I'm going to do a very brief rundown of this week's Mad Men. Not because the episode doesn't deserve a long recap -- it does. This week's show, "Hands and Knees," was among the show's best ever. This was a very heavy and depressing episode, with nothing good happening to anyone, and Peggy was absent from the entire episode.
The central conflict in the episode revolves around Don Draper's true identity - Dick Wittman. When Pete lands a contract with a defense contractor, the executives at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce need to get background checks since some of the work will involve national security. Don is made aware of the situation after getting an angry call from his ex-wife. She had just spent 45 minutes being interviewed by FBI agents, and she was rattled. She assures Don that she did not say anything that could get him in trouble (since she does know his real identity). Don is very thankful, but sick to his stomach with fear that he will be sent to jail for desertion from the military.
He abruptly leaves the office and heads home to try and plot his strategy for getting away with this. In a very weak moment, Don confesses to Faye what really happened. She suggests he come clean, an idea which he soundly rejects. But this clearly takes their relationship to a new level, making Faye the most likely character to wind up as the next Mrs. Draper.
Don pleads with Pete to drop the account so he can avoid the background check. Pete (who knows the truth about Don and tried to use it against him once before) is reluctant to simply drop a $4 million account, and doesn't want the wrath of the partners to come down on him. In a surprise move (since I've always thought Pete was a selfish asshole), Pete agrees; and in the partner's meeting, he falls on his sword to save Don. The partners are angry, but Don defends Pete, and the issue is dropped. Now Don owes Pete big time. I am certain Pete will collect.
The person who came down the hardest on Pete had the least reason to do so considering the news he had been dealt the night before. That was Roger Sterling. At dinner the night before, Roger was given the bad news that Lucky Strike cigarettes - the firm's largest account - was leaving to go with another agency. If memory serves, at one point Lane said Lucky Strike accounted for more than 70% of the company's revenue. Losing them will end the company. Roger begged them, but all he got was a 30 day delay before the account was leaving. So far, he has told no one.
Roger got more bad news, in a manner of speaking, when Joan informs him that she is pregnant from their encounter a few months back. Being a married woman with a husband in the army, she needed to "take care" of the problem. In a very interesting scene, we get to see how women of that era dealt with an unwanted pregnancy. Abortion was illegal in 1965, but some doctors performed the procedure. Roger knew one (naturally) and Joan went to him. Most of the other clients at the clinic were teenage girls. Joan was, by far, the oldest woman there. I guess this was how wealthy women handled the problem back then, as this was no back alley clinic.
In the weirdest (and saddest) segment of the show, we meet Lane Pryce's father who has come to New York from London with the intent on retrieving his son and making him come back to England. Lane had expected that his son would be coming to New York to spend time with him, but Lane's father put an end to that. In an attempt to impress his father and show that he has successfully moved on from his marriage, Lane brings his Dad and Don to the Playboy club. He introduces them to a black bunny named Toni. At first, it seemed like he had some weird crush or obsession with the woman. After all, who is impressed by the fact that a dolled up waitress knows your name? It looked like Lane's loneliness had gotten the best of him, and he had created a relationship with the woman. We find out later that is not the case.
The next evening Lane invites his father to his home for dinner where he sees the bunny, Toni, in her civilian clothes and very much involved with Lane. Though he is polite, he dismisses Toni; and when the two are alone, Lane's father thrashes him with his cane and holds him on the ground until he agrees to go back to London. Lane's relationship with Toni does not seem like it will last.
The only happy moment of the show comes when Don tells his daughter Sally that he has tickets to see The Beatles at Shea Stadium and he is taking her to the concert. In typical young girl fashion of the era, Sally screams at the top of her lungs with excitement.
That moment may be the last happy one for the folks of Mad Men for quite a while. I really do not see how the new agency survives short of a miracle.
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