Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mad Men - Souvenir, or Kisses from Rome

This week's episode was a case study in two relatively minor characters: Betty and Pete. While Betty saves the town reservoir and flits around Rome looking fabulous, Pete coerces a German au pair into sex, then feels really bad about it.

Let's start with Betty. This episode, she was all about using her lady powers, which is something I've always strongly endorsed, especially on Mad Men. After Harry from the governor's office helps her exacerbate government bureaucracy, she rewards him with a lingering kiss. But Betty was so uncomfortably during the whole thing, you could almost hear her counting out the seconds until it was safe to pull away. She gives him the cold shoulder, and drives home to her newly loving husband and increasingly disobedient kids. What to do? Fly to Rome, of course! There, Betty has a fabulously mod makeover, complete with bouffant, and her and Don play the "first date" game. For those of you not in long term relationships, it's sometimes fun to pretend to be strangers in a public place and relive the ritual of hooking up for the first time. What? Don't judge me.

Meanwhile, back in New York, Trudy is out of town for the August vacation (which, apparently, was a given in the 60's? Ah, nostalgia) and Pete is living the bachelor life. While this mostly consists of watching cartoons and falling asleep on the couch, Pete then picks up the German au pair next door by offering to replace a stained dress that the au pair borrowed from the lady of the house. At the department store, Pete runs into Mrs. Joan Harris (hooray!), who is just as fabulous and well-coiffed. Joan knows that the dress isn't Trudy's, and Pete knows that Joan doesn't want anyone from Sterling to find out she's downgraded to dress sales manager, so they reach a detente of mutual silence.

Pete then uses the favor he's done for the au pair to coerce her into sex. This scene was creepily parallel to the premiere, where Pete pulled the almost exact same moves on Ms. Peggy Olson. But, for some reason, after this new dalliance, Pete feels awful and confesses to Trudy. Well, not a real confession, but a 60's confession, where they both know and stare awkwardly at each other.

Even though Peggy wasn't in this episode, I found myself thinking a lot about the relationship of Pete and Peggy. I've never bought her interest in the slimy bastard, but he's always been smitten with her. I suppose it's easier for Pete to admit to a stupid one-night stand that resulted from loneliness than a full-blown love (and love child!) for another woman. I'm interested to see if Pete has learned his lesson and will stick to his own pastures, or if he'll follow Don's mold of temporary repentance, only to sin again.

Back to the Roman holiday. Like all other good and sexy things, the vacation ends, and the two find themselves trapped back in Ossining, facing the same crap they did before they left. Don handles this by distancing himself from the house, both physically and emotionally. Betty, however, must pick up the pieces and deal with her humdrum life, especially Sally's new aggressive behavior toward the little boys in the neighborhood, and I don't mean her penchant for punching.

In a rare moment of earnest parenting, Betty sits Sally down and explains, in her way, the importance of chastity. First kisses are important, she says, but you'll have a lot of them. Save them for someone who's worth it, because each subsequent kiss is a shadow of the first. Pretty heady stuff for someone under ten, but a worthwhile lesson. Betty is revitalized by reenacting her first kiss with Don, and Pete is punished for a highly inappropriate first, and hopefully last, kiss. The lesson? Use those kisses wisely, folks.

Bonus: Bert Cooper is vacationing in Montana! Who doesn't want to see a clip of that next week? He seems like the kind of guy who'd go to Bozeman, but we'll see.

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