Here is the thing about AMC’s Mad Men: it can be extremely slow to follow if you’re not familiar with a character’s past. But you can be sure that this show will hook you when you’ve witnessed a ‘Weiner moment’. This is when creator and writer Matthew Weiner throws such a shocking blow to your face that you cannot help but watch, even if it will traumatize you forever, i.e. lawn mower to the foot, Roger puking up oysters, etc.
Last week, Weiner managed to get an entire fan base to crap themselves when he threw in a horrifying dream sequence that was all-too-real. This week, he gave us Pete Campbell getting absolutely humiliated in every way, shape, and form. To start with, Pete sucks at plumbing. Maybe he should have thought about that when he sucked at being a man all his life.
Pete is a sad little rich boy. This makes you wonder if it’s the reason for his treatment towards Roger lately, the “Professor Emeritus of accounts.” We know that Pete has had at least four affairs since meeting his wife Trudy, that she is aware of this to an extent, and that Pete can’t survive without her. (Can we give it up to Alison Brie for nailing her role as Trudy Campbell?) We know that Pete is a snotty, back stabbing little weasel. But apparently he may also be a pedophile. While taking a driver’s ed course at the local high school he hits on a teenage girl. Gross. This is something Don Draper had a chance to do at The Rolling Stones concert, but showed us that he has some moral sense about him.
Pete has also had an odd obsession and idolization of Don. He has leveraged his knowledge of Don’s past against him, used his father-in-law’s connections to stay relevant at the agency, and even coerced his wife to flirt with her ex-boyfriend so he could get some shitty story published. Pete only knows how to compete and he does it terribly.
First it was Ken Cosgrove, who is better at his job than Pete and is also sublimely happy with his wife, whose name no one can remember. (It’s Cynthia, BTW) Ken is also a fairly decent writer, who has been keeping his talent a secret and has a buddy-buddy relationship with Peggy. Roger finds out about this hobby and threatens him with his job. Typical Roger. Pete has a history with office fights and has punched Ken in the face after he commented on Peggy’s weight while the two were having an affair. Everything Pete does seems to reflect his extreme insecurity.
Even the dinner party that Trudy throws is sickly sweet with Pete’s braggadocios bullshit about his record player, need for a fridge in the garage, and a love of the suburbs. He is the new Don Draper and he is loving every moment of it. The only problem is that Don is the ultimate man and when the sink that Pete tried to fix breaks again, the ladies unknowingly laugh at his failure while Don takes his dress shirt off to quickly fix the problem, like a boss. Pete fumbles for a way to impress Don by saying about his infant daughter, “I take no credit for her at all.” Really dude?
When Lane announces that he may be scoring an account with Jaguar, Pete even invites Roger to close the deal. But Lane tries on his own, only to find that he isn’t as devil-may-care as he wants to be. The client connects to the playboys and requests that they take him to a “party” downtown. Roger picks a redheaded escort, Pete picks a naughty little blonde, and the Jaguar client goes off with his flavor while Don acts very un-Don like. The madame of the house even tries to offer him other options, but Don is oddly content with his life. It’s a curveball for the audience.
Pete’s escort offers him options like ‘sexy housewife’, ‘virginal’, and finally, ‘take me like a king’. Of course he loves that, but afterward when he is riding home in the cab with Don, he is flustered. Don is calmly ignoring Pete’s pathetic display and it is driving him crazy. Don advises Pete to appreciate what he has and stop trying to throw it all away. Pete points out Don’s indiscretions while with Betty to which Don replies that Megan is the reason for his newfound loyalty. It is true that Don is truly trying with Megan and that she has the ability to get him into a ridiculously plaid blazer and cart his ass to a dinner party in the suburbs.
The next day Lane finds out that the Jaguar client has dropped them. The client’s wife found out about the escort and Lane is furious with the guys. Pete plays with fire when he says that the client couldn’t connect with Lane because he is a “homo”. Pete also says that Lane is useless to the agency. Lane then rolls up his sleeves and tells Pete to prepare himself for an ass whooping. And even though Roger is busy getting a massage from zen master Burt Cooper and Don can’t believe his eyes, all three of them watch with anticipation as Lane and Pete square up fisticuffs to one another.
Roger says it all with his statement, “I know cooler heads should prevail, but am I the only one who wants to see this?” No Roger, we’ve all been waiting for Pete to get his ass handed to him since day one. After Lane clocks Pete to the floor, Joan puts his hand on ice and comforts him in his office. But Lane misreads her by kissing her on the mouth. Cool-as-a-cucumber Joanie does not respond, but instead calmly gets up and opens his office door before sitting back down. Lane apologizes, but Joan tells him not to be sorry because everyone in the office has wanted Pete to get pummeled for a long time.
The episode concludes with Don holding the elevator door for Pete, who then starts to bawl like a baby while whimpering, “I have nothing.” Later on in driver’s ed, Pete watches creepily as the teenage girl he hit on earlier gets groped by an oily beau hunk. Even if we did want to feel badly for Pete, it is damned near impossible. Vincent Kartheiser put on an uncannily uncomfortable performance tonight and that’s why we love to hate him.