Episode 8: Hate And Kisses. Foreign Affairs. What's That Smell?

Parts of Souvenir" left me feeling as cranky as Pete and Betty, the two petulant characters it focused on. Once again, it was all about reversals, and power and phalluses (or lack thereof.) With his wife away, Peter behaves like a dick, (or Dick) and was sexually abusive (or at least threatening) to poor Gudrun, the German au pair whose accent I couldn't buy. ("Zank you, Mistah Petah.")

But before we go down that depressing road (or just across the hall, to the service elevator/ garbage area) let's start with the action that was surprising, delightful, and full of wicked humor-Don and Betty living out their Dolce Vita moment in Rome.

Betty's transformation suggests Jackie Kennedy's trip to Paris as First Lady in 1961, when she so knocked out the hard-to-charm French with her ability to speak their language (both sartorially and verbally) that President Kennedy joked, "I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris -- and I have enjoyed it!"

Yup, the girl with a passport and a dream has pulled out another talent she doesn't otherwise use as a housewife in Ossining -- she speaks fluent Italian. But can we talk about the third character to emerge in the travelogue: Betty's Trevi-Fountain-like hair? I mean we know she likes getting help from high places, but I was expecting to find some recirculating pumps buried inside, so we could get a performance of the dancing waters, and perhaps a light show. Were those Corinthian pilasters on the sides happy to see Don? The top looked like the junction of Three Croissants, in case anyone gets hungry, although there were bread sticks on the table. Ba bump.

Mad Men-Season 3/Episode 8 "If I were that cigarette in your mouth I would die of happiness," one local Romeo offers by way of pick-up -- and despite the overly Marge Simpsonesque build-up on top, she indeed looks gorgeous in her mod earrings and black fringed dress. And perhaps her hair is her fortress against invaders. Her response -- a combination of wit and fluency -- flattens the guy. With the updo still erect, she and Don role-play as strangers meeting for the night, something he is particularly adept at. The locals call him "bruto" or "ugly," something he's clearly not. Rather, it alludes to the "ugly American" and the underside of all that Hilton business, building luxury hotels so that Americans can feel at home- avoiding the local customs and smells-- anywhere in the world. Hanging over the entire trip of course, was the memory of Betty's dad having Sally read him chapters from "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." What we're interested in here is the word that Sally tripped over while reading "licentiousness."

In this sexy place, the action between Betty and Don is, to use a Paris Hilton term, "hot." Conjugal heat -- whoMadMen Season 3/Episode 8 knew? It's a relief to watch Don and Betty like and love each other. He treats her with respect and the physical attention he gives his mistresses. She obviously is a different person here, and follows him into the shower in the morning.

Having signed his contract, however, the reality is that Don is now leashed to Connie. (Earlier, Pete mentions that he's had him travel to "every armpit" in America.) Still, the ad revenue from three New York hotels would hardly cover such an extravagant use of his time (or that Mr. By Golly would merely be interested in seeing how they enjoyed room service.)

Let's go back to the office, where precious little time is spent. The episode opens on a steamy Friday evening, with Pete Campbell reading Ebony magazine with his feet up on his desk. Obviously, he hasn't given up on his integrationist pitch for Admiral. While that might be admirable, reading a pop magazine to figure out race relations is where his attempt at enlightenment ends. A weekend alone turns him into an angry, entitled, lost boy. He's shown blacking out, slurping cereal and watching cartoons like an overgrown toddler in his Park Ave apartment.

By contrast, in her suburban kitchen in Ossining, Betty's a delight, all fired up over her work saving the reservoir. Suddenly she's alive, competent, and, most surprisingly, not complaining. Don is the lethargic one, lumbering in and out of sleep and the kitchen in his T-shirt, a jet-lagged bear. When a call from Mr. Hilton's office interrupts her do-gooder cold-dialing from her kitchen wall phone, she reminds Don that Rome is much superior to Dallas -- a reminder of the national disaster that's just three months away.

But for now she's all about saving the planet, and on her way to the evening town council meeting, she even wears a scarf around her neck in a ring -- like a sophisticated Girl Scout. The belly feeler shows up, and uses his power to stall the proceedings. "There's a saying in politics," he tells her and nosy neighbor Francine after the hearing. "When you have no power, delay."

MadMen Season 3/Episode 8 She's a grateful, beautiful Breck girl, and he walks her to her car, her dad's Lincoln, the heavy family talisman that she drove there for "luck." To me, Henry Francis was coming off like a creepy old guy. He forces his head through the driver side window -- which felt like a violation of her sacred daddy's-girl space -- and kisses her. She kisses him back, but I think that's good-bye, which also means adios to her sudden civic conscience.

She goes home flushed with victory, and does a cute little "we won we won we won" dance for Don. She recounts the story, referring to him obliquely as "a man from the governor's office." But the guilt -- or her loss of attraction -- with Francis motivates her to go with Don to Rome.

Back to Pete, who, while throwing out the garbage in the servant's area of the building, finds the German girl crying. She's trying to stick a fancy dress into the incinerator.( Some sort of tremendously tasteless Holocaust joke there?). "I have zis pahty and I bahrrow her dresz," she explains, and it got stained, so she's trying to incinerate it.

Pete tells her, "I don't think you're thinking clearly" -- i.e., you're not being devious enough! Why not blame it onMadMen Season 3/Episode 8 the kids? When that doesn't work, he decides to go to Bonwit Teller to return it himself. Which is all an elaborate device for bringing back Joan! If hair is an indicator, she's either crestfallen or simply moving forward with the times. (But it's still a thrill to see her and hear her voice.)

Standing in front of an Hermes sign, Joan disappears his problem with her usual super-human level of competence, though she's obviously not in a good way. "I get my pick before they get put out," is her excuse to Pete for working in the dress department. And she tells Pete that Greg is switching his specialty. Like a punchline to a perverse joke, she's says he's going into "psychiatry" -- and boy do the writers have it in for shrinks on this show. In the end, it's clear that she knows that the dress is way too big for Trudy, but she assures Pete that "this never happened" --which is exactly what Don told Peggy about her breakdown after having the baby.

Pete brings the virgin dress back to ze zaftig Fraulein, and she thanks him by giving him a chaste kiss on the cheek. Pete goes back to his apartment to drink, and returns to the girl's door in the middle of the night for payback. "I went to a lot of trouble to solve your dress problem," he says. (The scene was reminiscent of the night he showed up at Peggy's apartment, although that was apparently consensual. She ended up getting pregnant.) It was ugly, and Gudron's "master," Pete's neighbor, calls him out on his behavior, not because it's wrong, but because it troubled his wife. Pete ends up petulantly telling Trudy that he doesn't want her to go away without him anymore.

MadMen Season 3/Episode 8 At the Draper home, (or "residence" as Betty says when she answers the phone) there's a whole subplot of Sally forcing herself on Ernie, her playmate, mirroring her mom's behavior. She kisses the kid and angrily screams at and whomps her brother. Betty seems better as a mom, and gives her a speech about the importance of first kisses. (By the way, does anyone have an idea about why Don can't listen to Carla talk about Sally's temper?)

Don presents Betty with a gift, a gold charm, a souvenir of their time in Rome. It seems to remind her that she's treated like a trifle. Sounding very Revolutionary Road, she says, "I hate this place! I hate our friends! I hate this town!"

Don responds with an appropriately despondent look.

Who's got the stomach for this? I never thought I'd say it, but where is Duck when you need him?

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16 comments about "Episode 8: Hate And Kisses. Foreign Affairs. What's That Smell? ".
  1. Royelen lee Boykie from Mad Men Musings , October 7, 2009 at 2:39 p.m.

    Ahhh, no stomach for this episode, eh? That's why it took so long (not that I was counting the seconds or am ungrateful . . .)

    I have to wonder if they didn't do this to set up the Jackie/Jack thing even more because they will end Camelot for the Drapers, at the end of the season, as well as for the country. Just wondering although I should have learned last season not to bother, I don't know where this thing goes.

  2. Marilois Snowman from Mediastruction , October 7, 2009 at 2:42 p.m.

    This episode's title should have been "gifts with strings attached." Henry and Pete had motivations other than magnanimity. Betty's beauty enabled her ladies' league endorsement from the governor's office, but, in the end, doesn't that confirm she is just a trifle? What's Conrad Hilton's motivation?

    BTW - Pete's behavior was rape. No skirting the issue.

  3. Kate Lafrance from Hartford Woman Online Magazine , October 7, 2009 at 3:17 p.m.

    Marilois - that would have been a better title!

    This episode was classic MadMen - frustrating but beautiful to look at.

  4. Amy Schulz from Wendt Integrated Communications , October 7, 2009 at 3:44 p.m.

    Don "couldn't" listen to the discussion about Sally temper because that's Betty's domain...home and family issues. He's uninterested, and unresponsible, for such things, unless dragged into them (as he was for the teacher's conference about Sally and his requested opinion on the home redecorating, which happened only after the fact.)

  5. Cathy Carrier from Ashland Indy Film Festival , October 7, 2009 at 3:56 p.m.

    Yes- Pete raped her. Just when you thought maybe he was ok. Then somehow it was because his wife left without him.

    I loved the scene of Don and Betty making love in the hotel room and then it pans to the picture of Rome outside the window. Really nicely done. That gave us an idea of why they got together in the first place. Now they both are trapped....by the culture and advertising.

    Do you really think Connie would be ok with them not coming down to breakfast? That was a weird scene. Would an account guy really DO that?

  6. Royelen lee Boykie from Mad Men Musings , October 7, 2009 at 5:52 p.m.

    Henry Francis says to Betty something like, "There's an old saying in politics, when you don't have the power, delay."

    Betty says to Don something like, "Well as we say, when you haven't the power, delay it."

    Feeling powerless over her feelings for the powerful man, Betty delays by deciding in the middle of the night to go with Don to Italy.

    Or that's what it seemed like to me.

  7. Elizabeth Mayberry from Emmaco Inc. , October 7, 2009 at 10:57 p.m.

    With all that's going on with Betty, I think we are being set up for a Betty Freidan "The Feminine Mystique" awakening for Betty. The ending of the episode is a perfect launch pad: "I hate our friends,...". She should be happy (as far as Don is concerned) but for the "problem that has no name". The book did come out that year.
    What is Betty likely to do?

  8. Royelen lee Boykie from Mad Men Musings , October 7, 2009 at 10:59 p.m.

    Betsy, that's one of the most exciting things about watching this show is knowing that moment is coming for the women. I worry about the men, though, what comes for them? More pot, I guess. But for the women, it's so much fun knowing they are about to be transformed.

  9. Elizabeth Mayberry from Emmaco Inc. , October 7, 2009 at 11:13 p.m.

    Royelen, you're right! What will Don do is a better question. My husband asks at the beginning of every episode "Who is it that will jump out the building and will it be this episode"? He cracks me up!

  10. Jonathan McEwan from MediaPost , October 8, 2009 at 1:16 p.m.

    Did no one else see people leaning on others close themselves to behave better? I don't think Betty lost the hots for Mr. Francis. Quite the contrary. I read the decision to go with Don, as "delaying" or preventing further temptation. She may not have the power, but she is in play. Also, Pete's need for his wife not to leave him alone. Alone his behavior is abhorrent. With her by his side like a dutiful mommy he's ok. Perhaps the same goes for Sally. Without her mommy, she acts out and behaves badly. The talk about first kisses, that's what she needed (and strangely speaks to her relationship with daddy, "each kiss is merely a shadow of the first" ...)

    In any case, I loved the episode. For you who found it tedious, this son of a Pan Am pilot who was born two months to the day after the assassination of Kennedy, was thrilled to see Betty dress up a little fashion forward, in an outfit that looked a lot like one my mother wore in one of the my old photos.

    Travel is an amazing thing. It either pulls relationships apart or brings them together. For Don and Betty, clearly, someplace else reminds them how much they really care for each other when they leave their responsibilities behind. With Betty, she seems mostly to complain that Don doesn't do his part. Without the excess baggage, they were delightfully playful in Rome. No wonder she wanted more...

  11. Ben Smith from DoubleClick , October 8, 2009 at 5:07 p.m.

    I think Don does not want to be confronted w/Sally's temper because it reminds him of what he remembers about his own 'dear old dad' and none of that's good.

    The temper thing is a reminder that while he may be successful at being Don Draper, the truth about himself can't be masked when it surfaces in his own children - unless he doesn't know about it by ignoring it.

  12. Frank Dangelo from Catalano,Lellos and Silverstein , October 9, 2009 at 10:53 a.m.

    Just a sidebar: I thought the recreation of the Cavilieri Hilton hotel in Rome was right on. It evoked many found memories for me of this hotel with its' '60's building architect on Mont Mario overlooking the Vatican. The rooms, panorama views,the lobby, even the outdoor lounge depicted in this episode were spot on.
    Nice product placement :) Plan to go back some day...

  13. Maddy Mud from McMarketing , October 9, 2009 at 4:30 p.m.

    whoa, everyone's getting a little loose with the word "rape" these days. It was hard to discern, but it looked the girl was kissing him back as it faded to black. Was Pete a cad -- yes. Did he not take several "Nos" for an answer -- yes. But, she gave him the ultimate yes, when she kisses him back. Which, is a fair question to me -- did she kiss him back -- the angle was tricky. She could have been struggling, instead of groping. She could have said "no" a second later. But, I think the jury is premature to convict Pete of rape on this one.

    What a schmucko Pete is, however, with his constant quid pro quo behavior. And, did his wife grasp that he had committed adultery? And, that he got off that light? By simply blaming her absence? Holy cow, is she eaisly cowed!

    It was great to see Betty happy for two seconds, but in the end, you realize she's good at keeping herself unhappy. And really punching Don in the gut with that last moment.

    Finally, the Hilton in Rome looked a lot like some of the Dorothy Chandler to me.

  14. Jim Irwin from Associated Press , October 9, 2009 at 8:33 p.m.

    Love your stuff, Dorothy, but it's hard to find the time to read all the way through a deconstruction of every scene. But preferable, I suppose, to "It rocked" or "It sucked."

  15. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY , October 10, 2009 at 10:59 p.m.

    This was the first time I found Betty interesting. Where'd she learn the Italian? Junior year abroad? European photo shoots during her modeling days? Don didn't seem surprised that she could effortlessly speak another language (and he knew her passport was current), but I was pleasantly surprised. In Rome she became sexy, spontaneous and playful, making me wonder if that's what she was like when Don fell in love with her. I don't see how she'll reconcile her desire for glamour and adventure with the reality of living in the suburbs with three children (at least two of whom she resents), but for a brief time I saw Betty with new eyes and found myself wishing her well.

    Not so with Pete. Don's sexual encounters read hot. Pete's read rape. Even if there's no screaming and clawing of eyes.

    Please let somebody come to Joan's aid. She desperately needs a friend and some good luck to help her through the miseries created by her marriage to Dr. Weakselfishbastard, who surely has no more brains in his head than he does in his fingers.

  16. Maddy Mud from McMarketing , October 13, 2009 at 5:27 p.m.

    It's Tuesday. I'm like Roger Sterling deprived of a cigarette and booze ... get the new blog up dammit! I hope the AP fellow's content-free comments did not cause you to rethink your brilliant blog -- gimme, gimme, gimme!