Matthew Weiner warned us that we could be seeing a very different Don Draper in Season 5 -- but he didn't prepare us for judgmental, fuddy-duddy Don Draper. Sure, he's still knocking back the bourbon, but in other respects he's a real party pooper: He lamely tries to beg off Pete and Trudy's dinner invitation (fair enough); he sulks at the bar while his friends bed high-class hookers; and he lectures Pete about the consequences of his actions. Really, Don?
"Signal 30" carries on as though last week's episode, "Mystery Date," never happened. There's one reference to the Richard Speck murders, but Don seems to have fully recovered from his fever, and (somewhat disappointingly) there don't appear to be any news reports about a mysteriously vanished freelance writer, last seen at a luxury apartment building on 72nd street. The episode's historical marker is again, violent and terrifying -- the Texas Tower sniper Charles Whitman killed 15 people -- but instead of sending ripples of panic and terror throughout the land, it only opens up debates about gun control and the wisdom of sending your children to college out of state.
Pete and Trudy Campbell try to make the best of a bad (plumbing) situation in Cos Cob by inviting co-workers for dinner. While Don is reluctant, Megan and Trudy won't take no for an answer - after all, he's the guest of honor, for no good reason. But he rises to the occasion when a leaky faucet explodes, spraying the wives during dinner clean-up. Here, Don slips out of his shirtsleeves and fixes the leak in short order -- something Pete thought he had taken care of days ago. Indeed, Pete is not acclimating to his new surroundings very well at all: Required to drive for the first time in his life, Pete is forced to take driver's ed at a local high school, where he unsuccessfully hits on a teenage classmate.
Lane Pryce's apparent financial problems are shelved for the time being, replaced for the moment by a crisis of identity: He struggles to balance his ex-pat allegiances with a desire for assimilation; and, like Roger Sterling, he's (rightly) insecure about his role at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. He gets a temporary boost in the form of a World Cup win for England and the promise of new business -- the Jaguar account presented by Edwin Baker, fellow Brit he dined with after watching the match at a pub. True to form, Pete mocks the possible coup -- new business will require more staff -- but still insists Pryce can't be trusted with the task alone.
Despite Sterling's generous and insightful counsel, Price fails to close the deal over a friendly dinner. Pete, Don and Roger pinch hit, taking Baker out for lobster and hookers. At the whorehouse, Don hangs back while the rest of them indulge - but the madam still comps his drinks. He spends the cab ride home judging Pete, while of course denying that he is. "I can't believe I have to explain I was doing my job to a man who just pulled his pants up to the world," Pete says to Don.
As it turns out, he didn't exactly do his job: Baker's infidelity is exposed when his wife discovers "chewing gum on his pubis." This means the Jaguar deal is off, but a Lane vs. Pete impromptu office throwdown is on! While both combatants look equally preposterous, Lane makes due on his threat and wins by TKO. "Consider that my last piece of advice," Lane says as he retreats back to his office to cry on Joan's shoulder...and try and make out with her.
Joan, once again, proves she is one classy broad while she reassures Lane of his importance to the company (much like he did for her, earlier in the season). When Lane misinterprets Joan's support as an invitation to a lip-lock, she walks to the office door, opens it, and sits back down again - letting the tainted air out of the room with a promise to never mention it again. While Lane might be floundering, it's nice to see that he has true allies in Roger and Joan, unlike Pete, whose desperate confession to Don -- "I have nothing" -- is ignored, by the one man he would love to have as a friend.
(See Salon.com for a compelling argument that Pete Campbell might not be long for this world.)
Unsolved Mysteries of Episode 5:
When Megan told Don that making a baby was "impossible," did she mean just that night, or always and forever?
Why was Don doodling a noose at a morning meeting?
Why is it important that Megan forgot Cynthia's name?
Let us know what you think...
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