Oh Mad Men, how I love thee. There was some twitter talk about Hands and Knees (Mad Men Season 4 – Episode 10) competing with The Suitcase for Jon Hamm’s (Don Draper) entry for the Best Actor Emmy. While I don’t agree (I think some critics are overly impressed by a man playing sick. That’s great method acting, but I think the best actor does the best to bring words to life not concepts) I do see why as Jon Hamm gave yet another stellar performance in this episode.
While The Suitcase gave us a central metaphor, and The Beautiful Girls pointed to a somewhat obscure Steven Sondheim musical, Hands and Knees can most accurately be called a variation on a theme. Spoilers ahoy!
There are many different ways one can end up on their hands and knees. One of the most direct ways is if your British father comes across the pond to collect you, then decides to get your attention by smashing you in the head with his cane. This is going to need some explaining. Lane is excited at the beginning of this episode because he is expecting a visit from his son. In a completely adorable moment, he has bought for his son a stuffed Mickey Mouse doll (I’m pretty sure I grew up with that exact same Mickey) that has red, white and blue balloons attached to it. Would have been a wonderful moment, except Lane gets the old bait and switch when his son isn’t in the lobby and instead he is confronted by his father. It seems clear from the outset that Lane isn’t particularly happy about his father’s appearance, but being British he does know the proper this is for them to dine together. He’s so thrilled to see his father and anxious to get to talk to him, he asks Don to come along as a personal favor.
Did anyone else catch that squeak as Lane put down the Mickey doll? I assume it was Lane’s shoes against the floor, but the fact that they left it in made this really sad moment comical in a fantastic way. In a B movie, that would have been like a fly appearing on the lead actors face but Mad Men used that little mistake to undercut the weight of the situation. Yeah Lane is bummed, but he’s still holding a Mickey Mouse with red, white and blue balloons and we the viewers can’t forget that that’s an amusing image. In a sad moment. It’s a complex show.
There’s so much to talk about the next scene in this arc. Lane decides to take his father to the Playboy Club, an establishment which no longer exists but used to feature Playboy Bunnies as waitresses and live music. Don looks right at home, Lane’s father a bit nonplused despite his older set, and Lane is practically giddy. Well long story short and above picture explained, Lane is dating one of the Playboy bunnies, and she’s African American. Scandal! Long time viewers will remember that this is the second interracial relationship on Mad Men, with Sterling Cooper employee Paul Kinsey. Paul was written out of the show at the end of last season when Sterling Cooper made it’s big move. He had a beard.
Lane wants his dad to have a chance to get to know his reason for staying in America and not coming back to London, but his dad is having none of it. When Lane throws down the “Are you upset that I’m happy or because she’s black” gauntlet, Lane’s father beats him over the head with a cane, causing him to drop to hands and knees, then steps on his hand until Lane agrees to put his affairs in order. It’s like if someone with really good advice gave a reality check to someone finally breaking free of shackles by turning into Chuck Norris then turning back into an old guy with a cane.
You know what, it’s exactly like Yoda! Except Yoda is grumpy and goes off on his own Jedi’s not Sith Lords.
Of course, hands and knees applies quite literally to babies, and this episode is full of them. The show makes you understand what it was like to live in a pre-contraceptive era, not by saying it all the time, but by putting babies everywhere. As you may have guessed by now, Joan got pregnant from her near death experience sex with Roger. Joan and Rogers relationship got pushed back in season three, as Joan sought out some normalcy, but here it is back with a vengeance. Did anyone else notice that Joan and Roger, in the scene to the left, returned to the scene of the crime (literally, in two different ways) to discuss how to go forward? Roger is willing to pay for an abortion and that seems to be the way they’re going to go forward, but it’s unclear at the abortion clinic whether Joan went through with it or not. Roger spends some time exploring options which include keeping the child and telling Mr. Harris that it’s his. (No, not Xander) and Joan at the clinic gets in a discussion with a mom who’s taking her teenage daughter. When the mom asks Joan how old her daughter she says “fifteen” instead of “no, it’s for me, you see I still haven’t learned at my age” or “it’s mine, I’m a sex positive female on the cusp of a dying prudish age and sometimes these things happen because there isn’t nearly enough sex education” or something to one of those effects.
Of course the most common variation of hands and knees is “I’m begging you, I’m on my hands and knees” and that the other situation Roger finds himself in. Roger’s growing irrelevancy has been a recurring theme this season, and it’s only going to grow larger as Lucky Strike, as in Season One Episode One demonstration of Don Draper’s brilliance Lucky Strike, has decided to go in a different direction with their advertising. This was the only account Roger had left and a majority chunk of SCDP’s operating budget. In other words they are doomed if they can’t make it up. Roger begs to be given another chance, to give Lucky Strike what they want but it’s to no avail. He has a month to figure out how to replace their account. Which isn’t getting any easier because Pete Campbell’s baby North American Aviation that he courted way back in Season One when Don went Awol in San Pedro is a semi-government contract, and as such requires background checks.
This puts a ton of pressure on Don, cause of course he’s actually Dick Whitman, Korea deserter, and they shoot deserters, don’t they? Anyhow, Betty gets a visit from some FBI guys and she lies to them saying Don is who he says he is. Don becomes panicked, develops a fever and ends up in front of his toilet, you guessed it, on his hands and knees. Don being Don gets Pete to drop North American Aviation, an announcement which comes as Roger is dealing with the loss of Lucky Strike (though not telling anyone) which causes Roger to drop an F-bomb on Pete, which I can’t remember if that’s Mad Men’s first f-bomb or not, but it was awesome.
Pete confides in his wife Trudy, sort of, not telling her anything but doing the Pete and Trudy thing where she’s all trust me, and he’s like nah uh I’m still a kid, but they cuddle together. Trudy has a gravitational pull to rival some planets, but she at least qualifies as a minor moon in her current majorly preggers state. He tells her he hates having to pick up the pieces for all the liars out there, which is funny cause don’t you have a son Pete that Trudy doesn’t know about and would reveal the extramarital affair you had with Peggy? No it’s okay Pete, the world is so tough and you just need to pout sometimes.
Speaking of Peggy, no where to be seen in this episode. Hopefully she’s getting some lesbian loving from her friend at Time magazine. That’s it for the wrap, tell me what you thought below!