TV

The Rundown: Happy 10th Anniversary To The ‘Mad Men’ Lawnmower Scene

The Rundown is a weekly column that highlights some of the biggest, weirdest, and most notable events of the week in entertainment. The number of items will vary, as will the subject matter. It will not always make a ton of sense. Some items might not even be about entertainment, to be honest, or from this week. The important thing is that it’s Friday and we are here to have some fun.

ITEM NUMBER ONE — A salute to one of the greats

It’s not always great to look back on the past. Sometimes you can get stuck there if you do, remembering things a little too fondly and ignoring things that are happening in the present. We all fall into this trap occasionally and it’s good to be aware of it. Other times, though, looking back can be useful. Some things are just so culturally important that we can’t risk forgetting them. It helps to bring them up every now and again so this doesn’t happen and anniversaries provide an easy tool to do so. One such anniversary is happening today. One of the most important moments in television history. Ten years ago, on September 20, 2009, during the sixth episode of the third season of Mad Men, a secretary named Lois drove over a man’s foot with a riding lawnmower inside of a Manhattan advertising agency office.

The whys and hows are notable here, so let’s start with those. In the episode, “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency,” office manager Joan Holloway was preparing to leave to become a housewife. The staff of Sterling Cooper was throwing her a going-away party. At the same time, the firm’s British ownership was in town with plans to shake things up. Beloved Operating Manager Lane Pryce was about to be sent off to Bombay and replaced by a young hotshot named Guy MacKendrick. Parts of the party were very somber. Other parts were celebratory, however, because an account manager had just landed the John Deere account and had brought a riding mower into the office for kicks. These are the ingredients — party, lawnmower, champagne, British people — in a stew that led to, well, this…

Young hotshot Guy MacKendrick gets his foot turned into confetti thanks to a drunken secretary named Lois. The British higher-ups toss him aside and decide to let Lane stay for reasons including, but not limited to, Guy’s future inability to play golf. The band is staying together. Everything is back normal. Everyone is happy. Except for Guy MacKendrick.

Those are the facts, in short, and they are quite wild. I really recommend watching that clip if you haven’t (the splattering itself is an all-time GIF Hall of Famer), and I really, really recommend watching the whole episode again. It’s one of the show’s best and, I mean, any legitimate excuse to watch Mad Men should be jumped on. But the real fun extends beyond the facts.

It’s the audacity of it all that gets me. Matthew Weiner and the writers of the show had painted themselves into a corner, on purpose, with corporate overlords descending and no immediately visible way out. Things looked bleak in the moment. Something needed to happen. Someone needed to come up with a solution. And the solution they came up with, the one that saved the day, didn’t involve a boardroom or a contract or any sort of corporate subterfuge, as it did at other points in the show’s run when things got dicey. No, this one went a different way, one involving a foot mangling as a result of a tipsy secretary and a riding lawnmower that was inside a Manhattan skyscraper.

Do you remember seeing this scene for the first time? I do. I remember gasping like an old woman who saw a ghost. I remember laughing. And laughing and laughing and laughing. I remember going online the next day and reading everything I could about it and watching GIFs and just soaking it all in. In was mindblowing to me, the idea that this critically-beloved, often very serious show could do something so purely chaotic. I think about the scene all the time, still, today.

Sometimes people will tell you that they couldn’t get into Mad Men because it was too slow or because “nothing happened.” You don’t have to bully them into watching. It’s their loss, really. But you are perfectly within your rights to casually mention that this claim of “nothing happened” doesn’t really fly. A man got his foot run over with a lawnmower inside a skyscraper. That’s not nothing. Not even close.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — Peak-y Blind-ers, clap clap clapclapclap

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