The episode opens with Don inadvertently eavesdropping from the elevator on the Rosen’s fighting. The couple argues back and forth, likely about the doctor’s search for a hospital that will accommodate his ambitions.
If you’ll recall the deus-ex-machina bit from the last episode, Ted Chaough and group have joined SCDH. Of course, this also means Peggy will be returning even though it does not seem like she ever left the show.
It is quite trite at this point. The merger of convenience and the obsolescence of consequence introduced in the previous episode have finally come to a head. While I am disappointed with the merger, it could inject some fresh drama into a series that has felt stale this season.
The offices are in chaos because of the merger and Joan and Ted’s secretary Moira are already butting heads.
Ted’s contrast with Don, Roger, and Pete is stark. He is gallant, chivalrous, and polite. This is noted by Roger, and also by Don, if Don’s smoldering look in Ted’s direction is any indication. It is clear that these two men will butt heads with potentially disastrous consequences for all involved.
An almost expected Mad Men trope at this point, Don is called out of the office midday by Dr. Rosen’s wife for a midday tryst. After five seasons, two wives, and three corporate incarnations, this aspect of Donald Draper is finally getting old. In the first season he was a family man, now he’s just a philanderer. Exploring dual identities and hidden lives during the 1960s made the show fresh in the first season, but a lot of those elements have left and what remains is less appealing. Domestic history in the United States has become increasingly chaotic since the show’s timeline began, but this does not explain the emergence of a singularly uninteresting Donald Draper that remains, despite it all, frustratingly unchanged.
Ted begins a meeting with creative without Don, who is too busy screwing his friend’s wife in a hotel. Dr. Rosen’s wife is concerned for her son’s safety because of riots in France. The riots during the summer of 1968 consisted of mass uprisings, labor strikes, and civil discontent throughout Paris.
In a scene of failed dominance, Don commands her to crawl on her hands and knees to find his shoes that she can obviously see are in the corner. He then commands her to get naked and stay in the hotel room waiting for him. She does so but it seems she is either bemused by this side of Don or slightly disgusted. His disregard for her as an independent being may have some sexual allure at this point, but once she realizes that is his actual view of the women in his life then she may recognize it as terrifying.
In spite of all this creepiness, he’s probably the most uninteresting character in the whole show at this point.
Don offers Ted an olive branch in the form of shots of rye. It’s quite obvious that Don is trying to sabotage Ted by trying to drink him under the table. It’s interesting to watch Don engage in such petty behavior, especially since he’s often depicted as this man’s man in pop culture. That he’s an insecure man-child probably wouldn’t make for sexy marketing.
It’s heartbreaking to watch Pete’s mother descend into some form of dementia or mental illness. She crashes Pete’s love nest and continually mistakes him for his father. Interestingly, we learn earlier that his father used to cheat on her the way Pete did on Trudy until Trudy announced the end of their marriage in the last episode. The apple does not fall far from the tree where Pete is concerned.
Joan leaves work in pain with ever-cheerful Bob insisting on helping her to the hospital.
As a result of his drinking session with Don, Ted barges into a meeting drunk and promptly passes out on the table after asking Peggy and company whether they preferred Eugene McCarthy or Bobby Kennedy.
In another act of male chivalry, Bob lies to the nurse receptionist in order to get Joan a bed more quickly.
“Why would you think you are going anywhere. You are for me. You exist in this room for my pleasure.”
After dressing up his friend’s wife in scarlet with black heels, Don then commands her to undress for him, yet again. His fascination with petty displays of control have become a common tempo in this installment of Mad Men.
In a scene with her former boss, Peggy calls Don out for trying to sabotage Ted in front of everyone. Of course, Don makes everything about him and is either truly oblivious to what he did or aware of it, making it exceedingly petty. This small exercise of dominance – Don’s outdrinking Ted to where Ted loses control – makes the next scene with Don and Ted all the more hilarious.
Pete tries to cancel their scheduled meeting with Mohawk Airlines but Ted refuses to do this. Ted will fly himself and Don up personally. Don and Ted then ride in his airplane during a rainstorm. Sweat is visibly beading on Don’s forehead. It’s interesting to see him in a completely powerless position while Ted flies them to meet with Mohawk Airlines. Don’s life is literally in Ted’s hands, raising the stakes quite significantly in the power game between the two.
Bob comes by to drop off a present for Joan’s son and Joan’s mother doesn’t hesitate to take the opportunity to point out that Bob may be interested in her.
“It’s over when I say it’s over.”
Dr. Rosen’s wife dreamed that Don died in a plane crash and that she went home to her husband. She then ends the affair with Don.
“It’s easy to give up something when you’re ashamed.”
The entire episode is about power dynamics and watching Don’s powerlessness in stopping his mistress from leaving him caps off this cycle, confirming that he is ultimately powerless.
During a staff reduction meeting, Joan saves Bob from being fired in a karmic payback for his helping her to the hospital.
The show ends with Bobby Kennedy’s assassination – June 6, 1968. Peter’s mother comes to tell him this and he thinks she is still trapped in the haze of dementia, mistaking Bobby Kennedy’s assassination for that of his brother – John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Mad Men deals with this historical episode in Season 3, Episode 12 – ‘The Grown Ups.’
Overall this episode was one of the better episodes of the season and introduced a lot of ground shifts in terms of office culture and power dynamics that should create interesting plot threats in coming installments. While this season has lacked any real movement thus far, this episode has pushed the series forward for better or for worse.