This week’s Mad Men opened in a driver’s ed classroom as Pete and some other students watched gory footage of auto accidents. The scene was an apt set-up for a John Slattery-directed episode in which the life of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s youngest partner was much like a car crash itself: bloody, likely to injure innocent bystanders, and yet mesmerizing in its horror. But Pete’s existential crisis was our Sunday evening entertainment, so let’s hit the gas on this puppy!
Buckle up | Pete’s suburban ennui, which became a thing a few episodes back, hasn’t dissipated in the slightest. When he wasn’t trying to put the moves on Jenny, a high school senior in his driving class (Manhattan-born Pete never needed a license before moving out to Cos Cob, CT, you see), he was obsessing about fixing his dripping kitchen faucet or pressuring Don to come to a dinner party. Draper implored Megan to send their regrets, and even called Trudy himself, but hell hath no fury like a ’60s housewife with a deviled egg platter, so the Drapers eventually found themselves at Casa Campbell with Ken and his wife, um… Cynthia! (Don and Megan’s uncertainty about Mrs. Cosgrove’s first name made for a fun running gag throughout the evening — but not as much fun as I had trying to pick which of the men’s jackets was the most egregious. Yeah yeah, I know, the Mad Men wardrobe is better researched than most doctoral theses, and my dad probably has each of those styles, plus two that are even worse, at the back of his closet. Whatevs. In the end, I went with Ken’s kinda-like-blue-flannel-pajamas look. Thoughts?) When the kitchen faucet unexpectedly turned into a fountain after the meal, Don stripped to his tee shirt and had it fixed before Pete could do much of anything, revealing that the success young Campbell thought he’d made earlier was a mere illusion.
That’s not a stick shift | As Megan drove a drunk Don home, they chatted about how cute Pete’s daughter was and how much Don really didn’t miss suburbia. Or rather, Don playfully pawed at Megan until she pulled over so they could “make a baby” — his words, surprisingly — and she relented only because “Pete scared the s–t out of me with those car accident statistics, and I can’t believe how much I loved watching you fix that sink.” Hey, kids on this show have been conceived after much less.
Read the manual | After Ken acted all squirrelly when she ran into him and an older man at a luncheonette, Peggy demanded to know what was up. Ken confessed that the man was a literary agent who might be interested in publishing some of his sci-fi short stories under the name “Ben Hargrove.” But because the topic also came up at the Campbells’ dinner, Pete snitched to Roger, who basically told Ken to kill his inner Philip K. Dick and focus on SCDP business. Though Ken agreed, we later saw him scribbling away at a new story, written by one Dave Algonquin and inspired by Pete’s state-of-the-art record player.
Road rage can kill | Lane’s social outing with some fellow Brits resulted in some important new business for SCDP: One of those Brits was Edwin Baker, a Jaguar exec who indicated that the luxury car company was looking for a new ad firm. But when the Lane-led business dinner was unsuccessful (“Come on, Lane couldn’t close a car door,” Pete moaned), Roger, Don, and Pete took Baker out for the night of fun (a.k.a. visit to a whorehouse) he really wanted. As Roger, Pete, and their potential client took compliant beauties to a back room, Don (Don!) chose to stay at the bar, making pleasant conversation with the madam and keeping his hands off the merchandise. Let’s just pause for a moment and acknowledge this, a possible first: Don Draper as the most moral man in the room? It was a state of affairs that was not lost on Pete, who railed against his co-worker as they rode home together in a cab. But Don wasn’t having any of it. “I’m just trying to tell you, because I am who I am and I’ve been where I’ve been, that you don’t get another chance at what you have,” he said, adding that if Megan had been his first wife, she would’ve been his only wife. And you just know that somewhere, Betty sighed and opened up a fresh box of Bugles.
The main event | Pete was still sulking the next morning when Lane busts into the partners’ meeting to say that the Jaguar account was dead (and please try to imagine this next part yelled in an English accent) “He was caught with chewing gum in his pubis!” The partners’ laughter, and a jibe at Lane’s sexuality from Pete, further infuriated the Brit, who challenged Pete to fisticuffs right there in the conference room. If you watch this episode again, I implore you to notice Don’s hilarious facial expressions throughout this scene. Nice work there, Jon Hamm. Pete and Lane faced off, both looking like the Notre Dame mascot, and though Pete got the first blow, Lane drew first blood and knocked Pete to the floor. Later, Joan soothed Lane’s swollen hand and bruised ego and got a rather lusty kiss in return while Pete rode the elevator down with Don. “I have nothing, Don,” he whispered, tears rolling down his face, and we later saw him back in Driver’s Ed, watching Jenny get, shall we say, driven manually by Suburgatory‘s Parker Young as the cautionary tale from which the episode took its name rolled on.
What did you think of this week’s Mad Men? Did you ever think you’d see the day Don would turn down sex? Were you as uncomfortable as I was when Pete kept asking Jenny to go to the botanical gardens with him? And would you pay for a collection of Ken’s sci-fi tales? Sound off in the comments! —Kimberly Roots