Monday, September 27, 2010

Mad Men “Hands and Knees” Recap & Review

All Photos from AMC

This episode of Mad Men “Hands and Knees” closes with the melody of the Beatles Song, “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” because the episode was all about secrets. Things seem to be unraveling for everybody, and only the women seem to be keeping cool heads. Don’s (Jon Hamm) big secret has him teetering on complete ruin. The one thing that “Mad Men” does well is build a story over a period of several episodes. Don’s secret identity is the gift that keeps on giving over the years. In this episode, it is becoming clear that the stability of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is in question, and there isn’t much time to get the business back on solid footing. Roger’s life also looks solid on the outside, but he’s also on the edge of destroying everything, both business and personal. This was a wonderful episode that set up a horrible sense of foreboding for the company and for the key players. I wonder, though, if Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) has some secrets of his own that are just waiting to be exposed?

Joan’s (Christina Hendricks) secret: she’s pregnant. She drops the bomb on Roger (John Slattery), telling him the baby is his. Roger knows this is a big problem, and he and Joan later discuss whether Joan wants to keep it or not. She doesn’t, and Roger offers to go with her for the procedure. (I don’t think he really means it.) Joan calmly goes through the process and it isn’t the first time she’s had to do so.

Roger, meanwhile, is harboring his own secret. After Joan tells him she is pregnant, Lee Garner Jr. (Darren Pettie ) tells Roger that the board of Lucky Strike is dropping Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to consolidate all their accounts with one agency - and that’s not with SCDP. Lee wants the files immediately, but when Roger begs and pleads for 30 days before Lee says anything, bringing out all things he’s done for Lee, Lee gives him that time. After Lee leaves, Roger pops what looks like a nitro pill. At a later time, Roger is making calls from his rolodex, trying to drum up new business.

Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) is expecting his son to come from London for a visit, and instead he gets his father, Robert (W. Morgan Sheppard). Lane is clearly disappointed, but tries to make the best of it, taking his father, along with Don, to the local Playboy club, where Lane seems to have a thing for a black Playboy bunny, Toni (Naturi Naughton ). Robert wants Roger to come home to London, and it becomes clear that he’s not happy with Lane’s dalliances. When Lane invites his father out to dinner, along with Toni, and it becomes clear to Robert that Lane seems to be in a very serious, intimate relationship with her, Robert essentially dismisses her. After she leave the apartment, Robert clocks Lane’s head with his cane, knocking Lane to the ground. He steps on Lane’s hand on the door until Lane agrees to return to England.

Don’s big secret – that he had taken the identity of another soldier who was killed in action – is threatening to come out in a big way. His day starts out well when he announces to his daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka) that he is taking her to the Beatles concert in Shea Stadium and Sally shrieks with glee. He also goes to a meeting with executives of North American Aviation, an account that Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) has been working on for years, and it looks like things are a go. The first clue that there may be looming issues is the volume of heavily redacted documents that NAA gives them, and they are told the redacting will diminish as the partnership with SCDP progresses.

What Don - and likely nobody else – realizes, is that in order to do business with NAA, the key people at SCDP must go through a government background checks. Two government agents visit Betty (January Jones) without warning, and ask her very pointed questions about Don’s background, including "Do you have any reason to believe that Mr. Draper isn't who he says he is?" After a brief pause, Betty calmly answers no. When she calls Don to complain about the questioning, he knows nothing about it. Despite the fact that Don is clearly rattled, he thanks Betty for what she did. He takes it out on his secretary Megan (Jessica Paré) and is upset that even though he did sign the application, that she didn’t call it to his attention. Even more agitated, he gets on Pete’s case, and Pete at first seems flip about it. Don demands that Pete get with his contact in the defense apartment and find out how far it’s gone.

Later that night, Betty tells Henry (Christopher Stanley) about the FBI coming to question her about Don, saying she doesn’t want any secrets between them. (I have this feeling that Henry has some secrets of his own. )

When Pete gives Don the update on the background checks and thinks the agency can survive Don’s exposure, Don’s argues back that there is no statute of limitations for desertion, and despite Pete’s years of work to cultivate the account, Don tells him to get rid of it. Don later instructs his accountant to establish trust funds for his children and allow Betty access. Despite the accountant’s objections, Don tells him to create the trusts immediately.

When Faye (Cara Buono) comes for a visit, Don is clearly in a complete meltdown, and she says he has a fever and orders him to go home. When Don and Faye get to his apartment, two men approach them trying to locate an address, and Don seems to go into full panic mode, thinking they are government agents. When he gets into the apartment, he rips off his shirt and tie, thinking he is having a heart attack, but he throws up instead. Faye stays with him and when she tries to help him relax, he tells her he is tired of running and tells her his secret.

When Pete arrives at Don’s the next morning, he sees Faye is there, and she leaves silently. After she leaves, Pete tells Don that he hasn't been exposed yet and if the agency drops the account the investigation will cease.

At a meeting of the partners, Pete says that an error on his part has cost the agency NAA's business. Roger slams Pete over it and both Don and Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) object to Roger’s anger at Pete, with Cooper telling Roger to apologize (he does). Lane then announces he’s taking a long leave of absence to return to London and quickly exits the meeting, but before he leaves, he says the company is in sound fiscal shape. When Joan asks the remaining partners to report on the status of current accounts, starting with Lucky Strike, Roger gives the thumbs up.

Faye loops back with Don to make sure he's OK, and they set a date for Saturday. When Faye leaves, Megan enters with the Beatles tickets Don wanted, saying that “Everything worked out.” As the melody of The Beatles song “Do You Want to Know a Secret” plays, Don gazes at Megan, standing at her desk, applying lipstick, and we fade to black.
Video Recap of Mad Men “Hands and Knees”

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