Monday, March 9, 2015

Mad Men Season 3, Episode 8: Souvenir

It's August in New York and most people head out of town.  But not Pete Campbell, he's loves the hot, sticky month when everyone else leaves and he can stay and enjoy the quiet.  You know it's hot, not just from the thin line of sweat on the Drapers, nor the oscillating fan that clearly appears to be in over its head.  No, it's the fact that for once Don had a hair out of place.  He goes out in the street to watch his kids catch fireflies, a lovely family moment if you don't focus on the fact that Betty is working on the petition that she hopes will bring her in contact with Henry Francis once again.

Don has been traveling quite a bit for Conrad Hilton, his last trip to Dallas (which will be a significant city in the country's history later this year, but in August of 1963 it's apparently not an exciting destination).  While Betty is making calls to stop the water tower, Don gets a call from Connie's office.  Another trip.  This time to Rome. Even though it'll be  whirlwind two-day trip, with no time for sight-seeing, it still sounds glamorous to Betty.  Don suggests she come, but with a two-month-old Betty demurs.

Pete is enjoying his time alone, listening to music, watching TV, eating on the couch, when he bumps into his neighbor's very attractive au pair who is crying at the garbage chute (she damaged her employer's dress and is trying to hide the evidence).  He is just like a Boy Scout, ready to offer the damsel in distress some help.  And I"m sure if she looked like Mrs. Doubtfire, he would have been just as interested in helping her.

Speaking of Boy Scouts, Henry Francis swoops in during the City Council meeting to help Better and her fellow members of the Tarrytown Junior League.  Betty's eyes light up when she sees Henry there and she visibly blossoms as he makes his presentation.  Betty's friend Francine notices the spark between them.  There is so much sexual tension between the two of them, but Betty is married, Henry is a quasi-public figure, and this is the early Sixties.  So nothing will happen.  They innocently walk to her car, she gets ready to go, and he leans in and tells her that he saw how happy she was during the meeting and he asked himself, "dear god. did I have anything to do with that? Because that would make me happy."  Then he kisses her and she kisses him back.  After a line like that, who wouldn't?

Betty goes home to her husband and three children and she's still overcome with excitement about the night.  Don recognizes that Betty is in a particularly good mood and she tells him all about her big victory and even does a little victory dance.  He's impressed with her sudden political savvy.  Perhaps feeling guilty, perhaps hoping to rekindle her feelings for Don, that night Betty changes her mind and tells Don that she wants to go with him to Rome.

Pete goes to a local department store to get a replacement dress for the cute/sad nanny next door.  His little (for now) innocent indiscretion takes a backseat to the more shocking sight - Joan is now working there.  Last thing the Sterling Cooper family had heard, she was off to live the life of luxury as the wife of the new head of surgery.  They have no idea that she was in no position to quit her job.  Since neither she nor Pete really want anyone else to know their secret, they dance around the fact that each of them is lying and they make a sort of pact not to let this meeting go any further.

Don and Betty are in Rome and look like something from a Hitchcock movie - she's any one of his icy blondes, Don is Cary Grant.  They are the beautiful people.   Betty comes from the hair dresser looking like a movie star and is immediately propositioned by some Italian men.  She spurns their advances and Don comes over, pretends to be a stranger, and she lets Don join her (even though the Italians claim he is old and ugly) and they flirt like strangers until Connie comes over to be wowed by Don's Barbie wife.

It's hard to reconcile the woman who's been flirting with Henry Gale with the vision of domestic tranquility who stands before her husband, full of pride and sparkling with affection.  She's clearly proud of Don, how successful he is, how he has someone like Conrad Hilton impressed.  And Don, while joking about how tiny she is when she takes off her shoes, is also not the annoyed husband with the wandering eye, but is enchanted by the Betty he sees in Rome - the Venus de Milo who speaks Italian and has all the men drooling in various languages.  I suppose this is why they say Rome is for lovers.  Too bad they can't stay in Rome.

Back home in Ossining, Sally - who earlier in the episode was mirroring her mother as she applied her make up - is again playing Betty, this time while sitting in a pretend sedan with Francine's young son Ernie, who (unbeknownst to him) is playing Don.  Sally leans over and kisses him.  Ernie is at the "ew, girls" stage and not happy about the kiss and Sally's little brother Bobby sees the whole thing unfold.  Being the little brother, he of course starts to tease her but Sally is not in the mood.  She tears into him and lucky for Bobby, Carla comes in and breaks them up before Sally can do any real damage.  Sally has quite the temper - and she's a liar as well (claiming Bobby hit her first).

While the cat's away, the mice do play.  Trudy is away on holiday, so Pete goes over to the nanny next door and presents her with the brand new dress. He's hoping for a suitable thank you, but instead finds out she has a boyfriend and will not be repaying him for solving her dress problem.  Pete goes back home and stews on his rejection for a while then drinks himself tipsy and goes back over to the nanny so she can properly show him her appreciation for taking care of the dress.  He kisses her and we switch back to the Drapers...

Who are waking up in the same romantic bliss in which the ended the night.  The stiff, prickly Betty is gone as is the aloof Don.  Today, they are the only two people in the world.  Which only makes their abrupt return to real life that much more startling.  Carla standing at the door, holding the baby, with news of Sally's temper smack the Drapers in the face with what they left behind when they were in Rome. But the next morning, as Don tenderly kisses Betty behind, it seems the bloom is still on the rose.

We don't know what else happened between Pete and Gertrude the au pair, but we do know that whatever happened left the young girls in tears.  Her employer comes over to have a word with Pete (who unsuccessfully tries to pull the "I don't know what you're talking about" card).   He encourages Pete to stay away from his nanny and if he must cheat while his wife is away, do it with someone else.   That shouldn't be an issue, at least not until Trudy's next vacation, as she is back from the beach the next day.  And who does she happen to run into but the neighbor's red-headed children and their young au pair?

Trudy gets frisky with Pete, but he's not interested.  Guilt?  Fear?  Trudy reads his reluctance differently, telling Pete that he gets a melancholy look whenever he's around children.  Pete is overcome with guilt and leaves suddenly. Later at the dinner table he doesn't confess, but he does tell Trudy that he doesn't want her going off again without him.

Betty also seems to be overcome with guilt as she looks at the couch that reminds her of Henry Francis.  She tells her friend Francine that she's done asking him for favors.  It seems that Betty, like Pete, has rediscovered her love and fidelity towards her spouse.  But as the Drapers go to bed, Betty is upset.  She wants to be back in Rome, just the two of them, no friends/neighbors/kids (well, maybe Gene could visit).  She misses who she was, who they were as a couple and the small souvenir Don presents her with only reinforces that the two-day vacation was just a dream and that this life is what's real.  And Betty is not happy in this life.


Very little time spent at Sterling Cooper this episode, consistent with the theme of "August in New York."  We don't see Roger, Bert or Peggy and the only client discussed is Hilton.  The episode focuses more on the parallel stories of Pete's roving eye and Betty's attempt to ignore the temptation to seek love from someone other than her husband.

There is a nod to the past in the exchange between Joan and Pete in the department store.  When they both realize that the other has a secret they'd like to keep, Joan says "this never happened."  This harkens back to Ep. 2.05, when Don visits Peggy (in flashback) in the hospital he tells her to forget all about the baby and put it in the past with those three words.   Pete repeats the refrain to the nanny.

The song played at the end is "There's a Small Hotel" written by Rogers and Hart in 1936.


Ken: Still working, Campbell? There's no reason to show off.  Cooper's in Montana, Sterling's in Jane - And Draper's on vacation.

Pete: Why is it that a man on his own is an object of pity, when she's the one you should really feel sorry for? 

Ken: New York in August? It's like a great big melting wax museum.

Henry: Well, I think you'll find that I put my heart into things when something's important to me.
Or someone.

Pete:  Let me speak to the manager.
Saleswoman: Of the entire store? 
Of the republic of dresses-- Whoever can help me with this, because you're falling short.

Connie: By golly, you are an indecently lucky man.

Betty: And you don't kiss boys.  Boys kiss you.  The first kiss is very special.
Sally:  But I already did it. It's over.
Betty:  You're going to have a lot of first kisses.  You're going to want it to be special, so you remember.  It's where you go from being a stranger to knowing someone. And every kiss with him after that is a shadow of that kiss.

Spoilery Observations (Don't read until you're caught up):

When Joan and Pete are having their awkward discussion at the department store, Joan asks him how things are at the office and he quips, "Moneypenny hasn't self-destructed but I think it's only a matter of time."  Of course, he was correct, Lane Pryce would eventually self-destruct, so this was a big piece of foreshadowing.

Betty tells Don that Conrad Hilton adores him, and it certainly does appear that way.  But this will only make his disappointment and anger at Don that much harder for Don to take.  Another father figure to hurt him.

One of Betty's best lines of the series comes in Season 7 when she says, "I'm not stupid.  I speak Italian."  Here we first get to see what she learned when she went to Italy after college..

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