Mad Men Season 4-10 ‘Hands and Knees’ Recap

This week everything changes. As I noted in my last recap, the death of Don’s elderly secretary Miss Blankenship could be the great harbinger of doom that is going to note a huge and obviously dark turn in the Mad Men universe. Of course this happens albeit on a very low key basis, and as with Weiner he always puts one twist in before slapping the true plot revelation on top of that one to really side swipe us. This week sees the reappearance of American Airlines and North American Aviation, the account roped in by Pete Campbell in the first season who have details about Don and the rest of the employees they need to corroborate and put back through.

With this suspicions arise, Don signs papers with all old identification on it and two FBI agents turn up at the Francis household and question Betty about Don. According to her, Don has requested security checks (a result of him not reading and only signing the legal papers) on her as well as him, mostly discussing whether or not they are Communists as a result of the dodgy information. Thus Don and his identity are at risk. The war in Vietnam and the ‘Red Alert’ taking place in America comes right to the fore in the this episode. This is again not immediately flagged up but the questioning by the Department of Defense about a person’s identity is very similar to what did actually happen with Senator McCarthy and the House of Un-American Activities Committee. Politics has always been a large part of Mad Men, with the plot and the state of the nation often colliding towards the end of a season. In the last season it was the assassination of JFK which provided the intense backdrop for the season finale, the season before that it was the Cuban Missile Crisis. And it oddly all fits together. Don becomes increasingly worried and turns to Pete Campbell, the only one in the agency who knows his secret, to try and deal with the North American Aviation issue.

Pete Campbell’s baby is arriving but he juggles this with news that he needs to handle the Draper issue. This will inevitably lead to SCDP dropping the account with North American Aviation in order to stop anymore suspicious intervention. This puts Pete in a delicate position as the Airline account, worth around $4 million, is one he was responsible for bringing in. Thus he is tempted by a rival company to move.

Meanwhile there is more melodrama between families. Lane once again proves to be one of the more intriguing characters in the show, as his father turns up announcing to him that he must return to England to sort out his affairs. In the meantime Lane tries to show his father around New York, but makes a bold step when introducing him to his new girlfriend, who is black. Some nice scenes which just underpins how little we know about these characters but how interesting they are underneath. Again the racial tension is clearly there, and there is a rather violent outburst when Lane, like Don, submits to his father in a scuffle, being demanded that he must call his father ‘Sir’ and accepts he needs to return to the UK.

Joan also announces this week that she is pregnant to Roger. He doesn’t know how to react, feeling he should take a more dominant stance but with no idea how to handle it, Joan assures him she will sort it. One of the more interesting elements of the original season was that in the old office, it was the women who ran the place and stopped it from going out of control, while the men sat around and drank. Joan was the binding force in the company which stopped everything from running riot and here that responsibility is returned to her. She convinces him to have it terminated, this being her third. Which due to previous relationships we assume that they are Roger’s fault. In the abortion clinic there is beautiful scene in which Joan talks to a woman whose daughter is getting a termination at 17. Here she lies that her own daughter of 15 (who is non-existent) is under going an operation, which immediately tells us she is referring to her past when we assume she had her first abortion.

Meanwhile Roger has to juggle the pressure of Joan’s abortion with some unfortunate news from our friend Lee Garner Jr. In a business meeting Garner informs Roger that Lucky Strike are ending their contract with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, who forms a large proportion of the business for SCDP. Balancing the whole business on the edge, despite him giving Roger 30 days to try and sort something. But in a very stupid move, Roger informs nobody.

As a result of all the suspicion surrounding him, Don’s health begins to rapidly deteriorate and suffers a near heart attack in the office. He then opens up to new lover, Dr Miller about his past life where he admits the secrecy is slowly killing him. Which begs the question how long do we have before we witness the end of Don Draper? The drama in this episode is cranked up to 11, and is all the more successful because of it, the ending only leaves worse things to come, as Lane leaves for England and two accounts dead in the water, the company’s future is hanging in the balance.