Michael Yarish/AMC
Lindsey Bahr
May 13, 2013 AT 06:25 AM EDT

Hi all, I’m your substitute recapper for the evening. Ted, the golden boy of the new agency summed up my feelings best when he said: “First day of school. Nervous?” Yes, Ted, yes, I’m nervous.

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.

On this week’s episode “Man with a Plan,” we meet up with Don alone in an elevator that opens up on an unexpected floor. He wanted to go to the lobby, but instead he finds himself privy to a loud argument between Sylvia and Arnold. Well, it’s actually just Sylvia screaming. Arnold might have been responding to her, but his voice doesn’t carry through the walls. He’s about to go on a trip, and Sylvia cries that he’s not taking care of her. Our boy Don lingers enough to catch bits of what the argument is about, but, like any good eavesdropper, retreats quickly and nervously to the safety of the elevator and the comforting knowledge that it will remove him from the situation with a push of a button.

The merger, meanwhile, is still on and moving a bit too fast for everyone to catch up. Simply put, the SCDP offices are chaos. The phones are ringing, movers are carrying furniture, and confused, displaced Cutler Gleason and Chaough employees are wandering around with boxes waiting for Joan to dole out office and secretary assignments as if directing a cruise ship. This is an HR nightmare. But, hey, Joan’s doing her best. And she’s still collected enough to give newbie John Mathis a dismissive look when he tries to feed her a line. Kid, Joan is a Partner. You should, actually, know her name. Also, sit down.

There’s a bit of a power struggle as everyone tries to suss out their place. The only ones who seem particularly at ease about the situation are the creative teams. Is it lame to be really excited for Peggy, Stan, and Ginsberg to be back around the same table again?

Poor Peggy, though. She’d made such a bold decision to move on with her life and career and suddenly she’s right back in the same old offices — Harry Crane’s awful old space with the intrusive pole, to be exact — and with the same old bosses. She even confronts Don, passively, about the merger and why he’d never even asked her out to lunch while she was gone. Their relationship remains terse and awkward. Thankfully, she and Joan seem to be on the same team for now, and maintain a friendly, professional candor.

NEXT: He’s a pilot too…

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