With three episodes left of Season 5, the tension on “Mad Men” shifted into high gear on Sunday’s (May 20) episode, “Christmas Waltz.” Here’s the one-sentence summary: Don Draper’s head is back in the game, Lane Pryce is dancing on the edge of financial ruin (and possibly a precipice) and it turns out that Harry Crane, official Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce d-bag, isn’t a total tool after all.
Don’s back: At the end of the episode, Don (Jon Hamm) re-engaged in the work of SCDP and it’s a good thing because if Don’s happy, so goes the firm. What convinced him? A domino effect: Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) suggested Don drive a Jaguar. Thanks to Joan (Christina Hendricks), drunk-driving a Jaguar sports car gets him fired up about the product. Finally, an irate Megan (Jessica Par�) — who gets his attention by throwing her dinner plate at the wall and ordering him to sit and eat — reminds Don that he likes his work.
Lane’s dilemma: The fear of financial ruin will drive a man to desperate measures in an effort to keep his world from imploding. And so it was that “Mad Men” gave viewers one of its most pathetic images ever — Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) creeping around SDCP at night to forge a check to pay his U.K. taxes. He’s on the hook for $8,000 for a spur-of-the-moment donation to an American politician (if memory serves, it was Nixon, but please correct me in comments if you know better). Now he’s traded that problem for a larger one. He gets the agency’s banker to extend SCDP’s line of credit by $50,000, then passes it off as an unexpected windfall he found in the books which means surprise (!) Christmas bonuses. The fact that Joan didn’t notice the discrepancy in this episode (maybe she was too busy reeling from her divorce papers) just means it is yet to be discovered. Nothing gets by that woman.
But in the continuing saga of Season 5’s “This is All Leading to the Death of a Main Character” theory, it does place Lane at the top of the list for ad execs who may want to jump from a window or freefall down an elevator shaft.
Harry Krishna: Let’s all just pause to thank Krishna for the return — however brief — of Paul Kinsey (Michael Gladis), ex-Sterling Cooper resident hipster and newly-minted Hare Krishna. He gets in touch with Harry to pass along a spec script he’s written for “Star Trek” — the unfortunately named “Negron Complex” episode. It’s horrible and Harry doesn’t know what to do. He did, however, get into the groove at a Krishna happening and — ever the cad — is open to a seduction from Paul’s Krishna “girlfriend,” Mother Lakshmi (played by Anna Wood). But, just as we were thinking it was too good to be true that some hot saffron-loving hippie chick would be hot for Harry, she confirmed the fact by letting him have her on his desk and then slapping him across the face and telling him to stay away from Paul lest he shake his faith in Krishna.
And to the surprise of everyone, but especially one Harry Crane, Harry is galvanized not only to give his old friend false hope — by telling him the horrid script is actually fab — but gives him $500 on the spot to leave Krishna and Lakshmi behind and head out to California where he can start all over without anyone knowing about his New York ad agency shame spiral.
Now, let’s not be unrealistic. Harry is still pretty much a douche, but he did Paul a good turn. And that’s got to be good karma.
>> At the beginning of the episode, Pete says Roger Sterling is down at “Shipyard Row” getting drunk. Why? Because as a former sailor, he’s commemorating the 25th anniversary of Pearl Harbor by tying one on.
>> The drinking loosens Roger’s tongue enough to confront Joan about her apparent refusal to take any child support money for little Kevin.
>> Speaking of Joan, the plane-throwing explosion at the ditzy receptionist was amazing. If only because it’s rare that we actually see Joan let anything get to her.
>> What got to Joan were divorce papers, which leads to her afternoon jaunt with Don and — no, they didn’t almost hook up. Both Joan and Don are adults who have been through a lot and through a lot of, umm, partners. What may have looked like a barroom flirtation was actually two besties doing what besties do best — help each other through a rough patch.
>> Don jokes about Joan having dating “Ali Khan” and then sends her a spray of red roses signed “You’re mother did a good job — Ali Khan.” Don was probably referring to Prince Aly Khan — Pakistani royalty, owner of racehorses and noted ladykiller — who was Rita Hayworth’s third husband.
Okay, what stuck with you from “Christmas Waltz?”