Mad Men 5.03 – Tea Leaves



“You have to hire him. I already told Mohawk.”

“Why would you do that?”

“I wanted to smooth the ground with them about working with a Jew. Turns out, everybody’s got one.”

Duck and cover my babies, Betty Draper Francis is in the building. January Jones was preggers while shooting this season and boy does it show. The official plot line is that Betty has gained some unwanted weight, and can’t get her fancy dress done up because it doesn’t fit anymore. She has to pretend to be laid up in bed with “women problems” to get out of going to a family party with her long-suffering husband Henry.

Let’s try not to compare and contrast Betty with Megan, who’s also dressing for a night out, and looks like she’s about a… Is there such a thing as Size -1? She and Don are going to dinner with the Heinz Beans owner and his Midwest wife. Megan wants so badly to be the perfect ad exec wife, but she’s clearly in over her head, blurting out that Don was divorced when they met at work, lest they think she’s a homewrecker. She’s got a long way to go, but she’s eager to please and that’s good enough for Don. Don has his own work cut out for him when the Heinz guy wants Don to hire the Rolling Stones to sing “Heinz, Heinz, Heinz is on My Side.” Sporfle!

Pete is thrilled to tell Roger that Pete landed the Mohawk account, but he has to go to Roger’s office to do it, because there’s no way in hell Roger is setting foot in Pete’s new office with a view. Mohawk has some debt and union issues, but what does that matter when they’re signing on the dotted line with the firm? Mohawk wants Roger to head up their account, but Pete’s so happy he doesn’t care. They decide they need to hire a copywriter for the account because the owners of Mohawk would probably have an aneurism if Peggy, a mere woman, did it. The horror!

Don has a new secretary—a pretty young black woman also named Dawn. Homonyms FTW! Harry Crane makes awkward small talk with her before he gets in to tell Don that he has tickets for the two of them to see the Stones and hopefully pitch the song ad idea. Electing to ignore the fact he made sexually explicit comments about Don’s new wife, he asks Don to go to dinner first. Don’s all NOPE, so it looks like Harry will be forevermore in the purgatory of not knowing whether Don knows or not. Awkward.

Betty’s controlling mother-in-law comes for an unexpected visit to find Betty munching Bugles and watching The Andy Griffith Show. She advises Betty to start taking pills to lose the weight before she loses her husband instead. Betty, in her pink housecoat and no makeup, doesn’t disagree.

Roger and Don break it to Peggy that she can’t be the copywriter for Mohawk. Depressingly, she doesn’t even bat an eye at the news. They instruct her to hire somebody. As per Roger, somebody brilliant—a good looking version of Don. Ha! Peggy is unflapped at the challenge.

Betty goes to see a doctor and even though it’s the swinging sixties he refuses to just toss her a scrip for speed without examining her first. He says that it’s usually the bored, psychotic housewives who gain weight and…what the hell is that lump in her throat? There might be something more insidious at play here than the Bugles. Betty rushes home to find Henry gone, so she phones the only person she can think of: her ex-husband. He’s concerned, of course, and offers to take the kids. Betty’s all, oh yeah, them. She leans on Don like it’s Season 2 or something, and he’s kind but aloof. Not his problem anymore, am I right?

Peggy’s poring over portfolios of potential copywriters, and pulls aside the most talented fellow to call in for an interview, one Michael Ginsburg. Stan thinks she’s crazy to bring in someone talented who she’ll have to compete against, but Peggy doesn’t care. She likes to work with talented people—they inspire her. We’ll see how long that refreshing outlook lasts.

Betty’s in the tub contemplating her own mortality/cellulite when Henry comes in to tell her that his boss the Mayor pulled some strings and got her an appointment with a specialist the very next day. Betty isn’t sure she wants to know so soon if it is bad news, but Henry’s practical and level-headed about the whole thing — no wonder she’s unhappy. Heh. She won’t let him see her naked so he turns around while she gets out of the tub. And holy moly, if that’s really Miss Jones, she’s not the bride on the top of the wedding cake anymore. Unless the bride ate the entire cake.

Peggy interviews Michael Ginsburg, who turns out to be a motormouth smartass who assumes she’s the secretary. He’s brash and overly confident, and begs her to give him a chance (“I have no friends or hobbies! I’ll live here!” “Then you’ll be like everybody else.”) She tells him he cannot be like this with Don. “Like what?” he asks, honestly mystified. Ah, I hope Mike Ginsburg sticks around, because he couldn’t be more different than the other guys at the firm…not counting Roger.

Betty runs into an old chum at the hospital, who’s being treated for cancer (although they never actually say the word). They go out for lunch after they’re done at the hospital, and Betty’s already writing her own obituary even though she doesn’t even have the test results back yet. When Betty asks her what it’s like to be so sick, her friend is honest in how frightening and wearying dying is. This doesn’t calm Betty down, let’s just say. She’s sure that if she dies, nobody will care or ever worse, they’ll be glad. A medium comes to their table and offers to tell their future. She reads Betty’s tea leaves and says how much Betty means to the people around her and what a rock she is—which promptly makes Betty burst into tears.

Roger hilariously orders Peggy to hire Ginsburg because he’s Jewish and talented, and assures her that he’ll handle Don if Don hates the kid and/or Peggy for hiring the kid. Yay! Roger manages to insult women, Jews, and black people all in the same breath. Oh, Roger.

OMG Harry and Don go to meet the Rolling Stones backstage, with Don looking like a god damn Fed amongst the stoners and groupies and general hangers-on. A young groupie asks for a light for her joint (Cal Lightman’s daughter from Lie to Me!) and Don especially couldn’t be more bemused if she was an alien…which she sort of is, at least to him. She and her friend are better at getting behind private doors than the guys, and her friend grabs Harry and tries to gain access to the dressing room. That leaves Don to interview the girl about why she likes the Stones, the better to aim ads at her demographic. She doesn’t like the interrogation and asks for a business card to flash so they can get to meet the band too.

Not that Jacob Marley comes for a visit or anything, but Betty is so shaken she starts to rethink her life. She initiates sex with Henry that night, for the first time in a while by his reaction, and imagines her family grieving her death. She even apologizes to Sally, who of course can’t hear it because Betty is playing the part of Scrooge. That kind of thing would keep anyone awake at night.

Don’s still waiting for the band to show up, and the girl regales him with tales of what she’s going to do when she meets Brian Jones (i.e. whatever he wants her to do). She tells Don people like him don’t want her to have any fun because they didn’t have any fun. He retorts that actually they’re just worried about her. Don, you old man! Five years ago and YOU would have slept with her. Harry rushes out to tell Don that he got them to agree to the ad, and they’re both excited as all get out—until the actual Stones arrive and everyone rushes away to see them. Oops. Harry comforts himself by eating an entire bag of hamburgers in Don’s car—the dude’s got the munchies. It takes Don forever to coax him out of the car so he can get home to his hot wife.

The next morning Megan wakes Don up to go out and meet her friends, as he promised. He tells her about Betty instead, and tries to use that as an excuse not to go. Megan’s a tough little cookie—tougher than Don probably gave her credit for. She keeps wheedling until he gives in, and it’s off to Fire Island for him.

Betty spends the day at her in-laws’ palatial country estate, suddenly fully appreciating the small joys of being with people you love, the kids playing with sparklers, the sun setting on a happy day. But will it be too late for her to fully embrace the lessons she’s learning?

Michael Ginsburg gets his interview with Don. Predictably, Roger doesn’t show up and Peggy is standing or falling on her own. I don’t know what Peggy said to Michael, but he’s reined himself in. He’s calm and articulate, and just the right amount of a kiss-up. Don likes him, even in his cheap sports jacket and jeans with hiking boots. He’s in. “Promise me you didn’t just hire the most handsome one,” Don says to her afterward. She’s so used to comments like that that she doesn’t even pause, never mind flinch. It’s all part of a day’s work at Sterling Cooper Draper Price.

Roger’s waiting outside when she leaves, acting as though missing the meeting was a strategy on his part to get her to soar on her own. I scoff, but maybe it’s true. Ginsburg is thrilled when Peggy tells him he got the job, and wants her to be happy for him, because she’s the only one in the world who cares that he did. Aww. Oh, she cares all right, but not in the good way.

Betty and Henry are sitting around pretending to watch TV when they get The Phone Call from the hospital. As it turns out, all the worrying was for nothing and the lump they found in her neck is benign. Betty’s not going to die after all! It takes her exactly ten seconds to revert back to her old ways, bemoaning the fact that she’s fat for nothing, and pointing out that Henry doesn’t mind her fat because his mom is a beast. Ouch! He tries to show her what a blessing this is, and she starts to cry. Whether it’s with relief or despair that she’s going to live after all, only she knows.

Pete makes a huge production out of announcing to the rest of the staff that Mohawk is back in the family, ensuring that he rubs Roger’s nose in it as he pops open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate. Roger gets grimmer by the second as he’s put in his place (which is way, wayyy down the totem pole). He tells Peggy to forget all his advice about how to hire people, because Pete was the last guy he hired, and look how he turned out. He bolts from the room, but Don follows him to his office. Roger rages about how everything is going to hell for him, and Don doesn’t know what to say, so blurts out that Betty has cancer. Ha! Don’s not very good at “feelings” talk, is he? He backtracks and says she MIGHT have cancer, and what are his kids going to do without a mother. He shrugs at Megan’s potential mothering abilities, which I think is not very nice. I mean, isn’t that also why he married her, because she was kind to the children? After Betty, a chainsaw would be a better mother to those kids. Roger doesn’t know what to say either, other than if Betty died all of Don’s problems would be solved. These two are the most handsome monsters you’d ever want to sleep with. I mean meet. I mean sleep with. ::conflicted::

Steeling himself, Don calls to find out if Betty is dying or what. Henry answers and is very surprised to hear that Betty shared such intimate news with her ex who was so awful to her. He tells Don she’s out of the woods and hangs up. When Betty asks who it was, he replies, “Nobody.” At least, that’s what he keeps hoping. Don tells Megan the good news, and she isn’t surprised. “She just needs something to call you about.” That? Is very true. I like Megan more every week. Maybe Don did the right thing after all!

We get our first glimpse of the private life of Ginsburg when he comes home to the apartment he shares with his dad, who doesn’t care about the job at the ad agency and just wants him to go out and find a nice Jewish girl. Looks like Mike is miserable—he’ll fit right in on this show!

Betty and Sally are sitting at the kitchen table, not talking of course, eating ice cream. Sally’s full and just wants to go watch TV, and Betty is only too happy to agree…so she can eat the rest of Sally’s ice cream herself. And so it goes. At least until January Jones has her baby, anyway.

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  • Sally R

    When Betty got out of the tub, I had to wonder if they’d gotten a body double. But reading that January Jones was pregnant makes sense. I was shocked the most by the size of her face (that’s where I show weight too). But I was not shocked by Betty’s comments about her MIL being obese, because that’s so very Betty.

    Megan is awesome. I wanted to punch Harry in the face for her and tell her she can sing and dance for me anytime. With or without the minidress. In the office and at home. Every day. I’m just saying… She is fine (though definitely a size -1).

    They need Joan back in the office. Stat.

    • Ha ha, Megan’s your French girlfriend! And Joan is my out-of-my-league redheaded girlfriend. I miss her so, and can’t wait for her to get back and knock some heads together.

    • Samantha

      I read somewhere that she was wearing a fat suit as well, so I don’t think it’s all January Jones’s pregnancy weight. I bet she looks like one of those perfect pregnant people like Heidi Klum or like Betty when she was pregnant with Gene.

  • Kat

    Oh, my, I see more of the men who raised me as we march on through the 60s! It’s almost like coming home. I didn’t see Don so much denigrating Megan’s parenting skills as making the distinction that there is a difference between a nanny and a mother, as well as there should be, and having 3 bitter, heartsick stepchildren to raise FOREVER and not just drop off after a few days is a stark reality against the happy memory of entertaining them at a hotel for a vacation.

    There was a very nice contrast between the old guard moving out and the new regime moving in, and up. Roger’s frustration is almost quaint because inasmuch as he sees Pete inching him over the cliff to professional oblivion, Pete has to worry about the stalwarts like Roger who have more experience, more savvy, and more client connections overshadowing his own attempts to move forward – plus, there will be more younger upstarts who have a better bead on current events and culture waiting in the wings to swoop in for their own chunk of the pie. When Roger tells Peggy that she can’t be replaced, not only is it not true, but it’s almost as though he is trying to comfort himself with the same sentiment.

    And you’re right, the girls at the concert would’ve been in Don’s bed 5 years ago – except now they’re his daughter’s age and for now at least, that hits a little too close to home. Even Harry, for all of his weight lost (his out-in-the-world, man with a plan persona versus Betty’s stereotypical chubby housewife), pot-smoking, and “hip” plaid jacket, doesn’t even know what the Rolling Stones look or truly sound like – and can’t get a pulse on the fact that the Stones would not pitch beans anyway.

    I forgot JJ was pregnant during this season – I thought for sure they CGI’d her. And you know, I’m probably showing my roots, but it’s kind of sad that for such a new marriage, her husband’s expecting so little. Sure, it’s sweet to say “I don’t notice it,” but it’s sad if it’s a lie and it’s even sadder if it isn’t. Surely a former model like Betty who prided herself on her looks wouldn’t mind hearing, “Hey, I see you, I notice you, I’m paying attention: you don’t look like yourself, are you okay? I miss you!” But then again, it is the 60s and her response might be worse for him than paying for a bigger wardrobe.

    • Excellent observations. I’m glad they’re expanding Harry’s presence, because I find him adorable. And he sure does look different as a 2012 fella – dare I say he’s a hottie? On this show, everybody’s a hottie. Yay!

      You know who I miss? Sal. I haven’t given up hope he might come back, but it’s a mystery because I avoid spoilers.

      • Kat

        Heh, I miss Sal like crazy, he was such a good addition to that group. Michael’s father talking about him finding a nice Jewish girl made me wonder if girls aren’t Mike’s thing at all. Sal/Michael 4evah!

  • From what I understand (Alan Sepinwall’s review), they did use a non-pregnant body double for the “getting out of the bathtub” shot.

    • Interesting, and I’ve since heard that JJ was in a fat suit during this part of the season to disguise the fact she was pregnant. I did wonder about her face, which was very Season 2 pregnant Peggy looking. Thanks for keeping me up to date! :0)

  • Ivyfree

    Love the review… it helps me answer my own questions about what just happened there, anyway? Sometimes I miss the obvious.

    BTW, Betty told Harry he doesn’t mind she’s fat because his mom is obese… not “a beast.” Betty still has her ability to cut somebody off at the knees and leave them bleeding on the floor.

    I was very curious about the “Betty is fat” plot twist because I didn’t realize that January Jones was pregnant. I was shocked when I saw her because I remember Betty in near-hysterics in season 1 when there was a minor car accident and “Sally might have cut her face and gotten a scar!” I remember when she talked about how beautiful her mother was and how she’d make Betty walk home to keep her thin. And I wondered if she was at some level rebelling against her mother and dealing with feelings she hasn’t acknowledged. I wondered if she was rebelling against her current life and being the social political wife. I came up with all kinds of psychological reasons for Betty to have gained weight, which goes against her entire previous life- and then I find out the actress is pregnant.

    It was interesting that her MIL would have suggested getting some amphetamines to help her lose weight, and how easy it was for Betty to ask a doctor for it. But yes, it was quite commonly prescribed back in the day.

    Don seems to be a little less focused than he’s been in previous seasons. He’s more interested in what’s going on at home than before. I wonder if they have a theme for the season and I haven’t picked up on it yet, which wouldn’t surprise me.