Musing Review: Mad Men – Tea Leaves (S5, Ep3)

This is a review of Mad Men Season 5 Episode 3 entitled Tea Leaves.

By now many of you have probably read reviews of this season’s third episode. It took me some time to be able to sit down and watch so here it goes almost one week late. As I noted in my review of the season premiere there were a couple characters distinctly missing, namely Betty and here’s where we got to see her. The episode was decent, I wasn’t particularly impressed but I wasn’t let down either. Here is what I think.

We opened up with our first look at Betty and she was not the same woman last saw at the end of last season. Betty let herself go, to say it bluntly, she got fat. There have been numerous reactions to this on the interweb and I’m not really up in arms about it. I read that January Jones was pregnant when they started filming the season and instead of hide her behind a bag or a perfectly placed lamp they’d use her body change in the show. I think it worked. You could see how much this weighed on her (no pun intended) and you could really see how distraught she was over it. She lost intimacy with her husband and even Sally started to disrespect her (about food). She used to be a model of course. I totally get this feeling from personal experience when I’ve had weight fluctuations and I know many people who’ve gone through it.

It’s not something they deal with much on TV, usually everybody is just so pretty and perfect. Mad Men dealt with weight gain before when Peggy had gained weight due to her “uknown” pregnancy but they just had the men making fun of her. This time was different. They tackled the problem “head on.” Betty had to deal with Henry who happened to be wonderful and loved her just the way she was. She also had to deal with her mother-in-law who is also obese and did not treat her well. It wasn’t fun but it did set her on a course to deal with her weight gain. She tried to take the easy way out by getting diet pills but the doctor insisted that he perform a full examination. Unfortunately the exam found a nodule in her neck and it could have been a cancerous tumor. Now that certainly threw Betty off. She barely has the capacity to deal with anything and she had a tough time dealing with this. She ran straight to Don (interesting) and told him. She had her tests done, found some support from a fellow woman and made it through the episode. Thankfully the tumor was benign though it gave her the strength to confront her feelings. She gained back some intimacy with Henry and it seemed that she’s on her way back to her old self. Maybe not her old terrible self but we’ll see where the season goes.

Not only did this cancer scare throw Betty off but it threw Don off as well. He was very preoccupied by this. He was certainly concerned about his kids not growing up with a mother though I think he care equally about Betty. As much of a bad husband he was he certainly always cared about her. Now interestingly enough he didn’t tell Megan right away. It took him till he really got upset and she confronted him about why for him to break the news. He had his reasons, I didn’t agree with them. I thought he should have shared with his wife right away but I guess that’s not Don. Megan was really great though. A bit annoyed (and rightfully so), then she got past it. I really think she’s having a positive effect on Don.

Elsewhere in the world on SCDP the company is growing. Mohawk airlines returned as a client and the firm needs to grow. Peggy was put in charge of hiring another copywriter. Not the best of stories in Mad Men history. The candidate was overly obnoxious and they wrote Peggy as more of a helpless character than she really is. He was also a little too over the top stereotypically Jewish. They ended up hiring him on so we’ll get to see how his character develops.

The tension between Roger and Pete continued to heat up in this episode as well. Pete publicly humiliated Roger when announcing the new business to the entire firm. Roger was not happy at all and left in a huff. Don tried to console him but it didn’t work too well. I think this is going to continue to escalate until we hit that boiling point and a real showdown occurs. In the mean time I expect more mind games.

Of additional note there was a scene where Don and Harry tried to go find the Rolling Stones’ manager to try and sign them onto a commercial. It didn’t hit the mark. Don showed up in his suit, didn’t let loose and Harry is just getting annoying. He’s got this whole tension thing with Don over the lude comments he made about Megan. I don’t think Don reciprocates. Either way I just didn’t like that and it could have been executed better.

So not a bad continuation of the storyline. I’ll still say they’re setting up a lot of storylines for the season. More Mad Men on tonight and we’ll see where it goes.

Watch Mad Men Sundays at 10:00PM on AMC.