Monday, September 27, 2010

Mad Men - "Hands and Knees"

Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) and Trudy (Alison Brie) enjoy a kick from their baby.
Photo Credit: AMC
Review by Paul Steven Brown

'Mad Men'
Season 4 - Episode 10
"Hands and Knees"

Don Draper, or should I say Dick Whitman, has been carrying around the secret of his dual identity for about two decades. Due to unforeseen circumstances, a few people have learned about it. Two of them, Betty and Pete, have the burden of this knowledge creep unexpectedly into their own lives. For the first time, we actually get to see Don deal with the very real possibility of Army finding out that he deserted all those years ago.

Don has been slowly putting his life back together since his divorce with Betty. As we saw in "The Summer Man", he's drinking less, channelling his thoughts into a journal, and exercising regularly. Now, thanks to a background probe by the Defense Department due to SCDP potentially becoming the advertising agency for a defense contractor, North American Aviation, he faces a real possibility of getting caught.

When the agents come to the Francis household, Betty is understandably nervous, but she really pulls through for Don. She had the perfect opportunity to get him out of her life completely, but ultimately decided to protect him. While I don't think that Betty still loves Don, there must be some part of her that cares enough not to see him hauled off to jail. Interestingly enough, the incident motivates her to talk to her current husband, Henry, in the hopes that he won't keep secrets from her like Don did.

Pete falls on his sword for Don as a result of this incident. He's been nurturing this defense contract for about three years (we saw the beginnings of this process back in season two). It's completely understandable that he would be upset at the prospect of having to ditch it due to Don's personal fears. Still, he can't seem to find it in himself to betray Don. Is this loyalty, or does he see SCDP not surviving without Don's creative mojo?

This whole situation could not come at a worse time. After decades of business with Sterling Cooper and now SCDP, Lucky Strike has decided to do business elsewhere so the company can consolidate their brands under one ad house. Roger is very distraught and insulted by the move. He has jumped through a lot of hoops to make Lee Garner Jr. happy (most recently by dressing up as Santa Claus at the SCDP Christmas Party and posing with people on his knee), and this feels like a betrayal. To make matters even more complicated, Roger isn't telling anyone at SCDP (even after Pete lies about how they lost the NAA account) in an attempt to drum up business with in thirty days. Needless to say, SCDP could have really used NAA at this point.

Another complication is Lane's leave of absence. He's heading home to England to reconnect with his estranged wife and family. He had grown comfortable with his life in New York and even found a new girlfriend. This all falls apart when his father comes to town to persuade him to come back. Lane really acts like a defiant teenager, rather than a man that has made a mature decision. While Lane's feelings for his new girlfriend seem genuine, he flaunts the fact that she's black in his father's face and parades her around like some symbol of his free will. Lane isn't any better than Paul Kinsey, who did something similar a few seasons ago.

Since Lane is acting childish, his father treats him so, and smacks him with his cane. It's brutal but an effective. Lane may revel in his new found independence, but he can still be bullied by his father. Robert Pryce is calmly played by veteran character actor W. Morgan Sheppard. I wonder if he has ever played in some adaption of Moby Dick, because his face and voice just scream Captain Ahab. As a result of this exchange, Lane takes his leave of SCDP in similar manner to his separation from his former employers, signifying that he may not return. He states that Joan will be charge of his duties, which would certainly raise status at SCDP.

Speaking of Joan, her recent adrenaline fulled liaison with Roger resulted in a pregnancy. Making this even sadder is the fact that she and her husband had been trying to have a child of their own before he went off to basic training. Through the last few episodes, it has become clearer that Joan feels increasingly isolated. Greg is heading to Vietnam right after basic. Just talking to Roger leads to his pleas for romantic reconnection. Peggy is probably the only woman at the office in a position of power that she could relate too, but as we saw a few episodes back, the two have different ideas as how they handle their public images. Maybe she could become friends with Dr. Faye the other mature and independent woman that has been walking the halls of SCDP.

If there is any positive outcome of all the dire situations that developed in "Hands and Knees", it's the further lowering of Don's guard in relation to Faye. He comes clean about his past after she witnesses his massive panic attack. This is a sign that he wants her in his life and that he does not want to repeat the mistakes he made with Betty. They make plans to meet on Saturday (which I hope do not conflict with his promise to take Sally to see the Beatles), but the episode ends with his gaze falling on to the young, pretty Megan. I hope he doesn't fall back into any bad patterns.

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