"Mad Men" certainly knows how to ramp things up. What started out as a slow season has quickly morphed into one of the most action-packed yet. Sunday's episode had everything we love in a "Mad Men" hour: tension, firings, drunkenness, mind games, health scares, sexual scares, historical references and plane rides. Below are the 10 best moments of the truly energetic and thoughtful episode "Man with a Plan."
1. The elevator. So much of this season takes place in the elevator. It's where Don and Sylvia meet, where Don and Arnold meet and where, if guilt were something that Don felt, he would have felt it. So many interactions take place in this place of comings and goings, up and downs, that one can't help but realize it's a symbol for the entire season. As we open up this episode, Don is eavesdropping on a fight between Sylvia and Arnold. The good doctor's about to go on a trip, and Sylvia cries that he's not taking care of her. Though this trip opens up a whole world for Don and his mistress ... more on that later.
2. Meanwhile, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is in total chaos due to its union with Cutler Gleason and Chaough. The phones are ringing, movers are moving, and confused, displaced Cutler Gleason and Chaough employees are wandering around with boxes waiting for Joan to tell them where to go and what to do. But this is where our favorite buxom redhead is at her best -- in charge and leading the pack. There are power plays, office wars and seat games, as well as priceless competition among the secretaries over who can serve best. Ted summed it up perfectly when he said to Peggy, "First day of school. Nervous?" She should be.
3. The office upheaval leads to one of the best moments of the night. When Pete arrives to a meeting late he discovers that he does not have a chair, which he reacts to like someone has just kicked his puppy. To him, this is a sign of things to come -- there is no room for him at the table, literally and figuratively. Whoever is left without a seat is left out of the party. Ted's secretary offers Pete her seat, which he quickly snatches, but then gallant Ted saves the day by offering her his seat and casually hopping on a desk. If this episode did anything, it served to sell Ted to us.
4. During last night's episode we not only discover that Ted is gallant, creative and a big fan of Peggy, but apparently he can fly a plane -- a skill that comes in handy when he offers to fly Don and Pete to a client meeting himself. But when he actually takes off in a tiny plane built for two with Don, it's shaky to say the least, and the rough patch through the storm actually makes Don sweat. It's nice to see Don sweat. It's refreshing to be reminded that Don is human and has actual human reactions occasionally. Though he quickly returns to reserved Don as soon as the turbulence is over, whipping out his in-flight reading and tuning Ted out.
5. No wonder he's called a "cold fish" by Burt Peterson, who somehow managed to slither back into the SCDP offices only to be fired once again by Roger Sterling. Oh, how I love Roger. While he was barely in last night's episode, his scene with Burt was good enough to steal the show. His witty one-liners offered welcome reprieve from the chaos of the episode.
6. There is one place where Don is certainly not a "cold fish," and that's the bedroom. Don managed to show both a vulnerable and dominating side with Sylvia. When Sylvia calls him at the office to say that she wanted to see him, Don tried to shake her off but she knew just want to say: "I need you and nothing else will do." To which Don says, "Oh." And that's all it took. Apparently Don just wants to be needed. So much so, that he even asked her to repeat it later once ensconced in their hotel room. But Don does not like to be vulnerable for too long. When Sylvia dares to get comfortable, complaining about her husband, Don tells her that she cannot talk about Arnold to him, to which she replies, "I can talk about whatever I want." Not in Don's world you can't. This comment prompts Don to take a page from "50 Shades of Grey." He orders Sylvia to crawl on the floor to retrieve his shoes, then to get undressed and get into bed and then he leaves her. He has to find a way to regain the upper hand, and he does -- for a time. Don bosses Sylvia around like a prostitute, and she is more than happy to oblige. "You're going to wait there, and you're not going to know when I'm coming back," he says. And Sylvia not only takes it, but she likes it. Taking another page out of a hooker playbook, he tells her not to answer the phone -- remind you of anything? "Pretty Woman"! -- Richard Gere tells Julia Roberts to not answer the phone, and calls her to check that she isn't -- and she of course answers, "then stop calling me!" However, Sylvia, is a good little submissive, and doesn't answer the phone when Don checks up on her.
7. It doesn't take Sylvia quite as long as I expected to wisen up and tire of Don's mind games. At the end of the episode, we learn that she may in fact have a backbone and some scruples. She says to Don, "It's easy to give up something when you're ashamed." That was an unexpected, but welcome twist. It was time for that relationship to run its course. Though apparently Don wasn't ready to quit her, as he beg-whimpers, "Please." But she doesn't give in. The elevator should be an even more awkward place post-breakup.
8. While one door to love (well, let's be honest, adulterous sex) closes, another may be opening. When Joan has a health emergency, Mr. Kissass, too-cute-for-his-own-good, Bob steps up to the plate. He manages to get her into the emergency room in a timely fashion and checks up on her when she returns home, bringing her son a present. Methinks Bob is looking for a present of his own. Though I think I could get behind this possible union. I wasn't a fan before, but just like Ted, Bob is starting to grow on me.
9. As payback to Mr. Too Cute, Joan manages to save his job. I am loving that Joan is proving that she's smarter than most of the men at her company and is finally flexing her partner power.
10. And speaking of Ted becoming more likable, it's becoming apparent that Peggy is becoming increasingly unable to hide her growing feelings for her boss (Ted, that is, not Don -- wow, it's good to say that Don is her boss again). She even tells Don off when he got Ted too drunk. Because, as she points out, "He can't drink like you, and you must know that's because nobody can." That is true Peggy, that is true. I wonder if Jon Hamm gets ill from all the iced tea and apple juice he has to drink as a stand-in for scotch during shooting.
10.5. Still under the category of Ted becoming the man, the scene between him and his dying partner was incredibly compelling, and helped to knock Don down to human level a notch. "He's mysterious, but I can't tell if he's putting it on," Ted says. His partner replied: "Give him the early rounds. He'll tire himself out. Go home, shower. Walk back in there like you own half the place." Well said.
10.75. We only see Megan at the end, and once again, she is used as a touchstone to the time and place in history that the show takes place. She sheds a tear for Bobby Kennedy, whose assassination was touched upon at the very end of the episode. Poor Bobby, and poor Megan. Depressing afterthoughts in an episode filled with so much promise of the future.
Tell us: What did we miss? What were your favorite moments from last night's episode?