'Mad Men' Review: "Signal 30"

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Mad Men’ Season 5 punches out its fifth episode of the year, as Pete hosts a dinner party while becoming increasingly unsatisfied with his life, while Lane's attempt to bring in a new client blows up in everyone's faces and Kenneth Cosgrove finds himself in an uncomfortable position around the office.

Last week’s ‘Mad Men’ episode “Mystery Date” put the glory of Fat Betty in the background as Joan welcomed back (and eventually sought to divorce) her husband Greg, while Don battled sickness and fidelity all at the same time,  so what will the latest episode bring?  Even less Fat Betty, to be sure!

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Mad Men’ episode five “Signal 30!”

Observing a gruesome car wreck film in a dimly lit classroom, Pete Campbell catches the eye of a pretty young student in the class, exciting him.  Obviously depressed at home, he skulks out of bed late at night to fix a leaky faucet, taking incredible pride in his accomplishment.

Sometime the next day, Lane Pryce and his still-frosty wife begrudgingly agree to meet some English friends at a bar to view the World Cup, while across town Kenneth Cosgrove and an older gentleman awkwardly encounter Peggy at a local diner.  Peggy offers to join them, but Kenneth seems suspiciously terse at the prospect.  The next morning at work, Lane announces to the group that he may be able to bring in Jaguar as a new client, thanks to his newly struck friendship with fellow Englishman Edwin Baker, a prospect that all but Pete seem excited to help him with.  Immediately after, Don does his best to weasel out of going to a party thrown by Pete and his wife Trudy, though Trudy wins him over with her charm (as only Alison Brie could.)

Kenneth attempts to avoid, but ultimately explains his rudeness the other day to Peggy, revealing that he’s been successful writing sci-fi under the pen name of Ben Hargrove, and the man in the diner was a publishing executive, though Kenneth doesn’t want anyone in the office to know about it.  Plus, what's this about a secret pact the two share to abandon the agency together, if one lands a new job?  In any case, Roger does his best to issue salesman pointers so that Lane might land the Jaguar account solo, that he should try to capitalize on a dissatisfaction in the client’s life.

That weekend, Pete again flirts with the young girl (Seriously?  She’s like 16.) at his driver’s ed course, offering to take her to the Botanical Gardens another weekend.  Later, Megan and a reluctant Don arrive at Pete’s dinner party, joined by Kenneth Cosgrove and his wife Cynthia (Yay Alex Mack!), and amidst praising his new sound system, Pete blissfully thanks Don for even coming in the first place.  Back in the city, Lane seems to strike out on his dinner with Jaguar, while the conversation remains rich at Pete’s party.  Covering everything from the University of Texas sniper, to Don’s early life in the country to guns, all seems to be going well until Ken’s wife Cynthia starts going on at length about her husband’s life writing science fiction, particularly one story about a robot who destroys a bridge between planets by removing a simple bolt as the machine's only function.  The evening really takes a turn however, when the sink erupts, and Don manages to fix both it and the earlier leak, whipping off his shirt and exciting the ladies all before poor Pete even has a chance to get out his toolbox!  No pun intended.

While the evening gets both Don and Megan all hot and bothered the next morning at work Lane relates his progress to Pete and Roger, who both stress that the real ad men should step in to broker the deal, keeping Lane as a friend to Edwin.  Roger thanks Pete for including him in the deal, and later at class Pete eagerly meets up with his new-found flirt.  Their interaction is quickly interrupted however, but the arrival of a younger, more virile man named “Handsome” Hansen, whose vascular arms cause Pete to realize he should quit while he’s behind.

The next night, Don, Roger and Pete entertain Lane’s client Edwin, who insists that he’d rather have some excitement on the town than worry about whether or not he’ll give them business.  And by excitement, he totally means hookers.  Edwin, Roger, and Pete all seem to find themselves occupied by women at a brothel, but Don remains faithful, to Pete’s great chagrin.  Pete’s lady offers to play both his wife or a virgin, which he turns down, settling instead for her addressing him as a king.  Meanwhile outside, Don makes conversation with the brothel’s madam, and earns himself some free drinks for his candor.  Later, Pete and Don find themselves alone in the cab ride home, and Pete chastises Don for his abstinence, while Don reminds him that one doesn’t get second chances at the happy, complete family life that Don lost, and Pete maintains with Trudy and Tammy.

The next day, Roger calls in Kenneth to warn him about dividing attention between writing and his job, having heard from Pete, when Lane arrives furiously into the partners’ meeting, claiming they’ve lost the Jaguar account.  Evidently, Edwin Baker’s wife discovered “chewing gum on his pubis” from the man's dalliance, calling Lane’s wife to complain, who in turn called him.  The boys can’t help but laugh at the situation, but when Pete goes too far over the line in questioning Lane’s worth to the company, Lane decides to throw down in some old school fisticuffs!  Surprised, but intrigued, Roger, Don and Bert allow the throw-down to take place, in which Lane’s Marquis de Queensbury fighting style bests the younger Pete, leaving him bloodied on the floor.  Joan arrives in Lane’s office with ice to console him, but Lane mistakes her kind words for affection, and pulls Joanie in for a kiss!  She doesn’t exactly push him away, but gets up to open the door, and politely deflects his humiliation by pretending the incident never happened.

Meanwhile gossiping about the fight, Kenneth insists to Peggy that having been found out, his writing career is over.  Don and Pete share an elevator in leaving for the day, where Pete breaks down that they’re all supposed to be friends, and that he believes he has nothing in life.  Later that night, Kenneth continues writing his stories under a new name, as Pete observes his young crush being cozied up to in class by “Handsome” Hansen, and that eternal faucet drip echos in his mind.

Remember when I said that last week's "Mystery Date" didn't have too many buzzworthy moments?  Well, "Signal 30" completely redeems that with the epic battle between Lane and Pete!  I feel a tingle up my spine just thinking of the inevitable GIFs.  And while the episode is rich with symbolism, it still offers up yet another enjoyable, forward-moving hour for 'Mad Men' season 5.  And am I the only one rooting for Lane and Joan?

Did you get your fill of swingin’ ‘Mad Men’ action?  What did you think about the episode? Join us next week for an all-new episode recap of ‘Mad Men’s latest effort “Far Away Places” on AMC!

And in the meantime, enjoy what can only be described as "inevitable."  Take THAT, "Zou Bisou, Bisou!

Filed Under: AMC, Mad Men
Categories: TV News, TV Reviews
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