Mad Men Season 5 Episode 12 recap

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates his favorite quotation from the episode, and I write up a recap.

-I don’t think there were any date clues, or even many cultural references. I might have missed them if there were, as I was slightly occupied by the Celtics playoff game. Best guess, it’s late January to mid-February, and if I was in early season form, I’d probably look at historical weather reports for New York City to find the Friday it snowed. The episode title, ‘Commissions and Fees,’ didn’t seem to reference much, except for the client request that ultimately lead to Lane’s demise. There was also the fun moment where Don said he didn’t want to go to a fee structure and referenced the decision to approach Joan last week. They shared a look. Sometimes the episodes revolve around the episode title, and sometimes they don’t at all.

-What an uncomfortable episode. The slow burn all season hinting at a suicide finally came to a head. Pete Campbell was the early favorite for jumping, Betty, Roger, and even Joan have been candidates, but the last several weeks, it’s been Lane alone. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly in which scenes, but a suicide has been telegraphed all season. To such an extent, actually, that I almost thought it wouldn’t happen. Yipes. I’m still unsettled by the episode.

-Oh, Lane. The episode started off promising for him, getting asked by the 4As (American Association of Advertising Agencies) to take on a fiscal role (with a trip to The Greenbrier). I immediately thought this would be a way for Lane to get himself some financial breathing room. And Rebecca was so excited about the news she bought him a car! In the end, undone by a request from Jaguar, the company he’d originally tried to bring in. They wanted to pay for the work, instead of paying a commission on the media SCDP was buying. I’m not sure of my advertising agency history, but I wonder if this was the beginning of a split in agencies (media planning/buying vs creative agencies managing the brand). In any case, Bert ‘took it upon himself’ to investigate the impact the switch would have on SCDP and found the check Lane had forged. It’s not clear exactly why Bert’s investigation would require looking at current statements because it would be more about projections, but whatever, they didn’t have Excel.

-After leaving Don’s office, Lane went to Joan. He’d lost everything, why not go for it? I think a lot of people have been anticipating someone jumping out a window all season, so the last scene before the commercial break of Lane looking out the big windows seemed like an obvious choice. And then the walk to the car in the parking garage was ominous, sort of like Batman’s parents getting murdered ominous. But the car sure was pretty, wasn’t she? Since we’ve heard for weeks that the Jaguars are beautiful, but unreliable, I assumed Lane wouldn’t be able to get the car started for his first suicide attempt. The deliberate snapping of his glasses was great, perhaps a last, futile, punch at the world that has been so unfair to him. Where did he get the hose? Where did he get the rope? And then how it actually happened. It’s amazing they were able to make the reveal so suspenseful with everyone knowing what had happened. Not showing the body for several minutes after we knew made it even more suspenseful. Well done. Goodbye, Lane.

-When Bert showed Don the check, Bert assumed Don had given Lane a bonus as a nice guy. Lane put up a brave front, trying to convince, or at least trying to imply to, Don he’d signed the check while drunk. Lane went through several stages. Denial, begging for forgiveness, pleading for mercy, anger (“Do you know how the rest of us live?”), and then acceptance. During the conversation, Don was thinking, ‘This could be me.’ He knew Lane must have been desperate to do what he did (“I’m giving you a chance to come clean.”), but he couldn’t be allowed to stay after betraying the firm’s trust. Lane made a point two times to say it was a thirteen day loan (“That was my money.”), but it goes deeper than that. He’d convinced everyone they were in good shape for a bonus, but they were only in good shape after securing additional financing. The fact that the money was to have been paid out as a bonus didn’t matter because they shouldn’t have had bonuses in the first place. “The next thing will be better, because it always is.” “I’ve started over a lot, Lane. This is the worst part.”

-Don making Lane come clean was a wake up call to Don. His life could change at any time, just like Lane’s. He could get caught in his lie. This brought him into Roger’s office on fire. “I’m tired of this piddly shit.” He’s tired of settling. He’s tired of not going for it all. The scene at Dow Chemical’s office was another example of Don selling. He’s the best because he’s the best at convincing the client to take the idea, not necessarily because it’s the best creative. He had some great lines in that meeting (“But, what is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness.”), classic Mad Men. To a certain extent, he could have been talking to himself with the whole not settling spiel. He had a lot, a beautiful wife, kids, etc, but before Don didn’t settle for having a lot, he wanted it all. I wonder if he’ll now cheat on Megan. I think this was my favorite scene of the season. “What happened to your enlightenment?” “I don’t know, wore off.”

-Look at Ken mixing it up and elbowing Pete out. Go Ken. I wonder how he feels about the pact now.

-Betty’s starting to drop more of the weight, which is nice because I know that’s important to her, but her and Sally keep fighting. I don’t really like Betty, but I don’t really like Sally either. Sally deciding not to go skiing, having tea (like a lady) with Megan, ordering coffee, and having an inappropriate conversation with Megan’s inappropriate friend, and then an illicit meet up with creepy Glen Bishop; she became a woman. (That was a weird shot of Sally pouring the sugar into the coffee, right?) It was a bit strange she told Megan and the friend that she didn’t think Glen liked her that way (did I catch that right?), and then she told Glen she didn’t like him that way. We’ve only seen Glen a bit, but there definitely wasn’t any indication he was being picked on (though it’s not really a surprise because weird kids end up getting picked on). He was pretty frank about getting bullied, and his honesty was kind of refreshing. It isn’t really what you should say to someone you’re trying to get with, though. (But neither is, “Are you kidding? The museum is right across the park.”) I think Sally just likes having a relationship with Glen because it’s secret and forbidden. She likes having something that she owns, controls, in her life that is so out of control. And now she’s a woman and, for a moment at least, there is peace at home. I don’t know what to make of Betty’s call to Megan, because it wasn’t quite as snippy as I’d expect. It was almost magnanimous, like she’d conquered Megan in the war for Sally. I’m afraid Betty is in for a shock.

-And then Glen has to come back for his bag. I did a paper on Nat Turner one time, too. It’s funny Megan makes him stay, because, what? And then it’s funny that Don offers to drive him back to school. I wasn’t really sure what instigated that. “Why does everything turn out crappy? Everything you want to do just turns into crap.” The scene of Glen driving was magic. Magic. I guess Lane and Glen are pretty closely tied in this episode. Both people constantly getting shit on by the world and not having any clue how to make it work. Hopefully Don’s kindness pushes Glen in the right direction.

-Did you all see the super threatening commercials by AMC about Dish Network dropping AMC? Those were funny.

-There was no place for this, but I liked the line, “It’s all just gossip at a certain point.” What did I miss?

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 12 recap

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