The Sad Sad Exploration of Peter Campbell, Mad Men Season Five, episode 5

By Jasmine Wong

This was definitely Pete Campbell’s episode. We see him in all facets of his life: going to Driver’s Ed, fighting (literally) for respect at work, hosting a party at his new home, and taking it too far with a client. The episode begins with him sitting in a dark classroom watching some film, which turns out to be his Driver’s Ed instructional video. He’s super old and it’s an awkward situation that quickly turns sketchy as Pete attempts to hit on a girl who is barely legal. (Also, how could he NOT be attracted to Trudy? She is so fantastic!) Unfortunately, his flirtation with Driver’s Ed girl was about the least troubling thing he does in this episode.

The main plotline driving this episode is the the partners’ joint attempt to sign Jaguar as an account. SCDP has to thank Lane for this one, because he gets their foot in the door thanks to his English connections. However, despite Roger’s coaching (who actually sort of had something to do this week, woo), Lane fails to seal the deal at dinner #1, thus allowing Don, Roger and Pete to entertain the man at dinner #2.  So I have to really thank Lane for letting me see a scene in which three grown men wear huge lobster bibs. I highly enjoyed that.  After the lobster, Roger and the gang go to a high-class whorehouse where Roger and Pete get lucky. Don, surprisingly, half because he grew up in a whorehouse and half due to his new and shiny devotion to Megan, keeps it in his pants. Later in the evening, Pete and Don share a cab home and you can tell that Pete’s feeling slightly guilty about what he just did, (how could he not, I mean, Trudy is awesome. I kind of wish her and Don were a thing. That phone call was so cute. But anyways…) and looks to Don (King of Extracurricular Activities) for approval and consoling. Only, Don very hypocritically and condescendingly offers no advice and even calls Pete out on throwing away the great life he has. Eh, I’m not sure if I believe this new, happy and moral Don. I give him about three more episodes before he throws in the towel.

Despite having the BEST TIME EVER, SCDP loses the Jaguar account. Pete blames Lane, and Lane (who finally grew some balls) IS NOT HAVING IT. They end up in a full-on fistfight, in the middle of the day, in the conference room. I don’t know. But as entertaining as it was to see Lane sock Pete, the fight was just so weird to me. Do grown professional men really get to a point where they need to fight hand to hand combat in the middle of their office? Do three other equally grown and equally professional (well professional up to this point I guess), really sit back and watch as two men fight like children? It just all felt very contrived to me and very anti-climatic, as there was just a lot of grunting and pacing back and forth before Pete went down with a bloody nose. Go Lane, I guess. I was more excited about the scene that took place afterwards between Lane and Joan (who are giving Don and Peggy a run for their money as my new favorite friendship, in which Joan essentially tells Lane that he shouldn’t feel bad that he doesn’t fit in with the boys. It’s better that he doesn’t. Lane than does a very stupid thing and kisses Joan and I’m thinking in my head, NOOOOOOOOOO, but Joan’s cool and just pretends it didn’t happen. THANK GOD. I want them to just be buddies.

Another plotline of the episode was Pete and Trudy hosting a party in the ‘burbs with Ken, Cynthia (poor girl, no one could remember her name), Don and Megan. I just want to say, for once, Don did not look good. That plaid sports coat was GOD AWFUL. Why did you make him wear it Megan?! He looked much more dapper before. Anyways, the dinner is slow and awkward as everyone makes jokes, half-heartedly laughs and skirts around the recent murders in the news. That is until Cynthia starts bragging about Ken and his robot stories. If you remember back in the day, Ken had a short story published in The Atlantic. It was a short storyline, basically used to highlight Pete’s jealousy and quickly wrapped up. Well, it seems, in the meantime, Ken has crafted quite a niche for himself in the robot, fantasy genre and may even publish a book…that is until slimy Pete tells Roger and it all comes to a halt.

I think what makes Pete look even worse this episode is his comparison to Ken. It seems like all the sudden this episode has given us so much more about Ken. He’s always been the nice guy with the good looks who seemed to have it together, but this episode we see that he truly is happy with his job and his marriage. He’s found a hobby he’s good at and that his wife loves and he’s supremely modest about it. Basically, Ken’s a responsible man who has managed to grow up, get his life together and be content with it. Pete, on the other hand, throughout the entire episode seems lost, lonely, depressed, and unsatisfied even with everything he has been given. And all of this build-up of Pete culminates in one of the last scenes where Pete just breaks down in front of Don in the elevator and starts to cry for all that is wrong in his life as a voice-over of Ken writing a story, which sounds pretty much based on Pete, intones “It was killing him with its silence and loneliness, making everything ordinary too beautiful to bear.”  At this point, I’m not really sure why I feel bad for Pete because he’s been all but unbearable this episode, and in general, a jerk, but I do, and I really do hope as the season goes on, with change as the overarching theme, he does change, and maybe finally finds what he’s been looking for.

PS. I’m also getting pretty scared that someone is going to kill himself this episode because there have been far far too many references to death in the past episodes. Don doodling a noose was completely unsubtle.