'Mad Men' Recap: Don's Difficult Decision Has Fatal Consequences

don and lane in the office season 5 episode 12It's hard to believe tonight's episode of Mad Men was the second to last in season five. But it certainly cranked up the darkness factor enough for us to suspect that we're coming to the end. Things have gotten so ugly already, I can't even begin to imagine what next week's season finale will bring.

Award for most major, most heart-wrenching plot line tonight goes to Lane, who we knew was bound to be caught sooner or later by Don for the forged check he wrote to cover back taxes ... Cooper finds it and accuses Don of giving an unauthorized Christmas bonus. And 'course this isn't Drunk Don we were dealing with last season -- he knows he didn't write the check. So, he calls Lane into his office and gives him a chance to confess ...

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Lane hesitates at first, playing dumb, swigs some liquor, and then tells Don he felt that it was his money, since he had invested in SDCP early on and never been repaid. Still, it's not enough for Don -- he fears it's just too much of a betrayal for him to ever trust Lane again. But more importantly, he doesn't want the story getting out. That's our Don -- looking out for the agency's rep above all. So he tells Lane that he must resign, and he has the weekend to come up with an "elegant exit." All in all, I thought Don's handling of the situation was surprisingly gentle, given the magnitude of Lane's sin against the agency.

But Lane takes the news incredibly hard. He doesn't want to have to tell his wife he's failed, return to the U.K., have to pull his boy out of school, etc. He begins drinking and comes home to his wife, worn and drunk. But she's elated and eager to show him a surprise ... his very own Jaguar. Ughhh. Putting his wife off, he tends to his work, but later, in the middle of the night, goes into the garage and attempts to commit suicide using the new car's exhaust. Nooo, Lane!!

Thankfully, the engine wouldn't start. But that didn't stop him. He made his way to the office, where he typed his resignation letter, and -- as we later find out -- hanged himself. So horrific and tragic! And Don ... you could just see it written all over his face how much guilt he must have been feeling when he realized what happened. What a nightmare. (And we thought Pete was the one who was going to jump out a window!!)

Meanwhile, Sally got herself out of a family skiing trip and lands on Megan and Don's door for the weekend. She laments how "phony" Betty is and bonds with Megan over boys and coffee, then invites her sort-of boyfriend Glen to the city on a morning when Don will be at the office and Megan's got an audition. The creepy kid from down the street -- who is now semi-grown-up with a mustache (making him even creepier) -- schleps into the city for Sally and accompanies her to the Museum of Natural History. Awww, it's totally Sally's first date!

But their awkward, adolescent flirting is interrupted by Sally's "stomachache" ... which, as she notices when she goes to the bathroom, is really her period! Of course she's totally freaked out, because it seems like Betty didn't really prepare her for it. (Although how many mothers really did at that pre-Are You There God, It's Me Margaret time, I guess ...) 

But just when you think she's going to run back to the apartment to seek consolation from Megan, she ends up darting through the Francis house, having taken a cab from the city for $25. As Betty says to a worried Megan over the phone, "She just needed her mother." Despite the slightly bitchy passive-aggressive 'tude, it was heartwarming to see Betty actually be up to the task of consoling her daughter, arming her with a heating pad, then cuddling with her in bed and telling her that even though a period's unpleasant, it means everything's working. Wisdom and warmth from Betty -- whoduh thunk?!

That was definitely a classic moment. And one of the only truly sweet ones this season. Considering where Lane's story ended, it seems unlikely we'll be getting more where that came from before the season is out. I have a feeling it's bound to only get darker.

Were you surprised by Lane's suicide? What do you think is going to happen in next week's season finale?


Image via AMC

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