Mad Men Recap: Episode 10: Hands and Knees
Well kids, Shannon is in Austin, working hard at FantasticFest, attending screenings and panels and interviewing movie stars and directors. All for you. So I’m back just for today on Mad Men, the best show on TV.
But OMG. What an episode. Harrowing much? What a fucking shitstorm. Truly, the most traumatizing I can remember.
We bolt right out of the gate, with Joan announcing to Roger that she is “late.” It can’t possibly be Greg’s, as he’s been gone for seven weeks. Roger is his classic combination of asshole and sweet. He wants to know if she’s had a “rabbit test” yet and tells her she’s “overreacting.” Then he tells her to let him “take care of this.” We know this means: abortion.
Betty is sewing and Don calls, wanting to talk to Sally, who is leaving for camp. “Can I speak with her?” he asks. “You can try,” Betty replies, with something like a smile. What’s this? Betty being actually nice? Don tells Sally he’s gotten them tickets for the Beatles concert at Shea Stadium and Sally goes berserkers, screaming like those Beatles fans in the famous Ed Sullivan show clip. When Betty finds out the reason, she actually smiles and looks happy for Sally. She’s been such a dragon but when she’s nice like this, I can’t help but like her.
Lane is waiting for his son Nigel’s two week visit and heads to the lobby with a stuffed Mickey Mouse and balloons, but instead it’s his father, Robert Pryce: “I’ve come to bring you home.”
Pete Campbell’s North American Aviation account is giving $4 million in business to SCDP.
Lane asks Don to accompany him and his father to dinner, apparently not wanting to be alone with the old man. It seems he feels he and Don have an understanding from their New Year’s Eve adventures. Dinner is, of all places, at the Playboy Club, and that rascal Lane has a key, whatever that means. Don is loving it. Lane has a special girl, a luscious black bunny whom he calls over.
Meanwhile, two special agents from the Dept. of Defense stop by Betty’s house to do “routine background check on Don Draper.” Betty is immediately tense, and she should be. They ask her if Don is “loyal,” which obviously gives her pause. But the kicker question is: “Do you have any reason to believe that Mr. Draper isn’t who he says he is.” My heart almost stopped. But Betty stays true to Don.
Next scene, Don gets a call from her, telling him what happened. The men questioned her for 45 minutes. His face goes white and he is shaken to the core. This has come out of nowhere.
He is afraid to ask but has to: “What did you say?”
Betty: “What do you think I said? Nothing.”
Betty is so human and good this episode I can’t stand it. Thank you, Betty. Thank you!
Don storms out and interrogates poor sweet Megan. She is abjectly apologetic and tells him he can fire her, even though, really, nothing is her fault. Apparently as efficient as she is gorgeous, she immediately gives him the form (which he signed without glancing at). As he tells Pete later, there are 3 lies in 8 questions: SSN, name and military record.
I truly thought this was the dramatic climax of this episode. What else could possibly happen. It looks as though Don’s whole life is about to explode.
But not a moment’s rest for the wicked. Back to crazy Lane. For he knows that black Playboy bunny. He calls her his Chocolate Bunny, and it seems they love each other. When did this happen? What is he doing? This is why he’s staying put instead of returning to England. It was risky for him to visit her at the club but the poor fool “wanted Father to meet you.” Oh for pete’s sake. Still in thrall to the evil father.
Scene: Roger and Joan at a OB-Gyn’s office. The doctor is yelling at Roger for ruining Joan’s life and being irresponsible. He is, after all, nearly the same age as the doctor. What is he doing with this young girl? He does in the end give them a referral to a “very good man” in Morristown who will perform the procedure for $400, but as it’s illegal he won’t even write down the information in his own handwriting.
Don and Pete have a dead-serious conference about the Dept. of Defense inquiry. Don tells Pete to have his friend in the Dept. investigate Don’s file.
Back to Roger and Joan, and Roger is making me really upset with his selfish wishy-washiness: “Maybe I’m in love with you.” He wonders if the baby is a sign they should be together, although of course they should still get rid of it, so their relationship doesn’t start “with a scandal.” Man, Joan deserves so much better than she ever gets from either Greg or Roger. He tells her if she kept the baby it of course “wouldn’t be my child.” And he also intimates that all their troubles would be over if Greg doesn’t “come home,” i.e. is killed in combat. What a rat!!
Interesting scene between Betty and Henry in bed. She tells him about the Dept. of Defense men, but she doesn’t tell him the true story. And then she says, “I don’t want any secrets.” Although, of course, she’s keeping plenty. I really think she still loves Don. Who’s with me on this one?
Pete and Don confer again and Pete tries to get Don to come clean. When an obviously panicked Don says that’s impossible, Pete is incredibly callow and uncaring. Don: “What am I supposed to do?” Pete: “I don’t know. You’ve been doing it for years. I don’t have to live with your shit over my head.”
Pete also defends the North American Aviation account: “I’ve grown it from cocktails to $4 million.” Don, cold and desperate, nearly Humphrey Bogartian: “Get rid of it.”
Don’s dear sweet Jewish accountant is in his office and Don tells him he wants trust funds set up for his kids, effective now, with access for Betty. (“She’ll know why.”) This sets off all sorts of alarms for his accountant, who thinks that Don is contemplating suicide because of the divorce. But we know it’s because Don fears his entire world is caving in and any minute he could be carted off to court martial or worse. Could they ratchet up the tension any higher?
Joan alone in the OB waiting room. I’m not sure I understood all this. I thought this was two sisters, the older one offering to go in with the younger one and the younger one insisting on going alone. But then it seems the older one was actually the mother? She says her daughter is only 17, and she herself was 15 when she had hers. Then she wants to know how old Joan’s daughter is. Because Joan looks so old to her? Joan pauses, and then lies, saying her daughter is 15.
Oh my god, and it can get worse. Because Roger is dining with the odious Lee Garner Jr., and he tells Roger that Lucky Strike (remember, 70% of SCDP’s business) is pulling its account. Roger nearly has a heart attack. He pleads, wheedles, charms, rages, but all to no effect. It seems it’s out of Lee’s hands. The board wants to consolidate all advertising at BBDO. Finally Roger asks for a concession: 30 days to get their house in order. Lee agrees. As soon as Lee walks away, a stricken Roger pops a heart pill.
Faye finds a ill, wrecked Don in the office and takes him home. In the hallways there are two federal agent-looking men, and Don panics. Even after it turns out they are looking for someone else, he can barely get the door open, and once in, he collapses, hands to his heart—a major panic attack.
But it gets even uglier. Why the hell not? Lane semi-realizes that he was weak and underhanded, having his dad meet his girlfriend as a Playboy bunny, so he ambushes him instead, having him come to his apartment and then be surprised to see the girlfriend there, to join them out for dinner. Lane’s father remains very cool and collected, only remarking that as he’s traveling the next day, he will have to decline dinner. What an utterly mannerly and British way of being a prick. Lane’s girlfriend, whose name turns out to be Tony Charles, gushes that she’s heard so many nice things about him, to which Mr. Pryce replies only, “Yes.” Cold and cold. I’ll have to remember that one.
Lane tells Tony to go on the restaurant and he’ll be right there. As soon as she’s gone (and from her face it is obvious she knows she’s been rejected), and Lane asks his father if it’s because she’s black, his father slaps him, very hard. Lane falls to the floor, hands and knees, bleeding, glasses flown off, and his father viciously stomps down on his hand so he can’t get up. He won’t step off until Lane agrees to return to England with him. It’s a clear master-slave dialectic, from Lane’s abusive childhood, and Lane regresses right back to form. He even knows what his father is waiting for: “Yes, sir.” Can you say “Old School”?
Really, how much sadder and more upsetting can this episode get?
Pete and a very pregnant Trudy in a very fluffy peach chiffon nightie. Pete hints about Don but won’t actually say it. Instead he complains about being one of “the honest people who have to pick up the pieces.” Oh please, Pete. Like you’re such a paragon of virtue. Trudy keeps urging him to tell her all but if Pete did (about Peggy, for instance), she would die. And Pete, you’re not half the man Don is.
A very Edward Hopperish scene of Joan on a bus. Back to the city from Morristown? And if so, what happened in that doctor’s office? I think she didn’t have the abortion. What about you?
Roger in the office late at night, running through his Rolodex, desperately trying to drum up business.
Don, hours later, recovering with Faye. “I’m tired of running,” he tells her, and then, oh my god, he tells her the story. Don’t do it, Don! Don’t do it! Maybe it’s just her insanely thick eye makeup and false lashes but I just don’t trust her. He even says so afterward: “I shouldn’t have told you. But I’m so damn tired of all of it.”
And then they spoon. When have we ever seen Don spoon before? The mind whirls.
The next morning Pete shows up at Don’s unannounced to discuss the sitch. And sees Faye. Good god. She leaves without a word. Pete is so goddamn high and mighty with Don. But he tells him the friend has found out that Don’s file has not “been flagged.” If they walk away from North American Aviation now, Don will be in the clear.
Roger in Joan’s office, demanding to know how she is. Joan: “We avoided a tragedy.” We have no idea what that means she did, and of course simple-minded Roger has no suspicions.
Joan calls a partners’ meeting to order. Pete announces that North American Aviation is “moving on.” He makes up a story about upsetting some general by filling out paperwork wrong, taking the fall. Roger flies off the handle, yelling at Pete that it’s all his fault. Of course we know why Roger is particularly upset about losing the account, but no one else does. Don rises to Pete’s defense and Bertram insists Roger apologize, which he does. But he appears near-drunk with the irony of it all.
And there’s more: Lane announces a sudden leave of absence of two weeks to a month. We know it’ll be at least a month. And he delivers this doozy of a speech: “I can say with full confidence that the company is in a state of stability, even with this morning’s news. All matters financial can be referred to Ms. Harris.” And then get up and leaves without so much as a by-your-leave.
Which of course is more than Roger can stand. He is almost in stitches over the whole thing. Joan starts with a roster of accounts, asking for status. Lucky Strike? Camera pans out as Roger gives a thumbs up. Oh god. Seems he is keeping the news to himself. What the fuck.
Don gets back to the office and Megan has gotten the Beatles tickets for Sally, the only good news of the entire episode. Poor innocent beautiful Megan: “You see, everything worked out.” Oh me. I need one of Roger’s heart pills.
I’ll tell you what I really can’t believe. This is already episode 10. Only three more episodes left in the season. I’m already suffering withdrawal. See our other Mad Men recaps, and please leave comments below. This episode was devastating; I need moral support!