Last night's Mad Men episode was a tale of two account men. It was the story of Pete Campbell, who appears to be starting a quarter-life crisis, and Kenny Cosgrove, who is riding into maturity like a boss.
I found this episode particularly interesting because it explored one of the themes of the novel I'm currently working on (because I wasn't kidding about Ken Cosgrove being my role model): What if, all your life, you've been yearning for the wrong thing? In my book, the crisis is a little less serious because the character is only 18 and is just starting to make real choices about where his life is headed. But in Mad Men, Pete has already made the choices. He's living what he thought was his dream -- he has the big house, the wife, the kid, the slightly larger office, authority at work -- but he is not happy. And he is so not happy that he is behaving in increasingly destructive ways.
Things are not going to end well, is what I'm saying.
Pete starts down the path to destruction in driver's ed. class, of all places. Whether he sees himself as a peer of the nubile 17-year-old in his class or as a Don Draper-type sexy older man, I'm not sure. Maybe a little of both. Either way, he is going to get this girl to the botanical gardens and pluck her flower. Things seem to be going well for him, too, until that pesky Ryan "Handsome Hanson" Shea shows up and kills his mojo. Handsome is everything Pete is not, including being an age-appropriate suitor for young Jenny Gunther. Has Pete ever looked more pathetic sitting there watching Jenny and Handsome canoodle in class, his double chins and greasy skin juxtaposed with the teenagers' taut youth? Why is this recap starting to sound like a bodice ripper?
Having struck out with the jail bait, Pete decides to take charge at work. He jumps into the Jaguar fray, kicking Lane to the side, ready to show the British nerd how accounts are done. Pete and Don and Roger, in an impressive bout of overkill, take Edwin Baker out to a restaurant to woo him to SCDP. Edwin, who thinks Lane is not only a gay, but an extremely square gay, asks the boys to show him a good time. Pete jumps in immediately with some tourist trap ideas that prove he will never really be as good at his job as Roger was in his heyday. He lacks the charisma. Roger saves the day by mentioning a "party" he "knows about." In this case, the "scare quotes" mean "brothel."
The boys head over to the whorehouse. All the women, of course, flock to Don, but he's still toeing the marriage line. Oh, and he also grew up in a place like that, so whatever. But Pete chooses to party with a blond girl, who I believe referred to him in the bedroom as her "lion of Lannister." In the cab on the way home, Pete chastises Don for not getting with a hooker, because all the cool kids are doing it. Don gives him some good life advice, "You don't get another chance at what you have." Pete goes home and washes off the whore stank before getting in bed with Trudy.
Back at work, the dalliance at the whorehouse has cost Lane the Jaguar account. Edwin Baker's wife found him with, I quote, "chewing gum on his pubis." Lane strips off his coat and rolls up his sleeves, prepared to fight Pete, the "grimy little pimp." Lane easily KOs Pete, though both of them end up bloody.
Pete winds up in the elevator with Don at the end of the episode. Pete tells Don, "I have nothing." And that is when it becomes clear that at some point this season, the shotgun Pete was going on about earlier in the episode will be used by Pete to kill himself or Trudy or everyone working at SCDP.
Kenny Cosgrove, on the other hand, is about the same age as Pete, but he has not gotten caught up in the life of an ad man. He seems to have a happy relationship with the wife whose name no one can ever remember. He has a pact with Peggy that they jump ship together when they jump ship. And he has a secret sci-fi writing career. When Roger tells Kenny that he has to stop writing in order to be a better accounts man, Kenny says, "Sure, whatever," before going home and establishing a new pen name. Ken Cosgrove knows that his job is his job and it doesn't define who he is. I've always been a big fan of Kenny, and this episode just made me like him more.
- Judging by his behavior in driver's ed. class, Pete Campbell has a foot fetish.
- I didn't mention too much about Trudy and Pete's party (that's how packed this episode was), but I love how plumbing skills were used as the measure of a man this episode. Pete feels a lot of pride early on when he fixes the leak in the faucet, but then he's upstaged at his own dinner party by Don, who not only can fill out a T-shirt, but who can also fix a sink in a single bound.
- Don as Superman shout out! Jon Hamm should be Superman. Why is Jon Hamm not Superman?
- I also loved how Trudy used deceit to get Don over to her house for dinner. She's diabolical! And she deserves so much better than Pete.
- Roger is now admitting that he's more professor emeritus than superstar account man these days. His Bert Cooperfication has begun.
- The informal formal dinner jackets at Pete's party were a delight.
- Have you seen Pete's stereo? It's 7 feet long! He's not overcompensating for anything.
- I love pretty much anything Lane does, and watching him try to rock his first date with Edwin is no exception.
- Megan trying to avoid having to say Kenny's wife's name made me cringe. I've been there, sister!
- When Don tells Megan he wants to have a baby, did she say, "That's impossible?" Is it because she's on whore pills, AKA birth control?
- Don to Pete: "Roger is miserable. I thought you were happy."
- High school girl Jenny Gunther got drunk on vanilla extract. I've been there, sister!
- Lane kissed Joan! And she was all, "This again?"
What did you think of this episode? How do you think the shotgun will end up playing into this season?