a. Have the grace to be calm and discreet, take responsibility for the shit, make a plan, and execute it with a minimum of fuss?
b. Pretend that the shit did not go down and stall for time?
c. Completely lose your shit, freak out, shut down, and bully others into taking care of your shit?
d. Eat that shit?
e. Eat that shit, but hold your nose the whole time and make a secret plan to make sure that shit never happens again?
If you answered “a,” you are a Joanie. The shit all comes crashing down in “Hands And Knees”: Episode 10, Season Four of Mad Men. At the beginning of the episode, Joan informs Roger that she’s late–very late–and her Little Surprise could not be her husband’s. Roger shifts immediately into ass-covering, problem-solving mode, but it’s clear from the beginning that Joanie’s the only adult in the picture. There’s a moment–a wisp of a moment–when Roger has the opportunity to do more than pay lip service to his “love” for Joan, and he fails. With barely a change of expression, we see Joanie’s future shatter. She takes care of the problem herself, and the scene in the abortionist’s waiting room may be the most elegantly heart-breaking scene in history of TV drama. We should all get down on our hands and knees and award Christina Hendricks the Best Supporting Actress Emmy. Game over.
If you answered “b,” you are a Roger. You’d think the prospect of having a love child might be disaster enough for Roger, but it was barely a blip on the old sea dog’s sonar. While Joanie’s in New Jersey at the doctor’s office, Roger’s having dinner with Lee Garner, Jr., who informs him that Lucky Strike’s moving its account to BBDO. Roger is shocked and crushed; Garner is an insufferable prick, but Lucky Strike’s been in the Sterling Cooper stable for 30 years and represents well more than 50 percent of the agency’s billings. This development hits a little too close to home for all of us in and around the ad business; lots of our agency friends have closed up shop, laid off staff, taken pay cuts, and otherwise suffered through this economic downturn. Roger talks Garner into giving him 30 days to get his shit together–but his ship is sinking, and not even Joanie can bail him out.
If you answered “c,” you are a Don. Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s big new contract with North American Aviation requires Department of Defense security clearance–a little development our pal Don Draper does not grok until the investigation is already underway. Remember, there’s that little matter of Don assuming another man’s identity in Korea, and the desertion charge it no doubt carries, and Don Draper, our suave, dark ad man completely loses his shit. This is another side of Don Draper we’ve never seen: a panic-stricken, wild-eyed, hyperventilating mess of a man. He cannot make a plan. He cannot breathe. He tells Pete Campbell to make North American Aviation and its four-million-dollar account go away. That’s how afraid Don Draper is of being found out: he’s four million dollars afraid. He’s a scary basket case–and now he’s dragged Dr. Faye Miller into the shit, as well.
If you answered “d,” you are a Lane. Hands down, the most shocking, harrowing moment in an episode filled with shocking, harrowing moments is the moment Lane’s elderly father whacks Lane across the head with his heavy old-man cane–then stands on Lane’s hand until he consents to go back to England and forget his Playboy bunny negro mistress (whose unveiling may have been the second-most shocking development of the episode). Why doesn’t Lane knock the old man down and beat him to death with his own weapon? Because Lane is a classic shit-eater who catches a glimpse of happiness but convinces himself he just doesn’t deserve it. He does the responsible thing. You get the idea he’s eaten so much shit in his life that he’s convinced himself it tastes like eggplant parmesan. (Give me a break. I’m a vegetarian.)
If you answered “e,” you are a Pete. Pete knows the agency is nothing without Don Draper, Creative Genius. So Pete agrees to Don’s four-million-dollar bailout. But he ain’t happy, and Pete doesn’t forget much of anything. This deal comes with a price, and Pete Campbell is the pooper Don’s going to have to pay.
How’d you do? I used to be a total Lane. I’m never a Pete, almost never a Don. Under some circumstances, I’m a Roger. For better and worse, and certainly without the grace, I’m usually a Joan.