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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

October 5, 2009 at 10:48 AM

“Mad Men”: Don and Betty’s Roman holiday

We could subtitle this episode as What a Difference a Dress (or an Address) Makes. Betty donned (ha!) a new dress, a towering new hairstyle and a new confidence in Rome, where she tagged along on Don’s business trip and reminded us that a) she speaks Italian, due to having lived in the country during her modelling career, b) she and Don do still have chemistry. It was fun to watch them flirt at the hotel bar (shades, perhaps, of their first meeting?), and heartbreaking to watch them slip back into their old patterns as soon as they got home: Don wandering off when the children were mentioned, Betty petulant and blank-faced as Don tries to please her with a little gift. Though Betty’s clearly decided to not pursue the attraction to Francis, she’s still a desperately unhappy housewife and a strangely indifferent mother. (“Go play.”) The shot in the mirror, where Betty applies her lipstick seemingly unaware that Sally, in that same mirror, is anxiously watching her every move, was telling.
And Joan’s back, via — what else? — a dress. A ruined dress brought by Pete to Bonwit Teller for exchange, as a favor-with-strings-attached to the cute German au pair in his building. (Anyone else note that the au pair is named Gertrude — as is, presumably, Pete’s wife Trudi?) Pete’s behavior was vile (he then used the favor to seduce and possibly rape the girl), but at least it brought us Joan again, in her new job as a salesperson (and manager?) at the department store. She solved Pete’s problems with her trademark breathy efficiency, while conveying to him in a very Joan way that she knew exactly what he was up to. Turns out her husband is now considering psychiatry (ha!) as a specialty, and Joan breezily spun her new job as just temporarily “helping out,” as if she’s doing Bonwit’s a favor. (She is.) Hmm — will Pete be spreading Joan’s new circumstances around the secretarial pool come Monday morning? And how long will he and Trudi be happy? Longer than Don and Betty?
No Peggy this week, and no Roger. I like how “Mad Men” spreads the storylines around, but it seems like we’re always missing somebody. A few puzzlers: What was the deal with the noxious odor in the Rome Hilton hotel lobby (and how funny is it that Betty would deal with it by lighting up a cigarette)? Would Betty’s speech about first kisses, to Sally, have made any sense to an eight-year-old? Doesn’t that fainting couch look like it crash-landed there from some mysterious antique-furniture celestial delivery service? Anyone else think Betty, after her Roman-beauty-parlor makeover, looked exactly like a Bond Girl?
Quote of the week: “When you have no power, delay.” This is my new mantra concerning deadlines.

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