The Money MacGuffin

 Posted by on May 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm  Characters, Season 5
May 222012
 


The MacGuffin. I remember hearing Hitchcock describe it as, and this is not a quote but purely my recreation, the thing that is terribly important to the people in the film, and not at all important to the people watching the film.

The impact of the MacGuffin on the characters leads to the action. What’s vital to us, the viewers, is not the thing or event itself, but what everyone does about it. That’s the story.

So something has gone terribly wrong regarding Lane and money. I didn’t quite catch what, all I knew from watching was, he is in some kind of big trouble. (Which in fact, I’ve suspected since the season opening; the St Paul’s check, Rebecca not carrying any cash; these seemed indicative of a bigger problem.)

I’m not really interested in what happened, what led to it; what is interesting is seeing his reaction. That’s where the storytelling is.

It wasn’t just me. Turns out a lot of people didn’t catch it. My sister explained it in a comment:

It appears that Lane paid taxes owed to Her Majesty to the IRS instead, as far as I can tell. He could lose his visa as well as go to jail.

She wasn’t 100% clear either.

Monday morning after the episode aired, a few of my coworkers asked me what exactly had gone down with Lane in that scene. This is what had me start seeing it in this light. If a bunch of us didn’t fully understand it, then full understanding must not be a requirement.

And my answer was, “I don’t know if you ever heard Hitchcock talk about The MacGuffin…. “

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  69 Responses to “The Money MacGuffin”

  1. I was under the impression that the MacGuffin ends up being a bit of a red herring, as well – the audience is led to believe that it will end up driving the plot’s climax, but then something else comes along and renders it meaningless overall (ie, in ‘Psycho’, the money that Marion stole, initially thought to be the main plot point, becomes useless once she’s killed and it’s buried along with her car in the swamp).

    If so, and we’re led to believe that Lane’s money problems will lead to the fall of SCDP, then I have the feeling that he’ll (or Joan will) find a way around it – and something else will be the agency’s downfall. I still think Peggy and Ken’s pact is going to play a big role in it.

    • Sheena, you beat me to the Psycho reference (see below). :-)

    • I feel it would seem too repetitive at this point for the agency to have a downfall. We’ve already seen them get bought by PPL in Season 2 (not a totally necessary move, but one that seemed to have financial advantages). Then in Season 3 they got bought by McCann, and last year lost Lucky Strike…

      I’m not saying that it couldn’t happen, just that I hope it doesn’t.

      • I hope it doesn’t happen too. If the ‘falling man’ is just representative of the agency falling again, that would be repetetive. I’m more concerned with Lane possible going to prison if he’s found out — and then, I wonder, if Lane was found out, would the rest of the partners be investigated? You know that would be curtains for Don. I recall in an episode from last year, where Don nearly faced exposure due to a document that Megan had filed and Pete took the fall for it, or something like that? Help!

      • Even if SCDP doesn’t go under, I still think that next year, the people in charge of it will be very different. (And if Pete isn’t gone, his name will finally be on the door.)

        I am also still betting on Peggy and Ken leaving, possibly taking Stan with them, either to another agency, or starting their own, a la Wells Rich Greene.

  2. Of course, the most famous MacGuffin was the $40,000 that Janet Leigh steals in Psycho, which Norman Bates unknowingly dumps in the lake with the car and body.

    I also didn’t catch what exactly was happening with Lane and thought it was either a) a bad business deal with which he got entangled before he came to SC or b) he was being sued for breach of contract by SC’s former British owners. However a tax liability makes more sense, based on the amount he was dealing with.

    Money, of course, has been a huge theme for Season 5, especially with Roger bribing anyone in sight to try to stay relevant. I thought the most interesting juxtaposition in Christmas Waltz was Don writing the check for $6,000, just $2,000 less than what Lane needed, without even thinking of it. Although Don doesn’t have Roger’s money, he made out pretty well in the SC buyout and apparently Betty took Henry up on his offer to “take care of her.”

    The saddest part of Lane’s predicament is that Don likely would have loaned him the money – hell even post-LSD Roger might have as well – had he acknowledged what was going on. Instead he is hiding it from everyone, including his wife, and juggling first his own private expenses and now the firm’s books to hide it. Lane now has to find a way to pay back that money, plus the barrister in England, without anyone knowing and with Mohawk Airlines suspending advertising indefinitely. This can’t end well.

    • But Don will get the $6,000 back when he returns the car – less a few hundred for gas, the expected drunken dents and dings – so he really wasn’t tossing that much cash away.

      Heck, it’s a write-off anyway – Research for the pitch.

      • Dents and dings – for one joyride? Little chance of that. Betting he got the whole check back and he flipped the guy a twenty – a ten would be a very nice tip.

        • Ask Bobbie Barrett how well Don drives drunk

          • Ask Betty how well he drives after a whole dinner with cocktails.

            The Bobbie crash served the plot.

            This time, Don gets to play the chivalrous friend and big shot throwing money around for a one-afternoon lease, picking up the tab, giving Joan mad money.

            Don shows up drunk but intact – Surely the Jag did too.

    • Re: DD writing that $6,000 check, my understanding from the moment he wrote it was that he would be returning the jag and collecting the check. The whole transaction (with $300 tip) was part of the ruse he was participating in with Joan. I don’t think we can assume that Don has that kind of cash to throw around. Megan and her tastes have seen to that.

      Could Don or one of the other partners float a loan to Layne? Probably. Did Layne, as the Finance Director of SCDP, want to open that pandora’s box? Apparently not. Pride goeth before a fall.

      • We never really know how much money Don has BUT: he was a partner (lesser) at Sterling Cooper and got a cut of the sale of the firm. I forget what percentage: Bert and Roger got the lion’s share, Alice Cooper got a tiny percentage, and Don got the rest, something like 12-15% IIRC. Also, when Henry and Betty were living in the former Draper house, were they not paying rent to Don? She didn’t ask for any support, at Henry’s urging, so Don had no expenses there. And as another poster somewhere mentioned, even apartments like Don & Megan have were not anywhere near as costly then as they would be today. As Creative Director – and partner – he will be well paid compared with other staff. He spends little on himself. Even before the SC sale we have seen how he kept cash on hand by the thousands (for that quick escape.) Betty may have thought he didn’t understand money but it’s more that he lived most of his life without it and could do so again if need be. In any event, he likes Lane, would empathize with tax troubles (US top marginal tax rate in 1966 was 70% on income over $200,000 (about $1.4 million.) In England it was in the neighborhood of 95%+. Still, that first $200K went a lot further than today.

        • He also has the sale of both of his homes and when he last met with his accountant, it sounded like he was very flush with money. The accountant told him he could enjoy the fruits of his labor.

        • While Don was on his 3-week California walkabout,* Roger alluded to his share from PPL’s buyout as a little over a half-a-million.

          (Betty really left a bunch of money on the table)

          The firm is barely a year past Lucky Strike’s walkout and even thought they had a bunch of layoffs the partners could only expect a fraction (half?) of the profits they enjoyed while LS was a $25-million account. In fact, as partners, SCDP (and C) would expect each other to considerably reduce their take – much more than any non-partner. I’d be surprised if Don’s income was anything close to $200k – let alone Lane.

          I don’t recall any reference to Alice’s share.

          * If he did that to Megan, she’d have his head!

    • I was surprised that Lane didn’t ask Don either. Firstly, they have a relationship. When Don was divorced, he and Lane had an evening out with the ladies and then Lane asked Don to be his buffer when his father came to town. Lane was also aware that Don paid for Pete when all the partners had to pony up. Does anyone remember how much that was? $2000? I think Lane’s money problems were magnified because he would have had to make payment by September for his son’s private school which he was billed for at the beginning of the year.

      • I think it was $100,000. senior partners, $50,000. juniors.I don’t know what that tranlates to 2012 money,but anyway you look at it, thats a whole lotta cash. And easily enough to get the whole poverty ball rolling, you’d think.

        • Now that I think about it, add that to private school, a wife who does not earn income and wants (did?) to hire Megan’s decorator and likes to shop, Manhattan digs, and of course, keeping up appearances. That could get out of control really fast.
          I don’t mean to throw shade at Rebecca, but she evidently doesn’t know about their financial situation. She also does not strike me as a coupon-clipper.

      • In thinking about Lane, it could just be English pride that kept him from asking for help. But I think it has to be more than that. I really think Don would have loaned him the money and that Don was approachable. So is it possible that Lane thinks if the partners knew he could not handle his own finances, then they would question if he was truly capable of handling the company’s finances? Lane is afraid that they would think he is not effective at his job or at least he is not confident in what he does. Possible proof to this thought is that he told Joan when she came into the office with the baby that he was afraid they would find out he is a fraud. And certainly Pete’s insult that Lane has not added any value to the firm since Lane fired everyone hit a nerve.

      • Lane knows that Don paid Pete’s partnership share of $50,000, because he was the one who told Pete. But, as others have said, that doesn’t mean that he would want to ask Don for help, or be beholden to him.

    • Don wasn’t actually buying the car. The plan was for the salesman to give Don the check back when he returned the car. Don wasn’t actually spending 6,000, at least that’s my take on it.

    • It’s a tax thing. I just don’t know WHAT tax thing. SmilerG has been researching it and dropping info in comments. Taxes make my eyeballs bleed.

    • It will end well. Deus ex machina Hilton’s back !

    • I thought Lane needed 8000 Pounds, not dollars. What was the rate then?

      • I was looking into a possible visit to England in 1976 and the rate then was one pound equaled $2,35 and when I finally got to visit in 1985, the pound was worth $1.11. I’m not sure how to do the calculation for 1966, but the figures involved were 2,900 pounds or $8,000.

      • Before the US suspended the gold standard in 1971 – foreign exchange rates were fixed. As a nerdly kid with access to the Britannica Year Books, I recall late 60s GBP/USD rates nearly as high as $3 to the pound. This squares with the 8000:2900 ratio.

      • actually he says dollars

  3. Lane’s solicitor mentioned the Inland Revenue. That’s Britain’s IRS. One of the funniest encounters with the Inland Revenue is in “Noises Off,” a comedy about a comedy. The point of “Noises Off”‘s Inland Revenue subplot was that someone who was out of the country and owed the Inland Revenue money could not come back into Britain without being arrested. So I started wondering if Lane’s scrambling to pay off the debt meant that he had some intention of wanting to return to England (or if Rebecca wanted to, and he knew they couldn’t until the account was cleared). I don’t believe he’d be extradited from the U.S. for falling behind on taxes in Britain, so I wondered a little at the urgency.

    I wonder if Lane’s money troubles are due to the amount he had to put up as a junior partner at SCDP.

    • I believe Lane had owed taxes in Britain on money he earned there–perhaps it was his final check from the British advertising firm he worked for while they were over in the States sizing up and taking over then-Sterling Cooper?–and he’d either mistakenly declared it as income earned in the States (and paid the IRS) or had not paid anyone any taxes at all, reasoning incorrectly that since he was living in America while he earned it from the British company, he could get away that, and used said sum to buy his partnership share.

      Pele, you are correct that Lane’s wife would not be able to visit England (and avoid being arrested) if Lane was in arrears to Inland Revenue and it hadn’t been cleared up. Her proposed Christmas visit was both a can’t-afford-it-thing and a not-get-arrested thing. She is very attached to England, and Lane knows he can’t keep putting her off–that sooner or later, she is going over there, so he’d better get things sorted out so she doesn’t get arrested (you get the sense that Mrs. Pryce is both bossy and proper, and that she would not take kindly to him telling her the truth, to put it mildly).

      • Ah! I forgot we had a resident Brit. Feel free to write up a post explaining this if you care to.

  4. A more recent MacGuffin was Tarantino’s briefcase in Pulp Fiction, whcih contained a glowing something that Marcellus Wallace and his boys regarded as very important. All kinds of actual and potential mayhem over that.

    After the Lucky Strike debacle last season Lane apparently forked over $50k with nary a twitch of the lip nor a bead of sweat. I imagine this was multiple annual PP&L salaries for him – no wonder he’s having money problems.

    • Ezequiel 25:17 :). That grimy guy with the wallet in A Little Kiss is macguffin. If he’s some kind of mobster/loan shark Lane could use his services. He might get a discount because of the good deed he did for that chap.

      • Grimy guy was there to represent the first inklings of Lane’s precarious financial condition. It was utterly strange how fascinated he was with the wallet. And, to think he was actually contemplating keeping the cash just sent shivers down my spine.

      • “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.” – this works for Mad Men – except where is the “righteous (wo)man”?

        The wallet guy was a little rough around the edges, wasn’t he? Nice scene in the lobby:

        Lane: “It’s all there”

        (shuffle through wallet – cash intact, picture missing)

        (Lane is rewarded by a wry, knowing smile)

        Wallet Guy: “So it is.”

  5. Thank you so much for broaching this! I haven’t seen any episodes this season beyond the double premiere — Twitter, this site, and a couple other places have been my lifeline — and this was a plot point that had me feeling as though I was way out of the cool kids’ club. I mentioned Sarbanes-Oxley in the recap thread because it seems to me that not only are the tax laws of two countries — in 1966, no less — at question, but also, perhaps, pre-SOX accounting vagaries.

    Maybe we’ll simply have to wait until the DVD commentary is available, and then a million slapped foreheads will resound in unison. Or maybe not.

    Boy, do I love being a Basketcase. 8)

  6. This is great. You suspected Lane had money issues from A Little Kiss and I disagreed, so bully for you.

    I think the Macguffin Hitchcock usually referred to was whatever the substance in the wine bottle was in Notorious. All that drama over a “whatever.”

  7. As I read this post, all I can think of is “‘Cause I’m the Taxman, Ye-e-e-ah, I’m the Tax Ma-a-a-a-an, And you’re working for no one but me! (George Harrison was none too thrilled with the Brit tax at that time!)

    • Yes ! And, as we all know, Taxman is the opening track on Revolver, the beatles album featured in an earlier episode.

  8. Could Pete’s rifle become a MacGuffin?

  9. Rewatched 5-01 and 5-02. dark foreshadowing re Lane in 5-02.

    To Delores on phone: I’ll be here the rest of my life.

    To Joan in office: it’s just a matter of time til they find out I’m a sham.

    • Matt Weiner did say it in an interview that what happened in episode 1 and 2 would play itself out over the remaining 11 episodes.

      Honestly the Betty story line did not re-appear until episode 3 Tea Leaves so I don’t think he was accurate in all the story lines. But for the most part I think he is:

      a) Lane stealing the money in the wallet. At the time the question was why? Now we know why.

      b) Megan inviting Joan to the surprise party at the last moment ensuring she would not come. Don and Joan in the past episode.

      c) Jennifer is not with Harry at the surprise party. Sex with Lakshmi.

      d) Matt Weiner’s own words: Megan’s overt public sexuality and openness in conflict with Don’s more private side and his desire to remain secretive. We saw the generation gap play out when both attended the play and their reactions to it.

      e) Peggy becoming like Don at the office (like he used to be)–working long hours; drinking more. This has happened for the entire season.

      f) Megan not happy at SCDP because of the sarcasm and cynicism in the office. Now she is pursuing a full-time acting career.

      g) Joan’s efforts to re-establish herself at work after Kevin’s birth. Ongoing.

      h) Roger voicing displeasure with Jane’s IQ and that he is not a happy camper. Divorce between Roger and Jane in the works.

      i) Sally seeing Megan’s rear end in bed. Sally seeing Marie Calvet giving Roger oral sex.

      j) Don not being as focused on work as he was in the past. Last episode Megan reminds him of that.

      k) Problem with Heinz and the bean ballet Problem solved in At the Codfish Bowl

      l) Pete and Roger are competitive over Mohawk Roger landing the Jewish wine account and taking delight when Lane punches Pete out.

      A notable exception is Pete’s story line. I don’t think anybody could see what was coming based on episodes 1 and 2.

      • I think we are watching a different show. Lane did not take any money, just a photograph, from the wallet. He may have been thinking about it because he was eyeing it for a while. Megan invited EVERYONE at the last minute not just Joan. On the day after the Memorial Day Weekend, Megan sat with Peggy to discuss the invite list and the party was the upcoming weekend. Etc.

        • The fellow Lane returned the wallet to (a mobster-like character) counted the money in the wallet and realized it was not all there, but he chose not to call Lane out on the shortage.

          • We are watching a different show after all

          • I don’t think Lane took any of the money either. I remember thinking, “is he going to take the money?”, because he looked tempted, but then he didn’t.

            Why do you think the mobster thought he took some money? After all he gave him a reward didn’t he? No mobster I ever heard of would give a reward to someone who stole money from him.

          • To the best of my recollection the mobster counted the money in the reception area, looked at Lane, said something about American hospitality and then left. I’m pretty sure he counted the money in the wallet and it was not all there.

            • Wow, you really misread that. He counted it, said it was all there (with a surprised smile on his face), praised Lane for his honesty, and insisted he take a reward as a sign of American hospitality.

          • The mobster smiled when he failed to find the *cleavage shot* that Lane put in his own wallet. Probably made plans to take aonther photo.

          • Techno; We all occasionally respectfully dissagree with each other on details and character motovations and learn something new we never thought of by reading each others posts, that’s why we are here, after all. Your posts are nothing if not exhaustvely detailed. While I don’t always agree with you, normally you don’t miss a trick. But you are flat out wrong on this one. Wrongitywrong wrong. Have you ever spent any time with a mook like Wallet Guy? The last thing a guy like this would do is affectionatelly (spell check committed suicide, sorry) reward somebody for stealing from him. Lane was mightily tempted, to be sure, but he did not take any money.

          • techno, that’s simply incorrect. All the money was there. Lane took only the photo of Dolores.

      • The reaction difference between Don and Megan had nothing to do with a generation gap; rather the attack upon advertising.

        • The generation gap can show up quite easily in what is considered art or what has artistic value or merit.

          • True and that was evident in Babylon Season 1.

            But in this instance, it wasn’t that Megan thought it was good art ( she was interested in the actor’s chance for a job ). Don’s objection had nothing to do with artistic merit, but the commentary re advertising.

      • Here is my response, one by one, taking into consideration some of what has been addressed:

        a) Lane stealing the money in the wallet. At the time the question was why? Now we know why.

        As has been said, Lane absolutely did not steal money from the wallet. However the echo from A Little Kiss is in fact there– Lane was someone who at that time would not steal cash from a wallet, which is an easy enough mark. He could have kept the cash and not said a word to the driver. That isn’t who Lane is, and now he is stealing from his company.

        b) Megan inviting Joan to the surprise party at the last moment ensuring she would not come. Don and Joan in the past episode.

        Already addressed– that was Joan’s mother’s insinuation, but everyone was a last minute invite.

        c) Jennifer is not with Harry at the surprise party. Sex with Lakshmi.

        Okay. Not really a direct hit for me, but fine.

        d) Matt Weiner’s own words: Megan’s overt public sexuality and openness in conflict with Don’s more private side and his desire to remain secretive. We saw the generation gap play out when both attended the play and their reactions to it.

        I actually think that what we saw, in addition to the overt sexuality, was a natural-born performer, and that’s what has now come around.

        e) Peggy becoming like Don at the office (like he used to be)–working long hours; drinking more. This has happened for the entire season.

        This has been happening for five seasons.

        f) Megan not happy at SCDP because of the sarcasm and cynicism in the office. Now she is pursuing a full-time acting career.

        I don’t follow the logic.

        g) Joan’s efforts to re-establish herself at work after Kevin’s birth. Ongoing.

        Okay.

        h) Roger voicing displeasure with Jane’s IQ and that he is not a happy camper. Divorce between Roger and Jane in the works.

        Yes.

        i) Sally seeing Megan’s rear end in bed. Sally seeing Marie Calvet giving Roger oral sex.

        That’s a good catch.

        j) Don not being as focused on work as he was in the past. Last episode Megan reminds him of that.

        She wasn’t the first to mention it to him, and that isn’t where the episode ended– where it really ended was Don taking his mojo back.

        k) Problem with Heinz and the bean ballet Problem solved in At the Codfish Bowl

        Was the problem solved?

        l) Pete and Roger are competitive over Mohawk Roger landing the Jewish wine account and taking delight when Lane punches Pete out.

        I’m not following. Or maybe I am– I mean, like Joan and the baby and work, that’s just a progression of the storyline.

        A notable exception is Pete’s story line. I don’t think anybody could see what was coming based on episodes 1 and 2.

        I could not disagree more. It was all there in the first conversation that Harold and he had on the train– everything Harold was saying to him has now come down the pike.

  10. Can a dream sequence as in Mystery Date be considered a MacGuffin?

    • I don’t see how, by definition of MacGuffin.

    • A Macguffin is something that the characters care about but the audience does not. Lane cares about the fine point of British law causing his financial problems. We don’t — it’s just a vehicle to show us what Lane does in response to financial problems.

      In no way does the Mystery Date dream sequence meet even a portion of this definition.

  11. Not a Macguffin, or is it? Anyone else think back to Season 1 when we hear the Jag Man was fired for vomiting into another Jag Man’s lap? Likewise, Roger barfed in the SC lobby as he greeted the Nixon/GOP folks. I’m pretty sure Roger would have made the connection. And what’s up with Roger? A couple of weeks in MM time has passed since Roger makes a great pitch to Manischewitz and he’s back to his bafoonery at the office. Enough already! Oy vay!

    • I’m also thinking this will be a post: Roger can’t get over WWII. He is never able to heal from that experience. We’ve seen his worst behaviors associated with it, and this is an example: Drunk because it’s Pearl Harbor Day.

      • For many, like Roger, it was the defining moment of his generation- a life altering event, and for those who died, it definitely altered life. Pearl Harbor, and the loss of his friends, defines Roger- and Roger defines drinking.

        Ergo

      • I think one of his most memorable quotes after he refused to have Honda as a client was when he asked (paraphrasing) when did forgiveness become a better quality than loyalty. His loyalty was to the soldiers that had fought against Japan. And then a few episodes ago Peggy yelled at him in the elevator for not being loyal.

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