Mad Men Airs Sundays at 10/9c on AMC

Synopsis: Don takes Betty out to Rome for a Conrad Hilton-related business trip; Pete gets involved with a nanny in his building.

Review: To be a kid again. Last night’s Mad Men seemed to be focused on the three characters that are most childlike: Sally, the actual child discovering boys after seeing how her Mommy gets dolled up; Pete Campbell, the man-child who giggles at cartoons while eating cereal on his couch; Betty, the Princess who never has to wait for a man to light her cigarrette for her. We also saw these three characters be unfulfilled in some way as well.

Betty, who lets Mr. Francis kiss her in her father’s car, has always been a Daddy’s girl — she demands to be catered to and relies on the attention of older men (her father, Francis, hell, even Don is older than Betty knows). She needs to be done up properly in an Italian beauty salon and have strangers and multi-millionaires fawn over her, and still feels inadequate. Her husband and her have to play fantasy roles in a foreign land to re-ignite things between them (on that note, it was entertaining to see them flirt with each other and wake up in a hotel bed, as if they had affairs with each other — this also made me think about what Don’s reaction would be if he found out about Betty’s other interests — would he freak out?), but that can only be momentary. The only time Betty’s let us in to her actual thoughts and feelings is when a little boy who ran away from home was able to see the sadness inside her.

Pete Campbell has always struggled to be a man’s man. He has copied Tony Curtis’ voice inflection, walks with a strut, and gazes at women because it’s what he has been trained to believe these are the things men do. Yet, we’ve only ever seen Pete comfortable when he can be by himself, giggling at the television (which was also alluded to in the first episode in season two, when everyone was watching the Jackie Kennedy tour of the White House, except for Pete, who I imagine was watching something about Cowboys and Indians). He can’t seduce a woman like a man, can’t face his wife like a man, and becomes sheepish and sunk when caught in a lie — just like a little boy whose Mother caught him holding a broken vase. He whines and pouts, but it’s not his fault, like it’s not Betty’s either.

This brings us to poor little Sally, who’s bound to have a rocky upbringing with a Princess for a Mother and a man with one foot constantly out the door as a Father. I will say that little Kiernan Shipka has really been a bright spot of season three. The writers have called for Sally to do more this season than any one person in Sterling Cooper, and the little actress has been a treat. Her consistently honest and sweet performance has helped us flesh out more of what damage Betty and Don have done to their children (although Don is better at “playing” parent than Betty is, but that may change as Sally gets older) and she has served as a small lighthouse of hope amid the blanketed ocean of crushed dreams and bad tempers that have littered this season.

It was also nice to see Joan, a woman who’s perhaps dealing with a man-child husband of her own, even if it was brief.

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