When in Rome

Last night’s episode of Mad Men mostly took place outside the Sterling Cooper offices with emphasis on Betty and Pete (separately), which probably annoyed some people, but was fine with me.

Betty’s Junior League save-the-local-reservoir campaign gets a big assist when her admirer Henry, who works in the governor’s office, testifies on behalf of the ladies at a hearing. After he manfully takes the floor, forcing the committee to take the plea seriously, you could practically see the cartoon hearts popping out of Betty’s eyes.

betty-don-italyLater in the parking lot, he kisses her through her car window, finally breaking the sexual tension.  Aside from one very uncharacteristic one-night stand, Betty’s been faithful to her husband, so we can’t really condemn her for this transgression. Especially since Don himself has gotten it on with at least 67 women on the past three seasons. Anyway, Betty, whose sexual confidence has gotten a boost, then accompanies Don on a short business trip to Rome. Not only does she speak the language, but she gets her hair done up in a fabulous towering ‘do and even seems to be wearing eyeliner! It’s a tremendous look and she draws the attention of two local lotharios while waiting for Don in a restaurant. She feels so good she doesn’t even discourage them in that prim, tight-lipped way we’ve come to expect. Don arrives and the couple indulges in some flirtatious role-playing before Conrad Hilton joins them. He, of course, is bowled over by Betts; it no doubt just adds to his admiration for Don. Later Don and Betty have amazing vacation sex in their hotel room, as she continues to channel Monica Vitti.

Meanwhile, Pete’s wife is away and he’s home alone napping on the couch and generally at loose ends. Even though we know what a remorseless creep he is, we’re teased by a scene in which he comes to the aid of his neighbor’s cute German au pair who has ruined a dress belonging to her vacationing boss. Pete replaces the dress at Bonwit Teller, where the new manager of the department happens to be ex-SC employee Joan, who’s clearly embarrassed to be found working in retail. Come back to the agency, Joan!  Anyway, when Pete brings the new dress to au pair Gudrun she, citing a boyfriend, doesn’t let him in the apartment. After a few drinks, Pete returns next door, waking Gudrun and insisting that he see the dress on her since he’s taken such pains to help. He basically forces himself on her, which is exactly what we’ve come to expect from him. Eeew.

Later, Pete almost breaks down upon his wife’s return; she suspects that’s he’s been up to something bad. He doesn’t confess, but pleads, “I don’t want you to go away anymore without me.” “Good,” she says.  “I won’t.”

Back in Ossining, Betty has a talk with daughter Sally, who is continuing to show violent tendencies and who also kissed a neighbor boy in her parents’ absence. ‘You don’t kiss boys, boys kiss you,” instructs Betty, which is exactly what I grew up believing. She then talks wistfully about first kisses and you know she’s thinking of Henry and the car window. Though she’s happy to see baby Gene, she’s soon back to her snappish self in the kitchen: “I hate this place. I hate our friends. I hate this town.” Suburban Westchester ain’t Rome, baby.

(photo: AMC)


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