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the recap recap

The Best of This Week’s Mad Men Recaps: ‘Man With a Plan’

Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) - Mad Men - Season 6, Episode 7 - Man With A Plan - Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC

“Man With a Plan” was an episode filled with chaos, pissing contests, and one very tiny plane. Critics grimaced at the "50 Shades of Don Draper" story line, praised Nice Guy Ted Chaough, and speculated on the future of two-coffees-carrying Bob Benson. Grab a seat — if there’s a chair for you, that is. Here is your weekly recap of the recaps.

* "We spend most of our lives convinced we’re the protagonist of the story, but we rarely realize that we’re just supporting characters in everybody else’s story. Nobody thinks about you as much as you do. Now, to pull this out to a metatextual level, Don actually is the protagonist of this story, the man who’s capable of pushing the story forward by snapping his fingers. Yet his shift into a figure the show views with ambivalence, at best, and with antipathy, at worst, is something that has happened so gradually a lot of viewers of the show—both critics and fans—either seem conflicted by it or wish it hadn’t happened." —A.V. Club

* "50 Shades of Don Draper, an erotic story by Don Draper, with human props by Sylvia Rosen." —Complex

* "If there ever was a motif on Mad Men, it would have to be the elevator. There are other motifs, sure, but boy if that alienating mode of transportation doesn't get used to all its dramatic potential on this show. The abruptness and randomness of when and where the doors open, and the sledge-hammer poignancy of the doors slowly, smoothly closing can mean everything to a scene and is perfectly suited to the pacing of the show. Whether it's leaving someone behind, ascending or descending with meaningful company, or providing an opportunity to contemplate nothingness and death, the elevators of Mad Men provide an alarming number of symbolic moments for a chunk of machinery.” Entertainment Weekly

* "Don already seemed threatened by Ted, then got extra-threatened when Ted announced he has his own plane that he can pilot, at a moment's notice, to client meetings. Basically, in Don's stereotypically male mind, that moment was the equivalent of Ted declaring that his penis is way bigger than everyone else's, and that it also can fly across oceans." —Esquire

* "Bob Benson uses Joan's bout of physical vulnerability to his advantage, but it's also to hers. (But don't tell a redhead she looks wan just because she's translucent. They can't help it if they're vampires!) He took care of her, which is exactly what the other men in her life have always failed to do. He took her to the doctor. He manipulated a nurse into getting her faster treatment. He took an interest in her that wasn't overtly sexual. He treated her like a person! He might be using her to advance at the company, but is there such a thing as positive use where everyone leaves feeling good about things — like a mutual exploitation? Baby Kevin gets a new football, Bob doesn't get fired, and Joan might get laid. Joan's mom has a point about younger men being less intimidated by powerful women, and if being a partner is going to isolate her dating prospects further, she might as well leverage her power to get some strange." —Grantland

* "[Don’s] first marriage ended within days of the first Kennedy assassination, and though he and Megan may continue going through the motions longer than he and Betty did, their body language in that final scene — backs to each other, facing in different directions, in different emotional states (Megan devastated, Don just lost) — says everything." —HitFix

* "Everything from the sound mix to the shots chosen by director John Slattery reinforced a sense of dislocation and literal dis-ease. We saw any number of pale characters, disheveled men, off-balance women, strange angles and hallways crowded with too much stuff and too many people. The first half of the hour was intentionally noisy as well — the din of that many people trying to fit into that small a space contributed to the sense of urgency and the lack of equilibrium. Pete's apartment felt too small and cramped, and even the luxury hotel room felt stuffy and claustrophobic by the end of the hour. Add in the actual sickness and death that pervaded the episode — from Joan's thankfully temporarily illness to the serious mental impairment of Pete's mother and the awful death of Robert Kennedy — and it made for an hour that recalled several of the creepiest, most disturbing hours of Season 5." —Huffington Post

* "I liked the way this episode handled the Kennedy assasination — as a powerful footnote rather than a focal point. After the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. took center stage a few weeks ago, this was probably the only way to go without feeling like ‘1968 for Dummies,’ and it worked quite well, even with the heavy-handed irony of 'Reach Out of the Darkness.'" —Los Angeles Times

* "The promise is that hotel room is a universe unto itself, an emotional sea-monkey kit. And it is. And the shift in power dynamic at the end is so graceful. Don wanted her to exist only in that room? Wish granted." —New York Times

* "For all of Don's intimidating and aggressive tactics that he used on Sylvia throughout this exercise in dominance and submission, all it took was one rejection to reduce him to a begging Dick Whitman." —Rolling Stone

* "Where Don let his closest friend in the world, Anna Draper, die of cancer alone, Ted sits by his dying colleague Frank Gleason’s bedside and reveals his uneasiness with Don. The relaxed intimacy of their relationship is beautifully portrayed in the scene, and it feels like a salve for the petty injuries and ego clashes taking place at the SCDP office. First, Ted tells Frank that Don 'seems more interested in me than he is in the work.' 'But you’re not very interesting,' Frank answers, and Ted doesn’t bristle a bit, demonstrating that he’s secure enough not to mind ribbing. Then Frank quotes Sun Tzu’s 'The Art of War,' saying, 'If I wait patiently by the river, the body of my enemy will float by.' He adds, 'Give him the early rounds, he’ll tire himself out. Go home, shower. Walk back in there like you own half the place.' It’s touching to see poor Frank, eyes closed, about to disappear, still willing to dish out good advice to his friend. Giving Ted a smart, tragic confidant was a really nice way of letting us understand him better, and allowing us yet another way to root against Don." —Salon

* "Don’s product launch—his passion, more or less—receives the ultimate tagline from Sylvia: 'I Need You. And Nothing Else Will Do.' Give her an Andy. That copy’s pure genius." Time

Photo: Michael Yarish/AMC