Mad Men 5.12 – Commissions and Fees

“I feel a bit light-headed.”
“That’s relief.”

Don’s getting a haircut at the local Italian barbershop, and it must be a popular place for the industry because an adman from another firm is waiting his turn. If Don had any doubt that getting Jaguar had just the effect he wanted on the firm’s reputation, that’s put at ease when the guy lets him know how loud the buzz is around town for SCDP, and especially for Don and Pete. They’re definitely moving up the pecking order in the ad world.

Lane is asked to be the head of the fiscal control committee for one of the industry associations, which is more pomp than circumstance. He’s honoured and pleased when he hears how well he’s thought of in certain circles, and graciously accepts, all the while sipping his veddy British tea. No doubt they wouldn’t be quite as receptive to his qualifications if they knew he was skimming off the top at the firm, but who’s quibbling? Not me.

Joan’s slipped into her role as a partner like she was born to rule the world (which she was), but the office is having a harder time adjusting. She’s the only one who knows how to run the joint, so she has to train her replacement in real time during a partners’ meeting, because nobody else has a clue what to do. The first order of the meeting is to discuss Jaguar’s request to change their payment structure from commissions to fees, which is just about as dry and convoluted as it sounds. They decide not to decide until they’ve had time to study the issue. Fair enough.

Betty and Sally are at each others’ throats as usual as they get ready to go on a ski trip; so much so that Betty decides Sally is going to spend the weekend with Don and his “child bride” (hee) whether they want her to or not, since the only other alternative is for her to kill Sally.

Don’s fresh off that crisis when Bert confronts him with a check he’s found while researching the commissions and fees conundrum: it’s the check on which Lane forged Don’s signature to get Lane out of his financial quagmire. Oh oh. Don doesn’t admit that’s not his signature, wanting to talk to Lane first to confirm what he fears. Lane is, as you might imagine, shocked when Don hands him the check.

At first Lane tries to convince Don that Don really did sign it, then feigns outrage at the implication, but when Don threatens to take his questions public, Lane comes clean. He tells Don what he’s been telling himself all this time, that it was a loan, a loan he would have made good on if he’d only gotten that freaking bonus. Why didn’t he just ask for help? His pride wouldn’t let him, and it seemed like a harmless way to fix his problems—DAMN that lost bonus anyway! When Don isn’t sympathetic, and in fact demands he resign, Lane is stunned and begs for mercy. But to Don’s thinking, he IS showing him mercy. The harsher alternative would be calling the cops. Lane’s British politeness finally drops away and he shows some of the bitterness and entitlement he feels for helping the firm get on its feet in its first year without a bit of thanks even though the other partners have been raking in the dough. He finally breaks down sobbing at the thought of losing his Visa and telling his family. Don, who knows a thing or two about shame and starting over, gives him some brusk advice and another shot of booze. Don assures him this will be the worst part, but it’s clear Lane isn’t so sure. I don’t think in his worst scenarios did he imagine it would come to this.

A man at the end of his rope.

Lane goes straight to Joan’s office, where he pretends everything is fine and they have a sweet talk about Hawaii vs Bermuda as vacation destinations (“Neither of them are suitable for commemorating the death and resurrection of our lord”). He can almost pretend that everything is fine and nothing has changed, but soon enough the booze kicks in and he makes a crude remark about Joan in a bikini and the moment is spoiled. He goes back to his office, where he contemplates his bleak future against the backdrop of snow falling, thick and unstoppable, on the city outside.

Don is pissed that it all ended so badly for Lane over a meager eight grand, and he storms to Roger’s office to yell at him. He knows that if the company had been more successful none of this would have happened, and he orders Roger to get him a meeting with Dow Chemical. No more pussyfooting around—he wants to go after the big guns. Roger’s a little bit turned on by Don’s forceful anger, and agrees to set up the meeting. Of course, that’s the easy part. It’s landing the account that’s a little bit tougher. Besides, the head of Dow is Ken Cosgrove’s father-in-law, and Ken doesn’t want to mix business and family. “Then fire him,” Don barks, and stalks out. What’s one more ax blow after Lane, right Don?

Roger takes care of Ken Cosgrove’s concerns by having Ken unwittingly wait for him in the lounge at the top of the firm’s building, so he won’t be available for his father-in-law’s inevitable call after Roger’s request for a meeting. Smart! But even the kind and thoughtful Ken isn’t above a little blackmail by threatening to throw a wrench in their plans. No, he doesn’t want to be a partner and turn into one of them (shudder). If they manage to land Dow Chemical, all Ken wants is to have it appear that they’re forcing him to work the account so he can be in on the action…and that Pete can’t touch it. Ouch. Needless to say, Roger is okay with these terms.

When Roger meets up with Don on the elevator, Don’s panicky to hear that Roger scheduled a meeting with Dow on Monday. 48 hours to prepare? What is this, an Eddie Murphy movie? Roger tells him now is not the time to lose his balls of steel, which have been rather retracted ever since he met Megan.

When Don gets home that afternoon, Megan chews him out (a regular occurrence these days) because he didn’t call to let him know about Sally coming. Neither of them can drive Sally to school on Monday, but instead of turning it into a battle of wills, Don simply tells Sally she’s going to be missing school that day. Problem solved. Megan also lightens up when she hears that he had to fire Lane. Although she does have to dig in a little bit (“Did you eat or just drink?”), she also knows the wisdom of getting him to sit down and eat a meal with her and Sally—no matter what, work is not his life. Or not his entire life, anyway.

Lane stumbles home drunk as a skunk to find his wife has a present for him to celebrate getting the association position: a new Jaguar. Ahahahaha SOB. She says he never spends money on himself, which makes this whole thing worse. I don’t think he even cares about making his family happy; he just spent all that money to make it appear to others that he was a high and mighty one-percenter. He takes one look at the Jag and promptly pukes.

Don isn’t the only one with homework that weekend—the next day Lane seems a little bit happier as he works out some calculations he’s been putting off. This is not a good thing, kids. It’s a warning sign. Megan, her BFF, and Sally go for lunch and a movie since Don is MIA. This gives Sally a chance to soak up some information about love and dating from them. She’s obviously trying to figure out the perilous journey to adulthood as best she can, but really, everybody in this show is so screwed up she doesn’t stand a chance. Megan’s the most normal person around, but with Don as a husband how long can that last?

It’s awful but not surprising when Lane prepares to kill himself that night in, appropriately, the Jaguar. He breaks his glasses as a symbol of no going back and resolutely starts the car. Except it’s a piece of shit Jag and won’t start. Poor Lane can’t even catch a break while trying to commit suicide. He uses half of his glasses to try to see what’s wrong with the car. If only he was as resolute about trying to see what was wrong with his life before it came to this.

Sally decides to call her friend Glen and ask him to skip school and spend the morning with her. He reluctantly agrees, not because he doesn’t want to see her but because it’s a two hour train ride away. Finally, life is starting to happen for her. Yay!

Lane’s the opposite of yay over life as he lets himself into his office in the middle of the night and wearily pecks out a letter on his electric typewriter. What did John Cougar say? Life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone. Of course, John Cougar was only 16 then and didn’t write that song yet, so Lane isn’t aware he’s not the only one who feels this way.

Don and Roger are cooling their heels in the reception area of Dow Chemical, trying to stay calm before the meeting. Roger advises Don to keep his cool during the meeting—although if Ken’s father-in-law gives him a hard time Roger’s advice is to “punch him in the balls.” Now that Don’s back in the game, so is Roger. And the ad game is definitely for the sharks. What happened to Roger’s zen LSD enlightenment? “I don’t know. It wore off.”

Sally’s dressed up and put on makeup for Glen’s visit, but he doesn’t even notice and also, there’s a kid at school with a much nicer place than Sally’s. I can see why his classmates don’t like him much. Sooooo, what would Glen like to do now that they’re here and alone and can do whatever they want? Duh, he wants to go to the museum! I have a sneaking suspicion that Glen might be, you know, gay. Just a niggling hunch. They have a great time at the museum, which just reminds Glen that the boys at school are jerks to him, he’s miserable, and he might have even told them he was going to have sex with Sally just to get them off his back. She doesn’t really mind, and is perhaps even disappointed that he didn’t even try to make that come true (at least in theory). When she tries to play hard to get and tells him she’s not sure she even likes him that way, he’s relieved as hell. Yup, he’s gay. And in yet another case of bad timing in this week’s show, Sally unfortunately gets her first period at the museum and freaks out a little bit in the museum bathroom.

Back at the meeting, the execs at Dow are friendly but cool toward Don and Roger, but Don isn’t going to take that sitting down. He’s like General Patton, laying out why Dow needs them, showing he spent the weekend studying their products instead of going to Fistful of Dollars, telling them that he has a fire in his belly to make their company not just successful, but the MOST successful. They’re surprised and somewhat shaken by his passion. When he stands to go, Roger scrambles to follow. As they get their coats in reception, Roger offers to buy Don a drink after he wipes the blood off his mouth. Ha!

Megan comes home to find Sally missing. That’s because Sally took a cab back to Betty and Henry’s. Getting her period was so profound that all Sally wanted was to come home and be with her mom. When she fiercely hugs Betty, Betty actually hugs her back after she belatedly remembers what a hug is.

Glen finally figures out that Sally isn’t coming back from the bathroom and goes back to the apartment to get his bag. Megan yells at him until she gets a call from Betty saying that Sally is there (because she needed her mom. Which Betty is. And Megan isn’t. Ha ha on you). Then Megan’s niceness takes over and she offers to drive Glen to the train station at seven. He can stick around until then.

Back at the office, Joan goes to put the financial records in Lane’s locked office. I have to admit, my palms are sweating all over again just writing this. It’s a harrowing scene, and a difficult one to watch. Something is blocking his office door, and it doesn’t take Joan long to realize something is terribly wrong. She goes next door to Pete’s office, and Pete peeks over the office divider to see what’s happened. The moment he gasps and covers his mouth, Joan starts to cry.

Reality sinks in.

Finally, a chance for Betty and Sally to bond while cuddling in bed. Because if there’s one thing Betty is good at, it’s being a woman. She gives Sally an encouraging talk (and pretty much the same talk I gave my girls) and some of the poison between them washes away. See? Betty isn’t all monster. Just, like, eighty percent.

What passes for happiness in Betty's icy soul.

Don and Roger come back to the office to find it empty except for Bert, Joan, and Pete. Bert tells them that Lane hanged himself in his office. Polite to the end, Lane hung himself right in front of the door so whoever found him wouldn’t walk in without knowing something was wrong. The inevitable but heartbreaking conclusion to Lane’s troubles had played out to its grisly conclusion. When I said last week that the noose was tightening around Lane, little did I know how true that would turn out to be. Don takes it very hard because he (and only he) knows exactly why Lane did it. When he finds out Lane is still hanging there on instruction from the police, he doesn’t give a shit about protocol—he gets the others to help him take Lane down. It’s truly awful to watch, and shows the grinding aftermath of what actually happens after someone kills himself. Roger finds the letter Lane had typed before he died—it’s a stock resignation letter. Only Don understands the significance of that. He wanted Lane to resign? Well, Lane really, really did.

Don comes home in a daze, but instead of telling Megan what happened (because she knows what happened the day before, remember), he offers to drive Glen home instead. On the way down the elevator, Glen asks Don why everything in life turns to crap. Just a few hours before Don would have told him to shut up, or suck it up. Now he knows, truly knows, how fragile people can be, how easily they can break. He asks Glen that if he could do anything, what would it be?

Which is how Glen ends up driving Don’s very nice Jag home. Don may not have been able to save Lane, but he sure isn’t going to make the same mistake twice in one week.

To everyone who hoped Pete was going to be the one to off himself, my condolences. To everyone who hated to see Lane go, my condolences. To everyone relieved Roger didn’t kill himself (including me)…woot woot! Double woot! Congratulations!