The season premiere of Mad Men was great for a lot of reasons. We got to see Don Draper and Neve Campbell flirt on an airplane, Freddie Rumsen was back puppeting pitches and eating delicious sandwiches, Roger was butt-naked in a hippie den using a telephone as underpants, all of it, just wonderful. But the most interesting part of the whole episode, for me, was our brief introduction to the new orange-picking, affectionate, California version of Pete Campbell. I mean, look at him up there. I’ve watched that GIF for something like an hour since Monday morning, and that pace shows no sign of slowing. It’s so … confusing to me. And hilarious. Oh Lord, is it hilarious. I’m not even 100% sure why. Maybe it’s the way he walks. Maybe it’s his sweater. Maybe it’s the fact that Pete has gone full California at breakneck speed. Maybe it’s all of it. I really don’t know.
But the important thing is this: I have lots of questions. Let’s get started.
Have you ever seen Pete Campbell so happy?
Have you ever seen anyone so happy?
Doesn’t that seem a little … odd for a guy who found out just a few months earlier that his mother went ass over tea kettle into the ocean after secretly marrying her gay shyster caregiver?
Do you think there’s a slim chance that he and Manolo were in cahoots, behind Bob Benson’s back, to off his mom, in a plot that gave Manolo whatever meager assets she still had, and freed Pete from the obligation of caring for her?
You could see Pete doing this, right?
If his happiness isn’t due to a horrible plan involving matricide by proxy coming to fruition, as much as I understand that moving across the country to open a new office of a successful marketing firm in a sunny paradise where you can put cole slaw RIGHT ON YOUR SANDWICHES could have had a kind of soul-cleansing effect on him, especially given the hell and ass-whuppings he’s been through over the past few years in the Big Apple, shouldn’t Pete chill out a bit?
Would you buy a t-shirt with a picture of Pete Campbell wearing that outfit on the front with “CHILL OUT, PETE” in huge block letters underneath it?
If so, do you know anyone who works at the corporate offices of Spencer’s Gifts?
Do you think people have started calling him Pete “Hollywood” Campbell?
Do you think he asks them to call him that?
Do you think he slips waiters a crisp $20 before important business dinners and tells them to call him Hollywood in front of everyone as he goes on and on and on to his New York guests about how wonderful Los Angeles is, as though it’s a foreign planet and not a common travel destination for high-powered business types?
He does, doesn’t he?
Do you think it’s been working?
Or do you think it’s so obvious and everyone sees what he’s trying to do, and whenever they actually do call him Hollywood they do it while making a dismissive wanking motion with their hand in such a way that everyone else within earshot can see?
Do you think, when he sees this, Pete starts pouting and throwing a mini-tantrum before insulting their inferior bloodlines and storming out?
How much do you think Ted hates working in that little office with him?
Like, does Pete walk in every morning with his stupid new California wardrobe on and take a big self-satisfied breath and announce what a “beautiful, California day” day it is with that stupid Pete Campbell face that Pete Campbell always makes?
If he does, and you know he does, does it make Ted just want to SCREAM?
Do you think Ted calls Cutler back in New York and begs him to have those speed injections mailed across the country so he can jab them into his own butt cheeks until he gets higher than a zeppelin and stops caring about anything?
Or do you think they get along, somehow?
Hey, remember that time I wrote like 800 words about how much I want to see Pete Campbell get eaten by a bear?
Do you know what’s on the California state flag?
I mean, that has to mean something, right?
It’s like Chekhov said, if you introduce a dumb idea about a bear eating a fictional character on a popular television show, and then that show up and moves him to a state that has a bear on its flag, he has to get eaten by a bear, you know?
How many more times do you think I have to link back to that post and write sentences with “Pete Campbell” and “eaten by a bear” in them before Google starts auto-filling the second part every time anyone tries to search for his name?
Assuming, just for the sake of argument, that Pete Campbell doesn’t get eaten by a bear (there’s another one), how do you see this whole California adventure playing out for him?
Do you think he’ll be able to maintain this elevated sense of happiness for the rest of his life?
Or do you think it’s just short-term euphoria about being free of his East Coast chains and able to start dressing like the sweater-slinging tool he was always meant to be?
Do you see him crashing in five years and ending up as a 40-year-old burnt-out beach bum, living in a little shack near Venice, smoking weed by himself and muttering about how all of life is a lie anyway?
Ugh, Pete, right?
Remember in Blow how Johnny Depp’s character was just kind of hanging around smoking weed in California and then one thing led to another and he became one of the world’s most notorious cocaine kingpins?
What if that happens to Pete?
What if he starts wearing sunglasses all the time, and white suits with brightly colored shirts unbuttoned to the nipple exposing huge gold chains?
Would you watch a Mad Men spin-off about this titled Pete Campbell: Cocaine Gringo?
CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE HOW INSUFFERABLE PETE CAMPBELL WOULD BE ON COCAINE?
Wouldn’t he get murdered after like, one, day of being a drug lord?
Or do you think he’ll stay legit and un-bear-mauled, and ride the success of Sterling Cooper & Partners West to a comfortable, idyllic lifestyle?
Given what we know about Pete, he’ll probably move out of Los Angeles and into fancy suburban area at some point, right?
Couldn’t you just see him at age 50 sitting in the bar of an exclusive Orange County country club, sipping a screwdriver and telling all the 20-year-old waitresses about his adventures in New York with ad men living under assumed identities?
In fact, couldn’t you see him marrying one of those 20-year-old waitresses as a trophy wife at some point and starting a second, horrible, entitled little late-in-life family with her?
His kids would definitely go to the Harbor School from The O.C., right?
Wait a second. Pete will turn 50 somewhere around 1985. If he starts having kids with his new girlfriend around then… and they have a son before they get married and the baby keeps its mother’s name… and Pete gets into real estate… and he ignores his son and lets him grow up to be a lying little weasel… do you think?
DO YOU THINK PETE CAMPBELL COULD BE THE FATHER OF NOTED LYING WEASEL OLIVER TRASK FROM SEASON 1 OF THE O.C.?
I mean, I know I’m really, really stretching things, but it’s a possibility, right?
And wouldn’t it explain so much?
Like, if I walked up to you on the street and said, “If both shows existed in the same universe and I could finagle the timelines to make it work, would you believe that Pete Campbell could be Oliver Trask’s dad?” you would totally say yes, wouldn’t you?
Hoo boy, that was a looonnnnnng walk just to get to that stupid joke, huh?
You do realize that’s what happened here, yes?
Hey, what do you think it would look like if I looped that one five-second GIF at the top of the page over and over and over and set it to the theme song from The O.C., “California” by Phantom Planet?
Yep. Worth it.