On In Plain Sight, Mary McCormack’s Mary Shannon once wisely declared, “There are only two kinds of surprises: birthday and Pearl Harbor.”
“Surprise! There’s an airplane here to see you!”
I thought I already had my favorite line of the season when Roger said, “How Jewish are they? Fiddler On The Roof: audience or cast?” But then Joan found an exciting new way to commemorate December 7th on the desk of the receptionist and I was in love.
Many other recaps (What?! You mean this isn’t my original idea?! WTF!) have compared this episode to The Suitcase last season. Most of those assessments can be summed up as “close but no cigar” and I won’t be the outlier on this one. The Suitcase was one of the great episodes of all time on TV, and clearly the high water mark of this show. The Joan/Don adventure here was a delicious treat, a tasty bon bon of wit and charm. But dragging this one out of the highest echelon of television were the two other stories: Lane as embezzler and the return of Paul Kinsey.
As unwelcome as a religious solicitation at the airport, one of the least missed characters of the old Sterling Cooper returned, just in time to pump some interest into the character arc of the least interesting character to continue through season five: Harry Crane. Krishna Krishna Hare Harry. In my head, all I could hear during the Paul Kinsey scenes was actor Michael Gladis saying, “I shaved for this!”
Don and Megan went to see a play where the actors made fun of advertising and Megan got to go all matchy matchy with her dress and lipstick. Later, when Don was late for dinner, she got to practice some scene work playing Oscar in The Odd Couple (“Now it’s garbage!”) with a hint of Betty Draper on the side, if Betty had allowed herself to be caught dead in striped pants and a green sweater. It seems all the sexiness has gone out of her rage. Too bad, because it just poured into Joan like sand in an hourglass figure.
Don should be concerned! There has been a lot of Manhattan decay on display this season and this episode, the decay was all personal and internalized and invading the walls of SCDP! Don and Megan and the ticking time bomb they call a relationship. Lane, with his money problems, clearly headed to a day of reckoning like NYC came to when President Ford famously told the city to drop dead. Checking in on Paul Kinsey only served to show him adrift in the downward slide of the city, like the sudden appearance of Midge last season as a mess so hot you could cook a spoon of heroin over her.
Merry Christmas, everyone! Looks like 1967 is going to be a real shit hole. But I don’t want to ruin the surprise.
Mad Men airs Sundays on AMC.