Love & Marriage

 Posted by on October 4, 2009 at 11:10 pm  Characters, Season 1, Season 2, Season 3
Oct 042009

Souvenir gives us a different look at Don and Betty’s marriage, and it happens in the context of what has gone before. What I mean is, this episode is fully integrated with the trajectory that these two have been on all along, especially in Season 2.

In Meditations in an Emergency, Don came home. We saw him in California, we saw him with Anna; we knew he arrived there unsure if he would return to Betty. Certainly, what he said to Roger in Six Month Leave made him sound willing to walk away. We can believe that Anna’s advice turned him around; “The only thing keeping you from being happy is the belief you are alone.” I think this is the pivotal quote for Don Draper: husband, this season.

Consider: At the end of Season 1, Don fantasizes about a magical reunion, but ultimately keeps himself alone and apart. By the beginning of Season 2, whatever peace he has made with Betty is isolating rather than uniting. There he sits, “being good,” and not feeling a thing.

The Don of early S2, behaving by the skin of his teeth, is not the Don of S3. We keep seeing him kind of integrated with his marriage; spinning a fantasy for Betty, posing for a family snapshot, showing up at school when there’s a problem. And no, I haven’t forgotten that he cheated in Out of Town, but even the tenor of that cheat is different. In S1 he says to Rachel, “I’m married,” and he’s saying it’s a problem, and he’s saying it’s a burden, and he’s saying somehow he’ll get out of it. In S3 he says to Shelley, “I’ve been married a long time,” and he’s saying, and I will stay married, he’s saying, married people cheat. Not a laudable sentiment by most people’s standards, but a significant shift.

The point is not that he’s a good guy; clearly he’s often not. The point is that he’s changed, and he came home because he wanted to be married. To Betty. He wanted to stop believing he was alone. In Out of Town, he said to Sally, “I will always come home.” That’s exactly what he wouldn’t and couldn’t say before.

But that whole scenario is different for Betty. Don spent Meditations in an Emergency trying to come back to Betty; Betty spent it trying to have an abortion. (I do think if her old doctor had consented immediately to an abortion, she’d have had one.)

It took Betty most of S1 to figure out she was unhappy, and it wasn’t until S2 that she got really angry (although the anger has been there all along). She spent S2 learning to be apart from Don, finding out, in fact, that it “really wasn’t that different” without him there. Prior to finding out she was pregnant, and at the same time that he was deciding to return to her, she was deciding she was done. Did she choose to stay because she decided she wanted the baby? Because she was afraid to “float away?” Because it was all too overwhelming? We don’t know. We do know that she’s only grudgingly in this marriage and she’s still angry (as evidenced by her rattling the locked drawer in Seven Twenty Three). Pregnancy ultimately kept her married, whereas Don was going to choose marriage regardless (if given the option).

In Out of Town, she fantasized that she wanted it all to be perfect, and so Don spun her an imaginary vacation. As long as he holds her and spins fantasies, she can be happy. Don is so interested in Betty in Souvenir. Watch his face”he never takes his eyes off her; he watches her delight after the board meeting, her every move in Rome, and when they get home.

In Souvenir, the fantasy becomes real; they go on a beautiful, if brief, vacation to a magical place. And in that fantasy, they love each other. For Don, this is what he’s been wanting, this is what he’s been working for. My wife is happy! We make love! It’s like it used to be! Yay!

For Betty, not so much. For Betty, the fantasy is only a reminder that she doesn’t like the reality.

When I first saw Betty’s bitter reaction to the gift of the Coliseum charm, I couldn’t understand it. It seemed so arbitrary and sudden. But it has everything to do with where Don and Betty started, before this trip, in their perception of their marriage.


  56 Responses to “Love & Marriage”

  1. Very interesting opinion on Betty's attitude during this episode. I, too was floored by her reaction after recieving the gift. Yet, here she'll be, stuck in the life that she doesn't want. Don will go back to the office, sitll get to go on his business trips, while she'll still be the housewife, looking after the kids, house and home, while also doing things for the Junior League.

    But it has everything to do with where Don and Betty started, before this trip, in their perception of their marriage.

  2. Its great to see Betty come into her own with the resevoir and in Rome, not defining herself in terms of Don. And it seems this was alluring to Don as well. Lighting the cigarette was definitely the subtheme this episode. Betty is no longer content to be Dons wife circa 1960. She wants to be his equal. And I think she can be…

  3. What's with the other side of the bed comment(s)?

  4. In Rome, Don and Betty slept on the opposite side of the bed they sleep in at Ossining.

  5. I wasn't sure what the charm was exactly, so after reading your post Deb, I googled "Coliseum Rome." (Because it's MM and it's in the details, right?) Here's what I dug out of Wikipedia:

    "The name Colosseum has long been believed to be derived from a colossal statue of Nero nearby.[3] This statue was later remodeled by Nero's successors into the likeness of Helios (Sol) or Apollo, the sun god, by adding the appropriate solar crown. Nero's head was also replaced several times with the heads of succeeding emperors. Despite its pagan links, the statue remained standing well into the medieval era and was credited with magical powers. It came to be seen as an iconic symbol of the permanence of Rome.
    In the 8th century, the Venerable Bede (c. 672–735) wrote a famous epigram celebrating the symbolic significance of the statue, Quandiu stabit coliseus, stabit et Roma; quando cadit coliseus, cadet et Roma; quando cadet Roma, cadet et mundus ("as long as the Colossus stands, so shall Rome; when the Colossus falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, so falls the world")."


  6. @hannibal Finn

    I can't speak for any other couples, but it certainly resonated with my wife and I. We always sleep on the same sides. We have since we moved in with each other, and continued when we got married, and still do even when we travel.

    So being on the other side of the bed is just another way that the vacation is fantasy, constructed, not their normal routine.

  7. Don "likes' to sleep on that side of the bed, he told Betty that in tonights episode. If you look at "Smoke gets in your eyes" episode1, you see Don on the side of the bed he likes, when he stays "in the city" & at home. Then, in episode 2 "Ladies Room" when Betty has her driving accident, both city & home change (maybe just a countinuity change, 'cause the home bed is different too…)…
    Also, "for those who think young", when Betty & Don are in the hotel, he is on the side of the bed he likes. But only with betty does it change… the other 'women' in don's life are also on 'betty's" side of the bed.
    I also think it has to do with who is perceived as "driving" the relationship & the roles we all play into … like when Sally & Ernie are Playing grownup roles, Ernie is "driving" & Sally is on the passengers side… even though Sally full knows how to drive a car 'cause grandpa let her drive.
    But, all of this 'routine' stuff is just an external role we all play. We don't really need to 'change sides of the bed' physically if we just stop & realize how much life changes every single second of the day & that the person we woke up next to, over the course of a day, is NOT the same person we go to sleep with at that very night. If we just all stop & notice that and appreciate that life is change and we don't need to do anything other than notice the person next to us & appreciate the details of life which is what MadMen gives us…

  8. I just think Betty has a burning desire to find her sense of self. The bitter disappointment arose because Betty's rejecting the idea (Francine's idea) that the feeling that she had in Rome will only come around on vacation. She doesn't want to settle for that.

  9. Isobel, so true!

  10. I liked seeing Betty in another element — kissing another man she’s lusting for, speaking Italian and flirting, wearing black underwear (even if it’s all FANTASY per se).

    Don whole life as Don is a created fantasy that has taken over his entire life so it’s a complimentary reflection of both of their inner natures.

    In this episode, we see the inner talents and true beauty of Betty (who she enjoys being away from housecat in Osssining — which she says she is sick of anyway.

    She smiles and dances in this episode. It may not be reality, but I wish the Draper marriage could be the fantasy they both had in Rome, but alas a marriage, a team isn’t built when both harbor inner secrets and desires not able to be expressed outwardly.

    I loved this episode a lot.

  11. I agree with #11. I don't think either one of them is seeing the other for what they are. Betty because Don won't show her, Don because Betty's soul and wit and talents are not important to her role as a housewife in Ossining. They are empty roles to one another, not unique individuals.

    Come on Sixties! These people need you!

  12. I think Don and Betty do have love for each other. I think both of them are lacking connection to self, which hampers intimate connection to others. As an optimist, I'll say that as they each become more self aware, they can connect better to each other. They may not be patient enough to do that, but they can.

  13. Glad Mad Woman: I like what you say. I think you are right: neither of them are connected to themselves, which is a shade of narcissism.

    My ex was a narcissist (and not just according to me, according to the two psychologists and two psychiatrists who were expert witnesses in our long-ago custody battle!!! ). . . I memorized the DSM (disagnostic and statistical manual, the guide for psychiatric diagnoses) definition of narcissism. .. something about how for a narcissist other people are not really 'real', to a narcissist other people exist only to the extent that they serve the narcissist. So a narcissist does not love anyone because there is no anyone but their own selves. A narcissist does not actually love themselves: they are just keenly KEENLY aware of their self but in a dissociative way. It's quite a paradox, narcissism. Most people think it is all about self-absorption and many think it means excessive self-love but it really is an inability to feel anything about one's self. It's a tough nut to crack. Narcissism is a personality disorder, probably the result of very early, very bad nurture. Personality disorders are distinct from mental illnesses and are pernicious, very difficult to undo.

    In Don and Betty's cases — I am not sure they are narcissists, well, probably. . . but I might be using the term incorrectly — but I don't think Don or Betty have it in them to change. They will change partners, similar to redecorating the living room. But in the end, they'll still be the same people with same dissatisfactions.

    Or look at Roger Sterling. Does anyone expect his new marriage to be a happy one? He married a narcissistic drunk, a golddigger if ever I saw one. . . but even if we pretend that he married a well-educated, coillege-graduate poet (remember when she wrote poetry for Roger in that hotel bed!), even if we assume Jane is a whole person, does anyone think Roger is a whole human? you can't be one half of a good marriage unless you are a real grown up.

  14. I disagree with the suggestion that ‘we’ did not know, when Don, in S2, arrived on Anna’s California doorstep, that he was not sure he would return to Betty. I felt sure, when he pulled out his little black book at the jet-setter house, which was when ‘we’ knew he was not going to join the jet-set, that he was headed back to Betty. He rejected a new fantasy life, choose the old one. Anna? She’s the closet thing he has to a home base. Joy said her father would provide for Don and that Don would have sex with anyone he choose . . . when he pickedup that phone, I didn’t know who he called but I knew he was headed back to Betty.

    I completely disagree with the declaration that Don wants to be married to Betty. I don’t think Don cares about Betty at all, except in an accessory kind of way. He wants the magazine-spread life but he is not interested in Betty.

    Don seems to have some real feelings for his children but with Betty, it’s all like a fashion spread, He’s a poseur. He spent his whole childhood looking in on life and now that the has a life he dreamt of, it is still a dream to him. Betty a dream, not a person.

    Ultimately, they both have what they thought they wanted when they chose one another: beautiful mates that enhance their fantasy of themselves.

    I can’t think of a single scene in which Don talks to Betty like a life partner, seeking her input on anything. He gives in to her, like bringing Grandpa Gene into the house, or dragging the family to look at furniture in Tarrytown. . . but he does not seem to see her as a helpmate.

    When Roger called Betty, trying to get Betty to talk Don into signing the contract, don seemed to completely miss that Betty was supportive of Don. She took sides against Roger, disagreed with Roger’s behavior. And then he said she was making it all about herself as if her husband’s employment contract was none of her business. He could easily have turned her into a coillaborator in that scene, instead, he walked out, driving all night, the loner. He so does not want Betty.

    Don is empty.

  15. Betty is all about appearances and even with both her parents now dead, I don't think she's a bold enough little girl to leave Don and be a single mom and dating divorcee. She would have to have a clear exit strategy to rebound straight into the arms of a richer, more powerful man. She was testing whether Henry Francis might fit that profile, but I think she was put off how he quickly he closed in on her to hold up her end of the bargain — she would need a lot more courting than that, and more status. She sees no problem in using him, but recoils when he plays the same game.

    And speaking of games, Betty and Don's little ruse in Rome where they pretend to be strangers and he picks her up, had all kinds of layers. They are emotional strangers in the real life back home, stuck in the classic madonna-wh*re paradigm. Carla hands her the baby straight off the bat, and Betty says weakly, "I missed you." Don's libido switches off the moment he crosses the threshold of 42 Bullet Park Rd (sounds like a Cheever address!).

    They both trade off each other's good looks — Don must have known his stock would rise in Connie's eyes with a goddess like Betty on his arm, and Betty likes reminding him of her power in this arena. It's her trump card, and she knows how to play it. I've always wondered if she helped hasten Don's rise at SC — I wish we could flashback to her very first encounter with Roger; I bet he was drooling and she was loving the attention. Now she treats Roger with a disdain more often reserved for a jilted lover — she flirted, got what she and Don needed and now reviles Roger for no real reason other than propriety.

    And to all Basketcases, especially the sisters Lipp — I love the smart, witty commentary in this forum. Takes me back to discussing literature in college. I wish my book club had as much to say!

  16. I think she's had a little smidgen of feeling attracted and drawn to a man (Henry) on her own terms. She likes knowing that a man is into her, for herself…not because he's screwed up in the past and is trying to make amends.

    I think Betty is feeling some contempt for Don. He's no longer in the power position – at work, or at home.

  17. Oh Matt Weiner, why do you do this to me… I thought Betty wanted to go to Rome because she wanted to be with Don, but MW said in his “inside S3′ video that she did it because she felt guilty for kissing Henry. He also said their marriage was weakened by their trip.

    I guess I’ve been wearing rose colored glasses.

  18. Did the trip really actively _weaken_ the marriage, or is it that Betty realized that everything she was getting no longer served the purposes she's awakening in herself? Weaken implies that something was taken away, but I think what actually happened is Betty got what was always _there,_ and she knows for sure that it isn't enough.

    We've seen how materialistic she can be. When Sally was grieving (still is, of course) and Betty took her into the bedroom to talk to her, I momentarily believed they were going to have a heart-to-heart about death and love — but of course this wasn't even a possibility — she gave her a present, convinced that would fix everything.

    Don did the same thing.

    I think Betty realized, in that moment, how little a new store-bought object can actively DO when you're suffering. When you can't make sense of your life. When you want to grow and expand but your role requires that you stay in your confines.

    Betty knows how beautiful she is. The glittery charm that defines her presence has been an asset to Don's career, and of course, it's been noticed by others. But in Italy she took it a step up — not only in the stunning makeover she was given in the salon, but in the fact that as she sat there shining, she was speaking Italian. It wasn't just her body on display, but her MIND — and this time, SHE had the power. She didn't even let her Italian suitors know she had a husband — she rejected them because, "You're not a gentleman."

    And when she got back, her Bryn Mawr education now glowing with relevance that had NO USE in this town, she couldn't play the game anymore. I wanted to hug her when she said "I hate our friends," because I hate her friends, and I had formerly been under the impression that she actually considered them fulfilling company. Francine is a detestable human being — anti-Semetic, horribly judgmental of other women, and completely inappropriate with Don. Friendship is supposed to allow for warmth and jokes, but I don't know anyone who'd be okay with someone asking if their husband "wants company" when he goes to take a shower. And then acting like Betty had spilled a torrent of saucy details about their trip when Don came home. Grow up.

    Betty wants to.

  19. What struck me about this episode (here I'm going to start a tangent away from Don and Betty's marriage) are the mirrors and parallels throughout the episode, not simply in the trip to Rome (the point about which sides of the bed the couple slept on is great), but between Don and Betty's "weekend" (in that it was 2 days long) and Pete's weekend alone. The main room of Pete's apartment was a mirror image, in terms of the placement of the window and porch, of the hotel room in Rome, Don pursues an "unknown" blond, Pete "pursues" an unknown blond as well (were both drinking whiskey neat before they began?), what appears to be a renewal of the marital relationship for Betty and Don crashes when the real world is reentered, but Pete's mini hell of a weekend (he sure seemed bored throughout – lots of solo drinking, starts the day watching cartoons and then dozes til the evening, then pushes himself on the defenseless au pair) brings about a closer bond with Trudy – he realizes he'd rather have her around. Don and Betty do better with each other in a fantasy land (as suits their level of self-connection), Pete realizes that he'd rather be grounded in reality and have his wife there.

    As for Betty's reaction to the Coliseum charm – it's a reminder to her of the glory and beauty of the image of Rome, vs. the ruins that now exist, with parallels to the trip and her return home. I think there's a very good reason she wasn't all that interested in touring the city to begin with. Ruins aren't beautiful, they're sad reminders of what was and isn't now. Don was the one who mentioned, when he first mentioned the trip, that he'd only get to see the Coliseum when his taxi drove by it.

  20. What about the phrase from Mr. Francis that Betty repeated to Don, "When you have no power, you have to delay." Could that resonate beyond the Reservoir issue to Don and Betty's marriage? Is Betty delaying something until she gets more power? Wondering what readers of this forum think.

  21. J Mo. — Yes, definitely! I don't know exactly what she's delaying (having an affair with Henry? Probably bigger than that) but I DO believe that this episode confirmed a beginning of her wielding the power.

    There she was, fluent in the language and feeling right at home, while Don could only rely on her honesty to have even the slightest notion of what the locals were saying in his presence.

  22. In this episode, the balance of power shifted ever so slightly in the Draper marriage, and maybe for one episode only. No longer was Betty sitting at the kitchen table waiting for Don to sign a contract. She was speaking the language, she was dressing the part. Don was like JFK accompanying Jackie to Paris — it was supposed to be all about his meeting and his business, but she stole the show. Don is amused, grateful and aroused — this is happy Betty. Don naively believes that all will be well upon their return to Ossining. But he should know by now that his wife turns on and turns off her emotions like a faucet. A charm for her bracelet and a brief trip to Rome will not fix the problems in their marriage or Betty's tremendous dissatisfaction with her life.

  23. I thought tizzielish was right on in post #11 – Don and Betty are very invested in each other as *accessories* and we've had ample evidence of their *need* to be admired by the opposite sex in every situation, and how much of their "power" comes from that admiration. But I don't agree that Don is empty inside. Don is terribly damaged and he is struggling to be a real human being and to inhabit his life after pretending for so long (out of necessity and survival instinct!), but all that is not the same thing as being empty. I'm struggling with whether I believe Don and Betty love each other. I liked what Deborah said – that Don is so *interested* in Betty in this episode – but is he? I can't decide. He seemed happy when she was happy after the council meeting and he certainly enjoyed their flirtation and sexual connection in Rome. And he seemed genuinely puzzled that she didn't like his gift after they got home. Of course he doesn't understand her frustration – a man of that era (of any era, maybe) doesn't understand a woman's inability to express her gifts and talents. But does he not get women or does he not get *Betty*? And does he care that he doesn't? I'm not sure.

  24. One more comment about being "empty" – I should have said that Don is no more empty than Betty is. She is a product of her time and of the family that she grew up in. She is behaving the way she thinks she should behave, but she's not empty inside either, despite her often icy behavior (could anyone be less moved by a kiss than she is after Henry kisses her, rather thoroughly).

  25. Rosemary, I think you're on to something.

    I think the defining line in this episode is Pete's. I think he has left and taken souvenirs in his time away from Trudy that he now realizes he doesn't want.

    Pete's confession to her — "I don't want you to go away anymore without me" — was one I extended to Betty as well. But that line wasn't about either Trudy or Don. It was about what Betty was afraid she would do, and what Pete now knows he would do, left without the grounding influence of their spouses.

    I loved seeing Betty stretch her wings in Souvenir: displaying her knowledge of Italian (language, currency, men) to her husband and others, moving and speaking with confidence, working the phone for her community's cause. But I felt she was doing all of this because another man had taken an interest in her.

    The scene with Sally and her fainting couch brought Betty to her one of her most eloquent points yet. She waxed positively rhapsodic about kissing: exposing her feelings about the first kiss as the moment when you go "from being strangers to really knowing someone".

    Who was in her mind at that moment? Her husband? Henry? The guy in the bar, after all her failed attempts to abort Sally's little brother?

    How can we know? Her face gives nothing away.

  26. First of all, Anne B., last week's Shadow posts and the tread it so fruitfully generated was one of the most fullifilling works I've EVER read, at all, but especially on the Internet. Amazing job everybody!! You make me thrilled to be alive in this age. (Mad Men is good at doing that, too…)

    I'm going to stick up for Betty on one of your points, because this episode made me fall in love with her in a way that I never had or thought I would.

    Yes, her wings might have spread because another man had taken interest in her, but I don't think that means she was doing it to impress him. I think, for the first time in a long time, possibly ever, she had HOPE for being something OTHER than an inviting face, a glittering charm for Don's Perfect Life bracelet.

    I keep thinking about the dinner with the Barretts last season — the heartwrenching moment that it hit Betty was she was there for — a pretty thing to dangle in front of Bobby's face to keep him occupied/distracted while the grown-ups talk.

    All Betty's ever been told is how pretty she is. Modeling is the only ambition we've ever seen from her. Henry was a spark. Someone who offered a different reality wherein her intelligence, and even (as in the phonecalling) assertiveness (!) was respected.

    All she needed was one person to open up that possibility.

    After that, she took off.

  27. Re: # 14 Glad Mad Woman Says:
    October 5th, 2009 at 4:31 am
    Oh Matt Weiner, why do you do this to me… I thought Betty wanted to go to Rome because she wanted to be with Don, but MW said in his “inside S3′ video that she did it because she felt guilty for kissing Henry. He also said their marriage was weakened by their trip.

    She went to with Don because, like Pete, she's afraid of what will happen if left alone, to her own devices.

  28. Sarah,

    Make no mistake: I agree with you. For the first time last night, I saw how intelligent Betty really is. She is brilliant, and stuck.

    If she and Don really did love each other — in the way that love makes people more interested in each other, makes them want to know everything about one another, and be known in turn — I think they'd be an unbeatable couple.

    But each of them is also a broken individual with something to hide. I know what it is on Don's side; on Betty's, I am not sure. Her rage points to something, as does the anthropology, the interest in setting things up and breaking them down. But I can't quite see what it is.

    Naturally, Betty feels limited in her role. I would slit my wrists if I had to live her life. You kidding? Stand there listening to Francine's mindless fantasizing about Madrid somehow rekindling things with Carlton? Snap out of it, lady. The man runs away from you. Every day.

    So brilliant Betty is stuck. It's 1963. Rome was temporary. Her mind really can't take her anywhere … not in life as she and Don have designed it.

  29. Beautifully put, as always.

    And what a simple, powerful definition of love.

    If only they weren't so afraid of what's inside.

  30. One more comment about being "empty" – I should have said that Don is no more empty than Betty is. She is a product of her time and of the family that she grew up in. She is behaving the way she thinks she should behave, but she's not empty inside either, despite her often icy behavior (could anyone be less moved by a kiss than she is after Henry kisses her, rather thoroughly).

  31. Sarah M I agree with so much of what you say except two tiny things: I think Francine's "want company?" to Don was just a saucy joke, and Betty, Francine and he all took it that way. And Betty's makeover in Italy was YIKES! Everything else, right on the money. Betty is SO frustrated. How will she find herself? I hope she sees that the answer is not in Henry, or any man; maybe partially in her husband because one of the surest routes to happiness is being ensconced in a warm, loving family, which I believe the Drapers have a shot at. I think if Betty could find some type of absorbing work, she might be able to be content in the life she's made for herself. Of course, all that has to wait on her taking care of her 2 mo infant. Very sweet in this ep how she cooed at him, take THAT, people who are hypercritical of Betty's parenting!

  32. But we saw this Rome trip and the aftermath coming when Gene and Sally were reading "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", right? There was no way Don and Betty were coming home happy. Reality met them at the door the minute the walked through it. I wasn't surprised that she didn't appreciate the charm that Don gave her. To her, it was just a token gift from a token weekend.

    Wasn't anyone else bothered that Don wrote on Betty's phone list when Connie's office called with the Rome trip details? Wonder how happy he'd be if she wrote her shopping list on a presentation of his.

    All that aside, I'm considering sleeping on the other side of the bed tonight…

  33. I think my favorite (and probably the essential) line of this episode was: When you have no power, delay.

    That’s what Betty is doing through the whole episode. She’s a married woman with three small children in a time when divorce is still relatively scandalous and being divorced would make life even more difficult and complicated than it already is. She can’t just leave her husband, even for another man, when her relationship with the other man is still completely amorphous. She can’t solidify the relationship with the other man until she sussed him out way more thoroughly and thoughtfully than she has. So the best she can do is bid her time, stay with her husband, make the best of it, until she can formulate a more concrete plan.

    The problem with delaying because you’re powerless is that all it does is remind you of how powerless you are. So as much as I kind of sighed (oh, Betty!) when she went all bitter and cynical at the end of the episode, I totally understood it.

    I also thought what she said to Sally very much informed the rest of the episode, about how a first kiss is the line you cross, between being strangers and knowing another person. When she and Don are in Rome, they literally act as if they were strangers, a fairly common fantasy scenario among people who have been together a long time. But that “first kiss” with Don is simply not the same as her first kiss with (what the heck is his name?), because it’s not real. It’s a fantasy — a delaying tactic. It’s really very sad, in retrospect, because that’s a choice Betty makes, in a sense. It would be entirely possible to make that brief trip a first step in solidifying what she has in her actual, real-life marriage, but the unhappier we are in our realities, the harder we cling to our fantasies, no matter how thin and unlikely they may be.

    I loved Betty and Don in the "fantasy" scene, pretending to be strangers. They both seemed so much more likeable and charming, and meant for each other. Except it wasn't real. I knew it, certainly Betty knows it, and if it bothered me — someone who doesn't even exist in the "reality" of the show — imagine how crushing it must have been for her.

  34. Sarah – Don had asked Betty to join in that client dinner (with the Utz's and Barretts'), because he knew that Jimmy (from what Bobbi told him) liked to flirt with other men's husbands. After the dinner, while Don and Betty were on their way home, she started crying because at that moment, she finally felt like Don was letting her in on things going on in his life (aka his job). Like they were true partners.

    It wasn't until they had the potential client dinner at home with the folks from Heninken, in which she wasn't "let in on the joke" about SC's potential campaign of reaching out to housewives, in order to reach a new clientele, that Betty let Don know about HER knowledge of his affair with Bobbi. That was when things between them hit the fan and she couldn't keep deluding herself about her marriage (at that time).

    @ 26 Sarah M.

    I keep thinking about the dinner with the Barretts last season — the heartwrenching moment that it hit Betty was she was there for — a pretty thing to dangle in front of Bobby's face to keep him occupied/distracted while the grown-ups talk.

  35. I can't edit. I meant to type out "other men's wives".

  36. Re: Wasn’t anyone else bothered that Don wrote on Betty’s phone list when Connie’s office called with the Rome trip details? Wonder how happy he’d be if she wrote her shopping list on a presentation of his.

    I noticed that Weiner was trying to say something there but didn't get it until reading all these posts and recognizing that the episode was about power — who has it at any given moment and who doesn't.

  37. Hombres Locos,

    My husband was also bothered by that detail — Don writing his trip information on Betty's phone list.

    I took it in a different direction. I liked that snapshot of the two Drapers working at home, and I thought that Don writing his flight into on Betty's sheet said that he had nothing to hide from her. In the next breath, he invited her along.

    I thought that scene presented the husband and wife more as equals than ever — even if there was a subtle undercurrent of power moving beneath the somewhat calm surface.

    I'm a married woman myself. Aren't the tiny power struggles beneath the issues of paper, workspace, who has (or gets) to do what when, kind of at the heart of every marriage?

  38. Re: Hombres Locos,

    My husband was also bothered by that detail — Don writing his trip information on Betty’s phone list.

    I took it in a different direction. I liked that snapshot of the two Drapers working at home, and I thought that Don writing his flight into on Betty’s sheet said that he had nothing to hide from her. In the next breath, he invited her along.

    I thought that scene presented the husband and wife more as equals than ever — even if there was a subtle undercurrent of power moving beneath the somewhat calm surface.

    I’m a married woman myself. Aren’t the tiny power struggles beneath the issues of paper, workspace, who has (or gets) to do what when, kind of at the heart of every marriage?

    I like that interpretation but it didn't come across for me. I sensed Betty annoyed at some level. Which, if so, is a bit of the show having it both ways. After all, it was she who insisted that Don get up and take the call, obviously respecting the power on the other end of the line. Given that much, it seems anyone in her place would be deferential to Don needing something to write on in a hurry and would overlook the incident as refelcting any sort of domination on his part. She knows that Hilton means more money (and glamor) for her and her family.

  39. I feel like Betty finally told Don what was wrong. She hates the burbs. That is a real thing that has a real solution. There is no reason they can't move to the city. Betty would love the big city, Don wouldn't have to spend half his life commuting, and the kids would get used to it…

    I thought the episode sounded boring when I was reading the open thread, but it was actually incredibly beautiful. Don and Betty were in love once and beneath everything that has happened, they still have that love.

    There was something magical about this episode. Maybe it is the cold medicine talking, but this episode moved me.

  40. I was surprised at Betty's reaction to the charm as well, at first, but see that she's clearly disappointed in returning to the status quo.

    What I thought was sad, really sad, was Don's dejected (clueless) expression. Earlier, while they were still in Rome, during their "flirtation scene" Don says to Betty: "I won't have my heart broken."

    I don't think they really love each other. They don't even know each other. They fell in love, but as Betty describes the first kiss as crossing that line into "knowing someone," each kiss after that is a "shadow of that first kiss."

    That means, to me, that each kiss gets you further away from that initial feeling of being in love. Your first feelings of love/infatuation/lust/attraction/desire don't develop further into real love unless you get to know each other and like what you know about each other. That takes communication and trust and neither of them know how to do this.

    The physical attraction is there for both of them, but their first blush of love or infatuation never developed into a real relationship or real love. That's why the Rome trip is so enticing and such a letdown when they come home. It's sweet that Don wants to keep it going but Betty sees what she's facing. They're both just delaying the inevitable: a miserable life together or apart.

  41. January Jones all but naked in her high-end lingerie in that steamy setting in Rome was one of the most stunning sites I have seen on my television set in a long, long time.

  42. I was also bothered by Don's writing his notes on Betty's list, and thought I caught a flicker of annoyance on Betty's face when he did that. On the other hand – she tore off the paper and handed him what he had written down (and it looked as though she sacrificed an address to do it). At the time I actually commented to my husband, "I hope [that address] isn't somebody too important!"

    OTOH, we'd just been having a conversation about fonts in Mad Men, so when we first saw the list my initial reaction was to think it looked a bit too perfect to have been typed on a typewriter. So maybe Betty can just run off another copy on her printer 😉

  43. No, a clean, well-maintained early-sixties vintage typewriter (an office model, certainly) would actually have produced pretty legible copy, especially if you had some sort of magical machine that could make duplicates, and you didn't have to use carbon paper.

  44. Love the thread and like the less eventful episodes sometimes. S3 has been pretty eventful lately and while nursing my cold I needed a break.

    With the focus mostly on two characters you can’t help but compare them. As nicely pointed out above, Betty doesn’t trust herself to be left alone while Pete learns he can’t be trusted to baby-sit himself either. Both are emotionally childish, shallow and maybe even a bit stunted; that is they don’t seem to be showing the same progress their spouses seem to be making.

    Pete thinks he is going to have a fine, relaxing bachelor weekend and ends up getting drunk and practically raping the au pair right down the hall. Betty gets to be a princess for a couple days but stamps her foot at the lousy, boring souvenir and small life back home. These are grown-ups who aren’t acting like adults. Last week Betty challenges Don to sign the three year contract now she’s not sure she can deal with the life she asked Don to lock in.

    Earlier this season Pete does his awkward “Snoopy-Dance” after he temporarily gets the promotion he wants and Betty does an odd (I thought charming) little dance this week when she achieves a brief success. Both successes are later significantly diminished.

    Pete is genuinely talented but can’t seem to advance while Betty is brilliant but perennially unsatisfied (I’ll never underestimate her after the Sarah Beth set-up of S2). In a word Betty is bored. But we know that “only boring people are boring” and if you’re bored you should pound you head against the wall – which is about what Betty is ready to do by the end of this episode.

    From one perspective Pete seems to be further along and knows himself well enough to just hand the keys over to Trudy. This also is an admission that he doesn’t expect to grow up. Both Pete and Betty tend to blame others or circumstances and both have expectations that aren’t entirely realistic. My mother would say they have attitude problems.

    Enough comparison. For contrast Exhibit A is our friend Joan who I have grown to love. Time and time again she is handed a crappy hand and she makes the best of it. I felt bad for Joan but not sorry for Joan. I’m hopeful for Betty, but fear Pete will never grow up.

    Sorry – got a bit long winded there. Must be feeling better. Thanks Lipp Sisters!

    • Earlier this season Pete does his awkward “Snoopy-Dance” after he temporarily gets the promotion he wants and Betty does an odd (I thought charming) little dance this week when she achieves a brief success. Both successes are later significantly diminished.

      I jotted down a note about the 2 happy dances, but I hadn't assigned a meaning to them. This is SO smart!

  45. I saw two glimmers of hope for a turning point in Don & Betty's relationship (besides the smokin' hot night in Rome):

    While Betty was working on the reservoir issue, we see for the first time Don taking an interest in what she's doing, maybe because for the first time she's DOING something that doesn't involve kids, housework and shopping. He says she should get paid for what she's doing. Then, after the town meeting, Don asks her what happened, and he seems genuinely interested in what she has to say. Yes, Don, there's a real person in there somewhere. Maybe you can help draw that out?

    When they get home, Betty was honest with Don about what's bothering her (to the extent that she's figured out what's bothered her.) She hates "this place" (their house?), their friends, their town. Neither of them know what to do with that outburst, or what it really means, but I want to believe it's a beginning, not an ending.

    I don't think simply moving to Manhattan will solve Betty's problem. Her problem isn't where she lives, it's how she lives.

    A nagging worry for me: Betty's not breast feeding, so she could pretty easily have gotten pregnant again in Rome. I know plenty of kids who are 11 or 12 months apart – it can happen! That won't be good. (Abortion this time, Betty?)

    Let's hope not. I appreciate all the suburban housewife angst we're getting this season, but I don't know how much more of it I can take without SOMETHING getting resolved one way or another. I'm starting to lose hope that anything good can ever happen for any of these people. That can't be the whole point of the season, can it? I'm looking for a little redemption/ resurrection here! Maybe Anna will drop by for a long visit.

    Time for another SC-centric episode. What HAS Don been doing at work these days, besides being Connie's bitch?

  46. When I first saw Betty’s bitter reaction to the gift of the Coliseum charm, I couldn’t understand it. It seemed so arbitrary and sudden. But it has everything to do with where Don and Betty started, before this trip, in their perception of their marriage.

    The way I saw it, while she was in Rome she'd been able to be a different person. Or more accurately : to be again the person she was before she got married. As if after a decade playing the role of the suburban housewife, she'd gone back to her real life as an international sophisticated model.

    And then she gets back, and Francine talks about that wonderful little trip she had with Carlton, and you can see it dawning on Betty – this is her in a year. She will still be a suburban housewife, because that is her real life, and Rome will just have been a pleasant interlude.

    Don giving her a souvenir is just confirmation. International jet-setters don't buy little Coliseum souvenirs, bored suburban tourists do.

  47. International jet-setters don’t buy little Coliseum souvenirs, bored suburban tourists do.

    True. But as we saw in "The Jet Set," being an international jet-setter can be a pretty empty life too, albeit in more glamourous settings.

    My other reaction to the charm: the baubles have gone from a mink coat to a gold charm, and she's no longer swept off her feet by Don's gift. And also, maybe Betty is finally figuring out that baubles are not the answer to every problem, hers or Sally's.

    I'm bothered by Betty's infatuation with Henry Francis (although I suspect that fainting couch has already been sent back to Wentworth's on consignment.) Once again, Betty is drawn to a handsome powerful man who sees nothing more in her than a beautiful face. I hope she realized there an equally empty existence waiting for her there in his life. I interpreted her reaction to his kiss as almost disgust, but certainly disappointment. He knows less about Betty than Don did when he married her, and the sole attraction seems to be purely physical. You've already got that Betty!

    The final scene filled me with crushing despair. "Are you suicidal, Betty?"

  48. I've watched the episode 3 times now, and when I watched it again last night, it was with an eye towards comparing and contrasting the Draper marriage and the Campbell marriage. I was particularly intrigued by Trudy readily forgiving Pete, even though she knew or at least strongly suspected that he cheated on her, and Betty's coldness toward Don when they got back from Rome. I concluded that the Campbells do love each other. Pete is an immature brat and very emotionally needy, but he does love Trudy. Possibly he gets from her the kind of attention he never got from his mother. He is lost without her, as evidenced by the fact that when she leaves, all hell breaks loose. Trudy knows him like the back of her hand and in a way, that gives her a sort of power over him. And I believe she does love him. Trudy's no fool and she knows he's a jerk but she loves him anyway. Why, I am not entirely sure, but she does. Maybe because he fulfills the role of both husband and child for her. She sees him as a "great man" and herself as the "great woman" behind the "great man." So, in that way, they have a kind of partnership. In addition, they have other things that make a good relationship. They have companionship. They have fun together, as evidenced by their masterful Charleston dance in Episode 3. There is affection between them, not just sexual attraction.

    The Drapers, on the other hand, appear to have none of this. Possibly because their entire marriage is built on a lie. Possibly because they may not have known each other very well before marriage. Possibly because they are both emotionally closed off. Possibly all of the above.

  49. Great insight on the marriages Helen!

    It never occurred to me but Pete does seem to fill the need for a child around the Campbell household. Indeed the little rascal is a handful for Trudy. Pete is stunted but he and Trudy are on the same page in life and they seem to understand their roles. They make a good dance and marriage team.

    Don and Betty are poles apart right now and a nice interlude in Rome only underscored this. Don chose this life very deliberately last season and despite some old tendencies is trying as a husband and father. Betty is bored and increasingly frustrated with her life because she feels like had no real choice in the matter. She feels this role was thrust upon her.

    I’m still hopeful mostly because of little Gene. Betty genuinely loves the little guy she didn’t originally want. I think there is a crisis a-brewing however because somehow Betts needs to be in a position to see a different future and choose her life with Don and the kids.

  50. I don't think much will come from the Drapers' marriage if it's all based upon lies and facades. Betty has no idea about the real identity of her husband. Both she and Don married each other for superficial reasons. Betty has finally aired her discontent with her life and the superficiality of it. I wonder if Don will eventually do the same.

  51. @jls (#3): "Lighting the cigarette was definitely the subtheme this episode."

    To quote the Lizard King, "Come on, baby, light my fire". They certainly seemed to do that for each other this week, at least for the duration of the trip. As I mentioned in the open thread, the Roman holiday finally allowed us to see not only the Don who fell in love with Betty, but the smart, beautiful Elizabeth he described to Anna back in season 1. This is the couple that got married ten years ago without the complications of work and kids. The fact that the fantasy gets pumelled by the reality of suburbia upon their return is tragic.

    @Anne B (#28): "Her rage points to something, as does the anthropology, the interest in setting things up and breaking them down. But I can’t quite see what it is."

    I occurs to me that, while jarring at first, Betty having studied anthropology makes a certain kind of sense. She has studied people and cultures in the abstract, and that's how I think she sees them a lot of the time. If she is a textbook narcissist, as tizzielish suggests, then that would be in keeping with the other-people-aren't-quite-real of it.

    re: Don writing on Betty's phone list — If I remember correctly, she slid it over for him to write on, so she must not have objected too strongly. If she did, I'd imagine she would've at least turned it over or made him get something else to copy it onto rather than tearing it off for him.

  52. I saw a parallel between Don's casual, careless encroaching upon Betty's workspace when he wrote his notes on her list, and Betty's "invading" the mirror Sally was using, to put some lipstick on before the audition. In both cases the body language meant power, and in both cases the weakest side (Beth as to networking, Sally as to feminine seduction) later tries hard, however, to conquer what they're after, and in both cases the result comes accompanied by big emotional turmoil and consequences.
    Sorry for my not so good English, I am Italian and I have no dictionary with me. I'm just addicted to this blog. Thank you!

  53. Wow. This blog IS amazing. Should be required reading for film and literary interpretation courses.

  54. […] feminist concept, and I think it’s really important to discuss it as a follow up to Love & Marriage. Don was definitely more interested in reuniting than Betty, and he is definitely more interested, […]

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