LadyGhosts of TV Past

Mad Men: New Amsterdam – Populated by WASPs, Fantastic Lingerie, At Least One Psychokiller in Training

Last time on Mad Men:

Peggy had a one-nighter with a soon-to-be-married man and all she got was this stupid stolen postcard and a Kanye shrug; Joan went there, saw that, did him, and all she got was a dog-eared copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and a great big chip on her shoulder; Betty made canapés, spiked the punch, and was the Best Hostess and all she got was an absent husband, an anti-Semitic but lovable friend named Francine, and a frozen Sara Lee cake from a divorcée’s freezer; Don did a whole bunch of shit that no one really knows about, he could be Batman for all we know, made out with Rachel Menken on a roof, and all Sally Draper got was a guilt puppy, a playhouse, and an empty promise of a pony. Pete got a hot new wife and a roast waiting for him at home. What a lucky bastard. Or maybe not?

My old furniture-dragging neighbors moved out and all I got was a guy who listens to angry girl pop music and grunts loudly while he lifts weights on a Friday night. We’ve all got problems.

Credits. Black and white man jumps off building; his heaven is smoking a cigarette on a couch.

We open in Sterling Cooper. The various extras are looking busy. (Director: “You are busy office people doing busy office things! With purpose!”) We pan over to the blue door labeled PETE CAMPBELL and hear voices and laughter from within. It’s coming from a record player. The Smarmies are sitting around, (“With no purpose!”) listening to Lenny Bruce. I bet Paul brought it. I can’t imagine Harry lugging around anything that would eventually be mentioned with admiration in the lyrics of Rent. They agree that it’s funny, even though he used to be an accountant. Paul says, “Not anymore!” in the kind of defensive tone that reminds us that he is working on a novel. Pete looks thoughtful.

Pete’s adorable and beleaguered red-headed secretary pops her head in to announce that Pete’s wife has arrived and Pete jumps up to greet her. We are finally introduced to TRUDY, who is the greatest, and who is played by Alison Brie, who is also the greatest. “I’m Married” Harry points out that they were sitting in Pete’s office with the door closed with only men, Trudy, only men in here! Nothing but us chickens! Too bad Sal missed it. Trudy naively congratulates them on working so hard. She and Harry make small talk about Harry’s wife, Jennifer, and when oh when is he going to give her a baby so that she has something to do? The Smarmies walk away, and Pete asks if they had a lunch date, preemptively blaming his secretary in case it turns out he forgot something. Well, no, they didn’t, but it is Hildy’s fault because she told Trudy that Pete would be free. In normal person world, this would be a nice thing for a spouse to do, but in this world it means that she is impinging on his early afternoon boozing and titty show attendance. However, Pete, even this early on, knows when he’s beat where Trudy’s concerned, and apologizes and says he thinks it’s great. She’s taking him somewhere to surprise him.

As they turn to leave, up walk Don and Peggy. Pete introduces them both, and Don makes nice and says that she’s a lucky girl. Trudy, “I KNOW!” Peggy: “”¦” Peggy smiles and does a little awkward wave.

Don makes a nice gesture of telling Trudy that the agency couldn’t run without Pete, which makes her beam with pride. I’ve always thought this moment was kind of interesting because Don didn’t really have to do that, and we know that Don doesn’t exactly always take opportunities to lavish praise on his employees when they deserve it, let alone when they don’t really. I can’t quite figure it out, but I assume that it has to do with Don’s ability to play to the crowd he’s aiming for at any given moment. If we view his conversations through that lens, the instances we see when he displeases people, or acts unexpectedly toward them, are all the more poignant. Trudy thinks that Don Draper is, “So nice! Not at all like what I imagined!” and the wry smile Pete gives her, to me, confirms the process of the turning of the little hamster wheel in Pete’s brain that we saw in the previous episode after Don turned on the charm for Rachel Menken. Pete is starting to recognize, and perhaps disapprove of, Don’s ability to manipulate women.

Pete and Trudy’s surprise lunch date location is apartment hunting! They are looking at a gorgeous, sunny, fifteen hundred square foot, two bedroom Manhattan apartment that’s going for $32,000. Excuse me, I have to wipe some mildly hysterical tears from my eyes. Pete doesn’t think they can afford it. Trudy says, “We can get a mortgage!” in a way that precisely hits the excited and adventurous tone of newlyweds who’ve never had to think about things like mortgages in their lives. Pete allows that Trudy is “not very good at math,” but a down payment on this apartment would cost him an entire year’s salary of $3,500. Trudy is essentially like, pssh, money! Money is for spending and making more! Trudy thinks Pete is a silly goose, since they are not on their own in this. She assumes that since they’re just starting out it’s completely reasonable to ask their parents for some assistance in coming up with that kind of cash. Pete looks skeptical.

Back at Sterling Cooper, Paul has changed out of his hipster cardigan and into his suit jacket, and is leading Rachel Menken down the hall. Guys, brain flash: Paul is Bizarro World Mr. Rogers. Rachel is apparently a woman undaunted by awkward rooftop makeout sessions. It probably doesn’t hurt that Don has a couple million dollars of her money, though. It should be noted that Rachel, whom we’ve mostly seen in hot pink and gold, is wearing black in this scene. Don, to his slight credit, looks nervous. Rachel is surprised to run into him, and it becomes clear that Don removed himself from her account and put Paul on instead. Paul takes this cue to get the hell out of that awkward hallway conversation and suggests that Don walk Rachel out.

Don asks how she is and Rachel heads him off at that conversational pass by saying that not only is she fine, but her family is also fine, and yes, the weather has been spectacular. Don starts when she implicitly told him not to, so she asks what he thinks he’s doing. He doesn’t know. That is NOT HELPFUL, Don. Don wonders if they can have lunch. Rachel thinks not, and she’ll see herself out, thanks.

Over in the land of suburban malaise and loaded scene transitions, Betty is reading the kids a story that ends happily ever after. Sally wants to hear it again, but Betty kisses her goodnight. At dusk, Betty is walking the puppy, who seems to be reasonably good on a leash for an ill-advised puppy purchase, but still hello, when you get your daughter an ill-advised guilt puppy we all know who does the walking and the poop scooping, let’s be honest, down their street. Outside of Helen Bishop’s house a man is banging on the door and shouting for her. Betty looks at the sidewalk and tries to hurry unseen past this domestic trainwreck, but the man notices her and calls out, “Miss! Miss! I know you can hear me!” Well yeah, dude, and the fact that she’s still ignoring you should make it abundantly clear that she does not fucking wish to engage with you. He asks to use her phone saying that he’s supposed to see his kids and he knows that Helen is home and ignoring him. Betty says no, and he’s like ARE YOU SERIOUS? Yes, she’s serious, jerk. She says he’s sure he is who he says, but she doesn’t let strange men into her home. You tell him. Betty turns and walks off in the direction she came from, picking up her pace to a slight jog.

Later, the doorbell is ringing and Betty trots down the stairs in one of her many floaty nightgowns. I love the Mad Men nightgowns. Every time I’m in a vintage store I check to see if they have something sheer and floofy and I’ve never found one I like enough to buy. It’s a great tragedy of my life. Anyway, it’s Helen Bishop, who is very sorry and very embarrassed. Betty pretends not to know what she’s talking about. Helen doesn’t have time for suburban WASP games and insists that they talk about it. Betty offers to make her some coffee.

Which Helen apparently accepts because they are sitting on the couch and she is telling Betty that when they were married her husband never saw the kids, and now he says he can’t live without them. She makes a joke about him dying, then has to explain it as a joke to Betty. Betty asks what happened and gets the whole story of how her husband was a big, fat, cheating McCheaterface from Helen, then Betty clarifies that she just meant what happened earlier when he was banging on doors and shouting at strange women. Helen is like, bitch, please I know you all want to know why I got divorced. Betty pleads innocence. Helen says with a little relish that she thinks her ex is madder at her than she is at him, of course her father got a lawyer and hammered the hell out of him, so that might have something to do with it. Betty remarks that she’s always loved that house [unstated: the house you bought with your alimony].

The front door opens and Don walks in and says, “Hello?” kind of awkwardly and heads up the stairs. Betty says that he needs quiet when he gets home because he works so hard. Helen is out of there.

Elsewhere in awkward WASP interactions, Pete is sitting on sheet-covered furniture, clutching an alcoholic beverage like it’s a life preserver, and nodding at his father’s updates on their very WASPy family. His mother says that everything is packed in the trunks, which I suppose explains the sheet-covered furniture. Mama Campbell makes pleasant conversation about their summer home, while Papa Campbell berates Pete for his life choices, undermines his profession, and pretty much says he doesn’t contribute anything worthwhile to society. As a WASP from a long, glorious line of WASPs, it’s all very WASPy. Pete counters that he cannot be expected to explain how business works to his father and changes the subject to the apartment. Mama and Papa C. engage in some #lolwhitepeople debate about how far uptown is too far uptown, but Pete cuts back in that the apartment is quite expensive and asks for help with the down payment. Papa C. says hell no, he doesn’t “think it’s a good idea.” Pete: “You thought it was a good idea to help Bud when he hit that girl on a bike in Montauk last summer. How much did that cost?” Mama C. averts her eyes. Oh, Pete. You have just violated the cardinal rule of WASP Club which is, say it with me, kids: YOU DON’T TALK ABOUT WASP CLUB. Mama C. flees the room.

Papa C. lectures Pete about manners, but Pete isn’t having it. “Why is it so hard for you people to give me anything?” Papa C.: “We gave you everything; we gave you your name. And what have you done with it?” Oh. Well, then. I think we’ve just had Pete Campbell explained to us a little.

Back at Pete and Trudy’s, we get a good shot of the first of many TOTALLY AWESOME Trudy nightgowns. She asks about the visit and if they can help with the apartment. Pete says his father isn’t well, so he didn’t bring it up. Trudy: “What’s wrong with him?” Pete: “Nobody knows.”

Sterling Cooper. Don, Pete, Sal, and a client are in the conference room for Don to pitch. Apparently the guy is from Bethlehem Steel. Don’s concept is that all cities are made of steel, so the ads would be some cool artwork and the idea of, “[City]: brought to you by Bethlehem Steel.” The guy isn’t super sold. He thinks the artwork is too plain. Don offers to throw away the artwork and Sal looks a little offended. The steel dude thinks it makes their product look like the middleman for another product. Because”¦ it is? People don’t drive by billboards and think HEY, I’ll buy some steel today! Don says as much. Don and Pete have a little showdown over the client’s wants and needs. It comes out that the steel dude is not from a city and just doesn’t like the concept. Pete convinces him to stay another twenty-four hours to hear another idea. He offers to take him to see Bye, Bye Birdie, but the steel dude doesn’t like birds either.

Don sends Sal to walk the guy out, and Sal is still a little bristly about the fact that the client compared his work to a WPA poster which “was a respected style–twenty years ago.” Still in the conference room, Pete and Don fight over whose fault that disaster was. Pete insists that he has ideas, but no one listens to him there. “I come here and people keep telling me I’m good with people, which is strange because I’d never heard that before!” Heh. The insinuation is that they’re not using him for what he thinks his skills are, however it remains below the surface that they’re using him instead for his name and his powers of WASPness. Don tells Pete to just do his job, but it’s clear that Pete thinks he’s won the argument.

Back at the Draper residence, Betty answers the phone. It’s Helen Bishop needing a sitter. There’s an amusing cut from Betty cooking all dolled up in her full housewife regalia, and Helen cooking in a slip and curlers and a really pretty slip. I am all about the lingerie this episode, sorry. Helen’s sorry she asked if Betty is making dinner, but she’s supposed to be stuffing envelopes for the Kennedy campaign. Don’t you love it when a woman gets emancipated and political? Betty, Good Neighbor extraordinaire, says she’ll get dinner on the table and be right over. I bet she’s not too sad about getting the chance to go all Behind the Music on Divorce, though.

At Helen Bishop’s, things are kind of a mess, and Glen is practicing the piano loudly and poorly. Helen apologizes for the mess, tells Glen not to wake the baby, and not to iron anything (Betty is like wait, what? Sweets, that was your first clue that the kid is a serial killer in training), and she’s off, promising to bring Betty back some Kennedy literature. Betty and Glen regard each other cautiously.

Pete and Trudy are out to dinner with her parents, who are in complete contrast to Pete’s: warm, supportive, proud, impressed with Pete’s career. Trudy brings up the apartment, and Pete, uncomfortable after the reaction from his own parents, tries to shut the conversation down. Trudy’s dad, whom Trudy’s mom calls “Tomcat,” is thrilled and happy to help. Pete says he’d rather wait until they can really afford it, but Tomcat–I’m calling him that, too–counters that it’s an investment in Pete and Trudy. There’s a whole lot of babybabybabybabywhenareyougoingtomakeababy going on throughout the conversation. Trudy is happy and grateful, but Pete looks ill from basking in this much familial affection. Displays of emotional warmth are to WASPs as sunlight is to vampires–real vampires, not sparkle vampires.

He continues to look ill in the car on the way home. Trudy happily leans on his shoulder and says she knew her parents would help. Pete sullenly says he knows she did. Predictable supportive parents are not a thing with which he is familiar and the whole thing makes him itch. Trudy is confused as to why this is cause for anger. That’s because you’re not really a part of WASP Club, Trudy. Pete doesn’t understand family relationships and says, “It’s a lot of money and I’m not sure what it means.” Trudy is like uh, it means we get the apartment, crazypants? Pete thinks it means her parents get to tell them where to put the furniture, but Trudy says what we already know which is that they’re not like that. Pete says derisively that she always gets what she wants, but Trudy takes it in stride and says she got him. This conversation is just so real and so demonstrative of the fact that having emotional support is a privilege even among the privileged. Pete cannot even begin to fathom an emotional relationship that is not built on layers of subtle undermining and backhanded insults and favoritism, and it’s a mark of her upbeat and almost obnoxiously well-adjusted nature that Trudy can even deal with this product of all that like a reasonable human being. I can say from experience that the same fight with me on her side of the table would have ended with screaming, “ARE YOU CALLING ME SPOILED RIGHT NOW BECAUSE I’M NOT TOTALLY EMOTIONALLY STUNTED LIKE YOU, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE?” and flouncing out of the cab. So congratulations, Trudy, you are a grown-ass lady with about as functional a relationship as is ever seen on this show, and damn, girl, you can wear the hell out of a frilly baby doll nightgown.

Betty and Glen are watching television at opposite ends of a sad-looking couch under one of those truly horrendous metal branch wall sculptures that always seem like a good idea but really are not. Glen peeks out of the corner of his eye at Betty. She says she’ll be right back and gets up to use the bathroom. She takes a peek in Helen’s sink drawers and finds birth control pills. What, like you wouldn’t look? She gets down to the business of hoisting up her frilly layers to go pee when Glen walks in and stares at her. She tells him to get out and he just stands there like the budding creeper he is. She waddles, skirts hoisted, to the door, saying, “Young man, what is wrong with you? This room is occupied!” and shoves him out the door.

When she’s finished her business, she comes back into the living room and turns off the television definitively. She begins to give Glen a lecture on privacy and he just looks sad and creepy. She demands an apology and gets one. She says that’s not the way to behave, and he flails himself off the arm of the couch and clings to her. She says it’s okay, she’s not mad anymore, thinking this is just a confused child of divorce thing instead of a budding serial killer thing. He stares up at her and announces that she’s pretty. Run, Betty. Run far away. She thanks him. “Really pretty,” he clarifies. Really. Run. He asks how old she is, and she says she’s the same age as his mother, then asks how old his mother is. Sneaky, Betty. Helen is 32, Betty is 28. Glen thinks her hair is beautiful and makes her look like a princess. He wants some. SERIOUSLY, BETTY. RUN. She refuses, but Glen begs. She takes pity and snips a little with scissors from a sewing basket and sends him to bed.

After he leaves she falls back into the couch with a facial expression that wrestles with itself and comes out as”¦ pleased? Oh, Betty. That’s really sad and weird and pathetic.

At a bar, Pete introduces the Bethlehem Steel guy to his “cousins.” Cousins, call girls, same difference, right? Ken is there, which means it’s a real party. Steel guy is disappointed because he was informed that Pete’s cousin was a redhead. No, that was his cousin Doris, not Wendy, and she wasn’t available. Well, okay then.

Pete wants to talk about the campaign and pitches a slogan, “Bethlehem Steel: the backbone of America.” His client thinks Don put him up to it, and tells him to get off the clock and enjoy the company that he paid good money for.

Betty is looking at a coffee table book on Italy, which is a nice touch since we know from the previous episode that she spent time there back when she was careless and free, when Helen comes home. Helen asks in a whisper how it went and Betty says it was nice and quiet, except for the voyeurism and the creepertude and the inappropriate interactions with a budding serial killer. Helen gives her the Kennedy for President pamphlet and offers to return the favor sometime. Betty says, “No, please, don’t even think about it,” which is suburban code for yeah, right, like I’m letting you near my children.

Don is asleep in bed with his work in his lap when Betty gets home. We see that he it’s for Bethlehem Steel, and he’s still going with the city idea, but with a different twist. “New York: Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.” I don’t know how well that’s going to go, since the client pretty much expressed that he doesn’t like cities, except for their quality of call girls.

We see that Don’s quick sketch has been translated by Sal and is on an easel back in the boardroom. The steel client confirms my suspicions and says it’s essentially the same concept and he still doesn’t like it. Don tries to explain how it’s different, but the client is only interested in the pitch he heard from Pete the night before. Pete knows he’s in trouble and looks a little panicked/pleased/panicked. Sal voices the thoughts of the rest of the room when he says, “What”¦ backbone idea?” Don reads the client and plays it off like oh, of course that idea, but we all know that Pete is going down in flames in a minute.

After the steel guy leaves, a lot more pleased with New York after being wined and dined and, uh, serviced, Don says, without any enthusiasm, that it was a good idea. Pete thinks he did a great job and Don got the compliment. Don is like 1) that’s how that works; 2) you’re fired. Sal’s face is hilarious, and after Don leaves, he gets the last laugh: “You picked the wrong time to buy an apartment.” I demand more Sal.

Pete walks like a zombie through the clacking typing pool, and into his office where Ken and Harry are hanging out listening to the Lenny Bruce record. Pete orders them out hysterically. He starts stripping out of the collar that must be strangling at this point, and hurls the record out of the office. So much for following your dreams of creativity like Lenny, huh Pete? Hildy barely looks up from her typing. Hildy might be one of my favorite characters. Girl just does not give a fuck.

Roger (Roger, I am so happy to see you!) is reading the paper in his office when Don comes storming in with a good opening line, “Remember Pete Campbell’s last day? It’s today.” He explains what happened. Roger: “That little shit.”

In his office, Pete takes a big swig of whiskey and starts to cry. Of course Pete is, in fact, a little shit, but I challenge you not to feel for him in this episode. Of course, in the hands of any actor less capable and nuanced than Vincent Kartheiser this character would be a disaster, and not in the eminently watchable way that the character already is a disaster.

Betty’s on the psychiatrist’s couch talking about Helen. She thinks Helen’s life is sad and pathetic and that she looks exhausted, though she tries to put on a brave face. Whom are we talking about again? Betty thinks Helen is jealous of her, “I’ve seen it before; I was in a sorority.” I think Helen feels sorry for you, sweetie. Betty says her real concern is the children, well, not so much the baby, but Creeper Glen, whom she refers to as “poor little boy.” “The person taking care of him isn’t giving him what he needs.” Again, whom are we talking about?

Don and Roger head into Bert Cooper’s office, removing their shoes. It should be noted for people who’ve already seen the show that Mrs. Blankenship is TOTALLY THERE. Bert’s got Asian art and a picture of tiny Roger. Cute. Roger announces that they’re firing Pete, and Bert is sorry to hear it. So sorry, in fact, that he says they can’t do it. Bert spins a metaphor about New York City as a finely tuned ticking clock, and says that Pete’s family is incredibly well-connected and firing him would be somewhat disastrous because his mother would badmouth them. He also points out that Pete’s advantage is that he can go places and talk to people who a self-made man like Don cannot. Don is hurt and makes veiled threats to leave. Bert pooh-poohs that and appeals to Don’s sense of pride. Don raises his eyebrows and says thank you. Bert’s like great, all better now, I can get back to filing my nails and whistling “Frère Jacques.” Literally. That is what he is doing.

Pete is drunk, but awake, lying on his couch. His eyes are red. It should be mentioned that his socks are brown and his suit is black. Oh, Pete Campbell. Don and Roger burst in and Pete launches himself up to stand at attention, which is pretty impressive for someone who just downed what we can assume was a considerable amount of liquor. Roger lays down the law, makes it clear that Pete was fired, and credits Pete’s second chance to Don. This pretty adequately demonstrates that though Roger might be kind of a useless party boy, he does understand the way power dynamics need to work in order for the people under him to be efficient and successful. Pete might cry again he is so grateful. Roger brings the whole thing back around to the military metaphor that Pete has been trying to force on his relationship with Don since the first episode. Don’s face is made of stone, but that has to be kind of a blow. Pete takes it all very seriously and announces, “I won’t EVER let you down, Don!” Roger stops on his way out the door, exasperated, “Jesus! Campbell! Don’t ever say that.” I went back and watched that line delivery three times, and laughed every time. They leave, and Pete flops back down on his couch. Pete’s couch is like, “I know, man, I know, but we’ve got some good times left in us together yet.”

At the end of the day in Don’s office, he and Roger muse on the relationship between alcohol abuse and advertising. Don: “That’s the way I got in,” and oh, boy will we see how that is the complete truth in a later season. Roger lectures Don on the right reasons to drink. “We drink because it’s what men do”¦ You all drink like you’re licking some imaginary wound.” Don: “Not all imaginary.” Roger: “BOO HOO.” Roger tells Don not to compete with Pete Campbell for control of the world. “Maybe every generation thinks the next one is the end of it all.” AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH. Don sums it up: “Kids today; they have no one to look up to.”

Pete and Trudy are going over the apartment with their realtor and meeting the head of the co-op board. Tomcat and Trudy’s mom are there, making a few choice babybabybaby comments, but mostly just being enthusiastic and supportive, which has to be like a slow leak in Pete’s stomach lining. It comes out, in the way that it always does, that Trudy’s mom has name dropped the hell out of Mama C.’s family connections to impress the co-op. Trudy babbles on about Pete’s family history, and well-meaning though she is, we see it becoming clear to Pete that his name really is everything he has. He stares out at the city lights as Ella Fitzgerald’s “Manhattan” plays to credits.

By (e)Kelsium

Kelsium lives in Southern California with her partner and collection of almost (almost!) kill-proof plants. She enjoys the beaches, but finds the lack of acceptable bagels distressing. She considers herself an expert in red lipstick and internet rage.

2 replies on “Mad Men: New Amsterdam – Populated by WASPs, Fantastic Lingerie, At Least One Psychokiller in Training”

Overthinking Alert!

I’m rewatching on Netflix, and the money thing drives me crazy, thanks to the Internet and its Inflation Calculators, which tell me that 3500 a year in 1960 is worth just under 25k a year in 2010. Pete Campbell really only made 25k a year?

This also fluctuates wildly from season to season, as in season 2 we learn that Ken makes 300 a week, about 15,600 a year in 1962, or about 110k today, which makes way more sense for an account exec of his age in NYC. Assuming Pete and Ken do comparably, this means their salaries what, quadrupled between 1960 and 62?

Interestingly, we also learn in season 2 that Don makes 950 a week (we see Betty signing his paycheck), or about 49k a year, 350k in today’s money. This seems pretty accurate.

Peggy says in S1 she makes 35 dollars a week, which also seems quite paltry, as that’s like 15k a year in today’s dollars, when the secretary to high-powered exec would probably make a decent living, especially in NYC.

Okay I promise I will stop overthinking now. I also love Trudy’s nightgowns, they are endlessly amazing.

No, dude, I love overthinkers keeping track of this stuff! I don’t have as much trouble believing a salary of 15k for Peggy, because it seems like pretty standard practice to underpay the hell out of secretaries at the time, and she had just started out of trade school. But Pete’s salary makes considerably less sense.

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