Mad Men recap – 5×10: ‘Christmas Waltz’

Courtesy of AMC

It’s Christmas time on Mad Men as the gingers take centre stage in this week’s offering. We get the return of Lane Pryce (Jared Harris), some significant Joan (Christina Hendricks) screen time, and the return of a familiar face in a very bizarre plotline.

Let’s take a closer look after the jump.

It’s a bit disorienting to see the offices of SCDP dressed haphazardly in Christmas decor while we’re in the middle of May, but the thematics that come with the holiday season fit quite nicely into this episode.

Last we saw Lane Pryce, he was at the top of my list of Mad Men characters, as one who simply could do no wrong. Even when he fantasizes about cheating on his wife, Harris still manages to portray Lane in the most lovable of ways. And of course, he gets top marks for his awkward smack down of snot-nosed Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) a few episodes ago.

And even with the questionable actions Lane partook in during this week’s episode, I still can’t help but root for him. We learn early in the episode that Pryce is in serious financial debt, owing about $8,000 in back taxes to his home country. Even nowadays, owing 8Gs to the taxman sounds pretty steep; I can’t imagine how significant that sum would be in the 1960s. But Lane puts his thinking cap on and manages to score a credit increase from the bank for SCDP to the tune of $50,000, which he passes off as a surplus to the rest of the partners. He hopes to disperse Christmas bonuses to the entire staff, including himself, so that he’s able to get the cash to pay off his personal debts without raising any eyebrows. But Pete never makes thing easy for Lane, as he announces that SCDP might still be in the running for the Jaguar account. This means it doesn’t make financial sense to go squandering the ‘surplus’ until the pitch is over. Christmas bonuses will be dispersed in a few weeks – problem is, Lane needs the money now.

Desperate to get out of his tax predicament, Lane eventually forges himself a cheque, dealing with the ramifications later. And it looks as if he’ll get away with it until episode’s end where Mohawk Airlines decides to go on strike, meaning SCDP won’t be getting any Mohawk ad revenue anytime soon. Not only does this mean that the Jaguar pitch is even more important to win, the partners decide they’ll still issue bonuses, but none of the higher-ups (read: Lane) will see any of it. So Lane will likely be unable to pay back the forged cheque before someone notices.

I must tip my hat to Harris – even with these hiccups, Lane is always composed, taking each complication in stride. Even when he’s forging cheques or lying to his wife (Embeth Davidtz) about being the one who is championing the Jaguar account, Harris conveys every emotion with equal parts charm and bubbling apprehension. It’s likely that Lane will face some significant consequences in these last few episodes of the season due to these actions, as he’s dug himself into a mighty deep hole. I’m hoping that true to Mad Men form, Lane’s fate won’t be as predictable as it’s being set up to be. Oh well…even if Lane is hauled off to jail, at least we’ll always have this wonderful moment.

And what about our other favourite redhead? I was quite pleased to see Joan get some more screen time as over the past few episodes, although when she was talking about Megan (Jessica Paré), Joan seemed to turn into a one-dimensional office gossip. Glad to see the old Joanie back; she may still have opinions about Megan, but it seemed forgivable when reminded about what she’s been through these past couple of years.

I loved it when Joan adequately put Roger (John Slattery) in his place when he pays her office a visit. We learn that he’s been sending her money to take care of their child, but she’s been sending it back. It couldn’t have been easy for her, especially considering that she’s now a single mom. But ultimately it’s better for little baby Nick if Joan continues the charade that estranged husband, Greg (Sam Page) is Nick’s true father. Fewer questions. I had much admiration for Joan’s foresight in sending the money back and for not running back to Roger in a moment of vulnerability. She quickly dismisses Roger’s continuing flirtation with her, telling him to knock up the next “lucky girl”.

But the Joan-cheerleading doesn’t stop there. How awesome was the scene where she finally tells off the idiotic receptionist? It was like a moment of rejoice for smart women everywhere. Joan gets served divorce papers in the SCDP lobby, because the insipid receptionist had no idea what’s going on. Understandably, Joan is furious not only that Greg is the one divorcing her, but that he managed to infect the one place where she felt she had ultimate control: her workplace. When she asks Bimbette why she didn’t screen the guy serving her papers beforehand, all the receptionist can say is “I don’t remember everything everyone says!” Hilarious considering her ONLY function is to indeed screen visitors who come to the office. Joan screams that she is an absolute idiot (so cathartic) and then proceeds to throw a toy airplane at her. Ah-mazing.

Don (Jon Hamm) breaks up the fight, taking Joanie with him to the Jaguar dealership to try and get some intel for the pitch. What follows is likely to be one of the most talked about scenes of the episode. It’s nothing fancy, just Joan and Don having a few drinks and talking. But the chemistry is palpable. It’s such a natural moment and Hendricks and Hamm are in top form. Definitely makes us want to see more of these two interacting alone. Although I probably am the only one who sees Megan as a good thing for Don, a Don and Joan pair-up would be explosive. These two just work together. The scene is interesting because even though it makes complete sense to have these two together, there is an equal desire to ensure that it never happens. Likely, these two in a relationship would ruin the chemistry they currently have. It’s difficult to articulate, but watching these two have a conversation is just delicious. There’s no other word for it.

Courtesy of AMC

Other observations:

  • I couldn’t help but feel bad for Megan after Don comes home late and drunk after his bar date with Joan. She’s furious with him, wondering if the old womanizer Don is back. Knowing that he left the office at noon, she didn’t so much as get a phone call from him. Although her reaction was a bit dramatic (throwing plates of spaghetti all around the apartment) I don’t think it’s unreasonable for her to at least get a phone call. After meeting her parents a few episodes ago,  it’s not unrealistic for Megan to be fearful.
  • I really didn’t care for the whole “return of Paul Kinsey (Michael Gladis) who is now a Hare Krishna” storyline. Although it was nice to see Kinsey’s metamorphosis from when he was a snooty copywriter back in Season One, most of the time it was just awkward. Perhaps there was a larger argument about the unhappiness that plagues these ad men no matter where they fall, but it was too obscure for me to go digging for deeper meaning.
  • Equally confusing and off-putting was Paul’s pseudo-girlfriend, Mother Lakshmi (Anna Good) aka the Juliette Lewis look-a-like. After inviting Harry (Rich Sommer) to come and partake in the Krishna ceremony, Paul essentially tells Harry that Lakshmi is the only thing really keeping him in the movement. Somehow, Lakshmi picks up on the fact that Harry finds her attractive and comes to accost him at the SCDP offices. After seducing him with an oh-so becoming, “take me from behind” proposition and they have a romp in his office, she inexplicably turns into a crazy beyotch. Apparently, sleeping with Harry supposedly gives her power, and she threatens that he stay away from Paul. I, a) didn’t at all understand her argument when she told Harry that sleeping with him gave her power and b)totally did not care. Perhaps if she had threatened to tell his wife about it, but that didn’t even come up.
  • There was one moment that I enjoyed out of the disastrous Paul plotline: after Harry discovers that Lakshmi is a nut job, he gives Paul money to go pursue his dreams of becoming a screenwriter in LA. Paul thanks him, noting with all the talk about “helping” in the Krishna movement, Harry was the only person to actually do something tangible. It was a sweet little moment.

Other lovely subtle moments:

  1. When none of the SCDP staff understands what Lane is saying and it takes Roger to clarify: “You’re all getting bonuses. We’re not.” Gold.
  2. Paul describing his drafted Star Trek episode as having “Moral complexities tinged with adventure that draw people to it”. Sound familiar?

So what did you think Mad Men-ers? What do you think will happen to well-meaning, embezzler Lane? Do you think Joan and Don will ever couple up? Do you think Don’s motivational speech at episode’s end marks the return of the Ad Man extraordinaire? Let us know in the comments section below.

Mad Men airs at 10pm EST, Sundays on AMC.

About tvangie

Angie is a TV addict currently pursuing a PhD in media studies. A freelance researcher and writer on the side – she really misses talking about her favourite shows because none of her friends watch them. Help her out.

3 thoughts on “Mad Men recap – 5×10: ‘Christmas Waltz’

  1. Good write-up, Angie! I feel that Lane will somehow wriggle out of his situation, simply because he must be a fan favorite for punching out Pete. I could watch him do that in every episode!
    As for Don and Joan sleeping together-Please God NO! It would be like Moonlighting all over again! When Bruce and Cybill got together it ruined the chemistry between them, and ruined the show. Besides, they are the Alphas of each gender on the show. It could never last.
    And yes, I believe Don will return to form as a terrific ad man with Megan out of the office and no longer a distraction.
    The Hare Krishna plotline was somewhat puzzling. I doubt anyone missed that character. And his girlfriend apparently doesn’t get the concept of blackmail.

  2. Hey Scott – I’m still scratching my head about Lakshmi. I’m trying to understand her whole “I’m trading whatever I can” argument. If she was more humble about it, I might have some sympathy. But then Harry tells her “Umm, you already gave it away…” -her only retort is to slap him. Hilarious but really puzzling. It’s not like the writers to be so sloppy. Ah well, still a good episode overall. Thanks for reading!

  3. “But ultimately it’s better for little baby Nick if Joan continues the charade that estranged husband, Greg (Sam Page) is Nick’s true father.”

    Joan’s son’s name is Kevin, FYI.

    LOVED the scene w/ Don & Joan. PLEASE, don’t ever get them together, Matthew Weiner. Don should stay the *one* man in Joan’s life that relates only to her mind (though not blind to her body, obviously!)

    See you on the next post…