Monday, October 5, 2009

At the Mountains of Madness- Part Eight: "Souvenir"

It's vacation season in New York! This was news to me but apparently if you have a degree of affluence in 1960's New York, you're basically required by law to take lengthy vacations during the month of August. I did not know that. My dad would never let us get a cabin up north because he figured we'd always be looking for excuses to spend time there and the thing would just turn into a money pit after a while. Also, we had a pool so we didn't want to be that family that had a pool and a cabin: that would just be excessive.

Trudy's down to the Vogel family beach house in Maryland, I think, and the Drapers take a spur of the moment trip to the Eternal City. What's going on back home? When the cat's away...

Betty's efforts to keep that damn water tank from being built are going well enough it seems; she's been drumming up some support through evening cold calls and her new friend Henry Francis has got the issue taken care of up in Albany. When it comes time for the big hearing, the Touch of Grey Belly Toucher swoops in at the last second to lay down some BS about water quality tests and whatnot to save the day. Great, problem solved. The tank's construction will be delayed to the point of it never happening, Betty's first foray into local politics has been a success! But as we've learned through two and a half seasons spent among the mad men, these sort of favors are transactions with a price. Henry lingers a little too long at the window of Betty's (actually Grandpa Gene's) car and expects a little sugar for his help with the tank. Betty doesn't let him get any farther than first base and he slinks off, defeated into the night. As we saw with her and Henry's initial encounter at Roger's country club, flirtations with infidelity tend to energize Betty and throw her running back into Don's arms. Before you know it, the Drapers are off on to Rome.

Don's new buddy Connie is sending him on a fact-finding mission to the Rome Hilton to get a better idea of what he's selling. He and Betty get put up in a swanky room (but not too swanky, Connie doesn't want them in a suite) and enjoy each other's company at the expense of the locals. Betty gets made up and displays her command of the Italian language with a couple of dudes before Don swings by playing the role of the jet-setting American millionaire to Betty's young ingenue. Their role play session reignites a spark we haven't seen lit in their marriage maybe since Valentine's Day in the early throes of Season Two. Things seem to be going unusually well for Don and Betty at home, if only Sally wasn't alleycatting around with Ernie Hanson (fun fact: I accidentally typed "Ernie Hudson") and beating up Bobby, things might be damn near perfect. How long can this last?

Pete's making new friends in the building! Helping out his neighbor's German nanny seemed innocent enough (and got us some information concerning Joan's whereabouts) but he had to go and spoil it by pulling the Pete Campbell special on poor Gertrude (showing up drunk in the middle of the night and sliming his way into her apartment). There's been some discussion around the internets as to whether Pete's behavior crossed the line over into the "r" word but I come down on the side of while Pete's actions were certainly those of a sleazy douchebag, Gertrude reasonably went along with them, although she came to regret them the morning after. When Pete is chastised by his neighbor for shitting where he eats (or does that metaphor apply to office flings?) his reaction is that of a little boy caught with his fingers in the cookie jar, doubly so when Trudy figures out what's been going on.

Trudy Campbell, light of my life, fire of my loins, you deserve so much better. The weird oedipal subtext of the Campbell's marriage gets brought to the forefront. With Trudy gone, Pete returns to a stunted life of bachelorhood. We see him watching children's programming and bedding a nanny of all people. His plea to Trudy to take him with her next time she goes out of town sounded downright childish. What was it that Joan told Peggy about being a secretary way back when? "Most of the time they're looking for something between a mother and a waitress." It seems that applies to Pete's wife, not just his secretary. He just wants someone to feed him, change his diapers, and sleep with him. The bedrock of any successful marriage, yes?