MAD MEN: Scene of the Week

I respect the fact that after watching the reaction to the MLK assassination in something resembling real time, Mad Men went in the other direction and simply punctuated a very dark hour with the news of RFK’s similar fate. Not only did it drive home the point that Megan and Don, completely unconnected from one another as the news played, are leading separate lives, it was also a clever way to show that Pete’s mom has not totally lost touch with reality (perhaps we should all put more stock in what our aging relatives see, hear, and comprehend). As I said, a dark hour. The merger of SCDP and CGC sees Don and Teddy trying various ways to one-up each other, both on the ground and in the air. Staying on the topic of Don, his weird sexual/psychological game with Sylvia was erotic for like an instant. It quickly descended into disturbing and then just plain sad. Oh, Don! Must you smash everything you touch once the hopeful beginning fades into a distant memory? Back to the office, Joan has a medical scare (don’t worry; she’s fine) and smiling Bob Benson steps into the shoes of her white knight. Joan’s mother is smitten; Joan is a little more wary. Me? Why can’t Bob be an opportunist with a heart (although I see Bob as a new confidant for Joan and not a lover; Joan needs a solid friend since she barely speaks to Roger, Lane is dead, and I doubt that she and Don will be going out for Jaguars and drinks after last week’s shenanigans)? Peggy is back on her home turf, and almost instantly Don is back to emotionally abusing her, insinuating that she is insinuating that the merger was all about Don’s desire to have Peggy back in his office. And it’s clear that that relationship ain’t gonna get better anytime soon. Peggy is clearly on Team Teddy. And despite all of the goings-on in the office, the one ray of light, albeit a twisted shimmer, in the episode lies elsewhere.

After Don drinks him under the table, Teddy retreats to Frank Gleason’s hospital room to pour out his sorrows. Maybe it’s the impending hereafter, but Frank advises Teddy not to waste time with embarrassed regrets. Quite the opposite. Frank tells Teddy to get back on his horse and walk in “like he owns half the place.” Words of encouragement (still peppered with the notion that if Teddy simply “waits patiently by the banks of the river, the body of his enemy will float by”). Teddy literally takes this wisdom to the clouds, and his future suddenly seems so bright that the man’s gotta wear shades. Everyone else is still grounded in familiar patterns of insecurity, antagonism, and jealousy. Forget that our boys and girls are living in one of the most transformative decades in American history. It’s always just been a backdrop. Like any group of co-workers with shared histories, a tipping point is on the horizon. Pete’s lack of a chair, Peggy stuck with a column, Roger repeating firings, and Don underestimating everyone means one simple thing. A day will come when these people will no longer be able to work together. And Teddy, the “new kid on the block,” has the upper hand. This does not make him the series’ new villain. It makes him somebody who can learn from the past and try new tactics rather than slipping back into damaging habits. The others might be capable of the same feat. But not together. “Are you alone?” Essentially. And it will have to be literally before all is said and done.