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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

April 16, 2012 at 10:50 AM

Mad Men Mondays: Lane KO’s Pete

“I know cooler heads are supposed to prevail, but am I the only one who really wants to see this?”
That was Roger, during my favorite scene of last night’s “Mad Men”: the conference-room fight between Lane and Pete. No, Roger, you weren’t the only one. Pete’s usual insufferable quality was ratcheted up this episode, as he gloated smarmily over having gotten Don to his suburban home for dinner (seemingly not knowing that Don’s presence was entirely due to Trudy’s machinations), lusted over a teenage classmate at driver’s ed, justified sex with a prostitute with a whiny “I was just doing my job“, and fumed as Don lectured him on infidelity. (Don, lecturing someone on infidelity? What a strange new world this is.) When Pete condescended to Lane at work (after doing the same to Roger) and suggested that he wasn’t needed, SCDP’s token Brit removed his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and knocked the younger man to the floor. I couldn’t help cheering. Joan, tending to Lane’s (minor) wounds later, noted that “everyone here” has wanted to punch Pete out at some point — and handled an unexpected kiss from Lane with her usual composure. She got up from the couch, silently opened the office door, then returned to the couch; rather a sweet moment, really, as if she understood Lane and sympathized with him, even as she wasn’t about to indulge him.
Pete has long been the ad man we all loved to hate — and Vincent Kartheiser plays him with a wonderful sense of abandon, never trying to make us like Pete. He’s long been obsessed with Don, wanting to be like him, and it’s interesting to look at Pete’s suburban misery and extramarital wanderings and see the Season 1 Don. But Pete, of course, lacks Don’s charisma and smarts; he’s working his fingers to the bone at SCDP, and he can’t understand why he’s not getting the respect Don commands. Pete’s had everything handed to him — unlike Don, who made his own luck — and now is mystified at why his life seems so empty. “I have nothing,” he sobs, at the end of the episode. Something pivotal is going to happen to Pete this season, it seems; we’ll see what it might be.
Meanwhile, we all learned Ken’s wife’s first name (“Cynthia!” — and how funny was Jessica Pare’s delivery?), and that Ken’s still harboring dreams of a writing career. Odd that he switched from pastoral realism (his short story in Season 1) to science fiction, but now he seems to have changed back again; how satisfying to see him, in his underwear and socks, writing in the dark. Did we know that he and Peggy had a pact to leave SCDP together if need be? I think not.
Though I loved much about this episode — the fight, the exquisitely awkward dinner party, Don ripping off his shirt to repair Pete’s faucet (“He’s Superman!”), Roger calling Lane “Heathcliff” — this season continues to proceed fairly slowly. Its theme seemed to be enunciated by Pete’s teenage classmate, saying something (I didn’t write down the exact quote) along the lines of “Things have gotten all random somehow.” Everyone at SCDP seems to be waiting for things to get right again, at a time in history when everyone’s role was changing; it’s a rich topic in the abstract, but perhaps it’s trickling down to the specific a little too deliberately. What do you think?
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The fisticuffs! (Photo by Ron Jaffe; courtesy of AMC)

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