Mad Men Episode 505: Recap & Review

Mad Men Season 5 Episode PhotosEpisode 505 is a beautiful character study picking apart the life of one Pete Campbell. In the suburbs all is not well. He’s a bred and borne city kid, and he’s having a hard time adapting to the suburban life style. Like the continuous discordant drips of the leaky kitchen faucet, Pete’s life continues on and on, but to what end? In writing, he has it all. He is an important member who is continuously bringing in clients, has a beautiful home, a charming wife, and a new child. He should be feeling like a king, but something’s off. He’s bored and restless of country life. Not only that, he’s downright depressed. During the whole episode he constantly mentions examples of death and tragedy. He talks of keeping guns in the house. It’s been two weeks since the brutal deaths in Chicago, and now there’s been a shooting at a University in Texas as well as news of plane crashes. The Mad Men universe is no longer what it used to be in terms of predictability. Time slips by in a moment and now the world is full of random events.

The one modicum of  learning some control over life and death is scoffed at in the beginning of the episode. Pete’s in a driver’s education class in a local high school during a showing of “Signal 30,” a staple traffic safety film shown in driver’s ed classes all over the nation. As the sounds and images of the carnage of real life traffic accidents are played over the projector, Pete laughs at the film’s campiness, winning a smile from the attractive blonde in a few seats ahead of him. He slowly gazes over body, from neck, breasts, bare legs and feet. Rather than learning how to navigate safely, he becomes preoccupied with attracting the attentions of an underage female. He openly flirts with her and flaunts his moneyed background in an attempt to reel her in, and constantly asks her for a free Sunday. She’s something new, something young, and something he can use to satiate his boredom. He’s tried buying happiness but as lovely as his new stereo is to sounding just like “a tiny orchestra,” it’s not enough. More than anything what does a king want? An adoring audience. He’s found someone that could possibly fill that role.

What about Trudy? As mentioned by Pete in the season opener, there used to be a time when she wouldn’t be caught dead with a robe outside the house. She’s no longer wearing frilly negligees to bed, but loose fitting sleeping gowns and hair rollers. She’s no longer calling him at the office and asking what he’d like to eat for dinner, and nor does she wait for him to come home. She’s (rightly) preoccupied with keeping their house a beautiful home and their new child. She doesn’t have time to stroke his ego.

Mad Men Season 5 Episode Photos

Trudy invites the Drapers over for a dinner party on the weekend. Not only does Don hate socializing with workmates on his time off, he hates suburbia. Having been there once with Betty, he doesn’t want to return. “Spending Saturday in the suburbs: that’s when you really want to blow your brains out.” He asks Megan to cancel, but unfortunately, she enjoys Trudy’s company, and tells him that if he doesn’t want to go he should call Trudy himself. This tiny little exchange speaks volumes of their relationship. She’s a young modern woman who is smartly dressed in the latest fashions and is up to date with the latest trends in pop culture and she doesn’t have to do everything her husband tells her. Don calls but is unable to worm himself out of the invitation. Trudy, the woman who helped plan out Pete’s career at SCDP, is a terribly formidable woman who is able to volley Don’s excuses back to him and have him agree to HER plans without question. Trudy even wins Don over during the dinner party. She’s provided her husband and child with a beautiful and warm home, is a gracious hostess, and a loving mother. She’s the anti-Betty. Trudy is everything he wanted Betty to be.

Don as a character is both set as an ideal and as a foil for Pete Campbell. When Don arrives to the party Pete immediately thanks Don for coming as “it means a lot” and that he’s “getting the largest steak.” His arrival is a boost to Pete’s ego, solidifying his importance as being a valuable partner to SCDP not only to his eyes, but to the eyes of his wife (home life) and the Cosgroves (competitors). On the flip side, Don stands for everything Pete is not. Don was Dick Whitman, a nobody who stole the identity of another and has worked hard and built everything he has by using his brain and his hands. When the kitchen faucet breaks during the dinner party, which came to a complete surprise to Pete as he thought he had fixed it in an earlier scene, Pete immediately runs out to get his toolbox and fumbles with its contents. Don quickly shields the broken faucet from draining the party guests and gets to work. He strips off his button down as the women excitedly squeal  “It’s Superman!” and easily fixes the problem. Not gonna lie, it was pretty hot. He then explains the problem and solution in a technical way that Pete cannot comprehend. Don’s a virile man among men who can fix problems with his brain and hands in a way that Pete can’t.

Furthermore, at Driver’s Ed, Pete continues to flirt with the blonde until a teenager named Hanson, nicknamed “Handsome” makes his move and sufficiently cockblocks him. He’s a spitting image of a young Don Draper: handsome, masculine, and oozes with an easy charm. The girl is rapt in his attention as Pete’s discarded.

At the office, A friend of Lane’s wife works for Jaguar and is interested in employing SCDP to work all of their advertisements in the States. Lane, thinking that he can bond with the man over the fact that they are both British, tries to bring in the client himself. The other partners are rightly worried, and Roger gives him some pointers in how to wine and dine them. Unfortunately Lane fails to win over the client, and Roger, Pete, and Don meet with the client themselves. Apparently Jaguar thought that Lane was a prude and wouldn’t know his kind of partying. Roger, picking up on his hint, takes him to a high-class brothel. They all fool around except for Don, and the viewers learn that Pete’s kink is to be called “You’re my king.” During a cab ride home, Pete feels as if Don’s judging him and accuses Don of being a nun. Don responds with “Roger’s miserable but I didn’t think you were.” Don speaks from experience and warns, “You don’t get another chance at what you have.”

Don seems happy at the moment, but there’s still something dark lurking. He was doodling and drew a noose during a meeting and the shooter at Univ. of Texas was named Whitman. Hmm.

Mad Men Season 5 Episode Photos

Lane learns about the excursion with the client over an angry phone call with his wife. Gum was found on his pubes, the wife is furious, Lane is yelled at, and SCDP is dropped. Lane is aghast and Pete, the little snot that he is, tells him that the whole thing never would have happened if the client didn’t think Lane “was a homo,” and that Lane has no visible impact in the agency. Affronted, he calls Pete a “grimy little pimp,” and that “You and I are going to address that insult!” The two duke it out in the boardroom with the shocked and amused partners in the room. Lane beats the crap out of Pete, and Pete is met with a bloody nose and a bruised face to match his bruised ego. According to Joan, everyone at the office wanted to punch Pete at least once. As Pete leaves for the day, he runs into Don at the elevator where he cracks and sobbingly declares “I have nothing.”

Pete wants to be Don but in reality he is more like Roger. Pete detests Roger because of the fact that they are so similar. Both are from old money who are dealing with unhappy lives. Sterling’s gold is nothing but brass, and Pete’s crown is made of tin. There is nothing in either of their lives that bring a sense of satisfaction and joy because they’ve never thought how to make something of themselves that gives them self-worth. Money and women can only go so far. That’s why both were perturbed and jealous when it was revealed that Ken Cosgrove has a successful side job as a sci-fi/fantasy writer. It was a hobby that turned into a profession that not only brings admiration and money, but pride. He has something that he does that makes him happy, and that is something what Roger and Pete both lack. Hopefully Don’s words acted as a “Signal 30” to Pete. He’s still young, and he can stop himself from completely turning into an old curmudgeon like Roger. The episode ends with Ken writing a new story about dominion and control inspired by Pete. Pete’s problems are borne from a life of luxury and his problems are accompanied by a tiny violin. Zero sympathies.

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By Contributing Blogger:  M. Do.

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