Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mad Men Episode 5-12: Commissions and Fees

Recap: We first see Don, then Lane, receiving comments from outside the company because SCDP won the Jaguar account. Next, Scarlett, Joan’s replacement as executive board meeting secretary, attempts to lead the board meeting and Pete announces that Jaguar wants a new payment structure based on fees rather than commissions. When it is determined that a fee structure might provide less revenue for SCDP, Don votes no, Bert moves to “look into it,” and Joan seconds Bert’s motion.

Having opened and perused the company bank statement for the month in an effort to understand fees vs. commissions, Bert Cooper enters Don’s office and confronts him with the $50,000 bonus check made out to Lane that was actually forged by Lane. Believing Don to have signed the check, Bert scolds, “You can’t keep being ‘the good little boy’ while the adults run this business.” Don simply replies, “I’ll take care of it” rather than arguing with Bert. After Bert exits, Don calls Lane to his office and asks him, in private, to explain the check. Lane makes several rounds of argumentation, first claiming that Don is mistaken, and ultimately arguing that he earned the extra compensation and deserves to have it. Don explains that he cannot trust Lane any longer and gives Lane no choice but to resign. Feeling desperate, Lane attempts to change Don’s mind, but Don reminds Lane that, being guilty of embezzlement and forgery, he is fortunate to be given the chance to resign without anyone else on the board finding out, and without any legal action. Having compassion for Lane’s level of distress, though, Don advises him to reinvent himself.
Lane walks to the doorway of Joan’s office, apparently looking for a friend to talk to. Joan, oblivious of Lane’s situation, begins to ask him questions about where she might go for a vacation over the Easter holiday. Lane makes a comment about envisioning her “bouncing in the sand in some obscene bikini” and Joan replies with disgust, “I think you should take your party elsewhere.” Shut down, Lane walks to his office, where he stares out the window in despair, watching the snow fall.
When Lane goes home that night, Rebecca is dressed and ready to go out on the town. She looks radiant and makes a strong effort to be supportive of Lane and to emphasize what she thinks are his accomplishments. Unable to discuss his predicament, Lane allows himself to be pushed into going out, and in the garage, is confronted with a gift from Rebecca: a green Jaguar. He becomes violently ill and they return home. That night, seeing Rebecca sound asleep, Lane climbs out of bed and returns to the garage to commit suicide by plugging the exhaust pipe with a burnoose-looking scarf, running the car’s engine, and breathing the exhaust. This plan fails, as the Jaguar won’t start. Later, he goes to his office dressed in a three-piece suit, locks the door, types a letter of resignation, puts it in an envelope, and hangs himself.
On Friday at the Francis household, Betty tries to manage Sally and Bobby as she packs for a weekend trip to a ski resort. Bobby cooperates but Sally expresses her negative opinions bluntly, angering Betty. After accusing Sally of trying to spoil their weekend, Betty calls Don and lets him know she is having trouble with Sally. Offering him no choice in the matter, she says she will have Sally dropped off to stay with him over the weekend. When Sally shows up at the Draper residence, Megan is surprised to see her and angry that she assumes Don expects her to drop everything to take care of the girl. However, Megan ends up taking care of Sally, letting Sally tag along with her on a shopping trip with Megan’s friend Julia, and having a girls’ chat at a restaurant. On Monday morning, Megan auditions for an acting role, Don goes to the Dow Chemical meeting, and Sally is forced to miss school. She is supposed to stay home alone until Megan returns. Instead, Sally calls Glen and invites him to visit her, and Glen agrees to find a way to get from his private boarding school into the city to see her. They go to a museum together and talk about their lives. Glen admits being picked on at school and reveals that he told the boys he was going to have sex with Sally. Through their conversation they affirm verbally that their relationship is a brotherly-sisterly one, not a sexual one. Next, Sally goes to the rest room and discovers she is having her period for the first time. Stunned, she leaves the museum without Glen and goes home, where Betty finds her and spends some comforting time with her, trying to paint a positive picture of womanhood to help ease her menstrual pain. Still at the museum, Glen spends a lot of time looking around for Sally, who seems to have disappeared, and finally goes to the Draper residence to see if Sally is there. Megan and Don both talk to Glen, and Don offers to drive Glen home, almost two hours each way.  Betty calls Megan and lets her know Sally is with her. Glen confides in Don that life is bad, and Don asks Glen what he really wants. In the final scene, Don has allowed Glen to drive his car, giving him a chance to feel good about something.
In Roger’s office on Friday, Roger tells Don about his latest fling, a 25-year-old coat check girl, and laments the lack of a challenge in his recent love conquests. Applying this thinking to SCDP, Don says, “I’m tired of this piddling shi_. Pete thinks small.” After Don relates Ed Baxter’s “death sentence” of SCDP business because of Don’s anti-tobacco letter, Roger calls Ed Baxter a “wax figurine” and convinces Don that Ed is wrong, and that SCDP’s luck has changed for the better since the letter was published. Roger asks Don what he wants, and Don describes his new corporate vision with examples: “Instead of Mohawk, I want American Airlines; instead of Dunlop, I want Firestone.” Excited by Don’s thinking, Roger promises to get meetings with large companies, but Don insists on meeting with Ken’s father-in-law, Ed Baxter, at Dow Chemical. Roger confers with Ken about it, giving Ken no choice in the matter, and Ken responds by making a few demands. Roger gets a meeting on Monday for himself and Don, which leaves Don just two days to prepare a presentation. Don studies Dow advertisements all weekend, and in spite of having to take care of Sally and her friend Glen, he develops a rousing presentation that surprises Ed Baxter and his people at the Monday morning meeting.
On Monday morning at SCDP, Scarlett hands off the accounting books to Joan, saying that Mr. Pryce’s office has been locked all morning. Joan takes the books to Lane’s office and unlocks the door, but smells a stench and discovers a chair blocking the door. Unnerved, she goes next door and tells Ken, Pete, and Harry: “I think something’s terribly wrong in Mr. Pryce’s office. I can’t get the door open.” The men take turns peeking over the wall to the adjacent office, each of them seeing for himself Lane’s dead body hanging by the door. When Don and Roger return to SCDP after their meeting at Dow Chemical, they see Bert, Joan, and Pete sitting around a table looking stunned. Bert explains what happened, and Don insists on taking the body down immediately, rather than waiting until the coroner arrives. Everybody but Don wonders what happened to drive Lane to suicide, and Don, at least for the moment, keeps his knowledge to himself.

A major theme of this episode is people being backed into a corner, or forced into an unpleasant situation.

·         Jaguar executives force SCDP to accept a fee structure rather than the commission structure they expected.

·         Bert forces Don to become aware of and deal with the $50,000 holiday bonus check made out to Lane using his forged signature.

·         Don privately confronts Lane about forging his signature and embezzling money from the company and forces Lane to explain himself.

·         Don forces Lane to resign from SCDP.

·         Betty forces Sally to stay with her dad and Megan over the weekend.

·         Betty forces Don and Megan to look after Sally over the weekend, without giving them a choice.

·         Roger isolates Ken and offers him no choice about SCDP going after Dow Chemical, in spite of Ken’s request that they not do so, since Ken’s father-in-law is an executive.

·         In the same conversation, Ken threatens to expose Roger’s plans to his wife, which would get back to his father-in-law and spoil SCDP’s business opportunity, thereby forcing Roger to agree to his terms: to make it look like he’s forcing Ken onto the account, and to keep Pete off the account completely.

·         Roger, having set up a meeting with Ed Baxter at Dow Chemical, forces Don to scramble over the weekend to learn about the client’s advertising history and develop a brilliant presentation in just two days.

·         Sally, by leaving the museum without telling Glen, essentially forces Glen to spend a lot of time searching for her.

·         Rebecca forces (or tries to force) Lane to take her out for the evening.

·         Rebecca buys a car for Lane without consulting him, thus giving him no choice in the matter.

·         Ed Baxter at Dow forces Don and Roger to wait in the outer office for nearly two hours for their meeting.

·         By killing himself at the office, Lane forces the shut-down of the company for a day.

·         By committing suicide, Lane forces Rebecca to handle his debts, probably take their son out of private school, and face life alone.

A second theme is people rising to the occasion and living through their better nature.

·         In spite of the stress of needing to develop a brilliant Dow Chemical presentation over the weekend, Don considers Glen’s needs as a boy and is appropriately fatherly toward Glen, driving him all the way home and even granting him his wish of learning to drive, in an effort to help him feel hopeful about life.

·         In spite of needing time to rehearse for her Monday morning audition and wanting social time with her girlfriend Julia, Megan is motherly to Sally, including Sally in her conversations with Julia but also trying to control the conversation to give Sally hope about her “boyfriend” and protect her from Julia’s comments that are inappropriate for children.

·         In spite of her large burden of anger, which she frequently unleashes on Sally, Betty becomes motherly, warm, and patient toward Sally when thrust into the position of comforting her after she gets her first period. Further, Betty offers motherly, hopeful advice about what it means to be a woman.

·         Confronted with Sally’s disappearance, Glen shows a brotherly or masculine desire to look out for her and be sure she’s okay.

·         Instead of taking Bert’s insulting line personally (about being a good little boy while the adults run things) and arguing about it, Don handles Bert like an adult by reassuring him that he will accept full responsibility for the “holiday bonus check” situation.

·         Don considers Lane’s potential humiliation and tries to minimize it by confronting Lane privately about the forged check, and by not telling the others about Lane’s illegal behavior and not pressing charges.

·         Don considers SCDP’s best interests and does the right thing for the organization by holding Lane accountable for his illegal activity rather than giving in to Lane’s flattery and desperate pleas for another chance.

·         Don considers the constant struggles of SCDP and rises to the challenge by providing new leadership, expanding his vision of the company as an agency that serves large companies rather than smaller ones and communicating his vision to Roger.

·         Roger rises to the occasion when he learns why Don is depressed about the business because of the “death sentence” Ed Baxter gave him in the past about SCDP’s chances of future business in the big leagues; Roger becomes eloquently persuasive and a positive motivating force, convincing Don that things are already changing for the better since “the letter,” and assuring Don that he will support him by setting up any meeting Don wants in order to help him manifest his newly expanded corporate vision.

·         In spite of being confronted by Megan’s anger at not being told Sally would spend the weekend with them, Don refuses to take her anger personally and simply explains, “I had to fire Lane today.”

·         Instead of holding onto her anger because her weekend would be ruined, Megan adjusts to Don’s statement that he had to fire Lane by switching to her higher nature and behaving like an understanding, supportive wife.

·         Don and Megan each have times when they tell the other, “We’ll talk about it later” because they consider the children and know the conversations they need to have are not appropriate for children’s ears.

·         Sally and Glen each do their best to act grown up when at the museum, to consider each other’s feelings and needs, and to mind their manners, at least most of the time.

·         After Lane’s body is discovered, Bert Cooper considers the welfare of SCDP employees when he hides the truth from them about why they are sent home for the day.

·         Despite her desire to have her weekend as planned, Megan adjusts to the presence of Glen and takes care of him appropriately.

·         Megan and friend Julia try to give Sally specific, motherly advice about what a boyfriend is and isn’t.

·         Despite his abbreviated prep time, Don rises to the occasion of meeting with the Dow Chemical executives and provides an inspiring presentation that seems to jar their rigid mindset and crack open the door to future business with SCDP.

If the above theme represents people acting more mature than they often do, a third theme related to the second is the broader growth process. When a person rises to an occasion, his/her change is often limited to that occasion. However, sometimes the change is part of a genuine transformation or growth process.

·         Sally becomes a young woman and hears some of the wisdom about womanhood handed down by her elders.

·         Glen sports a moustache, deals with bullies, tells clever jokes to make a girl laugh, connects with an adult man who wants to help him (Don), and drives a car, all showing that he is growing up.

·         Don and Roger team up to grow the company by embracing a new, expanded corporate vision.

·         Ken shows significant growth in his ability to negotiate with the SCDP executives when he holds his own in hardball negotiations with Roger.

Lane’s decision to commit suicide makes this event the counterpoint to all three themes listed above. Lane has the opportunity to rise to the occasion and also grow significantly more honest after being caught in his illegal activities. To grow, he would have needed to level with Don, and later with his wife and family; to admit his mistakes; and to make amends. He could have made a fresh start in life, perhaps in a different location. Even if he wasn’t ready to admit all of his faults publicly, he could have left town, changed his behavior for the better, and experienced some growth.

Why did Lane choose to die? Lane valued his sense of dignity and couldn’t accept the humiliation he would have experienced if he had lived on. He seems to believe his mistakes were unforgivable and the humiliation was more than he could bear.  Thus, he decided he would rather die than face up to his mistakes. His avoidance of humiliation in an effort to maintain his dignity, however understandable, was his fatal flaw.

It appears that Lane felt cornered by Don and believed he was forced to commit suicide. In reality, he was not forced, since he had the option of growing, thus transforming himself into a better person. Unfortunately, he was overwhelmed by the first step in his growth process, which would have been very humiliating. By deciding not to engage in the growth process, which would have led him to develop tremendous courage to withstand the humiliation, his “need” to maintain his dignity was, in reality, a rationalization for remaining a coward.

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