Mad Men: “Signal 30″

This episode begins with a group of people sitting in a high school classroom watching a film about car wrecks. It’s obvious that this is a driver’s education class, and Pete Campbell is one of the students. He laughs at the film, and a pretty young girl tuns around and smiles at him.

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He smiles back at her, and looks at her legs.

Later that night he’s in bed with Trudy, wide awake thanks to a leaky kitchen faucet, which is making loud dripping sounds. He gets out of bed, finds his toolbox and appears to fix the problem.

The next morning, we see Rebecca trying to get Lane to hurry up and get ready for a social engagement. Lane asks if they just want a nice lunch, why not go to the park? Rebecca says she wants to get to the pub and enjoy the chitchat with friends. Lane says that they’re her friends, not his, and that he’s never enjoyed spending hours in pubs watching football. He also says that he hates “bringing England over in pieces”, and that it’s for the homesick. Lane sighs and tell Rebecca that her face becomes lovely when she tells him she needs something. He takes a long slug off his drink…

We then see him at the pub, happily cheering England on with his (Rebecca’s?) friend Edwin Baker. Later, the two couples eat lunch at the pub, and while the women talk about the differences between England and America, Edwin mentions that he might want to throw some business SCDP’s way.

On Monday morning, Peggy is at a diner getting some breakfast for herself, when Ken Cosgrove walks in with an older gentleman. Peggy says hello, and Ken reluctantly says hello. Peggy asks to meet his “friend”, but Ken brushes her off, saying that it’s his wife’s uncle who wants to get in to radio.

We then see Don in a partner’s meeting. For some reason, he’s doodling a noose:

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Joan goes around the room, asking the partners about any new business. Roger, Pete, Burt and Don tell her no, but Lane says that he might have some. He says that he’s become friends with Edwin Baker, senior VP of public relations for Jaguar, and that Baker made it clear to him that his company is looking for a new ad agency. Most of the partners congratulate Lane for the catch, but Pete points out all the flaws with SCDP taking on Jaguar. He points out that the account will bring in around $3 million, but the agency will have to hire 10 people to handle it. Don points out that it’s an account for a prestigious automaker. Roger offers to “ride shotgun” with the client, but Lane assures them that he can handle it. The meeting ends, and Lane leaves. Don asks the other partners if they’d like to give Lane some tips; Pete says that he’s busy, but Roger says that he’d be happy to.

As Don walks back to his office, Pete calls out to him. Pete says that he’s had his secretary type up directions to his house, and that Saturday night will have “no charades, no bridge, just good home cooking and drinks”. Don says that he’s busy that night, but Pete says that he knows he’s not. Don walks in to his office where Megan is working and tells her to call Trudy and tell her that they can’t on Saturday. Megan says that Don has already told Trudy that they are coming. Don says that Trudy got this far by playing tricks, so she won’t feel so bad when they cancel. Megan says that if he wants to cancel he can call Trudy himself.

Ken walks in to Peggy’s office and asks for Stan and Ginsberg. When Peggy says that they’re out, he closes the door and explains why he was so distant to her in the diner that morning. It seems that Ken is still writing short stores, and the older man was from a publishing firm. Ken’s wife, Cynthia, is trying to get a collection of Ken’s stories published as a book. Peggy asks when he has time for this, and Ken says that he’s converted most of his business dinners into just drinks, and that most of the time he’s able to get home in good shape. Peggy asks what sort of stories he writes, and Ken says that it’s a mixture of fantasy and science fiction. Peggy asks for his nom de plume and he gives it to her: Ben Hargrove. Ken apologizes for not introducing her, and Peggy is supportive. Ken also says that their pact still stands: if he leaves, she’s going with him. He leaves.

Meanwhile, Roger walks in to Lane’s office to offer him tips on how to sell the agency. He says that the beauty of the RFP is that if you taken the client to dinner, you can wine and dine them into giving you the “answers” (to what they want in the RFP). Lane says that there will be plenty of drinks, but Roger gives him a tip for ordering Scotch that makes it look like you’re drinking a lot when you’re not. Roger tells Lane to act as if he has nowhere to go and just let the client talk, and that sometime in the middle of dinner they will let something important slip. You then wait to dessert to use it, by saying that you have the same problem the client does. When Lane asks what to do if the client is more reserved, Roger says to reverse it, to try and make your problem the client’s problem, too. Lane gets up to leave, and tells Lane to never let the client get the check, and to find out everything you can about the client before you have dinner.

In Don’s office, Dawn buzzes and says that she finally has Trudy on the line. Don picks up, and tries to get out of it. Trudy won’t budge, and says that she’ll reschedule the dinner if necessary. Don, smiling, says that it’s too bad that Pete can’t close a deal like she can. She tells him to be there at 7:30.

We then see Pete at the high school, on a break from the driver’s ed class. The young girl walks up, and Pete asks if she’s OK, as she looked a little sick during one of the gory safety films. She asks why Pete doesn’t have a license, and he says that it’s because he grew up in Manhattan and didn’t need one. She says that she loves going to the city, and Pete says that maybe she’ll get to move there one day. He says that she’ll move there, get married and move back to the suburbs. She says that she’s not getting married until after college… if she goes to college. Pete looks confused, and she mentions the sniper at the University of Texas and the murders in Chicago. She says her parents don’t want her out in the world alone. She says that everything is so random, and it feels like time is speeding up. Pete agrees. She says that she remembers when summer seemed to last as long as the school year, and that she used to go to the botanical gardens every summer, but hasn’t been yet. Pete perks up and mentions that his family donated some of the land that became the gardens, and says that they should go sometime, as they’ll be treated like VIPs. Before she can respond the instructor comes out an announces that break time is over.

Fast forward to Saturday night, and we see Don getting ready at the apartment. Don asks Megan what Ken’s wife’s name is, but she can’t remember. She watches him down a drink, then pour another, and warns him to slow down. He says that he wants to “hit the doorbell with his chin” by the time they get there. Megan says that they could have fun, but Don isn’t buying it. She kisses him and tells him to change into the sport coat she bought him.

At Pete and Trudy’s, Pete shows off his new console stereo by playing Beethoven’s 9th for Ken. Cynthia comes in and asks him to turn it down so as not to wake the baby. There’s a knock at the door: Don and Megan have arrived. After some pleasantries, the women go off to the kitchen while the men sit and enjoy drinks and the stereo.

Meanwhile, Lane is having dinner with Edwin. Unfortunately, it’s not going that well. When Edwin mentions his time there in World War II, Lane says that it must not have been fun. Edwin says that they were the “best days of his life”. When Lane says that he must miss it, Edwin says that he doesn’t.

Back in Cos Cob, Trudy talks about the origin of the “Cos Cob” name, and Megan asks Ken and Cynthia where they live. There’s then talk about the city versus the suburbs. Ken says he grew up in rural Vermont, so Cos Cob isn’t “the country” to him. Don says that he grew up in the country too, and he doesn’t miss going to the outhouse in winter. Pete says that Cos Cob is more civilized than that, although there are a lot of “varmints” there. Ken says that he should bring his rifle home from the office, and Trudy asks if he still has that. Cynthia brings up Charles Whitman, and there’s discussion about gun safety. Trudy tries changing the subject, and Cynthia mentions that Ken has written a story that predicted the shooting. Ken asks her to not mention it (and uses her name, which causes Megan to sit up and call out “Cynthia!). Cynthia then goes on to talk about how Ken’s writing is the only reason they got together. She apparently worked in publishing, and was a secretary to an editor who rejected Ken’s story. She felt sorry for him, and the two went on a date. Don asks what the story was about, and Cynthia reluctantly reveals the details of the story, “The Punishment Of X4″:

“There’s this bridge between these two planets and thousands of humans travel on it every day, and there’s this robot who does maintenance on the bridge. One day he removes a bolt, the bridge collapses, and everyone dies.”

When pressed for an explanation, Ken says that “people tell [the robot] what to do and he doesn’t have the power to make any decisions except he can decide whether that bolt’s on or off”. Pete makes a joke, and everyone laughs. Megan asks how long he’s been writing, and Ken says that he started in high school, but that it’s mostly out of his system now. Don says that no one wants to grow up and be in advertising, and Trudy says that that’s not true. Megan is asked what drew her to it, and Don says that she came to New York to be an actress. Megan says she came to SCDP as a temporary job until she saw what Don and Peggy do and thought she could see herself doing it.

Trudy calls for dessert, and the women clear the table while the men continue talking. Pete says that he thought all the crime was in the city, but the kid who mows his lawn ripped him off. Don says that the kid who mowed his lawn in Ossining used to steal beer from the fridge in his garage. Pete says he likes the idea of a “beer fridge” in the garage. Suddenly, the women start screaming and laughing, and the men go to the kitchen to find the kitchen faucet spraying water everywhere. Pete goes to get the toolbox, and Don has Ken hold a pot over the faucet as he takes of his shirt. Pete brings the tools, and Don quickly fixes the faucet, which gets him a round of applause from the ladies. While all this was going on, the baby started to cry, and Trudy walks in with her:

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Everyone ooos and ahhhs over the baby, but Pete refuses to take credit for her.

We then see Megan driving back to the city. Don, obviously a bit drunk, says that he’s going to close his eyes and when he opens them again he wants to see skyscrapers. Megan smiles and asks him to admit that he had a good time. He leans over and says that he’s too drunk for her to drive, He comes closer to her, and asks her to make a baby with him. She asks if pregnancy gets him excited, and he tells her to pull over. She does, with the excuse that Pete was scaring her with accident statistics from his driver’s ed class, and that she liked watching him fix the sink. The two then start kissing passionately.

Monday morning comes, and we see Pete and Roger walking through the SCDP office, talking about a plane crash and how it will impact Mohawk’s advertising. They stop at Lane’s office and ask how the dinner with Edwin went. He says that it didn’t go exactly as planned, but he has another dinner scheduled with him soon. Pete says that perhaps he, Roger and Don should go to the next dinner instead of Lane. Lane says he doesn’t think it’s necessary, but Pete has Roger tell him that that’s just the way it works. Lane, feelings hurt, agrees. Outside Lane’e office, Pete says that Lane “couldn’t close a car door”. Roger (somewhat sarcastically) thanks Pete for inviting him to the dinner.

We then see Pete back in the driver’s ed class. The cute girl walks in, and Pete chats with her. It seems that she drank a bottle of vanilla extract and got drunk, but now has a headache. Pete reminds her of her promise to go to the botanical gardens, but she asks about church. Just then a handsome young man walks up, and tries to hand an excuse slip to Pete. The girl says that Pete’s a student, not the teacher, and the two of them talk. It’s very obvious that the pretty girl (Jenny Gunther) has a thing for the pretty boy (Hanson, known as “Handsome”).

At the Jaguar dinner, Don says that he thinks a man getting out of a Jaguar needs a cold shower, and that’s the message they want to convey in the ads. Edwin, however, is too busy staring at pretty girls to care. He says that he appreciates the “all hands on deck” dinner, but would prefer to “have a little fun”. Roger perks up, and Edwin says that he just wants to know that he can “enjoy the people he works with”. Pete suggests a drink at a local hotel, but Edwin says that he lives in New York (implying that he’s already familiar with the bar). Pete looks at Roger, who says he has a “friend” who is “having a party” just around the corner.

We then see the men in a upper-class whorehouse. Pete flirts with one of the girls, and Roger gets a girl to come over. The girl who was flirting with Pete asks about Don, causing Roger to quip that “even in this place you’re doing better than us”. Don watches Edwin walk in to a bedroom with one of the girls, and Roger walks away with his girl. The girl Pete had been talking to tells him that she wants some rum, but it’s “in her bedroom”. Don gives Pete a look as he’s led away to the girl’s room.

In the bedroom, Pete immediately starts kissing the girl, but she tells him to take it easy. The girl steps away and takes her dress off. She gets on the bed and pretends to be a housewife. Pete stops her, so she tries acting like as virgin. Pete stops her again. She then says “you are my king”, and Pete says that fantasy is OK.

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Don is still sitting at the bar, and the madam walks up to him and says that “Officer Logan says hello”, apparently code that she has paid off the police. Don says that he’s not a cop, that he’s just waiting on his friends. The madam then says that if he “can’t find what he’s looking for here”, she has a friend, and he’s within walking distance. Don compliments her on how she hints at the gay reference, and she asks if that happens to him a lot. He tells her that he grew up in a place like this, although it wasn’t as nice. She asks him if he thinks they should get a TV, and he says no. She smiles, and tells the bartender to comp his drinks.

We then see Don, Pete and Edwin in a cab on the way home. They drop Edwin off at his apartment, and as soon as he’s left, Pete says that he thinks it went well. Pete says that he’s sorry don wasn’t feeling well; Don says he felt fine. Pete then asks why he feels like he’s riding with a nun. Don, “of all people”, he says, should have had “fun” at the whorehouse. Don, trying to end the conversation, says that Pete is right. He then tells Pete to have a good night. Pete says that he already did… then there’s a pause and Pete says

I can’t believe I have to explain I was doing my job to a man who just pulled his pants up on the world.

Don tells him to go home and forget about the night. Pete says that Don won’t have the same feelings for Roger, to which Don says that Roger is miserable, and he didn’t think that Pete was. Pete snidely tells Don to wait until his honeymoon is over. Don says that he’s only acting the way to Pete because he’s been where Pete is, and Pete won’t have a second chance at what he has now. Pete calls them “brave words” for a man who has been married twice. Don says that if he’d met Megan first, he would have known better than to “throw it away”. We then see Pete walk in to his bedroom and start the shower.

Monday morning, Roger calls Ken into his office. Someone has told Roger about his “side job” writing stories off the clock. Roger says that Ken’s current SCDP job is a “day job and a night job”, and that writing has divided his attention. He says that he too is an unappreciated author, and that this job satisfies “every need”. The not-so-subtle message: stop writing. During this, Roger’s secretary buzzes him and says that the partner’s meeting is starting. We also see Lane leaving his office for the meeting, only to be called back by a call from Rebecca. She appears to be upset about something.

In the conference room, Bert, Roger and Don talk presidential politics as Pete walks in. Pete walks in and says that “everyone’s here” (even though Lane is absent). Lane storms in and asks Joan to leave. Lane says that the boy’s “activities” have cost them the Jaguar account. It seems that Edwin came home with chewing gum near his genitals, and Edwin’s wife called Rebecca to share all the “gory details”. The rest of the partners can’t help but laugh, and Lane, voice rising, asks how they can laugh at it. Pete says that it was Edwin’s idea, and Lane says it’s impossible. Pete says that Edwin thinks Lane is a “homo”. Lane says that he can’t believe all the hours he’s spent turning Pete into a monster. Pete says that he was just doing his job. Lane says that it was his account, to which Pete (correctly, but perhaps lacking the best timing) says that Lane say no idea what he’s doing. He also says that the partners stopped needing Lane the day he fired them from the old Sterling Cooper. Bert tries to calm Pete down, but Lane won’t have it. He takes off his jacket and challenges Lane to a fight. After some taunts, Pete rises to the challenge. Roger, watching it all, says “I know cooler heads should prevail, but am I the only one who wants to see this?”. Don gets up and closes the curtains to the room. Pete takes a swing and misses, then lands (a wimpy) punch to Lane’s belly. Lane then lands a rapid succession of punches.  We see Joan in the office next door listening in on the intercom, Peggy walks in to ask her something, but walks over and listens in herself. From the intercom, we can guess that Pete has landed a couple of punches, but we then see Pete get hit squarely in the face… twice. Pete falls in to the credenza and knocks over a drink service. As he’s lying there on the floor, Lane tells him to consider this his last but of advice. Lane leaves the room. Roger jokes that he had Lane all the way.

We then see Lane on the sofa in his office. There’s a knock at the door, and he calls out that he’s busy. Joan announces herself, and Lane gets up to unlock the door. Lane asks her what his role is a SCDP. Joan says that he’s essential, and that if “they” are making him feel different, that’s not only OK, it’s a good thing. Lane leans in and kisses her. She doesn’t push him away, but she gets up and opens the office door. Lane says that he just can’t stop humiliating himself that day. He apologizes, but Joan asks why, because everyone has wanted to hit Pete at one time or another.

In the break room, Peggy runs in and tells Ken that Lane beat Pete up. Ken, not batting an eyebrow, says he can’t believe Lane beat him to it. Ken says that he knows Pete told Roger about his writing, that Cynthia let it slip at dinner. Peggy says that she doesn’t blame Cynthia for bragging – she just read one of his published stories and really liked it. Ken thanks her, but says that “Ben Hargrove” is dead. He says that he’s through with writing.

Pete decides to leave for the day, but sees Don holding the elevator for him. He asks Don where he’s off to, and Don says he’s meeting Megan for lunch. Pete says that he (Pete) is “not as virtuous as” Don, and asks why he “cut him loose”. Don aks if he was supposed to step in. Pete asks why they’re even fighting at work, that they’re supposed to be friends. Pete, almost in tears, says that he has nothing.

Lastly, we see Ken in bed, writing a new story under the name Dave Algonquin. As Ken narrates what he’s writing we see Pete at the high school, watching a film and looking over at Jenny and Hanson, who are cuddling. Pete looks back at the screen, and the sound of dripping water is heard.

 

OTHER STUFF

– This episode was written by Frank Pierson and Matthew Weiner and directed by John Slattery. Pierson, 86, got his start writing for Have Gun – Will Travel in 1959 and also wrote Cool Hand Luke and the 1976 version of A Star is Born (as mentioned in the recap for “Mystery Date”). But he’s most famous for writing Dog Day Afternoon, for which he won an Oscar.

Signal 30 was a real film. Produced by a company called Highway Safety Films in 1959, the film used genuine accident footage to scare students in driver’s education classes, which are mandatory in some US states before one is issued a driver’s license (insurance companies give discounts to people who take a driver’s ed class, so many people take the class, even in states where it’s not required). When I took driver’s ed in 1986 or 1987, they still showed films like these. Although serious (and pretty gory), students were amused by the mid-1960s political correctness of the films and the dated language: “Kenny and Pablo went to a party. There they smoked marijuana. [shot of two young men mangled beyond recognition in a car wreck] I bet they don’t think it’s so… groovy now.” You can watch Signal 30, if you should so choose, here.

– Lane and Rebecca went to the pub to watch the World Cup final, so this episode takes place around July 30, 1966. The 1966 World Cup was played in England, and the English team went on to win the Cup by defeating West Germany, becoming the first host country to win the Cup on their own turf since Italy did it in 1938. The final was not without controversy: the score was tied 2-2 at the end of regulation, sending the game into extra time. A few minutes in, Geoff Hurst took a shot that hit the crossbar and landed on the line:

Referee Gottfried Dienst, who was Swiss, did not see the “goal”, so he asked his linesman, Tofik Bakhramov, who was Russian, if the goal counted (since the two didn’t speak a common language, hand gestures were used). Bakhramov said it was a goal, so Dienst deferred to him. Later analysis would show that the ball never crossed the line, so the goal should not have counted. England would score another goal as time ran out and the Germans desperately sent players forward (akin to an empty net goal in ice hockey), making the final score 4-2.

Of course, the game had huge cultural significance. World War II was only twenty years gone by that point, and the English have never forgotten it (consider two popular English football chants: “Two World Wars and One World Cup” and “Ten German Bombers”). There’s also the (apocryphal) story that, when Bakhramov was asked why he awarded the controversial goal to England, he simply said “Stalingrad”. And in Germany, such goals are still called Wembley-Tor (Wembley Goals), because the 1966 final was played at the original Wembley Stadium. And the game also produced one of the most memorable lines in English football TV coverage. Just as Al Michael’s “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” line from the 1980 Olympics has become the most famous line in American sports, the BBC’s Kenneth Wolstenholme’s line “And here comes Hurst. He’s got… some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over. It is now! It’s four!” line has become an icon:

– GOOF? During the game, Lane’s friend Edwin wears a hat with the Union flag, and people in the pub wave Union flags:

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The problem is, the nations that make up the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) have always competed as separate teams in World Cup play. So fans of England wave the English flag, not the British flag. So, in reality, Edwin should have worn a hat that looks more like this:

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Of course, it’s possible that England hats were not available in New York in 1966, so folks at the pub might have decided that British gear was better than nothing, hence the use in the show. The fact that the two men are wearing red and white scarves seems to back that up. Either way, I’m sure there was a debate about it on the set.

– Lane takes his hat off for “God Save the Queen”. Old school!

– “Jerry” is a generally British nickname for Germans. It dates back to World War I, although it wasn’t used generally until World War II. Its origins are murky. It’s most likely a simple corruption of the word “German” (German > Gerries > Jerries), although one folk history (almost certainly false) says that it comes from a wine bottle called a jeroboam, which the WWI-era German helmets were said to resemble. The term exists in American English, “hidden” in the word jerrycan, a type of fuel container used by the military and sometimes seen on civilian Jeeps and Hummers. Jerrycans were invented in Germany in the 1930s.

– LOL WUT? At the diner, Peggy says she’s there to get “ptomaine poisoning”. The germ theory of disease – which states that infectious diseases are caused by bacteria and viruses, and not things like foul odors – dates to the 1850s, thanks to the important work of Ignaz Semmelweis in Vienna and John Snow in London. However, as late as the 1880s, many people believed that foodbourne illnesses came from ptomaines, alkaloids found in decaying animal and vegetable matter. I’d never heard of ptomaines until today, and wonder if Peggy was just trying to be funny herself, or if “ptomaine poisoning” was a common slang term used for questionable food at greasy spoons or what. Any suggestions?

– Being American, I loved Roger’s “cup of what?” line after Lane says that England won the World Cup. Although the rest of the world loves soccer, it’s still struggling in the US. While World Cup matches between the US and popular European teams draw decent ratings (the 2010 match between the US and England drew 17.1 million viewers), matches against lesser opponents only draw a fraction of that (the match between the US and Slovenia only drew 7.5 million viewers). And remember… that’s the World Cup. In 2011, America’s professional soccer league, MLS, pulled in an average of 560,000 viewers per match if it aired on ESPN, but only 75,000 if it aired on Fox Soccer Channel (which isn’t available in many TV markets). This was actually a huge improvement over 2010, when the numbers were 250,000 for ESPN and 25,000 for FSC. Fox (the broadcast network that airs The Simpsons, not the tiny soccer channel) has had some success in airing Premiere League matches, but still… those numbers are a pittance compared to viewership for American football games, which averaged 16.6 million in 2010 for regular season games. The playoffs were much higher, and, of course, America’s football championship – the Super Bowl – almost always exceeds 100 million viewers. Another way to look at it involves money: the last MLS TV contact has ESPN paying the league $8.5 million a year to air the matches. In contrast, the NFL will take in $4.9 billion per year from 2014 to 2021 from its various TV contracts. So at the time of this episode, British and German expats were probably the only people watching the World Cup in the United States.

– Jaguar has a long, complex history. The company was founded by Sir William Lyons in 1922 as the Swallow Sidecar Company, and, as the name suggests, it specialized in making sidecars for motorcycles. The company didn’t produce a car until 1935, with the SS 90 and SS 100. The company survived World War II, but ended up changing the name of their cars to “Jaguar” due to the unsavory association of the “SS” initials. But it’s in the 1960s that things get confusing: Lyons was nearing retirement age, and no plans had been made for his succession (his heir apparent, son John Michael, had been killed in Le Mans in 1955). So, in 1966 the company merged with British Motor Corporation (which was itself  formed with the merger of Morris Motors Limited and Austin Motor Company Limited). The new company was known as British Motor Holdings. In 1968, BMH merged with Leyland Motors, who had bought Standard-Triumph in 1960 and Rover in 1967. The combined company was known as British Leyland Motor Corporation. At the time of the merger, Leyland was in fine shape, but British Motor Holdings was near collapse, and the government of Harold Wilson hoped that Leyland could turn BMH around. Unfortunately, BMH was crippled by dated car designs (the design of the Morris Minor dated to 1948 and the Morris Oxford dated to 1959). What’s worse, the combined company competed against itself (Rover vs. Jaguar and Triumph vs. Austin, Morris and MG) and was a hodge-podge of 100 different companies that made everything from cars to refrigerators to construction equipment. At the same time, labor unrest, the Oil Crisis of 1973 and high inflation all hit at once, causing the company to teeter towards insolvency. But by then Leyland was “too big to fail”, so they were nationalized in 1975 under the name British Leyland. As a result of the nationalization, the company was divided into several holding companies, many of which were spun off. Jaguar (remember Jaguar?) was spun off into an independent company in 1984, but was never financially secure, and was bought by Ford in 1989. On January 1, 2008, Ford sold the company to India’s Tata Motors.

– The “$3 million, tops” Jaguar account would be worth $19.9 million in modern money. Sounds like it’d be worth it!

– The phrase “riding shotgun” refers to the days of Old West stagecoaches, when an armed guard would ride next to the driver as a robbery deterrent. Interestingly, the term isn’t from the Old West era itself: in those days, security personnel were officially known as “express messengers”, or, in slang, “shotgun messengers”. Also, messengers used “sawed off” shotguns, which allowed them to quickly move the barrel from left to right if necessary (“stagecoach shotguns” are highly collectable in the US). The phrase “riding shotgun” only dates to 1905 and was popularized by Hollywood films of the Old West. It’s an enduring phrase: when groups of friends travel somewhere by car, it’s common for someone to “call shotgun” to reserve the front passenger seat. In fact, there is even an informal set of rules for calling shotgun.

– We first hear about Ken’s writing skills in “The Gold Violin” (recap here).

Farrar, Straus and Giroux is an American publishing company, founded as Farrar, Straus in 1946. Pablo Neruda, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Flannery O’Connor, T. S. Eliot and Tom Wolfe are just a few of the authors who were published by the company. John C. Farrar died in 1974, but Roger W. Straus, Jr. continued to run the company until 1993, when he sold it to the privately-owned conglomerate Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. The company is still known for being one of the last old school publishers.

– Science fiction authors have long complained about the lack of respect they receive for their work (notice how defensive Ken is with Peggy). I think a lot of this can be traced back to the “pulp magazine” era of the 1930s through 1950s. Oftentimes sci-fi magazines would be kept near comic books in stores, and many of their readers were teenage boys. This led to the genre being thought of as “kid’s stuff”. And much pulp sci-fi was unimaginative crap put out by hack authors who took standard, earth-bound “monster stories” and put them on different planets, just to get published.

– An “RFP” is a “Request for Proposal” in the ad world. It’s a short summary of what a company would like to do advertising-wise (“produce print, TV, radio, and social media advertising” and “develop new slogans, logos, branding, etc.”, the scope of such work (print? TV? radio? social media?) and any requirements (“RFPs must be submitted in writing by [date] at [location])”. Here’s a sample one (WARNING: PDF). You can find dozens of real ones by googling “advertising rfp proposal”.

Charles Whitman was a former Marine and student at the University of Texas at Austin who went on a shooting spree that killed 16 people and wounded 32 others on August 1, 1966. Whitman appeared to have a bright future, but was plagued with family issues. His father provided well for his family, but demanded perfection from his children and was often emotionally and physically abusive. To get out of this situation as quickly as possible, Whitman enrolled in the Marines Corps, then enrolled in the University of Texas under a USMC-provided scholarship. And then it all fell apart: he shot a deer near campus, brought it back to his dorm and skinned it in the shower, an action which caused his scholarship to be withdrawn. And he was discharged from the Marines shortly thereafter for gambling, having a personal firearm on base, and for threatening another Marine over a $30 ($214) loan. In May 1966, his mother called him and told him that she was finally divorcing his father after years of abuse. Charles drove to Florida to help her move near him in Austin. On July 31, 1966, Charles killed his mother, then drove to his own house and killed his wife while she slept. He then typed up a letter explaining his actions and at 11:48 am the next morning he went to the top of the main building of the university and opened fire using a M1 carbine he’d bought that day (he also had a shotgun, a Remington 700 rifle, a Remington M 141 pump rifle, a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver, a 9mm Luger and a Galesi-Brescia .25-caliber pistol). Whitman was killed a couple of hours later, still on the roof, by Austin Police officer Houston McCoy. An autopsy was performed on Whitman, and an aggressive brain tumor was found, mostly likely the cause of his constant headaches, and possibly the cause of his mood swings and the rampage itself. You may remember Whitman being mentioned in Full Metal Jacket:

You may also remember a line from the animated series Archer in which an extremely skilled sniper was said to have pulled off a “Charles Whitman Sampler” (Whitman’s Sampler being a popular type of boxed chocolates in America).

The New York Botanical Garden was founded in 1891. In real life, most of the land was donated by tobacco magnate Pierre Lorillard, while a small portion came from the eastern edge of what is now Fordham University. Kind of interesting that a man who made his fortune selling plant matter would help create a botanical garden, no? (And no, that wasn’t Lorillard’s plan).

– Beethoven’s 9th Symphony was completed in 1824, although some components of the work can be traced back as far as 1811 in Beethoven’s notebooks. Many consider the 9th to be not only Beethoven’s best work, but the best piece of music ever written. When we first hear it – when Pete is showing off the stereo to Ken – the second movement is being played: Scherzo: Molto vivace – Presto. This has been used in many films and TV shows, but was perhaps most famously used in A Clockwork Orange:

– Raise your hand if you had a console stereo? My parents did, and sometime after my dad bought a new, high-end “hi-fi”, the console was taken down to the playroom. I played most of my childhood records on it. I could swear that it was a GE, but it might have been an RCA. It had an 8-track player, too, so it couldn’t have been that old. It was sold when we moved from Snellville to Duluth.

Wilt Chamberlain was an American basketball player who was most famous for being the only player to ever score 100 points in a basketball game, when his Philadelphia Warriors (now the Golden State Warriors) beat the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962. Wilt was 7’1″ (216 cm) tall and weighed between 275 and 300 lbs. (125 Kg and 136 Kg). He was a big dude. Chamberlain also claimed to have slept with over 20,000 women.

– “Knicks” is short for “Knickerbocker”, a common Dutch name in the settlement of New Netherland. It’s also spelled Knikkerbakker, Knickerbakker, or Knickerbacker. It became popular as a term for New Yorkers thanks to Washington Irving’s 1809 satirical History of New York, which was written under the pen name “Diedrich Knickerbocker”. Although it has nearly fallen out of use today, most folks still know the meaning.

– William Greenberg is a real bakery in New York (click here for their site). Yes, they sell brownies (they appear to be their most popular item), and yes they come in a red tin. I’d never heard of them… I prefer the Hungarian Pastry Shop in Morningside Heights when I’m in NYC.

-When Pete hands Trudy the brownies, she reveals that they live in Cos Cob, Connecticut. Cos Cob is a neighborhood of Greenwich, Connecticut, and is on the eastern side of the city, thus meaning that Pete would get on the train and Greenwich would be the next stop (as we saw a couple of episodes prior). According to Google Maps, Cos Cob is 36 miles (58 km) from the Time-Life Building, and it would take Pete around 51 minutes to drive to work.

– I love how “local” city dwellers are. Pete looks at the brownies and says that make him “homesick”, even though he only lives 30 miles away from William Greenberg and is in the city every work day. I was once lost in Boston, and asked a woman doing yard work for help in getting to an address. She acted as if I was asking about a place 300 miles away, when in reality the address I was looking for was less than two miles away.

– Lane spent World War II working as a “supply assistant” in Rosyth. Rosyth is a town near Dunfermline, in Scotland. The town was once known for the Royal Naval Dockyard Rosyth, but this closed in 1994. The dockyard was as famous for breaking ships as it was in fixing them: it was one of the main dockyards involved with salvaging the German fleet which was scuttled in the Scapa Flow at the end of World War I.

– The discussion Trudy has about the Cos Cob name is more or less authentic. Most historians believe the name comes from the Mohegan word Cassacubque, which means “high rocks”. However, some contend that the name was originally “Coe’s Cob”, after a man named John Coe settled in the area in the early 1600s and created a moorage for small boats at the mouth of the Mianus River. At the time, cob was a type of building material made out of mud and straw, and it’s likely that the seawall Coe built would have been made out of this, hence “Coe’s Cob”, over time shortened to just “Cos Cob”.

– Ken and Cynthia live in Jackson Heights, Queens. Today, Jackson Heights is one of the most diverse places not just in New York, but in the entire United States. Every time I hear the name “Jackson Heights” I think of the theme song to the old 60s sitcom Car 54, Where Are You?, which went like this:

There’s a holdup in the Bronx,
Brooklyn’s broken out in fights;
There’s a traffic jam in Harlem
That’s backed up to Jackson Heights;
There’s a scout troop short a child,
Khrushchev’s due at Idlewild!
Car 54, Where Are You?

Incidentally, Car 54 was one of the first TV show to use cars with genuine police markings on them. Producers didn’t want to confuse bystanders, however, so Car 54 cars were painted bright red and white. Actual NYPD cars were black and green at the time, and while the red and white color scheme looked totally different from the real thing in person, it looked identical to the genuine cars on black and white film.

– “Varmint” comes from the word vermin, and was used in England as far back as the 1530s. The word, which is used almost exclusively in American English today, comes from the Appalachian region and probably comes from the particular Scots-Irish dialect of the area (see Appalachian English). The word was originally used to describe animals that interfered with agriculture, such as foxes, weasels and rats. However, over time it came to refer to any animal that annoys humans, as well as annoying humans themselves, especially ones that steal from or pester other people.

– We first see “the rifle” in “Red in the Face” (season 1, episode 7). Pete and Trudy were given multiple “chip and dip” trays as wedding gifts, and she tells Pete to return one of the trays to the store and get the money for it. Because Pete doesn’t have the receipt, the clerk (who has rebuffed his flirtatious advances) only offers him a store credit, which he uses to buy the rifle. Trudy was outraged, and refused to allow the gun in their apartment. So Pete kept it in his office. Since then we’ve seen the rifle off and on throughout the series, like when Pete switches offices (“A Little Kiss”), when Hildy brings him cocoa (“The Grown Ups”), when the partners quit the old Sterling Cooper (“Shut the Door. Have a Seat”), and after Pete finds out about impregnating Peggy (“Meditations in an Emergency”).

– How funny that when Cynthia calls the shooter “Charles Whitmore” it’s Don correcting her with “Whitman”.

– When Don takes off his shirt to fix the sink, Cynthia says “look, it’s Superman”. Jon Hamm was one of the names floated to star in an upcoming Superman movie, but Hamm himself said that he was too old for the role.

– The “plane crash” Pete refers to on Monday after their dinner party was Braniff Flight 250, which crashed on that same night as the dinner party (Saturday August 6, 1966) over Falls City, Nebraska. All 38 passengers and all 4 crew members were killed. The plane, which is the same type that Mohawk used, was a British Aircraft Corporation One-Eleven (also known as the BAC-111).

– As Pete and Roger hint, it was (and still is) common practice for an airline who crashed to pull all advertising for a period of time after the incident (decades ago, all airlines would pull their advertising so as not to look as if they were taking advantage of the airline which suffered the crash). But the thing is, I just read something about the practice and how it all started, but I’ll be damned if I can find it now! Can anyone help me out with this? After striking out on Google I even tried Bing, with no luck!

– “Heathcliff” was a central character in the Emily Brontë novel Wuthering Heights. “Wuthering Heights”, a farm, was once owned by the Earnshaw family. Mr. Earnshaw went to Liverpool on business and took in a homeless boy, whom he names “Heathcliff”. Heathcliff quickly becomes a favorite of Mr. Earnshaw, to the despair of Earnshaw’s biological son, Hindley. Hindley’s younger sister, Catherine, falls deeply in love with Heathcliff, and their romance forms the basis of the book.

– There’s no doubt that the Jaguar E-Type (known as XK-E in the United States) was a sexy car:

Jaguar_XK-E_Roadster
(click to enlarge)

The E-Type was voted #1 in the Daily Telegraph’s 2008 list of the “100 Most Beautiful Cars of All Time”, and Sports Car International named the car #1 on their 2004 list of “Top Sports Cars of the 1960s”. The cars were manufactured in Coventry, England from 1961 to 1974. The car pictured above is a 1963 model.

– Because eating a whole lobster can be messy, most American restaurants offer bibs to protect the diner’s clothes. Oddly, the bibs almost always have a drawing of a lobster in red ink on them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a plain lobster bib, or a bib with the restaurant’s name on it – just the lobster, as seen in this episode.

The Carlyle is a luxury hotel with 180 rooms that also has 60 privately-owned rooms (apartments) inside. It is located at 35 East 76th Street, on the northeast corner of Madison Avenue. The hotel was known for years as the “New York White House”, due to John F. Kennedy owning a unit in the building in the last decade of his life. In fact, after Marilyn Monroe’s famous “Happy Birthday Mr. President” performance at Madison Square Garden, Monroe and Kennedy snuck in to his room at the Carlyle using a labyrinth of tunnels in the area. The investment firm Carlyle Group got its name from the hotel, because the founders met there in the mid 1980s.

– Pete is almost certainly talking about going to Bemelmans Bar, a glitzy, famous bar inside the hotel. It is named after Ludwig Bemelmans, author of the Madeline series of children’s books (Bemelmans lived at The Carlyle for a time, and painted the murals in the bar). Here’s a short clip from Anthony Bourdain’s new show The Layover where he visits Bemelmans:

– It’s hard to tell exactly what Don means when he says he “grew up in a place like this”. His mother was, of course, a prostitute, and even though Dick was sent to live with Archie, his biological father, it’s possible that he went to the whorehouse with his father either to visit his mom, or just to accompany him on one of his “visits”. But in “My Old Kentucky Home” (recap), Don tells Conrad Hilton that he “parked cars at a roadhouse when he was young”. This could be a socially acceptable way of saying that he worked at the brothel in some capacity. Or maybe not.

Estimated cab fare from 72nd Street to Cos Cob is $79.74, including tip. In 1966 dollars, it would cost Pete around $12 to get home. But the cab driver tells him that he must pay the fare both ways (since Cos Cob is waaaaaayyy out of the driver’s way), so double that to around $160 in current money, or $24 in 1966 money.

– Although it’s not said who told Roger about Ken’s writing, it couldn’t be anyone other than Pete, right? I mean, Don doesn’t care what Ken does when he’s not at SCDP, and Megan couldn’t care less. Pete, on the other hand, has felt threatened by Ken ever since “Out of Town” (recap), where he and Ken are promoted to the same job.

– Of course, Roger’s book, Sterling’s Gold (Amazon), was only written (and self-published) because Roger was jealous of all the attention adman extraordinaire David Ogilvy received for his 1963 book Confessions of an Advertising Man. So it’s a bit unfair for Roger to compare himself to Ken.

– Mr. Toad is one of the main characters in The Wind in the Willows, a 1908 children’s book by Kenneth Grahame. In the book, in which animals act out life in an idealized England, Mr. Toad is member of the gentry and something of a fop. It’s thought that Mr. Toad was based on Francis Cecil Ricardo, a former soldier who owned the first car in the village of Cookham… a yellow Rolls Royce, which he’d frequently stop and offer rides to people in.

– Ken’s story is too good not to quote in full:

“The Man with the Miniature Orchestra”
by Dave Algonquin

There were phrases of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony that still made Coe cry. He always thought it had to do with the circumstances of the composition itself. He imagined Beethoven deaf and soul-sick, his heart broken, scribbling furiously while death stood in the doorway clipping his nails. Still, Coe thought, it might have been living in the country that was making him cry. It was killing him with its silence and loneliness… making everything ordinary too beautiful to bear.

– The closing music is, once again, Beethoven’s 9th. It’s the 4th movement, specifically the Allegro molto assai (Alla marcia). Many will argue this, but several music historians have noted that the 4th movement of the symphony is like a “symphony within a symphony”, in that there are specific movements that follow musical rules of the day. Here is a recording from 1951 of Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting the Chor & Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele:


Note: I tried “deep-linking” to the exact point in the video clip.
If this doesn’t work for some reason, skip to 52m 12s.

Amazingly, Beethoven was completely deaf when he wrote the 9th Symphony. According to legend, contralto Caroline Unger had to walk over to Beethoven and turn him around so that he could see the crowd applauding his work. He was given five standing ovations, and the crowd, knowing he was deaf, was careful to toss hats, handkerchiefs, fans and other items in the air so that he could “see” the ovation.

 

MY THOUGHTS

Now this is the show I remember! Office politics, back-stabbing… it’s all there!

Can I just say how much I love, love, love watching the fall of Pete Campbell? I mean, it’s such an odd thing in a way. We cheered for Don Draper, in spite of his many affairs and secrets. And while Pete wasn’t likeable from the very beginning, his transformation into Don Draper’s evil twin just adds an extra layer of filth to his character. Don was bad, but ultimately likeable. Pete was never likeable, and seeing him booze it up and whore around (hitting on high school girls, no less!) just makes him all the more despicable.

To my way of thinking, the most important scene in this episode is after Edwin leaves Don and Pete alone in the cab. This firmly establishes Don as the new “Nice Guy” and Pete as the “Bad Guy”. Don hadn’t really held the moral high ground over Pete until that moment. From now on, Don will keep his eyes firmly on the “New Pete”. Sure, Don would have done that before, but this is the first time it’s been expressed.. expressly.

It’s also good to see Ken with something to do. I know many Maddicts don’t care for Ken that much, seeing him as “too vanilla”, both as a character and as a person (how much whiter can you get than rural Vermont?). But I’d argue that Ken is “boring” only because he hasn’t had much to do, plot-wise, over the past couple of seasons. I’d love to see Ken go to war with Pete for “outing” him as an author, but I just don’t think that will happen.

Wow… so what else is there to say, really? I like the theme of “mayhem” that’s really bubbling to the surface this season. It’s always been there really, but it seems to be heading that way ever faster. Pete, with his demanding wife, new baby, leaky sink, and a junior partnership, is playing a balancing act against a world that seems coming apart at the seams. Richard Speck, Charles Whitman, Vietnam. Everything that gave Don a solid foundation seems to be slipping through Pete’s fingers. He actually says that he “has nothing”, when, of course, he really has everything. And that almost makes me feel bad for him. Almost.

I can’t wait until the next recap!

2 thoughts on “Mad Men: “Signal 30″”

  1. My parents always said ptomaine poisoning when making jokes about bad or suspicious food/restaurants so I would also think that it was some sort of slang or shorthand in reference to a dubious diner.

  2. Thanks, Becky! Obviously, none of my parents or relatives used the term, and I’d never heard of the phrase AT ALL until this episode of “Mad Men”. Nice to see that it was an (apparently) common joke for bad food. :)

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