Musing Review: Mad Men – Signal 30 (S5, Ep5)
This episode of Mad Men took us deep into the minds of a few of our favorite characters. We got a really good glimpse at what’s really going on inside their heads as the firm looks to get some new business with the car company Jaguar. It was a good episode, not too slow, not too fast. There were some good scenes as well (one in particular I’ll talk about later). I’m not going to recap the entire episode but instead I’ll cover four of the characters and their stories this week.
Ken Cosgrove deserves to be first in this review. He’s been pretty much silent since the season began. I think that in one episode he was featured in many scenes and didn’t even say a word or had pretty much less than one line. So in this week’s episode he had a much more prominent role. We already knew he was a published writer but not much of that was talked about up until now. He’s been writing though he’s been hiding it from everyone. He got “caught” red handed by Peggy at a coffee shop meeting with another writer. He confessed to writing science fiction under the pen name Ben Hargrove. I think it’s a pretty cool pen name, though Ken Cosgrove isn’t a terrible name either.
When he was at Pete’s house for a dinner party with his wife, Cynthia, she let it slip that he’s still writing and that she loves it. At first I couldn’t quite understand why he was hiding it and somewhat ashamed. Turns out that writing on your own does not jive with your high powered advertising job. That is the world according to Roger Stirling. He told Ken to stop doing it and not lose focus on his job. Ken was outright scared of losing his job and capitulated. He’s struggling though. He loves his writing way more than he loves his ad job and I hope he outgrows SCDP and takes his sci-fi to the next level. In the closing scene of the episode he was up late writing in bed while his wife slept and he had a great voiceover of his prose.
I happened to love one of the short stories he supposedly penned about the robot that kills humans on a bridge to two planets. When asked why the robot would do something his answer was simply that this was what the robot could control, it could control whether or not the bolt went inside the bridge. Definitely an allegory for human life and human suffering and very apropos to this week’s episode.
All last week Don dealt with his inner demons. This week he seems to have gotten over some of them. Most notably Don did not partake in the festivities at the brothel (Pete, Roger, Don and a prospective client went to a brother for some fun). Very surprising for Don’s character, maybe has has really turned over a new leaf in his marriage to Megan. It was also nice to see him exhibit some self control for once, although he did his fair amount of drinking this episode.
Don took on an alpha male role in the episode. He also went to the party at Pete’s. When he first got there he was greeted to a request for a drink order (could just be good hosting) and then told that he got the “big steak.” Pete was super excited that he was there, he looked like a giddy little school boy and Trudy had told him the party was planned around his schedule. At one point the sink broke and Don was there to come to the rescue. In “Baywatch” style he just took his shirt off, went underneath the sink and stopped the water from spewing everywhere. Also when they were in the brother he was very much a father figure / leader watching out for everyone else and not partaking. Alpha male isn’t a new role for Don, he’s always been the leader but the way he took it on this week was nice and refreshing.
Lane has always been the odd man out at SCDP. He’s English, he’s not close to as charismatic as everyone else, and he’s quite a bit uptight. He has his role and he does it well. He’s the numbers guy and he is pretty much the glue that keeps the firm together. This week he struggled with his life (and role) in total. We were treated to a bit of foreshadowing earlier in the season when he had the creepy phone encounter over the found wallet and the girls picture. He’s just unhappy. He didn’t quite want to go watch some football (soccer) nor did he seem to want to spend time with his wife. Thankfully he did go to watch soccer and met a perspective client (Jaguar). Now that excited him and he really wanted to prove himself and score the account himself. He thought he had an in since the prospective client was also English. Not so much and Lane pretty much failed. The other partners had to swoop in try and save the day, although they didn’t (more to come later).
He’s really hurting and he’s angry. He’s sick of being a punching bag and feeling like he has no purpose. He even tried to kiss Jane. Lane’s got a lot of stuff to work out. I could see the storyline having him go back to England for a bit. Then the office can devolve. We’ll just have to wait to see more. I’m just kind of glad they’re doing something with his character.
If this episode of Mad Men was a movie marquee then Pete would be the headliner of the episode. Pretty much everything centered around him. If it were not for the dinner party he and Trudy threw and not for his eagerness to get accounts there would have been no other real storylines this episode.
So if I said Lane’s hurting was a low grade fever then Pete has a very high grade fever. He is not happy with life anymore. His home life sucks and he misses life before having a baby. He’s really lost control. He fantasizes about stepping out on his wife with a teenage girl in his driving class. Then he steps out on his wife in the brothel. He can’t let go when something goes wrong with getting accounts and he really just acted like an ass. He couldn’t even accept Don’s non-judgment. He even physically looked bad. All episode long he looked like he was sweating a bit too much and I know they had air conditioning in that period.
It all came to head this week when his jerkiness got the best of him in a partner’s meeting. After Lane comes storming in upset that they lost the Jaguar account because the company rep was caught by his wife being with a prostitue he gets berated by Pete. This is actually really funny, apparently the wife found out because he had “chewing gum on his pubis.” I laughed out loud, seriously, they said that happened. Lane couldn’t take anymore and they actually fought. In what was a pretty cool fistfight in the office Lane beat his butt. Each had a few good hits and both suffered bruises and maybe SCDP in the process as well. Don, Roger and Bert just egged this on. I think they knew that this was the only way to get past the insult. I wasn’t quite expecting an all out fist fight. It was definitely a whoah moment.
I’m not happy about what they’re doing with Pete’s character. I realize there’s a lot of drama in watching a character devolve but I just don’t like it. It’s only going to get worse for him. I always rooted for him to be better than the rest even though he’s certainly not my favorite character.
I loved how they played out the scene when Megan couldn’t remember Ken’s wife’s name. It was so natural and not overplayed. Once she heard it she just blurted it out and I’ve found myself doing the same thing. Just very real. I’m also very glad we got so much of Trudy this episode. Allison Brie is very much a wonderful actress and is great to see on screen.
So another good episode of Mad Men. Lots of stuff is happening and I’m looking forward to more. Watch Mad Men Sundays at 9:00PM ET on AMC. You can catch up on demand if you’ve got it.Tags: AMC, don draper, Mad Men, review, season 5