Italy never looked better!
It was nice to get away from Sterling Cooper for a bit…August in New York may be slow and empty, but for the Mad Men kids there is still plenty of drama to be had!
*********************SPOILER ALERT, so for the love of Betty’s magnificent updo and dangerously-sexy Italian make-over, please don’t read any further if you don’t want to know what happened in Episode 8
- Don is now traveling quite a bit for Hilton Hotels, he takes Betty on a two-day trip to Rome
- Betty gets Henry Francis to speak on behalf of the Junior League and their development-halting efforts at a local hearing with the town mayor and trustees. Henry presents a memo, from the Governor’s office, insisting that more research needs to be done. Oh, and at the end of the evening Henry kisses Betty, she doesn’t stop him.
- Pete decides to be neighborly and help out the Au Pair living down the hall–she had ruined one of her employer’s dresses (that she had borrowed without permission). He takes the dress to a department store to exchange it, and runs into Joan, who is now working there. Later, Pete gets drunk and forces a kiss on the nanny, which leads his neighbor to tell him to back off. This all occurs while Trudy is vacationing with her parents.
- Sally kisses Ernie (Francine’s son) and then beats on her little brother for teasing her about it. Carla tells Betty about Sally’s anger issues (and the kiss).
I’m still recovering from that whirlwind trip to Italy, hot! hot! hot! Let’s first discuss Betty… she’s got that Henry Francis in the palm of her hand…but it’s the attention and respect from her husband she so desperately wants. The happiness and satisfaction she felt after the success at the hearing, she was so giddy and confident to speak with Don about something important and worthy, and outside their household. It was interesting how she shared all the details with Don, when he doesn’t tell her anything about his job, but she was able to conceal the kiss she had with Henry (a technique she picked up from Don, perhaps?).
But as we know, Betty’s heightened sophistication and power didn’t stop there–it continued in Italy–which, if I’m not mistaken, I believe that’s where the Drapers went on their honeymoon. She spoke the language fluently, she indulged at the salon, where she emerged looking like a fashion model (which we know she used to be). She was flirtatious and aggressive with Don, it was as if they had gone back in time, before the house in the suburbs and the kids, when they were just newlyweds in Manhattan, madly in love.
And then it was back to reality…and that morning-back-at-the-house scene, with Don heading to work and Betty in a simple summer dress and her hair in a headband, she was so irritated, wiping at her dress and so obviously miserable being back in her kitchen, my heart just broke for her. Italy wasn’t just a romantic getaway for her, it was a two-day delay from her life…
…”When you have no power, delay”…which is what Henry said to Betty after the hearing, and we know it stuck because she repeated it back to Don. At the end of the episode she says to Don that she “hates this place, our friends, this town.” Don giving her the charm from Italy didn’t help things either, the souvenir of another life, another path, a reminder of what she doesn’t have, “then I can have something to look at when I tell the story about Rome.”
And finally, to wrap up Betty, let’s delve into that heart-to-heart she had with Sally, about kisses. I felt like Betty was talking to herself, and Sally was just there to help absorb her thoughts:
Betty: I don’t want you running around kissing boys (which Betty has now done twice, the guy in the bar last season, and of course Henry)...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 are going to have a lot of first kisses. You are going to want it to be special so you remember. It’s where you go from being a stranger to knowing someone. Every kiss with them after that is a shadow of that kiss.
So, what does this mean for her and Henry? It’s like the child in her and the adult in her are wrestling for control…she loves the idea of first kisses, but they also mean something to her, they have significance, it’s more than just being whimsical. Did she convince herself not to let things with Henry move forward? I would guess that based on her conversation with Francine about the water tower, and the possibility of seeking further help from Henry, her quick “I’m done with that” response had double-meaning. Yet, it seems that Henry’s attention gives her confidence, fills that void from Don, and then when she approaches Don she feels more in control. But of course, this is Mad Men, and they are constantly making us guess, so we who knows what that Betty Draper will do?
And speaking of people surprising us, and then not surprising us: Pete Campbell. I was so touched that he was compelled to help out the neighbor nanny. And then of course, the old drunken obnoxious thoughtless conniving Pete Campbell came back. He just can’t pick a side, can he? With Trudy gone, no social life, sleeping in front of the TV, he easily dwindled back into a Pete completely out of control, fueled by loneliness and fear.
One last thing I want to cover: Joan…working in the department store, helping out Pete. She appeared to be composed, and in charge, but we know she was suffering inside–this was not the life she had hoped for. I’m glad they gave us a glimpse of Joan, just to remind us that she’s not gone, but I’m so concerned for her. She’s always taking care of everyone else, making concessions for everyone else…please tell me the Mad Men kids have something good cooking for Joan somewhere down the line.
All right, that’s enough rehashing for now…this Sunday’s episode, “Wee Small Hours” features Betty hosting a fundraiser (so, maybe Henry isn’t bye-bye just yet?).