In this week’s episode of Mad Men, the theme of truth is prevalent, as some characters are open about their predicaments, while others choose to hide reality from all those around them. One person firmly in the latter camp is junior partner, Lane Pryce, who is informed by his accountant back in England that his tax bill of £2900 (at the time, $8000) must be paid within two days, or he risks going to jail. There were hints of Lane’s financial issues earlier in the season, when his wife questioned him on the non-payment of their son’s school fees, and it is clear that they have not been resolved, nor discussed with his family or work colleagues. To continue his subterfuge, Pryce goes to the agency’s bank manager with promises of strong income projections for the new year to have him extend Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s line of credit by $50,000 – an amount he then declares as an unexpected surplus to the other partners and suggests Christmas bonuses are in order. When the others agree to this, but want to delay the timing until after the party, Lane writes his own check prematurely, forging Don’s signature by tracing an old receipt from Joan’s office.
While his dealings have not been detected by anyone else at the agency by the end of the episode, there is an inevitability of him being found out when SCDP discovers Mohawk has suspended all advertising activity while their machinists are on strike – resulting in Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Campbell deciding the partners should forego their own bonuses to offset the income drop. If Joan Harris had not yet returned from maternity leave, there would have been an opportunity for Lane to cover his tracks, but her efficiency and competency at her job means that the Englishman is on a collision course with the truth in the coming weeks.
Harry Crane also decides that the truth is not the best path to take in his storyline this week. He is being hounded by former Sterling Cooper employee, Paul Kinsey, one of those left behind when the new firm was formed at the end of season three. In the early years of Mad Men, Kinsey always wanted to be seen to be cool and with the times – at one point he was dating an African-American woman, seemingly because he believed being in such a relationship brought him cache, rather than because he had any real interest in her – and he has now embraced the Hare Krishna movement, including the shaved head and ponytail. Paul does now at least admit that his enthusiasm for the group is disingenuous – he is only continuing to go along with it to pursue a relationship with a woman known as Queen Lakshmi. The one-time Communist tells Harry he wants to leave for a new life with her and needs a favour from his former colleague – as Crane is involved in television, Paul believes he will be able to pass on a Star Trek script he has written to the bosses at NBC. Harry is apprehensive about doing this, not least because he is unsure if the show will still be on the air the following season, and when he reads it, he is unsure how to proceed since the finds Paul’s work to be unimpressive.
Lakshmi visits Harry at the agency and convinces him to have sex with her – something he is only hesitant about doing because of his loyalty to Kinsey, rather than to the mother of his child and pregnant-again wife – and afterwards she demands that he tells Paul the truth about his script and then leave him alone to the life of a Krishna. Crucially, Lakshmi reveals that her main interest in Kinsey is because of his skills as a recruiter for the group, which results in Harry knowing the best thing he can do for his old friend is lie to him. Harry tells Paul that NBC loved his script – but were unable to use it because of contractual issues – and gives him $500 and a ticket to Los Angeles in order for him to pursue his dream, insisting that he leave right away and not return to the Hare Krishnas. Often one of the more detestable characters on the show, who is nothing more than the butt of people’s jokes, Harry at last does something altruistic for another person, even if that involved some deception.
Joan and Don found solace in the truth and each other this week, getting an all too rare opportunity to share screen time and talk openly about their lives. Draper is disenchanted with his work and disappointed with Megan for having chosen acting over advertising, a decision he is reminded about when his new wife takes him to see a pretentious play, during which one of the characters pours scorn on his chosen profession. Back at home, Don is honest about the real cause of his upset, telling Megan that nobody had taken a stronger stand against advertising than her. Their relationship appears to be strained now that they are no longer colleagues and Don is reluctant to comply when Pete Campbell suggests he takes his former secretary along with him to test-drive some Jaguars (SCDP is back in the running for their business, since Lane’s philandering contact there had left the firm). In the end, Draper does go to the dealership as part of a couple, but the woman on his arm is Joan, not Megan. Ms. Holloway had spent the morning being forthright with others at the agency: dismissing Roger’s early drunken advances (since he was commemorating Pearl Harbor Day by drinking from before breakfast) and his attempts to give money for their baby, Kevin; then reaming out the girl at the front desk for allowing her to be served with divorce papers in the foyer of their offices, telling her that having her there was akin to having nobody.
Whatever the path the two of them had to take to get there, the combination of Joan and Don first at the Jaguar showroom, then over some drinks at a bar, gave us another chance to see the great chemistry the pair have. Earlier in the season, when Lane was describing Megan’s cabaret act at Don’s party, Joan proclaimed that she could not imagine how handsome he must be when he blushed, and this week she tells Draper that he is irresistible. There is some suggestive back and forth between them – Joan states that perhaps she should never have moved Megan from the front desk, implying that then Don would have still been available for her, and Don admits that he had been too scared to send her flowers when he first started at Sterling Cooper, but now asks her if she wants to dance. The two of them manage to avoid going any further than flirting for that evening, but Draper does send the soon-to-be-ex Mrs. Harris roses the following day. Before that, Don has to deal with Megan’s anger at his late arrival home, since she knows he left the office before lunch. Unlike with Betty, Draper is honest with his new wife and tells her the truth about where he has been, but not before she has thrown her plate of food against a wall. Megan insists he eats dinner with her – well, not really “with her” since her spaghetti is now wallpaper – and tells her husband that he used to love his work, even before she had been there.
By the episode’s end, Don has finally rediscovered his love for his job. Pete had spent the entire hour being dismayed about the lack of credit he was getting for re-entering SCDP into the race to have Jaguar as a client and when he announces it to the entire firm, there is no applause. Draper steps in and delivers a rallying cry – telling all those gathered that they will work through the next six weekends before the pitch, during Christmas and New Year, to ensure they are prepared to swim the English Channel and drown in champagne, since every agency on Madison Avenue is defined by when they got their first car. Perhaps he is doing it to avoid spending time at home with Megan, maybe he really has had his love of advertising rekindled, but whatever the reason, it will be great to have Don Draper back firing on all cylinders for the rest of the season.