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Mad Men: TKO!

Last night's episode of Mad Men was a knockout!

Pete Campbell with his hands up, ready to fight
You wanna take your teeth out? Or you want me to knock them out?

Since we assume you watched the show too, instead of a straight recap we focus on the parts we found most interesting to talk about each week. Be sure to join in in the comments, and cast your vote in our Mad Men Hunger Games! (Last night's episode gave us more insights into who'd fare well in the arena.)

What's in a name? (Everything)
Last night's episode clearly centered on physical intimacy, featuring both a fist fight and a studio-turned-brothel. However, names, both nick- and mistaken, played just as important of a role in demonstrating the closeness between characters. All episode we encountered nicknames, aliases, and mistakes. We learned Ken's terribly unadventurous nom de plume, Ben Hargrove, a tidbit he shared with Peggy to quell her fears that he was working accounts without her, demonstrating the closeness of their relationship. Don and Megan struggled to remember the name of Mrs. Ken Cosgrove prior to leaving for the Campbell's shindig, despite the fact that Megan DID remember a nice thank you card Cynthia had sent her earlier, reinforcing the idea that Megan has adopted some of Don's indifference towards their coworkers and wives (c'mon, Don & Megan. If I, a 1990s Nickelodeon-reared child, can manage to call Alex Mack/Dawn Schafer/Bianca Stratford by her new name, so can you!).

While discussing the primary historical moment of this episode, the UT Austin shooting, the gang referred to the shooter as Charles Whitmoore, only to have Don correct them (obviously Don mentioning the name Whitman serves as a reference to his own hidden identity and past). At the bordello with a view, we overhear that one of the women's name is Anatasia, a clear alias that first tipped us off as to where exactly our trusty SDCP heroes were. Lastly, Pete, after sleazily gazing at the high school senior in his Driver's Ed class, gets to witness a student of her own age put the moves of her more successfully than he ever could, chiming in when the girl (speaking of names, do we ever catch hers?) refers to him as Handsome. "You're name is handsome?" Pete asks. "Hanson, but everyone calls me Handsome." No woman would ever refer to Pete by such a name, thus underscoring his general sad-sack status this episode (however, Pete's crush did refer to him as "Peter," which isn't technically wrong but is still a departure from the name we've come to know him by).

Trudy, Cynthia, and Megan shrieking at a water spray in Trudy's kitchen
Way to fix that faucet, Pete.

Nicknames are a sign of knowing someone casually and well. Mistaken names, or buying into aliases, are a sign of not knowing someone well at all (however, being privy to one's alias, like "Don Draper" for instance, can also be a sign of inner-circle status). Intimacy and the importance of establishing a bond was a reoccurring plot point this episode. Lane's pep talk from Roger on manipulating his dinner with the potential Jaguar client hinged on finding, or offering, personal details. The Campbell dinner showcased just how desperate Pete, and by extension Trudy, has been to get in with Don. Pete passed along information regarding Ken's personal life gathered at said party to Roger, who then threw it in Ken's face (the motivation here is WAY unclear, given the tension in Roger and Pete's current relationship). Post-fist fight, Joan goes to Lane's aid, reminding us all of their close work relationship, one tested by Lane's lack of restraint in trying to get some action. However, the strength of said relationship was reinforced when Joan responded by essentially turning a blind eye. This season seems to be building on the audience's knowledge of the various office alliances in a way that makes me wonder what kind of disaster is going to befall those walls. Regardless of what kind of blow out or division that comes their way, my money is on Ken and Peggy to make it out alright and remain friends.

Assorted thoughts:
There were some hilarious costuming going on in this episode. The three plaid sports coats at the Campbell dinner? Charmingly awkward. Don shedding his clothes in a moment of manliness, while simultaneously putting Pete's manhood to shame? Visually and thematically rewarding. Trudy feeding her baby while wearing a party dress for no reason? My new computer desktop background.

- Annalee

Location, location, location
If last night's episode was all about Pete, we can understand much of what he's going through—feeling powerless, dissatisfied, and jealous of Don's sink-fixing, um, abilities—by looking at his and Trudy's move to the suburbs. Trudy couldn't be happier with their big house and little bundle of joy, but no seven-foot-long record player can make Pete forget the taste of those big city brownies. He resents Trudy and feels he "has nothing," because he's not where he saw himself at this age. (My guess: He saw himself as Season One Don Draper—married with kids, but still getting attention from the young girls in Driver's Ed class. Read about what the actor Vincent Kartheiser thinks of his character so far in this interview with Slate's June Thomas.) Cos Cob, with its leaky faucets and long commutes, is the physical manifestation of his angst. But Pete's not the only one with thoughts on the 'burbs.

Don, Pete, and Ken at Pete's house. All are wearing plaid sport coats
Up next: Ben Hargrove and the 'Burbs!

Don tells Megan, "Saturday night in the suburbs, that's when you really want to blow your brains out." This from a man who lived in the suburbs for many years, but probably never spent a Saturday night there. (This also from a man who we just saw doodling a noose in a meeting—that suicide talk made me nervous that Pete's gun was finally going to be put to use in this episode, but I'm glad it wasn't.) Megan, on the other hand, is once again up for anything and thinks the suburbs sound fun. Interesting, then, that it's Don who wants to "make a baby" a few scenes later. Is trouble ahead for these two? My prediction is yes, but not because Don wants a baby. Rather, the Don we know from previous seasons can only keep it together for so long before he cracks. Don might tell Pete to do right by Trudy, but his dream sequence from last week's episode still has me convinced that he's wrestling with some serious issues below the surface.

Lane and Mrs. Pryce can't agree on where they wish they lived (she in England, he on a couch with Joan), and it's clear that their marriage isn't doing so hot. Resident BEST COUPLE EVER Ken and Cynthia, on the other hand, are both happy living in Queens, even if Cynthia did spill the beans about Ken's Ben Hargrove penname to Pete. Speaking of, how great was it when Ken just switched nom de plumes and kept going, despite Roger's advice? Someone get me the latest Dave Algonquin story, stat!

Boyfights!
In an action-packed episode, last night's main event was the office showdown between Lane and Pete. As immature as it was for the two to duke it out, I agreed with Roger: "I know cooler heads should prevail, but am I the only one who wants to see this?" In fact, the friends I watched the episode with and I loved the scene so much, we reenacted it after the show with my dog Edith and my mom's dog Rhoda (who had the misfortune of being dogsat by me this weekend).

In one corner, playing Lane Pryce, we have Rhoda! In the other corner, playing Pete Campbell, it's Edith! Watch these two dogs fight for honor, glory, and the Jaguar account!


Please forgive our misremembered dialog—dogs are terrible actors.

Assorted thoughts:
Just when you thought Joan couldn't get any more professional! I was worried about that scene with Lane—that she'd either crush his feelings or worse, indulge him out of pity—but I should know by now that Joan will always handle her shit in the best way possible. Opening up the door but then sitting back down with Lane to reassure him that they're still friends? She's the best.

Also, one of the funniest moments last night (and there were so many!) was right before the fight, when Lane dropped the "chewing gum on his PUBIS!" line. I love that Lane used the term pubis, and I loved SCDP's reaction even more:

the guys laughing at Lane around the conference table
No wonder he punched Pete's lights out.

- Kelsey

Notable Historical/Cultural References: The UT shooting, England winning the World Cup, the Signal 30 video from the Driver's Ed class (which you can watch right here)

Inappropriate Office Behavior: It's another Pete vs. Lane matchup! Since Lane not only challenged Pete to a fight but also went in for that kiss with Joan, he takes the cake again this week.

Previously: Mystery Dates, Harry and Don Go to White Castle

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Comments

5 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Lane and Mrs. Pryce can't

Lane and Mrs. Pryce can't agree on where they wish they lived (she in England, he on a couch with Joan)

HA! Love this write up, fantastic!

I need to start watching all of them twice.

I have watched Mad Men with a group the last couple of weeks, as opposed to watching alone with my honey as I usually do, and I'm missing little details! Your terrific article has me convinced that I should start watching all of them twice-- maybe even twice in a row!-- to make sure I'm catching everything. Thanks for upping my TV time, Bitch!

MASCULINITY

What struck me most is all the male characters struggling with the ideal of manhood. I love movies that critique masculinity, like BEAU TRAVAIL or IN THE COMPANY OF MEN. The episode checked off many masculinity tropes. Here's who failed what:

Pete (fixing things, not being a jock, being able to win in a physical fight)

Lane (being in combat)

Don (having sex whenever it is offered to them)

Ken (putting work before a desire to be creative)

*****************************************************************
"Oh don't the days seem lank and long
When all goes right and nothing goes wrong
And isn't your life extremely flat
When you've nothing whatever to grumble at?"

--W.S. Gilber

I just wanted to comment to

I just wanted to comment to say that i love the MM recaps you're doing, Kelsey! They are insightful and funny and they add to the experience of watching the show instead of just repeating what we already saw. Thanks for writing these up!

The video with the adorable

The video with the adorable dogs just made my life.

Also - great recap!