Commissions and Fees is all about past issues finally coming to a head. But unlike previous seasons and episodes of Mad Men, this episode hits with the subtlety of a brick. I hinted several episodes ago that I thought Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) was going to off himself; it turns out I was only half right. Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) was doomed from the moment Don (Jon Hamm) asked for his resignation. Matthew Weiner, when speaking about this episode, wanted to make a point about not having choices. Could Lane face going back to England a failure, with hat in hand? No, he had only one way out. In fact, who didn’t think he was going to jump out that snowy window and become the flying man in the credits? Guess it’s still up for grabs Pete.

Lane’s tragedy results not from the financial mess he got himsef into, but a crisis of self-esteem, secrecy, and shame. If Don had known how bad things were for Lane, or the consequences he would have to face back in England and the lies he had been telling his wife, would Don have handled Lane’s embezzlement the same? Furthermore, Don has a rampant optimism which causes him to believe that everyone can bounce back like he can. “Come back from the dead” so to speak. But Lane doesn’t have the backbone Don has. Don showed a little hypocrisy when he was so harsh with Lane, yet so easy on himself. Look at what Don has done at SCDP this year: steal ideas from Ginsberg, ruin the firm from getting the big boy accounts, pilfer a Jaguar, and oh yeah, EVERY TIME he signs a check, it’s a forgery. And in the end, the shame Lane would have to face would be too much. And sadly, the rest of the SCDP partners never really knew the true Lane well enough to prevent this. Perhaps this is why Lane made it a point to hang himself publicly in the SCDP office when in a bit of black humor the Jaguar fails to start. He wanted to show the others what they had driven him to. In the end he is truly a tragic, pathethic figure which gives the viewer pause to remember that SCDP and the corporate ad world had real human consequeces.

Calls for comparison to Don’s half brother’s hanging are unwarranted. Don was selfish, rude, and unfeeling towards his flesh and blood, throwing money at the problem and trying to make it go away. Don tried to be as compassionate with Lane as he could while still protecting the company, and truly did not see the harm he was doing in being firm. In this way Don has actually evolved as a person. It will be interesting to see if the “Don is at fault” angle is ever even addressed; I know those watching who felt for Lane definitely were looking for someone to blame.

Away from all this tragedy, on this very special episode of Mad Men, Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) becomes a woman while out on the town with Glen, who comes to visit from Hotchkiss. I know Matthew Weiner is endlessly trying to make Glen “happen,” but the truth is Sally is becoming Betty’s girl, from the blonde good looks to the bitchy demeanor; she’s not going to end up with an outsider like Glen. After all, Betty (January Jones) chose Don for his good looks and “insider” success without even knowing who he truly was. I don’t see Sally falling too far from this line of thinking. Betty gets in a good dig at Megan (Jessica Paré) when Sally goes running home to mommy when she starts her period. “She just needed her mother” Betty assures Megan. Game. Set. Match.

With the departures of Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and Lane in consecutive weeks, albeit in two very different ways, Mad Men is clearing the deck, but for what? It seems that most of the season has focused on Megan and her relationship with Don and the kids. Will season 6 (presumably the last) delve even deeper? Or is Mad Men going to explore Ginsberg, Crane, and some of the other more minor characters? What about Don’s newfound affections for Joan or his problems with Megan’s acting career? Will Peggy still be a part of the show? For our sake I certainly hope so. And will Lane’s character still be addressed, or will the whole thing be swept under a rug neat and tidy? This has certainly been the most shocking episode of the season and maybe of the series. After gearing up for someone to die, Mad Men still manages to surprise.