Sunday, June 3, 2012

MAD MEN 5.12--"Commissions and Fees"

 Witless Prattle was a dream given form--oh, wait, no, it was just borne out of boredom on one day in January 2009. It's goal was initially to write about comics, but when that gets depressing, thank heaven we can always retire to the sunny feel-good television comfort food that is Mad Men. Last week was one of the most nightmarishly bleak episodes not in the run of Breaking Bad, wherein the whole firm near-about was dragged into the moral sewer and Joan got pimped out so they could get the Jaguar account, and bought into a firm that has a ticking time-bomb called "Lane Pryce's embezzlement" in it, for double the misery. Oh, and Peggy left, and carried the hearts of a besotted nation with her.

 What sort of sublime joy will we find in this, the penultimate episode of the season? Let's find out!


"You'll tell them it didn't work out; and the next one will be better, because it always is"

We open with Don getting a haircut and trying to field a compliment about getting Jaguar (is there a conflict of interest there, given that Roger hawks Lincolns and Don shill Mercedes Benz during the commercial breaks?) Don handles the comment about like how you'd expect given his attitude last week--it's like sloshing acid around in his mouth.

 At work, things aren't much better--at the partner's meeting Joan has to hold Scarlett's hand through her old job, Pete is ungodly smug (Jaguar really likes him, and you may read into what that you will) Don is still bitter about the way Jaguar was attained and snipes at the rest of them for it.

 But what comes to pass is a recommendation by Jaguar to work on a fees-based system instead of the commissions model that SCDP had been using up to this point. This entails a lot of due diligence, and everyone goes off to do that . . .

 . . .and that's when Bert finds the cheque Lane wrote and signed Don's name to. If you thought that things would lighten up after last week, well, suck on this: Don quickly discovers what's what and brings Lane into his office, forcing him to flat-out fire Lane's ass. This is easily the worst day of Lane's life, as he'd been nominated (and accepted) a position of fiscal responsibility (ha ha) for the 4 A's. This turns to ashes in front of Lane's eyes and he comes apart to Don, finally blowing up that he didn't have the luxury, as all the other partners did of having a comfortable nest egg to fall back on when he left his job.

 This leads to a downward spiral that gets very close to the darkest latitudes of total blackness, as Lane has to pretend that he;s not fired to his wife, who bought a Jaguar XKE to celebrate. This causes Lane to snap and try to kill himself in the Jaguar, which won't start (nice payoff of the long-running joke, there) and well, he goes to plan B. More on that later.

 Meanwhile, in plot B, Sally throws a fit about re-using ski boots which causes Betty to get her bitch on (good to see she's bounced back to her old self) and drops her off with Don. Sally demonstrates her usual good judgment by inviting Glenn to see her, and calling him her boyfriend. Glenn further lays an emulsion of ickiness on the proceedings by confessing he told the kids he goes to school with (who, we're told, beat the shit out of him. Kids are real perceptive that way) and Sally further makes sure this is as uncomfortable for all concerned by freaking out when she realises she's getting her period, getting a cab, and going all the way back to Betty's house. Betty handles this as you'd expect, smugly telling Megan "she just needed her mother." I realise that the show's creator wants us to think Betty's sympathetic and all, but really, if she had a mustache, she'd have been twirling it during that whole scene, and I can't even take her seriously as a character what that kinda thing happens, let alone feel any sympathy for her.

 Back to Don for a bit. His annoyance with the way the Jaguar thing went has made him irritable and restless. One imagines he wants another big win, but a cleaner one. Roger, recognising that this is the Don with the fire back in his belly suggests they go after Ken's father in law at Dow Chemicals, the one who told Don that the tobacco letter was an albatross around his neck that marked him down as someone far too untrustworthy to hire. Roger and Don decide to take a run at him all the same, if for no reason than to get the secret of good business hugs.

 Don comes out swinging and if you thought that this meant things were turning around? Well, suck on this: Lane hung himself in his office. Did anyone have "death by hanging" in the suicide pool? I myself worry now that I kept using metaphors like "the noose tightened around his neck" and stuff like that.

  Everyone takes the news with horror (even Pete, surprisingly enough), especially Don, who probably feels more than a little responsible given that he was the one who fired Lane and also because his brother hung himself when he rejected him wayyy back in the first season. You can imagine this causes him pain on a number of levels.

 So, yeah. TWO fun episodes in a row! Gosh, the relentlessly upbeat sunniness that is Mad Men threatens to make my cup of joy overflow at times.

 And that's all for this week, thank heaven. Join us next week for the season finale, wherein Don looks at things, Peggy looks at things, a lot of people open and close doors, and Pete hates everyone for looking at things and opening doors in a shock sandwich we had to call "The Phantom," featuring music by Paul Williams. Until; next time--soupy twist!

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