Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mad Men Season 4, Episode 10: Hands and Knees

"I'm tired of running."

The first lesson from this episode is that not all British invasions are welcome.   At SCDP, Lane Pryce gets an unexpected visit from his father Robert.  The senior Mr. Pryce is cold and demanding.  It takes no time to understand their personal dynamics.  Lane is afraid of his father and desperate for his acceptance.  He takes him to a local Playboy Club and Lane tries to impress his father, but his father is too busy undermining him to be impressed.  Lane asked Don to come along as a buffer and Don does his best, but even he is no match for the dour and sour (but not Whiskey Sour) Mr. Pryce.

Seems Lane has a secret, he's in love with Toni, an African-American Playboy Bunny.  This is why he wants to stay in the US, why he doesn't want to go home to his wife in London, and why he was hoping it was his son Nigel coming into the office and not his spiteful father.  Toni seems as enamored with Lane as he is of her, but she also wants to keep her job and mingling with the customers on property is not a good idea.  Lane is such a pathetic sad sack, it's surprising to see him as someone's love interest.

Betty gets an unwelcome visit, from two agents from the Department of Defense investigating Don Draper who's apparently applied for security clearance.  She is understandably rattled, especially as their pro forma questions have a particular resonance to Betty.  Do you trust Don's loyalty, is he faithful, do you believe he is not who he says he is.  No, no and yes is what she wants to shout out, but she stumbles through a shaky assurance that Don is not a threat to the U.S.  There aren't enough cigarettes in the world to calm her down for this line of questioning.  She calls Don to scold him for putting her in that situation, only for both of them for the first time to discover that Pete had put through a request for Don's national security clearance.

Don goes into full fledged panic over the thought of having his secret identity, his desertion, his identity theft, everything exposed.  Megan apologizes, and offers to fall on her sword, for submitting the paperwork without alerting Don to what he was signing.  Don barely takes any blame, telling Pete that signing things without reading them is what he does.  Pete goes from excited that the process is already underway to concern that Don's past could put himself, the firm, and the relationship in jeopardy.

Roger gets his own bit of shocking news.  His post-robbery romp with Joan has (or will in about nine months) born fruit.  On the one hand, he is intrigued that maybe this is a sign that they're meant to be together.  He does care about her and treasures their time together.  Yet when his feet are put in the fire, he jumps out, saying that he doesn't want her to keep the child.  If they were to get together, it shouldn't be from a scandal.  He's supportive of whatever decision she wants to make, but not supportive enough to leave his wife, ask her to leave her husband, and raise this child as his own.

Joan goes to the doctor to have an abortion, but before it's her turn she begins to strike up a conversation with a woman in the waiting room.  It's the mother of a teenage girl who is inside having her problem dealt with.  The woman mistakenly thinks Joan is there with her own daughter, and Joan plays along, allowing the woman to share her worry, bonding over their young girl's making a hard decision under difficult circumstances.  But Joan is not the mother of a teenage girl, she's the one with the problem and she's handling it.  She goes back to the office the next day and sees Roger and there's really nothing to say.  She's handled it.

Don's panic is not subsiding and he contacts his lawyer/financial planner about making arrangements for the kids NOW.  It doesn't take a genius to see that Don is freaking out about something and the lawyer assumes he's in a post-divorce black hole with suicidal overtones.  He has no clue that Don is making plans for an immediate escape should the past catch up with him.  Don and Pete meet to discuss their options and Pete slowly starts to confront that all his hard work and great success may be lost because of something that Don did many years before.  A $4M account may go up in smoke all so that Don's secrets can be kept under wraps.

Speaking of "up in smoke."  This is an episode with so much shit and so many fans.  Roger has a business lunch with Lee Garner, Jr., the firm's biggest client and the one for whom Roger would literally do anything.  Lucky Strike is SCDP, without them, the firm would go poof.  So when Lee tells Roger that Lucky Strike is taking their business and moving firms, Roger sees his professional life flash before his eyes.  Hell, he sees his life on earth gone as well.  This is devastating, catastrophic, a Titanic-sized disaster that is almost as cataclysmic as it was unimaginable.  Yet, losing Lucky Strike was always on the firm's collective mind.  You can't have a client that big, that important, and not wake up every morning worried "What if?"

Well, "what if" has happened.  Although Roger immediately goes into denial.  "This is not happening," he says out loud.  As if to make it worse, Lee tells him it's not because of anything they did or didn't do.  It's just business.  Roger begs and sputters and the best he gets from Lee is a 30-day window before the files have to be moved.  Roger is not equipped to deal with this and so he does nothing.  He goes back to work and says nothing.  

While Roger is dealing with the shock of losing the firm's biggest client (and probably the firm), Don comes home, sees some men milling about in front of his apartment, and decides it's probably the Feds and they're there to arrest him for desertion and a host of other horribles. But it was just a mix up.  Still, the panic has taken over and Don starts to sweat, and shake, and hyperventilate and he's convinced he's having a heart attack.  Dr. Faye is there with him and tries to get him to calm down.

We're so used to see the calm, unflappable Don - and so is Faye - that the sight of him clutching his chest, covered in sweat, scared out of his mind is unsettling.  It's also a glimpse at the man behind the curtain.  This scared, panicked man, who fears being discovered and losing everything, is hiding under the Brylcream, expensive suits, and finely pressed shirts.

Lane has invited his girlfriend over to meet his father and that goes about as well as expected.  His father does not want to entertain Lane's fantasies about stay in America and running away with his "chocolate bunny," he is here to bring Lane back and he won't take no for an answer.  When Lane tries to stand up for himself, stand up to his father, he's met with a swift cane to the head which knocks him to the ground.  On his hands and knees, groping blindly for his eyeglasses, his father stands on one outstretched hand.  Lane will listen to him and do as he's told.  He does not let up until Lane gives in.  "Yes, sir," he tells him.  "Yes, sir."

Elsewhere, Pete is having a more controlled freak out as he has to deal with the fact that he's about to lose a huge client through no fault of his own.  And once again he's dealing with the fact that he can put his head down and work hard and yet have it all taken away from him because he's not one of the special people.  He wants to tell Trudy, he wants to tell someone, but he just have to suffer in silence while Don ruins what could have been a huge career achievement for Pete.  He goes to Don's apartment, unannounced, to discus the status of the investigation and see Dr. Miller there, getting dressed and heading out.  So that's another of Don's secrets Pete has to keep.  Pete tells Don that if they stop pursuing North American Aviation, the investigation into Don's background will stop.  So Don gets to keep his secret and Pete loses his biggest client to date.

Back at the office, Roger goes to see Joan after her trip to get an abortion.  She looks good, happy and healthy, and he shows concern about both her physical and emotional well being.  But she says she's fine, "Life goes on."   It's time for the partner's meeting.

And in the conference room we have Bert, the only one not holding a secret.  Pete and Don know that they have to cut loose North American Aviation, but they can't tell the real reason.  Roger knows that the firm's biggest client, but he won't tell because if he doesn't say it out loud maybe it won't come true.  Joan is hiding her recent dalliance and it's resulting pregnancy while Lane is hiding his shame that a grown man was beaten and humiliated by his own father for the sin of wanting a new life.  Pete falls on his sword for Don and Roger goes after him, calling his failure a catastrophe.  Roger is taking all the anger and fear he has about the loss of Lucky Strike and dropping it on poor Pete's lap.  Even Bert thinks Roger has gone too far and tells him to apologize.

Lane tells the partners that he'll be returning to London to get his affairs in order and Roger breaks into laughter at the fact that everything seems to be crumbling.  But then when it's time to go through the status of accounts, and Joan asks about Lucky Strike, Roger says nothing, just gives the ol' thumbs up.

Don goes back to his office and Faye comes in, checking to see if he's okay, seeing if he wants to go out.  But he says he thinks he should be alone tonight.  After she leaves, his secretary comes in with the only bit of good news he's heard in days, Harry Crane came up with The Beatles' tickets.  She tells him, "You see?  Everything worked out."  And that wide-eyed optimism may be particularly intriguing to him.  And so is the tall, slender beauty he watches applying her makeup for a night out.  Should Faye worry?


Well, it took long enough, but Beatlemania has finally hit Mad Men.  Don has a sure fire way to get Sally to forgive him for not rescuing her from a life with Betty - he's going to take her to see the Fab Four at Shea Stadium.  Don was smart, with all the screaming going on, earplugs were a good idea.  This particular historical milestone gives us a time-stamp for the episode, as the concert took place on August 15, 1965.  It's a nice, happy bookend for what is otherwise a pretty grim episode.

The first mention of the Beatles was when Don told his former secretary Allison to buy some Beatles 45s for Sally last Christmas (1964).

In Ep. 1.12 Nixon v. Kennedy, Bert Cooper tells Don, "One never knows how loyalty is born."  He's referring then to Pete's loyalty to Don.  Back then, Don wanted to fire Pete for pitching an idea to the Bethlehem Steel executives, but Bert told him that Pete's family ties were of value to the agency and that he should find a way to work with Pete.  Roger devised a way to make it look like Bert was on board with firing him but that Don stepped in to give him a second chance.  Now that loyalty pays off when Pete takes the blame for something he didn't do and allows the partners to think him an idiot rather than rat out Don.

Joan was Roger's secret relationship before Jane and is again with wife number two.  He is clearly smitten with Joan and they seem perfect together, yet they are never together officially, out in the open.  He didn't leave Mona for her, like he did Jane.  And he's not about to leave Jane for her now.  But the attraction, which seems to go deeper than just the physical, is so strong between them.

Lucky Strike was the first client we were introduced to on the show.  When we first meet Donald Draper, he's scribbling ideas for his upcoming meeting with the client and our first sign of the genius of Don Draper comes at the tail-end of that 1960 pitch meeting.   We've seen Lee Garner get Sal fired, humiliate Roger, and get all of Sterling Cooper to act as his trained monkeys dancing for his pleasure.  But we  - and Roger - didn't realize that Lee Garner, Jr., was ultimately not that powerful and that his plaything could be taken away by the board of directors.

Another point about Lucky Strike.  Lee went out of his way to remind Roger that he inherited the account, he didn't go out and get it.

Nothing is ever Don's fault.  He signs a document from the Defense Department without reading it - that's Megan's fault for not telling him what he was signing.  He can't pass the background check because he's AWOL from the army and has stolen another man's identity - that's Pete's fault for getting the business.   I suppose it was Betty's fault that she opened the door to two strangers and not Don's fault for not knowing what is going on in his own agency.

The list of people who know that Don Draper is not who he claims to be adds another member, Dr. Miller.  We now have Bert and Pete at the office, Betty at home, and Anna Draper's family back in California as those who know the (partial) truth.  Yet he's never told the whole story, his culpability for the "mix up."  Again, Don makes sure that nothing is his fault.

"Do You Want to Know a Secret" by The Beatles.

Suicide mentions:
Don's lawyer hints that "everyone has dreams" when he thinks Don is having suicidal thoughts.
Roger to Lee: Are you kidding me? Are you trying to kill me?


Robert Pryce:   I'm here to bring you home.

Agent Landingham :   Would you describe him as a man of integrity?
Betty:  We divorced.  We obviously had differences.
Agent Norris:  Would you describe him as loyal?
Betty:  Excuse me?
Agent Landingham:  So do you have any reason to believe Mr. Draper isn't who he says he is?
Betty:  What was that?  I'm sorry.

Lane: Three whiskey sours aught to do.
Robert Pryce: She's asking what you want, not how many you've had.

Toni:  Why do you have to be so damn dashing?

Doctor:  What kind of man are you? You've used this woman and you've ruined her.
Roger:  Hold on a second.
Doctor:  A man of your age only slightly younger than myself.  That you could behave with such selfishness, such irresponsibility.
Roger:  We came here for your discretion, not your judgment.

Pete:  What are you gonna do?
Don:  Whatever I have to.  You can run the agency without me.

Roger:  I hate this.  Not that I would change anything, But I hate that it happened.  You know, not the first part but this.
Joan:   I understand.
Roger:  Don't you feel the same way? I mean, what if this is a sign? I haven't stopped thinking about you.  Maybe I'm in love with you.

Betty:  I don't want any secrets.

Mr. Keller:  Everybody has bad dreams every once in a while.  The wound is still fresh.  It'll heal in time.

Lee:  I don't want you to think this is for cause.  There's no reason.  There's nothing you can do,   Nothing you could do.  It's just the way it is.

Roger: After all the lies I've told for you, you owe me that!
Lee:  I don't owe you squat.   You inherited this account.

Robert:  Put your home in order, either there or here.  You will not live in between.

Pete:  How is it that some people just walk through life, dragging their lies with them, destroying everything they touch?

Don:  I'm tired of running.
Faye:  Running from what?
Don:  In Korea I was wounded, but this other man was killed and they mixed us up.  And I wanted them to.  And I just kept living as him.

Lane:  I can say with full confidence that the company is in a state of stability even with this morning's news.

Megan:  Do you need me?
Don:  No.  You can go.

Spoilery Observations (Don't read unless you're caught up):

Don's confession to Faye may not have brought him and her closer together, but it did encourage him to try and go into his next relationship with fewer lies.

Don tells a version of the truth, but never the whole truth, of how he came to become Donald Draper.  That he intentionally switched the dogtags is something he never shares to anyone.

Roger is particularly hurt by Lee's comment that he inherited the account.  While it's not a point many people focus on, but the "Sterling" in Sterling Cooper referred not to Roger but his father.  Roger has for years been questioned about what he does at the office, what his contributions are.  While Pete (and at times Ken) have pounded the pavement to get new clients, Roger's only job has been to keep the SS Lucky Strike afloat, mostly by stroking Lee's ego.  It takes until Season 7, and Bert's death, for Roger to finally step up and be a leader.

Don' financial advisor noticed Megan before Don did, asking if he was "shtupping" his secretary.  Don said no, he was too busy worrying about being sent to federal prison.  But once he calms down, he'll get right on that.

We were certainly left with the feeling that Joan had gone through with the abortion, but as Kevin will prove shortly, she had a change of heart.

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