Mad Men S1E4 – New Amsterdam (aka Sympathy for the Devil)

pete's door Trudy giving the lookHelen and Betty talk around vlcsnap-00046

Why is this episode of Mad Men called New Amsterdam? As near as I can tell, it’s about the surrender of Pete to Trudy. According to my Extensive, Extensive Research it looks like a guy named Peter Stuyvesant was in charge of a Dutch settlement in New Amsterdam. The English came in 1664 and demanded surrender. Stuyvesant threw a tantrum and then gave in. The new governor, Richard Nicholls, “tactfully, shrewdly and to the general satisfaction of the colony’s people” (see here) took over and renamed it New York City. Bert mentions that Pete’s mom was a Dykeman – who were part of the Dutch colony. Trudy tells a story to the realtor about a fight between his greatx4 aunt brawling with a Brit.

So – Pete Campbell, Peter Stuyvesant. Shrewd, bloodless takeover – Trudy handling Pete. Pete’s only valuable because of his name. That’s gotta suck.

Two threads involving women:

  • Trudy Campbell – Pete’s wife – Alison Brie of Community fame – is very smart and knows how to get exactly what she wants. Pete admits as much in the car on the way home from his soul sale at dinner with her parents. She’s a standout among women – throughout the series, though she’s never really cuddly, she never caves in. I’m continually impressed with Allison Brie. When they’re looking around the downtown apartment they can’t afford he says, “I know you’re not good at math, but…” Yeah. She’s pretty good at math, buddy. (Pete +1)
  • Betty Stepfords it up – she didn’t see Helen Bishop’s husband pounding on Helen’s door, nor was she busy with making dinner, nor do she and her cronies wonder why she got divorced, not is Don cheating on her, nor is it weird that Stalker Boy asks her for a LOCK OF HAIR that he curls up in his little paws as he trots off to the bed. This last bit she does because she’s flattered like she’s used to (‘Gee, you’re pretty, lady’) and she doesn’t mention it to Helen when she comes home because, again, Stepford (‘Yeah, your kid walked in on me in the bathroom and then asked for a piece of my hair. He’s probably up there carving a picture of me into the wall with a hunting knife’). She’s 12 emotionally. This is moderated, a little, by her sitting on a shrink’s couch, casting pity for Helen, who actually pities Betty for being naive.

Our Misoginy Comes with a Side Order of Hypocrisy

  • Client from Bethlehem Steel, who is holy except when he uses escorts when he’s in town, doesn’t like big cities, and PRODUCES STEEL and doesn’t like big cities.
  • Betty Draper. “Bathrooms are private. Except when I’m snooping.” Plus everything else she says. She’s strongly contrasted with Helen Bishop, who’s house is ‘dim’, kid is watching TV with no reading at bedtime, a philandering ex-husband making a scene on the porch. Helen always tells the truth.

Keep Don Pete Sympathetic

As I’ve pointed out I find Pete pretty unlikeable. As the camera zooms in on Pete’s door, we realize it’s about him. In this episode we find out, maybe, why:

  1. His new wife works him over ninja-like to get what she wants. (Pete +1)
  2. He’s a creative at heart, apparently, shoehorned into sales, leading to the episode’s best line (below). He knows enough about himself to know why (Pete +1.5 – .5 for the ‘sure, it had already been invented, but I arrived at the idea independently’ which so clearly expresses that feeling)
  3. His dad’s cold, who doesn’t think Pete works because he’s always schmoozing. As it turns out, looking at #2, Pete doesn’t think he’s always working either. This is driven home as he introduces two escorts to his Upstanding Wholesome Client who wanted the redhead he had last time. His dad is right in the end, his name does save him.
  4. His wife convinces her parents to help with the downpayment, and then he’s literally in debt to his father in law. “I’m making an investment in you”, his father-in-law tells him. (Pete +1)
  5. As he finds out that one of his new neighbors is a friend of his in-laws, the ball, chain, and anchor all cinch around his ankle. (Pete +1)
  6. He almost gets fired. Then he owes Don. (Pete +1)

Total – Pete +5. That should last a couple of episodes.

Don’s DameDon and Rachel

Still Rachel Menken. She’s mourning in black when they awkwardly meet in the hall. He tries to get her to commit without his committing. She sees through it.

Don’s Dark Past

Don bitesWe don’t know who Don is. We learn, eventually, as Don learns to accept it. In this episode this comes up as Don tries to fire Pete and can’t, which emphasizes (probably re-emphasizes) that he’ll always be limited in some way because he grew up poor, even though his work is solid. Bert has an old photo with Roger on his lap. The club. Roger’s great speech about why he drinks is oblivious to his never having to worry about making it day to day, and where he makes it a generational thing, it might be a class thing, which is why Don kicks him in the shin. He has a mean face he puts on when he bites people.

Memable Line

And then I get to this place, and you people tell me I'm good with people. Which is strange, because I'd never heard that before.

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