Monday, September 27, 2010

Hands, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Knees and Toes

Well! This sure feels weird. Haven't been in this position in a long, long time. Blogging on my "PB," personal blog, that is. But I am not, thankfully, on my "hands and knees," like, say all of the desperate and lonely and dangerously repressed employees of Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Price, that fictional Manhattan start-up ad agency that occupies the fourth season of AMC's critically-acclaimed adult drama Mad Men.

But yes, of course, it's an immensely weird position for me to be writing about said people finding themselves in a bitterly familiar position, not in the least because I'm choosing to jump back into the game awkwardly, toward the tail-end of my favorite show's fourth season, and with little in the way of convincing rationale other than "I feel like it," or perhaps, more apropos, "It felt right."

This feeling of rightness, however, is very different from the feeling of "Everything's going to be okay," or "Everything's fine," or the the "thumbs up" symbols that are deployed by various characters (ok, specifially, Don, Don, and Roger, respectively -- although of course Betty and Henry motherfucking Francis and Joan get their own variations) in this increasingly tense, harrowing, emotionally riveting eleventh episode, "Hands and Knees."

Indeed, whereas I feel geniuenely glad to be writing here again -- motivated to write again about something I've seen up on a screen -- if just a tad unsure about my pacing and footing (more of a general direction thing, itself a familiar feeling), the sad, wounded and greiving souls on Mad Men are only doing what Don did in episode 1, season 1, as my friend Rosy Minded Fuzzball was so quick and correct to point out -- that is, selling themselves a set of commercial taglines of reassurance, soothing acceptance and managability, all of them entirely false, of course, given how eminently FUCKED the firm is at this juncture, thanks to various overlapping conflicts and conflicts-of-interest.

But really, the ultimate irony is that, at least for the men of SCDP, the whole goal at this point is to keep the rickety, sinking ship of the firm afloat using whatever frantic, bucket or hand-draining method they've got (although it could of course be argued that Don's ultimate goal is self-preservation, but the firm's basically an intergal part of that, so, I rest my case). It shouldn't and cannot be an easy goal, to be certain, but it shouldn't have ever come to the dire straights that its in right now -- to the point at which basically only a miraculous, highly unlikely Hail Mary by Roger is the last hope.

That being said, Lane is all-but checked out as a character. I think that his literal crumpling to his father's will is a sign that family is and will always be the most important thing in his life. As poisionous as it is for his own self-worth and self-respect, its still seems to be better than work, and offers more possibilities for redemption. So maybe I should retract my statement, or at least revise it -- Not all the men at SCDP are ultimately concerned with the firm's survival -- or maybe they are, and Lane doesn't count, since he's such a pushover...

Still, it was nice to see the lately-strangely successful and even, dare I say it, noble Pete Campbell back to his slithery old bitchface ways, especially when dishing about Don on the couch to his pregnant, propping himself as the model of honesty when A) Discussing his fellow partner and former boss's situation in cryptic terms to his wife, but not-so cryptic as to convey the fact that he was digustingly displeased with someone B) for said someone's lack of honesty when in fact C) it was the speaker himself, the entitled little rich bastard Campbell who committed perhaps the ultimate act of dishonest betrayal, and has managed to escape the consequences of his actions entirely only thanks to the patient discrection of his colleague/collaborator/victim, Peggy Olson, the mother of his bastard son. (Although it should certainly be noted that Peggy's discretion was eminently selfish and immoral in its own right, and that in truth, the only truly innocent victim is the little boy that was born of their deliciously sordid union).

ALL OF THAT BEING SAID, I think, looking at the clock hands at this hour, that's time to get to the real point of this post, which is a compilation, what we in the biz call a "listicle," of all of the instances this show's title applied to, literal, metaphorical or otherwise. And, this being an episode all about the power (or lack thereof) of the palms to make things happen, of course I'm going to stretch the theme as far as I can. Comment if you want to add more, and I'll be happy to join them to the following list.


1. Don literally has his hands on knees when he thinks he's having a heart attack after seeing the two men mulling around outside his apartment. He also presumably is on his hands and knees when puking into the bathroom shortly thereafter.

2. Lane Price literally on his hands and knees when his bitterly-old codger of a Father whacks him in the face with his (the father's) cane, drawing blood, then process to crush Lane's knuckles with his toe, all of which finally has the effect of convincing Lane (who had up-until that point been doing well on a personal growth level, not only dating across color lines as we so clearly saw in this episode [although that too seemed to be more of a kinky fetish, in retrospect, than real genuine emotional connection, given how easily he caved and elected to leave his African American girlfriend behind] but also business-wise, occupying a more confident and senior position within the firm) to finally return to England to kowtow and make amends with the assuredly vindictive Mrs. Price.

3. Roger begging Lee Garner Jr. first not to close the Lucky Strike account, then to avoid withdrawing it for at least 30 days, to which Lee finally consents.

4. Don begging basically everyone (WELL wait, specifically and notably just Pete and the three women who now know his secret [identity]: Betty Draper Francis [like how her surname is finally being buzzed into Don's office?], Faye Miller [his new squeeze], and to far-lesser extent, Megan [his witless secretary]*) to keep it on the D/L while the G-Men are rolling around.

5. Believe Pete Campbell made a line to the effect of him chasing North American Aviation hand-over-foot for the past three years when he was arguing with Don about the proposed coverup.

6. Pete Campbell lying during the partner's meeting to cover up for Don, telling the partners that he begged North American Aviation to accept his apologies about mixing up the made-up general's name on the documents, but that they were inconsolable.

7. Roger yelling at Pete, lambasting him for failing to wait on NAA hand and foot, or, in his colorful language, "giving them a handjob."

8. Think that Trudy felt her and Pete's kid turn over, kick with his feet, probably on his hands and needs inside the womb...

9. Could read into Joan's conspicuous refusal to get on her hands and knees and pray about her abortion, though she did sort of immediately beg Roger to take care of it. Yet, at the same time, we have no proof that she went through with it, especially following the shamefully awkward encounter with the 32 year old mother of the 17 year old girl getting the abortion in the waiting room of the clinic. Note that that woman had trouble using her hands to get stuff out of her purse and pick up the magazine (flashbacks to Betty, S1, anyone?)

10. The bunnies, namely Lane's "Chocolate Bunny," doing the famous serving-dip by bending at the knees.

11. Don getting blown in a cab by Bethany, presumably on her hands and knees...oh wait, that was two episodes ago, sorrys.

* At this point, most of the women Don has fucked (or, to be fairer, carried on longer-term affairs with) know his secret, or at least that he has one, including Rachel Menken, Betty Draper Francis, Bobby, Faye. Conspicuously, in this season, several know his secret whom he's not fucked, including the dearly-departed Anna ("The Real Mrs.") Draper's niece, Stephanie, and of course, Meghan, on whom the episode closed to the tune of the Beatles "Do You Want to Know a Secret."

What this means is anyone's guess. Rosy Minded thinks its zeitgeisty inspiration. At first I thought/feared it was Don eyeing Megan as a liberating, revitalizing fuck, following his close encounter with Uncle Sam, but of course I quickly dismissed that as none-too-subtle. Now, I'm thinking the look that crossed his face was one of renewed concern knowing that (especially after Faye just departed the room with his secret in tow) his secret, or the knowledge that he has something to hide, is getting a bit-too widely disseminated. Ah well, guess we'll find out. Or won't we?

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