Mad Men again focused on a popular topic ’round the AfterElton water cooler: masculinity! In all its attractive, sporty, sexual, confusing, and hilarious forms! Don Draper worked out a new wardrobe choice, Roger Sterling wowwed us with wuthering words, Pete Campbell tried to be a hustling psycho like Don (and blew it!), and Lane Pryce showed us that he’s the hottest pugilist stuck 30-40 years in the past. Let’s count up the five most fabulous moments of “Signal 30″ and fan ourselves when it gets sweaty.
1. Introducing Don Draper: Sport-o Edition!
Fact: Megan’s fashionista instincts are nothing but a good thing. She can look like Marlo Thomas or Jeannie C. Riley on any given day, and last night’s episode revealed another trick in her book: Her influence extends to Don, too. Look at our dashing Valentino in his croquet-ready Gene Rayburn gear! Flashy-smashy, indeed. I assume Megan made him wear the colorful thang because she wants him to be hip. And because she’s thinking of us! Thank you, Megan! You understand prettiness. You’re almost a real character to me now.
Don is taking after Pete’s fabulous party garb from the first episode here, which is kind of cute considering this entire episode was about Pete trying to emulate Don and failing. But that unlit cigarette and streamlined jacket? So chic. So quadruple sexy. So a Lucky Strike ad that should’ve happened. “Lucky Strike: Our Smokes Are As Taut And Geometrically Pleasing As Our Blazers.” I’m not in advertising.
2. Roger’s Wuthering Heights reference is his gayest showing to date.
This is a very minor moment, but still? Glorious. Sardonic. And pure Roger. Rather glibly, as Mr. Sterling stepped into Lane’s office to inquire about a recent outing, he sniffed, “Hey, Heathcliff, how was your date?”
Several things: 1) That’s a level one reference to Wuthering Heights, and I understand it’s not that impressive on paper. 2) But can you imagine any misogynist exec today dropping an Emily Bronte reference with flair? Roger may be awful, but he is now awful and on the same page as Dame Kate Bush, whose 1978 single “Wuthering Heights” is the best example of a literary allusion since Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’s Oscar Wilde-rness. You must know the song. The video is a brilliant gem peppered with fairy dust and Margot Kidder hair. Respect. 3) It’s a pretty funny snipe aimed at hapless Lane. Roger, you made me happy today. Cherish this rare-ass moment, you silver-faced pig.
3. The very presence of a former Nickelodeon star is life-affirming.
I don’t know how many people here grew up on Nickelodeon’s ’90s programming (or Pinwheel’s ’80s programming, if we want to bridge very distinct generations), but The Secret World of Alex Mack is a particular soft spot for swingin’ Nick grads like myself. It was a somewhat embarrassing show about a middle-school girl who gets doused with a goldeny chemical called GC-161 and suddenly has psychokinetic (telekinetic?) powers, but it had heart and some winning kid performances. The titular kid was played by Mz. Larisa Oleynik, who went on to play Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s girlfriend on 3rd Rock from the Sun and, now, Ken Cosgrove’s yappy, proud bride on Mad Men. Do you see what I’m getting at yet? I’ve grown up with her, dammit! We were kids with super powers together, we were teens with angst together, and now we’re chronically candid brides in lovely yellow dresses together. We’ve made it! Even if Mrs. Cosgrove sorta humiliated her hubby by prattling off the synopses of his short stories, she’s fancy-free and adorable still. She and Ken are a kickass couple so far. Thank God she’s (we’re) doing OK.
4. Lane’s old-timey fighting stance is sexy and rugged!
Time for Katy Perry to release a single called “I Kicked the Crap Out of Pete Campbell (And I Liked It),” because I’d zap that up from iTunes in a quick minute. Lane and Pete bickered in the office about who botched the Jaguar account late in the episode, and without much buildup, they decided to duke it out in the boardroom while Don, Roger, and a hilariously befuddled Bert Cooper looked on. Sounds fine to me!
Pete looked juvenile and preppy with his fists jangling in the air like dog scrotums, but Lane’s dukes were so committed, so old-school, and so… Jack Dempsey (pictured below), and that is OLD. Like, ’20s old. Ingemar Johansson is positively futuristic in comparison. Naturally, Lane’s zesty fisticuffs destroyed Pete’s scrote screen, and he walked off in victory. This proves Mad Men’s biggest point: Throwback style is the best style, and somehow, it’s always the freshest too.
5. Joan and Peggy are eavesdropping allies like badass 9 to 5 ladies.
While Lane and Pete dueled like our forefathers, Joan and Peggy gathered around the window to hear the melee from outside. I forget sometimes that Peggy and Joan are pretty accustomed allies, but when it comes both to dodging and marveling at the chauvinism around them, they’re sympatico. Joan’s coaching of Peggy to be quiet and listen in was pure 9 to 5 lady politicking, and this forces me to pick Joan and Peggy’s 9 to 5 counterparts. I suppose Joan is Doralee since she’s self-assured but only defiant when she has to be, and Peggy is the perfectly ascotted Judy Bernly. This is an overwhelmingly fabulous cross-section in popular cultures, and I hope your faces weren’t torched in the exercise.
Any other fabulous moments in last night’s episode? I almost included Pete’s fling’s leopard underwear, Lane’s mention of “chewing gum stuck in pubis,” and Don’s handyman finesse at Trudy’s party, but those moments had nothing to do with 9 to 5 or Kate Bush. You understand. Though the pubis moment sounds like it could be a ghastly update of Violet Beauregarde’s gum fixation in Willy Wonka. Thoughts?