Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mad About the Men: Souvenir

Spoiler Alert. Season 3, Episode 8:

Ahh there’s nothing like those hazy, lazy, crazy dog days of summer to give one permission to, well, act like a dog… but more of Pete Campbell later.

Again, Betty was very much the focus of this episode, in a season that continues to elevate her to new heights of significance (it reminds me a lot of what happened with the character of Claire Fisher in Six Feet Under). Yes, she kissed Henry Francis in a move so predictable as to be almost unworthy of mention. Whatever. I don’t really care. What I DO care about is her little Roman holiday.

I’m not sure how I feel about the repressed female experience of the era becoming so central to the show – at the cost of the actual business of making ads - I haven’t made my decision yet. But throughout this season we continue to learn more about Betty’s untapped, festering accomplishments. Yes she was an anthropology major and yes, she can speak pretty damn good Italian. I loved that line in the kitchen last night, ‘When you don’t have any power, you have to delay things.’ Ouch.

Betty and Don’s trip was a fantastic little device, reminiscent of his trippy sojourn to California last season, it liberated them both from reality, hey there was even a fabulous bit of role-playing in the restaurant scene (let’s take a minute to give thanks for the marvel that was Betty’s hairstyle) It was a literal and metaphorical re-lighting of the flame – note the repeated images of cigarettes being lit this episode.

But God it was sad and for once I actually felt genuine sympathy for Betty, who knew as soon as she stepped foot back in that house, reality would came crashing back down. Her last line of the show was utterly devastating, when Don gave her the Hilton gift shop trinket and she said to him, ‘Then you can have something to look at when I tell the story about the time we went to Rome.’ It was a tear-your-heart-out moment. For Betty it was back to life, back to the kids, back to being partially ignored by her husband, back to motherhood. Glitzy, pointless souvenirs are all that remain when the fun is over. Her speech to Sally about the first kiss only served to reinforce this pathos, ‘it’s where you go from being a stranger to knowing someone.’ And you can’t help but self-complete that thought with something along the lines of, ‘and after that it’s all downhill from there.’

Pete Campbell had himself a little European adventure of his own this week, treading that well worn path to the bedroom of the au pair. I don’t know about you but there is always something so profoundly creepy about Pete Campbell putting on the moves with a woman, slithering through the bedroom door like Gollum.

He gets several bonus points this week though, first for the way he took his shirt off like a four year old when he got home, second for watching cartoons alone, third for offering the au pair a selection of choice German beverages such as ‘Beer, Riesling and Schnapps’ and finally for dropping what is becoming his catchphrase, ‘A thing like that!’ LOVE it. I want to make it into a t-shirt.

But wow, I was blindsided by the way that story arc turned out, Pete in what appeared to be genuine tears on Trudie’s return, begging her not to go away without him again. I’ve always been a strong supporter of Pete, I want to see his character redeemed, and this week he was like a little boy lost begging his mother not to leave him again.

I’ll sign off with a nod to the delightful appearance of Joan. Ah Joan, how we miss thee already. Points also to Pete for not making her feel bad about being in another job as the ‘manager of the republic of dresses,’ he equipped himself well. Joan’s new hairstyle was almost worth tuning in for all by itself.

Line of the week: (mentioned already but worth reiterating) Betty to Don: “Then you can have something to look at when I tell the story about the time we went to Rome.”
Next Week: Let’s get back to the office for some ad fun.

Diligently construed by E. Nolan
Photo by Carin Baer

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