I have blog friends, work friends, and of course the work-friends-in-law: work friends of the spouse. Food and drink is part of the package: I join my friends for coffee, happy hours, dinners. Food is an important part of friendship. But it is not always clear to me in Signal 30 who is serving what to whom, or what friendship has to do with it.
Lane corrects his wife’s perception of a friendship: “They’re your friends, and recent ones at that.” Later, after a great experience watching the World Cup Final in a pub, he is more willing to accept the label. “I’ve begun a bit of a friendship,” he admits to his colleagues.
The word comes up again as Don tells Megan to call “your new best friend Trudy Campbell” and cancel their dinner plans. She refuses. “If you want to tell her, you call her.”
Later, Roger gives Lane a tutorial in using friendship to make a sale. It all starts with dinner: “Smile, sit there like you’ve got no place to go, and just let him talk.” Roger suggests that Lane wait for vulnerability to emerge in his dinner partner, then “pounce” on it. By then, he says, “You’re in a conspiracy. The basis of a, quote, friendship.”
As Megan and Don prepare for dinner at the Campbells’, Megan brings it up again. “You don’t think there’s any chance you could have a conversation with another couple as friends?” Forced into doing exactly that, Don makes small talk about country life, work, and the fridge in the garage. He’s trying to make himself comfortable at the dinner party — jacket off, sleeves rolled up — but failing, until a leak in the kitchen gives him something to do.
In the city, Lane tries to follow Roger’s advice, looking for hints of weakness in his dinner partner. Hearing that Edwin Baker spent time in North Africa, Lane tries, “I’ve heard men talk with dark permanence of those years.” “Best of my life,” his new friend shoots back. Slippery guy, Baker: talk of neither the war (“Britain at its best”), nor marriage (“I haven’t a complaint in the world”) can open him up.
The next friendly dinner goes to Pete, Roger, and Don. They give Edwin — the firm’s new “friend” — the full SCDP treatment, starting with lobster before heading to “a party” around the corner. Plenty of new friends there.
“What happened to your friend?” Roger says to one of the working girls. “What about your friend?” Pete’s girl asks, meaning Don. When the madam approaches Don, drinking alone at the bar, he tells her he’s “just waiting for my friends.”
Are these men Don’s friends? Pete for one wants that to be true. He glowed when Don showed up for his dinner party: “I’m not gonna pretend it’s not a big deal to us that you came out.” But he is less ready for the business end of friendship. Real friends see each other for who they are, but Pete feels less seen than judged. “I have it all,” he mocks himself quietly, before turning his bitterness on Don. “Just wait till your honeymoon’s over.”
Don knows all too well where this is going. “Roger is miserable. I didn’t think you were,” he says pointedly. “I am who I am, and I’ve been where I’ve been. You don’t get a second chance at what you have.”
It’s possible some of this friendly advice sinks in. Later, after an in-office beatdown from another colleague who had considered him a friend, a chastised Pete meets Don in the elevator. Calls him “virtuous.” Could not be more wrong.
Pete regrets fighting Lane, but he’s still angry. He is angry at his colleagues, but with little left to feed that anger, he finally feels something else.
“We’re supposed to be friends,” he says softly. “I have nothing, Don.”
Don — Pete’s friend, like it or not — listens, and says nothing.