Mad Men Recap: Rites of Passage [UPDATED]

Mad Men Season 5 RecapIf you have yet to watch this week’s Mad Men, you probably don’t want to keep reading. Everyone else, please proceed… 

Let’s get a slow clap going for Mad Men, because the AMC series is winding up its fifth season in rather epic fashion, and it’s still got one more episode to go! The drama followed up Peggy’s departure bombshell last week by offing one of its standbys and gently easing another into adulthood. Let’s review how the stellar “Commissions and Fees” set us up for next week’s season finale.

How Don got his groove back | Don got all fired up about wanting bigger clients, which prompted Roger to get him a meeting with Dow’s Ed Baxter, who’s also Ken’s father-in-law. (Incidentally, Ken’s payoff for staying out of the way/helping make it happen was that he gets “forced” onto the account if they get it, and that Pete has no part in the venture.) And 48 hours later, Draper and Sterling sat down with the same man who told Don no one would work with him after the Lucky Strike letter. Choice bit number one:

ROGER: You should go in there and keep your cool. But if he baits you, I want you to punch him in the balls.

DON: What happened to your enlightenment?

ROGER: I don’t know. It wore off.

And even after some of Baxter’s associates were impressed when Don spun Dow-produced Napalm as an all-American, git-’er-done tool (the guy seriously is an ad genius), Ken’s father-in-law maintained that he was happy with their current ad company… cueing up choice bit number two:

DON: Are you? You’re happy with 50 percent? You’re on top, and you don’t have enough. You’re happy because you’re successful. For now. But what is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness. I won’t settle for 50 percent of anything. I want 100 percent. You’re happy with your agency? You’re not happy with anything. You don’t want most of it, you want all of it. And I won’t stop until you get all of it. Thank you for your time.

Ladies and gentlemen, though the slang term won’t be coined for several decades after the one in which this show is set, Don is a BALLER.

Lane leaves | As Lane accepted the honor of being the head of the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ fiscal committee, the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce partners met. Agenda items: Scarlett, filling in Joan’s former role, didn’t really know how to run a meeting; Pete had some new business on tap; and Jaguar wanted to pay via a fee structure instead of a commission, to Don’s dismay. “I already said no. Or should I leave so you all can do whatever you want?” he said, looking pointedly at Joan, who quickly averted her eyes. Ouch. The partners agreed to look into it, and apparently Bert got right on that task, because he was in Don’s office a few minutes later with the check that Lane forged. Instead of disavowing all knowledge, Draper accepted the dressing-down Bert gave him and then called Lane in for a come-to-Jesus talk. Jared Harris’s episode-long incredible performance began when Pryce jovially mentioned his 4As appointment, then quickly moved through flat-out lying — insinuating that Don did sign the check and simply forgot — to puffed-up indignation and then flat-out pleading. The “13-day loan” would be paid off by Easter, he promised, but Don asked for his resignation nonetheless. “I have never been compensated for my contributions to this company, including my role in its very existence!” yelled the Brit, realizing that he was going to lose his visa. Begging Don to reconsider didn’t work, either. Draper told him to take the weekend and come up with “an elegant exit,” advice that Lane took literally. Unaware of both Lane’s dismissal and their financial problems, Rebecca surprised her husband with a Jaguar she’d bought with a check. He tried to kill himself in the snazzy roadster via carbon monoxide poisoning, but the automotive line’s legendary unreliability meant that his first attempt failed. (Lane tinkering around under the hood, using his broken glasses as a monocle, was morbidly hilarious.) Sadly, Pryce’s second try went much better — or worse — and Joan, Pete, Ken, and Harry discovered him hanging from a noose in his office. Exit? Definitely. Elegant? Not so much. But kudos to the Mad Men makeup team for Lane’s ligature marks and broken blood vessels. After Don, Roger, and Pete cut Lane down and laid him on the couch, Roger discovered the SCDP purseholder’s note: a boilerplate resignation letter. I hate that Lane’s no longer among the living, but Harris’s work in this episode is worth every accolade tossed his way.

Sally’s not a girl, not yet a… wait, nevermind | Betty, wearing a chunky sweater that did her no favors, fought with Sally over the latter’s resistance to a family ski trip. They argued like little girls until Bets called Don in frustration and announced that he and Megan would watch Sally for the weekend because “it’s your child bride she wants to spend time with.” (Ha!) Megan took her stepdaughter for lunch with Julia, where Sally let on that she had a boyfriend. “A boyfriend is a person who makes you feel special, a person who knows you,” Megan said, big sister-style. “And holding hands is plenty.” Yeah, Sally, save the sexy French pop performance and borderline domestic violence for until after you’re married. On Monday morning, when Don went to work and Megan left for an audition, said boyfriend — Glen! — showed up to hang out with his frequent phone date. Their innocent awkwardness (his prep school tie and chocolate-milk mustache, her make-up and go-go boots, plus the fact that they went to the Museum of Natural History) was too cute. Things went pretty well until Sally got her period, right there in the North American mammals hall. At least it wasn’t in the Hall of Ocean Life; that huge whale hanging from the ceiling is traumatizing enough as it is. Sally stranded Glen and took a cab home, where her mother, Henry, and the boys had just come back from skiing. Betty stepping up and comforting her embarrassed kid provided a nice counterpoint to their bitchy bickering at the beginning of the episode. And when Don came home to find Glen killing time at the apartment until his train left for school, Draper volunteered to drive him back. “Why does everything turn out crappy?” the boy asked Don, who was surprised to hear such cynicism from someone so young. (Get used to it, Draper. The ’70s will soon be upon you.) Beat down by Lane’s suicide and the effort of his fervent Dow pitch, Don was a bit more mellow than usual. “If you could do anything,” he asked his former neighbor, “what would you do?” Cut to Glen driving Don’s car back to school, with the ad man in the passenger seat guiding the wheel when necessary. Despite the episode’s grim nature, Glen’s barely contained grin ended it on an up note.

Now it’s your turn. With Mad Men upping the stakes in the past few weeks, what do you think the series has planned for next week’s finale? Hit the comments and let’s hear it!

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