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'Mad Men' recap: Getting the house in order

Episode-10-toni-lane-robert-don

Anyone who’s made it through a season of “Mad Men” can tell you that everything really starts to get crazy around episode 10. That’s when, after a steady drip-drip-drip, the floodgates start to open. Sunday night’s episode, “Hand and Knees,” was no exception.  All of a sudden, everyone in "Mad Men" land has a crisis on their hands; the question is how far each character will go in solving it.

After Roger and Joan's sordid assignation last week, it is not exactly surprising to find out that Joan is pregnant. Predictable, to be sure, yet still heartbreaking. I can’t decide what was the most difficult aspect of it for me. Was it knowing that this was Joan’s third abortion, and that -- this time at least -- she desperately wants a child? Or was it Roger’s immature, cowardly response to the whole affair? He suggests Joan should keep the baby, but tells her, “It wouldn’t be my child. Let’s make that clear.” That Roger -- what a class act! Roger might toss around the possibility of leaving Jane for Joan, but a baby -- something that Joan wants even more than she wants Roger -- is simply too scandalous for him. “If there’s going to be something between us, I don’t want it to start this way,” he tells her.

It’s probably wildly unrealistic of me, but I am still hoping that Joan didn’t go through with the abortion. After her trip to the doctor’s office, I was searching for any scrap of evidence to suggest that maybe -- just maybe -- Joan hadn’t gone through with the abortion. On the bus ride home, she looks calm and impeccable, as always. My hunch is that this is a sure sign she went through with it -- Joan is, if anything, even more poised than usual in moments of crisis. My utterly delusional hope? That it means just the opposite. I mean, even Joan is mortal after all, isn’t she? Would she really have reapplied her lipstick after all that? And when Roger checks in on her, she only says, “I’m fine. Everything went fine. We avoided a tragedy.” She never comes out and says “I went through with the abortion.” So she could have kept it, right? Right? I saw a parallel between this episode and Joan’s brief foray into reading TV scripts back in Season 2. In both cases, she’s finally got just the thing that she’s wanted, but she gives it up without a fight. For all her steely confidence, Joan is all too willing to surrender. That’s the real tragedy.  

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The crises this week were not limited to the domestic sphere. After a banner year, the agency is suddenly in a precarious financial state. Seemingly on a whim, Lee Garner Jr. tells Roger that Lucky Strike will be leaving SCDP. It’s a move that’s seemed all but inevitable since earlier in the season, when it was revealed that the tobacco company comprised the vast majority of the agency’s billings.  But that didn’t make it any less dramatic. Roger begged Lee for a second chance, and even played the “But I invited you to my daughter’s wedding” card (if that doesn’t reek of desperation, I don’t know what does). Roger just barely gets him to agree to a 30-day probationary period. “Give us a chance to get our affairs in order,” he tells Lee. What that means, in practical terms, is anyone’s guess, and what’s more unclear is how Roger expects to achieve it without actually telling anyone that they might lose the account. In any case, we’ll find out soon enough. Thirty days in “Mad Men” time is but one week in real life. 

Then there’s Lane: poor, sweet, pathetic Lane.  After his night out with Don, we already knew that Lane wasn’t quite the stuffed shirt he appeared to be. Now, we discover that he’s not only got a lady friend, but she’s also a very, very young “chocolate bunny” (his words, not mine) named Toni Charles (Naturi Naughton). She is sweet and beautiful, but that’s not enough for Lane’s impossibly evil father, Robert (W. Morgan Sheppard), a man with a voice that’s chillier than an Alaskan highway or, um, a Manhattan on the rocks. Lane accuses him of being racist, and the old man hits him with his gold cane. It was a shockingly brutal scene. I certainly buy the idea that Lane has a cruel, Draconian father, but the beating-and-finger-crushing struck me as too cartoonishly evil; Robert might as well have worn a cape and brandished a light saber. Still, I felt tremendous empathy for Lane, who seems to be following his father’s commands to “put your home in order.” (A statement that, not coincidentally, echoes Roger’s promise to Lee.) A bit of rampant speculation: If Lane makes his leave of absence permanent, will Joan step in and become a partner? And if she does, will she stop being so mean to Peggy? 

Metaphorically speaking, Don’s house was the messiest this week. After an unwitting slip-up by Megan, the Department of Defense runs a background check on Don. Two FBI agents show up at Betty’s door and, understandably, she is nearly paralyzed with fear. Briefly, I wondered what Betty would do, but in retrospect, she did the only thing she could do: lie. They’re no longer married, but Betty’s fortunes are still tied to Don’s. It won’t do Betty, her children or -- for that matter -- her new husband any good to have Don in jail. In a wonderfully ironic twist, Betty has inherited Don’s secret. Betty is, to some extent, living a lie, one that could imperil her new husband’s career. (Just imagine the headlines: “Pol’s Wife Lies to Feds About AWOL Ex!”)

But that’s all speculative. What we do know is that it’s Pete, not Don, who winds up being the fall guy.  At first, it appeared that Pete might put up a fight, but ultimately he gives in to Don’s orders to “get rid of it” -- “it” being the lucrative contract with North American Aviation. Maybe Pete, like Betty, did the math and realized that Don’s public disgrace would be bad for him too. In any case, Don probably ought to buy Pete and Trudy a nice dinner (or maybe a cool new chip and dip?) but something tells me he won’t.

The additional irony of all this is, of course, that Don was finally getting his life in order just when the government came a-knockin’. He’s curtailed his drinking habits, he has a healthy and honest relationship with a nice new girlfriend, and he’s doing nice things for Sally, like getting her tickets to see the Beatles. Heck, he and Betty are even being gracious to each other. So now that Don has it together, will it all fall apart?

Stray thoughts:

-- There was also a nice parallel between Joan and Faye this week. Joan leaves Roger’s office saying “Very well, I’ll wait on your word.” She’s pretending to talk about business, but she’s not. Same with Faye, who tells Don “Very good then, you can call me with the details.” I’m not sure what we’re meant to glean from this -- maybe it’s something about the level of dishonesty in the office.

-- What did you make of the end of the episode, with Don staring as Megan freshened up her lipstick?  Was Don just lusting after her, or was he contemplating how such a lovely girl could have, potentially, caused his undoing? I tend to think it's the latter, especially given the suggestive choice of music ("Do You Want to Know a Secret?") Either way, I’m intrigued by how writers keeps coming back to her. What does it all mean? 

-- If Lane caves in and takes a more permanent leave of absence, will Joan step in and finally become a real partner? 

-- I love how Don’s lawyer, Frank Keller (Jack Laufer) is the closest thing he has to a therapist. 

-- The possibility of Roger’s demise keeps coming up. At this point, it would almost be too predictable if Roger did keel over at the office, a la Blankenship, yet all signs point to this happening -- especially the darkly comic scene in which Roger, going through his Rolodex, finds out one of his old buddies is dead, then rips up the card while glibly expressing his condolences. I also loved the pitch-perfect, WASPy conversation about vacation homes, e.g. “It’s a rental, but it’s a beaut.”

-- I wonder what was behind the creative decision to have Roger drop an F-bomb and then bleep it out. My guess is that they wanted the scene to be just as salty as it would be in real life, take that censors.  But, like so many things about this season, it felt self-conscious.

So, what did you think? It looks like the dominoes are all in place for the rest of the season; Any predictions as to how they will fall?

-- Meredith Blake

twitter.com/MeredithBlake

P.S. In the spirit, of this episode, here's a great little montage of the Beatles at Shea Stadium. Can you spot Sally in the audience?

 

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Top photo: Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) introduces his Playboy bunny, Toni (Naturi Naughton) to Don (Jon Hamm) and his father (W. Morgan Sheppard). Credit: Mike Yarish / AMC

Bottom photo: Joan (Christina Hendricks) and Roger (John Slattery) discuss their predicament over a tasty-looking bloody mary. Credit: Mike Yarish / AMC

 
Comments () | Archives (35)

My guess: All of Mad Men is a dream inside of Megan's head, who is actually a student at Rutgers in 1985.

When the title of the episode is, "Hands and Knees," you should c0unt on some back-breaking moments.

When Lane was on all fours, with his father's foot clamping his hand down.... I was wondering at first why Lane didn't simply pull his hand away? It wasn't like this elderly person could possibly be stronger....Clearly he wasn't pushing his shoe all that hard on his fingers. Is it possibly a deeper insecurity within Lane's psyche? That he's disappointed and still has not established himself in the mind of his old man? Lane has always given in to his superiors, been the good soldier, eager to please and prove his worth. Who could possibly be more of a marker to measure yourself against than your father? Who could make you feel more of a failure?

In my mind, Joan did not go through with it.... It looked to me like she was already making plans while sitting on the bus.

Lane has stated so many times what percentage Lucky Strike comprises in their billing, I figured early on this season that they would lose them. It was too big a tip-off...But what did Roger mean by, "All the lies I've told for you"....???

That last shot of Don looking at Meagan was really menacing, especially with the choice of song. How would she know it all worked out? Made me wonder if she is able to overhear everything that goes on in Don's office.

It is pure torture to wait until the next episode....and there's only two left!!!!
How can they possibly wrap this all up?

I think Lane's father explains a lot of things. Lane is a guy who was known at the old agency as someone who willingly ate his pile of crap without complaint. It also explains his need to run away from home (England). Contrast Lane's utter happiness with someone who accepts and loves him as he is with Don's utter ambivalence with Faye.


While the scene with Lane and his father might have seemed over the top I have no problem believing it. I grew up with a British father and grandfather. When my grandfather spoke to us, we had to stand at attention.

This recap was pretty much my exact thoughts as I watched this episode! Meredith, you never cease to amaze me! I also really think/hope that Joan didn't go through with the abortion...she wouldn't be at work the next day, right?! I am a huge Roger+Joan fan, so anything that brings them together works for me! I also was pleasantly surprised with Betty this week. I was starting to think her character needed to go, but I appreciated that she was there this week for the first time this season! As for Megan, I don't know why she's suddenly in the foreground so much either, and I can't wait to see what Matt Weiner has in store!!!

My bet - they'll bring back Sal and blackmail Lee Garner, Jr. re: sexually harassing Sal and costing him his job. Promise of a new position at SCDP will motivate Sal to spill the beans on the public front.

I did not know that Pete knew Don's secret--I must have missed that episode. Who else knows, besides Cooper?

No Peggy this week--a shame since she is SO GOOD.

Of course Joan will keep the baby, because her husband will NOT be coming back from Vietnam.

I wondered about the bleeped word, too, and decided it'll be in the DVD version, but was not okay for TV. That's silly, of course, and it did stick out badly in the show.

But that wasn't the worst of last night's episode. I see a lot of praise for the goings-on in this most recent outing, but I pretty much detested the whole thing. Two moments I did like: Sally's excitement over the tickets, and Betty's telling her hubby she didn't want any secrets while she harbors a big one.

What I hated:

Joan's pregnancy. Ever notice how fast a show tanks when a main character gets pregnant? Not since Lucy had little Ricky has that worked well long-term for a TV series. I know, I know -- it shouldn't hurt if she had an abortion and therefore we won't be having baby stories. Example: Peggy's pregnancy was okay because the baby wasn't kept in the story. Little Gene was okay because his parents never seemed to notice he was born. But Joanie can't just pop out a kid and not have it impact her story line.

Having said that, I see absolutely no reason for the survivor sex after the robbery, resulting in a baby, if the only pay off is our seeing her go to an abortionist. How does that propel the series forward? It doesn't, other than giving Roger a chance to show what a selfish jerk he is. But we already knew that. So I think Joanie went to the abortionist pregnant and returned home still pregnant. And that worries me, if I'm right. It means we're going to have to sit through the soap opera of how she and Roger and everyone else deals with that. Not an interesting story line, in my opinion.

I adore Jon Hamm, but I thought his panic attack was overdone and I didn't believe a minute of it. Nor did I buy the notion that he'd tell Faye the truth. He was too undone by the truth coming out, still didn't know what would come of that, and he entrusted the information to a woman that we're supposed to believe is good for him (but I don't believe that). Remember how she behaved on the phone with her former boyfriend? She's volatile. Angry. You can't tell what such a woman will do with information if she becomes displeased with you. And if any man can displease a woman (after pleasing her), Don can. He has that mastered.

So we have Faye holding dangerous information. And Pete is ticked at Don, resentful, so who knows what he might do to him. If Don leaves the agency, what damage would Pete do to him wherever he goes?

Roger is a wuss for not letting the partners know about Luckey Strike. And what was the purpose? He's never been known as a one-man crisis avoider. He needs all the help he can get right now. It's not his secret to keep, and it gives others a false sense of security.

Don could have found a way to blame the aviation account loss on himself (without admitting the truth) if he had brass ones. Instead he let Pete take the blame and offered up a beside the point defense to take some heat off Pete. He should have found a way to take it onto his own shoulders the way Pete did.

The scene with Lane, his dad, and cane was unlikely and played over the top. It felt like Mad Men is losing its way.

For a series where often nothing much happens, but is felt, last night's offering was a disappointment. Much happened, and little was felt. Even less felt authentic. I have a junk drawer in my kitchen. Anything and everything goes in there, and most of it should be thrown away. That's exactly what last night's episode felt like for me: like I'd just opened my junk drawer and saw a slew of things that should be dumped. I expect better of Mad Men.

How many sharks were jumped last night? By my count, I'd say at least four, maybe five or more.

Best Mad Men episode yet but would like to see more of Betty. All the characters have entered personal as well as professional crises. So who will survive and thrive is the real question at the end. My guess is Lane never returns, Roger finally uses his wit to regain business and eventually marries Joan after she has given birth to their son. Betty will be divorced and Don moves back into his home and they remarry but not before his daughter turns hippy and runs away to attend Woodstock.

I kept wanting to find something redeeming in Roger this week and it was impossible. His treatment of Joan was politely despicable and his attack on Pete for "losing" NAA was amazingly hypocritical. I think it is an amazing testament to John Slattery that he keeps us watching and at times even rooting for Roger, despite the characters obvious and glaring flaws.

The same goes for Jon Hamm, and his depth as Don. I have seen panic attacks and I did not find Don's to be at all overdone. One of the themes of this season has been to show how much of what makes Don "Don" is a front, a facade he made from the ruins of Dick's tragic childhood. When all that collapses and he also could face prison, I do not find a panic attack to be unusual at all. Remember, Don is an anti-hero and those who expect the character to be some embodiment of cool (an advertising James Bond ), are missing the subtly and in my mind the genius of the show. It is the flaws of the character that make them interesting.

@rinkydink: Nobody cares about your junk drawer, mundane and stereotypical ideas.

Thankfully the other posters nixed your points, and the show is simply excellent.

Just a few things:

It's a little presumptuous of Pete to be so huffy & angry with Don and talk about tired of holding other people's secrets . . . has he forgotten about the baby he KNOWS that he had with Peggy? I'm sure Don knows who got Peggy pregnant, so, while Pete is upset, he surely understands secrets & having to do what it takes to keep them hidden.

Did anyone notice that Don was supposed to take Sally to see the Beatles on Saturday, but then he made Saturdy dinner plans with Faye? Knowing Don, he may have forgotten about poor Sally by Saturday and instead gone to dinner with Faye, or simply taken Faye or Megan to the concert.

That last shot of Don looking at Megan had me immediately thinking about the 'old' Don of yore . . . that will play out soon enough.

Lastly, Joan, like some other posters, I'm not yet convinced that she went through with the abortion, only time will tell.

I think Mad Men is going into the same rut where "The Sopranos" found itself by the end of its run. Showing Don Draper doing the same dumb and self destructive behavior over and over doesn't appeal to me anymore. At this point in the show they don't have to show Don bedding more women and shamelessly using more people to cover for himself. This is getting old and I am caring less about what happens to him. Same with Roger. Maybe this episode is setting up Roger for the big exit.

For me, its the other characters in the show who are more interesting. I hope that Lane Price isn't gone for good. Maybe he'll go back to England for the big show down. I think the character who has really matured and is getting wiser is Pete. He is seeing everyone for who they are and I believe he will start to chart his own course. I doubt that Joan is going to keep the baby and move up in the agency. I think she's too conventional for this, but Matthew Weiner has pulled some surprises before.

Jim- I forget the specifics of how it happened but Pete found out earlier on (Not sure which season- 2nd maybe?) about DOn's secret and I remember he tried to use it to hurt him- he tells it to I think ROger , ( i can't remember) to try to screw over Don during the phase where Pete was a whiny little baby that complained about DOn not appreciating him. I forget the whole scenario.

Rinky dink- are you really surprised that Roger was a wuss....the second we learned that they were losing that account, I thought to myself "oh boy what are we in for now- he is so going to be keeping that secret and possibly exposing it some drunken stupor." I am so getting sick of his character this season- The storyline with JOan this season is his saving grace.

I think Joan didn't go through with it- something about the whole conversation with that mother and then her saying "we avoided a tragedy." I would think that Joan wouldn't view having a child as a tragedy, even if the baby is just the result of an affair. Truthfully, I think having Roger's baby would be even less of a tragedy given her feelings for him.

I also meant to add that I was surprised at how cordial Betty and Don were in this episode. I really expected Betty to have one of her tantrum that she has been having all season when it comes to him. When Don gifted the Beatles tickets to Sally I expected Betty to be overly righteous and yell and scream at him for not consulting her first or say something about how she's too young- maybe that's just too typical dviorced family for Mad Men, but it would have fit in well with Betty's character this season. I also expected her to be less helpful with the whole government story line. I wouldn't expect her to rat him out, but while you could tell she was upset when conveying the details to Don, I was surprised she didn't yell and scream at him. I am sure it is ultimately because she knows the damage Don getting caught could cause towards her family (particularly her politician husband). Anyways, not trying to read in to any of it, it was just refreshing to see Betty and her not be a total b**** this season.

To Em: Don made plans to go to Shea Stadium with Sally to see the Beatles on SUNDAY not Saturday, so there is no conflict there. The Beatles show was on 8/15/65 and that date fell on a Sunday. Part of me wonders if Don will ask Megan to go to the concert with him and ditch Sally?

I agree with Rinky Dink : I would not like "mad men" to turn into a soap opera. I like this show so much because of its originality and some scenes were disapointing here. Also I missed Peggy in that episode.
I think it crossed Don's mind to invite Megan to the concert but he would not do that to his daughter. And I'm almost sure Joan didn't get the abortion.

Thanks for sharing, cinnamon.

Heather, yes, I was surprised by how Roger handled (or rather didn't handle) the loss of Luckey Strike. I would have thought he would get the troops together to find a way to either salvage the account or get another to replace it before the announcement is made to the general (ad industry) public. I see no benefit to him in keeping silent unless he tries to get the others to buy him out before they learn the truth. There was nothing to indicate that he, instead of the agency as a whole, lost the account. Yes, he was the account executive, but it takes a creative team to keep or lose business. His reaction did not make sense to me. As an old war horse from the ad biz during the Mad Men era, it rings entirely false to me. He didn't really buy himself any time; he lost time when his colleagues could be helping him figure out the next step. Advertising is a team effort.

More likely that Don would get Megan to take Sally to the concert, given what we have seen of Megan's affection toward Sally, and the interest she shows in the concert.

Don could care less about the Beatles; only cares a little bit more about Megan. And, Megan would know that Don has already toyed with the affections of at least one secretary already.

 
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