Sunday, 14 November 2010

'MAD MEN' 4.10 - "Hands And Knees"

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Oh boy. Having started season 4 with Don's (Jon Hamm) professional life in the ascension and personal life moving in the opposite direction, recent episodes gave us hope that Don's turned a corner with his relationships, but "Hands And Knees" threatens the destruction of everything, through pure bad luck and poor judgment.

Roger (John Slattery) had to handle two terminations: Joan (Christina Hendricks) revealed their late-night fumble's resulted in a pregnancy, although she's determined to go through with an abortion; while Lee Garner Jr (Darren Pettie) drops the bombshell that Lucky Strike (a company Roger has dealt with for 30 years) have decided to part ways. This leaves Roger and SCDP in a precarious situation, as Lucky Strike's the major account holding the business's finances together, and the only feather in Roger's cap that makes him an invaluable partner. With Lucky Strike gone, the future looks bleak, and Roger has 30 days to either fix the situation (unlikely) or accept defeat and break the news to his colleagues.

There was a very unexpected subplot for Lane (Jared Harris) this week, too. His elderly father (W. Morgan Sheppard) arrived in town, so he took him to the Playboy Club, ostensibly to introduce him to a "bunnygirl" he's dating called Toni (Naturi Naughton), although the intention go unnoticed. Lane's clearly fallen in love with New York since leaving London. Have you noticed the Big Apple trinkets adorn his office now? Remember when his office contained a full suit of armour and other English antiquities? His adoration of the city, his commitment to SCDP as a partner, his recent marital split, and his eye-opening boy's night out (see "The Good News") has led him down a path his father does not approve of.

This became crystal clear when Lane formally introduced his dad to his "bunnygirl" lover again, this time at his home, and received a whack across the temple from a walking stick after Toni had left for dinner. Maybe it's the fact Toni is black, as Lane suggests? Maybe it's their age difference? The class difference? Probably all three. It was also a keen insight into exactly why Lane's found America so appealing; he's clearly escaped a domineering family, if his father's punishment for insubordination is any indication! New York offers Lane independence and a place to conciliate a midlife crisis with a young, nubile girlfriend... but is his father right to try and knock some sense into him, literally? Our sympathy is with Lane, naturally, but in considering his father's point of view... you can understand why he'd be angry his son isn't coming back to London to sort his affairs out, having apparently become bewitched by the bright lights of New York.

But the most compelling story again belonged to Don, who came to realize his past as a Korean War deserter, who stole another man's identity, might be exposed because of a US government security check. FBI agents arrived at Betty's (January Jones) to ask her questions about her ex-husband's patriotism and identity, all because Don had accidentally signed an agreement as part of a deal Pete's (Vincent Karthesier) organized over four years with North American Aviation worth $4 million.

It was a real shock to see Don crumble into a panic attack in front of girlfriend Faye (Cara Buono), after he mistook two men for Feds arriving to arrest him. He's such a debonair and calm individual, so it's always riveting when the scared farm boy of Dick Whitman comes to the fore. Quite unexpectedly, he told Faye the truth about his desertion from the army while she nursed him; doing in a few months of knowing her what took him years with Betty. A clear sign of Don's growing love and trust around Faye, or more a sign he's beginning to crack and can't carry the burden of his lies anymore? My guess is the latter, although maybe he should have just told Betty with similar promptness, as I'd assume her reaction would have been much the same. When you consider it, Don's actions in WWII were understandable and never harmed anyone (he even got the blessing of the real Don Draper's wife). It's just the fact he lied to Betty for so long that was the real problem. Well, amongst his other vices, like his womanizing.

As the title suggested, "Hand And Knees" put various characters into suppliant positions: Don crumbled into a shivering, vomiting wreck with the possibility of being arrested and publicly embarrassed; Roger being made to beg for a month's grace to Garner Jr; and Lane was literally sent crashing to the floor at the feet of his imperious father, humiliated like a scorned child.

Great episode, as the last three episodes beckon. What did you think?

  • I had to wince at Lane calling Toni his "chocolate bunny" as a term of endearment. Is that acceptable?
  • Actor W. Morgan Sheppard is an established British actor, who's appeared in numerous US shows through the years (Star Trek: TNG, Max Headroom, MacGyver, SeaQuest DSV, etc). He's also the father of Mark Sheppard, the actor with an even more prolific career in the US as a regular guest-star on shows like Battlestar Galactica, The X Files, Bionic Woman, Chuck, White Collar, Burn Notice, etc.
  • I'd almost forgotten that Pete knows Don's secret, as that was something that happened way back in season 1 and has rarely, if ever, been mentioned since. You had to feel sorry for Pete, being forced to cover for Don by bearing the brunt of everyone's disappointment he lost the NAA account – while actually sacrificing it to maintain his boss's liberty. Heck, it's feasible Don's punishment would be the death penalty back in the those days, although I think they'd go easy on him. Is there a chance Don will ever come clean before Mad Men ends? Is that the endgame for his character, perhaps?
  • All modern-day pregnant women need to wear what Trudy Campbell (Alison Brie) was wearing, agreed? That's a retro fashion I can live with. Who said blancmange?
  • Incidentally, apologies for the recent lateness of these reviews. As popular as these reviews are, I'm aware the show finished in the US weeks ago, so I'm organizing my time to focus on the TV shows that are fresher to worldwide audiences.
WRITERS: Jonathan Abrahams & Matthew Weiner
DIRECTOR: Lynn Shelton
TRANSMISSION: 10 November 2010, BBC4/HD, 10PM