Mad Men Lessons: Three Men and a Sink

by GK on April 18, 2012 · 4 comments

I didn’t think it would take five episodes until I wrote about the new season of “Mad Men,” but I’m taking longer than usual to form my opinions about it. By the time I do, the 60s might already be over.

The big tease we’ve been given is the possibility that finally, Don Draper has become an honest, one-woman man. Even to the point of going all Wayne Brady and choking his lustiness away in an Episode 4 dream. And let’s face it, have we ever seen Don owned the way Megan owns him on the white carpet?

Becoming the happy husband would be a massive change for Don, and for the entire show, which is why I’m not totally buying it yet. But for now, I want to discuss a scene in the very awesome Episode 5 that perfectly sums up three men — Don Draper, Pete Campbell, and Ken Cosgrove — as an analogy to the different types of men they’ve become.

It’s the dinner-party scene (see above), where Pete Campbell’s sink goes wild. How a man reacts to a problem can say a lot about him, and here we see three different reactions.

Don: Or as Ken’s wife calls him, “Superman.” We can’t be surprised that of the three men in the room, it’s Don who quickly and effortlessly fixes the sink. He’s always been the man of action, whether it’s building Sally’s playhouse in Season 1, knocking out Bobbi Barrett’s husband in Season 2 or seducing a woman in, um, any season.

don draper mad menBut there’s something about seeing Don so comfortable in the role of domestic God here that illustrates the new phase he may be entering. Now that I think of it, fixing the sink is about the most assertive thing Don has done all season. No wonder he finally managed to turn Megan on this time.

At the office he’s been little more than window dressing, showing up late and leaving early. Where Peggy had her Bean Ballet (hey, it wasn’t a bad idea!), Pete had his Mohawk Airlines score and Ginsberg had his Stalking Cinderella ad, Don has been far from his prolific self.

Meanwhile he’s getting pushed around by women like never before — from Megan who, as Grantland’s Molly Lambert has pointed out, is negging Don to keep him wanting her. From teeny-boppers at a Rolling Stones concert who think he doesn’t look cool. And from Trudy Campbell, who twisted his arm into doing what he would never do before: visit Pete’s house.

But you know what interests me most about all this? Don doesn’t seem to care that he’s not the dashing ad exec these days. He cares about fixing that sink, and he still does that very well. If that’s what it takes to get laid in his car, I’m pretty sure Don will walk around with a tool belt wherever he goes. It’s a little weird to see Dick/Don so comfortable in his new skin.

Now, whether this will be enough to keep Megan from pulling a Don Draper on Don? We shall see.

Pete: While Don fixes, Pete fumbles. After digging through about 20 screwdrivers, he gets to watch Don get all the applause in his own house.

For a well-adjusted guy, this is nothing to be ashamed of. But Pete Campbell is about as well adjusted as the Tower of Pisa. The scene perfectly captures his insecurities with his manliness, and the humiliation he endures.

Did you see how that hooker flirted with him? Even she could smell the inadequacy and exploit it. She fondles Pete’s biceps and says, “I knew it. You’re one of those guys who’s stronger than he looks.” I have to hand it to that pro: she’s good at her work.

Meanwhile, Pete’s latest creepy pickup of a teenage girl gets spoiled by a guy much younger and stronger than him. Anmad men lane pryced in perhaps the most orgasmic moment of the season so far, he gets his ass kicked by the new lightweight champion of SCDP, Lane Pryce. You grimy little pimp!

“I have nothing,” Pete whines to Don in the elevator before going back to his beautiful wife, baby and big house. For any man who’s focused on who he isn’t rather than who he is, this is a great cautionary tale.

Ken: I would definitely be the Ken of this scene. I’d also give Don some minor help when the sink bursts, then stand back and chuckle with my date as he does the dirty work. We writers are shitty with our hands, after all.

Almost since “Mad Men” began, Ken has been the anti-Pete, and this is exactly why he’s one of the show’s few happy characters. Ken is devoted to his wife, appreciates everything he has and doesn’t really care what others think about him.

If Roger had scolded Pete for moonlighting as a writer, Pete would probably have pouted all night and stared longingly into his rifle. But Ken? Dude just agreed with Roger, changed his pen name and kept on writing. Just like with the sink, he had nothing to prove, so he just smiled and went with the flow (no pun intended).

{ 4 comments }

1 Erich April 24, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Well, I finally started watching Mad Men this past week and am well into the second season. What a show and what an example of adult conversation. It’s an interesting example for me about people playing their cards close to their chests and not always saying what’s on their mind.

As far as the characters, it’s interesting to see how my assumptions on how some of the characters would be proved false just by pictures I’d seen and hearing others talk about the show. To quote one of the females in the first season on Don “I didn’t expect him to be so likeable.” or something similar. He’s much more subtle than I’d expected him to be. Also Joan I expected to be a secretarial ditz but not so.

Like the Sopranos, I’m getting into this late and heavy. Hopefully the end isn’t as near with Mad Men as it was with Sopranos because I’m really enjoying it.

2 GK April 24, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Better late than never to get into Mad Men, Erich! I can’t think of a show that better demonstrates how people live and how they WISH they lived. And the show just keeps getting better.

There will be two more seasons after this one, so rest easy.

3 Rob April 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm

I think we see what we want, or maybe choose, to see from the characters in Mad Men. This season is interesting because they have chosen to highlight the “dark” side of some of the main characters and that makes audiences uncomfortable because we want to know the good guys from the bad guys and feel uneasy when the writers won’t let us do that. There’s a lesson in that.
Related to your blog, Greg, this season of Mad Men also is showing the transition from 50’s America to 60’s America and how it affected guys and girls in the workplace. In Season 1 every female character was a Secretary or wife. Fastforward to last night’s episode and Peggy is leading the team on her own. At the same time, social culture is moving on leaving Don behind. There’s a lesson there, too.

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