If there is one theme that has been heavily present in this episode in particular, and practically all of this season up to this point, it is the notion of history repeating.
Cue the music.
So far, Season 6 has been slowly lifting the veil off of one of the big themes of the show; that people rarely change and that they keep making the same mistakes over and over again. In “Man With The Plan” we see Don Draper basically call back several famous moves that he’s done before in the past, but we also see that everyone else has moved forward. Joan and Peggy recreate a famous scene at the end of Season 1, with a very different outcome. And finally Don has a realization about one of his relationships as it ends poorly.
So the CGC invasion into / integration with SCDP has begun and already we see that the merger will either work because the Accounts side of this new agency can work well together (after all Roger Sterling and Jim Cutler are cut from the same cloth and can somehow figure each other out) or fall completely apart due to the Creative side not coming together. Don and Ted can not figure each other out. Don is still under the impression that he can enter the office, do whatever he wants, and can rally the creatives under his idea. Even when he’s had a rival in the agency before, he’s never had one like Ted Chaogh who is not only just as good as he is, but in some ways better. As soon as it was mentioned that Ted could fly himself, Don, and Pete to the Mohawk Airlines meeting, Don knew that he was losing control. So, in a typical Don move, he gets Ted drunk before a meeting with the creatives. While that stunt may have worked on Roger back in the day, this little ploy was seen by everyone as a deplorable move. Even Peggy was peeved; that’s why she ended her scolding of Don with the two words that he probably can not do – “Move forward.”
Speaking of moving forward, Sylvia Rosen has finally realized that it might be the right time to move forward from her affair with Don. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with their very chaste dom/sub scene they had in the hotel, but she started to realize that there were some dark overtones to Don’s behavior. Don has always taken out his lack of control at work on the women in his life (and vice versa), but his actions with Sylvia were crossing the line. It was during this episode that we finally saw what Don saw in Sylvia; she was an echo of his former liaisons. She is smart, well read (note that the book Don took from her) and nothing like his wife (which is a prerequisite when it comes to having an affair with him), but the references to her Italian Catholicism as “other” called back to mind Rachel Menken while the sexual proclivity was reminiscent of Bobbie Bennett. That said, he looked bereft when she finally called it quits; to the point where he couldn’t even look at her in the elevator back home.
While we’re on the subject of powerless men, Pete had a bad week. While he managed to hold his own in the accounts meeting against Jim Cutler, we had to giggle when he came in and said “There’s no seat for me.” That, combined with Don and Ted sneaking off to deal with Mohawk just amped up his childishness. Which was understandable as his brother dumped their detestable mother on the doorstep of his apartment.
Speaking of unwelcome visitors to apartments, Bob Benson made a surprise visit to Joan’s apartment. This was motivated by (a) concern after what happened in the office that day, and (b) a chance to kiss some ass to make sure his job is saved. Joan’s scenes this episode were filled with callbacks. As she walked Peggy to her new office, and then doubled over in pain from an ovarian cyst, it felt like a callback to the end of Season 1 where both were walking to Peggy’s new office and Peggy had a contraction. And while it was good to see Peggy and Joan being friendly again (they’ve often been cordial at best and outright catty to each other at worst), it was actually slightly charming if awkward to see the biggest ass kisser in the office help her in her time of need. Thankfully for him, Joan believes in repaying kindness by sparing Bob from being let go.
And then of course, the capper to the episode; the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. In a brilliant move, Mother Campbell awoke Pete with the news, and he thinking she’s gone senile replied “That happened years ago,” which led to Don sulking in his room oblivious to what is going on. While the ending cycled back to the theme of history repeating itself (in fact many historical accounts of the time stated that the assassination felt like a complete repeat of what had happened five years earlier with his brother’s murder and remember this came two months to the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.) the last shot cycled back to one of main themes of the show: Don Draper is a man that is either oblivious to or ignorant of the sweeping changes that are happening around him.
History repeating, indeed.
Photo Credits: Michael Yarish/AMC, Henry Benson