Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Review: Mad Men "Man With A Plan"

Non Spoiler Review:
Man With A Plan juggles the integration of CGC into the SCDP offices, prompting Don to fluff his feathers like a peacock and assert his dominance at work and home. In the midst of all the jockeying for power, Joan and Pete suffer their own crises.

I enjoyed seeing the mish-mash of characters put together, the new faces and interesting pairings—Jim and Roger for one—and everyone in fear for their jobs. Don was outright nasty, but at least he was put in his place several times and anyone hoping for a bit of payback for how he's treated people won't be disappointed.

It was a pretty decent episode, but one thing Man With A Plan lacked was any mention whatsoever about fallout from either Don or Ted's arbitrary decision to merge the firms. Are we to believe no one had issues with it? Mad Men has gotten a shot of adrenaline the likes of which we haven't seen since Sterling Cooper fell apart. As we enter the final stretch of the season there's bound to be another shocker lurking, but unless it deals with Don and Sylvia's infidelities, the direction still eludes me.

Spoilers Now!
Don overhears a major blowup between Sylvia and Arnold as he goes down in the elevator, noticing Arnold's suitcases packed at the door. SCDP is in chaos as CGC moves in. Peggy and Ted arrive together. She introduces him to Stan and Mike, as well as their coworker Margie, but the latter is certain she's going to be fired. Joan attempts to organize all the new employees with their secretaries. All the creatives are in one office on a temporary basis and Joan's alternate from CGC, Moira, attempts to work with her and doesn't appear to respect her superior position. As Joan shows Peggy her office, both are genuinely happy to work with one another again. However Joan begins suffering a pain in her side.

At the new partners meeting, discussions begin on their excess personnel and the merging of accounts from both firms. Jim and Roger have acquired Fleischmann's Margarine. Meanwhile, Pete, Ted and Don decide to fly out to appease Mohawk Airlines who don't want them working on a competing highway campaign. Ted is a pilot and offers to fly them out. 

Pete gets an urgent phone call from his landlord. His mother is at his apartment demanding to see his father. Pete goes home and reminds her he passed away, but she's suffering from dementia and remains confused. After he calls in his brother, he's informed it's now his turn to look after her, so she's forced to stay with him.

As creative prepares to meet over margarine, Don gets a call from Sylvia who wants him to come over. She needs him, so he meets her at a hotel. Sylvia rants about Arnold and their son, but Don doesn't want to hear about them. Instead he dominates her and orders her to look for his shoes, get back into bed and not to go anywhere while he leaves for work. Sylvia is intrigued enough to play along.

Meanwhile, the integrated creative department waits on Don for their margarine meeting and Peggy explains his secretary won't say where he is. Don shows up forty minutes late just as it's wrapping up, so he's annoyed Ted proceeded without him.

In bed, Sylvia gets a call from Don asking if she's still there. He tells her she won't know when he's coming back and she'll wait there. He has a new dress sent to the room. Don then goes to offer an olive branch to Ted and discuss the merger themselves, only to get him drunk. Ted can't handle his alcohol, and Peggy is perturbed with Don.

Joan thinks she has food poisoning, so Bob offers to escort her out so no one will know. He waits with her at the emergency room. She starts worrying what's going to happen to her son if it's serious. She knows it's not food poisoning. Bob gets creative and gets her seen quickly by the doctor.

Sylvia is wearing the dress when Don finally shows up. Continuing his domination, he informs her they're not going anywhere and to take off the dress.

Ted goes to visit with Frank in the hospital, confiding that Don seems more interested in him than the work. Frank suggests Don will tire himself out and Ted should be patient.

In the morning, Peggy sees Don in confidence. She had hoped that Ted would rub off on him, not the other way around. He could have just tried to hire her back, she says, though Don shoots back that the merger wasn't about her. She tells him to move forward.

Pete is worried about his job as the staff cuts continue, but Harry assures him he'll be fine. His mother demands his attention again and calls him away as he prepares to head to the Mohawk meeting. His secretary informs Ted about the rescheduling, but Ted is furious everyone takes their meeting times so lax. Don agrees and decides both will go, despite a rainstorm that Ted assures him is no problem for flying. Ted gets the plane above the clouds and tells a nervous Don to relax. Don took Sylvia's book and tries to read rather than appreciate the view, and adds that no matter what he says to Mohawk, Ted is the guy who flew them up in his own plane. Pete returns to work to find that Don and Ted are gone and the meeting went very well. Furious he was left out he berates his secretary.

Bob shows up at Joan's home to see how she's doing, with a gift for Kevin. She's fine, as it was just a cyst on her ovary, so he leaves them. Her mother thinks he's adorable. Joan suggests he's worrying about his job. Her mother reminds her every good deed is not a part of a plan.

Don returns to the hotel to find Sylvia getting ready to go home. She tells him it's time it's over. She dreamed he died in the plane, Megan cried on her shoulder and she went back to Arnold and told him she was home. Don suggests that means she missed him, but she says it means it's time to really go home. It's over between them. Don tries to change her mind, but she leaves. They ride the elevator up and she gets out on her floor without a word. 

Roger and Jim continue to negotiate who goes and stays. Bob is elected to be fired, but Joan stands up for him and points out he knows a lot of accounts. They opt to keep him and move on down their list.

Pete's mother wakes him up to tell him they shot the Kennedy boy. He thinks she's confused and means John F. Kennedy. At the Drapers, Megan weeps at the news reports of Bobby Kennedy's assassination as Don stares off into space.

The Verdict:
I enjoyed Man With A Plan only because Don got some overdue payback. Had he continued on without this dressing down, it would have made for a frustrating episode. I think Peggy's curt admonishment will have far more effect on him in the long term than Sylvia's brutal dumping and Ted's scare tactics. Hopefully this will mark a renewal for the character as the season comes to a close. But on a positive note, this could mean no more Sylvia (fingers crossed).

With Bob hanging around the background for so long, is his ultimate purpose to be a love interest for Joan? I was pleased to see she's softened enough to subtly repay his kindness by sticking up for him. And her brief exchange with Peggy was quite satisfying, seeing these two women back together and in no way competing with one another.

The Bobby Kennedy angle came as a surprise at the end, as it didn't dominate the episode as I would have expected. But coming on the heel of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, I guess the writers thought it could stand on its own as an appropriate cap to Don's vexing day. 

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