Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mad Men Episode 5-10: Christmas Waltz

Recap: This episode reveals Lane Pryce trying to avoid imprisonment for an $8,000 shortfall in his British taxes by taking out a loan with the aid of an old acquaintance named Walt at Chemical Bank on behalf of SCDP and then trying to award himself and others Christmas bonuses. When his plan for bonuses fails to bring him the needed funds immediately, he cuts himself a check and forges Don’s signature. At home, he waffles between shouting at his wife, Rebecca, and deceptively sweet-talking her into remaining in New York over the holidays, rather than traveling to London to visit her parents, especially her ailing father.

Other featured characters in this episode are Harry Crane and the intellectual Paul Kinsey, who worked at Sterling Cooper before SCDP was formed. At first we see Harry having his in-office television turned off by Scarlett, the secretary who informs him that Paul Kinsey wants to meet with him. Harry decides to visit Paul at the address he is given, and discovers it is a Hare Krishna meeting where he finds Paul decked out in a robe and mostly shaved head.  Unable to get away due to Paul’s insistence, Harry joins the meeting led by a bored-looking Indian guru. Noting that everyone around him is kneeling and singing the Hare Krishna song, Harry joins in and is coached by a woman sitting next to him, “Mother Lakshmi,” who Paul later says was previously a runaway involved with drugs and prostitution. When Harry seems ready, Lakshmi directs Paul to take Harry for a bite to eat at a local restaurant, where Paul begins the slow sales job of recruiting Harry to the group.  Paul’s and Harry’s shared inclination to be candid with each other, though, brings them to a much more personal conversation in which Harry learns of Paul’s feelings of failure and his desperate desire to make a life with Lakshmi away from New York, possibly on a farm outside San Francisco. Paul also shows Harry a TV screenplay he has written for Star Trek and asks him in a roundabout way to show it to his television contacts. Back at SCDP, Harry tries to show Peggy the screenplay and get her opinion of it. Peggy informs Harry that since his days at Sterling Cooper, Paul worked briefly at a number of agencies and, last she knew, finally moved to the A&P grocery store chain. Peggy and Harry agree that Paul’s writing is bad. Next, Harry is visited by Lakshmi in the privacy of his office. She claims to have an open love relationship with Paul and comes on to Harry. After offering herself up to him on his desk, she tells him he’s disgusting with his “sense enjoyment” and forbids him to associate with Paul, since Paul is such a good closer for the H.K. movement. She also reveals herself as no less theory-driven and intellectual than Paul is, and just as full of herself as he once was. After realizing how Paul is being used by the movement, Harry meets Paul at a restaurant, tells him that his screenplay writing is promising, and offers him $500 and a one-way ticket to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a writer. With gratitude, Paul says, “All these people said they’d do something for me; you’re the first one who did.”
Don and Megan attend a play with an anti-advertising, anti-consumerism message, and Don is put off by it. At work, Don is asked by Pete to go to a Jaguar dealer and test-drive a Jaguar, since a business opportunity has reemerged with the company. On his way out, Don walks by the desk of Meredith, the front office receptionist, and sees Joan lashing out at her for failing to screen and block a visitor who was there to serve her Greg’s divorce papers. Don takes Joan out to the Jaguar dealer where he offers $6,000 cash to test-drive a sports car and either return it or keep it. He tunes in to Joan’s feelings and takes her to a bar. There they have a talk and a drink, he flirts and she resists, and he congratulates her on getting a divorce. Not consoled, she talks of having little to look forward to in terms of men. Don leaves her at the bar after pointing out a man across the bar who appears interested in her, and after giving her money for a ride home if she needs it. More Jaguar driving leaves Don cold and he returns the car to the dealership. When he gets home, Megan greets him with scorn and fury because he’s drunk, late, and unloving in not calling to let her know where he was all afternoon.
The next day at the office, Joan is visited by Roger, who brings in a bouquet of roses from another man – “Ali Kahn,” alias Don. Roger and Joan’s private conversation reveals that he knows her son, Kevin, is his and that he’s been trying to send her money to help raise the boy, which she resists.
Finally, when the SCDP executives announce Christmas bonuses to the staff at a company meeting, Don provides a stirring, inspirational speech that challenges everyone to work through the holidays.

A theme of this episode suggested by the title is waltzing around the truth to achieve good feelings in the short term.  

·         Lane waltzes around the truth of his immediate financial troubles when he talks his way into securing a loan from Chemical Bank, showing interest in his contact Walt’s chatter and making him feel comfortable in extending the loan. In the long term, it’s likely that Lane’s loan transaction will be caught and that he will be punished or fired, but for the moment, the maneuver makes Lane feel secure.

·         Lane pretends to care deeply about the SCDP employees’ need for a Christmas bonus, and uses this feigned concern to waltz around the truth he has yet to confront within himself regarding his dishonest behavior at the company.

·         Harry waltzes around the truth of his disgust with the Hare Krishna group’s and Lakshmi’s control of Paul when he lies and tells Paul he has a future as a screenplay writer in Los Angeles. One day Paul will likely fail at that, too, but for now, Harry’s words make Paul feel encouraged, grateful, and happy.

·         Joan enjoys Don’s flirtation to a point, but instead of openly rejecting his advances as would be direct and honest, she waltzes around the truth of her rejection and gives him time to feel “irresistible” while she resists him. It doesn’t take long for Don to figure out the truth, but for a while he seems to feel complimented by her smiles and reactions.

·         Lakshmi waltzes around her disgust with Harry and her desire to repel him when she tells him she burns for him, making him feel passionately wanted in the moment. Only after she brings him to feel excited does she end the “dance” and deliver her harsh personal truths.

A second and more pervasive theme is surprises – mostly bad ones. Most scenes involve a surprise for someone.
·         Lane is surprised to learn that his attorney hasn’t extricated him from his tax evasion troubles.

·         Lane gets a bad surprise when Rebecca comes from the bedroom to check on him at a time when he’s trying to hide something from her.

·         Rebecca gets a bad surprise when she comes from the bedroom to find out what Lane is up to and is yelled at and told to go away.

·         Lane gets a bad surprise when he visits Harry’s office and learns that none of Harry’s projections for future business are guaranteed, so will not help him secure a loan.

·         Lane gets a bad surprise when he later picks up a call from his attorney who hounds him about his fee. Lane responds, “Yes, of course, after the holidays” and hangs up on him, providing a bad surprise for the attorney.

·         Don gets a bad surprise while attending a play with Megan when he hears a major character talk about a time when ads made him sick.

·         Megan gets a bad surprise when she sees Don’s defensive reaction to the play and when he doesn’t share her enthusiasm for it or respond well to her anti-consumerism viewpoint.

·         Harry gets a bad surprise when he visits an address given to him by Paul and is shocked to see how pathetic Paul looks in his Hare Krishna get-up.

·         Harry gets a pleasant surprise when the woman next to him, Lakshmi, begins to coach him and help him enjoy the chanting.

·         Harry gets a bad surprise when Paul puts him in the awkward position of having to review his Star Trek screenplay and to provide feedback and/or a recommendation.

·         Harry gets an exciting surprise when Lakshmi offers herself to him.

·         Harry gets a bad surprise when Lakshmi turns on him and slaps him in the face after seducing him.

·         Paul gets a good surprise when he receives encouragement for his writing, money, and a ticket to Los Angeles from Harry.

·         Harry gets a bad surprise when, after giving Paul the envelope with $500 and a ticket to Los Angeles, Paul gives him an uncomfortably long hug, burdening Harry with a sense of just how desperate he is and making Harry feel even more guilty for lying to him.

·         Peggy gets a bad surprise when Harry asks her to review Paul’s script, since she’s already overloaded with work.

·         Pete gets a bad surprise when he learns that Mohawk Airlines is on strike and has suspended advertising indefinitely; SCDP execs and later employees get a bad surprise when they learn of this situation.

·         Pete provides SCDP execs with a good surprise when he announces that Jaguar is again considering them for their next ad campaign.

·         Pete gets a bad surprise when the SCDP execs react to his Jaguar news with little joy and without the kind of backslapping congratulations he expects.

·         Pete gets a bad surprise when, after he tells Don that a year earlier Don would have kissed him on the mouth for bringing in the Jaguar account, Don reacts by saying, “Maybe you should be my date.”

·         Pete gets a bad surprise when he asks for opinions of Jaguar and Bert tells him, “They’re lemons. They never start.”

·         Pete gets another bad surprise when he announces the Jaguar opportunity to the entire staff and nobody reacts.

·         Joan gets a bad surprise when she is served divorce papers at work and realizes that Greg wants to divorce her, as if he had the moral high ground.

·         The audience gets an amusing surprise when Don says to Joan, “I don’t think you should have thrown those papers out the window.”

·         Meredith, the receptionist, gets a bad surprise when Joan lashes out at her for failing to guard her from the man who served her papers.

·         Don and Joan get a bad surprise when they are told by the Jaguar dealer that they can’t go out for a test-drive together because it’s against the rules.

·         Scarlett, the secretary, is surprised by Roger’s bad taste when he shows up with a gaudy, bright-red short-sleeved shirt over his business attire.

·         Roger gets a bad surprise when Joan comes out of her office to tell him to be quiet.

·         Roger gets a bad surprise when Joan refuses to see the significance of his “experience” and personal growth in wanting to man-up to support Kevin.

·         After Don flirts with Joan, he gets a bad surprise when she doesn’t fall for his advances.

·         Joan gets a bad surprise when Don decides to leave her at the bar by herself.

·         Joan gets a pleasant surprise when she receives a bouquet of roses from Don, with a note that her mother (who raised her to be admired) did a good job.

·         Don gets a bad surprise when he arrives at home to find Megan enraged at him and demanding that he sit down and eat the dinner she has prepared.

·         Don gets another bad surprise when he tries to turn Megan’s anger into a sexual encounter and is rebuked for it.

·         Lane gets a bad surprise at the employee meeting when Roger calls on him to speak first, and he doesn’t know quite what to say.

·         Lane gets another bad surprise when, after trying to tell the employees that they’ll be getting a Christmas bonus, nobody reacts because they haven’t understood him.

·         The SCDP staff gets a bad surprise when they realize after Don’s rousing speech that they will have to work for the next six weekends, right through the holidays, in order to attempt to land the Jaguar account.

On the gender front, two themes emerge. For men, Don’s assessment of the man at the bar thatHe doesn’t know what he wants, but he’s wanting” rings true for multiple male characters in their relationships with women. Specifically, this applies to Don, Paul, Harry, and Roger. For women, a theme emerges of the strong desire for control in their relationships, whether or not they do it effectively. This includes Megan, who is frustrated in being unable to control Don; Joan, who controls Roger and Don but is frustrated in being unable to control Greg; and Lakshmi, who goes to great lengths (with some success) to try to control both Harry and Paul for what she considers to be the good of the Hare Krishna organization. Even Walt, the banker, implies that his wife, Laura, is in control at home when he confides about his holiday travel plans, “I want to fly, but I think we’re going to drive.” The exception is Lane, a man who at the moment knows clearly that he wants to be with his wife and dig himself out of financial trouble, and who is highly controlling both at work and at home. Unfortunately, his ability to maintain control personally and professionally will crumble as soon as someone at SCDP reviews the books and discovers what he’s done.
Finally, on the social front, the theme of anti-consumerism permeates the episode, reflected in both the theater scene, where actors portray their rejection of advertising, and the Hare Krishna movement, where members are asked to give up their possessions. Anti-consumerism formed part of the bedrock of the 1960s counter-culture, and was embraced (like Paul) or at least given lip-service (like Megan) by numerous otherwise disparate segments of society.

No comments:

Post a Comment