‘Mad Men’ Season 6, Episode 7 Review – A Place at the Table

Published 2 years ago by

Jay R. Ferguson and Ben Feldman in Mad Men Man With a Plan Mad Men Season 6, Episode 7 Review – A Place at the Table

It’s been said a million times since Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce merged with Cutler Gleason & Chaough, but in ‘Man With a Plan,’ Mad Men makes it painfully obvious just how much Don Draper loves the beginning of things, and just how quickly the luster of landing Chevy and becoming the new super group of the advertising world has begun to look a little duller than it did back at that hotel bar in Detroit.

Part of that stems from the uncertainty of what this merger means in terms of the power structure at the agency. Don and Ted Chaough were (and still are) rivals, prone to agitating one another to such a degree that Ted once placed a prank phone call to Don, pretending to be Bobby Kennedy with congratulatory praise on his full-page ad denouncing smoking and Lucky Strike.

That moment seems oddly suggestive of where the series is at this point. Don, fresh off making a wild maneuver that suited his best interest and ego, is dealing with the ramifications of that decision, in part by listening to those he failed to consult haul him over the coals for the presumption that, just because he’s Don Draper, everyone else would fall in line with his thinking. Back then, it was just the partners at SCDP who were cross, but back then Don was, in many ways, everything that made SCDP attractive. Despite being wildly presumptuous, at least Don felt like he was in control.

Jon Hamm in Mad Men Man With a Plan Mad Men Season 6, Episode 7 Review – A Place at the Table

But the times have changed. Joan is now a partner, and following her outburst at Don during last week’s ‘For Immediate Release,’ this episode may as well have been the one titled ‘The Flood,’ as Don was awash in the consequence stemming from the freewheeling, Tarzan-like approach to his professional life. In short, the antics that once earned him acclaim and the respect/fear of his peers now just seems to make them say what they’ve always been thinking – which is that Don Draper is a fairly unlikable person.

And as the merger between SCDP and CGC is producing cutbacks amongst the combined staff, Don is suddenly aware that he’s asked his competition to sit at his table and enjoy a share of the power and the credit. To make matters worse, that guy is best described by the word he least enjoys: Nice. Ted Chaough isn’t just Don’s rival, he’s Don’s opposite in nearly every way but the creative aspect – though their style of inspiration and collaboration seem to differ wildly. The Chaough Effect is such a breath of fresh air in the conference room that Meredith seems as smitten with his good manners, as most women are with everything else about Don.

Ted’s presence, and the rest of CGC in fact, creates a sense that while the merger may have resulted in a company large enough to attract a huge client like Chevy, there’s not much room at the top. Roger knows that while the spirit of the merger is collaboration, he’s not interested in fighting to have his voice heard over the din of Burt Peterson’s lucrative accounts. So Roger does the only sensible thing and fires Burt – again. It’s a win for Roger (John Slattery also directed the episode, so it was a win for Roger on every account), but it’s a victory Pete and Don don’t have the option for.

Christina Hendricks in Mad Men Man With a Plan Mad Men Season 6, Episode 7 Review – A Place at the Table

Instead, Don’s stuck with drinking Ted under the table (and getting chastised by Peggy about it) and practically obsessing over the dominant role he’s undertaken in his relationship with Sylvia. It’s the quickest (and likely, most pleasurable) way for Don to assert himself in his life, but, as with everything else, it leaves him feeling even more isolated and alone.

After toying with Ted in the office, and turning Sylvia into a toy at their hotel, he’s suddenly hit with the notion that this experience is ultimately a trifling thing for everyone but him. “It’s time to go home,” Sylvia tells him, which, in many ways is a sign to him that the party really is over. Don’s going to have to learn to start letting go of a lot of things, and his dominant role-play with Sylvia and in fact, their entire affair is seemingly the first to go. And with that relationship’s end, everything else seemingly begins to slip away as well.

For all intents and purposes, Don doesn’t really have a home – not in the way Sylvia does anyway. Don sits on the edge of his bed, listening to the news reports of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination while Megan is enraptured by and sobbing at the account. In that moment it’s clear: as self-centered as Don is, it’s not just his world that feels like it’s spinning out of control, but the entire world at once.


Mad Men continues next Sunday with ‘The Crash’ @10pm on AMC. Check out a preview below:


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  1. Great review as usual.

    I’m becoming less of a fan of Don Draper and more of a fan of Ted Chaough. Don’s antics with Sylvia, being dubbed on the net as “50 Shades of Don Draper”, came across to me as a desperate measure by a man desperate to find control, ultimately making Don Draper pathetic. That’s a new one. “I need you and nothing else will do” although spoken by Sylvia left me wondering if it will become Don’s mantra in the end. Just who fell for whom?

    Is it wrong I find pleasure in watching Pete Campbell suffer? First the freak out (leading to his stairway tumble) over Don firing Jaguar and now his fear he’s being left behind. It’s just too delicious.

    Loved the scene with Don and Peggy albeit short to say the least. I simply adore it when she stands up to him.

    • I agree Don is truly pathetic. Don’s been a self-centred jerk since the beginning of the show and yet is a well fleshed out character who is fascinating to watch. He certainly is no role model, but his combination of flaws and convictions makes for some interesting psychological explorations. He leaves a trail of emotional destruction behind him wherever he goes. It will be interesting to see where this takes him and Megan in their marriage and how much farther Don will fall or if he will redeem himself.

  2. “Move forward.”

    Alas, words to follow Don to his grave. If he cannot exist under false skin, he is simply exposed to himself as the mannequin he has been since day one. It won’t end well for him if he continues to swallow himself whole.

    Great review.

  3. I had completely forgotten about the prank Ted played on Don. That’s a nifty little link.

    I also love your connection of Don toying with Ted as they brainstorm, just as he tries to make Sylvia into a toy in the bedroom, though that entire seen was more than a little unsettling and I wonder, as we’ve seen flashes of Don’s “range” of sexual pleasures how that may come into play elsewhere.

    I had a slightly different take on that final scene, though Megan, albeit an actress, is very much in the moment of grief and feeling, as the news of RFK plays on the TV. Don, in contrast, is facing in another direction, his mind entirely elsewhere, on his own losses. One has to wonder whether he fully realizes when he’s acting (most of the time?), and when he isn’t.

    Given the age he would be at this point in the series (41? 42?) – certainly “middle aged” in the 60s, the amount he’s drinking again is setting him up for a fall. (Heart attack? Some other problem? Those death references from the premiere? Sylvia’s dream of his crashing?)

    Another nifty episode, filled with great details and sly moments.


    • I really enjoyed this last episode. It was dark when Don interacted with Sylvia “Fifty Shades of Grey” Style, but light and airy when they tried to work the merger and assign offices. The fact that Paeggy has to share an office as Copy Chief for now one o the biggest ad agencies in NY made me upset. Hopefully, she will have her complete office back. Now, I saw the RFK assasination story differently. Betty left Don after JFK’s killer was killed on TV. She was depresssed and the world appeared too dark for her to continue with the now uncovered Whitman…but in that scene she was seen crying at the TV over his death, bedroom was dark and Don sat at the end of the bed as she emoted. She moved on to a new life. Now, Don’s new trophy wife, Megan, is successful as an actress and his apartment, position with the firm and future looms larger than his Betty days, BUT no change in his married life. He still cheats, he just ended another affair and his 2nd wife is crying in the bedroom over a Kennedy as he sits n the end of the bed. His slumped shoulders and melancholy expression lets us know that nothing really changed in his life. This parallel was jarring.

  4. I still think Joan railing on Don was stupid and hypocritical..

    He was against it, and told you not to do it.

    So why throw it in the only guy who cared about you face?

    You got more then the stupid account for it, you got a damn partnership.

    Stupid and Wrong!

    • Armand,

      I replied to Joan’s outburst over the Jaguar account being dropped the same way. He did make it a “We” when he said “We can win Jaguar on the work alone…” and did not need her to sleep with that loser dealer. He went out his way to see her at her apartment and truly cared about Joan’s position. He respected her and truly made it a “We” moment.

  5. I’m surprised there was no mention of the parallel between Megan and Betty at the end. Once again, we see Don looking at his wife in tears at the murder of a Kennedy. Once again, Don is bored with her. Only this time, his angel out of nowhere doesn’t want to play his game and he’s left with no way out.

  6. Did no one else perceive that Don was trying to get Sylvia to leave him with his ‘Fifty Shades’ antics? I went for a walk mid-way through the episode, and I was mulling it over in my head — why is he doing this? Is it just that he enjoys the power he has over her? — and I concluded that he wanted her to choose her marriage. Notice his reaction when he hears the fight while in the elevator… This is what I love about the series and about Don Draper — he’s not a stick figure. I don’t love him or hate him; I just love watching him, because he’s written so well.