain behavior sort of acceptable, except not for most, and in this case not for Sylvia. Hence she feels something lacking in Don - shame.

 

Speaking of Don, did anyone else puzzle over the absence of Dawn's physical presence.


"In a hundred years there'll be a whole new set of people."
"Always poke the bears. They sleep too much for their own good."

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My AV Setup
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My Blog: The Redwood Guardian


#8 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 08:10 AM

I did note the NON-homophonic Dawn's absence, but chalked it up to a limited number of contract appearances for the actress. Perhaps they'll make something of it later. 

 

In regards to ovarian cysts, while I am not a doctor, I believe that most of them are actually harmless and the pain is quickly treated. Only a small percentage require surgery. I had originally suspected that Joan was pregnant, and in fact may still be. A pregnancy at her age (late 30s?) is not out of the question, especially since her son isn't that old. As to whether the hospital would have done a routine test, I'm not sure that the non-rabbit versions of the test were available at that time.

 

More to the point and less to the minutiae, there were a lot of things to like about this episode, it's just that Don wasn't one of those things. The 1970s belong to Ted, Peggy, even Bob Benson, but not to Don. Roger Sterling has slid into his 50s with aplomb, but more likely Don Draper will be an emotional, distant mess by the time he turns 50, around 1976.

 

I got around to thinking, that way back when we were told that every character's name meant something. So what of Ted Chaough and Jim Cutler? A Cutler presumably makes cutlery, everyday implements, nothing remarkable. But Theodore Chaough... Theodore means "God's gift" but Chaough? Last night I was mulling over this and I feel it's a conjunction of either Change/Enough or Chaos/Enough. It would be interesting to think it was Change/Enough because that would mean that Ted was God's gift, bringing just enough change but lacking "ngen" (ingenuity?)

 

That's what you get when you can't sleep.


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#9 OFFLINE   spartanstew

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 07:43 PM

There's one shot where Sylvia turns around and you can see the middle-aged cottage cheese cratering on her thighs--yuck! Don/Dick, you can do waaaaay better! Like right in your own bed, right now!
 
Was I the only guy who sized up Ted's devoted little cutie as Campbell or Don's next sport f***?
 
I thought that whole Joan helper deal with Nebbish Boy was really sweet. But how is an ovarian cyst some little trivial deal like a headache you can deal with in an hour??
 
I guess this is gonna be Joan's next BF. Think they'll twist it in some kinky way they always do with poor Joan?

 
Sylvia is hotter than Megan, IMO.  
 
Megan might have a better body, but she has a butter face with those huge gap filled teeth.
 
Not to mention, she's only 37 and for some reason, they intentionally make her look a little frumpy.
 

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#10 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 07:54 PM

Wow, you guys are a tough crowd when it comes to judging women.
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#11 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 12:54 AM

Yeah, they're doing to Sylvia what they did to poor Betty! Megan does have a somewhat toothy, unbalanced face. There is something oddly unsexy about Megan's attitude. She's presented as a somewhat shallow extrovert, which plays poorly to Don's deep and dark kinky, intellectual complexity. Don likes his women as kinky as he is. And cheating is kinky from the getgo, which is why he likes it so much. You get the feeling he's already dead bored with pleasant cheerleader Megan. Love how they just filter her voice away when she talks now, Don's not listening anymore.

 

Looking forward to seeing what they do with Ted's little creampuff assistant. Mad Men treats cute young things like raw meat for the dogs.



#12 OFFLINE   djlong

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 05:05 AM

Maybe Megan is "oddly unsexy" because she gets shot down by Don *far* too often.

 

Remember her 'performance'?  Remember Don's reaction to her kissing scene?



#13 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 07:19 PM

Yeah, their chemistry has gone limp. As it were. Don is easily bored. I sure wouldn't be!

 

Don's problem with Megan is that she's just another symbol of his irrelevance in the world. She's in a world he doesn't relate to, a world of young and handsome guys he can't possibly compete against, doing something he detests. And to Don, if he can't dominate a woman or a world, he withdraws. He's all about control. He hates anything or anybody he can't control. Even the attractiveness paradigm has shifted past him: girls now want guys with long hair who are cool and trendy. Don comes off as somebody's dad in 1968. Thus he has no power over women anymore. And women in general no longer WANT him or any man to have power over them. This basically marks the fall of civilization as we know it.


Edited by Maruuk, 17 May 2013 - 01:58 AM.





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