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Mad Men Recap: Episode 10: Hands and Knees

September 26, 2010
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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!

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21 Responses to “ Mad Men Recap: Episode 10: Hands and Knees ”

  1. jon on September 26, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Great recap! I love that among all the weekly reviews, you do more or less a blow-by-blow analysis of the entire episode.

    Keep it up!

  2. Ladylight on September 26, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Excellent recap. I hadn’t even considered that Joan didn’t go through with it. I thought she just looked sad and lonely, as always pretending everything is just dandy. She didn’t even flinch when Roger said he might love her, which was weird.

    What did you think of Don staring at Megan at the end? Does he fancy her? Especially after what his accountant said.

  3. Grace on September 26, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Thanks so much, Jon and Ladylight! I love to go over it all again, play-by-play. So much to think about! Ladylight, it was curious the way it ended on Megan. Not sure if it was her incredible beauty or her innocence. It was hilarious when the nice old man accountant says, “Now, please, tell me you’re schtupping that girl outside.” Good time to pull out the Yiddish.

  4. Grace on September 26, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Oh, and about Joan not responding to Roger saying he might love her. To my mind, it was simply not enough. Joan is very pragmatic, although she is also very emotional. We know she does want a child, and worries about being too old. In her situation, she needs assurances, not maybes.

  5. Sweetpea on September 26, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Yes, the woman in the Ob-Gyn’s office was the younger woman’s mother and she asked Joan how old her daughter was, assuming that a woman Joan’s age would not be there to get an illegal abortion for herself. Joan, ashamed, implies that the other woman’s assumption was correct. For the time, it would be easy to assume that a woman Joan’s age would be married, and that a married woman would not terminate a pregnancy. This just drives the point further home that the writers have been making all season about Joan — in 1965 reality, Joan is behind the times and has become a matron before her time. And that she’s just as surprised by that as we are.

  6. Grace on September 26, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Thanks Sweetpea. I agree. And that’s why I suspect Joan didn’t go through with it. Because the exchange makes her think that a woman her age *should* have a daughter.

  7. Bon don on September 26, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Nice and pacy review Grace.

    I like the fact that this season, Weiner is wrapping up the plot whirlwinds within the boundaries of the episodes, and is only leaving one or two relevant loose ends to extend beyond each one. Not because of exploitation of suspense, but because 1hr just can’t handle it all. It has made for some really compact and electric episodes.

    Mad Men has always been good, but this season’s episodes have had more to say. The characters have been stitched up so well and consistently, they are quasi human now and have started to resonate massively.

  8. Sweetpea on September 26, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    No, I don’t think she went through with it, either. I also think it’s interesting that the first doctor berated Roger as if Joan actually were 15, and not a grown woman who made some of her own choices. Interesting contrast to the later scene. Joan is finding that she doesn’t quite fit anywhere.

  9. ekglendower on September 26, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    This is Joan’s third pregnancy. It has been implied that the first two ended in abortion (although her doctor only knew about one and will not know about this one, unless she decides to carry the fetus to term). However, Joan may very well have a 15-year-old daughter out there somewhere. Or she may be reflecting on how it was 15 years ago when she had her first abortion.

    Maybe Sal will come back now that Lucky Strike is a goner.

  10. faun on September 26, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    I hadn’t thought about Joan keeping the child either, but it is only a slight possibility. I think that she’s not sentimental enough to swerve from an important decision on a mere bittersweet impression at the doctor’s office. She’s a trooper in such cases. And she’s not a dramaqueen either – why create drama – if she wanted to keep it then she should have agreed with Roger’s suggestion at the coffee shop.

    Your description of Roger is spot on by the way – his ability to fluently flutter between sweet and inconsiderate, light and dark, cocky and vulnerable, is a great piece of work, of writing and of acting.

  11. george beest on September 26, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    Don’s telling the truth to Miller, while both Betty and Pete respected his secret while in the arms of their beloved, is quite ironic and another act of subconscious self-destruction by him. He told it to her knowing full well that she’s impulsive enough (remember last episode’s “shit in the ocean”) to be cruel if offended (possibly by him taking Megan home)

    It does make sense that he wants to subconsciously destroy his impostor self. I think he’s mature enough now to liberate Dick Whitman and be at peace and complete as Him, and he wants that very much, but is it worth going through the bludgeoning sacrifice of public humiliation?

  12. Ladylight on September 26, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    Thanks for more thoughts Grace. I’m so glad I found this blog tonight as like you, I am feeling withdrawal.

    I can’t figure out the look at Megan. In some ways tonight, Don looked older than ever before and Megan seemed very youthful so ther was such a contrast. After he broke his cardinal rule with Allison, to disastrous results, I can’t imagine him doin it again.

    I can’t decide if I like him with Faye or not. In some ways, it seems to be the only real relationship he’s ever had Anna was real but had a bad beginning and not a real love connection. With Faye, he seems real and grown up. Darn, he even spooned with her. But now that she knows his secret, she will feel closer to him, but can he stand it or will he back away? Although he says he’s tired of running, I’m not sure I believe him.

    This show kills me! I usually hate Pete, but tonight felt so sorry for him, and admired him for taking one for the team and a big one at that. And he’s become so cute with Trudy, that although I always hoped he’d somehow end with Peggy, I’m okay that he seems happy with Trudy now.

    And then I usually hate Lane, but learned so much more about him tonight, and he became “real”.

    I can’t wait for next week. I really hope Sal comes back as has been speculated. But is this the end of SCDP as we know it? Aargh!

  13. Gaby Atamoo on September 27, 2010 at 4:30 am

    Is the Lucky account really gone?

    Sure, Roger has kept this impending atom bomb of bad news to himself, but he did get 30 days. You figure after a week or two and several dozen nitroglycerin tablets he has to come clean to the partners about the loss. What then? Remember, thanks to the Sal incident, Don knows a little secret about Lee, a little something that was not taken to kindly upon in the South of the 1960′s.

    What better leverage for negotiation than potentially outing a married man from the South in the 1960′ with the surname of Lee. Hell, double up, why stop with protecting their current share of Lucky’s business,Lucky wants to consolidate their advertising into one firm, go for the whole thing!

    Who knows, we might even get a whole Mission Impossible, cloak and dagger thing going like during the “filming” of the faux commercial for Honda or the departure from Sterling Cooper 1.0 at the end of season 3. Nothing like having old Lee on film doing his thing.

  14. Grace on September 27, 2010 at 7:29 am

    Wow, folks, how lovely to wake up to all these brilliant comments. Smartest show on TV has the smartest fans, that’s clear. First of all, thanks for all nice compliments. It’s a pacy recap because wow, it was such a pacy episode. I mean, how many scene changes were there? I agree, Bon Don, this season’s episodes seem absolutely packed to the brim, like there’s so much to say. I remember earlier seasons being more leisurely, even slow sometimes. Maybe by now they feel the characters are established, from here out it can be pay-off and consequences of all that has been set up before.

    Re the OB. So interesting that even though Joan’s regular doctor is so understanding of her previous abortions, she couldn’t go to him because he would judge an extramarital encounter. It’s really amazing how much an institution like medicine has changed just in our lifetimes. Also, ekglendower, love your idea about Joan possibly having had a daughter (not just an abortion) 15 years ago. Faun, I agree that Joan is more practical than sentimental, but that’s what makes me think she may have kept the baby. Because she’s goal-oriented, and her goal recently has been to have a baby. But you’re right. It’s only a slight possibility, and would certainly complicate matters irreparably.

    Faye Miller: oh god. I called this relationship the moment they met, but I’m not happy about it. She’s shown herself to be manipulative, cold, self-obsessed, and capable of extreme anger. Only an episode or two ago she was yelling on the lobby phone to some Stephen, who was criticizing her for not cooking, remember? George Beest, that’s exactly what I thought of that Megan look also. That if he dared look at another woman from now on, Faye would exact revenge with her new weapon. I trust Betty and Pete a lot more than Faye. The woman has no loyalty. But you’re right, Ladylight, it’s at least a mature relationship, the most equal we’ve seen. She’s so hard, though, and I’m not just talking about her hair or her New Yawk accent. George, interesting point about Don’s self-destructiveness. I love him so much I never want to see that part, but it’s true. Some part of him wants to be free of the deception. On the other hand, the Don Draper we see, and that his colleagues and world see, is him. He has made Don Draper who he is.

    Gaby, true about Lee’s secret. While Don would never out someone, I could see him using it privately. However, I have real doubts that Lee has enough leverage over the company as a whole to be able to turn around the decision. I’d love to see Sal again though. Part of my admiration for Don comes from his whole handling of the Sal matter when they traveled south. I think in spite of himself Don is a person of real integrity, and that’s what people respect about him.

    Off to real work. Thanks again for all the fabulous comments!

  15. amanda on September 27, 2010 at 8:51 am

    So much to analyze. This was the most action-packed episode I ever remember. Ok, Joan had had an affair with her doctor in Season One, no? She broadly hinted at spending time at his summer house in the Hamptons. Joan had Peggy go to her doctor-former-flame to be put on The Pill in Season One. So because of that romantic history she went to a different doctor last night??
    I think Joan did go through with the abortion because she looked so sad on the bus ride. I nearly cried in that devastating scene. Grace, love your comment re: Edward Hopperish scene. You nailed that! Such a theme of loneliness. But if she is going to have the child that would be a great plot twist. Joan would leave the office the instant she started showing.
    I usually detest Pete, but when he fell on his sword for Don I loved him. Wonder how he will use his shiny new bargaining chips?
    I hope they bring the dashing Sal back. I was so sorry to see him kicked out so mercilessly. (Too bad this was before sexual harassment law suits.) Roger should blackmail that revolting Lee and get Lucky Strike and all the other accounts. No, then Sal couldn’t come back!
    Don’t trust Faye. This is really gonna get ugly. Don would have to probably marry her to keep her quiet. Somehow I see her getting rubbed out. She couldn’t be silenced easily.
    Last scene when Don looks at Megan. The Beatles song is “Do You Want to Hear a Secret.” Lyrics include: “I’ve known a secret for a week or two…Nobody knows just we two… Do you promise not to tell…I’m in love with you…” Look, the girl was there till close to 8pm! No boyfriend? Who wouldn’t be in love with Don? I think Don fancies her. She in a long-necked Audrey Hepburn for God’s sake.
    The “Hands and Knees” title of the episode may reference Lane on the ground as his dear dad sadistically stomps on his hand. Don on his knees chucking in the bathroom after trembling through a horrific panic attack.
    On the positive side: Betty saved Don, Sally is happy. Hope there are more Beatles references to come.

  16. Grace on September 27, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Thanks for the lyrics, Amanda. Adds so much. Although I hope to god Don doesn’t do anything with her. It would hurt her and she’s no partner for Don in the long run. I totally didn’t put 2 + 2 together on the doctor. Yikes… Can’t imagine what they’re going to do next. This is going to be a long week!

  17. Jane Doe on September 27, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    @ Grace. There is plenty of judgment in the medical profession even today. Don’t kid yourself. Either you’ve been exceptionally lucky in your relationship with your doctors, or you’ve never faced the choice that Joan faced. That I faced.

  18. Grace on September 27, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Hi Jane, I don’t mean about abortion. Her regular doctor has been pretty understanding and helpful in that regard, I think. He barely raised an eyebrow when he learned that Joan had had one more than he knew about previously. I meant about her having become pregnant with someone other than her husband Greg. I wouldn’t expect a doctor today to make any sort of morally judgmental comment for something like that and not get in trouble. But you’re right. Maybe I have just been very lucky in my doctors. Most of my adulthood has been spent in New York City. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear, for instance, that things work differently in small towns or in the Bible Belt.

  19. Holly on September 27, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    I thought Joan said to Roger after “we avoided a tragedy”……….”life goes on”. I think that meant she kept the baby!

  20. Grace on September 28, 2010 at 7:11 am

    Ooh Holly! I heard her say that but I didn’t take it literally. Wow, I love that interpretation. And it would be just like her too: smarter than the rest of us and double-talking around us. You are brilliant!

  21. Ally on September 29, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Great recap — you explore the ramifications and related story points of many details!

    One appealing theory on the Edward Hopper bus ride (nice catch on the art direction, btw), is that she’s on her way to visit Greg at the army base, to make the dates more credible if she’s keeping the baby. She was having trouble getting pregnant with Greg at the start of the season, so it would make sense that she might want to keep this child at this time.

    One of my favorite not-depressing details from the episode: Betty phoning Don and opening with “It’s me.” A couple of episodes ago, Don did the same when he called her. It’s like they’re still married! I don’t think they’re in love, but neither are they fully out of love, nor have they achieved closure (Betty hanging on to the house, Don drinking).

    I would like to say that I called Megan as the wife-to-be from the moment of Faye’s “I know your type. You’ll be remarried within a year.” scenario, purely based on reading the tea leaves of casting. Jessica Paré started her career as a lead actress, and even on last night’s episode where she had only a few lines, she was billed second in the closing credits. Of all the women he bedded, Don married Betty for a reason (the same reason Roger married Jane, not Joan) — she’s an airhead with poise, a highly presentable wife and a status symbol. Megan is basically Betty all over again, only French and brunette. And when Sally ran into her arms in the last episode, it was like that moment when a puppy picks its owner — and Don seemed to “see” Megan then for the first time.

    What would Faye do then, though? I hate to think what Don would do to keep her quiet about what she now knows about him.

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