TV Club

Mad Men episode guide: Trudy dresses down Pete.

Trudy knew exactly what she was doing.

Courtesy of AMC

Paul, Hanna:

True enough, Hanna, that “Just a Gigolo” fadeout music was a bit on the nose. As was the moment when Don hands Sylvia—still in her nightgown, lazing in the maid’s bed—a post-coital wad of bills. Throw in the sudden reappearance of Jaguar Herb and the scenes from a literal bordello, and it seems pretty clear that Matt Weiner would like us to give some thought to the nature of prostitution.

But who’s pimping whom? All this time, I’d thought Trudy was a pitiful naïf. Turns out she knew exactly what she was doing: She consciously maneuvered to set Pete up with a room where various frustrated suburban ladies can enjoy his cheese crackers and cheesy advances. He just couldn’t hold up his end of the deal.

The late ‘60s are a time when society is demanding more openness—the public discussion is becoming more frank, more honest. (NBC breaks into Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show to update viewers on the unfolding Tet Offensive fiasco. I can’t think of a perfect Iraq analogue, but it’s hard to imagine Jay Leno getting pre-empted for 15 minutes of depressing Fallujah coverage.) But the Campbells are still kicking it old school. “Couldn’t you just pretend?” Trudy asks Pete. “All I wanted was for you to be discreet.” That—along with an in-ground pool, and the illusion of happiness—is the pimp’s share she requires in return for offering Pete to other women.

The flip side of mercenary whoring is loyalty. “Sometimes you gotta dance with the one that brung ya,” says Don, justifying his refusal to cheat on Beans with Ketchup. But Don’s loyalty is mighty fickle. Ask Betty, or Megan. Or even Jaguar Herb, who got ambushed in that meeting.

Speaking of ambushes: Tet was this week’s Official Historical Backdrop/Metaphorical Subtext, popping up on multiple diegetic radio and TV broadcasts. Again with the disloyalty. “They broke the ceasefire,” complains Don to Dr. Rosen. Soon after, with Dr. Rosen treating a patient—just trying to help some innocent villagers, if you will—Don breaches Mrs. Rosen like she was the Saigon Embassy.

Et tu, Peggy? Her inter-office husband Stan (after work is done, she pours a drink, he sparks a j-bird, and together they unwind) lets slip a piece of delicate intel in the battle for Heinz ketchup. “This is how wars are won,” says Peggy’s commander, Ted Chaough. Ted wants her to betray Stan and go for the throat. “Your friend made the mistake of underestimating you.”

You know who else gets underestimated? Bob Benson, SCDP’s resident lackey and kiss-up. Last episode, Don said, “Your name escapes me” when they bumped into each other in the elevator. This episode, Herb asks, “Who are you?” and Bob assures him they’ve met before. He’s nearly invisible. But he’s always hanging around, all harmless-like. He’s biding his time. He’ll have his moment. Dr. Rosen is referring to Fidel Castro when he says, “We thought he was Senor Wences, turned out he was George Washington.” Something tells me he could just as easily be describing Bob.

A few more questions before I go:

-What do all these women see in Pete? Other than a vague promise of tickets to Hair, I’m not sure what he has to offer. He’s not charming, he’s not gallant, and—as Paul notes—he has terrible taste in interior design.

-Was “Ketchup” Kip Pardue’s best role since the mesmerizing European vacation sequence from Rules of Attraction?

-What’s wrong with shifting some of the Jaguar marketing budget into a direct sales campaign? Those do work. Here’s an advertising battle—store managers prefer a brass tacks “call to action,” while agency creatives insist on hoity-toity “branding” exercises—that will never achieve a ceasefire.

It’s all about what it looks like, isn’t it?