The Chat Room

A Letter Gone From SCDP

John Swansburg chats with readers about the latest episode of Mad Men.

Mad Men.
Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) in happier times

By Jordin Althaus/AMC.

How devastating was last night’s Mad Men? Slate Culture Editor John Swansburg gabbed with readers about yesterday’s episode. An edited transcript of the live chat is below; read it in full here.

John Swansburg: Hi all! I’m looking forward to chatting with you guys about last night’s heartrending episode of Mad Men. I promise to give this chat nothing less than 81 percent effort.

Dan Spalding: Don should not feel guilty. He did the right thing, in my opinion.

Frances Rose: I agree with Dan.

John Swansburg: Don certainly played it by the book, and strictly speaking has no cause to feel guilty. But he clearly does; as Patrick points out in his post, Don misread Lane’s reaction, and the depths of his despair. And this isn’t the first time Don’s lost someone to suicide, and felt partially responsible.

Marc Naimark: A French government minister accused of causing deaths by the AIDS contained in untested blood transfusions stated that she was “responsable mais pas coupable” (responsible but not guilty). Don is not guilty, but he is responsible. (As is Lane, first and foremost.)


Marc Naimark: I am interested in the way the show deals with the issue of the status of partners compared with that of employees. Joan’s status as an employee was hinted at in the episode just before she became partner. In it, the issue was the bonuses, and one of the partners was surprised that the partners were discussing the issue without Joan. Another (Cooper?) explained that it was a sensitive subject, as partners get priority for the bonuses, but Joan was just an employee. At the announcement of the bonuses, the division was clear, with partners on one side of the room, and employees on the other.

Lane was a partner, but he can be “fired,” at least in his capacity as CFO. I assume however that he retained his partnership stake. Or does he? Does a working partner become a silent partner?

Stephen Rourke: A silent partner is generally one who chooses on his or her own to be an investor, not a manager. Whether Lane was a manager or not (and clearly he was, as CFO), his actions violated his partnership duties and would have provided ample grounds for the other partners to demand his disassociation from the partnership.

John Swansburg: That’s an interesting question. Did Don have the power to unilaterally fire Lane? Probably not, if you’re playing it by the book, but Lane knew that if Don brought his crime to the group they’d sack him. Lane’s also in the difficult position of not even having the money to give back to the company yet. Don’s offer to cover the $7,500 was another bit of fairness from him: Lane could have resigned and not had the debt hanging over his head any more.

Stephen Rourke: Termination of a partner is generally a partnership decision involving buying out the interest of the partner; in a situation like this, any refund of partnership capital would have to be offset by any financial damages from Lane’s conduct (in this case, the $7,500). Had Lane been arrested and found guilty, Don might have had the legal right to fire him but, but as it is, Lane’s death would automatically terminate his status as a partner, so Don may have nothing to worry about.

Marc Naimark: What happens to his stake, then? And what happens now? Does his widow inherit his stake? Does the resignation letter have any effect? The embezzlement?

Stephen Rourke: His widow could ask for a buy-out of his interest at the value of the time of his death, but the partners could ask for offsets based on any damages (again, the $8,000).

John Swansburg: I was waiting to see whether Don said anything about what he knew, but he didn’t, and I don’t think he will now—he’ll let Lane keep his reputation. Though if I were Bert Cooper, I’d have my suspicions.


Holly Allen: Asphyxiation and hanging: Both these methods show intent and leave no openings for being accidental. I wonder why he didn’t choose pills. I also wonder if Don or the firm will help take care of Lane’s wife and son.

Jeanette Morrison: ‎True, and I wonder what the scandal will do to the firm’s reputation. (When that other firm got busted for throwing water balloons at the demonstrators it was pretty embarrassing, but this!)

Marc Naimark: I’ve seen similar comments elsewhere, that the suicide will destroy the firm. I don’t know why. There many reasons a man might kill himself. Only Don and Cooper know about the embezzlement, and that’s easily covered up.

Gregg Jensen: So do they change the name of SCDP? I’m guessing if they do, that Pete will try to become a full partner. SCDC?


Jeanette Morrison: Any chance that Lane’s death will somehow bring Peggy back? Not as a replacement partner (that would be too much to hope for), but maybe … she and Don will reconnect at Lane’s funeral and realize their error of their ways? I don’t know, something—the show’s not the same without her.

John Swansburg: If only! I don’t think we’re likely to see Peggy back at SCDP though. I do hope that the show affords us the occasional glimpse of her at her new perch, kicking ass (and getting recognition for it).

Chad Hardeman: I assume the firm will have to bring in a bean-counter type to perform Lane’s CFO functions. I wonder if Lane had his hand in the cookie jar more than was revealed over the last two weeks. That would make an interesting plot twist. Sally and Glen will get boring pretty soon.

Jessica Vosgerchian: Remember how Lane once said that Joan could do his job?


John Swansburg: What did people make of Ken Cosgrove’s exchange with Roger? I don’t think I’d quite realized that Ken had such disdain for Pete.

Marc Naimark: ‎Ken and Pete: They have long been competitors. Pete was in a position to push in as a partner, while Ken wasn’t.

John Swansburg: Ken’s comment that he doesn’t want to be a partner because he’s seen what it entails was kind of puzzling. What does it entail? For Pete and Lane it was a lot of work. For Don, Roger, and Bert it wasn’t all that grueling. Or was that a reference to Joan —that is, Ken was saying he won’t sell himself for a seat at the table?

Marc Naimark: It could just mean working alongside Pete!

Julie Kramer: I thought Ken’s remark about partnership was a reference to Joan. He may not know explicitly the bargain they struck, but he was there when the Jaguar guy asked about her, and he’s sharp. Much as I loathed that storyline, I do get a kick out of Joan as a partner.

Jessica Vosgerchian: Ken might have been so adamant about keeping Pete off the Doc account because he witnessed just how grimy a pimp Pete can be in his handling of the Jaguar dealer’s proposition. Ken doesn’t want Pete to taint his relationship with his in-laws. I don’t think Ken feels competitive toward Pete as much as he just wants to keep from getting mixed up in the seediest elements of SCDP. He made that objective pretty clear when he refused Roger’s suggestion of a partnership with thinly veiled disdain.


John Swansburg: Any thoughts on Don’s performance at Dow? Did he wow them—or weird them out? He was a little overheated!

about an hour ago.

Marc Naimark: It was kind of scorched earth, but that goes well with napalm.

John Swansburg: Yep.

Jeanette Morrison: I thought he came off as crazy. Don seems to be unable to find his way back to the glory days of his Kodak Carousel pitch; lately he’s either hands-off or way over the top, with his best work (like Jaguar) being inspired by other SCDPers.

John Swansburg: That’s a really good point. He made a killer pitch to Jaguar, but that was Ginsberg’s idea, not his. Left to his own devices, Don didn’t quite have the goods. At the end of the day, his come on to Dow was: We’ll try harder. Not sure a company of that size and sophistication is going to go for that.

Karim Renno: I disagree. I think Don’s pitch to Dow was perfect in the sense that getting work from a client that is satisfied by its current service provider involves, first and foremost, convincing it of the importance of reevaluating its needs and satisfaction level. Don’s emotional plea to never be satisfied is exactly what the situation called for.


Marsha Boutelle: Am I the only one wondering if we’ll all have to wait 18 months again before we see the next season of this show?

John Swansburg: OK, I need to get back to my Nat Turner book report. Next week is the season finale, and Julia Turner and I will both be here to talk about the last episode and this exciting season. See you then!