Last night’s episode seemed to be making up for lost time by throwing a lot of new plot lines into the air at once. Don’s brush with the Department of Defense reminds us of his continuing vulnerability. Taking Faye into his confidence about his prior identity moved his personal life onto a new plain; now one person whom he barely knows is positioned to play the roles that Betty and Anna played separately in his prior life. Joan’s pregnancy brings her to an inflection point in her marriage, her relationship with Roger and her maternal aspirations. The loss of the Lucky Strike account presents a dire threat to SCDP’s solvency and Roger’s professional stature. Lane’s ambition to cast off the old-world constraints on his new-world sexual adventures is thwarted by a tyrannical father. Being made into Don’s accomplice brings Pete into SCDP’s inner circle with his own secrets to keep.
All of these plot lines turn on the connection between autonomy and secrecy. That’s always been the central dynamic of Don’s professional and personal life. He owes most of his professional and personal stature to his past success in controlling what other people know about him. This season he’s been trying to regain the balance he lost from last season’s disclosures: he’s no longer the professional free agent he once was because Bert Cooper found out enough about his past to blackmail him into signing a personal services contract; he lost his marriage because Betty found the shoe box locked in his desk. Now, while Don’s still shackled to Bert and Betty, he finds himself joined at the hip professionally with Pete and personally with Faye. It’s too early to say whether letting Faye in on his secret was a momentary lapse in self-discipline or a considered choice of intimacy over autonomy on Don’s part. When he was leering at his new secretary after the crisis had passed, it it looked like he was more interested in wild sex than in intimacy.
But Don’s wasn’t the only one negotiating a tradeoff between autonomy and self-disclosure.
Lane’s capitulation to a tyrannical father shows how loose lips sink self-navigating ships. He’d thought he’d cast off the moorings of old-world propriety that had put transgressive pleasures—like an interracial romance with a Playboy Bunny—out of his reach. His father’s cane reminds him that there’s something to be said for keeping one’s transgressions to one’s self.
Roger finds himself in an equally desperate situation. Lee Garner has him popping nitro glycerin pills at the news that Lucky Strike is taking its business to another agency. Roger begs Garner to keep it to himself for thirty days on the pretext that SCDP needs the time to manage that commercial calamity. But we soon find out that Roger really negotiated the grace period as a way of managing the personal calamity of his colleagues finding out that he doesn’t really bring anything to the SCDP table. All these years he’s used his inherited grace and accounts to persuade people that he’s a player in the advertising world. Now he’s getting out the old rolodex, only to find that his own commercial “contacts” are dead or otherwise indisposed. I suspect that SCDP’s and Roger’s only hope is that they’ll get some leverage from the fact that Garner has a secret of his own. Remember Sal? I'll bet Don does.
Up till now, Pete owes his meager professional success to his boarding school and college contacts (think Jai-alai) and his readiness to extort business from his father-in-law. The worldly judgment of his wife Trudy has been his only other business asset. Now, by agreeing to withdraw from a major account in deference to Don’s secrets, he has established himself as Don’s professional peer. In the process, he has gained control of a new business asset--Don's reputation. But this step up the professional ladder has erected a barrier between him and Trudy. He’s already had to conceal his rough treatment of her father from her. Now he senses that he better keep Don’s secrets from her as well. And don't forget the secret
Although events are pressing down on her too, Joan’s the only one who manages to preserve some semblance of autonomy by playing her cards close to the vest. Her husband knows nothing about her alley-catting with Roger, and neither he, Roger nor we know whether she’s still pregnant. I’m betting that she is. We last see Joan on a plane (a train, a bus?), heading to an unknown destination, with the strain of keeping her options open showing on her face.
Update: Reader 2bfate reminds me that Peggy had told Pete about their child.