‘Mad Men’ Season 5, Episode 5: ‘Signal 30′ Recap

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Vincent Kartheiser Mad Men Signal 30 Mad Men Season 5, Episode 5: Signal 30 Recap

Taking its title from one of the many educational pictures produced by Highway Safety Films that consisted of footage taken at the scene of actual motor vehicle accidents, ‘Signal 30,’ is easily the tamest amongst other titles like Mechanized Death and Carrier or Killer. Seeing as how Mad Men threw a giant curveball with last week’s ‘Mystery Date,’ going with a rather benign sounding title, over something like Highways of Agony was probably a wise choice.

But ‘Signal 30′ still has its fair share of wreckage; mostly concerning aging man-child Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) and his refusal to be dragged silently into maturity and whatever dull comforts that stage of life brings to a man. Having achieved the things he’s wanted most in life, Pete is left wanting more – the problem being, Pete expects no one to mind when he takes whatever it is that he wants. Pete has already succeeded in pushing Roger to the margins of SCDP, and pouted and insulted himself into a bigger office with a window, so when he sees something he wants, it’s expected that he’ll soon have it.

For example: Pete lusts after a young woman recently out of high school, while attempting to impress her by scoffing at one of the graphic films shown in their Driver’s Education course.  Like the faucet in his kitchen, Pete’s thoughts of more, puerile or not, refuse to shut off. And, also like the faucet, Pete’s capable only of a temporary fix, but he’s not skilled enough to correct the problem entirely.

That why when Don (Jon Hamm) jumps in to fix the faucet that Pete had only managed to make worse, he amplifies Pete’s shortcomings by effortlessly doing that which takes all of Pete’s skill, and more, to accomplish. Whether its succeeding in business, attracting women, or Don’s newest feat: being happy in his marriage and home life, Don makes everything look easy, while Pete just ends up making Don look better.

So, with all that in mind, it’s easy to understand that when faced with another potential rival, Pete immediately goes on the offensive. This time, however, Pete has himself convinced Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) will be a pushover compared to Don, so he lets Lane court Jaguar on his own, but only after degrading a coveted automobile account by referring to it as worth only a measly $3 million.

Unlike Pete, Roger (John Slattery) goes to Lane with some really good advice on how to properly land an account. However, the problem Roger fails to see is that the advice he gives carries with it the assumption Lane shares his particularly slick personality. Unfortunately, turning business into a simple conversation that may or may not end up including several prostitutes simply isn’t Lane’s forte. And so, after one round, Pete throws in the towel on Lane’s attempt to land Jaguar. Putting him, Don and Roger front and center, instead.

Embeth Davidtz and Jared Harris Mad Men Signal 30 Mad Men Season 5, Episode 5: Signal 30 Recap

After the client suggests they all have some fun, since he’s going to hand SCDP Jaguar anyway, they all end up at a little brothel Roger happens to know of. Everyone pairs off, except Don, who contentedly waits at the bar; winning the madam over with the admission he was conceived in a similar place – although it went by a decidedly more straightforward name.

Like other’s in the office, Pete doesn’t understand how Don’s home life can be enough, and after role-playing with a prostitute telling him “you’re my king,” Pete, feeling judged, turns on Don in the cab home. The confrontation is similar to the one at the episode’s end where the two share an elevator after Pete’s mouth gets him into some serious fisticuffs with Lane. It’s only after the fight, and with tears in his eyes that we understand Pete is angry with Don for not stepping in before he engaged in some kind of ruinous behavior. How else can Pete be as “virtuous” as Don, if not without his help?

‘Signal 30′ further explores the idea from the season premiere that for most, “home isn’t everything.” It’s clear by Lane putting the moves on Joan (Christina Hendricks) that this is certainly the case for him, but it’s starting to be the opposite for Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton). When confronting Ken about his extracurricular writing activities, Roger says that when it’s good, working at SCDP satisfies every need. Drawing that parallel between work and marriage suggests that you’re happy in one and miserable in the other. Unless you’re Pete Campbell, in which case you’re just miserable all around.

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Mad Men continues next Sunday with ‘Far Away Places’ @10pm on AMC.

TAGS: mad men

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  1. This was one of my favourite episodes. I thought it was brilliant.

  2. Finally somebody slaps the c$&p out of Pete!!
    I’ve wanted that to happen since his 1st scene in episode 1 of the series.
    And I love the fact that it was someone like Lane who did it. The next best option would have been Peggy but I’ll take what I could get :)

  3. I adored this episode as much as I adored “The Suitcase” from season four. The depth was off the charts and the show tied oh-so-nicely together at the end with the telling of the story being written by Ken (at least I think it was Ken writing it) and the parallels it contained with Pete’s life. Really…I was blown away.

    I noticed John Slattery directed it. Fantastic job!

    And I agree – Pete getting the snot beat out of him was awesome. BONUS!! (Is it wrong I cheered for Lane?) Pete’s needed a great big dose of comeuppance for quite a spell and Lane doing it made it all the more worthwhile.

    Pete wants so badly to be like Don, not realizing the road he’s been traveling down takes him right to the destination. Funny thing is, Don’s not flattered by Pete’s homage; instead he’s angered by it, if not slightly envious of Pete’s life. Strange twist.

  4. Quote:

    But ‘Signal 30′ still has its fair share of wreckage; mostly concerning aging man-child Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) and his refusal to be dragged silently into maturity and whatever dull comforts that stage of life brings to a man. Having achieved the things he’s wanted most in life, Pete is left wanting more – the problem being, Pete expects no one to mind when he takes whatever it is that he wants. Pete has already succeeded in pushing Roger to the margins of SCDP, and pouted and insulted himself into a bigger office with a window, so when he sees something he wants, it’s expected that he’ll soon have it.

    What a brilliant summation of Pete Campbell…and, of any other narcissist any of us know.

  5. Pete Campbell has been asking for a beating for a very long time. And it was given to him no less by a bespectacled, fussy, older Englishman whom he called a “homo” just before said beating.

    This episode was, forgive the pun, ‘Pryceless.’

  6. >> ‘Signal 30′ further explores the idea from the season premiere that for most, “home isn’t everything.” It’s clear by Lane putting the moves on Joan (Christina Hendricks) that this is certainly the case for him

    My impression of Lane kissing Joan was more innocent — they’ve been close recently, and his testosterone was really flowing after that fight, leading to his impulsive move. I think that’s why she took it in such stride. She knew there was less to it than there might have seemed. And of course it probably felt good to be kissed by a decent guy for a change.

    Also, remember the backstory of Lane’s marriage — he was ready to leave his wife for that other woman (to be fair, who could blame him?) until his father showed up and (another parallel?) beat him with his cane!

  7. Seems Don D. might know the feeling of saying no, to the hooker, is better than the fleeting 18 seconds of being with the hooker. True in real life for sure.

  8. We need more Ken Crosgrove! Like everybody else love the fact Pete got the crap beaten out off him….Lane also shined during this episode.

  9. Amazing episode, I loved watching Pete get beaten. But I have one giant outstanding question that I was wondering the whole episode: what happened to Andrea’s body? We saw Don strangle her at the end of the last episode and then thats it? No follow up?

    • “what happened to Andrea’s body? We saw Don strangle her at the end of the last episode and then thats it? No follow up?”

      I am guessing that what we saw was just a dream of Don’s, or a flu-related hallucination. They clued the viewers on it a little when Don woke up, looked down and saw no body under the bed. My husband joked that maybe Megan cleaned up the body instead. Heh. I personally think it’s innocent and it was just a dream. Andrea might have been a “representation” of sorts of his previous life of booze and women, and he was literally trying to put that part of his life to death.

      Looooooooved this episode by the way! I was cheering for Lane when he was kicking the tar out of Pete, and when he put the moves on Joan.

      • AHHH! Thank you! Got it, I must have missed that detail. It did seem like a very hardcore twist to the show.

  10. Finally Pete got his ass handed to him. And from Lane of all people. Brilliant!

  11. Between Pete Campbell unraveling, Don drawing a noose, the University of Texas mass shooting, the robot unscrewing the bolt from the bridge, and the reminder that Pete has a rifle at the office…don’t we have to ask ourselves if Pete is not now a real threat to his coworkers? I have felt for some time that Pete would leave the office. Now I wonder if this show won’t end in a murder-suicide.

  12. Considering how desperate SCDP is for business, I don’t understand why everybody let Lane handle the client meeting alone. Why was Roger content to just give advice? Lane is obviously NOT the guy you let handle a client.
    Roger needs to be important; but he didn’t fight for a piece of the Jag account. Why?

  13. 2 other less outrageous scenarios…Pete removes the bolt of scdp by leaving and taking his accounts w him, or, don repairs Pete’s exploding faucet of a life.

    • I am assuming this will be resolve off screen and be reference here and there by a Pete and Lane in awkward run ins with each other.Like Pete’s line ” you want to take your teeth out or you want me to knock them out! Pete runs his mouth too much.

  14. @omar – Perhaps Roger’s not fighting because he believes Pete’s philosophy that he’s washed up as an ad man; past his prime, out of touch…notice he’s back to fooling around outside the marriage and not just with Joan. Maybe in the coming episodes we’ll see Roger fighting his way back up the ladder, buoyed by Pete’s smack down from Lane. I hope so because, frankly, I don’t care much for the downtrodden Roger.

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