“What is happiness? The moment before happiness.” — Don DraperEventually the celebratory champagne from winning a new client goes flat. Jaguar is not Chevy. Mohawk Air is not American. There’s always something better and (maybe) more fulfilling. The penultimate episode of this season’s Mad Men, “Commissions and Fees,” chronicled a depressing truth: While moments of happiness are fleeting, moments of extreme sadness can have permanent consequences.
This whole season has been pointing to a suicide. Salon wrote an exhaustive article about why it could be Pete. We stomped our feet and put our hands over our ears when rumours flew that Roger wouldn’t make it to season six. But in the end it was Lane Pryce who did not survive the season.
Ken Cosgrove told Roger, “No I don’t want to be a partner. I’ve seen what’s involved.” While Joan traded her body for a seat at the big table and Peggy left before she had a chance to have her name on the door, viewers didn’t understand its true cost until they watched the partners cut down Lane’s lifeless body, hanging from his office door.
It is impossible to begin this recap with any story line other than Lane's.
The first episode of the season hinted that the British partner had money troubles, which we soon found out was overdue taxes on his portfolio (which he couldn't afford to pay since he had invested every last cent in SCDP). So Lane forged Don's signature on a check for a Christmas bonus that he wasn't supposed to receive ... and then he got caught.
And so a day that began with promise--Lane had ironically been appointed head of the 4A's fiscal control committee at a breakfast over English muffins--ended with Don demanding his resignation over a stiff drink. 'I've started over a lot Lane,' Don said, promising not to disclose the reason for his departure to the rest of the partners. 'This is the worst part.'
The worst was still to come. Stumbling around the hall, Lane parks in Joan's office. After hearing about an impending Easter vacation to either Bermuda or Hawaii ('Do you think there's a difference?') Lane spouts a vulgar Hail Mary of sorts, proclaiming: 'I can picture you bouncing in the sand in an obscene bikini.' Livid, Joan kicks him out. And we know that it's over.
When Lane comes home, presumably to tell his wife to pack her things since deportation is imminent, she surprises him with none other than a brand new Jaguar. Because he never gets anything for himself. In a perfect moment that captures the ethos of the era, she hands Lane (who she noted was drunk) the keys to drive them to dinner. He throws up.
That night, Lane goes into the car to kill himself. Swigging a drink, he turns the key to let exhaust seep into his new car. But the Jag is a lemon. It won't start. Lane can't even end his own life the way he wants to.
So he goes back to SCDP, writes his letter of resignation, and hangs himself next to his office door.
Sally freaks out after she sees that she has 'become a woman' so she takes a $25 (!) cab back to Rye without telling Glen, or Megan for that matter.
'I think she just needed her mother,' Betty tells a panicked Megan on the phone, showing the first genuine smile we've seen from her in a while. (Megan chooses not to tell Betty that Sally had snuck off with Glen).
Huddled up in bed, Betty tells Sally that periods are a celebrated part of life that tells you that you are ready for a baby when you want one--and that 'and maybe you'll have a beautiful girl, and you can tell her all this.'
Surprisingly, Betty doesn't mar the moment with an underhanded comment. For at least a little while, things are how they should be.
1. He had a moustache.
2. Did you know he's Matt Weiner's son?
3. It looked like he has his eye on a second Mrs. Draper. There was some odd, one-sided flirtation when he waited for his train at the Draper apartment after Sally ditched him.
4. When Don comes home, emotionally exhausted after discovering Lane's hanging body (which is how Don's brother died, too), he asks Glen, 'If you could do anything, what would you do?' Glen's answer: Drive Don's car.
The episode ended with Glen quietly steering the car back to Hotchkiss. Don in the passenger seat for the long, silent, drive.
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