Monday, September 27, 2010

'Mad Men' -- Hands and Knees

Image credit: Michael Yarish/AMC
*Warning – Spoilers ahead from the recent episode of Mad Men.*

Weaknesses. And lies. Weaknesses compounded by lies. This “Hands and Knees” episode had all of this in spades.

Chief among them were Don’s lies, which became relevant again as Don feared that the feds would find him and send him to prison because he’s not who he says he is. Uncharacteristically, this prompted Don to have a panic attack in front of Faye, which, all and all, was acutally good for him because it prompted him to be honest to her about the fact that he’s living under an assumed name. (Don’s having a really, REALLY crappy year, don't you think?)

Related to Don’s lies is the fact that slimy Pete Campbell knows about them. So when the feds started sniffing around in order to provide security clearance for people at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to work on the North American Aviation account, Don, fearing his Dick Whitman past would catch up with him, applied enormous pressure on Pete to lie on his behalf about “losing the account,” or else Don said Pete would have to try to run the company without him.

As Pete sat up late at night mourning the fact that he was going to have to “lose” the $4+ million client he’d landed after years of wooing and he complained about the burden the “honest people” have to shoulder for their ethically challenged brethren, Pete ironically took his pregnant wife Trudy in his arms, with her completely unaware of the fact that he had a gigantic lie he was hiding, that he had a baby with another woman years ago. The following day, Pete withstood a verbal flogging from Roger for "losing" North American Aviation because of his own inattention.

Don’s lies have even longer legs as they also affect Betty even though she’s now married to Henry. She protected Don by not telling the feds who showed up from the Defense Department what she knew about who her ex-husband is. The fact that Betty knows about Don’s identity fraud and hasn’t shared it with Henry, who has lofty political ambitions of his own, could cause a problem for her down the road.

Joan’s weakness, her Achilles heel, is Roger. She and he cheated on their spouses together. Joan got pregnant from their post-mugging incident in the alley and decided to have another abortion to avoid what she called “a tragedy” because she’d been apart from Greg for too long for it to be his baby, which was highly ironic given that she’d been anxious to have a baby with Greg and now he’s been deployed to Vietnam.

Image credit: Michael Yarish/AMC
Roger’s weakness is, conversely, Joan, however his getting Joan pregnant jeopardized his marriage to Jane. (“What kind of man are you?” the doctor, who was going to hook Joan up with someone who’d give her an illegal abortion, said to Roger. “You’ve used this woman . . . A man of your age, only slightly younger than myself, that you could behave with such selfishness, such irresponsibility.”)

A corollary to Roger’s frailties is the fact that Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s huge weakness is the fact that without Lucky Strike, the company could fold, go bankrupt. Lucky Strike – the company Don once said “could put out our lights” -- is Roger’s big raison d’etre, without it, he’s just the guy who inherited his company from his dad. God, Roger might have to actually do some work in the month that he has before he has to tell his colleagues the Lucky Strike account is history.

Then there was poor Lane, poor, poor Lane. How depressing is it to see a man of his age so fearful of his stuffy, judgmental, violent, bullying father, the senior citizen who walks with a cane. Lane's father arrived at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, instead of Lane’s son, to inform Lane that he was there to take him home to London to be with his wife and family. However Lane’s now in love with Toni, who works as a costumed waitress at the Playboy Club, but didn’t come right out and tell his father about the fact that he’s dating not only a waitress, but a woman of a difference race. This brought Lane face-to-face with his weakness: That he’s still a child who’s cowed by his father, who allowed his father to strike him in the head with a cane (drawing blood) and threaten to crush his hands with his shoe while Lane was lying on the floor in pain, crying uncle, as Don did in the face of Duck's fists. The physical bullying to make Lane get his “home in order” did the trick as Lane promptly told the other SCDP partners that he was taking a leave of absence to go to London.

So, just when things were starting to look up for the folks around SCDP – Don was getting healthy and cutting back on drinking while seeing his children and having an adult relationship based on trust with Faye; Roger was married and not cheating (up until last week); Pete and Trudy were expecting a baby and Lane had helped build a solid company – now everything seems precarious. It apparently takes very little to send all of their houses of cards to come crashing down on top of them.

But I must admit, I was half expecting Faye to help Don come clean, to turn himself in so he could indeed stop running, as he said he wanted to. I feel like Matthew Weiner is hinting that Don’s going to have a big, humiliating public exposure of his big lie, or will need to, in order for him to go forward. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it. Don’s luck seems like it’s going to run out, soon, but after he takes Sally to see the Beatles.

Image credits: Michael Yarish AMC.


Cooley Horner said...

I thought it was a terrific episode--and again, Hamm has several other awesome scenes for his Emmy reel (that trophy is HIS next year!)--and it sets up some good stuff for the season finale, which must be getting close. I am still unsure as to whether or not Joan went through with the abortion, but the scene in hte waiting room with the other woman was really heartbreaking. It also subtly drew out another point about Joan's age; not only were the guys in the office saying she's out of date, but now she's "taking care" of problems with a cohort from another generation. I still think she could've had the kid and made Greg believe it was his--she could've just said she realized late, or that the baby came early--but I guess she doesn't want to be embroiled in lies like her coworkers (if she did, indeed, get the procedure).

I was proud of Betty this week. She seemed happy for Sally, and she didn't rat out Don. I was SO nervous when she turned over to Henry McStuffypants and said, "I have to tell you something."

A good episode. Not as good as "The Suitcase"--though frankly, nothing aside from "Shut the Door, Have a Seat" will top that one--but solid. Trudy looks like she should've gone into labor ten weeks ago.

Judy said...

I think that this was one of the more interesting episodes--your comments are spot on.