This is a recap of Mad Men season five episode five, Signal 30. The series has moved on from expository niceties to reexamining the flaws of the already-flawed core cast. There’s a roll call… “CYNTHIA!” and there’s a pulling in of tertiary characters.
WARNING: This post will probably also contain spoilers. Let’s begin. This is, mostly, an examination of Pete Campbell: his marriage, his home, his fatherhood, his person-hood, his infidelities, his weaknesses, his insecurities, his incapability. He’s a shadow of a man, he’s there in roar but not in bite. He’s moody, and sneaky, and snide, and belittling to over-compensate his shortcomings. Oddly, mostly imagined shortcomings.
* The episode, directed by John Slattery, begins with Pete sitting in a high school-located Driver’s Ed class. It’s there he meets what he appears to acknowledge is an underage girl, Jenny, with whom he attempts to forge a relationship. The two bond in the hall, perturbed by the gore of the driver’s safety videos. Except this pretty young thing doesn’t want a lecherous, greasy sugar daddy. She wants to be groped in the dark by a handsome classmate her own age.
* Pete lay awake at night, discontent. Dissatisfied with his country life, wife, and homestead. He fails to do something as basic, as manly, as fixing the sink; something Superman Don Draper does with ease, in Pete’s home, with his shirt off, in the time it takes Pete to open the toolbox.
* Speaking of which, the party. The annoying, toadying party. Which annoying, toadying Trudy Campbell organised to fawn over Don; Don… even gets “the big steak,” usually reserved for the man of the house. Megan remains an incapable guest (hint: don’t make it so obvious you don’t know your friends’ names). Don wears an eyesore sport coat at Megan’s behest, and she’s earned it by being less-irritating this episode. And they mustn’t talk about nor wake baby girl Tammy.
* At the same party, a formerly-cagey Ken Cosgrove, who initially hid his writing from friend Peggy, was outed by wife Cynthia. “Cynthia!” His loudmouth wife ruins his writing career before it begins by bragging when Ken is clearly uncomfortable.
* Lane, and wife, are also unhappy. Lane, full of hubris, nearly lands a Jaguar account for the firm. Something that goes out the window as Roger (who’s permitted to cheat by Don because Roger is miserable), Pete (scolded by Don for cheating because Don now knows a good woman when he sees one), and the potential client from Jaguar, go to a whorehouse. The client, retiring for the night with gum in his pubic hair. Ew. Caught and ashamed, the client’s wife phones Lane’s wife, Rebecca, hysterical at the end of the marriage. This is all news to Lane, who wasn’t invited because he’s too square. Among other things. Then they fight… Lane and Pete. Rolled sleeves and tucked in ties after curtly dismissing newly-single Joan (with whom Lane later flirts and kisses) from the room. Lane punches out Pete before retiring to heal. It’s what Pete deserved, honestly, and the entire office has wanted to hit him since season one.
The surprise of the episode, the magnanimous hand offered Pete after the beating. By Roger and by Don, to whom Pete cries going home at lunchtime in the elevator. Because Pete has “nothing.” But perhaps Don wants more… is it time for a baby with Megan, a baby she oddly opines is “impossible.”