Episode 512 -- Death and Taxes: Paying The Pryce, Plus The Sally In The Rye!

Mad Men 5-12“Commissions and Fees,” the aptly titled next-to-last episode of the season (gulp!), focuses on the fallout from acting on impulse. Shit sure happens when the bill comes due.

In this case, however, the payback was lightening quick -- a lot faster than I expected. Though it has hung over our heads all season (and since the very beginning, shown in the animated opening), we finally got our falling man. But he was hanging up. Indeed, the chief financial officer’s last name is working overtime in the paying-the-price department. And in his Christ-like repose on the back of his office door, has Lane Pryce died for the agency’s sins?

Meanwhile, Don’s killer instinct is back. He’s like a wolf going after raw meat when he meets with Dow Chemical. (And Roger mentions the blood on his face.) But does Don also have blood on his hands? Given his half brother Adam’s similar end, does that mean he is a serial killer? And now that he’s back on the road, in the only place he feels free, will he start reliving the Hobo Code? Lots of questions to chew on.



Poor desperate embezzler Lane’s very grim death storyline was juxtaposed with the very anxious birth of a woman.  No longer little, Sally gets her period on a date with Glen while viewing the age-old dioramas of stuffed bison families at the Museum of Natural History. In this scenario, watching through the glass, (just as Don watched a man and a woman prepare for some sexual act through the department store window in the promo posters) Sally is meant to be Eve to his Adam, starting a whole new Family of Man -- or, um, Mad Men.

Mad Men 5-12Or not. Next to Sally, and in his blue blazer, Glen looks all growed up. But he’s really just a badly mothered kid with a rep tie and a slightly repulsive ‘stache.

Did someone say rep tie? Let’s get this whole “Catcher in the Rye” thing over with before we get back to Don’s killer instincts. Glen, aka “creepy Glen,” is of course played by Matthew Weiner’s son, Marten. Full name? Marten Holden Weiner. (Not making that up!) So clearly, the showrunner himself has some sort of “Catcher In The Rye” fixation.

In the Salinger story, Holden escapes his prep school and all the “phonies” (Sally tells Glen Betty is so “phony”) to spend a few illicit days in New York CIty before his parents know he’s there. He’s obsessed with the animal dioramas in the Museum of Natural History, natch. (The ducks were saved for a “Sopranos” scenario, I guess.) There are prostitutes. Also, Holden takes a girl he pines for, named Sally, to a play, and visits his favorite person in the world, his very wise little sister Phoebe. Glen tells Sally that he thinks of her as a “little sister, but smart.”

Lots of viewers love to heap scorn on creepy Glen. (And apparently so do the Hotchkiss upperclassmen, although what they deposit in his locker is worse than scorn.) I thought his acting was better, and more natural, when he was younger. But now that he’s in that humongously awkward adolescent phase, he’s also stilted physically.  Still, the scenes with Sally were just the right amount off-kilter to foreshadow something odd and poignant happening.  She got to wear her awesome white patent go-go boots of womanhood for the occasion (the ones that Don earlier insisted she take off, when Megan’s dad said she would soon “spread her legs.”). Earlier, if you recall, Sally rejected the ski boots Betty got her, because they belonged to another girl, and they were “smelly.”

Mad Men
5-12Sally can order coffee and talk about a “boyfriend” with Megan and her friend all she wants. But when life comes at you, and you realize that in the end we are all just animals responding to our bodily functions (and pubescent boys’ scary hair growth) it's any shoe in a storm. And Sally hotfoots it back to Rye. (Ahem!)

She has to hurl herself at less-fat, but still-cold, Betty to find any motherly succor. But Betty did warm to the task, after a fashion, (and of course used the incident to make herself feel better, vis-a-vis Megan.) Still, they had something of a cuddle on the bed, as Betty passed on the wisdom of female responsibility, and daughters having daughters. (On a side note, I believe this was the first time menstrual blood was approximated on a TV screen. Just from watching TV commercials, a Martian would assume it’s blue water. Surely, if we’re also showing a bloated dead gray head, we can learn to deal with a shot of a little clotted blood on white panties.)

But let’s get back to this family of man, or Don, or Dick, the animus he returns to when Don hits the road.

Mad Men 5-12The weird thing is that Glen has somehow interacted  personally (and mostly perversely) with just about everyone in the Draper clan. He has a way of infiltrating. First there was his romance with Betty. She found a soft spot for him as they became children together, and a cold hard anger (just like Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate”) when she found out he was romancing (as much as a smelly lug can romance) her daughter. And we can all diss Betty for being a bad mom, but did you notice how Don received Sally when he came home from work? He never took the time to tell Megan she was coming, and then never hugged his daughter or even said hello properly when he saw her on the couch, with her Wise Potato Chips. The only real interaction came when he rudely barked at her through the bedroom door (just as he treated Peggy!) that she was staying home Monday morning. He was actually nicer to Glen than he was to Sally. (More on that later.)

And in between, Glen and Megan also had a moment. She asks if he’d like something to eat, and the prepster with the Nat Turner paper due suavely counters, “If you don’t mind.”

I’ve been putting off  the Lane storyline, because it’s just too damn sad! I guess we learned everything we had to about him when we saw his father caning him: he’s been shamed and humiliated, and he won’t let it happen again. Pitifully, he’s filled with fury, but so repressed that he is unable to express it directly until it’s too late.

“Mad Men,” of course, is filled with ironies and, like life, very unattractive human hypocrisies.

Mad Men 5-12There’s Don, who actually stole an identity, and lied to and cheated on countless women, etc. etc., now establishing himself as the agency ethicist: Lane stole from the company, so Don can’t trust him, and he’s out. As with the tobacco letter, Don made the decision impulsively, without checking with the partners. (He thought he was doing Lane a favor giving him time to engineer an “elegant exit.”) What people like Don can’t understand is that there are others who are far more fragile and unable to compartmentalize -- as he and Peggy do so easily. Don didn’t see that THIS job, with Lane’s name on the door, was all he ever wanted, and that he couldn’t consider rereinventing himself: he already did that to come to America, and sacrificed everything to stay there. Jared Harris’ acting when confronted by Don is brilliant; his most desperate plea involves “making it right by Easter.” (His potential resurrection.)

I wondered whether, after Lane left Don’s office, and lingered tentatively at Joan’s door, he intended to spill the beans and work out a rational plan with her. (In a sort of reversal of the week before, when he told Joan to go for the partnership.)  But she brings up the 4A’s honor. (He was named head of the “Fiscal Control Committee” for the august trade association -- talk about irony!) That appointment comes with a trip to the Greenbrier, where Lane can bring his wife, or not. (At this West Virginia resort, the mostly black staff walks around with keys around their necks, so it sounds as if they’re in chains. And by 10 p.m. or so, the hotel puts up signs reading “Shh --  it’s sleepy-bye time in the South.” Or at least they did that through the late 1980s.)

Mad Men 5-12Joan also mentions wanting to take an Easter vacation. Lane is immediately brought back to the present, and uses the ugliness of last week against her, in bringing up the hot bikini bit. But he also talks about a way to honor the “death and resurrection of our Lord.”

No rebirth in sight. Lane’s wife Rebecca surprises him with a fabulous sporty green Jaguar, and he immediately hurls at the sight. (And what the agency did to get the account is indeed hurl-worthy.) I thought the bit with the car not starting was heavy-handed. I also was shocked that he would try to commit suicide in a public garage -- I’ve never seen that before!

Despite all Lane has done, with his weird fingering of the photo of the mob moll at his desk, and his love affair with his “chocolate bunny,” by the time I saw that he was making preparations to die, I started to cry. That shot of him trying to fix the Jag with his glasses broken down into a monocle was killing me, as Holden might say. And then to bring the act to the office, after typing out a “boilerplate” resignation letter, was a double eff-you to Don.

And then we have Don, the ultimate Hollow Man, going through his Heart of Darkness stuff with the guy from Dow. Is it just me, or is it too obvious to mention the abundant hypocrisy in giving up cigarettes to wholeheartedly embrace napalm?

Mad Men 5-12Don’s crazed performance in that office reminded me of the “I love the smell of napalm in the morning!” guy (played by Robert Duvall) in “Apocalypse Now.” When Don tells Ed Baxter & Co how unhappy they should be with “50% of anything” because they should want “100%,” he was talking about himself. And maybe now he realizes that he’ll never have 100% of Megan.

Yup, Don’s got his mojo working again, turning back into Dick. He has an insatiable appetite for fleeing and remaking himself, so when presented with the opportunity to leave and hit the road with Glen, he does.

Something felt weird and incestuous in that final scene, with Don acting all paternal and fraternal in the car with Weiner’s son. A boy’s ultimate dream -- to be at the wheel, at night, in the open road -- is Don’s, too. The scene paralleled the one in an earlier season with Sally at the wheel herself at 8 or 9, driving to school with her grandpa, who soon died. And in the third season, Don drives the crazy brother of one of his mistresses (Sally’s schoolteacher) back to school, too.

But back to this season, and Don’s discovery of the tragedy in the office. He and Roger come back sloshed from the Dow Chemical meeting, and Roger makes a joke about calling in  “the men in the white coats.”  They see an empty agency, and Roger says, “Hello?”

Don’s horror at possibly being the cause of yet another hanging death forces him to bring some dignity to the scene. “We can’t leave him like that,” he says, and he, Roger and Pete cut Lane down. (That was actually Jared Harris with makeup.) The scene was brutal, and unforgettable, with the two soldiers laying Lane’s body on the couch, as if he’s napping.

Next week is the last of the season. There has to be fallout from the fallout.  Ken Cosgrove already expressed his distaste at a possible partnership, because it’s been so stained. Is Sterling, Draper & Cooper about to combust?

14 comments about "Episode 512 -- Death and Taxes: Paying The Pryce, Plus The Sally In The Rye!".
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  1. Jonathan Hutter from EMHS (Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems), June 5, 2012 at 9:34 p.m.

    Can someone help me understand Lane breaking his own glasses? My interpretation is that they are the symbol of being bullied, brought to the fore most clearly when Lane comes into the office, his glasses taped together, like a schoolboy who's afraid of being bullied might look. Other thoughts? Unlike you Dorothy, I thought the black humor of the Jag not starting was classic, almost hysterical. I spent most of the episode, from the point Don fired him, yelling at Lane, don't do it! I was hoping the absurdity of the Jag scene might bring him to his senses. The end was so sad on so many levels, I had to tell myself at the end, it's just fiction.

  2. Scotty Reiss from, June 6, 2012 at 10:08 a.m.

    OK, I have to admit, at first, I thought your blog was obsessive overkill. But I'm increasingly loving your turn by turn retelling of each episode, nuances, subplots, insidery tidbits and all. Thank you for the Catcher in the Rye similairities--I'd forgotten much of it. And for the Weiner clan's clinging to all that is Caulfieldesque--delicious (but really, how could Matthew name his kid Holden Weiner...?). To answer JH, Lane's breaking of his glasses seemed a final 'I don't need you, cruel world' motion, and showed his confidence in what he was about to do; I also thought the Jag refusing to start was ironic and thought for a moment it might derail his plan. BL/DP, thank you for all the insights; I look forward to rewatching the season and sopping up all I missed the first time.

  3. Marla Goldstein from Around The Bend Media, June 6, 2012 at 1:39 p.m.

    Lane's indiscretions vis a vis embezzling from the agency were especially pointed for Don. After all, it was Don's name he forged on the bogus check, which was brought to Don's attention by Bert. Don really had no choice other than to allow Lane to save face by offering him the opportunity to resign, rather than having him cashiered and making his sins known to the entire company. It's not just that he stole the $8000. He fraudulently had their line of credit extended by $50,000 and then lied to the other partners. And he was the CFO! None of this was Don's responsibility. Nor do his actions in any way make him a hypocrite. What Lane did, up to and including his suicide, are all on Lane.

  4. Dean Fox from ScreenTwo LLC, June 6, 2012 at 2:53 p.m.

    Although I enjoy all of your ideas and insights, Barbara, this week doesn't make it for me. Where last week's episode and your remarks about it's many themes and implications were absolutely brilliant, this week was a very disappointing hodgepodge of odds (very odd) and ends (pointing to next week's finale). I don't expect the writers to reach last week's heights with every episode, but I felt manipulated and abused with every hamfisted plot device thrown into the stew this week. Weiner's and your efforts to prove that these characters were behaving consistently by pointing to some random past behavior were just not persuasive, and could be easily countered. Lane's wife blythely writing a check for an expensive sports car? Don firing Lane without some word of explanation to the other partners, who would presumably have to agree? Don's sudden demand to pitch Dow, after just losing his right hand creative, Peggy? I didn't buy any of this.

  5. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc., June 6, 2012 at 5:39 p.m.

    I admit I knew the Jag wasn't going to start. After all, Cooper had said that very thing in a previous episode, "They never start," and Britmobiles were notorious for constant breakdowns. And perversely, I thought of you, Barbara, and your nom de plume, so I said to Lane, "You might as well live." As to his treatment by Don, I think it was princely: Don was going to allow him to resign and told him he would take care of the $8 grand. Much better than he deserved. A bit more stiff upper lip and he could have gone out and found himself another job. Finally, don't know why Lane would break his glasses, but I saw in a cop film once that jumpers usually take their glasses off and put them in their pockets before they jump.

  6. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, June 6, 2012 at 9:03 p.m.

    Barbara, your pointing out the hypocrisy of Don going after the company that manufactures Napalm after he penned his lauded page ad about the evils of the tobacco industry wasn't something that registered with me - thanks for the observation. The scene where there was discussion about a change in agency compensation was 15-20 years ahead of its time. I was working in media planning at Y&R in the 1980's and I recall that cllient discussion of shifting compensation from 15% commission to a fee-based agreement was very novel. Finally, how many times can Jaguar be disparaged before viewers start thinking that the quality issue is something that still exists? Perhaps "Mad Men" has a reverse product placement arrangement with the company whereby they compensate them for dissing the car!

  7. Barry Abrams from M. Shanken Communications, June 7, 2012 at 9:58 a.m.

    Barbara - your review of this weeks episode was exceptionally insightful and as always a pleasure to read. Like it or not, Lane had it coming and the no-start Jag was a great gag, but one prop device that didn't make any sense was his middle of the night awakening whereby he left his apartment to the underground garage with a 25 ft garden hose. Seriously, who's got one of those in Manhattan?

  8. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, June 7, 2012 at 1:46 p.m.

    Lane's relationships had no depth. He was all surface. We know why but he never got passed it. He just moved on as was expected of him until he couldn't when his pain was beyond his control. He couldn't finish what he started, not even a Jaguar. Who else besides Don, who was in Korea on the battlefield could deal with a dead man? Don also has a void inside, but he found a way to deal with it even when its just a survival tactic. That was a battle cry for his 100% for Dow, but we all know how those lofty goals work out. His Megan still needs him, to be married, to have a nice place to live, to have propriety until she can move on. Too much for only one episode left.;(

  9. Richard Brayer from Car-X, June 7, 2012 at 3:06 p.m.

    sad indeed but realistic; I had been in my first job in Chicago at an agency in the wrgley building; the office windows opened in the buidling; we were on several floors 7 being the lowest

    a married "older " copy writer had been having a relationship with a very young female producer

    she became quite distraught as he broke it off

    I saw part of this escaped and the rest your honor is indeed hearsay from credible sources

    she stormed intohis office,opened the window adnwas attemting to get on the ledge to "jump"

    he grabbed her, pulled her back aand somehow got his body in halfway outthe window ( i think he kind of did that on purpose since most of his chewt was on theledge) it created great gossip and drama

    she got sent away , he got promoted

    whne I saw Lane tha memory came backsince inwtead of being a stupid drunken drama, it could have been a great tragedy

    Don was 110% in his hndling of Lane adn I think in " tough love kind of way" kind

    he basicaly said make a good reason to resign and we will let you exit with no baggage

  10. Kate Lafrance from Hartford Woman Online Magazine, June 8, 2012 at 2:02 a.m.

    This is one time I am enjoying the comments more than the OP. @Paula - especially like your analysis. I have been thinking about how unusual it is that Don seems to have the "perfect" solution and words for so many situations - for a poor boy who wouldn't have had much education - I came to the conclusion that he must have spent a lot of time at the movies as a child. His conversation with Lane about the money was right out of old Hollywood. Resignation. Saving face. Done deal.

  11. Maddy Mud from McMarketing, June 8, 2012 at 9:21 p.m.

    I thought for sure you would nail the perfect placement of the beacon of rebirth behind Lane in the shot at his desk. There were three silly tokens of the USA behind him --- the Liberty Bell, the Empire State (I think. Or Chrysler -- those two confuse me!), AND The Statue of Liberty. When they frame the shot up on Lane in his utter despair -- it's the Statue of Liberty that remains seen behind him. He came to be liberated from England, et. al, and in the end, her Majesty's duty did him in ...

  12. Barbara Lippert from, June 10, 2012 at 7:46 p.m.

    @Maddy Mud_-yes, had that down in my notes-- the perfect framing of Lane looking out at the falling snow, in a back of the head shot usually reserved for Don. Never got to it. But it was a beautiful shot, and certainly served to fake foreshadow the idea that he'd be the falling man.
    Most people seem to think the Jag not starting was an inspired joke, but also predicted it.@Tim-- chilling about the jumpers and the glasses. I guess the most obvious explanation is that he lost all perspective and couldn't see. @Dean: I agree that this was a weaker episode, and certainly much weaker than last week's. I think they had to do a lot of "laying of pipe" for next week. Ugh. Any predictions, guys? Love you all.

  13. Maddy Mud from McMarketing, June 20, 2012 at 2:55 a.m.

    yup -- I called the Jag not starting too, outloud to my wife. I loved him trying to fix it with the broken glasses he obviously had hated all his life ... that was a great touch ... they had been setting up that junky-Jag joke for quite awhile ...

  14. Cece Forrester from tbd, December 21, 2012 at 3:07 p.m.

    Almost caught up now.

    When I saw Sally dressed for Glen's arrival, I wondered how she got her hair into a perfect flip (even seen from the back) so quickly, for it was very disheveled that morning. In those days the usual procedure was to sleep in rollers the night before. Hot rollers weren't on the market yet as I recall. Maybe she managed with orange juice cans, Dippity-Do and a hair dryer? Bottom line, she has grown-up girl grooming tricks down already, rather unusual for that age, and, frankly, better than I ever did manage before the natural look came in.

    I really feel like Glen has outgrown his perverse phase. He comes off as genuinely respectful of Sally and his elders. Or are we just being lulled into thinking that?

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