“Mad Men”: Episode 8, “Souvenir”

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Two things came to mind while I watched this “Mad Men” episode, “Souvenir,” which unfolded at a much more leisurely and subtle pace than the last two installments.

One was “La Dolce Vita,” Fellini’s seminal romp through Rome with Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg.

The other was “Summer in the City,” that turn-it-up AM radio classic by the Lovin’ Spoonful. (Yes, “Summer in the City” is 1966 and thus not strictly of “Mad Men’s” mid-1963 moment but “La Dolce Vita” is 1960, so I figure it all evens out.)

This episode, written by Lisa Albert and Matthew Weiner and helmed by Phil Abraham, found Don and Betty unexpectedly winging to Rome at Conrad Hilton’s behest for a 48-hour jaunt that seemed to do wonders for their relationship at a pivotal moment for Betty — at least until they got home. The other major subplot was Pete’s struggle to deal with his internal emotional conflicts, his urges and, clearly, his habit of self-medicating with alcohol. And we got an answer to the question “Mad Men” fanatics have been asking since “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency” — where’s Joan?

“Souvenir” was a tour de force for January Jones, who was so good in so many moments, big and small, that they are too numerous to mention. Like her leading man, Jon Hamm, Jones can speak volumes without uttering a word. It was also a fabulous showcase for Vincent Kartheiser, who’s overdue this season for a great spotlight seg. It starts on the page, for sure, but Kartheiser’s talent has done so much to add dimension to Pete.

On paper, he’s a character I should loathe — especially after his inexcusable, border-line criminal behavior with the German au pair down the hall — but I don’t, because Kartheiser has humanized him so much.

But back to Betty. Jones was so good in this episode that I almost stopped hating Betty, at least until her natural petulance got the better of her at the end. We got a little bit of everything from Betty this episode — past, present and the future she would like to have versus the future that she faces under her present circumstances.

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  1. Closely attend to, respect and show appreciation of each relationship, recognizing each relationship is a gift of God.

  2. paola says:

    The girl’s name was GUDRUN!! A very common name in Germany in the 60’s. Spelled like “Goodroon”

  3. teayneverdie says:

    The German girl’s name was Gertrude.

  4. FS says:

    Ummm … Don Draper all gooey and sweet? Weird as hell. Weiner doesn’t seem to understand that character. Both Don’s philandering and his family life are bland and shallow. His attitudes seem to change at random. Sal’s personal life is the best written personal story on the show.

  5. Anm says:

    I find it interesting that you seem so much more sympathetic to Pete’s shortcomings than Betty’s. Given the power differential between the two characters, it’s just the opposite for me. Nearly everything Pete does only makes me dislike him more.

  6. JS says:

    I didn’t first get “the significance of Betty commenting on the strange diesel smell in the hotel lobby”, but the more I thought about this singular exchange with Betty and Don, I thought it could be any/all of:
    1) To simply announce that they’re not in their “clean” suburb
    2) That the scene is not the US where gasoline engines were the near exclusive domain showing us how bad it could (and can) smell setting us up for a cleaner vehicle campaign (CA), or European car accounts?
    3) Ugly American Mentality (showing us beautiful Betty being ugly)
    4) reiterating Betty’s princess attitude/Don’s I’ll take charge attitude (like he can actually change the air in the hotel).

  7. dp405 says:

    Jim Shertzer,
    What the hell are you talking about? The woman in the elevator was not the neighbor’s wife. She was Gertrude! Hence, the awkwardness in the elevator. Did you really watch the episode twice? Time to get a bigger TV!

  8. Jim Shertzer says:

    Exactly WHO is Gertrude’s “boyfriend”? At first I thought she was referring to a boy back home, but the second time I looked at the episode, I felt differently, especially in view of the neighbor’s stormy visit to Pete and his warning not to bother Gertrude again and look outside the building for fun. Judging from the way the neighbor’s wife ignored Pete in the elevator (with their two kids), it seemed obvious too that she did not witness the emotional disturbances Gertrude went through after her sexual encounter with Pete. BUT HE DID. I think Gertrude’s “boyfriend” is her employer and she’s been forced into a sexual relationship with him to keep her job. I think it not uncommon for that to happen in households employing au pairs in those years. In short, the neighbor is a hypocrite and was warning Pete not to poach again on his territory. In any case, Gertrude is a powerless victim, as so many woman are in this series.

  9. Paul Jefferson says:

    Joan’s secret is safe wioth Pete; he dare not lie about why he went to Bonwit’s should it ever get back to Trudy.
    And again, Poor Joan (typed by reflex).

  10. Andrew says:

    The German girl’s name was Gertrude.

  11. Batutta says:

    Betty mentioned once in an episode she spent time in Italy as a model, with a designer named Gianni. He even gave her some clothes.

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