Finally, this was the episode I’d been waiting for. One which dug into the lives of other characters besides Don Draper’s very depressing, and mostly likely very short, bachelorhood.
We find out where Joan is after ending her Season 3 stalemate with her new husband enlisted in the army and her being the office manager. She’s still frustrated with her home and worried she might not be able to have children. Children being just another thing Joan expected to have by now. In 2010, a woman of Joan’s age would be questioned about why she and her husband hadn’t had children yet. But in 1964, that must be atrocious peer pressure. Especially since Joan does want them.
We saw a nice side of Joan’s husband, for the first time. And perhaps it was the first time Joan saw this side as he stitched up her cut finger. (They’re just trying to make him nicer so we feel bad when he dies in Vietnam, right?) Before he’d been the impotent wanna-be surgeon and Joan’s rapist.
Despite how when Joan’s first introduced, she’s the office manager having an affair with Roger and looking for a husband, “The Good News” shows just how she’s not willing to put up with sexual harassment in the office. Granted, the flowers weren’t ordered correctly. But I wouldn’t want to be on the end of Joan’s fiery passion when she fires Lane’s secretary.
Another character whose heart’s shown is Anna’s. While on his way to Acapulco for Christmas, Don stops at Anna’s house in Los Angeles. He finds her with a broken leg and smoking her niece Stephanie’s “grass.” As Anna’s surrounded by her family, it’s clear that Don doesn’t quite fit. Even if Anna considers him part of the family. Her seemingly uptight sister Patty later calls Don “just a man with a checkbook.” Though she somewhat uncharacteristically lets Stephanie stay with Anna and Don.
The trio go out to a surf-style bar. Especially when compared to earlier seasons, Don feels extremely old and out-dated here. In Season 1 when he runs around with the beatnik Midge, you believe that while Don may be an adman, he has some understanding of the youth culture. But he has no clue here with Anna and Stephanie. If anything, this is the life that Don could’ve had. When Anna admires Stephanie and says, “I like to think I had a hand in that,” she too dreams of what could’ve been. As Stephanie urges Don and Anna to dance to an older song, it’s more like she’s talking to mom and dad. Which makes it even more pathetic when Don tries to put the moves on Stephanie later that night.
Of course, everything’s not-so perfect in California. Anna has terminal cancer. That’s why her leg broke because it’s in her bones. And on top of that, Anna doesn’t know. The doctor’s afraid of what hysterics she might go into. Sadly, hiding medical information from grown woman about their own bodies was not an uncommon practice during this era (and earlier). Not to mention cancer was the c-word only to be talked about in hushed tones. (This also plays as a nice contrast to Joan’s frank discussion with her gynecologist about how soon her birth control pills would wear off and if her age or two abortions would affect her ability to conceive.)
In a moment of uncommon selfishness, Don decides to stay with Anna for the rest of her life. He wants to take care of her. She is, after all, the only one to know the whole story about Dick Whitman and the only one who continues to love him despite it all. Ultimately, Patty convinces Don to continue to keep the secret from Anna and to leave. For Don can’t bare not to tell her. Perhaps in the sadness scene yet, Anna and Don say goodbye for likely the last time and Don promises to bring the kids for Easter.
Instead of heading onto Acapulco, Don goes back to the office only to find Lane still working, our third character explored. Lane’s marriage is ending, and he’s found himself rather fond of America. No longer does he dream of England, but fought long and hard to stay in NYC. Lane’s still a numbers man, even when off-duty.
As Lane and Don go out on the town together, I can’t help but think this makes Don look even older to be bonding with someone he would’ve saw as completely ancient a couple years ago. Though at the same time, Don’s line about not wanting give marital advice hearkens back to when he advised Roger to leave Mona, and just how well that didn’t work out. Does that make Lane Roger 2.0 when it comes to Don and his relationship?
I loved Lane and Don getting drunk on the expensive alcohol from Lane’s father (old world) and watching Godzilla (new world). Lane rather bursts at the seams trying to figure out who he’s going to be without his wife, and perhaps, his ticket back to England for retirement. Him playing cowboy with his steak to the West Village nightclub to the expensive hookers ($25 for sex was a lot of money back then) were the many hats of newly separate bachelor. Not to mention how at home he seems in Don’s cave. (I laughed so hard and shouted at the TV, “Not the kids’ room” every time someone thought it’d be a good place to have sex.)
But at the same time, Lane is still himself. He wants to know how many hand-jobs are given in the theater, and he pays (with tip) Don for the hooker. (I was rather relieved that he realized she was call-girl.) He also refuses Don’s coffee. No doubt, to go drink his stash of good British tea. I think “The Good News” did a great job at giving us Lane Pryce as a character we want to continue to see around and whose name’s on the door.
Of course, the ending with Joan sitting at the head of the table, surrounded by the men, saying “Gentlemen, shall we begin 1965?”, seems a bit ominous.