New Show Recap

Recap: Mad Men, Episode 5.03, “Tea Leaves”

Last week on the season premiere: the more things changed, the more they stayed the same.

This week we open on the Francis household. Henry calls up the stairs for Betty and we cut to our first sighting of the former Mrs.Draper this season as two of her children attempt to zip her into a dress that is having none of this. Mostly because she appears to be 150% of the woman she once was. As Henry comes in, Betty crawls into bed, still (almost) fully dressed and made up to tell her husband that she can’t go out tonight because of “a woman’s thing.” Henry expresses disappointment, but goes. Betty sighs sadly as he leaves, clearly disappointed herself. Betty’s whole face looks different. They either did a spectacular job with the prosthetics or shot this while January Jones was pregnant.

Over to Megan getting zipped up into a kicky little dress while talking to her parents on the phone. Don prods her about being late and “Heinz” getting to the restaurant before they do. Megan teases him about remembering his client’s name, saying that Heinz is the only man she wants to impress more than Don. Don adds “and your father” because it’s always a good idea to remind your wife of her daddy issues.

At the restaurant, small talk is made regarding Megan’s background and the background of, um, Mr. Heinz and wife. We segue to the Heinz’s teen daughter who is a huge Rolling Stones fan. This may be relevant or just a transition for Mr. Heinz’s terrible idea of having the Stones re-record a song for their commercial. Don says he’ll work on it. Mrs. Heinz steers the conversation away from work, so of course we immediately cut to the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

Pete and Lane are sitting in Pete’s new office, waiting for Roger. An angry call to Pete’s secretary reveals that Roger has told his secretary that the meeting is in Roger’s office. I wonder if any of the secretaries see the irony in leaving their families at home to deal with men who act like children. A quick storm over to Roger’s office later, we learn that Mohawk airlines contacted Pete to say they were coming back to SCDP. Pete hands the account over to Roger, who correctly surmises that they asked for him. Lane gives some details about Mohawk’s business, revealing that they’re on shaky ground but it doesn’t affect Roger’s mood. Then there’s some conversation about needing a new copywriter and why Peggy can’t handle them. (Roger: “Because these guys would ask her to make drinks.”)

We then see Harry walking up to Don’s new black secretary. Lane made good on his word from last episode. Because this show loves little jokes, the new secretary is named Dawn. Harry tells Don he has secured backstage passes for a Stone’s concert that weekend and says that their manager sounded greedy. He then tries to set up a Man-Date with Don, looking for dinner before the show. Don shuts that down.

Back with Betty, watching TV and snacking when someone knocks on the door. Mrs. Francis senior enters and the conversation goes like this:

Mrs. Francis Senior: So, you’re gaining weight. You should try diet pills.

Betty: Why haven’t you tried them? (that’s actually verbatim)

Mrs. Francis Senior: Because I’m not a trophy wife. Get on it.

Peggy comes into Don’s office where Don and Roger are sitting and Don tasks her with hiring the new copywriter for the Mohawk account with frequent interjections from Roger. So, that’s going to happen.

Betty’s at the doctor about her weight. The doctor refers to her as “middle aged” which Betty makes a face at before asking for diet pills. The doctor gives her an exam, and while palpating her neck finds something that makes him go “I don’t like that.” A panicked look on Betty’s face and ominous music takes us to Betty coming home. Not finding Henry, she phones Don and tells him the doctor found a mass on her thyroid. Both of them have a moment. Then Don calms her down by saying, “Everything’s going to be OK” at her insistence and they both hang up to stare at nothing.

Peggy’s on her couch going through portfolios. Peggy finally finds an ad that catches her eye. Stan agrees that it’s good, but she shouldn’t hire the guy because he’ll eventually displace Peggy. Peggy insists she’s bringing him in. That’ll work out perfectly.

Betty’s in a tub full of that suspiciously milky bathwater popular on television. Henry comes in to say that her appointment is tomorrow. Betty tries to shrug if off, but Henry pushes her into going ahead. She makes him turn around before she gets out of the tub and he sighs sadly that he thinks she’s beautiful. The next morning at the doctor’s office, Betty runs into Joyce Darling, and they make plans for lunch.

Back at SCDP, Peggy is talking to Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman, doing his best David Krumholtz) who assumes that she’s Don’s secretary. After clearing that up, Peggy gets a string of questions about Don with Michael asking, “Wouldn’t you want to talk to the person who can hire you?” Peggy finally snaps that she’s who he needs to impress. She asks for a current resume and he hands one over that lists him as a relative of Alan Ginsberg joking, “He’s the most famous Ginsberg we have, I figure we gotta be related somehow. What’s he going to say?” Peggy tries to end the interview. Michael backtracks and attempts to appeal to her sense of fairness while pushing his skills and his lack of a life. Peggy is still skeptical.

Joyce and Betty are at tea. There’s a band-aid on Betty’s neck. It’s clear that Joyce’s diagnosis is pretty dire, and that her kids don’t know. Betty thinks about what could happen to her own children. Betty asks Joyce what it’s like and Joyce paints a pretty bleak picture of loneliness, terror, and lassitude. A fortune teller approaches the table and reads Betty’s tea leaves. The leaves say that Betty is a “rock” to others in her life. Betty breaks down at this and Joyce pays the fortune teller and shoos her away. No one says the C word.

Roger comes into Peggy’s office after drinks with Mohawk to check on Peggy’s progress on the new copywriter. When he hears that Peggy is considering more interviews, he pushes her to hire Ginsberg because he already told Mohawk so he could “smooth the ground about the Jew.” Peggy says she thinks Don’ll hate him and Roger assures her that he’ll handle Don, so it looks like Michael’s in.

Don heads to the concert in a full suit. Harry and Don wade through a crowd to get backstage, where Don pays off a bouncer to let them know when the band shows up. A very young teen girl approaches them and asks for a light of her joint and her friend joins her.

We return with the Francis household, where Henry and Betty get frisky for the first time in a while. Go, them!

Harry and Don at the concert. Harry name drops Charleton Heston but one of the girls asks, “Who’s that?” Harry soldiers on with his story involving a nude Mr. Heston before Don cuts him off. One of the girls gets Harry “in,” leaving Don with a 14-year-old. He tries to explain his business in a conversation that’s somewhere between flirting and anthropological research. I guess he’s willing to skim on the “half your age plus seven” rule when it comes to Megan, but draws the line at being closer to Sally’s age than his own. The girl takes Don’s business card. SO! What’s chance of this girl being Mr. Heinz’s daughter?

Betty’s dream sequence involving her family all in black having breakfast, clearly after she’s died. She wakes up to stare at the ceiling.

Back at the concert, Don continues to attempt to talk to the girl about what she expects will happen once she gets ahold of Brian Jones. She squirms a bit, and then digs that “none of you want any of us to have a good time.” Don objects, “No. We’re worried about you.” Harry comes out and says, “I got it!” right before the Stones enter from another direction. The girl sprints off as Don asks Harry, “Who were you talking to?”

In Don’s car, Harry apologizes and offers to try again. Harry has apparently eaten his way through 19 out of 20 hamburgers and goes into a rant about his family. Don tries to kick Harry out of his car, with Harry resisting and choosing to mourn the loss of his youth. Harry leaves Don the last burger and gets out of the car with, “We should do this again!” Don: “Bye, Harry.”

Megan wakes Don up the next morning to go out to Fire Island. Don confides in Megan about the concert and about Betty’s health. Megan is immediately sympathetic and handles it very maturely, before prompting him to get up and go. Don tries to beg off, and Megan rightly shoots back that he was OK to go to the concert but now he wants to get all grim when it’s time to see her friends. Don finally gets up and leaves with Megan.

Betty and Henry watch the kids play with sparklers. Sad music plays. Sadly.

Michael Ginsberg and Peggy are in Don’s office as Don looks over Michael’s work. Peggy keeps interjecting as Don asks about Michael’s experience. Michael finally mentions Don’s letter and how much he admires him. Overall he’s much more even-keeled than in his conversation with Peggy and even compliments her. Don shakes his hand and congratulates Peggy on the hire. Peggy gives Michael some shit for the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde bit but tells him he starts tomorrow. Michael’s thrilled, Peggy is apprehensive.

The Francises are at home, the phone rings and Henry answers it. The OTHER phone rings, and Betty answers it with a deep breath. It turns out the mass was benign. Relieved hugging ensues. Betty then immediately gets back on the “I’m just fat” horse since the “I have cancer” horse has been taken out of the race. Henry says that he doesn’t see it, and Betty makes a dig at his mother’s weight. Henry brings her back on the “you’re going to live!” track and Betty sniffles a bit as he hugs her.

SCDP office, Harry and Don head out to the lobby where Pete makes a big show of the Mohawk deal, but says that HE signed them and HE hired a new copywriter. Mr. Sterling “will be handling the day to day.” Ouch, you greased up weasel. Don calls it “disrespectful” while letting Roger vent in Don’s office.  Don opens up about Betty’s issues, which Roger reacts to with his trademark insensitivity before offering to make a call. Don talks about his fear of his children growing up without a mother, Roger is no help and walks out with, “When is everything going to get back to normal?” Don calls the Francis house and Henry answers, curtly letting Don know that Betty’s out of the woods. He then hangs up so fast the phone leaves skid marks on his hand, and tells Betty it was nobody. Megan comes in and seems glad to know that Betty’s fine though she does say, “She just needs something to call you about,” so neither second spouse is thrilled with the former spouses communicating.

Ginsberg residence. Michael tells his father about his new job and there is much chanting in Hebrew. I assume in celebration. The scene then shifts to Betty eating some ice cream with Sally. Betty’s glass is empty. Sally doesn’t finish her sundae, and wanders off to watch TV. Betty finishes Sally’s ice cream as “You Are 16 (Going on 17)” takes us into the credits.

2 replies on “Recap: Mad Men, Episode 5.03, “Tea Leaves””

I think the treatment of Betty’s weight gain is meant to be sympathetic and to show how tough it is for someone whose sense of self-worth is centered on being beautiful. Nonetheless, it still seems like it could be depressing for someone dealing with body image issues.

I felt this way about Jezebel’s incessant “Weighty Matters” posts. Ostensibly, the site was pointing out injustice and sticking up for fat acceptance, but the effect was dispiriting. I thought they were like the friend who always lets you know when someone else had something bad to say about you…until finally you realize she’s not such a good friend after all.

Leave a Reply