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Mad Men recap: When in Rome

Betty and Don get their mojo back on a trip to Rome together, while Pete proves that he’s not one to be trusted on his own

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Mad Men Recap
Carin Baer/AMC

Mad Men

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Elisabeth Moss

The mosquitoes were thick last night. Men buzzed about with news of their power. Women got kissed. Sally upended it all by planting a wet one on Francine’s helpless boy and then walloping Bobby in the guts. Carla and Joan — the most capable and least powerful people on this show — worked hard for their money.

The office was shutting down for a long August weekend. Pete, catching up on his latest issue of Ebony, gave his secretary his best bit of paternal smarm and then sighed over the sorry plight of single girls to his buds. What his secretary would do for a taste of the suburban bliss going down in Westchester. Betty, looking adorable in her ponytail, worried over her Junior League volunteer cause. (”I’m paid enough already,” she told Don when he insisted she should make money for all her work. Sigh.) She poured him a beer and kindly sent him out back to catch lightning bugs with the kids. Hey, maybe life in the suburbs isn’t so bad afterall. Betty barely glowered when Don, on the phone with Hilton’s office, scribbled the details of a last minute summoning to Rome on her meticulously kept call sheets.

There was a chilling scene of Betty and Sally in the mirror. Mother, after a routine day of errands and her rigid brand of childcare, put the final touches on her face before rushing off to the community vote. There was Betty in the glass, with eyes only for herself. Crowded into that mirror were Sally’s sponge-like eyes — studying her mother’s porcelain reflection and wondering perhaps why the woman didn’t even notice her in the picture. At the meeting, the Junior Leaguers (”I’m Mrs. Jack Farrelly and we’re representing…”) waited for their white knight. In swooped Henry Francis, who very efficiently back-burnered the reservoir deal and earned a coquettish smile from Betty. ”When you have no power, delay,” he told the women, explaining the essence of politics and wealthy women in unhappy marriages. As Francine drove off, with a knowing smirk on her face, Henry deposited Betty in her Dad’s old Lincoln. (This guy, smooth as they come, knew to praise the car’s beauty.) Soap opera music crescendoed in the background as Henry spoke of his desire to make Betty happy and leaned in for a long, lingering kiss. As Betty drove off into the night it was hard to tell if she was looking at Henry in the mirror or simply enjoying the view of a desired woman staring back at her.

At home Betty did a cute little dance celebrating their victory and parroted Henry’s line about politics. Don gave her a quizzical look, both charmed and mystified by her girlish glee. I’m not sure if it was guilt that kept Betty up that night, or simply distaste for her suburban melodrama, but she needed an escape. Their two-month-old can go suck a bottle. Betty was taking Don up on his offer to accompany him to Rome. ”I just need to get on a plane,” she told him. So much time this season has been spent in the temporary, time-suspending coccoons of elevators, hotels and planes. ”Mayday, mayday!” as poor little Bobby cried.

What a thing to see Betty on the other side of the world — let alone the bed. She walked off that plane a different person, fluent in language and custom. It was like all pf a sudden she was that sunny, powerful girl Don fell in love with back in her modeling days. (”You’re tiny!” he said in a drunken, delighted voice.) She emerged from her beauty salon appointment in smoking black eyeliner and saucy beads. Here was a woman in total control, batting back the Italians’ advances and seducing dashing strangers at a sidewalk cafe. It was awkward watching Don and Betty pretend not to know each other. Surely Betty must realize that this was how he behaved with strange women on all of his business trips. But when in Rome, wear black lingerie and eat your breakfast in the shower. Betty looked reborn, as did Don’s affection for her.

NEXT: Pete’s true colors?


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