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Souvenir (Mad Men S3:E8)

Posted by Christopher Moltisanti on October 7, 2009

“Every kiss with them after that is a shadow of that [first] kiss.”

We (and by we I mean I) missed last week, which was huge in terms of Don’s character development. In short, the man who always left himself an out is tied down. Pressed by a wily Cooper, Don signed a contract with Sterling Cooper. It was another action-packed episode. This week, however, “Mad Men” moved back to the slower-paced, thematically driven episodes that predominated in the first half of the season. I know I’m in the minority, but I actually prefer these to the fast-paced, entertaining, yet somewhat scattered last two episodes. Episodes like these (see: “My Old Kentucky Home” and “Love Among the Ruins”) have coherent agendas and meaningful statements to make about life.

“Souvenir” was about the difficulty of reconciling expectations and moments of euphoria with the mundane nature of everyday life. In Rome, Don and Betty were about as perfect as they can get (though, fittingly, their best moment was a role-playing game), but back at home, when the fleeting nature of the trip becomes apparent, Betty descends back into the disillusionment that has plagued her from the beginning. Don, for his part, just seems pleased to have had a fun time on a business trip without having to deal with the hassle of adultery.

But, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Betty is disappointed to be home not only because she misses the romance, but also because she’s lost power. Throughout the episode, the tables are turned in the Draper’s marriage. Don is enjoying the weekend while Betty is working, helping lead the fight for the reservoir. And when Henry Francis makes his move, she has a chance to indulge again in the infidelity Don has enjoyed many, many, many times. And she comes close (“You’ll leave straight from work?”), but, in the end, chooses Rome and a chance to indulge in escapades with her husband. A noble choice from Betty, and one that she had total control over.

The second plot of the episode, starring Pete Campbell, reinforces the fact that the men who rule the “Mad Men” world desperately need the women in their lives to steer them clear of disaster. Alone for the weekend, he watches cartoons, falls asleep on the couch and has a near-disastrous dalliance with the German nanny across the hall. Though his tacit admission reinforces the wall between him and Trudy, they end with an understanding—an understanding that preserves the status quo of the uneventful, but, in reality, very normal marriages that these characters (and most people) live, but can never be satisfied with. Which is why they’re always searching, always staring out the window in Rome, hoping for something better instead of looking at what’s right in front of them.

P.S. If you’re looking for a “Mad Men” laugh, check out this site. One of the more entertaining things you’ll read every week.


One Response to “Souvenir (Mad Men S3:E8)”

  1. Brad Lidge aka. Heimlich said

    Hard to beat this episode!

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