Mad Men – Power Plays


Don and Sylvia

Normally I love Mad Men. This season, so far, has been really great. But Sunday night’s episode was not my jam. The office politics, yes. I loved the drama, confusion and struggles for power that came with the merge.

But Don’s escapades with Sylvia felt forced and out of place. I found myself wanting to fast-forward whenever they were on screen. If you’ve seen the episode, click through for more.

Don as a man with many sexual demons will not always be interesting. I think this episode proved that for me. Part of that, certainly, is that as a feminist I cringed every time Sylvia complied with another degrading demand from Don.

That said, I’m glad Sylvia seemed to turn the tables on Don in the end. She called things off – I’m not sure if that was because of the way Don had been acting, or the dream she had about his death – and he was left begging her to stay. I am interested to see what happens to Don now.

Meanwhile, I was completely caught up in how everyone has been effected by the merger. Don and Ted are totally at odds, and I wondered if Don’s fear of losing power professionally was the motivator for his demanding demeanor in the bedroom. (I also felt that Don was taking advantage of Sylvia’s vulnerable situation, as he knew she’d been fighting with her husband and because she’d called, wanting him.) Don always needs to be the smartest, coolest, most important guy in the room. He doesn’t want to be the guy who showed up alongside the guy who flew them there in his own plane.

Pete lost some ground as he had to keep leaving the office to deal with his mother, who is suffering from dementia. Pete’s brother and sister-in-law are fed up with taking care of her, and they don’t know that Pete can’t turn to Trudy for help. I often find Pete to be the most compelling when he’s desperate and paranoid, and he was here.

I felt like we didn’t get much from Peggy this week, other than her clear concern for what working with Don is going to do to Ted. But I really liked Joan’s storyline. After being helped out by Bob Benson during a medical crisis, she managed to save his job with one cool sentence during a board meeting. I don’t know that their bonding moment will blossom into anything, but I’m certainly intrigued by it.

peggy and joan

That says “Coffee Chief”, right?

The episode concluded with the news that Bobby Kennedy had been shot. It was an interesting reminder of how things had changed in the five years since JFKwas shot, and how they hadn’t. Burt Peterson was fired, again. Don is still trying to drink everyone else under the table to make himself feel big. Joan showed Peggy to her office – this time, they are true friends and both have risen in status professionally.

Stray thoughts:

  • As I said, I love the office politics. The game of musical chairs at the first big meeting was a great example of that, and the score was Pete 0, Ted 1.
  • Ted flying the little plane through the storm and talking about paying attention to instruments brought to mind another tragic Kennedy death.
  • The degradation was a turn on for Sylvia, but taking her book? TOO FAR, DRAPER!

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