To quote the unofficial spokesman of New York, Jay-Z, everyone on Mad Men has ninety-nine problems in this episode, and a bitch ain't one. Instead lies and secrets are the problem on Mad Men, and no one is certain who they can trust. Don's real identity rears its ugly head, Lane places false trust in his father, and Joan and Roger's relationship takes an unexpected turn.
Unlike Mad Men episodes of the past three seasons, season four wastes no time making messes and cleaning them up. Whereas Lane's relationship and Don's identity scandal would have taken up an entire season, all is contained in one jarring and sloppy episode. Only fifteen seconds in, we find out Joan is pregnant with Roger's child, and that she plans to abort it. Jaws were heard hitting the floor all over the eastern seaboard at this moment.
It started off so glamorous, too: Joan sashaying into Roger's office in a lovely ivory, chocolate, and apple colored printed blouse, her Alexis Bittar looking gold ball earrings setting off her red lipstick. Roger, as always, looks perfect in another one of his three piece suits, this time in a dark gray, and his chunky, black, plastic framed glasses. But of course, nothing stays glamorous for long. Roger and Joan, the golden couple whose relationship has been the holy grail of Mad Men, something fans desired frantically, but could never attain, evaded success yet again. Joan heads to the doctor in western New Jersey alone, in a matronly blue suit, only to be confronted by a mother, played by Susan May Pratt in a stunning beige dress with ivory polka-dots, who has just taken her young daughter for a "procedure." Joan lies about having a daughter undergoing a similar procedure. Why? Because she is seen as too old to be having such issues herself, even by Roger's doctor who berates them furiously.
Ultimately, however, Joan's lies start to become transparent. Joan assures Roger that they've "dodged a real bullet," while wearing her shocking pink dress with light pink trim from an earlier episode; perhaps the pink is a nod to a baby? But her conversation with Roger at the end of the episode seems to be made of lies--something was unbelievable, untrustworthy. She never says definitively that she had an abortion, so all of us Joan and Roger fanatics have something to hold out for.
On the weirder side of the lies and secrets spectrum lies Lane's American affair with a Playboy bunny.
Lane's role on Mad Men is so unstable and undefinable; he is absent from multiple episodes only to return with a bumbling affair and multiple foolish missteps, making the viewers almost not care anymore about Lane's fate. Does he matter? Is he a serious character? A serious man? At this point he just seems like a fool. Startled by his father's arrival without his son, Lane idiotically brings his father to the Playboy Club and attempts to show off his attractive lady friend, only to have her push him away. Even Don feels uncomfortable in the situation, which is a lot coming from a man who has payed for sex in the past. At least she looks sexy and stunning in a sky blue bunny ensemble and an adorable hair flip. Lane sports another one of his brilliantly mixed and matched ensembles, this time a dark gray suit, tan vest, and burgundy tie, countering his father's brown suit and red tie.
Lane tries and fails again to prove that his love with his bunny, Toni, is real enough to keep him in America, this time by arranging a private dinner with his father. First, he sneaks into the Playboy Club to proclaim his love to Toni, while she looks darling in a yellow summer dress. She's accepting of his love, but reprimands his behavior. At the arranged dinner Toni is aware of the situation's awkwardness and tries her best to avoid creating tension by acting purely proper in a coral pink dress and pearls, but Lane is determined to use her to make a point. Kissing her as she leaves, Lane ultimately gets smacked in the head with a cane by his tweed wearing father, and is left on the floor, stepped on by his black leather shoe.
The truly cataclysmic issue that rocked SCDP this week was Don's identity. His nonchalant signing of government papers that asked for a high level security clearance from the Department of Defense, led to an intensive background check of "Donald Draper." We watch Don's ecstasy over Beatles tickets for him and Sally (which develops in a strange scene where Don calls an eyelet wearing Betty "sweetie" and Sally wears the children's version of the Team Zissou uniform) develop into anxiety as Megan--in a mod, Pierre Cardin looking minidress--reveals that she filed the paperwork for the clearance without giving Don any special notice. She is overly apologetic for a mistake that is not hers at all, and strangely submissive in the more feminist-friendly SCDP offices of 1965. (Not to say that it's equal, just that it's better that seasons 1-3)
Don panics because, for once, he's gotten himself into a lie he can't sweet talk his way out of. The government agents that arrive at Betty's house startle her, in a yellow eyelet summer dress and headband. As a result of the government's investigation, Don becomes physically sick and rips off his black suit, white shirt, and blue faded stripe tie in a Superman moment, with less than super results: vomiting in the bathroom. Faye tries to help Don recover, looking holy and nurse-ish in a white suit with a brown and white criss-cross print top. Ball earrings are making a comeback in this episode, with Faye wearing a silver pair with her all white ensemble. Instead of being increasingly private, however, Don tells Faye about his identity swap, which leaves an eerie feeling looming over the rest of season four, with Faye's mob ties and all.
All the lies come together in the partner's meeting that happens at this episode's close. Don, wearing a dark gray suit and black thin tie is confident and silent while Roger in a gray three piece with blue tie berates Pete in black with another one of his anorexic brown, black, white striped ties. Pete covers for Don, while Roger flat out lies about Lucky Strike saying all is well, when they only have 30 days to convince the board to keep SCDP. Lane covers up his personal problems with a stoic gray three piece suit (no mix and matching here), and by saying he's taking a leave to return to London. With clients leaving SCDP left and right, and Don's identity likely to make a comeback, the agency is turning into Cooper Cosgrove Harris before our eyes.
Finally, not to be forgotten, is my favorite character, Trudy Campbell, whose frilly cotton-candy maternity ensemble is cute, ridiculous, balloon-like, and sugary sweet. Mad Men should really consider producing some of Trudy's looks as Halloween costumes, which would easily rival those of Simon Doonan in the hearts of fashion lovers everywhere.