Mad Men, Season 5

Ken Cosgrove Gets Hungry!
Talking television.
June 5 2012 8:28 AM

Mad Men, Season 5

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Whose sins are graver, Don's or Lane's?

Mad Men (Season 5)

Jordin Althaus/AMC

Jared Harris has given a good interview to Dave Itzkoff at the Times’ ArtsBeat blog, explaining how he learned of Lane’s fate. Harris got the news before the rest of the cast, save Jon Hamm (who sits down with Matthew Weiner at the beginning of each season to discuss its arc) and John Slattery (who apparently somehow always finds out what’s going to happen before everyone else does). Harris also notes that Hamm, Slattery, and Vincent Kartheiser hadn’t seen Lane’s dead body—that is, Harris’s dangling, ghastly made-up one—until they burst into his office, which surely helped them convey the powerful sense of unease we witnessed in that scene.  

There’s some debate in our comments section about whether Don was harder on Lane than the firm had been on him when it was revealed that he’d lied about his identity. Would Don have survived the strict scrutiny he applied to Lane? It’s hard to say, in part because their crimes are so different. Lane stole from the company, plain and simple. Don’s crime had less bearing on the company’s day-to-day business, though it was still a serious offense: Just ask Yahoo’s recently-ousted CEO Scott Thompson, who lost his job because he lied on his résumé about having a computer science degree. That seems mild by comparison with Don’s deceit, and it’s not as if Draper’s lie had no effect on the company: It would eventually lead him to scuttle nascent talks with North American Aviation, which would have required that he complete a background check. But by the time Don’s false identity came to light he had proven himself indispensible to Sterling Cooper. The partners felt it was more expedient to keep him around—and to use their knowledge of his secret to force him to sign the contract he’d long evaded—than it was to fire him. Lane had no such leverage: However good he may have been at his job, he’d compromised his standing by embezzling those funds. Don’s sins may ultimately be the graver ones, but it’s no surprise that he was able to stick around while Lane was forced to type his letter of resignation, taped-up spectacles perched on his nose.

We haven’t yet discussed my boy Ken Cosgrove, who showed us in this episode that—literary avocation aside—he’s as hungry for success as Don seems once again to be. Ken is wrong-footed for a moment by Roger’s announcement that SCDP is going after Dow, but he quickly recovers, and dreams up a way to get himself in the meetings (while avoiding charges of father-in-law favoritism) and keeping Pete out of them. All of them. Damn! I didn’t know Kenny had that in him. He’s seemed above the fray in the past, happy for success, but not willing to break the rules—or much of a sweat—to win it. Something seems to have changed, and I wonder if it’s related to Joan’s ascent. When Ken said he wasn’t interested in a partnership because he’s seen what that entails, it seemed like an acknowledgement that he knows how Joan got her seat at the table—and he’s not willing to become the kind of guy who asks a woman to trade sex for an account. But he sure as hell isn’t going to sit back and let Pete win all the glory, either.

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Holding hands is plenty,
John

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.