Friday, May 11, 2012

Mad Men Episode 5-5: Signal 30

Recap: Typically one of the most socially astute executives at SCDP, Pete is stripped of his social sensibilities in this episode as he is pushed to his limits in both the private and public spheres. Additionally, Lane reaches a low point in his marriage and professional life.

The episode begins with Pete sitting in a driver’s education class held in a high school classroom, where the other students are actual high school students. Pete is attracted to a high school girl who seems to view him as an old man, although she is polite and willing to talk to him. That night, Pete can’t sleep because of a faucet dripping in the kitchen, and he visualizes the girl as if he wants to be with her. He gets up, tries to fix the faucet, and manages to get the dripping to stop.
At Lane’s home, after he and his wife argue about whether to go out, they go out to a British pub where Lane pretends to have a good time. It turns out that one of the people they meet at dinner is a VP at Jaguar, and Lane becomes convinced that he can bring in business for SCDP. Roger tries to coach Lane on how to develop the relationship to land the business, but Lane fails to engage the VP in conversation during their dinner, and the SCDP execs step in to meet the VP themselves. At this point the VP wants to “have fun” with the SCDP execs, and they take him to a nearby house of prostitution. Don waits while the Jaguar VP and Pete, Lane, and Roger all get with women. Later the excursion is revealed when Lane’s hysterical wife finds out from the Jaguar customer’s wife. Pete, believing that visiting a prostitute is part of his job, feels sanctimonious toward Don and shows contempt for Don’s refusal to participate. Referring to Don’s advice to hold onto his relationship with Trudy, Pete says, sarcastically, “I have it all.” Then, noting Don’s marital satisfaction with Megan, he warns, “Wait until the honeymoon’s over.”
Meanwhile, Peggy is at a sandwich shop and sees Ken walk by with a man. Peggy wants to meet Ken’s friend but Ken wants privacy. Peggy confronts Ken later at the office, and Ken explains that the man he met for lunch was in the literary business and Ken was a short story writer under the alias, Ben Hargrove. Back at Pete’s house, Pete and Trudy host a dinner party for Don and Megan, with Ken and Cynthia also in attendance. The evening includes polite but strained banter, Cynthia telling everyone about Ken’s secret second career as a writer, and the leaking kitchen faucet bursting open. To everyone’s amazement, Don takes off his shirt and fixes the plumbing, and Pete feels upstaged. After insulting Don and Lane, Pete is challenged by Lane to a fist fight in the conference room. Roger, Don, and Cooper all watch, and Joan and Peggy listen from the next room. Lane wins the battle but goes off to his office to recover from the blows he took. Joan enters, and when she offers sympathetic words, Lane kisses her. Joan accepts the kiss without protest, but opens the door to stop any further advances.
The episode ends with Pete (after the fight) getting on the elevator with Don, saying “This is an office. We’re supposed to be friends.” Then he confesses, “I have nothing, Don.” We also see Ken continuing to write short stories, now under a new pseudonym, and Pete sitting in his driver’s education class watching the girl he wanted making out with a boy her own age.

A major theme of this episode is awkward interactions caused by the blurring of personal and professional life.

·         Ken gets it right, keeping his short story writing career a secret from his professional associates at SCDP. He feels awkward when Cynthia tells the dinner party about Ken’s writing, and when he is forced to tell Peggy about his writing career on the side, but he manages to continue his pursuit of writing by changing his pseudonym.

·         Ken has an awkward encounter with Peggy at the sandwich shop, and later has to reveal his second career in order to save his professional relationship with Peggy, thus bringing her slightly closer to his personal life. However, he continues to put up reasonable barriers to keep Peggy away from that side of himself.

·         Pete gets it wrong by thinking “we’re supposed to be friends” when they are not friends but work associates. He and Trudy try to mix business with pleasure by having a dinner party and inviting Don and Ken and their spouses, leading to awkward dinner table conversation mostly carried out by the women. Pete is so unable to draw a boundary between the personal and the professional that he later visits a prostitute, jeopardizing his marriage, for “business purposes.” He also tries to turn his student role (not a professional role, but not a personal one, either) in the driver’s education class into a personal relationship with a teenage girl, making her feel awkward. Yet the one relationship where Pete manages to bridge the personal and professional realms is with Don, who, despite Pete’s negativity, tries to give him personal advice for his own good and to whom Pete confides, as a friend, “I have nothing, Don.”

·         Lane gets it wrong by interpreting a social encounter with a Jaguar executive as a business opportunity in which he sees himself taking a professional leap to account executive. This leads to an awkward social encounter where Lane cannot get the conversation rolling.

·         Lane, misinterprets Joan’s sympathetic words after his fight as deeper personal interest, kisses her, which proves to be very awkward.

·         At the Board meeting, Pete expresses personal jealousy toward Lane for potentially bringing in the Jaguar account, allowing his personal feelings to overcome his usual veneer of professionalism. This leads to awkward feelings for Pete as the Board defends the business potential of representing a car company.

·         Megan and Trudy conspire to trick Don into agreeing to attend Pete and Trudy’s dinner party, creating awkwardness for Don as he tries to get out of it. He realizes that, because of his professional connection to Pete, he will not be able to get out of this social event and so awkwardly accepts the invitation.

·         Roger oversteps his professional role by trying to control Ken’s personal life, calling Ken into his office and telling him not to moonlight as a writer anymore. Ken knows his rights, and so he ostensibly agrees with Roger, but then secretly changes his pseudonym so that he can continue writing on the side without getting caught.

·         The fist fight at the office between Lane and Pete is a complete breakdown of professionalism for both of them. The men in attendance seem to enjoy the show, but the rest of the office workers seem to feel awkward about it, including Joan and Peggy. Afterwards Lane questions his professional role at SCDP, and Pete feels beaten up and rejected both personally and professionally.

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