MAD MEN 5.10: “Christmas Waltz”

What scares — correction, scared — ultimate ladies’ man Don Draper? Would you believe a woman? You would once you found out the woman was Joan! The notorious man-eater had Don quaking in his boots during the first week he worked at Sterling Cooper.

That’s just one of the interesting details we learned from this week’s MAD MEN. Another fact is that Lane is in even deeper financial trouble than we were led to believe. And he’s only digging himself in deeper.

Faced with an overdue tax bill that was due in two days, Lane (Jared Harris) did the only thing he could think of: He defrauded Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce for the dough. He went out and borrowed $50,000 for the firm, then pretended it was a company surplus and called for Christmas bonuses all around. When Don (Jon Hamm) suggested delaying the checks until the Xmas party, Lane turned to forgery to cut himself a check immediately.

There was some good news for SCDP when Jaguar returned to solicit bids after Lane’s lecherous buddy Edwin was thrown out of the company. So everybody at SCDP had to bone up on the vehicles. Meanwhile, Joan (Christina Hendricks) was served with divorce papers, which really devastated her. She started screaming at the bimbo receptionist. Don saw her freaking out and whisked her out of the office and into a Jaguar for a test drive. (He needed someone to play his wife at the dealership.) They ended up at a bar, where the booze — and the personal secrets — flowed freely.

“My mother raised me to be admired,” Joanie confessed. So that’s why the idea of divorce is so devastating to her; it’s not actually the split from Greg, per se, it’s that he didn’t swoon and fall at her feet — and then stay there. His disdain for her made her feel small. Joan noted that she used to have to sign for a constant stream of flowers from moonstruck admirers, prompting Don to admit that he found all the tributes — and Queen Joan herself — intimidating. “You scared me to death,” he chuckled. Imagine that: Don Draper cowed by a woman wielding her powerful sexuality. And Don also recognized that sexuality when they both noticed she had an admirer at the bar. Don beat a hasty retreat (like any good wingman) and took to the streets to test out the Jag. Back home, Don found Megan (Jessica Paré) in desperate housewife mode; she threw a plate of pasta at the wall in anger because he didn’t call her to tell her where he was all afternoon. But that was her dinner; she served him his plate from the oven.

Someone else who hadn’t been heard from in a while resurfaced: Paul Kinsey (Michael Gladis). Paul became a Hare Krishna. He tried recruiting Harry (Rich Sommer), but it was the charms of Paul’s squeeze and fellow cultist, Lakshmi (Anna Wood), that really hooked Harry. Disenchanted with cult life, Paul slipped Harry a spec script for STAR TREK and asked him to get it to creator Gene Roddenberry — but Harry realized the script totally sucked. When she realized that Harry was a temptation that might draw her boyfriend away from the cause, Lakshmi went to Harry’s office and… well, had sex with him to… er, warn him away from Paul. Harry decided to give Paul $500 and a plane ticket to Hollywood to pursue his dream.

So, a lot of this week’s stories revolved around money in some way: taxes, bribes, alimony, valuable accounts… But it also featured a lot of unfulfilled desires: Lane wanted money; Joan wanted male attention; Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) wanted recognition for luring Jaguar back; Paul wanted a direction for his life; Lakshmi wanted Paul to stay with the cause; Rogers (John Slattery) wanted to support Joan and his kid; and Don wanted… what? His old life back? Did he want to go back to back to driving fast cars and wooing faster women? Surely Megan’s hectoring didn’t help. Joan had earlier suggested he didn’t enjoy the Jaguar because he was happy and didn’t “need” it. But after leaving Joan at the bar, he really enjoyed opening up the XKE. Did Joan awaken something in Don? Loved the way Don dashed off a $6,000 check to the Jaguar dealer as if it was nothing. And didn’t he and Joan make an interesting couple? Strange how Joan looks good on the arm of almost any man. On most other shows you could count on Don and Joan hooking up before the series ends. But on MAD MEN? Who knows…

Now we know Lane is really in deep. And getting deeper. He’s now an embezzler and a forger in addition to being a tax cheat. I wonder where his money went? To that fancy school for the kid? Gambling? Hookers? Boxing lessons? And what is his strategy for getting SCDP to repay that $50,000 loan he arranged over a bottle of Cutty Sark?

With Christmas so noticeable in the background of this week’s episode, does anyone else think it’s a bit convenient that Lane owed the crown $8,000 — the very same sum that Uncle Billy lost in that holiday chestnut It’s a Wonderful Life? Could creator Matt Weiner be laying the groundwork for a special Christmas-themed episode that has someone — Lane? Don? — seeing what the world would be like if he’d never been born… I think giving Don the George Bailey treatment would be particularly interesting, since the premise could be layered: What if Dick Whitman were never born, or what if he didn’t steal Don Draper’s identity?

Raise your hand if you thought Paul’s STAR TREK script was going to turn out to be The Way to Eden — the one about the Hare Krishna-like “space hippies” looking for a mythical paradise planet. Alas, no. But as a gloss on racial tensions in the USA, his script probably had echoes of Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.” (You’ll remember that as the one with the aliens whose skin was half-black and half-white.)

It’s the shades of grey that make MAD MEN so enjoyable.

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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