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Recap: Mad Men, Episode 5.12, “Commissions and Fees”

Previously: Joan becomes a partner in the worst way possible, Lane has money problems and forges a check, Don is told his letter poisoned numerous companies against him, Megan and Sally are friendly with each other in front of Betty, and the firm got Jaguar which left a sour taste in Don’s mouth. (Editorial Note: Trigger Warning for discussion of suicide.)

Let’s start with Sally’s story because it’s a little easier to get through; the Francis family is preparing to go skiing and Sally’s being totally steadfast in her “I am not skiing, I hate everything, you’re awful” attitude towards Betty, so Betty informs Don that she’s dropping Sally off and Don and his “child-bride” can figure out what to do with her over the weekend. Sally calls Glen and tells him she’ll be alone in New York and, after some discussion, it’s decided that Glen will sneak out of school and come visit her. Glen gets there, and the kids go to the museum of natural history and look at the dioramas. Glen reveals how harshly he’s being teased at school, and that he told them he was going to “do it” with Sally to get some respect. Sally thinks about it and says she doesn’t like Glen “that way.” Glen looks disappointed, Sally looks kind of relieved. She excuses herself to the bathroom, saying her stomach hurts. In the ladies room, Sally pulls down her pants to see a blood stain starting to spread. She looks down in shock for a moment and then starts ripping those little ineffectual squares of toilet paper out of the dispenser with a slightly panicked look on her face.

Megan comes home after lunch to find Sally gone and a mysterious gym bag in the apartment. We then cut to Sally running through Betty and Henry’s bedroom, having taken a very expensive cab ride home. She lets Betty in the bathroom, and with tears in her eyes she tells Betty that her period started and she just wanted to come home before throwing herself into her mother’s arms. Betty hugs her back, looking a little surprised, but pleased. Back in the city, Megan is still worried, and then Glen shows up at their apartment and tells Megan that Sally took off and he came back to see if she was there and to get his bag. Just then, the phone rings and it’s Betty telling Megan that Sally came home and had “started” and came home because she “needed her mother.” Glen tries to leave but when Megan hears his train isn’t until 7 p.m., she tells him she’s going to stay there until it does.

Sally’s in bed with a water bottle on her abdomen and says she’s embarrassed. Betty tells her she can always ask another woman if it happens to her again. She then goes on to say there’s a lot of responsibilities, but that while periods are unpleasant, it means that everything’s working and she’s ready to have a baby when she wants one. Maybe a beautiful girl, and then Sally can tell her all this. Betty then lies down and hugs Sally, and it’s one of the nicest moments between these two in a long time.

Lane meets with a man and hears that he’s been given the chance to be the head of the fiscal control committee of the 4As, a professional organization for advertisers. He accepts, and seems pleased with this.

Joan is coaching Scarlett on how to run the partner’s meeting since Joan isn’t anymore. There’s some discussion of Jaguar wanting to move to a fee structure rather than the traditional commission result. Bert decides they’ll look into it. As Bert looks into it, he comes across the cancelled check that Lane wrote to himself and signed with Don’s name. Bert confronts Don, prompting Don to confront Lane.

Don shows Lane the check, and at first Lane tries to play it off as though Don TOTALLY signed that check and just didn’t remember. Don is steadfast though, and asks Lane if that check is the only one while offering him a drink. Lane seems to realize the game is up and asks how Don got the check. Lane passes it off as a “13-day loan” and talks about how he kept them from giving Joan a lump payment. Don asks if he’s gambling. Lane says he’s not, he just had to liquidate his portfolio to keep the company going and it’s left him cash strapped. Don asks why he didn’t just ask, and Lane says he didn’t want to be humiliated over a 13-day loan. Because this is better? He then gets indignant and says that it was his money. Don asks for his resignation and Lane starts backtracking, apologizing, and pleading that the company is doing well and tries to play the sympathy card saying he’ll make it up “even if I have to pull my son out of school.” Don points out that Lane embezzled funds and forged his signature. Lane tries to apologize to Don while saying that he picked Don because he’s always been the most decent to Lane. Don says that by LETTING Lane resign, he is doing the decent thing. Lane gets indignant again talking about how he’s never been compensated for what he brought to the agency and that he’s operated on a loss for the last three years. Don just says he can’t trust Lane and that he’ll cover the money Lane owes, and Lane laughs bitterly that it’s that easy for Don. Lane continues to plead that he’ll lose his visa and can’t go back to England, crying. Don tells him that the next thing will be better, because it always is, and gives him the weekend to think of “an elegant exit,” telling Lane that Bert doesn’t know anything. It’s written on Don’s face that he’s sad about this, that if Lane had been willing to ask, he would’ve helped, but Lane’s put him in a place where he can’t help now, so all he can offer is, “I’ve started over a lot, Lane, and this is the worst part.”

The interaction with Lane has seemed to light a fire under Don’s ass, and he goes to Roger and complains about their mid-level status and how they need to chase bigger companies. Don tells Roger what he’s heard about the Lucky Strike letter, and Roger challenges him right back saying he can pitch to anyone he wants. Don wants to pitch to Ed Baxter. When Roger points out that Ken doesn’t like working with his family, Don says, “then fire him,” and storms out. Roger approaches Ken and asks what Ken wants to not screw this up for them. Ken wants to be “forced” onto the account and that Pete doesn’t go to any of the meetings. And so, Don will be meeting with Ed Baxter on Monday morning.

Lane gets home to his wife all dressed up, and she insists they’re going out to dinner. She leads him down to their garage where she’s decided to surprise him for all his hard work and success with a new Jaguar. She wrote a check for it. Lane vomits.

Sunday night, Lane gets out of bed with Rebecca and sneaks down the garage with a bag. He sticks a length of hose and some rag into the Jag’s tailpipe, leading the hose through the driver’s window. He drinks, and breaks his glasses in half, before trying to start the car. We’ve heard all season how unreliable Jaguars are, and now we finally see it; the car won’t start. I hoped that this failure would jar Lane to his senses, make him realize that letting his wife find him like that in her gift to him was cruel; that as bad as things are, if he’s gone he’s leaving his family with all of the problems he tried so hard to “protect” them from without his ability to dig them out of the hole. All we see is Lane going to the SCDP offices in the middle of the night and typing something up.

Monday morning, Don and Roger are at Dow looking like men facing a firing squad. The meeting starts late (of course), but Don and Roger handle it without a comment. The meeting starts out a little acrimonious, but Don points out that Dow is on the back work with their current advertising agency. Don praises their products, and how innovative they are, pointing out that just because they’re successful, they haven’t stopped creating new products. They challenge him on naplam, and Don discusses his combat experience and sees it as something America needs. There’s a big speech about how 50% market share isn’t 100% and Don won’t be happy with most of it, he’ll be happy with ALL of it! As they leave, Roger quips, “I’ll buy you a drink if you wipe the blood off your mouth.”

Scarlet comes to Joan’s office with the books and asks if she can leave them there because Mr .Pryce hasn’t come in yet and his office is locked. Joan gets the key and tries to let herself in but the door is blocked, and she smells something. She goes into Pete’s office and tells them she thinks something’s “terribly wrong,” so Pete looks over the divider and steps down with a look of shock and horror on his face. Ken and Harry do the same and Ken just walks over and hugs Joan as she starts crying.

Roger and Don get back to an empty office and the other partners sitting around in the break room drinking. Joan’s eyes are red, and as Cooper tells them, “Lane hanged himself in his office,” she breaks down again. Don sits down, and I’m sure memories of his brother are running through his head. Pete tells them that Cooper sent the rest of the office home with some excuse about the building and that no one knows. Roger offers to take Joan home and she says she wants to wait, and Pete reveals that they’re waiting for the coroner to come cut him down and take him away. Don is appalled that they’ve left him there and forces his way into Lane’s office with Roger and Pete even as they try to stop him. Don insists, “we can’t leave him like that!” and they all get in to see Lane’s body hanging behind the door. Don holds the body while Pete uses scissors to saw through the tie he used and they lay the body down on his couch. They all look horrified, and Roger finds an envelope on the floor as they retreat from the office. It’s a boilerplate resignation letter. Don is silent, but grief, guilt, and a million other emotions are written across his face. I know some people have speculated about Don killing himself at different points, but I feel like Don is a survivor at all costs. He will do ANYTHING to keep going, and the decision to do otherwise will never make sense to him.

Don gets home early to find Glen waiting for the train, Megan tells him that Sally went home and she’ll explain later. Glen supplies his previous connection to Don and Don offers to drive him back. In the elevator, Glen complains that nothing works out the way you want it to and life just sucks. Don’s in a poor place mentally to hear this, even as he’s trying to do something nice to even the scales of universal justice in his own mind, so he asks Glen, “if you could do anything, what would you do?”

And so we come to the final scene, a despondent Don in the passenger seat gently correcting Glen as Glen drives back to school with a look of complete joy and a small amount of terror on the younger man’s face.

12 replies on “Recap: Mad Men, Episode 5.12, “Commissions and Fees””

I think that Don is destined to be isolated, and plot-wise, that’s why the people he trusts are falling away. At the beginning of the show he wanted desperately to fit in to this lifestyle, and I think soon he will desperately want NOT to fit in. These last episodes have revived my interest in the show and in Don.

My boyfriend and I were both wondering at why Lane didn’t fight Don firing him? He’s a partner not an employee–there would have to be a vote and a payout to acquire his shares. But then it’s not that surprising. Lane has been to me the likeable coward for sometime. He can’t stand up to his bosses from Putnam, Powel and Lowe (Sterling Cooper’s parent company from England) when they tell him he must go to India (which is also how he ended up in America). He chooses to indulge in fantasies about the woman in the photograph and though there are hints that he feels bad about it, he can’t bring himself to quit and instead beats around the bush rather than going all the way and cheat. He can’t be outright with Joan about his feelings (she’s definitely more than a work spouse to him) and then cowardly chooses to encourage her in the deal with Jaguar in order to save his own skin. He can’t ask the firm to help him with his taxes. He can’t even own up to Don until he’s in tears, begging and pleading, looking for excuses and appealing for sympathy. Finally, instead of telling his wife and trying to reinvent himself, he bows to his fears and commits suicide. I liked Lane because he was one of the very few men on this show with a conscience and because he’s the only one to have ever punched Pete in the face, but his character really took a turn for the worse in the last few episodes.

With two very good characters leaving the show (Lane and Peggy), I wonder who will step up to be the moral compass and bring balance? Was Don’s meeting with Baxter career suicide? Or will he rally to make a huge comeback in advertising and will we see him making increasingly risky decisions to prove his courage and show the world how big his balls are? While Lane is a coward, Don is wrecklessly confident. I can only guess at where this season will leave us and where the show is going.

Great summary of Lane. Part of him wanted to be “bad” like the other men, but was too self conscious to pull it off. I think his meeting, trying to land Jaguar is the perfect example. Sterling could have done it in his sleep because he would think nothing of drink and womanizing, but Lane still had a moral center. For better or worse, he got in his own way. I think the suicide was two fold – a big f-you to the other partners, but also that he knew he wasn’t strong or savvy enough to reinvent himself like Don advised him to. Lane would always be Lane, but Don could be anyone.

Lane ended up not fighting Don because he knew that it would mean being exposed, and possibly facing criminal charges. At the end of the day he would be ruined (more so than he already was). Potentially, the only other person who could know it was embezzlement would be Cooper, but only if he connects the dots.

I’m curious to see how they wrap things up next week. I know Don feels badly about Lane (and probably flashes of Adam), but I really don’t want to see Don heading towards rock bottom again. I was starting to enjoy seeing him get his swagger back a bit (and apparently Roger has missed that too). And,as a really uncouth aside – my parting thought on Lane was “now Cooper can have an office.” Bad, bad, bad…

I think Lane’s been waiting for this since the bonuses were ‘delayed’ the first time. Part of him knew it would be discovered, and when it happened he didn’t have it in him to fight that hard. I think part of him WAS relieved that it had finally come to light so he didn’t have to look over his shoulder anymore.

His pleading with Don also betrayed that he thought a lot more about taking the money AFTER he did it than before. His justification for taking it was completely reasonable and if he’d brought it up in a partner’s meeting as “I’m being taxed on the assets I liquidated to help start this firm, so I’m going to need a loan from the business to cover those expenses.” I’m sure something reasonable could have been arranged without much humiliation at all. But tragically, that’s not how things went.

Lane couldn’t fight it because fighting it would mean getting other people involved and telling them what he’d done. If he resigned, he could come up with any excuse. An ill relative back in England, perhaps, or that his wife finally convinced him to move back home. Or that he can’t get a decent cup of tea. In order to fire him, Don would need to document what happened, and Don is a good enough guy (or a guy that has enough skeletons in his closet and believes that other people should be allowed skeletons, too. Men, anyway.) that he doesn’t want to do that to Lane.

My boyfriend and I were both wondering at why Lane didn’t fight Don firing him? He’s a partner not an employee–there would have to be a vote and a payout to acquire his shares.

This! This is what I don’t understand.

Edited to add: I think I see where the replies are going with this … I am tired and a bit slow today.

I was really upset about Lane. He’s one of my favorite characters, and I just love his old-fashioned buttoned up British sensebilities, particularly compared to all the other men. I was hoping Pete would be the one to die.

It is worth noting that while Lane may not be able to take care of his family now, it was established that the employees have life insurance coverage for suicide earlier in the season.

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