This weeks episode of Mad Men should probably really have been called “Pete gets his ass whooped”, but that would have ruined the surprise of what is especially rare in Mad Men; an “action” scene. The central theme for the week seemed to be the balance between the usefulness and inadequacies of men and who better to focus on than one petulant Peter Campbell. Pete’s biggest problem is not that he is a whiny, conniving little twerp in a slight frame, but that he compares himself to Don Draper.
First under the microscope this week is the P in SCDP, Lane Pryce. As one of the figure heads of SCDP Lane feels his position in the company is somewhat useless, so it is fortuitous when he meets the American Jaguar representative whom he hopes he can bring under the SCDP advertising umbrella. It should be noted that the English pronunciation Jag-Ewe-Arr is used prolifically and it was all I could do to keep from adding a “Yeahh Baby Yeaaah” every time it was mentioned. Unfortunately for Lane his client is more of an Austin Powers type Englishman than a proper gentleman, and all sales technique handed down from Roger is wasted.
Lane must turn to the “A-team” in Don, Roger and Pete to reel his client in and “show him a good time”. It quickly becomes abundantly clear that Lane’s client is looking for more than a sales pitch which makes it Roger’s time to shine. Other than setting the groundwork for one of the more hilarious reason for losing a client, his wife discovers “chewing gum in the pubis”, we get to see Peter compare himself side-by-side with the new Don Draper and here is where his youth shows. Pete feels like Don is being hypocritical and unfair by judging his indiscretions at the brothel, while giving Roger a free pass.
What Pete is missing is that Don was holding him to a higher standard than Roger, and is almost fatherly in his hope for Peter to make better life choices than his own. If anything this reveals that at some level Don actual cares for Pete. And maybe no scene in the history of the show said more about Campbell then when he is instructing his “lady friend” as to what character she should play in the bedroom – hence the episode’s title: “You’re My King”.
The other major storyline of the week focuses on the nearly invisible Ken Cosgrove who was long overdue for some face time. Unfortunately Ken is still pretty boring right down to his wife whose name no one can remember. Ken’s big secret is that he has been moonlighting as a writer, Ben Hargrove, publishing science fiction fantasies such as “women who lay eggs” and “robots that fix space highways”. Mad Men likes to tip their hats to historical figures, and while this type of science fiction makes me think of Philip K. Dick there doesn’t seem to be any other parallels between Dick and Cosgrove’s character. We do find that the “pact” between Ken and Peggy is still active, and may come into play again some day and yet again Peter proves his weaseliness by ratting out Ken’s out of work distraction to Roger.
In true Mad Men fashion Joan’s return to the office is seamless and unremarkable as suddenly there she is heading a new business meeting. It doesn’t take long for the sexual tension to return however as we can add Lane to the list of those who can’t help but make advances on Joanie.
This episode was apparently meant to make Pete Campbell feel inferior in every possible way it seems culminating in the sissy fight of the century. We see Pete try to woo a teenage drivers ed student only to be outmatched by a younger more attractive, more age-appropriate rival. Pete thinks he has conquered his dripping faucet by adjusting the water pressure only to be emasculated by Don who literally rips off his shirt in front of all the women to put a proper fix to the problem. In the office Pete tries to flex his muscles literally and figuratively but is unsuccessful there as well.
Pete is miserable and he brings it on himself. Hitting on a teenager and sleeping with prostitutes while you have a pregnant Alison Brie at home? Not cool. Backstabbing your coworkers and acting like a condescending prick? It is probably one of the reasons that Pete is a successful salesman, but still not cool. Nobody felt bad when you got punched in the face Pete Campbell so you just might want to think about that one. There’s two directions Pete can go here. He can see the light like his so-called hero Don (yawn!) or he can go batshit crazy and be like his idol evil-Don. Maybe we can look forward to Pete Cambell with a goatee…