This week’s Mad Men episode put SCDP on a tragically sad track that will trigger even more conflict and deeper soul searching at the agency. In an earlier post, I commented that Lane could not survive his forgery and embezzlement actions since they are egregious breaches of the confidence and trust that are essential in an agency partnership. Trust is the critical issue, not the money Lane “borrowed.” In Don's emphatic and unilateral demand for Lane’s resignation, he rejects Lane’s plea for a second chance with a simple, “I can’t trust you anymore.” Unfortunately, Don is dead wrong when he assures Lane that owning up to his misdeeds and resigning was the “worst part” and that “The next thing will be better because it always is.” Lane’s suicide is an unexpected bombshell.
By comparison, the other action at SCDP is a tame sideshow. It is exciting to see Don and Roger rekindling their fire to think big and act boldly, great to watch Joan take her seat at the partners’ table and to see Ken finally beginning to assert himself. There is also a lively partner discussion about the traditional 15% commission system versus fee-based compensation being proposed by Jaguar. As discussed in prior posts, the eventual move to fees would radically alter the business and end the financial glory days of the Mad Men era. Bert Cooper's research into the pros and cons of both methods leads to his discovery of the "smoking gun" forged check that sets off the chain of events that ends Lane's life.
An Abyss Of Irony And Despair
Lane’s starts his day with a feeling of pride in being selected by the American Association Of Advertising Agencies to serve as chairman of its financial control board. An ironic appointment given Lane's recent financial transgressions. From there, Lane descends into an abyss of desperation, utter despair, and suicide that is excruciatingly painful to watch. The 4A’s is a powerful and prestigious organization and Lane knows this appointment will raise his profile in the industry, help the agency, and boost his standing with the partners. Bert’s discovery of the forged check and Don’s confrontation brings Lane’s prideful moment crashing down on him. In Don’s office with the door closed, Lane moves from feeble defiance, to expressing remorse, to making a desperate plea for another chance. Ironically, Lane tells Don that he chose to forge his name since he felt that Don was always nice to him and that he would “understand.” Don is not moved. He stands firm and shuts the door on any possibility of reaching an accommodation. Lane spirals downward and his wife’s surprise gift of a Jaguar seals his fate. Lane's attempt to use the Jaguar as his instrument of death fails when the car will not start. It is another ironic twist that his attempt at a “quiet” carbon monoxide poisoning is thwarted by a bad starter. Bert’s only comment to Lane after he announced the Jaguar opportunity was a complaint about the faulty electrical system. And now, Bert uncovers the forged check. I wonder if Bert's words were echoing in Lane’s mind as he attempted to start the car. The Jaguar malfunction drives Lane to his office for a much more gruesome death by hanging accompanied by a "boilerplate" letter of resignation. It’s very sad and tragic end for Lane. He will be missed and Joan will most likely step in and fill his shoes.