Mad Men, "New Amsterdam": losing face gracefully [Key Series Moments]

As we wait for the arrival of Season Five, currently scheduled to premiere in early 2012, stay tuned to TV Geek Army all summer long to get your Mad Men fix. Here we take a look at a key series moment from Season One, Episode Four: “New Amsterdam.”

new amsterdam

“New Amsterdam” is a departure in focus from the first three episodes of Mad Men’s first season in that for the first time the focus is largely on other characters besides Don Draper. We spend a lot of time with Pete Campbell and get to meet his new wife Trudy for the first time as well as both Pete and Trudy’s parents (who could not be more different from one another). And we also see Betty getting more involved with the (hair) affairs of Helen Bishop and her son, Glen. It’s an episode that further fleshes out the culture, society, power dynamics, and unwritten rules that govern life in a particular slice of society in New York City in 1960.

The building tension between Don and Pete throughout the early going of the first season comes to a head in a major way during this episode. The boiling point comes in the wake of a follow-up meeting with Walter Veith of Bethlehem Steel. Pete had broken the rules by pitching Walter on a campaign while wining and dining him (and more) the night before on the concept of Bethlehem Steel as “The Backbone of America.” Walter loved it and subsequently dismissed Don’s pitch for American cities to be portrayed as “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” back in the office at Sterling Cooper.

After Walter leaves, Don is fuming but of course Pete can’t help pressing his short-term win. “You know what I think? I think I did something good and you got the compliment for it,” he says. Don then retorts with one of the great lines written for an office drama: “Listen, Pete. I need you to get a cardboard box and put your things in it. Okay?”

It’s only Bert Cooper who saves Pete’s job, not on the basis of Pete’s merits at all but merely because his name (which ties in the Campbells and Dykemans, the latter of whom date back to the pre-Revolutionary War history of New York City) carries so much weight within the old money and old boys’ clubs and power centers around town.

Roger Sterling uses this opportunity to perform a deliriously funny and astounding power move in which he both scares Pete straight back in line and allows Don to save face. “I wanted you out,” he tells a now chastened Pete. “Cooper wanted you out. And you would be if it wasn’t for this man [indicating Don]… he fought for you.” And then for good measure: “This man is your commanding officer. You live and die in his shadow, understood?”

By Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader"

About the author

Eric is the publisher and revered leader of TV Geek Army… at least in his own mind. TV Geek Army is a place for serious TV reviews and news for serious fans of great television. Contact: eric-[at] 

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