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Mad Men: Souvenir - Review

"You don't kiss boys, boys kiss you." - Mother of the year Betty Draper to little Sally.

After all the explosive happenings on the last two episodes of Mad Men there had to be some sort of let down, right? Wrong. Oh, how wrong. Even though the show didn't have any real "ah, ha!" moments it did comfortably settle into what makes this show great. Blank stares, people sleeping and characters being lonely and sad. Oh wait, I meant to say morally conflicted characters, deep introspective moments and sleeping.

When the season is over people may think that "Souvenir" was a throw away episode but in reality Matthew Wiener is laying the extensive groundwork for what's to come. Tonight he gave us more of Betty's immaturity, Sally growing violent tendencies, Pete's humanity (or lack thereof) and most importantly that Don is trying very hard to be a good husband and father. Too bad Betty doesn't see it that way. There were lots of smash cuts in this episode, so much in fact that for a moment it seemed that large parts of the show were montages. That's not a bad thing though. This episode was amazing but even more than that it only spent a few seconds at the office. No Roger, Peggy or Sal and only limited Joan and the guys. Wow.

On to the review and recap . . .

The episode starts with Pete in full on creepy mode as the guys are forced to work in August while Cooper is in Montana, Roger is in "Jane" and I assume Lane is off on vacation spending his money while Don is in Dallas being Conrad Hilton's lackey. Pete is living the bachelor life wrestling with his shirt and Betty is cold calling the neighbors for the Junior League. Don is trying to stay cool when Connie Hilton's office calls and wants Don to go to Rome for a couple of days. Betty gets agitated at the news so Don invites her to come along but she declines, for now.

Pete, sans Trudy (who is probably out at the Hamptons with her family) decides to take the trash out (first time for everything) when he runs into the bodacious German Au pair, Gertrude, who works next door. She's crying over the garbage shoot because she spilled red wine on the lady of house's dress. In a panic she tries to throw it away but sneaky Pete convinces her to give it to him to try and fix. Pete's incapable of doing something for someone with expecting something in return so you have to really question his motives.

At the Draper house, Betty totally ignores Sally as she is getting ready for the town meeting to present their petition for against the reservoir. Once at the meeting the Mayor played by Neidermeyer himself, Mark Metcalf, doesn't want to hear about any petition until Henry Francis swoops in with a recommendation to redo the study signed by Governor Rockefeller himself. This pleases Betty immensely as Francine looks suspiciously at her. Henry walks Betty to her car and even kisses her but she retreats into little girl mode and drives away very proud of herself. Betty enjoys being pursued and kissed as she explains later to Sally of all people. Cast another vote for that Mother of the Year award!

Full of herself, Betty tells Don they won the battle and she does a little happy dance which was slightly like the twist. Hmm, it's kinda weird to see Betty happy. Her victory over the reservoir and the kiss from Henry makes her want to go and have fun in Rome so she wakes Don up in the middle of the night to tell him she wants to go. For the first time in awhile she actually feels good about herself and she doesn't want that feeling to go away. Besides she must know that Don will get into all sorts of trouble by himself all alone in Rome.

Sneaky Pete goes to the department store to see if he can exchange the dress and when he doesn't get the answer he was looking for from the sales girls he asks to speak to the manager. Out pops the ever sexy Joan who is mortified that Pete sees her there. Anxious to get him out as quickly as possible Joan arranges an exchange but inspects the dress first. Now it's Pete's turn to be anxious because it's clearly not Trudy's size and he starts to mumble implausible reasons why Trudy would have a dress too big for her. Joanie is way too smart for this and it's obvious she realizes he's up to no good especially when he tells her to keep it discreet. After he leaves Joan has a look of profound sadness that is heartbreaking.

Smash cut to the Drapers arriving in Italy where we learn that Betty speaks fluent Italian. Let's see; she is educated, intelligent, was a model AND speaks Italian. No wonder she's bored and unhappy, right? Connie calls when they get up to the room and invites them out to dinner in his smarmy style. The more screen time Connie gets the more I profoundly dislike him, but I digress . . . They sleep and when Betty wakes she schedules a beauty parlor appointment to get that amazing do. We then have a quick cut to establish that Francine is leaving her kids with Carla which is important info for later. Later that night the Drapers plan the old "pickup the hot stranger" role playing game as Betty, looking very much like Twiggy sashays in a very sexy dress and a work of art hairdo to an outside table with the stereotypical greasy Italians ogling her. Not knowing that this gorgeous model speaks Italian they begin to talk dirty and of course she eats it up. Don comes over in fine Italian silk and plays the pickup game effortlessly which causes the other guys to hurl insults at him in Italian. Betty responds to Don much to the disgust of the Italians (who leave) until Connie comes up and is nearly left speechless over Betty. After dinner they go back up to the room for some passionate love making. The next morning Betty declines an offer to join Connie for breakfast and her and Don make some morning love. Can this save their marriage?? Don't count on it.

Meanwhile, Sally is playing (fully clothed) in the tub with Francine's boy Ernie when she tries to kiss him. Bobby see this and starts teasing her and Sally leaps out of the tub and starts going all prison yard on him. Carla comes in and stops Sally from beating up her brother but you gotta think that all that bad parenting is really turning Sally into a budding sociopath. I can imagine what she'll be like when she's a teenager. Ouch.

Sneaky Pete triumphantly returns to Gertrude with the replacement dress and of course he wants to have sex with her. Though very thankful for saving her job she declines and tells him she has a boyfriend which sends a disappointed Pete on his way but she makes the big mistake of kissing him first. He leaves until he gets drunk later, knocks on her door and has his way with her. It's obvious by the look on her face that she is only consenting because she's afraid of being deported. Leave it to sneaky Pete to take advantage of girl on a work visa. Just when you think he is slightly human he does this. Later on the neighbor that employs the German Au pair visits Pete to tell him to keep his junk out of the building. It was pretty disconcerting to see this guy condone this as some twisted "man code" especially since there was so much crying involved.

When Don and Betty get home Carla tells them what Sally did and Betty is pissed. I thought it was pretty ironic that Betty yelled at Sally about controlling her temper. Oh, no she didn't! Sally apologizes to Bobby and when Don leaves for the office he doesn't even acknowledge there's an issue. Typical. Betty is back to being the ice queen with Don and when he leaves the look of disgust on her face was alarming. Why does she stay with him if she really despises him that much? It's pretty painful to watch her be so miserable and such a lousy mother. She'll really showcase her motherly skills at the end of the episode.

Trudy finally comes home and is feeling pretty frisky but Pete is clearly bothered not so much by what he did but that he was caught by someone. He's not in the mood especially after seeing Gertrude in the elevator and at first she thinks he's quiet because he saw some kids but after a minute or so Trudy realizes what happened without Pete even uttering a word. She runs off in shock and disgust and Pete goes to work. Can it be the human robot is feeling guilty? More like he's unhappy with his situation. He doesn't even love her. After work, Trudy makes small talk over dinner until Pete stops her and says he doesn't want her to go away anymore without him. Slightly relieved bust mostly irritated, Trudy agrees and they talk about what happened at Sterling Cooper.

Forever a little girl herself, Betty wants to have a talk with Sally. She delivers this whole long lecture about how women should behave. She waxes on about how important a first kiss is and gives her immature thoughts on love. I almost choked on my soda when she talked about kissing with a nine year old. I have to say that at least she tried to relate to her daughter but she was so off the mark it was disturbing.

Later that night Francine is trying to pimp out Betty to Henry for the Junior League and even though Betty is titillated she plays it off when Don comes home. Francine leaves but first drops a subtle hint about the Henry thing and Betty just glares at her. After dinner, Betty reverts back to a little girl by pouting and telling Don that she hates her friends and the town until Don surprises her with a gold charm of the Coliseum that he had Connie send over from Rome. Instead of being happy that she has a loving husband TRYING to do the right things she makes a snide remark and leaves him standing there very confused. Ouch!!!

Random Thoughts . . .

I guess air conditioning wasn't invented yet which gives the scenes in the Draper residence a "Streetcar Named Desire" vibe. I don't know about anyone else but I find it difficult to sleep in the sweltering heat, apparently the characters in the Mad Men universe don't have that problem.

For a minute I thought she was actually gonna have sex with Henry in her father's car. That would be fitting since Henry is old enough to be her actual father. Talk about your daddy issues! That is wrong on so many levels.

When is Joan gonna go back to Sterling Cooper? I can't imagine they will just have scenes of various characters going into the department store, right? Every fan knows she should be running Sterling Cooper!

Even though her character is depressing and very unlikeable, can January Jones get more sexy and beautiful? She's the only one who could actually pull off that hairdo and not make it look ridiculous. Am I right?

Sally needs a major intervention like pronto! The way Betty totally ignored her like she wasn't even there when she put on her lipstick is beyond sad. I'm scared that such a sweet girl is gonna turn out so bad very quickly because of her hateful mother. C'mon Don, step up and take control!!

Gotta talk more about the Betty and Don role playing. That was pretty hot. She had to realize that Don is way too good at picking up strange women. It is pretty amazing how Betty can go from sultry to ice queen in nothing flat.

Anyone else think Pete raped Gertrude? I know she kissed him back before they cut but the neighbor alluded to something pretty bad when he said she's been crying all day. Maybe it's the wife who was crying? Just a thought.

Best Lines:
"New York in August? It's like a great big melting wax museum. Nothing but those fat girls with the hairy armpits putting their feet in a fountain." - Ken Cosgrove

"You could put it back in the closet and when she takes it out you can blame it on the little kids. They have a girl, right?"
- Pete to Gertrude

"By golly, you are an indecently lucky man." - Connie to Don about Betty

"You're tiny." - Don to Betty in Rome

"You always get that guilty look on your face when you see little children." - Trudy to Pete

"I don't want you running around just kissing boys." - Betty to Sally

Overall, I give this "throwaway" episode a sparkling 4.8 Lucky Strikes Out of 5 because the show was heavy with the subtext of dissatisfaction and boredom. Once again the show proves that you don't have to have lots going on at all times (like a Tarantino style foot amputation) but that compelling drama is all about the writing, subtle yet meaningful acting and sleeping characters long takes with people doing nothing but being reflective. This was another exceptional entry in what is shaping up to be the best season so far. And there's still five episodes left . . .

Sorry for the late review but feel free to leave your comments and thoughts about this wonderful episode (while leaving out my mistakes) and in the meantime enjoy this sneak preview of next weeks episode where Don is critiquing Peggy, Smitty and Kurt over their Hilton ideas. At least Peggy is still working there for the time being. Enjoy!

-- Janaki Cedanna

Next Week's Episode: "Wee Small Hours" - Don and Sal both have difficultly giving the clients what they want. Betty hosts a fundraiser. Sounds like trouble on all fronts to me.

Posted by Janaki Cedanna on October 5, 2009 11:09 PM
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