'Mad Men' Season 5, Episode 12 Recap - 'Commisions and Fees' and Everything Turning to Crap
A lawnmower running over a guy's foot is one thing. This is something else entirely.
If last week's ending with Peggy leaving and Joan doing the nasty to get ahead was shocking, this week's ending is 1.21 gigawatts of holy sh*t-ness. Let's talk about Lane, shall we?
The title of the episode indicates that much time will be spent on SCDP's resident financial officer, and that is indeed the case. Lane's embezzlement and forgery is finally discovered by Bert, of all people, who doesn't get it and just reprimands Don. With that, Don confronts Lane and asks for his resignation.
The scene between these two is tough to watch. Lane is reduced to sobbing and pleading after anger doesn't work, and you can see that Don doesn't enjoy this either. In the midst of it, though, the two men give each other some revealing information about themselves and each other: Lane accuses Don of throwing his money around and taking it all for granted, while Don, right as Lane collects himself and leaves, tells Lane, "I've started over a lot, Lane. This is the worst part."
Ain't that the truth. This guy started a whole new identity, so in comparison Lane's situation doesn't seem quite so bad.
Lane apparently disagrees. Things only get worse when his poor, unsuspecting, really very sweet and loyal wife buys him a Jaguar as a surprise gift. The sight of it (and maybe the booze) actually makes Lane puke. After all, it's the embodiment of everything that has gone wrong for him in the past few months. So it's only fitting that he attempts to kill himself in it.
That's not what does him in, though: in the cruelest joke we've seen at Lane's expense thus far, the Jaguar won't start and he is left to go type up his resignation letter.
That rather impressive narrative misdirection leads us to believe that maybe Lane is turning a corner, but no: when Joan can't open the door to Lane's office, Pete, Cosgrove and Harry peek over to find that Lane has hung himself.
Don and Roger, in high spirits from their meeting with Ed Baxter, arrive without knowing, so we get to see Don get hit with that ton of bricks in real-time. Of course the guilt will be weighing heavily on him, seeing as he's more or less directly responsible by not giving Lane a second chance. Joan will undoubtedly take this very hard, too, considering her last interaction with Lane was harshly turning him away after he crossed the line with her again.
Lane's resignation letter, as Roger reports, is "boilerplate": there's no mention of his embezzlement or anything directed at Don. Will this be yet another secret that Don has to keep, weighing him down?
That mess aside, it was otherwise a fairly light episode. Sally invted Glenn to visit for a date after feeling all grown up having coffee with Megan, but the date is interrupted by Sally's period. Chalk up another embarrassing moment for Sally. What's surprisingly nice about it, though, is that Sally runs back home to Betty, which gives the poor woman a bit of her life back. Betty's look of genuine surprise when Sally throws her arms around her is one of the best, most honest acting moments from January Jones that I've seen this entire series (or ever), and for a moment I forget that I hate January Jones and Betty Draper.
Glenn is still weird. Thankfully he didn't get weird with Megan.
Don has a pretty good day before the Lane ordeal, as he finally gets fired up about work again and wants to go after Ed Baxter. Roger gets him a meeting, cleverly keeping Kenny out of the way, and he and Don go to pitch to Dow. We get to see the old Don, the passionate Don... though it's tough to tell if he's fully aware of the depth of what he is saying. "What's happiness?" asks Don in his speech, all about being dissatisfied with the success you already have, "It's just a moment before you need more happiness."
Will those words sink in? Will Don realize that he was talking about himself, about his career, about his marriage? Probably not.
But he does seem to have a moment with Glenn, when he offers to drive him back to his boarding school. "Why does everything turn out crappy?" asks Glenn. "Everything you think is gonna make you happy turns to crap." Don considers that carefully, then asks, "If you could do anything, what would you do?"
Glenn's answer, it seems, is to drive a car. Interesting. Is the point here that Glenn looks for something simple? Or is it that the thing he wants to do more than anything is the thing that Don has spent his whole life selling, or trying to sell?
"Mad Men" occasionally steps into the surreal with these big incidents, such as Lane's suicide or the lawnmower. When it does, it suddenly feels like we're watching a different show, perhaps because most of the other things that happen on this show are subtle, quiet, not inconsequential but easily confused as such.
This will clearly have lasting psychological consequences for everyone, though, not least of whom is Don. We'll see how he handles it in next week's season finale episode.