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'Mad Men' Episode 10 Review and Recap: Lane, Joan and Harry Dance the 'Christmas Waltz' on Thin Ice

Television
by Beth Hanna
May 21, 2012 6:02 AM
5 Comments
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AMC 'Mad Men'

'Tis the season to know not what you want, just that you're wanting. Spoilers ahead!

What happened:

Lane is in trouble.

After racking up $8K in tax evasion dues and facing the possibility of jail, he looks into questionable ways of acquiring the money quickly. He asks the Sterling Cooper Draper Price creditor to advance the company $50K, and then brings up the possibility of Christmas bonuses during a meeting with Don, Roger, Pete and Bertram. Though Pete is confident that SCDP can win back Jaguar, the partners are reluctant to give the immediate OK on handsome holiday bonuses.

Harry Crane meets up with Paul Kinsey at a Hare Krishna worship group. Kinsey has seemingly converted, with a shaved head, monk's clothing and a pretty, blissed-out friend who goes by Mother Lakshmi. Harry looks even more out of place at a Krishna gathering than he did at the Rolling Stones concert but, thanks to flirtatious eyes and heavy chanting (and panting) from Mother Lakshmi, Harry is convinced to stay for the service.

Of course nothing is quite as it seems. Over dinner, Kinsey confesses to Harry that his main reason for joining Krishna is his infatuation with Lakshmi. Also: He wouldn't mind borrowing a bit of cash from Harry, or for Harry to read his "Star Trek" spec script and pass it on to his connections at NBC.

Meanwhile, in a beautiful, wordless sequence, Lane forges Don's signature on a check. This was a moment when this season's melodramatic score worked.

Joan has her own share of trouble. A smarmy Roger confronts her about the child support he repeatedly sends her and that she won't accept, and then soon-to-be-ex-husband Greg serves her with divorce papers. After Joan practically flies across the desk at the secretary who let the process server into the office, Don sees that Joan needs a break. He takes her along with him to the Jaguar dealership, where they play husband and wife and ultimately test drive a shiny XK-E. This sequence was a nice callback to "Lady Lazarus," when Don acted out a marriage skit with Peggy for Cool Whip clients. Where Peggy and Don made an awkward, spatting "couple," Don and Joan look cool and comfortable in their made-up roles. (Notice how pleased Joan looks wearing Don's jacket before they depart to the Jaguar dealership -- after being through hell and back with Greg, she's luxuriating in the dreamland of being Mrs. Draper.)

The idea of "Don and Joan" has mostly been sidestepped throughout the series, and their one-on-one sequences in this week's episode are perfect. When the two go out for drinks, Don admits that Joan initially "scared the shit out of him" when he first came to SCDP, and that there was once an ongoing office joke about whether or not she was a lesbian. Joan's knockout looks can often distract from the truth about her character: She's shrewd, intensely organized and handles tough office situations when the men of SCDP are scared to. Remember how she responded during the infamous lawnmower emergency in Season 3? That's Joan. She intimidates men. It makes perfect sense that Don has never approached her in a serious way.

Mother Lakshmi arrives unannounced to Harry Crane's office, and seduces him by bending invitingly over his desk. Harry is always on the heels of his next infidelity, and this situation is no different. Once the sex is over, Lakshmi reveals her true purpose in visiting him. She wants him to stay away from Kinsey. Her romantic feelings for Kinsey are nil, but: "He's our best recruiter. He really can close."

The episode ends with two lies and a rousing speech. First, Lane fabricates a reason to his wife for staying in New York for Christmas (Jaguar "came crawling back to me"), as opposed to returning to Britain, where the heat from his tax evasions would be too scalding for comfort. Second, Harry tells Kinsey that NBC loved his awful "Star Trek" script (which involves a woeful "Negron" complex), but that he would be better advised to accept $500 and start over in Los Angeles.

It's revealed that key client Mohawk Airlines has suspended production indefinitely -- this is foreshadowed when Joan angrily smashes the Mohawk model plane. Money will be tight at SCDP, and the partners must delay their Christmas bonuses. Don takes off his jacket (continuing the season-long Super Man trope) and gives a classic speech to the entire office detailing how the company must band together in the coming six weeks and land Jaguar. Lane the embezzler looks nauseous.

"Things for you and for me":

Consumerism and commodification play a big role in this episode. Kinsey's stint in Hare Krishna is the most salient example. We learn that his reason for joining the religion is based in sex -- he's obsessed with Mother Lakshmi. He also hasn't achieved the inner peace he projects in the opening sequence, as he admits to Harry over dinner that he can't clear his mind of ambition. When Lakshmi reveals to Harry her reasons for keeping Kinsey with Krishna, notice how quickly she shifts into straight ad man talk. Hare Krishna needs closers as much as SCDP's Jaguar account.

Despite Kinsey's professed love for Mother Lakshmi, it doesn't take much more than Harry offering him $500 to drop the idea of eternal love and head for the Hollywood hills. Yet this was tinged with sadness. Kinsey willingly believes that Harry loved his script and that the money he gives him is start-up for a promising new career. Actually Harry's just buying his way out of an uncomfortable situation.

(I loved Kinsey's meta throwaway line when Harry asks him if his "Star Trek" script is about Hare Krishna: "Not literally, but they don't tell literal stories." What a perfect description of "Mad Men.")

Megan and Don attend the play "America Hurrah," and Don watches testily as an ad man-esque character rails against TV commercials. Later Don expresses his frustration that Megan's actor friend -- who so enthusiastically performed in anti-consumerist theater -- didn't mind having Don foot the bill for dinner beforehand. This is a jab at Megan's character, too. Despite Megan's new-age acting classes and fluency with hippie music and trends, she's still a comfortable housewife enjoying a life of wealth at Don's expense.

Don claims that the Jaguar does nothing for him, yet he still drives it back to the dealership with relish. Of course he's feeling invigorated from his playfully flirtatious evening with Joan. But he also works in advertising, and material acquisitions mean power.

Don's line to Joan when describing her admirer at the bar perfectly encapsulates the message of this episode: "He doesn't know what he wants, just that he's wanting."

Also, it's not surprising that Joan's jukebox selection and the title of this week's episode is Doris Day's "The Christmas Waltz":

Frosted window panes
Candles gleaming inside
Painted candy canes on the tree
Santa's on his way,
He's filled his sleigh
With things, things for you and for me


Other interpretations or ideas? Thoughts about the episode?

Television
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More: Mad Men, AMC , Television, TV Reviews

5 Comments

  • Beth Hanna | May 26, 2012 5:49 PMReply

    @LD -- Re: Joan's line about midtown: I think she was implying that they could be seen by any number of ad men folk who would recognize them and start gossiping. Re: Don gunning the Jag: I thought Don looked turned on in that scene, either from the vroom-vroom power that the car was giving him, or from the ego boost of having flirted with Joan all evening. Earlier in the Jaguar showroom, Don makes a number of sly comments about "taking the car for a ride" (or something along those lines), which definitely seemed like a double entendre for wanting to have sex with Joan. Which is why I think he drives the car "hard" in that one shot.

  • LD | May 26, 2012 5:47 AMReply

    And i actually thought Don gunned the engine of the Jaguar out of frustration, like he isnt getting anything out of the experience and that troubles him a little...or perhaps he's letting out the angst of all that ugly past that his afternoon with Joan has dredged up....?

  • LD | May 26, 2012 5:39 AMReply

    What do you think Joan meant when she replied to Don asking her to dance: "You and me in midtown? You with that look on your face?"

    I took Don's gunning the Jaguar engine as he drove it back to the showroom as frustration that he couldn't get anything out of the experience try as he might...

  • Beth Hanna | May 22, 2012 12:17 PMReply

    @FG -- With each episode that I review, because of time constraints, I need to pick and choose which aspects I want to focus on. I opted to leave out the Megan freak-out scene (I've already delved into the violent Megan-Don relationship in my reviews for episodes "A Little Kiss" and "Faraway Places") and instead focus on the interesting aspects of Megan and Don seeing the anti-consumerist play "America Hurrah."

  • fg | May 22, 2012 8:53 AMReply

    where was the part about Megan freaking out over Don coming home late and wasted??

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