PREVIOUSLY: Creepy-ass Jim met a starstruck young cashier named Cheryl at a Duane Reade in Harlem. Dagny & Hank acted out all of their most aggressive sex fantasies and took a discreet road trip through the Midwest, during which they discovered a revolutionary protoype for a clean-energy motor… but it’s been junked and raided for parts.
Dagny and Rearden are questioning the local archivist in Hooverville, WI about what happened to The 20th Century Motor Company, a.k.a. GM. “The 20th Century was sold out,” says the clerk. Cute.
The last owner was “The People’s Mortgage Company,” headed by a man named Yonts. The PMC heavily advertised its cheap credit. When Yonts acquired the GM factory he took out a loan against it, split up and sold off all the capital goods, then resold the mortgage without deleveraging the balance sheet and skipped town. The tangle of let’s call them “collateralized debt obligations” he left behind have bound the legal ownership of the property in enough red tape that it will be unspooling for years to come.
And did Yonts actually operate the factory before extracting all its value? No, says the archivist. ‘He wasn’t the kind that ever operates anything.’ I think they call those kinds of people “operators” actually. Or “confidence men.”
Speaking of confident men, Hank cuts to the chase. Where are all the records on this? The archivist shrugs. They’ve all been scavenged by the destitute locals for kindling. For kindling. Look I know the economy crumbled here but why in God’s name would people need to burn public records for fire in America’s breadbasket? Has the earth been salted and scorched? Did all the flora die? Has the climate… changed or something? Anyway the only lead our heroes can get from the archive-less archivist is that the guy who sold the factory to Yonts is a mayor in another nearby ghost town.
Mr. Mayor is like one of Nucky’s lackeys from Boardwalk Empire, sporting a gaudy pinky ring and shamelessly recounting how he acquired the property through graft and could not care less what Yonts did with it. In fact he always liked Yonts. He was a charmer. As far as leads go, Mr. Mayor bought the mortgage from a banker named Lawson who also gave out an irresponsible amount of cheap credit, but he was just a putz who was too nice for his own good, not a scam artist. He went out of business. Oh, and he works for the Bureau of Economic Planning in DC now.
Still without clues to who invented the motor, Dagny and Hank leave. They have the motor with them, under a tarp in the back of the car. Dags calls Eddie to arrange its shipment to New York, but doesn’t even get a word out before Eddie starts throwing a fit. The aforementioned Bureau is drafting all sorts of new bills to take control of Colorado.
Smash cut to Manhattan. Dagny’s hidden the motor in a defunct emergency generator room deep in the bowels of Taggart Transcon. Up in the executive offices, word is some labor unions want caps placed on the use of the Galt Line so that more commerce is forced to flow to other providers. Orren Boyle’s industrial conglomerate wants caps placed on the production of rMetal so that more commerce is forced to flow to steel. There are other legislative suggestions from other interest groups as well, the cumulative effect of which would be a ruinous clusterfuck for the Colorado economy — which at this point is basically the national economy.
Dagny actually turns to Jim for help. “Hey fuckface, this lobby stuff is your wheelhouse, are you making sure we don’t get bent over or what?” But Jim has his usual obstinate knee-jerk reaction to anything Dagny-related. ‘You can’t expect to run the national economy to suit your own convenience,’ Jim sneers at her. The gall of that sentence coming from James Taggart leaves her speechless, so she decides to keep investigating the motor instead.
Meanwhile, Hank is at home in PA and mired in similar bullshit. Since he now has to buy what used to be his iron ore from the spineless Larkin, he’s not getting his shipments on time. Larkin has fully succumbed to being Jim and Boyle’s crony, basically, and the resulting gaps in the rMetal supply chain have forced Rearden to make his own bribe-riddled deals to keep the mills running. He does not like that at all.
So in the evening he retires to his room to just get away from everything, and naturally this is the night his wife shows up in new lingerie desperately seeking affection like a neglected pet.
Poor Lillian tries to be flirty but he’s curt. She says she just wants to hang out and catch up but he bluntly admits he doesn’t give a shit about her high-society gossip. Starting to get upset, she wishes he would just lie to make her feel better, which he finds even more unattractive.
They get into a tiff and similar to Hank’s mother in Chapter 7 Lily claims that loving someone for their vices and shortcomings, and not for their virtues, is what makes love valuable, because in so doing one forfeits one’s own virtue and consience for the sake of their beloved. Hank is repulsed, but it also causes a rush of guilt in him for fucking Dagny on the side. He is suddenly struck that Lillian’s furtive cruelty is ‘not a method of torture, but a twisted form of despair.’ She loves him. And she knows he doesn’t love her back. And that, ultimately, is what has turned her into the harpy he sees before him. Fuckin’ light dawns on marble head, Hank. Jesus.
The scene only grows more pathetic when Hank asks her flat-out what it is she wants, what would make her happy. Because that always helps when arguing with a woman. She points out that the fact he has to ask such questions is the very problem. And yes, she’s noticed that despite the nightmare going on in his business life he seems less tense lately, which I take to mean she suspects the affair.
But she’s here trying to bridge that gap, allowing him to see her vulnerability, despite all the wounded pride and bruised dignity. She slides in for an embrace, runs her hands down his arms. He reflexively shoves her away. Ouch. Cold, Hank.
He immediately knows that was too much. He apologizes and asks her genuinely what she considers her purpose in life. What is it that she really wants? Seriously. He will try his best to give it to her.
Aaand he literally does not understand what she means. Fuck you Ayn. asks her to explain and that’s the last straw for Lillian. She storms out.
Goddamn, this is so much like the Draper marriage you might as well just watch a Mad Men greatest hits compilation. Right down to the part where you feel terrible for the wife until you eventually have to admit that victim of emotional abuse or not, her once-innocent love has curdled into miserable bitchery and it’s too late for her. But, at least in my version, this was her one last chance, her truly sad and tragic moment.
Hank seems to have reached the same conclusion actually, except he believes so much in the sanctity of contracts that he once again punishes himself with guilt instead of considering a divorce. Nonetheless, his thoughts drift to Dagny and how much seeing her would make him feel better. If only she hadn’t left for DC to question that Lawson character…
NEXT: 1:10 cont’d, “Desperate Measures”