The Chat Room

Is Pete Campbell Doomed? 

John Swansburg chats with readers about Pete finally getting what’s coming to him.

Mad Men (Season 5).

Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser)

Michael Yarish/AMC.

John Swansburg was on Slate’s Facebook page Monday to chat with readers about Sunday’s latest Mad Men episode. The following transcript of the discussion has been edited for length and clarity. See the full conversation here.

John Swansburg: Hi all! I’m fresh from 12 rounds in the Slate conference room with David Plotz—he won in a split decision that I’m appealing. Looking forward to chatting with you all about last night’s episode. Did you all enjoy it as much as I did?

Brian Rinaldi: Brilliant episode, great coverage as always from Slate. Kartheiser’s performance, plenty of Cosgrove, and Slattery’s impressive, dynamic direction, combined to make the episode immediately satisfying. The dense writing will, as always, take another viewing to fully appreciate.

John Swansburg: ‎I’m with you 100%. This had all the elements, and Slattery’s direction was wonderful: Some very flashy moves (that cut from Don and Megan in the car back to the SCDP offices). I too need to watch this again to soak it all in. Especially the meaning of Cosgrove’s science fiction.

Blamegirl Says: About damn time Pete got laid out. I’ve been wanting to lay Pete out since the show started.

Carolyn Davenport Moncel: I loved it! Joan said it best: Everyone’s been waiting to do that to Pete. Thank you, Lane.

Jamie Harding: Funniest fight scene ever. Great episode all around. I kind of wanted to feel sorry for Pete at the very end when he was in the elevator with Don. And then I remembered that it was Pete, and Pete just sucks as a human being.

Marc Naimark: Public school boys learned to box.

John Swansburg: It’s easy to start to root for Pete—there are elements of his personality that are admirable. He seems to be the most open-minded of the SCDP partners when it comes to race. And he’s a hard worker in an office where work ethic is not exactly prized. But he wears his success poorly: He wants recognition, isn’t content with his own rise (he wants to see Roger fall, too), etc. Oh, and he’s a grimy pimp, too.

Nicole Hall: Pete hitting on the girl in driving class. I mean, really? “Hi Pete, I’m Chris Hanson. Why don’t you have a seat. Would you like a cookie?”

John Swansburg: ‎I was really worried that was going to go farther than it did. But I thought it was a great turn to have “Handsome” appear at the last minute and break up Pete’s grimy plans. No better punishment for Pete than making him watch his prey neck with Handsome in the flickering light of a highway safety reel.

Paula Faughender: Two words: kitchen sink.

John Swansburg: I loved the kitchen sink bit—and the return of the drips in the final scene. Another great touch from Slattery.

Rochelle Dukes Fritsch: From John’s dispatch: “Pete thinks he’s fixed the leaky faucet that’s keeping him up at night, only to have it erupt in the middle of his dinner party, providing Don with an occasion to pull off his shirt, Superman-style, and save the day …”

Does the leaky faucet, its supposed repair, and embarrassing eruption foreshadow the revelation of Pete and Peggy’s secret child just as Pete’s and Peggy’s careers are taking off? And will Don have to step in again to “fix” it? Or would he even want to, given his “reform?”

John Swansburg: June Thomas had the chance to talk with Vincent Kartheiser right after last night’s episode, and he had some great insights into Pete’s character:

Marc Naimark: How does Pete die this season? 1) Jumps out a window 2) Shoots himself 3) Gruesome automobile collision 4) Trudy decides she can do better and poisons him 5) Weiner’s messing with you: he doesn’t die.

John Swansburg: ‎I really thought we were in for 3) last night. Now I’m leaning toward 5). That misdirection about drunk driving was clever—it kept the tension heightened throughout the night.

John Swansburg: How amazing was Trudy’s dinner party jujitsu? Even Don was impressed at how she had everyone playing right into her hand.

Brian Rinaldi: Agreed about Trudy’s mojo. Seems like it was a theme last night to reveal hidden talents and motivations. Trudy and Pete finally courting the Drapers, Roger’s advice, Ken’s continued passion and success for writing, and the Joan/Lane and Peggy/Ken alliances.


Marc Naimark: I liked the back story on how Mrs. Draper came to work at the agency. Any comments?

John Swansburg: ‎It makes sense that Megan would have arrived via the casting couch and not Mrs. Typeface’s Secretarial School.

Marc Naimark: I don’t think she slept her way into the job. She’s too smart for that. But it does make you think about how far she was planning ahead. I would have liked to know if she got any actress work from SCDP. I don’t think she did.

John Swansburg: I agree with you—didn’t mean to suggest she slept her way into the job. I meant couch in chaste, waiting to be called in to audition way!

Rochelle Dukes Fritsch: I keep thinking about that shot of Don’s empty shoes in the last ep: Pete’s trying to fill them and become the next Don, but totally misinterpreting how Don became the agency darling—that it wasn’t by stepping on people and acting belligerent—and that his infidelities weren’t tied in any way to his success.

John Swansburg: That’s a great observation. As Patrick notes in his post, Pete tries to rationalize his infidelity by saying “I was just doing my job.” But Don never slept with anyone to get business—on the contrary, he has occasionally jeopardized firm business by pursuing his libido (cf. Rachel Mencken).


Marc Naimark: Why would the Jaq-oo-ar guy think Lane was gay? He made no overtures about having “fun” to Lane, so he can’t blame Lane for not getting the hint. And Lane knows how to have some fun (Playboy Club).

John Swansburg: I wondered if that was Pete misinterpreting the Jag guy’s comment, which I took to mean simply that Lane is a stiff.


John Swansburg: OK folks, I think that does it for this week’s chat. Do be sure to check in on the TV Club on Slate this afternoon. We have two writers from the show joining us this week, and it should be fascinating to hear them talk about how they craft great episodes like this one. Now, where’d I put the keys to my Jag?