Mad Men Episodes

2007, TV Show

Mad Men Episode: "Souvenir"

Season 3, Episode 8
Episode Synopsis: Don decides to include Betty on a company business trip; Pete lends a hand to a neighbor in his apartment building.
Original Air Date: Oct 4, 2009
Guest Cast Chelcie Ross: Connie
Full Episode
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Season 3, Episode 8
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Length: 47:36
Aired: 10/4/2009
Also available on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and VUDU
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Mad Men Episode Recap: "Souvenir" Season 3, Episode 8

What is it that makes the things we can't have so desirable? Often on Mad Men, it seems most of the characters can have whatever they want, whenever they want. The same holds up in some aspects of "Souvenir." Pete successfully beds his neighbors' au pair, and Henry Francis gets at least some part of what he wants from Betty. But even (especially?) in the world of Mad Men, that type of covetousness has its drawbacks. By episode's end, Pete is an emotional wreck under the doe-eyed gaze of his wife, and Henry Francis (unknowingly) has brought his flirtation with Betty to an end. (So she says, anyway.)

But Betty has her own wants. She's transformed by a trip to Rome, as is her attitude/attraction toward Don. But when that fantasy gives way to her real life back in the suburbs, when passion is replaced with babies and local politics, Betty is the same bitter housewife we've known for nearly three seasons. So what's worse? Getting what we want, only to lose it, or never attaining what we wanted to begin with? I'm sure Joan Harris has some things to say about the latter.

"I don't want you to go away anymore without me." — Pete Campbell

Let's start with Pete. Trudy is away on vacation, as is much of the leadership of Sterling Cooper, leaving Pete to feel sorry for himself in his loneliness. He postpones the inevitable by taking the boys out for drinks, and returns to home as the king of his castle. The ripping off of his shirt was pure (and pathetic) caveman. Still, the light of day brings only children's TV programming that Pete can't help but guffaw at and a nap that lasts deep into the night.

Pete finally wanders out of the apartment to find Gudrun (Nina Rausch), his neighbors' German au pair crying over the garbage chute. Gudrun has spilled wine on one of the lady of the house's gowns, and she's trying to destroy the evidence. In Pete's own socially graceless way, he convinces Gudrun not to get rid of the dress, offering to try and have it replaced on his own. After some hassle and the help of an old friend (see below), Pete returns as the hero of the day. His reward: A closed door in the face. Pete retreats back to his mancave for a few drinks, and once appropriately emboldened, he wanders back to the Lawrences' door, demanding Gudrun model the dress he worked so hard to get for her. The fashion show is cut short, of course, when Pete plants one on her and the two get to know each other a lot better.

But just like Mrs. Lawrence's old dress, Pete has ruined Gudrun. Mr. Lawrence pays Pete a friendly visit to ask him to stay away from the girl for the sake of his Kleenex boxes. Lawrence sympathizes with Pete's wandering eye, but cautions him to stay away from the nannies in the building, especially his own. And save for an awkward elevator ride with both Gudrun and a returning Trudy, he does. But when Trudy wants some welcome-back lovin' she mistakes Pete's hesitation as guilt after seeing the Lawrence's kids. When Pete can't bring himself to say that he missed Trudy while she was on vacation, she senses his unfaithfulness and storms out. When Pete gets home, he asks Trudy not to go away without him anymore. Has Pete perhaps learned that he is OK with wanting what he has at home? It's possible, but the scene could also be interpreted as Pete blaming Trudy for leaving him there and thus causing his unfaithfulness. I'd like to think Pete is growing, but, he has always been a child. What do you think?

"This never happened." — Joan Harris
Of course, in the middle of his plot to be unfaithful, Pete was thinking of only how to keep things quiet. When he comes across Joan at the department store where he exchanges the soiled dress, he asks for her discretion should she run into Trudy. Methinks that won't be a problem at all, because Joan is hoping for Pete's discretion as well, even if she didn't ask for it and most likely won't get it.

Even though she put on the happy face for Pete (she's only filling in to get first pick of the dresses, she says), she is absolutely crushed when he walks away with her dirty little secret. Greg the failed surgeon is now considering psychiatry and Joan is still the working girl whose dreams of marrying rich and moving to the suburbs is still only a dream. Poor Joanie. Even though she is still the woman with all the answers (she fixes Pete's problem in a jiffy, after all), she never seems to get the reward. And even though the line quoted above is pure Don Draper, it saddens me to think/know her reinvention may not work out as well as Don or even Peggy's.

"I saw how happy you were in there, and I thought, 'Dear God, did I have anything to do with that? Because that would make me happy." — Henry Francis

Like Pete, Henry subscribes to the notion that heroes should be rewarded for their service. After he and a letter from the governor save the Pleasantville Road Reservoir for Betty & Co., Henry makes it clear what he wants from Betty. Henry's no Arthur Case, and his advances aren't shut down by Betty, as she allows the kiss to happen and continue on with no resistance. And I don't think she even regretted it — she was practically beaming when she got home, something even Don picked up on.

But Betty applied Henry's political advice ("When you have no power, delay") to other aspects of her life. Now that she was powerless against him, she decides to put him off with a quick trip to Rome with Don. She tags along on Don's ongoing tour of Hilton hotels, and during their quick visit, she gets everything she wants. She gets the attention of two ungentlemanly suitors and the affection of Don. Betty may believe we all have skills we don't use, but on this night, she was using her skills to the height of her ability. Her Italian is as excellent as her updo is startling. (Also, January Jones was positively radiant throughout this entire episode.)

"You're going to have a lot of first kisses. You're going to want it to be special so you remember. It's where you go from being a stranger to knowing someone. And every kiss with them after that is a shadow of that kiss." — Betty Draper
Where Pete learns from his overeager desires, Betty only further sets herself up for misery. Her storybook evening in Rome vanishes when she returns home. Back in Ossining, she has to discipline Sally for beating up her little brother after he made fun of Sally for kissing a boy. Back home, she has to hear Francine compare Betty's magical night to her own trip to Lake George with Carlton. Betty doesn't want to be the person she is, and she certainly doesn't want to be Francine, reduced to planning trips away from the kids for the health of her marriage. "I hate this place. I hate this town. I hate our friends," Betty says.

And maybe what she hates even more is that fainting couch taking up her entire living room. She looks at it and is instantly reminded of Henry. She chooses not to lay on it, opting for the couch instead. But Betty's words betray her. Despite telling Francine that she is through fighting for the reservoir (and Henry), she confesses to Sally (by way of actually being a mother for a change) that Henry is no longer a stranger. And I think the shadows of that parking lot kiss are definitely going to keep growing.

The real sucker here is Don. He returns to Ossining still under Betty's love spell. He lights her cigarettes; he is playful. But his gift to her, the souvenir of their getaway, proves as unfortunate a reminder as the fainting couch. While Don's bracelet charm is the emblem of the life Betty might want the most, it is the one she is almost certain not to have. Henry may be the escape Betty wants to avoid, but he is, at least, attainable. So Betty is left with the questions we began with: Can she be satisfied having had Rome and lost it? Will she be able to live with never having attained Henry? And is one better than the other? I'm beginning to wonder if there is anything in Betty's life that is good enough.

A few other thoughts:

• I raised the question a few weeks back about how often Pete and Betty's stories are explored in the same episode. After this episode, I find it to have occurred too often to be coincidence. The two both come from money, and they are by far the two most petulant characters on the show. So perhaps, like in this episode, they always haves similar lessons to learn thematically as they grow up. So far, I think Pete has grown the most. (Well, except for flinging balloons full of ketchup across the office.)

• Speaking of repeated themes, this episode felt a lot to me like "The Inheritance" (also a Pete/Betty episode), mostly because Don and Betty hooked up in the midst of turmoil in their marriage. True, we haven't seen them face the problems this season that they did a year ago, but Don was faked out with sex then (ending in Betty's pregnancy), and their Rome hookup doesn't appear to be translating back home.

• Last Pete/Betty comparison: Who else thought of Pete's happy dance, after being made head of accounts, when Betty did her little shimmy for Don when relaying the good news from the town council meeting?

• Anyone thinking that the episode didn't pick up with Don dealing with his contract signing should re-watch the scene in the kitchen with Betty. When she uses Henry's line about delaying when you have no power, just watch Don tense up. Losing power will be a long adjustment for Mr. Draper.

• Characters on Mad Men look in mirrors a lot (see Peggy doing Bye Bye Birdie, etc.), but tonight, as she has her first kiss, Sally is the one gazing at her reflection. She was also taking cues for her mother, however, who was blotting her lips in preparation for her meeting with Henry. That kid really needs another role model.

• Anybody see Pete reading Ebony magazine? Looks like he's staying in touch with the market he thinks Sterling Cooper should be exploring. Also, haven't we seen Pete watching cartoons in the past? He may be growing, but it's a slow change.

Check out our 60-second recap of the episode

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What is it that makes the things we can't have so desirable? Often on Mad Men, it seems most of the characters can have whatever they want, whenever they want. The same holds up in some aspects of "Souvenir." Pete successfully beds his neighbors' au pair, and Henry Francis gets at least some part of what he wants from Betty. But even (especially?) in the world of Mad Men, that type of covetousness has its drawbacks. By episode's end, Pete is an emotional wreck under the doe-eyed gaze of his wife, and Henry Francis (unknowingly) has brought his flirtation with Betty to an end. (So she says, anyway.)

But Betty has her own wants. She's transformed by a trip to Rome, as is her attitude/attraction toward Don. But when that fantasy gives way to her real life back in the suburbs, when passion is replaced with babies and local politics, Betty is the same bitter housewife we've known for nearly three seasons. So what's worse? Getting what we want, only to lose it, or never attaining what we wanted to begin with? I'm sure Joan Harris has some things to say about the latter... read more

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Premiered: July 19, 2007, on AMC
Rating: TV-14
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