Wow! Just an amazing episode with the 1-2 punch of Don confessing his secret to Faye and Lucky Strike dropping the firm. And to top it off, Lane is not only dating an African-American playboy bunny waitress, but he has an abusive dad! Not to mention Joan fixing her "problem." This episode was packed, just packed with plots, subplots and excellent dialogue. The Suitcase episode may not have been surpassed but it certainly as set the tone and the standard for the rest of the season. Let's start with Don, I guess.
Don's reactions to a security clearance process is a bit more extreme than when I went through it. I don't think I got ill. Don, well, he had much to hide than I did. And Megan screwed up by doing his homework for him. But really, Don should have paid attention to what he signed. Don learns that if you date a smart woman, they can figure out some stuff. But most striking of all is that he told Faye the truth. Not all of it, but the heart of it. If anyone had any doubts about Don being able to be intimate, well, we have some evidence now. Given that Faye herself has shown a temper (the phone call to an ex-boyfriend in a public phonebooth), this may or may not have been the best choice. She reacts well, but what happens
Joan: Well, this was the most predictable plot. Have sex once inconveniently, you get pregnant on this show. Peggy and now Joan. Well, Joan for the third time. So, we were expecting this, but the actors played this out very well, with Joan watching the Mom as her kid gets her very first abortion. Ug. Glad I don't have a teenage girl. Oh wait, never mind. Anyhow, Christina Hendricks does a terrific job of showing the conflicting emotions, and denying Roger that her hubby dying in Vietnam would be a good way for this problem to be resolved. Their scenes, as usual, crackled, with Roger just digging bigger and bigger holes for himself.
Roger: For those complaining about not enough Roger, they got Roger in two major subplots--the predicted pregnancy one and the predicted end of Lucky Strikes. Given the dependence on one account, this was easy to see coming, especially as the tobacco industry started to get hit mildly hard by the government. Just wait until attitudes change, Mr. Tobacco. Anyway, Roger begs for a month so that he can tidy things up, but he cannot do that. His one big account, as Lee the Sadist reminded him, was inherited. He was a caretaker not a rainmaker. Only Pete has been a rainmaker.
Pete: What a wonderful hypocrite. He is absolutely right about Don, including realizing that he was worth more than $4 million to the firm (at least before they know about Lucky Strike). But he is blind to his own carnage damage--to the au pair, to Peggy, to his wife. Pete has secrets, too, so I was a bit annoyed that he was the one to call Don on his this week. Of course, the best part of Pete is his wife, who was a wonderfully, glowing pregnant pink ball of fluff. What a great outfit for someone so round! We love Alison Brie in this show and in Community. Anyway, Pete took the hits at the big partnership meeting, and took them quite wel, so I guess my opinion of Pete is on the rise, despite his use of denial sauce on his own past.
Lane: Lane was terrific here, at first appearing creepily enthused about random black Playboy bunnies and trying to show them off to Don and Dad, but then we learn that she is his love. That was the second biggest surprise of the night, after Don's confession to Faye. And what an abusive Daddy he has. That scene was so painful for the audience as Lane, despite cheating on his absent wife, is perhaps the most likable man in the cast (we have multiple candidates for most likable person and they are mostly women). Lane caves and is going back to London, but for how long? The firm may not be around when he gets back.
The firm: Is in a heap of trouble. I cannot imagine that the firm would fall apart, as the interactions of these characters are great. Having them fly apart into new firms would undermine some of the best parts of the show. Having them be absorbed might make sense. I am holding out for Pete/Don getting a new couple of medium sized accounts that might keep the ship afloat.
The good news is that Don got sick from a panic attack and not from too much booze. Improvement? I guess. Joan is handling her crisis well. Roger is trying to deny the reality facing them. Lane is succumbing. Pete is rising. Peggy is missing. But the great news is that Sally is yeah, yeah, yeah seeing the Beatles. That was a terrific shriek of delight. And Betty was actually amused and happy for her. Finally, an episode where Betty gets to be semi-likable--she covers for Don (probably for her own good/ego) and she does not get in the way of Don's buying Sally off with the moptops. She loves you, yeah yeah yeah!
Since every episode seems to take place a month after the previous one, I expect we shall see lots of aftermath but not direct processes--that we don't see them go to the Beatles concert, but Sally will be talking to Don again. Yeah, yeah, yeah! But can they wait an entire month to deal with Lucky Strike? Um, no. Matthew Weiner does not mind breaking patterns, so we could see this one changed as well.
Just another great episode.
Updated: and see Tim Goodman's take, which is very nicely done.