Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Review: Mad Men "Commissions and Fees"

Non Spoiler Review:
The penultimate episode of the season brings Lane's transgressions to the forefront as the Jaguar account continues to dominate SCDP. Sally pays a surprise visit to her father, leaving him and Megan juggling their schedules and offering her an opportunity to have a meeting of her own—with Glen.

This is really Lane's story, and it's one of the most tragic Mad Men ever as threads from previous seasons all lead to an apparently unavoidable conclusion. With Peggy's resignation last week, it's another emotional punch, leaving Don and the rest of the firm with much to grapple with heading into the finale.

Spoilers Now!
The partners sit down to a meeting, this time hosted by Scarlett, who Joan must continually correct on proper procedure. Pete brings up that Jaguar wants to pay using a fee structure over the usual commission system they have in place. If Jaguar gets it, then everyone else will want it, so Bert suggests they look into it so it looks like they're listening to their clients. That leads to Bert reviewing the books, and he, of course, discovers the forged cheque with Don's signature and berates him on it. He accuses Don of giving Lane a bonus after they decided not to.

Don calls in Lane to confront him. Lane is visually shaken, and Don threatens him to come clean or he'll involve everyone else. Lane confesses it's the only one and explains it was a loan, but then the bonuses were cancelled. He didn't want to be humiliated and it was his money. Don asks for his resignation. Lane promises to make good by Easter, but Don says he forged his signature and embezzled funds. He's letting him resign to save face. Lane angrily protests he's never been compensated for his role in creating this company, but Don won't budge given he can't trust him. Lane breaks down at the prospect of humiliation and returning to England. Don explains he'll tell his family it didn't work out and the next thing will be better. He gives him the weekend to think of an elegant exit. A drunk Lane next goes to see Joan and manages to make a sexually suggestive comment that annoys her. He returns to his office.

Don goes to Roger, telling him he's sick of living the delusion that SCDP is going somewhere when they can't even give out bonuses. Everyone is thinking small. He reveals that his Lucky Strike letter poisoned them with a bunch of companies. But Roger is more optimistic. Don suggests they pursue Ed Baxter at Dow Chemical, Ken's father-in-law. If Ken doesn't want to work with them, Don casually suggests firing Ken.

Roger meets with Kenny to inform him of what they're doing and suggests he not interfere when his father-in-law calls. Ken suggests he could bring it up to his wife by accident, prompting Roger to ask what he wants in exchange. Ken doesn't want to be their partner. He just needs a promise that if they get it Roger will force him on the account, and Pete doesn't go to the meeting or any meetings. Ed agrees to see Don Monday morning which only leaves Don 48 hours to prepare. But Roger likes the return of the old Don and has confidence he can pull it off.

Betty is taking the kids on a skiing trip but Sally doesn't want to go and would rather stay with Don. Betty decides to drop her off at Don's so she doesn't ruin the weekend, which comes as a surprise to Megan who has auditions to prepare for. She can't take care of Sally come Monday morning, and neither can Don due to his meeting, so they have to leave her alone for the day. Megan's annoyed he didn't even call her. But he reveals he had to fire Lane, asking her to keep it quiet.

Lane finally comes home to his wife who insists being taken to dinner and leads him to the parkade, where she's bought him a new Jaguar. Lane abruptly throws up. So they stay in and Lane confesses he needs to take care of some errands before he allows himself to drive it.

Sally calls Glen and tells him she'll be alone Monday morning, but it's not that easy for him to sneak off campus. He finally  acquiesces and says he'll be there.

Lane gets up in the night, dresses and gets in the Jaguar after stuffing a hose on the exhaust. He drinks, breaks his glasses and turns on the engine. But it won't start. Lane goes into work instead and types up his resignation letter.

Megan heads off to her audition, leaving Sally to get ready for Glen. When he shows up he suggests they go to the museum. He talks about how he gets bullied in school and admits he might have told his friends he was coming to the city to do it with her, but she says it's okay. She's feeling sick, so goes to the bathroom and realizes she's getting her period.

Don pitches Ed and his colleagues on a need for change, but Ed brings up the Lucky Strike letter. Roger defends their actions. The others say they are very happy with their current agency but Don suggests they shouldn't settle for their current market share and shoot for all of it. He leaves them with that to consider.

Megan gets home and finds Glen's bag there. Glen shows up but he doesn't know where Sally is. He explains they were at the museum and she just took off. Meanwhile, Sally's returned home by cab to see her mother. She reveals her period started and she didn't know what to do. She just wanted to come home. Betty says it's okay and gets a surprising hug. Betty later phones Megan to ask if they happen to be wondering where Sally is and fills her in on what happened and she needed her mother. Betty lies down with Sally and has a talk about being a woman. Glen is relieved but Megan says she'll let him stay until he needs to catch his train.

Scarlet leaves the company records with Joan given Lane hasn't come in. Joan finds the door barred and locked from the inside, so goes next door to see Harry, Ken and Pete and thinks something is terribly wrong in Lane's office. They look over the top of the divider and are horrified at what they see. 

Roger and Don return to the office to find it empty, and just Bert, Pete and Joan waiting for them. Lane hanged himself in his office. They're waiting for the coroner to come. Don is severely shaken, but says they can't leave him like that and breaks into the office. He, Roger and Pete get inside and see him hanging from the door. They cut him down and lay him out on the couch. Roger finds the letter and takes it, and they leave the office. It's a resignation letter addressed to his fellow partners.

Don comes home to find Glen and Megan there. Glen explains he used to live down the street. After a moment Don says he'll drive him home himself. He tells Megan he'll talk about it later.

In the elevator Glen asks why everything turns out crappy. Everything you want to do or think will make you happy turns to crap. Don tells him he's too young to talk that way, then asks him what he wants to do, if he could do anything. Don lets Glen drive on the way back to his school.

The Verdict:
Commissions and Fees was one of the most emotionally draining Mad Men in recent memory. Coming off of Peggy's departure (which oddly did not even get mentioned), it completely overshadowed everything. 

The discovery of Lane's crime, as well as the final result weren't entirely unexpected given his character's sense of status, and it was quite a sad set of circumstances watching Lane struggle to find a way to kill himself, only to be blocked at every turn by the unreliable Jaguar. 

One wonders how correct Lane was about always being regarded as the outsider. I somehow don't see Don treating Roger the same way had he done the same thing. But it's Don who is going to have to live with his responsibility in the matter, and following his own behaviour that sparked Peggy leaving, it will be interesting to see where he goes from here.

Despite all the other drama, Sally's story with Glen was still as interesting. And the pleasant surprise is just how much of a gentleman Glen is, given all his crazy back story. It turned into quite a charming little plotline to balance out the sorrow of Lane's arc, even giving (a much slimmer) Betty a motherly moment with her daughter.

No Peggy, and now Lane is gone. The season has firmly swung to the dark side of things, and it's anyone's guess how the finale will leave things at SCDP. After the last few weeks of the Jaguar campaign talking about searching for something beautiful, we end on Glen's view that everything always turns to crap.

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