Eating, Driving And Fighting
Quite an episode of Mad Men. "Signal 30" seemed subdued, even hushed, most of the way, but it still was a knockout. Written by great screenwriter Frank Pierson, with Matt Weiner. Was this his first? And directed by John Slattery. Not his first, actually.
The opening indicates it's going to be Pete-centric. He's watching car crashes in a driving class. Guess he's out in the country now, time to learn. But he's studying the hot teenage girl sitting in front of him. Pete, isn't Trudy enough? Next he's in bed. (For a second I thought it was all a dream.) There's a leaky faucet driving him crazy which he goes to fix. Like a first-act gun, you know it'll go off later.
Over at Lane's, his lovely wife wants to get to the fake pub to watch the World Cup soccer match. They get there and England beats Germany, as anyone who's seen Sixty Six knows. Anyway, Lane's new British mate represent Jaguar, so maybe they can do some business.
In a coffee shop, Ken is with an older man and he tries to ignore Peggy, though they have a pact to help each other. Then we're at a partners meeting, run by Joan, who seems to be back with no questions asked. Who knows how she's adjusting, but at least she's doing what she does best. Lane drops the news about Jaguar. Pete has an odd reaction. (He was acting odd the whole way. I'm not sure if it's the character or Vincent Kartheiser.) Thinking about it, we can see Land and Pete getting ready to go at it already--except everyone hates Pete.
Pete buttonholes Don and invites him to a Saturday party. Don wants out, but Megan has said yes and Don can't talk Trudy out of it--that Trudy is truly formidable, handling Don as easily as she handles the baby (at the same time).
Ken goes to Peggy's office to explain he's been writing sf under a pseudonym (Ben Hargrove!) for years, and he was with a guy in publishing to put out a collection. (I thought Ken had been writing classy stuff, like for the Atlantic.) That's why he didn't live up to the pact. Ken grabs the door to leave and Lane grabs the door to let Roger in, one of several too-arty transitions that Slattery didn't need to do.
Anyway, we get a fine scene where Roger shows he's still got the stuff, explaining how to hook clients by showing them a good time. It's a date, and you've got to listen, and find out how you can commiserate with them. Of course, this is Roger, who it comes naturally to, not stiff Lane.
At a break in driving class, Pete talks to the teenage, and it's a nice talk. He's laying the ground for further laying. Is Pete that unhappy? Is Pete that creepy? Yes and yes. In addition to the World Cup, she refers to Charles Whitman shooting student, and earlier we had a Braniff plane crash, which all set the date to the summer of '66.
Getting ready for Pete's party, Don drinks a bunch (before he's going to drive). He really doesn't want to go--Don has always been his own man, but he's also turning into a bit of a fuddy duddy. The couple can't remembers Ken's wife's name (which leads to a good gag when it's mentioned and Megan practically shouts "Cynthia!"). At the Campbell's, Pete is showing off his gigantic stereo to Ken, blasting Beethoven. Don arrives, wearing the ghastly sports coat Megan got him. Everyone mingles and Pete is thrilled to finally have the great Don Draper at his house. They've fought in the past, but Don has always represented what he wants to be.
We watch a bit of Lane at dinner with his British friend. (A lot of eating in this show, just like last week there was a lot of sleeping). Everything he tries goes gloriously wrong. Odd. I once thought Lane was a professional, but not at this.
Back at the Pete's, they make small talk at dinner. There's talk of this latest killer (Don corrects the name of "Whitman"--he'd know). Cynthia let's slip that Ken is a writer--she met him while working at a publisher. He describes one of his stories about a robot who pulls out a bolt from a bridge between planets and kills thousands, because that's what he was told to do. Don takes part and doesn't seem to be having such a bad time, though he's charming enough you can't always tell.
The girls go in the kitchen and start screaming. The faucet has blown off and water is shooting out. Thanks, Pete. Don takes off his shirt and fixes thing. He's Superman--and looks great in his undershirt. Trudy goes to get the baby, who's woken up, so it's the 60s, with men doing the plumbing and women taking care of the kids.
Driving back (at least Megan is driving now), Don is hot. He'd also like a baby. Megan pulls over, because Pete told her about safety in driving, and she couldn't believe how sexy Don was fixing the faucet.
Back at the office, Roger and Pete discover Lane's dinner didn't go so well. Time to take it out of his hands. Pete decides they'll wine and dine the man and let Lane just be friends. Roger cracks he's glad to still be included, though you'd think this is still his specialty. How'd he lose so much power?
So with Roger and Lane humiliated, it's Pete's turn. At driving class, a handsome classmate comes in and robs the teenage girl's heart away. What was Pete thinking. He's not Don Draper.
Pete, Don and Roger take their new client out for a lobster dinner, complete with bibs. He explains they'll get his business, but he needs a good time, something Lane can't provide. Pete isn't very helpful, but Roger knows a classy whorehouse around the corner...
It is a pretty good place. The clicnt gets his fun, and Roger and Pete (!) go off with their own girls. Don could probably get it for free here, but, for now anyway, he's still holding on to his vow to Megan. In a pretty funny yet sad scene, the hooker tries different approaches until she finds one Pete wants--not Honey, You're Home, not It's My First Time, but Take Me Your Majesty.
When it's over, they drop Mr. Jaguar off at his place. Don and Pete have a little talk. (Don lives around 72 Street, btw.) Pete is unhappy Don didn't partake, and almost feels resentful. He says he has it all, which means he has nothing (which he'll say later). Roger is miserable, but Pete? Don says it isn't worth throwing away. Pete gets home and looks sad enough that he would if he could.
Someone snitched on Don--probably Pete--so Roger tells him to stop writing. It seems a little harsh, but like Pete last night, Roger is saying what he does because he's the one who feels he's lost something.
Back at Lane's office, Joan brings in ice. She seems to be the one woman who understands him. He lunges at her She gets up and opens the door. (No harrassment laws then, of course, but Joan knows how to handle any situation--in the office, anyway.) I suppose for second Lane hoped she'd be locking the door.
Peggy tells Ken she liked his story in Galaxy. But Ken Hargrove is now dead. Don and Pete go down in an elevator, and Pete can't understand how he's got here. He says he has nothing. I guess he's know. Does Don have something with Megan?
We leave with narration from Ken Cosgrove, written by his newest nom de plume, Dave Algonquin. I like then a lot better than his last one. His work is inspired by what he saw at Pete's. Good to see someone got something out of it.
A good episode--probably the best of the season so far. Things still haven't gotten back to normal, as Roger asked for last week. (No Betty, by the way, which is fine with me.)