So far, Season 5 of Mad Men has seen Pete Campbell‘s position at SCDP on the up and up, along with his mission to try and become Don Draper, or at the very least, win his acceptance at last. However, the problem with trying to become Don Draper is that Don Draper himself hasn’t enjoyed it very much, and Pete is now finding out why.
This episode was very much about him, starting with being kept awake in his new country pad by a dripping tap, which he attempts to fix only for it to later blow up in his face (or more literally, his wife’s face). His emasculation is made complete when Don tears off his shirt (like Superman) and fixes the problem while Pete fumbles about in a toolbox with no clue what he’s doing.
That incident comes during a dinner party that he and his wife manage to pressgang Don into attending, giving Campbell the chance to show off his wondrous accumulation of possessions. Like all great television dinner parties, it’s an excruciating affair that he presides over like a smug king while Megan Draper’s lack of social skills come to the fore as she very obviously forgets Ken Cosgrove’s wife’s name (more on the Cosgroves later).
Pete’s misery continues at driving school, where a seemingly endless array of videos of people crashing cars gives him the chance to chat up a young student. Unfortunately, just as he’s about to close the deal on a date, a younger, more attractive guy comes on the scene and he’s quickly forgotten and discarded, which is a bitter blow to the former young hotshot on the scene. An even more bitter blow (or rather, blows) comes at work though.
This episode is largely about identity (isn’t the whole thing?), and Pete’s not the only one struggling with his. Lane’s feelings of uselessness and displacement (not helping by having Joan back at work and running the place again) come to the fore after he meets someone from Jaguar while watching England win the World Cup in a pub (as Roger later says, ‘the cup of what?’), and his attempts to seal the deal himself come to nothing.
After the big guns (Pete, Don and Roger) take over and the pitch ends up in a brothel, the deal falls through and an angry confrontation in the boardroom ends with Lane and Pete having a punch-up. Needless to say, Lane wins. It’s not the first angry exchange for Pete either, having drunkenly confronted Don in a taxi on the way back from the brothel, where newly-married Mr Draper contented himself with a chat with the madam, while Pete went off and enjoyed himself, only to feel shamed by his idol’s restraint.
In the lift on the way down from work after his final humiliation in the SCDP Boxing Championship, it all gets a bit too much for poor Pete, confessing to Don that: “I’ve got nothing.” An odd claim for an increasingly important member of the team who’s got a lovely house, a pretty wife and a new baby, but did any of that make Don happy? The theme for Pete Campbell this week was very much ‘be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.’
And finally, we’ve got Ken and his sideline career. No, not as a detective in 1940s LA, he’s a sci-fi writer, and has to confess it to Peggy when she sees him meeting a publisher. Unfortunately, his wife boasts about it at the Campbell dinner party, embarrassing him in front of Don and Pete and getting him in trouble with Roger (after Pete tells him about it), who tells him that he should be focusing on work. Instead, he goes home and writes about Pete. Good work Ken!
This was another excellent episode, needless to say. The dodgy sports coats worn by the men at the party were a sight to behold, while I was pleased to hear an Englishman in an American TV show talk about football without calling it ‘soccer’, and there were more signs of what an interesting character Megan could be turning into during a scene with a drunk and horny Don after the party. And, of course, there’s always Roger…
- Mad Men Recap: Is Pete Campbell the New Don Draper? (muhsadam.wordpress.com)
- I Have Everything: I Have Nothing (tubetheque.com)
- Mad Men Recap: The End Of Pete Campbell As We Know Him (mediaite.com)
- Mad Men: Who Do You Think You Are? (tv.com)
- Is Pete Campbell Doomed? (slate.com)
- Don Draper’s Plaid Sport Coat: How Do You Feel? (thegloss.com)