Mad Men, Season 4

Week 10: Whack!
Talking television.
Sept. 27 2010 1:14 AM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 10: Whack!

Lane Pryce (Jared Harris). Click image to expand.

It was not a good week to be a partner at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The episode was called "Hands and Knees," and it found Lane, Roger, and Don all prostrate before potentially overwhelming forces.

Julia Turner Julia Turner

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast.

In Lane's case, that force was a blow from his father's cane. Robert Pryce, a deceptively benign-looking gentleman in tweed, arrives in New York to bring Lane home and is amused neither by Lane's Mickey Mouse doll nor by his "chocolate bunny." Lane has found love at the Playboy Club, where he's a keyholder with a penchant for whiskey sours and a fetching cotton-tailed waitress named Toni. (She thinks he's "dashing.") But Robert Pryce is unmoved by this interracial romance. When Lane protests, "I've moved on," his father cracks him across the temple with his walking stick, knocking Lane to the ground. Grinding Lane's knuckles into the carpet with his shoe, he demands, "Put your home in order, either there or here. You will not live in between." He even refuses to acknowledge Lane's "Yes" until it becomes a "Yes, sir." Our commenters have been wondering for a while whether perhaps Sally was abused as a child (by her grandpa), but this episode suggests we should have been worrying about Lane instead. It's startling to see a grown man cowed—and beaten—by an elderly one; Lane caves, telling the partners he's taking a month's leave. (And who knows what he told poor Toni.)

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Lane chose the wrong month to take off. Roger learns this episode that Lucky Strike—which accounts for the lion's share of SCDP billings, and is Roger Sterling's primary contribution to the firm—is taking its business to BBDO. Lee Garner Jr. says the change is effective immediately, but Roger pleads for a 30-day reprieve: "I'm begging you." Garner grants his request, but Roger remains weaselly: Rather than bringing the bad news to the partners' meeting, he trawls his ancient Rolodex, hoping to drum up new business but finding instead that it's full of dead men. Roger is equally weaselly when confronted with the news that Joan is pregnant. (More props to our commenters for guessing that one.) I've never liked Roger less than in the scene at the cafe, where he first complains that an abortion is a bummerish way to commence an extramarital affair, then suggests that Joan just keep the kid and pretend to Greg that it's Greg's, then advises that maybe Greg will die and it won't matter ("Jesus. Greg dying is not a solution," Joan says), and finally explains that if Joan does keep the baby, "It wouldn't be my child, let's make that clear." If Joan ever fantasized about starting a family with Roger, this conversation would give her cause to reconsider. "I'll take care of it," Roger says, meaning the fee for the abortion, not the kid.

Don, meanwhile, is under scrutiny from the Feds. Pete has brought a defense contractor in as a client, and now SCDP's principals must undergo background checks to acquire security clearance. Two agents show up in Ossining, N.Y., to interrogate Betty, and Don is spooked. He sets up a trust for the kids, drinks, sweats, and starts seeing federal operatives everywhere. Faye accompanies him home, nursing him through a panic attack and a bout of vomiting, and he spills the beans about his double identity. Faye seems to take this confession as a sign that they're getting closer and Don's problems as something for them to solve together. Don seems less engaged: "I shouldn't have told you, but I'm just so damn tired of all of it." In the end, though, Don skates through again: Pete covers for him and declines the account, something they'll all regret when they learn what's become of Lucky Strike.

I'll leave a dissection of Pete's motives here to you, Michael—although his self-righteous tirade about being the last honest man in advertising was a piece of work!—but before I go I have a few questions for you both:

Did Joan have an abortion? I think so—Joan tells Roger "we avoided a tragedy," and she's not one to be coy—but the episode left things a bit ambiguous.

Why was Don staring at Megan at the episode's end? Was he considering his lawyer's counsel to start shtupping her?

Where does Betty get her nightgowns? There are so many of them, and they are all so pretty!

Are you the keyholder?

Julia

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