Don, in particular, doesn't realize that everyone is starting to see through the strut. Sylvia rejects his 50 Shades of Draper* shtick. Peggy speaks to him from a position of power in a way which might have been inconceivable before. Ted, not Don, is in command during their flight, and in his talk with a dying Frank Gleason he recognizes that Don can be outlasted. “Give him the early rounds,” says Gleason. “He’ll tire himself out. Go home, shower. Walk back in there like you own half the place.” And as Todd VanDerWerff notes:
In a real way, Don expects everybody in his life to be like Sylvia, waiting for him to come in the room and liven things up, then drop in the perfect idea. He can get away with that because he’s an advertising genius, but he’s also in a world where people don’t necessarily feel the need to wait for him forever.[*Many other people said it first.] Indeed, this episode is all about substitutes and duplication, as we can discuss below the gnocchi:
Again and again, scenes were designed to echo ones that came before, to create a feeling of duplication in an episode with another dead Kennedy, with two female copywriters (albeit one wise enough to know that the arrival of the other spells her own doom), more talk of the brothers Campbell marrying women named Trudy and Judy, more Don/Dawn jokes (though no Burt/Bert jokes), discussion of the many margarine brands, and all the rest. The new agency, whatever it's called, has way too many people fulfilling the same roles. Neither Jim Cutler nor Roger Sterling are going to leave anytime soon, but they are eery doppelgangers. When Ted first enters the SCDP offices, he's shot from the waist down, striding so confidently that we can be forgiven for briefly mistaking him for Don; soon, he's installed in Roger's old office so that his and Don's are mirror images of each other in the office layout. When several of the partners gather to discuss who will stay or go, the accounts men are so interchangeable that Cutler doesn't need much of a nudge from Joan to keep Bob Benson and toss someone else aside.In other news, neither Pete's mom nor Joan's reproductive system are behaving themselves; Dawn seems to have vanished (and no Betty/Henry/Draper kids this week); Ted can't hold a Don-level of alcohol; at least one person in the office is backing the right presidential horse; RFK is dead; and, yeah, Don's still an asshole:
Speaking of Don, the guy’s a horrible, horrible, horrible asshole, just horrible. Horrible! Did I mention he’s horrible? A hollowed-out shell of a handsome man. A tyrannosaurus rex among bastards. Sick. Hateful. A selfish prima donna and reflexive user of other people. Toxic beefcake. He should have a warning label on his forehead.But as last week reminded us, when Don is on his game, when he is moving and shaking, merging and selling, then he's still quite alluring, and we can forget all about Bad Don. For a while, anyway.
Oh sure, of course, we already knew this — but still! This episode served up a concentrated dose of Don Draper assholish-ness, to the point where it seemed a deliberate counterweight to last week’s “For Immediate Release,” an installment that showed the tactical value of both Don and Roger’s alpha-male swagger and opportunistic impulses, and made them both seem quite alluring, all things considered. It’s been a long time since I despised Don as much as I despised him here — maybe since his rape-by-hand of Bobbie Barrett in season two. Between his sneaking off for a tryst with Sylvia on day one — day one!!! — of the big agency merger and his prolonged, purposeful mistreatment of Sylvia, Don’s self-hatred was a black hole sucking in sympathy and crushing it. The guy hates himself so much that he uses his own charisma as a self-punishment mechanism. It’s as if he’s trying to see how much abuse he can inflict on people who depend on him/care about him before they throw up their hands and say, “You win, I hate you, now go away.”