Betty...Yes? ... Thank you.
I can't decide what was more heartbreaking in this brutal episode: The sight of Lane Pryce getting beaten down by his own father or the cruel twist of biological fate that befell Joan.
Those were hard to take. In the moments after Joan told the woman in the abortionist's office that her daughter was "15," I lost it. I felt like I'd swallowed a billiard ball for a few minutes. The whole scene with Joan talking to the mother in the waiting room was so beautifully shot, too, by first time "Mad Men" helmer Lynn Shelton. Good for her, and good for Jonathan Abrahams and Matthew Weiner for penning "Hands and Knees."
This episode also had one of the most uplifting moments of the season to date when a distraught Don reveals all to Faye in about 20 seconds and two sentences. He's not making the same mistake he made with Betty by allowing the lie to get bigger every day. His Dick Whitman-Don Draper back story isn't so morally horrendous in the context of war and a soldier already wounded. The thought of time in the Big House for desertion naturally scares Don, especially because of what it would do to his kids, who have already been through the mill. But I took his confession, and the relative ease with which it was delivered, to Faye as signs that he is more comfortable in his own skin (which has been a theme of the whole season) and an indication of his respect and affection for her.
A few things about the episode surprised me. Don confiding so much in Pete Campbell surprised me. I guess he felt he didn't have anything to lose and Pete was the one way of tracking the progress of his Defense Department background check required by Sterling Cooper's bid to do more work for North American Aviation.
Vincent Kartheiser was great in this episode. I could feel his revulsion at the whole mess that's costing the company a potential $4 million in billings. Although Pete started out in the series as a craven career climber, we come to find out he has a pretty strong moral code, and he's a progressive. Plus, his wife looks darling in a preggers nightie.
Lane Pryce's love affair with the black Playboy Club hostess threw me. Don't think they ever foreshadowed that relationship. I suppose he's a lonely, rejected Brit trying to do as New Yorkers do. But would he really have been so bold to flaunt it in front of his father? We didn't know about Mr. Pryce's temper until the end of the seg -- I flinched when the father hit Lane on the temple with his cane, and then crushed his fingers under his heel -- but surely Lane did.
Betty's handling of her interview with the Defense Dept. investigators surprised me. I would have thought she'd drop some hints to destabilize him. Her panicky telephone conversation with Don afterward was as cordial as they've been all season. It was also telling that Betty actually managed to be happy for her daughter when Don dropped the Beatles at Shea Stadium news on Sally over the phone. (From the pictures I've seen of that concert, I wonder how anyone in the cheap seats could hear with such little amplification on the stage. The credit for revolutionizing the sound of stadium concerts goes to the Rolling Stones and their techs.)
I suppose it could all be read as a hint that Betty will seek some kind of reconciliation with Don. But with this show, I wouldn't bet on it.
As hard as Lane was smacked in the head by his own father, Roger Sterling was kicked in the gut by a guy he'd come to think of as his extended family. The breakup of Lucky Strike and Sterling Cooper had been coming all season, with the references to the account's importance to the new firm, and with that sadistic bit the homophobic Lee Garner Jr. pulled in forcing Roger to play Santa at the Christmas party.
This episode was clearly lining up a lot of things to happen in the last two segs of the season, as hinted at by the "Do You Want to Know a Secret" instrumental over the closing credits (I'm guessing the Beatles wouldn't license the real thing.) Yikes, can we be down to the last two already?!
-- Cynthia Littleton