'Put Your Home in Order': Mad Men Recapped

At least, for once, Sally Draper is happy. Let's take some consolation in that phenomenon, because virtually everyone else with a thread in Sunday's episode of Mad Men plunged into equally phenomenal chasms of fear, paranoia, subterfuge, loathing, despondency, lovesickness and whatever else Matt Weiner and co. could conjure in the space of just under an hour. Oh, what we all wouldn't give to be an innocent, imminent witness to history, even if it meant witnessing it with the father against whom we're harboring equally totemic resentments. Because clearly the alternative sucks. The only question this morning is who really has it worst.

I think we can all agree it is not a great time to be Lane Pryce. Don may be the one suffocating and puking through his allergic reaction to G-men, and Pete may be the one who has to surrender his lucrative (if politically sensitive) North American Aviation account to save Don's ass, and Joan may be the one schlepping out to Morristown for an abortion, and Roger may the one with 30 days to save the Lucky Strike account that keeps the lights on at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and which, out of nowhere, Lee Garner Jr. is planning to yank in favor of another agency. Peggy wasn't even anywhere to be found, but she was most certainly experiencing some sort of row with Stan or some beatnik poet or her mother, wherever she wound up.

But no one quite faced the bundle of indignities dumped in Lane's lap -- or smacking him in the head, more literally. It wasn't supposed to be like this, of course; his son Nigel was supposed to pay a visit from London, as announced last week, but instead Lane got his own old man Robert Pryce as a surprise guest in the SCDP lobby. "I'm bringing you home," he tells an incredulous Lane, whose locks his spine as tight as gets and begins laying the groundwork for a naturalization case of sorts. The first, probably imprudent step involves an evening at the Playboy Club, where Lane's a keyholder and where his paramour happens to be a waitress. This dating-the-customers business is a big no-no, but Lane can barely help but give the game away both that night ("She's the finest waitress," he tells them, all but fluttering) and particularly the next day, when he catches the woman entering the club to tell her Nigel's not coming. She shoos him away affectionately. "You know that I love you," he reminds her.

Yes, and now so do the rest of us. And none of it would matter were the woman not -- wait for it -- black. We don't even know her name yet (rude, Mr. Weiner, so rude), but the more important thing to remember here is that the stakes for Lane -- for Mad Men as a whole -- have skyrocketed. His love affair is emblematic of the civil-rights tensions gripping the country; despite her job description, the woman is also set up to be the first non-servile African-American character on the show.

So it's not lightly that Lane receives the news that his father wants him to return to England. And Robert Pryce will not be dissuaded, certainly not by the presence of any black cocktail waitress finally introduced to him (and to us) as Toni Charles. He won't even have dinner with her and Lane -- not that he winces with shame or evinces the slightest hint of embarrassment or disgust when the pair kiss goodbye in front of him. This guy probably isn't what you'd call color blind; he's just all business. "You're coming home, Lane," he says, prompting his son's indignant inquiry if he's more upset that a Pryce is dating in a different class or dating a Negro. We'll never know, alas, because Robert Pryce does not deign to engage such petty socio-romantic arguments. That's what his cane is for. Next thing you know, Lane is clocked upside his head, down on all fours, reaching for his glasses, and stopped by his father's exquisitely polished shoe stepping on his hand. "Put your home in order," Robert growls. "Yes," Lane whimpers. "Yes?" Robert follows. "Yes, sir." Ouch. And damn.

I'd love to say Don and the rest of the crew balanced out this freefall into filial bitchery, but, well, you know. The episode actually began with Joan confiding to Roger that her period is late; this arrives a month or so after their post-mugging sex, and seven weeks after Greg's departure for basic training and, eventually, Vietnam. Roger tells her not to be upset -- these things happen, and they can be resolved with relative ease. "Relative" being the operative word here; a pair of Harris-Sterling Unplanned Pregnancy Summits result in the foregone conclusion that Joan will "take care of it," while a baffled Roger say's he'll do it. But dropping the $400 on an abortion and getting an earful from his revolted doctor ("I came here for your discretion, not your judgment," he barks; had he only been so impotent that fateful night, none of this would have happened) isn't quite the same as the abjection of Joan's waiting-room experience. "How old is your daughter?" asks the tearful, classless 32-year-old mother whose own 17-year-old just stepped into the doctor's office. "15," Joan fabricates in response. You do the math. Not nice, Joanie.

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  • NP says:

    "despite her job the woman is also set up to be the first non-servile African-American character on the show."
    How soon we forget Paul Kinsey's grocery clerk girlfriend, Sheila.

  • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

    Ah, yes, Sheila. I guess I was thinking of a more recurring role down the line, which is kind of how she's set up. And thennnn, whammo.

  • NP says:

    It had seemed like Sheila might become a regular/recurring presence on the show (she was in at least 2 episodes, and spoken about even more than that), but it never came to be.

  • sweetbiscuit says:

    I miss Ida the Hellcat.

  • NotQuite says:

    Don't forget the guy that mugged Roger and Joan last week! He was a non-servile black guy too. Oh, wait, shame on you Matt Weiner.
    "prompting his son’s indignant inquiry if he’s more upset that a Pryce is dating in a different class or dating a Negro. We’ll never know, alas, because Robert Pryce does not deign to engage such petty socio-romantic arguments."
    There is really nothing that indicates Robert Pryce has any problem with her being black or with her class difference. But there is a strong indication (he flat out says it) that he has a problem with Lane abandoning his real family in London for a girl. Lane's father was basically saying 'I don't care what (or who) you do, just be a man and properly divorce your wife first.'
    '“How old is your daughter?” asks the tearful, classless 32-year-old mother whose own 17-year-old just stepped into the doctor’s office. “15,” Joan fabricates in response. You do the math. Not nice, Joanie.'
    I believe you missed the point on this. I thought Joan WAS being nice. She pitied the woman, so she said she had a daughter that was 2 years younger than the woman's in order to make her feel better (the woman was obviously fixated on the age thing). Im sure Joan didn't want to admit that she was there for an A-Word too, but it was pity in her eyes not embarrassment.

  • sweetbiscuit says:

    I agree about Joan saying "15" just to make the woman feel a little better, as one of those throw-away fibbing gestures we sometimes make in the company of upset strangers.

  • snarkymark says:

    I loved last night. Pete is going to leverage Don into something. I suspect Burt Cooper will join Ida Blankenship in the great crossword in the sky, Roger will indeed lose the Lucky Strike account and Don will have to support Pete's ascendency to either a name (or certainly senior) partner. Pete can't leave to go to BBDO or where ever (he's too critical to the show). If Jon Hamm's slip that Don grows a beard is true, we may find Don on the beaches of California alone and sorting through his old life. Don was certainly cryptic with Faye about "coming clean" at the end. "Yes, we'll see..." was all he'd say. The Beatles have arrived, the Vietnam war is heating up. Men aren't going to be wearing fedoras much longer.

  • NP says:

    Roger will be dead before Burt Cooper. By season's end, I'm thinking.

  • Pat says:

    "We don’t even know her name yet"
    Her name is Toni. It's on her name-tag, which is even shown in the picture that heads this article. Also, Lane introduces her to everyone at the table, by name, immediately when she comes over.

  • You're right, my regrets. I missed the introduction the first time.

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