Mad Men Season 5 Episode 5 recap

It’s always been a weird thing, having Lane in the office.  It never bothered me or felt like it didn’t fit – but then, it didn’t exactly “match”, either.  Lane has these antiquated ideas of professionalism and growing a business, and at times his attitude at Sterling Cooper (both before and after his name was added to the masthead) was that of a college professor who was unexpectedly given a summer camp instead.   

But it’s not hard to see what he gets out of it.  The glamour of  being around the bustle of exciting people is exciting in itself, you know?  Your breath starts to come a little quicker just hearing about adventures.  And for Lane, who has spent so  much fruitless time trying to tell his wife why it’s beneficial for them to live in New York, it must be such a relief to drink it in.  What kills me about him, though, is that with his bunny last year and the Girl In The Wallet and, to exactly nobody’s surprise, Joan (who is still being referred to as Mrs. Harris, I notice, and is still wearing her rings),-  Lane is hoping very, very hard to fall in love.  To be rescued?    

Lane has such hopes that if he falls in love with a woman all the questions he has – those ones everyone else already has the answers to – will be answered.   Something about the American way of doing things is lost on him, and he desperately wants to be clued in; somehow only an American-as-apple-pie Suzie Q will give him the key to what he’s looking for.  He treats women with a measure of respect, sort of, and hopes it hides his fervent heavy breathing.  I’m  not the only one who thought beaten, glasses-less Lane looked kind of hot when he was on his office couch, I know that; we just might be in the minority.   

That’s all beside the reality of his marriage, though.  Lane’s not actually going to leave his wife, not after a caning from his father made him rethink that  folly.  He can’t understand why none of his colleagues see the utter humiliation that is his by association, now that the Jaguar head has had “chewing gum on his pubis”.  This is a British thing, a European thing.  Even though Lane was nowhere near the event, he’s guilty by proxy for remaining in the company of those who could be conducive to such a thing existing.  It’s heavy stuff.

This is the great part of Lane: he’s for us.  He’s an outsider who doesn’t understand how these things can go un-commented-upon, un-gasped-about.  He’ll never be one of these men,  at three different places on the path of what looks like a fairly eventual path to being Roger: cranky, bitchy, and resentful of others’ success.  (You go, Ken Cosgrove/Ben Hargrove!  You keep writing in the dead of night!)

I loved watching Pete, this episode.  I mean, I hated it and I hated him but that’s by design, right? He has this ability to pause and seem deliberate as he thinks to himself “now, how much of an asshole can I get away with being?”  What kills me about him is that there are two levels.  There’s the Pete who is just a dick-by-the-numbers, calling Lane a homo and his continuing resentment of Ken – and then there’s the Pete who looks around with wonder, touching everything in his life and going “Wait, why aren’t I happy?  What should I have to be happy?”  He’s long been in Don’s shadow and struggled between trying to take the man down and to emulate him.   It frustrates him that he can’t break free of the pattern, and frustrates him more that when he thinks he’s got it right – even whores have to work for his attention! – he’s not in the same company he once was.  Don isn’t playing the same game anymore.

I can appreciate that Don sees himself in Pete, that he knows whatever Pete thinks is better-looking than his family in the burbs, it isn’t worth it (and that was reinforced by the charming charm that is Alison Brie in this episode, no?  They really get their Trudy’s worth when they get her).  That his incessant struggles to figure out, like Lane, what and who will finally satiate his appetite will never really be over.

But I think I have a problem with Don knowing this because of Megan.  I don’t know why, exactly, I just haven’t seen the combination of the two of them be quite as therapeutic as what’s being implied.  Certainly Don is milder, and I sat up straighter as not one but two nods to his old life – that he grew up in a brothel, and the easy correction of killer Charles “Whitman” - failed to shake him at all.  That’s impressive.   But the admonishment to Pete, when he was trying not to be holier-than-thou but somehow did come off that way, just a little, of (pardon my paraphrase) “If I’d met [Megan] the first time around I’d have known not to mess it up”  -- well, that’s a convoluted thought.  On the one hand, he’s acknowledging that he had a hand in the ruin of his first marriage, and that he regrets it.   That’s interesting to hear, and totally foreign to the Don we knew five years ago – at least in his ability to articulate it.  I believe it though, if only because I think Don feels genuine longing when he’s on the phone with the daughter he doesn’t see enough.  On the other hand, he’s implying that Megan is a better wife…?  Or that he would’ve never been a cheater had he met her…?  Both of which seem pretty rich to me, and which come back around to blaming Betty for what wasn’t her fault.  And then there’s a third eyebrow raise that comes from assuming Pete and Trudy will necessarily fall down the same rabbit hole the Drapers (version one) did.

But I guess one man’s nursery school teacher is another man’s driving school classmate is another man’s buxom office manager.  One of these women must have the key to happiness – right?