I think Mad Men creator Matt Weiner is really trying to push his audience. The creative mastermind Weiner is trying to see just how far the audience is willing to follow flawed protagonist Don Draper. It’s not as if Weiner hasn’t pushed these limits before. Sure, Don’s cheated, lied, and been responsible for countless of morally grey actions, but the audience has always been willing to forgive the man at the faintest hint of a heart. However, things have drastically changed on the show, particularly the company. With a merger between SCDP and CGC, there are new faces around and new dynamics at play, which means certain character’s personalities or flaws are shown in a new light. One match-up, a clash of the titans of sorts between Don Draper and Ted Chaough, has Don looking more like a villain than ever.
The aspects that allows Don Draper to sin freely and look good doing it is his charm and devil may care attitude, but what happens when the veneer of these traits vanishes? Well, what your left with is a man who resembles Pete Campbell; a sad, desperate control freak who can never be satisfied and actively pushes people away by his delusions of grandeur. Ted Chaough is starting to bring out the Pete in Don. For one thing, Ted Chaough cares deeply about his work all of the time, not just when it counts. He’s active in the office, he interacts with his employees positively, and he is engaged in his work with his mind present at the tasks on hand. Ted scolds Don when he arrives forty minutes late to a creative meeting, and even Don knows that he’s right. Even though he’s serious at work, Ted really doesn’t sweat the small stuff. He lets Pete take his seat when Pete complains about not having one at the partners meeting, he doesn’t mind fleshing out ideas in the creative room, and he doesn’t care about flying upstate to meet a client; hell, he’ll fly his own plane.
When Ted arrives in the former SCDP offices, you notice that Don notices. He’s baffled by the sheer niceness and normalcy of Ted and he’s intimidated by the prospect of there being a bigger creative director in his dojo than he. When he thinks he may be being usurped, he uses the same trick that Roger used back on him in season one; he makes Ted day drink with him until the little guy passes out in the office. You expect these dirty tricks from Roger Sterling, but they just seem unbecoming coming from Don, which Peggy notices. She takes the opportunity to give Don an earful by telling him that he should play nice seeing that he arranged this merger, and she also urges him to ease up on Ted. Maybe she hates seeing Don stoop this low, or possibly it’s because of the crush she’s harboring. Does she know that he flies? Oh man, she’ll swoon.
The other sad sack, Campbell-esque Draper unveiling is delivered by Sylvia. When she and Arnold have huge fight for Arnold’s selfishness, she throws herself at Don, calling him at the office and taking up residence in a hotel where the two can rendezvous. Possibly as a product of pressure he is feeling at work, he is particularly demanding and dominating with Sylvia. He commands that she stay in bed and wait for him to return and he tells her exactly what to do throughout all the episodes sex scenes. He comes across as the dirty old man that his detractors have described him as being. At the end of the episode, Don returns to the hotel room, but he finds a Sylvia in the process of leaving. It turns out she is ready to end her affair after having a dream in which Don dies and she returns to her husbands side. She has the good sense to end the affair, realizing that it is unhealthy, but Don isnt ready for things to be over. He begs for her to change her mind and looks ready to cry when she departs the elevator for her apartment. Purely pathetic stuff from Don this week.
While we’re on the subject of pathetic, let’s talk about Mr. Pitiful himself, Pete Campbell. After dropping Vicks Chemical last week due to his personal issues with his father-in-law, then forcing the drop of Clearasil, Pete finds himself without many accounts. Not long ago, Lane Pryce was praising Pete for singlehandedly keeping SCDP alive with all of his accounts, but now Pryce is dead and Campbell is closest to the bottom on the newly expanded totem pole. Pete is worried about his status in the business and feels irrelevant to the successes happening, the exact same thing he used to tease Roger about last season. Oh how the tables have turned. To make things worse for the also newly single Pete, he has to take care of his elderly mother, who seems to be loosing her mind. She goes in and out of lucidity and constantly forgets that her husband is dead, she also almost burns down Pete’s bachelor pad, forcing him to miss a meeting with Mohair Airlines, which only increases his paranoia.
Don and Pete have always been similar, but now the comparisons have been more vibrant than ever. With the introduction of a new white knight in the office and the crumbling of his affair, Don feels just as threatened, lonely, and dejected as Pete. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the new characters impact our old friends, but undoubtedly Ted Chaough has changed our perception of what a boss, of what Don Draper, should be.
The Best of the RestThe episode was directed by John Slattery, keeping the same pace as last week’s action packed installment.Joan suffers a cyst on her ovary which causes her pain at work. Smiley Bob Benson takes her to the hospital and looks after her. When his job is on the line later, she makes the move to keep him from being fired.Peggy still seems unhappy with the merger.
At the end of the episode, Bobby Kennedy is assassinated, causing Megan to dissolve in tears, but a recently dumped Don barely notices.
Roger fires Bert Peterson for the second time, in especially an raucous Sterling manner.Ted talks to his ailing partner about Don, calling him “mysterious”.Ted and Don’s plane ride might be the first ever Mad Men sight gag. It feels like a scene out of a buddy cop movie.“No matter what I say, you’re the guy who flew us up in his plane.” – Don Draper