Mad Men Season 5 Episode 5 – Signal 30

Lane celebrates England’s 1966 World Cup win

As I predicted last week, and before the season started, in tonight’s Mad Men, Lane Pryce got to celebrate England’s World Cup triumph on July 30th 1966.  Lane, who has no yearning for his home country, was reluctant to watch the game as the pub will be full of English people and it is only the insistence of his wife, who enjoys spending time with ex-pats, that convinces him to go.  The adventure to the bar turns out to be fruitful for Lane, not just because he gets to celebrate his home country’s victory over the Germans at Wembley, but he also because he gets to meet Edwin Baker, the Senior Vice President of Public Relations at Jaguar cars.  As luck would have it, Jaguar are about to merge with BMC (British Motor Cars) and are looking for a new advertising agency.  When Lane brings this potential client up at the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce partners’ meeting, Pete Campbell tries to downplay the significance such an account would bring, and chastises the Englishman about his prior hesitation about hiring more people to accommodate new business.  Lane insists that he should handle the first dinner with Edwin, so Roger Sterling tries to give him some useful pointers on how to conduct himself in order to find out exactly what Jaguar would want in their Request For Proposal – specifically, find problems Edwin has and claim to have similar issues.  Unfortunately, Lane is unable to connect in such a way with his fellow Brit, instead just unburdening his own issues of his wife’s difficulties in assimilating to the United States.

Meanwhile, Don does his best to avoid an evening at the Campbell’s residence but, between Megan’s enthusiasm for such soirées, and Trudy’s unwillingness to accept any of his excuses, Draper has no chance of avoiding a Saturday night out in the suburb of Cos Cob.  Despite his reluctance, Don does appear to enjoy the engagement and even speaks openly of his childhood in the country – something he would never have done during his marriage to Betty.  When the subject of guns is brought up, Ken’s wife, Cynthia (whose name which nobody else at the dinner party can remember, if only they had IMDB like me) references the shooter at the University of Texas – but gets his name wrong and calls him Charles Whitmore which Don – AKA Dick Whitman – corrects.  The evening ends well for him when he plays the hero and fixes the leaking sink, while Pete fumbles around in his toolbox – his resourcefulness turning Megan on and she agrees to pull over for some fun in the car on their way home.  Mrs Draper says something that may turn out to be relevant – Don had his paternal instincts stirred by seeing Pete and Trudy’s daughter and tells his wife “Let’s make a baby”, which Megan replies would be “impossible”.  It could have been a reference to her being on birth control, or perhaps that she may not be able to get pregnant for medical reasons – but one way or the other, I imagine this subject will crop up again in the coming weeks.

It was not the best of episodes for Pete Campbell.  He has spent all season trying to assert his dominance over Roger Sterling, and this time moves on to doing the same over another senior partner, Lane.  Pete wants to be the person who brings in new accounts and feels threatened when Jaguar may be brought in by somebody else.  After his attempts to diminish the relevance of the lead at the partners’ meeting failed, Pete then steps in to take Edwin out for the second meeting, inviting Don and Roger along – insisting that the latter is welcome just to the dinner, not the wedding night.  He has also been forced to attend driving school to get his licence with people a lot younger than him, as he never learned growing up in Manhattan.  Pete uses the opportunity to hit on a girl – who can be no more than 17 – attempting to impress her by promises of taking her to the botanical garden in the Bronx as a VIP, since his family had donated to it generations before.  His attempts are thwarted by a classmate of the girl – Handsome Hanson – but when the night out with the SVP from Jaguar ends up at a brothel, Pete uses the opportunity to quench his need to feel powerful.  Not content with having sex with a prostitute, he insists she works for it and rejects all of her role play suggestions until “You’re my King” wins him around.

That visit to the house of ill repute ends badly for Pete:  Don – the serial adulterer (reformed, for now) himself, and a man Campbell was fawning over, just for coming out to have dinner at his house – looks down on him for potentially throwing away the apparently happy life in the suburbs he should be enjoying; and the account is lost after Edwin’s wife discovers his indiscretion due to some ill-placed chewing gum.  When Lane confronts Campbell about his actions costing the firm his account, Pete tells the Brit that he does not know what he was doing and his use ended as soon as he fired them from the old agency.  For the second time this season, a senior partner challenges Pete to a fight and, unlike with Roger,

Who would want to punch that face? Oh right – everybody

he accepts to take on Lane.  They exchange a couple of blows before Campbell is put on his rear end by a nice left hook from Pryce, bruising his ego as well as his pride.  Such is his popularity with SCDP, nobody goes to Pete’s office to check on him, but Joan does take same ice to Lane and informs him that he is of use and is not like the others, but in a good way.  Perhaps trying to prove her wrong, Lane then kisses the newly single Joan, but –  kindly – she plays it off, telling him that he has nothing to feel humiliated about, as everyone wants to punch Pete Campbell.

The other storyline that ran through this episode was the revelation that Ken Cosgrove is still writing short stories – in an early season he had one published in The Atlantic – under the pseudonym “Ben Hargrove”.  He confesses this to Peggy after she has run into him with a publisher at a diner over breakfast, but the true unveiling of his literary exploits is by his wife – what was her name again? – at the dinner party.  Pete, never one to miss an opportunity to jeopardise those who may be competition to him, relays this information to Roger Sterling, who informs Ken that he has both a day and night job with the agency, leaving no time for writing.  Undeterred, Cosgrove just kills off Ben Hargrove and takes on the new alias, Dave Algoniquin.

Ken was called Edgar Allan Poe by Roger, and the story he is writing over the final scene, “The Man with the Miniature Orchestra”, could have been written by Poe himself.  Inspired by Pete Campbell – who has told Don that he has nothing – the story is about a man who is living in the country and being killed by the silence, making everything too ordinary and beautiful to bear.  During the voiceover of Ken narrating, Campbell is watching the two youngsters at the driving school fool around in front of the projector and the shot then closes in on his face, as we hear the leaking tap again, sounding just like The Tell-Tale Heart.  Pete has his own secrets he has tried to bury – will the unrelenting silence, broken only by that dripping, cause him to unravel?  Drip. Drip. Drip.

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2 thoughts on “Mad Men Season 5 Episode 5 – Signal 30

  1. John,
    Haven’t mentioned before, but your Mad Men summaries/analyses are excellent. And look like they take a ton of work. I hold off until I can finally watch DVR’d episodes, then check out your writeups. Keep up the good work.

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