Mad Men s5e12: Commissions and Fees

“But what is happiness?? It’s the moment before you need more happiness.”

We all have good days that turn into bad ones, but some of us just can’t shake it. As much as it’s Real Life, the consequences of our own actions are sometimes too much to bear. Sometimes shit is just so devastating you can’t cope.. enter Lane Pryce and his illicit cash grab.

image courtesy of Vulture

We knew it was coming, but Lane’s been caught red-handed by Cooper, cancelled Christmas bonus check with Don’s faux signature and all. And we all know Lane is one proud motherfucker, so his chat with savvier than expected Don does not go well.

Sadly, this is grisly familiar territory for Don; it’s not the first time that a guy he knew has hanged himself as a near-direct result of Don telling him to get on with it and leave. Before Lane Pryce, there was of course Adam Whitman. Don’s motivations as well as the circumstances are super different, but the endgame is identical; Dick Whitman imparts some hobo code ‘run away’ advice and both of these guys instead choose to violently exit the world.

And the punch is that Don was truly doing do the right thing for Lane, giving him an elegant exit with a resignation– obviously trying to course correct after Adam.

Adam & Lane || image courtesy of Tumblr

Don really thinks he did the decent thing for Lane here, and he’s not entirely wrong. When that type of trust is broken, natch Don cannot keep working with him; letting him resign sans scandal is miles better than outing his embezzlement and shady shit to the partners, much less ringing the coppers. Trying to do him a favour and send him off on a semi-OK note, Don gives Lane a variation on the speech he gave Peggy in the mental ward back in s2 about moving forward from absolute shit circumstances.

“I can’t go back to England like this. What will I tell my wife? .. What will I tell my son?”

“You’ll tell them that it didn’t work out, because it didn’t. And you’ll tell them the next thing will be better, because it always is. Take the weekend.. think of an elegant exit. Cooper doesn’t know anything.”

“l feel a bit light-headed.”

“That’s relief. I’ve started over a lot, Lane.. this is the worst part.”

Seems like good advice on how to get on with it, but Lane ain’t Pegs and he certainly is not Donald Draper. Peggy has enough common ground with Don to make that hobo code a part of her aesthetic and make it work to her advantage. Look at her bounce to a better profesh situation as soon as the opportunity presents itself; however, Lane is not particularly equipped to do the same.

Take a look at the guy. Lane is a middle manager– the moneyman hemming and hawing over payroll and Jaguar’s fee versus commission structure, treated as a malleable marionette by PPL, seen begrudgingly as a necessary evil by the SCDP partners. The kicker is that whenever he strives to achieve more in life beyond his predetermined glass box, he gets beaten down.. quite literally by his crust-ass dad’s cane.

(Also, anytime I think of Lane Pryce’s father I think of Mr. Burns’ mother..)

Brass tacks– handsome and determined Dick Whitman could start over; Lane Pryce cannot. Don’s schpiele to Peggy gave her life a clean slate, but his speech to Lane instead brought his to a screeching halt. He’s got more at stake than Peggy did as well. Don’t forget that Lane is in the USA on a work visa, has a wife and apartment in Manhattan, kid in a good NYC school.. no wonder he thought it was all over. Being stripped of his visa would fuck that all to hell like your prom date; briskly and thoroughly. How could he return to England under those circumstances?

Trying to off himself in the surprise Jaguar he and his wife can’t afford (unbeknownst to her) and having the damned unreliable thing not start was a bitter touch.

Even though Don was of course never as close to Lane as he was to Adam, nor was he as arctic in his rejection, the parallels are suffocating. Insisting upon going into Lane’s office to prevent the guy from dangling up there alone until the coroner makes his appearance, I get the vibe that he’s attempting to deal with lingering memories of his departed half-brother. After all, Adam was long dead before Don even knew about it.

If you don’t learn anything from your past, you’re absolutely fucking doomed to repeat it. And though Don tried to do it right with Lane, at the end of the day he cannot control anything other than his own shit; a hard pill to swallow for sure.

I leave you all with this Don Draper iconography directed at Leland Palmer and Dow Chemical. Once he essentially sacks Lane, he yearns to move onto the big leagues account-wise, to think bigger than Lane ever did. And let’s be real, he ain’t wrong; what IS happiness? The moment before you need more happiness. Nothing is ever enough.

“Ed Baxter told me the Lucky Strike letter poisoned us with all those companies.

“What? Why didn’t you tell me that?”

“Because l wrote that letter.”

“You let that wax figurine discourage you??”

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Mad Men s5e11: The Other Woman

“At last: something beautiful.. you can truly own.”

And we’re back in the room! Hello hello, and welcome back one and all. This is a bonkers balls to the wall episode. Let’s yap about our female characters– the three ladies Don can’t control, and he doesn’t like it one bit. Pegs bounces from SCDP to work for the very handsome Ted, Joan takes matters into her own hands with Herb (vile pun intended), and Megan’s auditioning with the possibility of bouncing to Boston for a show. As they’re trying to bag Jaguar, Don’s back in his old car salesman gig for a beat.

image courtesy of Imgur

I dig the way this episode centres around how Don’s predicament creating a pitch for Jaguar mirrors his feelings about ownership and power playing a role with the important ladies in his life. It’s intertwined with his tangible relief when Ginsberg finally comes up with The Pitch, an exhale and a smile. Of course! But that look of satisfaction on his face maybe shows how, secretly (or not), Don might miss being able to Truly Own his ladies on some level. Ginzo’s pitch speaks to Don in the inmost way.

Speaking of non-secrets, apparently Megan is only allowed to succeed on Don’s terms; he has a Fragile Man Feelings meltdown when she tells him she may be spending a bunch of time in Boston for a potential part. But hey, Megan shows from the very start that she refuses to be owned by Don; she pops round to SCDP in her audition dress for a bang during latenight Jaguar work. Megan is the one who initiates said office fuck sesh, and chose to leave advertising for what she really wanted to do with her life.

When Don is confronted with the idea that she might actually be successful, he’s backed into a corner, shouting “Just keep doing whatever the hell you want!” as she leaves the damn room. Good lord.

At the office, Don’s been acting like a dick to Peggy and taking her for granted; she’s had enough once he literally throws cash in her face. What a fucking insult.

Let’s be real, she works her ass off; where’s her goddamned lobsters from The Palm? When she shares good news about a successful pitch on the fly, Don literally throws money in her face as a way to take her down a peg for joking about an on location trip to Paris. Time to take a meeting with Teddy Chaough and split for CGC, to a place where she will hopefully garner more respect.

As Peggy gives her notice to Don, he legit cannot believe she’s splitting. It’s a strange mix of pure ego, regret, and true disbelief. His face goes from an “ahh, you must be fucking with me!” grin to “punted in the solar plexus” heartbreak. Shocked he can’t own Pegs nor keep her around, he figuratively throws more cash in her face, offering whatever salary she wants. But hell no; she refuses to be treated like that, no matter the price, and extends her hand for a farewell shake. Don kisses it and she cries silently; dude is seething once she leaves.

image courtesy of AMC

And now, moving swiftly along to Joan and Herb, the planetary Jaguar creep from NJ. I mean, this is a man in a bathrobe whose idea of foreplay is fervently exhaling “lemme see ’em”. Oy fucking vey.. file under ‘Things Men Say(TM)’.

He insinuates to Kenny and Pete that they will for sure win Jaguar’s business in exchange for a night with Joan; and Herb knows the power he wields. This is no small thing– a car on Madison Avenue means you’ve arrived.

Shocking absolutely nobody, Pete is the one to approach her openly with a business proposition, because of course he is. Is it right to put Joan in that position? Absolutely fucking not, but the other partners seem to be nonplussed, although a little scandalized. Don is the only one who voices an ‘absolutely not’ opinion. And ultimately, Joan does agree; she made up her own mind.

“We’re talking about a night in your life. We’ve all had nights in our lives where we’ve made mistakes for free!”

“You’re talking about prostitution.”

“l’m talking about business at a very high level. Do you consider Cleopatra a prostitute?”

“Where do you get this stuff??”

“She was a queen. What would it take to make you a queen?”

“l don’t think you could afford it.”

image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Lane’s role in this whole thing is a mess. I love the guy, but good lord. He brazenly manipulates Joan to hide his embezzlement and the Christmas bonus shitstorm. Her potential 5% stake in the company would keep the Christmas bonuses afloat in lieu of the lump $50k in Pete’s offer; after all, Lane already extended their credit line without telling the other partners. Honestly– Lane’s not wrong, a partnership is a far better deal for Joan in the long run, but SHIT is it coercive. Dude is obvi desperate to cover his ass.

As smarmy as Pete is, at least he didn’t beat around the bush; he approached her as an equal, laid it out, and got on with it. Was it ideal? Nah. It’s deffo twisted, but Pete didn’t ply her the same way Lane did. He was direct in his own Pete Campbell way– he didn’t approach her out of ego or his ideas of How Women Should Act(TM) either. And when Joan comes back to him with Lane’s partnership notion as her choice, Pete balks but relents once he realises that she ain’t wrong.

image courtesy of Tumblr

Looking at you, Don. When he’s at Joan’s apartment attempting to save her from her assuredly sweaty fate, he says a number of things that sound supportive at face value– even though the deed was already done, unbeknownst to him. His words, though kind, fall under a bit of his How Women Should Act(TM) thing, and it’s deceptively insidious. Sure, Don is “one of the good ones”; but you can still see the shock creep across his face when he pieces together what transpired, in spite of him telling her not to do it. (TALE AS OLD AS TIIIIIIME)

image courtesy of Tumblr

Joan and her (albeit reticent) bang with Herb is the crowning jewel of a woman he cannot control, nor own. Oof.

“The conversation doesn’t end just because you leave the room.”

Mad Men s5e5: Signal 30

“Look, I’m just trying to tell you because I am who I am and I’ve been where I’ve been that you don’t get another chance at what you have.”

“Brave words for a man on his second time round..”

“Yeah, and if I had met her first, I would have known not to throw it away.”

Strap in, kiddos.. this is a good one. Lane tries his hand as an account man and fails miserably, but ends up punching the shit out of Pete. Kenny’s still writing, and this time it’s bizarre sci-fi! Don might actually be happy with his life, and the now-suburbanite Pete’s yearning for more as usual during his driver’s ed classes.

Now, it’s no secret that Pete has idolised Don since day one. The gorgeous wife and house in ‘the country’, kids and all the accompanying junk, suavely banging around and doing whatever it is that Men(TM) do.. Pete admires him, wants to be him. But when he eventually tries on the swinging dick Don of yore, he feels totally dead inside. Is that all there is?

image courtesy of Lesbohemia

On the other hand, Don glimpses his former life via Cos Cob Casa Campbell and feels claustrophobic as hell leading up to and during the Saturday night dinner party. Don’s more casual references to his past are enlightening– the horseshit remark to Kenny, etc. Maybe he’s finally starting to accept who he is now that he’s been honest from the getgo with Megan and she didn’t run for the hills.

Kenny’s wife Cynthia blows up his spot at said dinner party, outing him as a writer (still!); a point that Pete blabs to Roger later on. Proud as ever, Cynthia describes his story about a bridge between two planets, and how all it takes is one bolt being removed by a sassy robot to fuck it all to hell. Sort of sounds like Megan to Don in the office and at home, in life.

Megan bridges the Don to the Dick, and it seems like they work pretty well together and he knows it. He appears to be a different man now that he’s not married to Betty, on his way to ever improving and self-awareness. Megan’s sunny disposition certainly helps. Don implies as much to Pete in the post-Jaguar hooker party cab; he knows what he’s got with Megan is special and isn’t aiming to send it all to hell like he did with his first marriage to Betty.

Plus, he’s always liked Trudy (and this is saying a lot as Don doesn’t really like anybody), and everything looks so picturesque on the surface, so seeing Pete gleefully follow a ~lady~ to her private room must have been a little jarring. He can see that Trudy’s a rare lady, and that Pete could easily fuck it up and not even begin to fathom what he’s lost.

And let’s be real, anything less than too many high-fives putting Pete in the hospital was going to be disappointing with his mentality, so he took Don’s silence as some sort of quiet disapproval. I mean, the whole conversation and Pete’s over the top offense at Don’s lull was entirely based on his own projections. All Don did was say he hoped Pete didn’t keep making the same mistakes that he did, which is entirely valid. He even did that Man(TM) thing and absolved Roger from banging around-related guilt by saying “he’s miserable”, as if that’s some sort of excuse, but eh.

image courtesy of BurnThisMedia

Let’s backtrack for a hot second and yap about Lane and his shit. His wife Rebecca is still unhappy being in Manhattan, pining for Crown & Country, bringing reticent Lane to a British pub to watch the World Cup. And hey, England won in 1966! So it’s not all bad. Striking up conversation with her friends, he stumbles into a potential Big Deal Account with Jaguar cars (and the secretly enormously dirty old man Edwin). For a smaller agency like SCDP, having a car makes them a major player on Madison Ave.

Edwin is hesitant to really open up, and thus Lane fucks it up on their business dinner. Pete, Roger, and Don try to set it straight with lobsters and a casual visit to a classy whorehouse, at Edwin’s creepy “I LIKE PARTIES” open door. Don sits it out, casually referencing his upbringing to the madame of the house. Big stride for him not being so deeply ashamed of his impoverished childhood, I guess.

image courtesy of IMDB

As Pete’s the guy who’s always wanting, his lady of choice runs through a couple of scenarios before landing on him being her King. He’s always wanted more of what someone else has no matter what it is, and shit he plainly can’t have like that naive teenager in his driver’s ed class. Besides being entirely creepy, an age appropriate (and smokin’ hot) dude pops in and sweeps her away anyway. Another blow to his fragile masculinity, on top of when Don deftly swooped in to fix the exploding sink at casa Campbell, to the ladies’ applause.

The true crown jewel of this episode is the partners meeting. That absurd hooker party blows up in Lane’s face in the form of CHEWING GUM [left] ON [Edwin’s] PUBIS, and he challenges Pete to a fucking fist fight in the conference room.. and proceeds to kick Pete’s ass.

Talk about a literal blow to Pete’s manliness, good godDAMN. Just as Lane struggles to feel relevant at SCDP in the day to day, Pete also wants to mean more in life. In the elevator, Pete tearfully admits to Don that he feels he has nothing. To see someone who is that cocky on the reg be reduced to this crying, bruised mess reminds us that everyone’s got their own shit going on below the surface.

Thanks to Pete ratting out Kenny’s writing to Roger (who predictably was less than pleased with Ken’s attentions being divided), he’s gotta come up with a new pen name. Kenny’s final scene with the monologue overlay gave off a sense of hope, in a way; deffo glad he’s sticking with the writing and finding that meaning in his life.

While Kenny and Pete have always have been at odds in the office (even though Pete is winning account-wise at work), Kenny is absolutely more fulfilled than Pete is at home which of course means a lot more in the long run. It’s something that Pete hasn’t found yet, because he’s missing the damned forest for the trees. So natch, he tries to undermine Kenny’s other professional pursuits. Woof.

I guess it was only a matter of time before Pete got punched in the mouth at that office.

The Man with the Miniature Orchestra, by Dave Algonquin.

There were phrases of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony that still made Coe cry.
He always thought it had to do with the circumstances of the composition itself; 
He imagined Beethoven, deaf and soul-sick, his heart broken, scribbling furiously while death stood in the doorway clipping his nails.
Still, Coe thought, it might have been living in the country that was making him cry..
it was killing him with its silence and loneliness.
Making everything ordinary too beautiful to bear.