Mad Men, Season 3, Episode 8: Souvenir

As usual there are so many things to get into, but I just have to say GO BETTY!!!

She was gone for a while, but the the girl is definitely back  and I like it.  It was strange territory to be in starting from last week – I had gotten so used to Betty’s snivelling and whininess I had near ’bout forgot what she’s like when she’s being a grown-up.  There were hints of this industrious, assertive side of her while she went about her household tasks while juggling Junior League business early in the episode but where she really shines is Rome.

Initially I was skeptical about how interesting watching the Drapers abroad could be, but it was one revelation after another. Betty speaks fluent Italian! She coyly holds her own while men hit on her! She and Don flirt! Throughout the run of Mad Men we have seen what kind of women Don is attracted to, but weren’t given much clues about how his relationship with Betty developed. Finally we see Betty and Don in a situation where she is clearly more confident than he is, and she gets to fully exhibit her poise, independence and savoir faire. Betty in Rome felt like a glimpse into what she once was – before the husband, babies and a gilded cage in Ossining. Now that I finally see what Betty was/is/could be I also find myself in the unfamiliar situation of rooting for her and Don. Their exchanges and behavior toward each other during the trip were sweet and appealing. For the first time ever, I want them to work out.

I know I jumped ahead a bit, but don’t worry – I haven’t forgotten about Henry Francis. Betty allows him to kiss her and when I heard that Don would be out of town for two days I was all set in my mind for a torrid weekend tryst between Henry and Betty.  But contrary to my expectations she opted to accompany Don and the, ahem, enthusiasm, with which she jumped her husband’s bones was surprising as well as sexy. When Betty gets home she seems to want nothing more than to put the whole thing decisively behind her, from the strange looks she gives the fainting couch to her clear annoyance with Francine for her insinuation of a connection between herself and Henry. Perhaps now that Betty knows she’s “still got it” she feels no further temptation toward an affair? In one of the prior seasons Betty and Don are in bed and she tells him that she wants him…that she always wants him. I think that’s true.

And now, a move from curious to outright creepy: Pete Campbell. I should have known that any episode that began with him reading Ebony (wtf?), being strangely friendly with his secretary and buying drinks for everyone was way too good to be true.  As I watched, I didn’t know what to make of Pete’s storyline. Alone in the apartment he seemed at once loosed of all constraints yet also unsure of what to do with himself. At times he seemed even child-like – eating cereal and watching cartoons.  I couldn’t divine his motivations for helping the au pair with the stained dress and was thoroughly shocked at the culmination of events. I always knew Pete was an asshole but now he’s a rapist too? When he arrived at her door the first thing I thought of was how he similarly turned up drunk at Peggy’s door in season one.  And, as if what he did to the poor girl wasn’t enough, the way he swiftly went from apparent guilt to business as usual once Trudy forgave him for infidelity  (not to mention the ease with which she did that!) left me slack-jawed. I must admit I am all out of trenchant analysis with regard to Pete this week  - I need you guys to help me out.

Odds and ends:

- That up-do of Betty’s was ugly. I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

- Poor Joan! I was so  glad to see her, but that little pause before she said “Psychiatry.” and the way her head drooped and she rubbed her temples after she saw Pete broke my heart.

- Betty and Sally: lots to discuss there. As Sally matures and becomes sexually aware what other advice with Betty give her? Also, who has a feeling that she comes by that temper of hers honestly? Betty just doesn’t hit anyone.

Until next time, Arrivederci!

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Alisa

21 comments to Mad Men, Season 3, Episode 8: Souvenir

  • I must say I enjoyed seeing Betty in her element. Lest we forget, remember Betty was a model in Italy for a little while. She stated it a few times in Seasons 1-2, so her speaking fluent Italian can be attributed to that.
    But wow it was amazing to see her flirting, dressing in runway fashions and being aggressive. I can totally see why Don fell in love with her. When she came back home to Ossining, New York, she could no longer be the smart intelligent European jet setter, she was Betty Draper, the housewife and mother to three in boring Suburbia. She needs to be in the city. She is more than capable of holding intelligent, thoughtful, meaningful conversation and is well educated.

    As for Pete, I don’t think that his attentions were at first to sleep with the au pair like I saw on other blogs. I think he was truly being helpful, and the alcohol and his loneliness got the best of him. As for him reading the Ebony magazine, I believe he still wants to learn more about advertising to African Americans, as he do see an untapped market.

    Wow, I was not expecting Joan… she looks quite different, beautiful, but still different with a new hairstyle and a more glam upped look. I felt sorry for her as she had to be exposed to the office motor mouth, who will no doubt spill the beans on her new place of employment.

    All in all, I loved this episode…. maybe because Betty is my favorite character on the show.

  • slb

    re: betty’s hair: no. no, you are not alone.

    i really enjoyed the Joan/Pete scene. he seemed genuinely happy to see her in it and even a little sad for her? (i’m giving him too much credit, probably.)

    also: Vincent Kartheiser did a great job with difficult material (they all do, when they’re given heinous, villainous, obnoxious character activity). but it would’ve been really nice if that storyline wasn’t as choppy and random. i would’ve liked more context (but then, context probably would’ve given Pete the pause required to keep him from embracing his drunken inner rapist).

    i never buy into any romantic, intimate scenes btwn Don and Betty. i just have a hard time finding their attraction to one another credible at this point. it, too, always seems choppy and random. i get that she was using him to sort of work out the sexual tension and empowerment she experienced with the gov’t dude. and i get that he’s using her to pretend he’s in a better place than he is (personally, if not professionally). but it was still odd.

    … speaking of odd, Betty’s sudden driveby parenting was particularly annoying for me. they played it as tender and insightful, but i thought it was too little, too late.

    there’s more, i’m sure, but that’s all i’ve got for now.

  • it’s interesting you single those moments out, because almost every interaction between Betty and Sally this season has been heavy with mutual contempt — remember her essentially telling Sally to sit down and shut up when Grandpa Gene died?

  • I understand where you are coming from, LOL. Betty is definitely not a motherly type person.
    Resent from them being ever present? Yes
    Resent from them being a hurdle in terms of being able to jet set? Yes

    But I do believe that she has some sorta love for them. Its hard to see it sometimes, but its there.

  • I don’t think that convo Betty initiated with Sally was so much about love or parenting as it was about recognition. By a woman recognizing behavior in a young girl who happens to be her daughter. It was as if finally Betty could be a useful mentor, something she could relate to.

  • nichole

    i’m very disappointed in pete. i liked him, despite his assh*le childishness. i wonder if pete would have felt any guilt if ole boy hadn’t confronted him about the au pair crying. i hesitate to say trudy forgave him so much as she just dealt with it, as she is expected to do.

    i really hope the au pair doesn’t become pregnant. two babies from drunken excursions while he and his wife remain childless will take the show to young and the restless status.

    this season seems to be about making us(me) dislike characters we(i) previously liked.

    betty was definitely doing it in this ep, but i felt her harsh switch on don at the end of the ep was a bit unwarranted. however, it kinda falls in line with everyone flipping the script on don lately, so maybe i can accept it.

    i wonder if roger will run into joan, as she shops for his young wife, and offer her a position back at the agency. at this point, i’m not sure how they can bring joan back into the fold more naturally.

    i couldn’t figure out if joan was lying about the psychiatry specialty or if she was pausing because of the significance of her husband choosing a specialty that was not surgical. can someone clear that up for me?

  • slb

    i’m not so sure that cynicism is what drives my reading of the characters and relationships here. but i understand why you’d believe it does.

  • Shayla_B

    I am beyond glad to see Betty realize she still “got it”. That trip did wonders for her remembering what she’s capable of. I’d be an idealist if I were to hope that Don realized it too (who knows). Makes me wonder what she’s gonna do with her resurrected self. I just got an extra sense of “boss-ness” from her when she told Francine “I’m done with that”. And no, you are not alone with despising that hair style. That extra piece of architecture was utterly ridiculous.

    I’ve never really been a huge fan of Pete, but he knocked himself down even more notches messing with that au pair. I don’t know what to be more upset about, Trudy giving him and unsurprising pardon, or that his pseudo-apology went like this: “I don’t want you to go anywhere without me”. I read that as, “this is what happens when I get lonely”. I dubbed him as “Pitiful Pete” in this episode.

    Joan just keeps breaking my heart. I’m rooting for her to figure this out.

  • Well, there’s the time Don tells Ana Draper about Betty. I also think there’s deconstructing the historical period and the general resentments, compromises, lies, and moments of joy that go into a relationship that is separate from whatever constraints Don and Betty face as a suburban, affluent, WASPY couple in the early 1960s.

    I also don’t know why I see something b/w them; I guess I’d say because it seems to be written in there too, but I don’t know much about art/literary criticism, so maybe I’m just projecting that onto the writing?

  • The way you read Don and Betty’s interaction is really interesting to me. Who knows – it could be (and given the dark tone of the show, probably is) true. I was just so enchanted to see them doing something other than sniping at each other, even though all that goodwill evaporated pretty quickly once they got back home.

  • Not unwarranted, but you definitely have a cynical view about the characters on this show! I can see the roots of Betty and Don’s relationship clearly in this show, and it seems like some of that attraction survives to this day, if mashed down by more and more resentment and suburban ennui.

  • I think that their attitude attributes to the fact that they hate being parents I’m not saying that they don’t love their children [its obvious that they do], but some people really don’t want that responsibility. Don is used to traveling and being able to go the places he wants without worrying about other people. Betty loves being chic and fashionable and being able to hobnob with other interesting people. With three kids at home, its hard to party and have fun.

  • it’s obvious they love their children? are we watching the same show?

  • I think they do. Don, with his interaction with both the new baby/Sally when he was trying to make Sally comfortable with the kids. Betty, with her discussion with Sally about boys and “their first kids.” I will admit that they don’t always show their love, they obviously feel affection towards them.

  • Scipio Africanus

    I definitely believe Don does. And I’m more or less convinced that Betty does, too.

  • Scipio Africanus

    Re: Joan and her rapist-husband’s new track, I thing she was being honest and that yes, that was her own disappointment that he won’t be a surgeon.

  • ladyfresh

    betty was definitely doing it in this ep, but i felt her harsh switch on don at the end of the ep was a bit unwarranted. however, it kinda falls in line with everyone flipping the script on don lately, so maybe i can accept it.

    she was back in her prison, you had to know the switch was coming. This episode just made her resentment crystal clear, i think i needed it.

  • What drives your reading of them? I’m curious.

  • their behavior, as written. it’s hard to read sunniness into a marriage built on an assumed identity, infidelities, dishonesty, and resentment. and i don’t think the writers are pointing these characters toward inspirational, hope-filled resolutions.

    i don’t mind that; i’ve always thought that part of the point of this show was to remove the bloom from the rose of this country’s nostalgia about the mid-20th century. Mad Men seems to go out of its way to expose the seedy underbelly of a time we commonly associate with the representations of 1960s professional and family life depicted on programs like The Dick Van Dyke Show.

    because that’s what i’ve always believed was the show’s intention, i tend to read the characters as people who are chained to the conventions of their time and the fates associated with them.

  • ladyfresh

    i agree

    because that’s what i’ve always believed was the show’s intention, i tend to read the characters as people who are chained to the conventions of their time and the fates associated with them.

    I find this deconstruction of the show’s characters, social conventions and general nostalgic ‘historic’ myth absolutely fascinating.

    That said even though the show mainly shows the inimical aspects of these characters and their relationships, i too assumed the romantic and loving relationship was based in…something. I’m not sure where my assumption stems from. It could be that much of the reality of those characters motivations and actions translate into today’s motives. I think most of humanity has this duality of nature for which one aspect or truth of character doesn’t necessarily always completely cancel out the other aspects.

    That said i’m still not sure why i’m certain of don and betty’s love and past romance before this episode.

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