TV in Review: Mad Men, “Commissions and Fees”
June 4, 2012 3 Comments
When I learned that this week’s episode was going to be called “Commissions and Fees,” it felt logical. After the entire build-up over the season — and particularly the punch-to-the-gut quality of last week’s episode, “The Other Woman” — it seemed that there would be a build-up of accounts to settle. And yeah, that’s kind of what happened, so step away from the door if you don’t want to see the spoilers inside.
We resume the action where we left off, with plaudits arrive in bulk for the brave men (and woman) who captured the Jaguar account. Of course, by now watchers of Mad Men should know better than to feel comfortable. Ever. Particularly when things appear to be going good. Don’s getting a sharp haircut, but has to be wondering whether it was Joan’s body that prevailed over his mind in winning that account.
I really liked the writing this week, even more than usual. Yes, the plot was compelling, but the dialogue was also extra sharp, humorous, and striking.
For one, there’s a welcome mixture of humor with the tension present in the partners’ meeting near the start of the episode. The humor accentuates the tension and the tension accentuates the humor.
SCARLETT: Shouldn’t we have a vote on the fee versus commission, um, question?
DON: I already said no. Or should I leave, so you all can do whatever you want?
Some of the adrenaline stems from the old shark-like Don waking up and deciding to set his sights on getting a huge account — Dow Chemical.
ROGER: You going to tell me what you’re going to talk about, or is my look of surprise part of the sales pitch?
Don tries to win them over with a concentrated dose of his testosterone.
DON: But what is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness….You don’t want most of it, you want all of it. And I won’t stop until you get all of it.
That approach is fun to watch, and might be effective. But hasn’t Don already seen some of the downfalls of his manly man act? Aren’t there also pitfalls to the winner-take-all approach? Might it lead to losers-losing-all?
Speaking of which, Lane gets offered a position on the fiscal board of the 4A’s (American Association of Advertising Agencies), and we think “Goody! More opportunity to embezzle!” when we hear the news. I would have loved it for him to get away with it, if only because it would fit in with my favorite Mad Men moments of giving us the unexpected.
Lane makes a pretty good case for himself while protesting to Don, arguing that it was intended as a 13 day loan, and that he’s never been properly compensated for what he’s done for the firm. But Don, a man who has broken trust many a time, cannot tolerate that from another man, within the business world.
DON: Take the weekend. Think of an elegant exit.
It’s a contrast in character. Don knows depravity, but figures that one (or at least one white man) can always remake oneself in the ole US of A. Lane is a little more aware of technicalities such as visa requirements.
LANE: I feel a bit light-headed.
DON: That’s relief. I’ve started over a lot, Lane. This is the worst part.
There’s plenty of dark humor in Lane’s self-destruction, not the least of which is the feint that when we think we’re about to get what we’ve been waiting for (a suicide), the Jaguar fails and Lane’s elaborate machinations are temporarily foiled.
Lane finds his exit, eventually. Lane can no longer take being an adult man with all that he thinks it means, while Don is too much of a man, and as for Sally…
BETTY: She became a woman today. She started.
That’s right, Betty reminds us that someone still has to raise those two brats kids.
SALLY: I’m old enough that I can stay alone while you go and laugh your heads off.
BETTY: Fine, I’ll leave you locked in a trunk!
Sally’s escapade with Glen was nuanced, complex, and an intriguing narrative in that it gave us tension, surprise, and drama without being predictable or trite. Plus, it gave us some captivating imagery.
A lot happened in this episode as they all strain to handle life as best they can, but we’re left at the end with creepy kid representing us all.
GLEN: Why does everything turn out crappy?
Yeah, so whoever thought the suicide sweepstakes would bring us Lane Pryce in the office, you were right. For those of you who thought it would be Pete Campbell in the elevator shaft, there’s one episode left in the season.
Only one episode left. It’s going to be a long summer.
AMC first broadcast Season 5, Episode 12 of Mad Men on June 3, 2012.
Polentical: TV in Review, “The Other Woman” (Season 5, Episode 11)
Suspended, in Suspenders: Mad Men Season 5, Episode 12: The Last Act of a Desperate Man
Deer in the Xenon-Arc Lights: Mad Men – Commissions and Fees
Telephoria: MAD MEN: Scene of the Week
From the Mixed-Up Files of E.L. Erwin: Great Moments in Menstruation 4/90