Mad Men Recap: Across the English Channel   Leave a comment


Okay. I’ve watched it three times and enough time’s passed that I can talk about it. “Lane hanged himself in his office,” Bert Cooper announces to Roger and Don as they return from an impression-leaving meeting with the big wigs at Dow Chemical and find only the remaining partners. No one watching is as shocked as Don and Roger are because the episode’s almost over, and the message boards have fingered Lane for weeks as this season’s predicted suicide. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that it occurred before the season finale making us wonder what could possibly be in order for next week.

This is still Don’s show and as important an event as a partner suicide is, we’ll address it in that context.

Bonjour” an unfamiliar rival ad executive greets the barber as he walks into the parlor while Don gets his hair cut. On the surface, he does nothing but praise Don to all present for winning the Jaguar, but the subtle dig of calling it a big win for Don’s little firm sets the tone for that Dow Chemical meeting later on, which will demand further discussion.

Lane Pryce is eating an English muffin and meeting with the head of the 4A’s who appoints him to a position on their board. Lane’s told how although he sounds English, he’s thought of as an American by the 4A’s. Like the English muffin he’s eating. Lane is told how he saved the firm and turned them around after losing Lucky Strike and how that’s remarkable. It’s a good meeting and Lane accepts the appointment.

The freelancers from the Jaguar account are still around and Joan Harris has to remind the new office manager Scarlett to relocate them before her first partner’s meeting as a partner. “And there should be danish,” adds Joan as Cooper sighs with pastry-free breath. Is it too obvious to say that Scarlett (a brunette) is no replacement for Red?

It’s brought up that Jaguar has requested to be billed on a fee basis rather than under the traditional commission scheme. It’s explained that this would mean a calculated payment for work done instead of the 15% of media purchases — Don points out that if the client wants it, it can’t be good. Pete can’t wait til “new business” to announce that he got a call from Dunlop tires and when Scarlett suggests voting on the fees vs. commission issue, Don pouts that the conversation wouldn’t end if he left the room.

Betty Francis appears. She’s being nasty to her children as she packs for a family ski trip. Sally is being sarcastic and trades barbs with her mother until she demands to spend the weekend at her father’s with his nice, younger wife. “Do they ever taken you on vacation?” asks Betty sarcastically, expecting, like her ex-husband, that things don’t happen if she’s not present. Sally reminds her mother who took her to Disneyland.  As a decisive dig, sally adds “She lets me eat whatever I want,” which might be meant more to injure than as an endorsement of plain spaghetti.

Betty calls Don to announce that the Francis car will be dropping Sally off for the weekend and an annoyed Don has en even more annoyed Bert Cooper walk into his office wielding a slip of paper with Don’s name on it. It’s weird that the mostly inactive Bert Cooper uncovered this. Cooper accuses Don of giving Lane a bonus even though the partners agreed not to, assuming he went behind their backs with the checkbook the way they went behind his back with the Joan prostitution. “You can’t keep being the good little boy while the adults run this business,” says Cooper referencing that latter episode as much as this one.  Don doesn’t let on that he never signed that check and tells Cooper he’ll take care of it.

Lane is right and jolly as he’s called into Don’s office. It’s easy to forget by the end of this episode that it really did start off all compliments and prestige. Thinking Don wants to congratulate him, Lane holds his head high as he walks in and has a seat on the couch. “What the hell is this?” demands Don, showing Lane the check he forged.

Lane’s shocked. He denies wrong doing at first, trying to convince Don that he’s been loose with the strokes that confer his stolen identity of late. “We all sign lots of things” says Lane and Don has to be thinking about the aerospace account they lost because of that. “Is this the only one?” Don demands and he’s dead serious.

Lane admits his forgery, calling it a 13 day loan. He complains about the cancelled bonuses and tells Don that Don wanted the money for the Joan payment. “That was my money,” insists Lane, digging in. Don asks why Lane didn’t just ask for the money to which Lane responds “why suffer the indignation for a 13 day loan?”

“I’m going to need your resignation” Don tells him and Lane writhes at this development. He begs Don to reconsider pleading that he’d lose his visa and have to return to England in disgrace. “You embezzled funds and forged my signature,” recounts Don and it was any other partner but Don, there couldn’t be so much weight to the signature part.

Lane turns indignant, spitting that he’s never been compensated for his contributions to the company, only had to take the money because he owed taxes on the personal assets he liquidated to keep the company afloat after losing Lucky Strike, and never had the pay day handed to the senior partners when the British firm PPL bought Sterling Cooper. “I’m sorry. I can’t trust you,” says Don with finality, and again the signature comes to mind. “Can you imagine what would happen if a client found out?” Don counters to the suggestion that no one’s been harmed. Am I the only one that smells another Dick Whitman identity crisis brewing here with these quotes?

The next thing will be better, because it always is,” Don offers as parting encouragement. He shakes Lane’s hand and that’s the last he’ll see of him alive. But Don was showing compassion in a very Don way, knowing what it’s like to start over and assuring Lane “this is the worst part,” which has been true for Don. Don wasn’t cruel or overly harsh with Lane, given what could have happened and gives sincere advice about moving beyond this. But just that morning, Lane had been praised and appreciated for his work.

The next thing has always been better for Don, whether transitioning from a whore child farm boy to an untarnished discharged army lieutenant or from a childish and soon-to-expand wife to a younger, sleeker foreign model. Since losing Lucky Strike, it’s been unclear that the switch from the old Sterling Cooper to SCDP has shown the same improvement. This idea will run through the episode to the Dow Chemical meeting while Lane hangs.

Bonjour! started the episode, harkening back to when Don gave his speech about landing Jaguar. Don said they’d swim the English Channel and drown in champagne. We’ve arrived in France, and there’s nothing there for Lane. (How’s Paris, Peggy?) “Bon voyage” expresses Lane after getting kicked out of Joan’s office for crude remarks.

For some reason, Roger calls some hapless 25 year old coat check girl the day after. we’ll find later that his LSD bequeathed enlightening has worn off. Roger explains all it took was room service to bed the girl and Don chastises Roger for thinking so small. “I don’t like what we’re doing,” he announces, complaining about their small potatoes accounts and not even being able to give Christmas bonuses, which could have prevented the loss of a partner. He wants Chevy, American Airlines, and Firestone, not Jaguar, Mohawk, and Dunlop.

Don tells Roger to get meetings with bigger potential clients, as driven as ever. Where Pete would be happy with Dunlop, Don says Pete “still thinks small,” explaining Pete’s frustrations with Don’s old suburban life minus the parade of fawning side dishes. Roger is puzzled with Don’s renewed aggression, making Don admit he was discouraged by Ed Baxter’s assertion from the Codfish Ball that no American Cancer Society big shots wanted to work with him.

You used to love ‘no.‘” laments Roger. “‘No’ used to make you hard.” Don resolves to go after Ed Baxter, Ken Cosgrove’s father in law and Dow Chemical executive, the guy who told him not to go looking for clients within his little club. “Then fire him,” Don responds to Roger’s objection that Ken Cosgrove has already refused to go after family. Peggy’s gone, Don just fired Lane, and now threatens to get rid of Cosgrove if he doesn’t cooperate. With Cooper’s increased role this season, scolding Don’s love leave and investigating fee/commission arrangements, it’s the old guns taking charge now.

Sally arrives at Don and Megan’s apartment unannounced. Megan’s surprised and offended that Don didn’t call to tell her, but Don’s had a busy morning. “I hate her so much. She’s such a phony,” Sally says of her mother, setting us up for a tender moment later.

Roger invites Ken for a drink to break the news that they’re going after Ed Baxter. Ken doesn’t get fired. He makes a couple requests to not interfere with the courtship of his father in law. Roger offers him a partnership, which Ken doesn’t want. “I’ve seen what’s involved,” he explains, referencing the circumstances of Joan’s partnership, refusing to prostitute himself in any metaphorical sense. Ken demands to be on the account if it gets landed and two more things: 1) “Pete doesn’t go to the meeting,” with Dow and 2) “Pete doesn’t go to any meetings” with them.

Ken is being fleshed out as a genuinely nice guy. He’s grown up since the days of sexually harassing every secretary from Peggy Olson to Jane Siegel throughout the first couple seasons. He’s not interested in partnership and refuses to risk poisoning his relationship with his family over business. The opposite of Pete, he wields the pen, not the sword. Well, rifle — I was close there if you shoehorn Baz luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. The Pete/Ken rivalry hasn’t been very pronounced since Kenny returned, but Pete really needs to stop pissing off all of his co-workers. Maybe getting banned from the Dow account will teach him not to rat out co-workers for moonlighting as authors.

Don catches Roger in the elevator. “I liked that guy I saw today…I missed him” Roger notes of Don’s reinvigorated ferocity. We all missed him. His mistresses missed him…

If the workplace has injected Don with a dose of testosterone, at home awaits the opposite. A pre-teen who hates her mother and a wife who feels disrespected for being assumed a walk-in-accepting babysitter. Good thing Sally leaves before she gets her first period later in the episode or the apartment couldn’t take it. Megan whines at Don for not calling. Don tells her about Lane, the embezzlement and firing parts anyways. “You can’t tell anyone,” Don makes her promise and though he’s been able to trust her with the Dick Whitman secret, Don doesn’t yet know the burden of keeping this secret once it becomes known that Lane hanged himself.

Recounting Lane’s day so far: 4A’s chairmanship, fired, inappropriate remarks to his closest office friend Joan, and now he comes home very drunk. His wife insists on celebrating. He resists, but has no choice but to give in. Mrs. Pryce leads Lane through the garage to a brand new Jaguar she wrote a soon-to-bounce check for. “Go on, sit in it,” she prods and he will later, but for now he needs to throw up. The new expense seals Lane’s decision. Not a good Friday.

Saturday is skipped. Megan takes Sally out on Sunday. Megan wears a short skirt out even though it was snowing just two days ago. After a two-day drinking binge, Lane still refuses to drive the Jaguar assuring his wife “there will be plenty of time for that” and needs to get stuff done. Don and Lane are both seen working on papers in their respective living rooms. One to get new business, one to finish his up.

Sally and Megan meet Megan’s red headed (everywhere?) actress friend at a diner and have a more mature conversation than might be appropriate. Sally claims to have a boyfriend and we can only suspect that she’s talking about Glen Bishop, but that she’s only trying to fit in with Megan’s friend. She gets served coffee and pours more sugar into it to force a healthy man into a diabetic coma. She asked for the stuff adults drink, but she can’t handle its bitterness yet.

In the wee hours, Lane escapes from bed and goes to sit in the new Jaguar like his wife said. After he feeds a hose from the tailpipe through the front window. He snaps his glasses in half, and that’s a symbol he borrowed from a British novel about castaway children and a musical shell. The ignition stalls, ruining Lane’s plan. “They’re lemons. They never start,” warned Cooper months ago and it’s darkly humorous to remember.

Sally calls Glen and convinces him to visit her, since she’ll be home alone Monday morning. Glen is reluctant because it’s an epic poem for him to get there from his boarding school, but he gives in. They both have the night to imagine how it might go. They haven’t seen each other since Glen was shipped off to war against senior lacrosse douches at boarding school. Gatsby, meet Daisy.

You don’t look that different,” Glen tells Sally who had gotten rather dressed up to see him. He wears a thin mustache worth shaking your head at. They go to the museum and Glen tries several jokes on her, ranging from Teddy Roosevelt killing the animals on display, to fractured perspective on a buffalo family, to following up the suggestion that Sally might be hungry with  “want some caribou?” They’re not boyfriend and girlfriend and they know it after finally seeing each other. Sally runs away.

Don and Roger meet with Dow chemical, Don bringing the fire. Ed Baxter introduces them to other important Dow guys and notes Kenny’s smarts for not being there. After formalities, Don launches into a rant/pitch, dealing in fierce absolutes, insisting that though “success is reality, its effects are temporary.” Don doesn’t want 50% of anything, he wants 100% and won’t stop until he gets it. Take that, Occupy Wall Street. Happiness is just a moment before you need more happiness, after all. He certainly leaves an impression, but who knows if it was the right one. The next this has to be better.

Betty gets to taste a morsel of redemption as Sally runs into her arms and soaks in her motherly comforts. As she’s becoming a woman, she’s more her mother’s child than in the past couple years. Betty does well here. Her first triumph in a long while, and the first point won over Megan.

Scarlett brings the company books to Joan, noting that Lane’s not there and his office is locked. By herself, Joan unlocks the office, but can’t get it open, cringing at some awful smell. Next door in Pete’s office, Pete, Ken, and Harry are having a laugh when Joan bursts in, shaking with dread. Don and Roger aren’t around, who knows where Cooper hangs out. Those upper-wall windows that have been used for spying before allow Pete, Ken and Harry to see what Lane’s done. We don’t see it for the moment. Ken comforts a distraught Joan.

Roger and Don return from their meeting, joking about Don’s straddling the line between aggressive and crazy. No one seems to be around. They find the other partners and hear for the first time what’s happened. “We can’t leave him like that,” a stricken Don commands upon learning that Lane’s still hanging in his office. There’s something decent about that. He shoves his way through Lane’s office door and it was his stiff body that prevented Joan from opening it before.

We see the body hanging from the ceiling. It’s rigid and purple and it does make me sad. Don holds Lane’s cold body up while Pete cuts him down and Don lays him on the couch. We get one last look at his lifeless body, neither peaceful nor anguished, just very very dead.

Don returns home and is bemused to find Glen there. Glen was abandoned at the museum and had no idea what happened to Sally, upset and hanging at the apartment at Megan’s insistence. Glen reminds Don they’ve met before and tells him he’s waiting for his train. Megan promises to explain about Sally later and is reluctant to let Don take Glen back to school, but Don does.

In the elevator down to the garage, Glen asks “why does everything turn out crappy?” and though his life and day have been far from perfect, Don’s been through worse. “Everything you want to do, everything you think’s going to make you happy” turns out like crap, says the high school freshman. Don tells him he’s too young to think like that. Asks him what he wants to do, what he most wanted at that moment.

It’s dark out on the road as Don stares out from the car. Glen’s driving. Did he get what he asked for? Or was it something like control or freedom or to get away? Did he get what he wanted? Either way, he’s sitting in Don’s seat, driving Don’s car, and that’s as close as anyone else in this show is going to get to access to the Don Draper identity. Just ask Lane.

And who knows how things might have been different if that snake in a basket thing hadn’t been mowed down two seasons ago. RIP Lane.

Tidbits and Notes:

The dog that didn’t bark: Peggy left at a good time. There’s trouble ahead for SCDP. But not only did she not appear in this episode, but she wasn’t even mentioned by a single character. The silence was deafening.

Don’s ID: We’re forced to compare the forgery of Don’s signature — a perpetual forgery itself — to a situation in which the signature forged was someone else’s. There’s no comparison. Don’s been haunted by Pete with it, lost an account, and his first wife. Lane couldn’t get away with no punishment like he’d asked. It’s not easy for a middle aged husband and father to start over. Don expects him to. Don’s firmness with Lane is a reclamation of his identity, telling Lane to go find his own rebirth. Don will always move forward.

Thinking too small:  Lane didn’t get what he asked for or what he wanted. After Lucky Strike left, everyone was thinking too small. Jaguar, a small car account, played into the lack of Christmas bonuses that led to Lane’s demise, and now Don doesn’t want Jaguar, he wants Chevy. Don sees this and now he wants 100%.

Lane’s greatest hits:  5) Receiving said snake in basket 4) Gleefully getting fired by St. John. 3) The chocolate bunny 2) Night on the town with Don and their dates 1) Laying the smackdown on Pete.

Can’t wait for the finale.

Bon voyage.

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Posted June 5, 2012 by Wada in Uncategorized

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