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***Ack had to take a writing break, but luckily, CathodeTube is here to save the day!
We open on Pete watching the gruesome traffic fatality movie Signal 30, from whence the episode gets its name. Actually, we open in pitch black to the sound of screeching brakes and crumpling metal. Pete catches the eye of one of the high school girls in this drivers’ ed class he’s taking. She smiles at him and his eyes move down her body. That night, he lies awake in bed thinking of car crashes and teenagers, and listening to his drippy kitchen faucet. He gets his toolbox and makes it right to the best of his ability.
Lane Pryce and wife Rebecca, in smoking jacket and pearls, respectively, are headed to the pub to watch the football match with Rebecca’s recently acquired friends. Lane begrudgingly agrees to have some fun, which he does, once he gets a few pints in him and the Brits beat the Germans for a World Cup victory. They sit down with the Bakers, aka Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Jaguar, for some supper. Mr. Jaguar desires an advertising account man, while the Mrs. wants to raise hogs in the wholesome countryside.
In a brighter diner, Peggy runs into Ken Cosgrove with an older man. She attempts to join their breakfast and is gently rebuffed. She senses Ken’s hiding something and believes it may be new-job related.
SCDP Strangling Senior Staff Meeting, with Joan back at the helm like she never left. Don doodles a noose. No one has any new business – wait, Lane does! No, he’s not taking another leave. Did they hear England won the World Cup? “Cup of what?” asks Roger. Cup of prospective Jaguar account is what.
S, C, D and Pete are not as excited about this as Lane would like. Well, Cooper is, but it’s been a while since he mattered. A new account like Jaguar promises to bring in as much headache as anything else. Pete, having been flexing his asshole muscles every chance he’s gotten, mocks Lane, all dialect and “sir,” regarding the extra work and the firm’s capacity for it. The account men suggest that they might assist Lane with the wining and dining of this prospect, but Lane prefers to handle his new friend himself, as they have a special bond.
Pete hits up Don after the meeting for a Saturday night dinner at Pete’s suburban bungalow. The promise of no bridge or charades does not sweeten the deal any. Don tries to excusify, to no avail. Megan, who’s borrowing his typewriter, says Pete’s wife Trudy told her Don already committed. Don tells her he most certainly did not, noting that Saturday night in the suburbs can drive a fellow to blow his brains out.
Writers’ room. Ken’s looking for Stan and Ginzo, who are probably off somewhere with pantyhose on their heads. Peggy confronts him about blowing her off in the diner and possibly breaking their pact to stick together if one of them should leave the firm. That’s not it, says Ken, he’s been writing stories. He’s gotten published in some magazines under a pseudonym, and the gentleman he was with wanted to discuss a bound anthology. Peggy wishes she felt more relieved about all of this.
Graphic match of Ken pulling open Peggy’s office door with Lane pulling open his own door to let in Roger. Roger’s come to show Lane how to hustle. He lays it out thusly: Romancing a client is not unlike romancing a lady. You let them talk and they’ll reveal how you can best please them. Maybe you drop a morsel of personal info, or you focus on a bit of their info and convince them you two are allies with common ground.
Trudy Campbell, OTOH, is a natural closer. Inside of a minute, she basically tells Don that their dinner plans aren’t going away, and he may as well make it easy for himself and drag his ass to the ‘burbs, or get ground down by her on a regular basis until he does. Don relents.
The driver’s ed class is still watching accident films. When do they get to the part where they learn how to drive? On their break, Pete gazes wistfully at a symbolically placed trophy case before approaching his young quarry and trying to make a weekend date with her for the Botanical Gardens. She wonders who will drive there. The University of Texas sniper comes up in their talk, as does last week’s Richard “Dick” Speck incident, as does Pete’s feeling that the big fun city is for the young and single, before they get married and then smothered by the fresh air of the outlying areas.
Speaking of which, Don and Megan get ready for their dinner with the Campbells. Neither can remember Ken’s wife’s name. I guess she didn’t sign the thank you note she sent Megan, or Megan’s not sentimental and tosses those things as soon as she reads them. She urges Don to dress tackier for the occasion, and not to fill up on booze before dinner.
Pete and Ken marvel at Pete’s 7-foot phonograph stereo, which Pete imagines contains a tiny orchestra, or alternately, a napping Wilt Chamberlain. Don and Megan arrive, niceties and Greenberg brownies are exchanged, and Pete makes like he appreciates his suburban home for how loud it allows him to play the stereo.
Meanwhile, dining with Edwin, Lane marinates in flop-sweat. Jovial to a fault, Baker has no complaints, not even any PTSD-esque melancholy about his war and his time in Africa. He’s infuriatingly positive about everything, and Lane is left without any morsels of personal struggle to ally over.
More Campbell dinner. Ken and his wife live in Queens, and they’re still youthful and hip. More city vs. country comparisons, revealing a little about the diners’ satisfaction with their current life circumstances, as well as their concepts of success. Both Ken and Don came from farming communities and now live in the city. Pete, we learned during the earlier drivers’ ed scene, grew up in Manhattan. He notes that his current little slice of paradise has a fair number of varmints.
Ken suggests Pete bring home the rifle he obtained in a previous episode, and Trudy protests that there will be no guns in her house. A lot was made of this exchange by some, as far as its foreshadowing future bad acts with said rifle by Pete, but at this point I’m not willing to believe it’s anything more than a very effective segue for Cindy to bring up sniper Charles Whitmore. “Whitman,” Don/Dick corrects her, and he and Megan have the first of a few Awesome Acting Instants in the ep.
(Also, Pete doesn’t deserve to die; he deserves to suffer.) Trudy doesn’t like that kind of talk, being an honors graduate of the College of Ignore It and It Will Go Away. The rest of the table is not done discussing it yet, though, and Cynthia is reminded of a story Ken wrote. What? The others didn’t know Ken was a promising talent! He tries to shush her and there’s an awesome bit where he calls her by her name and Megan, perhaps a bit tipsy, is like “Cynthia!” never to forget that name again. And Cynthia’s like, “Um, what? I’m right here.”
The rest of the table now wants to talk about Ken’s story, thinking it will lead to more optimistic chit-chat. Except that the story, which seems to lose quite a bit in Cynthia’s recap, ends with everyone dying. It’s about a bridge between these two planets (that two-worlds theme again), which Pete (of course) associates with commuters. There’s a robot who’s only able to do what he’s told, and his inability to make reason-based decisions leads to the collapse of the bridge. Ken tries in vain to explain this, while Trudy purses her lips and wishes they could talk about flowers and puppy dogs.
The table likes that Ken has a hobby, because, as Don opines, “No one grows up wanting to be in advertising.” It would probably be a better world if that were true today, but that’s a discussion for another blog.
The ladies adjourn to the kitchen, where they shriekingly discover that Pete’s repairs of the faucet may have solved the dripping problem, but they also turned the faucet into a geyser. Don Draper to the rescue!
He strips to his t-shirt, and his rippling biceps duck under the sink while Pete’s off fumbling for his little tool box. Don quickly undoes the damage Pete did, and the gathering applauds. Trudy brings out the crying baby, and everyone loves that too.
“I’m too drunk for you to drive,” Don tells Megan on the ride home. He wants to pull over and make a baby. Megan agrees, only because Pete regaled them with Signal 30 accident stats over dessert, which Trudy must have loved. Oh, and because nobody fixes a sink as sexily as Don does.
Another awesome scene transition here, in which the camera pans upward, out of the car and into the SCDP office, where a secretary is typing as Pete and Roger enter, talking about pulling the Mohawk Airline ads in the wake of a recent plane crash. They enter Lane’s office to hear about his dismaying dinner, and they easily convince him to step back and let the real ad men handle it from here. Lane agrees on some level with Pete’s subsequent out-of-earshot comment that Lane couldn’t close a car door.
Transitiongasm. This time we sort of fade from a close-up of office Pete to drivers’ ed Pete, beckoning his favorite young lady to sit in front of him in class. She thinks she may be hung over from drinking vanilla extract, a fact that gives Pete zero pause about his creepy pursuit of her. A freakishly attractive young man enters and approaches Pete as if he’s the teacher. Jailbait corrects him, and Pete watches the two of them fall in lust.
Speaking of age-appropriateness, SCDPete are all wearing bibs! Lobster bibs, but still. At dinner with Edwin Jaguar, Don, in classic fashion, talks about Jaguar’s sexiness and virility. Like, the kind requiring a cold shower. Edwin, who could use one of those himself, watches a lady walk by and intimates that he’d like to have a little fun. After a beat, they catch his drift, and of course old Roger knows the perfect “party” they can attend.
The next scene features Edwin flirting with a paid date who’s smacking her gum in a way she probably thinks is coy. Pete has a new lady friend too, and she’s acting amused by him because she’s good at her job. She calls a fetching redhead over for Roger, proving she’ll be promoted to madam when she’s less perky.
The three men with dates retire to their respective dates’ rooms. Point three to Pete’s lady for convincingly pretending Pete actually bought tickets to the gun show and can lift her. But what of Don? Nope, Don’s just gonna sit here and drink and smoke. Melt! I love faithful Don. Who knew all it took was a mouthful of giant teeth?
In the room with his lady, Pete tries to act like he’s a tough customer, despite the fact that she’s read him already. He rejects her “hard day honey” (too Trudy) and “my first time” (too drivers’ ed girl) come-ons , settling on, “You’re my king,” not knowing that’s just going to make TV viewers compare him to King of Thrones’ Joffrey even more than usual.
The current madam approaches Don like, is he a cop? Is he looking for the men’s party down the street? No, he’s just waiting for his friends. He’s had his fill of this atmosphere and this life, having been born to a prostitute and been a whore throughout his first marriage. Oh, ok, well in that case, should she put a television in here? Of course not, Don advises.
In the cab home, a guilty-feeling li’l Pete gets defensive with Don, who was just sitting there. Pete reminds Don about his miserable first marriage, and Don reminds Pete that he knows what it’s like to throw something away, and he doesn’t really recommend it. Oh Pete, open your stupid eyes. Pete has to pay the cab fare, for both his ride home to Idyllville and the city cab driver’s ride back to NYC. He slinks into his bedroom and starts the shower.
Office. Roger wanted to see Ken. What does Ken think he’s doing having a hobby, particularly one that could somehow make a name for him bigger than his bosses’? Doesn’t his job as an ad man fulfill his every need? Who does he think he is, Edgar Allen Poe? Well, he’s not the one with the Telltale drippy faucet…
Time for the partners’ meeting! Lane gets a call from Rebecca and immediately tells her to calm herself. SCDPete wait in the conference room discussing politics, namely, the Republican Presidential candidate lying in wait and the Democrat waiting ‘til after the election to stop the war. Bert gives Roger a shoulder rub.
In plows Lane. He asks Joan to leave and closes the door. Capital job of romancing Jaguar out of our lives forever, idiots. Mr. Jaguar came home with a crotch fulla Wrigley’s Spearmint, much to his wife’s dismay. The account men can’t help laughing, which brings greater rage from Lane. True story, I once left gum on the wall by a dude’s bed, right around the time I got my driver’s license, I think. So I feel ya, brothel lady. It’s difficult to dispose of it when you’ve taken off your pockets. She had home court advantage, though, so maybe she’s just a slob. Lane doesn’t believe it was Edwin’s idea – Edwin (who he’s known what, three weeks?) would never… Pete corrects him that Edwin would never with a guy he thought was gay. Don sighs.
“I can’t believe the hours I’ve put into helping you become the monster you’ve become,” seethes Lane. Oh Lane, I think you give yourself too much credit. Pete’s on a roll now, reminding Lane he’s not, after all, an account man, nor does he really bring much of anything to the table at all. That’s the last straw for Lane. If this were happening now, he’d ask Pete to take it outside, but since they smoke inside, why not beat the crap out of each other inside, too? Lane removes his jacket and begins rolling up his sleeves.
“I know cooler heads should prevail, but am I the only one who wants to see this?” asks the always-excellent Roger. Pete’s postured himself into a corner here, so he may as well stand up and take it like the man he wishes he was. Pete tucks in his tie-phallus. Draper closes the drapes. Roger lights a cigarette. Lane puts up his dukes.
Here’s the pitch… Ball, outside! A swing and a miss at Lane by Pete. The second swing connects – Pete hits Lane squarely in the nose. Lane reels, and Pete takes the opportunity to give him a gut punch. Lane lands a haymaker on each side of Pete, with a similar gut punch in between.
Pete stumbles, regains, and shakes his head to orient himself, his nose bloody. Did anyone else shake their own head and make that sound like the cartoon characters do? Not the stars and tweets, the one that’s like “aaaryaaaryaaa.”
Joan stands just outside the door. Peggy comes to tell her something and gets shushed. Lane, Pete, or a combination thereof gets knocked into the other side of the wall, making Peggy, Joan, and a lamp jump. “You want some more… Mr. Toad?” they hear Pete say.
Yes, quite, says Lane, but not out loud. He rebloodies Pete’s nose with a stiff uppercut and finishes him off with yet another haymaker.
Roger and Don run to Pete’s aid. Don shoots Lane a look on his way by. Pete doesn’t need no stinkin’ hand up from Roger. Joan and Peggy appear in the doorway, stunned. Peggy has an Awesome Acting Instant here before turning to leave.
Joan comes to see Lane in his office with a bucket of ice. He asks whether Pete’s right – is he useless to the firm? No, says Joan, he’s different from SCD, and that’s a good thing.
Joan slowly gets up, goes to the door, opens it, and returns to the couch. Lane wilts and apologizes. “About what?” says Joan. “Everyone in this office has wanted to do that to Pete.”
Peggy spreads the good news to Ken, who confirms he wishes he’d been the one to kick Pete’s ass, as Pete spilled the beans to Roger about his avocation. Peggy’s read one of Ken’s published stories and thinks it’s, “Wow.” He’s through with that childish pursuit now, Ken assures her. Peggy looks glum.
Pete downs a drink and realizes he’s not going to get any advertising done today, so he may as well go home at lunchtime. He meets Don in the elevator and again brings up Don’s shaming him for his lack of virtue and not protecting his ass from the kicking. What was he supposed to do, Don asks, punch Lane? “This is an office,” Pete protests, not for fighting, only for knocking up secretary/copywriters. “I have nothing, Don,” says Pete, about to sob. Define nothing, you ungrateful little shit. Maybe if you weren’t constantly trying in vain to out-alpha a bunch of alpha males with nothing but your dickishness, you could see things differently.
Ken, for example, can see things differently. He sits in bed with a new pen name, voicing-over a new story chock-full of references to Pete’s dinner party. It’s about Beethoven, too, and the hovering, nail-clipping spectre of his mortality. The lonely, silent countryside can be deadlier than 10 vanilla-extract-addled drivers to some. Pete’s high school conquest gets groped on by someone her own age as the sound of the drippy faucet starts anew. Beethoven’s Ode to Joy plays over the ending credits. Wow. Was that as good for you as it was for me?