Meeting Sylvia in the Elevator

 Posted by on April 16, 2015 at 5:08 am  Mad Men, Season 7
Apr 162015

Don and Diana in the elevator with Arnie and Sylvia Rosen

What was the purpose of Don running into Sylvia and Arnie Rosen in the elevator in Mad Men episode 7.09, New Business? Obviously, in an episode that seems very much about recycling the past, another visit from an ex of Don’s underlines that the past is always with him. But I think a second purpose is to remind us what a shitty husband Don was.

Any number of people (Basketcases and otherwise) have pointed out that Megan behaved rather petulantly in this episode, complaining that Don ruined her life and undermined her career. It’s true she’s unhappy in her career for reasons that have nothing to do with Don, and that her anger, when she finally sat down with Don, was as much or more at her mother and Harry, with Don taking the brunt. And it’s true, too, that she wanted to paint herself as the innocent wounded party, up to and including wearing solid white. It’s easy, then, to get mad at Megan and feel for Don, who wrote a hefty check in an effort to appear to be a good and contrite guy.

Don didn’t ruin Megan’s life, but he did break her heart. She loved him deeply and sincerely, and when she tells him he’s a liar, it’s deeply felt. Sylvia is there to remind us of Don’s cheating, in an episode where it would otherwise be far too easy to give him all our sympathy.

Don proposed to Megan in October of 1965, and they married soon after. Having been married for just two years, Don is already having an on-going affair with a neighbor (Sylvia) by December 1967. Six months later (June 1968), he sleeps with Betty.

By November of 1968, just around their third anniversary, their marriage is already a shambles. He offers to move to California, she quits her job, and then he changes his mind. It’s at that moment we saw she was truly heartbroken. But then he lies to her for four months about his job. For four months he flies back and forth to California, telling Megan he has to leave to go back to a job he doesn’t really have.

She has every reason to be angry.


  40 Responses to “Meeting Sylvia in the Elevator”

  1. At the Cod Fish Ball, Megan’s father encourages her to be her own person.
    She is moved by his words.
    The discontent with cutting out coupons and working with creative begins.

    She was heartbroken by Don.

    However, she’s the one who took off her clothes after hours and took a ride on the office couch.
    She knew he was involved with Dr. Faye.
    Megan seemed like a go getter to me…and she got the full Don Draper treatment. Plus a million clams!

  2. You are right!!! She made the first move too!! It’s almost like he paid her off like he paid off some of his other people from the past (think Adam and Midge) with that check.. Like he wants to get rid of her..

  3. Which is pretty much what Megan did to Don’s niece, no?

    • Yes!! Absolutely…

    • That was a shabby thing to do, I felt. She also asked Don for the opportunity to be in her first ad (Butler shoes. Dressed as sleeping beauty?) after her friend asked Megan to speak to Don for her. So she has a bit of a record of being a bit ruthless.

    • Megan is so fragile and self-centered.

      Stephanie tossed off a line with no hint of rancor:

      “Oh, I know all of Don’s secrets”

      And Megan ruined their reunion – what a child.

  4. I agree that Megan has a reason to be angry….. with herself.

    The way gossip flows in that office, she would have had to have known what Don was like long before she got involved with him. As his secretary, she had to have very strong suspicions or even knowledge regarding the depth of his relationship with Dr. Faye.

    That does not excuse Don’s lack of fidelity; but, as my southern grandmother used to say, “when you lay down with hogs….you come up smelling like slop”.

    • Maybe she used him on purpose.. Like a “hustler” …lol…

      • Damn, that might be the case here! Her mother asked Roger “please take advantage of me”, Harry tried to take advantage of Megan, Annie Hall was hustling the office and maybe Megan basically hustled Don throughout and we just didn’t think that way because of the show’s feminist credentials. After all, a secretary who says she wants to do what Don does, gets that job, decides she doesn’t like it but wants to be an actress, gets a start through her husband, gets a house in the hills in Hollywood to throw parties, gets her lifestyle paid for, is able to just write Stephanie a check, decides to end her marriage and then gets a million dollars from Don after her mother cleans out his apartment… Whatever her intentions, she sure cleaned up on this deal

    • And her first words to him when she seduced him were “I won’t run out of here crying!”

      But, I don’t think she intended/foresaw marriage and money. I think she just did want to 1)sleep with Don -he is really hot and 2) get a better job position like Peggy’s

      Remember everyone thinks she slept with Don to get her job. They mention that specifically twice at least in that season: first Alison in the crying/throwing episode and then in the suitcase. Megan may have believed it.

      Megan’s ability to lie (even to herself) I recognized as not malicious, but manipulative. She wants to be the sunny positive person but has dark insecurities. But that’s what you learn at an early age growing up in the environment she did. Don did too.

      • She meaning Peggy.

      • I gotta agree with the bit about Megan’s couch boogie with Don not neccissarily about using him to get a promotion. I know that’s the way it looked, but I always felt (how is it we “feel” things about the machinations of fictional people?) that it was more of a bid to look more interesting to Don. “Hey, I’m not just a secretary, ya know. I’m actually fascinating and ambitious, just like Dr.Fae.” Because he was hot. It could be argued that her thought process didn’t go much further than that at the time.

  5. I’m glad they put in that comment of Harry’s [probably paraphrasing]: “Quitting her soap and moving to California? Not smart.” She did both those things for the marriage, and look where it’s landed her. I’m not weeping for her or anything, and Don never meant for things to turn out as they did, but I’m glad he got reminded of it in those terms. And I love how messy it all is – so much more complex than “it’s all his fault” or “she made her bed.”

  6. I love that Sylvia’s dress reminds me of her ‘fish’ dress she wore with Don at the restaurant, where they ended up being alone. And her cross has been replaced with jewels! Did she get some new attention and presents from Arnie? Did she “confess” her sins?

    Arnold seems to be physically trying to be as far away from Don as possible even angling away from him. And kind of sneering. Especially to the guy who saved his son from going to a Viet Nam.

    And Sylvia and Arnie couldn’t be more far apart! Although, it gives me a feeling that they are solidly together in one thing: opposition to Don. It’s a good indication of the complicated result of the damage he caused there. And it’s private damage. We don’t know for sure *what* happened with Sylvia and Arnold!

    • Arnold was, to me, the most interesting, and mysterious, character of Season 6. What did he know, really? From the first episode we were theorizing if he already knew about what was happening between Don and his wife. Does he even know now? He was one of the very few characters we’ve seen who wasn’t dominated by Don, who treated him as an equal. In this elevator scene he’s the only one who isn’t ill-at-ease. Since he jokes about what Don and Diana are clearly on their way to doing, it makes me think he still doesn’t know about Sylvia and Don, since doing so in her presence would be viciously sadistic to Sylvia. There were hints that their marriage wasn’t the happiest, but that seems too much. He even invites Don to play squash. Is he playing some nasty vengeful game, or does he still think of Don as a friend?

      • Yeah, it was so hard to read!

        Was he just acting like that because he had too much to drink? Or does he despise Don but doesn’t want to give Don the satisfaction of knowing what he thinks of him, if he does know.

        Or is he oblivious?

        Or was he having his own affair, which the cover of being on call allowed him out whenever he wanted?

        The cool thing is they play this so that as much as we don’t know, Don doesn’t know either!

        It reminds me of a Hitchcock movie, when the can’t be sure what the other knows! And they have to move forward without enough information!

      • I think he knew because he was so aggressive toward Don in a joking way. The old Arnold wouldn’t have behaved they way. I doubt he was Sylvia’s first affair, those don’t come out of nowhere

  7. Remember, though, he didn’t really “change his mind” about California. He agreed to let Ted go instead. Yet for some reason he didn’t tell Megan that that was the reason, instead saying it was some Agency business decision (even though she already knew about Ted and Peggy). So I tend to give Don a break for that turn of events, but I suppose Megan would have less reason to, unless he ended up telling her the truth about that change of plans.

    • He let Ted go as punishment for Peggy, and allowing Megan to pay the price. The “for some reason” is because he doesn’t take responsibility for his actions, including and especially to his wife.

      • I’ll have to watch again – the scene with Don and Ted where Don relents. Meanwhile, would you dissect the punish Peggy hypothesis? It seemed that Peggy was on the verge of getting dumped (punished) anyway – but Don wanted to make damn sure of it?

        Thinking back, I suppose Peggy had expressed disapproval – about Don’s competitive drinking bout vs. Ted, his obliquely embarrassing her (and Ted) at a client meeting, and something about her potential Clio submission.

        OK – I get it. Anything else?

      • I think he also feels protective of Peggy. They weren’t getting along at the time but have so much history and feeling for eachother.

    • not sure that would make it better from Megan’s point of view. It still shows that Don doesn’t care enough about her that he put (his recent enemy) Ted’s possible happiness and need to get out of an affair over her need to reconnect and move up in her career.

  8. I think the doctor knew very well what had transpired between his wife and Don, and I suspect that was not the first affair she had with someone. He may be one of those types who blames the other person, in this case Don, for the problem because he realizes she is so special, so beautiful, so everything, who could resist? Or maybe it is just not that important to him. He obviously would do anything for his son, and that may have included allowing his wife to seal the deal for his son to go into the National Guard. The workings inside a marriage are mysterious. But he was lashing out at Don. And being sarcastic about the squash game, interesting name for a game isn’t it, especially in this context.

    • we haven’t seen him since season 6 but Don has had a lot of ladies up there. Arnold has probably seen many of them.

    • Yes, Sylvia says quite pointedly “again” when talking to Don about their relationship. I tookd that to mean she has had at least one previous affair.

    • Mad Men’s favorite cardiologist was being particularly smug to offer a squash date to a high-school football guy. In racket sport circles – squash is regarded as difficult – perhaps even more so than tennis (which has the largest court). Plus squash is even more upper-crust than tennis – odds are Rosen first played in college.

  9. The Megan hating never ceases to amaze me.

    • There is no hating.
      This is/was a character that a flighty fill-on-the-blank, ultimately uninspiring character.
      The dialogue written was flat. How many memorable were spouted from her?
      When you have a gallery that includes Roger, Peggy, Pete, Don, Joan, even Ginzo, you had better be interesting.
      It seemed as if this character was crammed in there to contrast with the Gloomy Gus’s, and fill a demographic, that didn’t need filling.
      Megan, just didn’t belong on a show this good.

      • Actually she was truthful, in that she was a true second wife. This is what men did. She’s also very representative of a certain kind of woman, that existed for a very short time in our culture. Maybe that is her true relationship to Sharon Tate.

        Megan is as complex as any character on MM and she represents the people coming of age that *did not* look to the 1950s as their inspiration.

        Midge was another one, and ahead of her time.

        Suzanne was kind of ahead:already in the 70s with her natural look, with a little bit of 1940s attached to her.

        And of course Anna was exemplary of the best part of the 60s70s. Loving and accepting.

        • Peggy is timeless. Classic. Like they say in the Marilyn/Jackie episode.

          • During the Marilyn/Jackie episode, didn’t Peggy ask who she represented and Don remarked she was an Irene Dunn type?

            I think Freddie echoed he loves Irene…great episode!

          • I tend to think of Anna as timeless (though some hae criticized her character as being impossibly beatific and accepting).

    • To tell you the truth I’ve always liked Megan..The point I made about her “hustling” was just to show the coincidence (or not) of what was going on in the other story line.. But I do like her as a character and I am interested to see what happens to her; however, if Dr. Faye is correct and Don is a type.. I don’t want him to marry Meredith next(that is a joke)

      • What a riot!
        Do you think Don would ever go for her? Has he learned his lesson?
        She takes her role very seriously! She sort of nagged him about the casting couch…OMG!
        Could he be taking her for a ride on the couch? If we see that I will flip!
        With him anything is possible!

  10. … blankthat was a flighty, fill-in-the blank.
    How many memorable lines spouted from her.

    Wow, I suck.

  11. Is it weird that the Rosen’s went to a black tie wedding on a Tuesday night? It seemed odd to me.

  12. Don and Megan simply weren’t right for one another. They barely knew each when they married as evidenced by Megan throwing a Don a (much hated) surprise party. Don was infatuated and wanted a doting wife who was good with his kids. Megan changed the game by changing careers and never being around. Their differences got the best of them. When Don no longer felt connected to Megan he went for Sylvia, a familiar pattern for him. I think if Megan had stayed at SCDP they would have had a better chance. I blame both of them. Throwing a threesome at the problem was a particularly weak move by Megan. Off the subject but the actress who plays Sylvia is stunning.

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