“New York in August? It’s like a great big melting wax museum.”
It’s the dog days of summer. Sweaty Don goes to catch lightning bugs with his kids at Betty’s suggestion, while Pete comes home to an empty apartment. Trudy has gone to spend some time with her parents.
While Betty works on some reservoir shit, Hilton rings the house; Don has been bounced around all sorts of American cities/toilets checking out hotels and getting to know the brand, and now Connie wants him to hit up Rome. Betty is intrigued by the idea, as Don scribbles down the Pan-Am flight details on her cold call list. Her eyes light up at the idea of an international trip, but then the reality slaps her in the face; they have a 2-month old baby (not to mention 2 other young kids) here at home. Boo-urns.
Bachelor Pete seems pretty content watching Davey and Goliath and eating cereal, laughing to himself; then he passes out later in the day. Eventually imitating a real person, he heads to Gristedes for some groceries and spots the neighbour’s busty German Au Pair frantically stuffing a stain-dress into the trash chute. Pete tries to help her out, and hey-o, Joan works at the department store now!
Turns out Joan had to take something of a trash job while things are tough at home; Greg is changing his specialty to therapy. Sigh. The good news is that she’s mastering her job at the department store, but she’s still deflated once Pete leaves, thinking of the life and prestige she had at Sterling Cooper.
Betty goes about her day, applies her lipstick in one fell flawfree swoop, while Sally gazes on in awe. It’s time for that reservoir hearing, and Henry makes shit happen. As he walks her to her car, Betty is driving her father’s Lincoln; she thought it would be good luck. Hank goes in for the kiss, and Betty reciprocates though she stays quiet and vaguely mysterious.
“They should just do it up in Newburgh. It’s already disgusting.”
At home, Betty is on a happy high from winning (and snogging Henry), and jumps at the opportunity to hit up Rome with Don. There, she can have the chance to feel smart and interesting, and hey, she speaks fluent Italian. The reservoir hearing was a good step in the right direction, a place where she could feel like she was more than just the housewife or Don’s shiny better half for some work dinner.
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Landing in Rome, Don and Betty look exhausted. Speaking Italian without missing a beat, Betty side-eyes Don for overtipping their bellboy. Post-nap, she makes an appointment to get her hair set, and emerges totally stunning for their dinner with Conrad Hilton. Taking a seat outside, she orders an Asti. In the midst of being hit on by some Italians, Don approaches her as if they don’t know one another and they indulge in some flirtatious role playing.
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“To whatever they were saying.”
“They said you were ugly.”
“Does that bother you?”
“You think because of the way I’m dressed that I’m shallow?”
“I was just hoping you were easy..”
“They said that too.”
“What brings you to rome? Seen anything interesting?”
“I could take it or leave it.”
Having done a nice favour for the neighbour’s au pair re:dresspocalypse, Pete creeps on her expecting something in return. In a scene that mirrors that of Ladies’ Room in Season 1, when he creeped on Peggy’s doorstep latenight, his sauced frat boy faux charm is a little stale now. Woof, it’s super fucking uncomfortable.
In the following days, his neighbour comes home and he ain’t pleased with Pete’s shenanigans while the cats are away; he’s had some peaceful weeks, and now it’s been disrupted since the au pair is upset about cheating on her boyfriend and ya know, ~Women’s Emotions~. Yikes on bikes all around, but he imparts some valuable advice to Pete; don’t shit where you eat. Philandering 101.
When Trudy comes home, Pete is pretty shellshocked. He doesn’t communicate what actually happened, but he lets Trudy know he doesn’t want her to vacation without him again. Seems like they have an understanding, and they are both happy to get back to some semblance of normalcy.
Vacation seems to be so easy for Betty and Don, so effortless; but once they crossed the threshold of their home, they were confronted with the bullshit of the day to day and resume their New York roles in their real life together. Don immediately leaves as Carla starts yapping about the kids while Betty furrows her brow. Life resumes.
How can Don and Betty bring that Roman romance stateside? It takes a lot of work, but Betty may be out of steam at this point. As the wonder wears off from their brief holiday, it’s back to reality at casa Draper; Betty has to address Sally kissing Ernie (and then Sally’s temper– beating the shit out of Bobby for making fun of her). Glancing at the whacking great fainting couch, she thinks of Henry. In one of her better parenting moments, she has a frank conversation with Sally about kissing boys.
“I don’t want you running around kissing boys. And you don’t kiss boys, boys kiss you. The first kiss is very special.”
“But I already did it.. it’s over!”
“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 after that is a shadow of that kiss. Do you understand?”
“I think so.”
Betty might have a different opinion if she was married to someone whom she really connected with, someone who understood her and loved her no matter what. But this is what she’s got for the time being, and imparts her wisdom to Sally.
That night, Betty expresses her total exasperation and frustration with their everyday life in Ossining, brought on by Francine’s small town nudging towards Henry Francis in an effort to further stir the pot. In Rome, it was as if they had no problems, no kids bothering them, it was wholly magical. Vacation rules!
But unfortunately, that’s just not real life no matter how much Betty desires that to be; “Aw, Bets– we’ll go away again.” It’s a shame to see just how much of her personality and flair for life Betty suppresses in the interest of being a housewife, to fit into that specific suburban mould. In Italy, she was alive, she was happy, and able to show off how intelligent and vibrant she really is. How can she translate that to work at home?
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Don surprises Betty with a little Colosseum charm for her bracelet, and she is entirely nonplussed. Fed up with her life, she takes it out on Don. Yikes.
“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.”