Mad Men Season 5-03 ‘Tea Leaves’ Recap

After the maelstrom of last week’s two hour season premiere, this week Mad Men falls back into its regular slot of just one hour, but there is still something very different. This episode is directed by Jon Hamm, who follows the trend of many drama series actors of becoming directors in their own series, feeling that they know the characters well enough to pull off a decent episode. And I have to say he does it quite well. Whilst Hamm’s lack of experience behind the camera does sometimes show, the writing and his knowledge of the characters have provided him with enough to make a good episode.

After being notably absent last week, the ice queen herself Betty Francis is back and slightly larger than before. Betty and Henry have moved out from the Draper’s old house and have found a huge, luxuriant mansion for themselves, indulgence has clearly become a big part of their lifestyle. Betty has been obviously piling on the pounds following the big move out but with such a drastic weight gain there are also hints at a possible depression burgeoning forth, of course you’ll remember from last season Betty spent a lot of her time in the presence of a psychiatrist.

There are also some other health fears with Betty. After realising that she may have gotten a tad bigger, she ventures to a doctor in search of diet pills but upon inspection the doctor finds a lump in her throat that could be cancerous. In fear she contacts Don, which begins to plant fears in him about her safety but also safety for the kids.

I must say, it’s nice to have Betty back as she always provides some form of drama that resides outside of the characters who work at SCDP. Her and Henry really do have an interesting relationship, he is very much in love with her but I remain unconvinced about her feelings for him.

Like I said, I really enjoyed this part of the story but there are some issues, the main one being this. The make up job that makes Betty look larger isn’t exactly brilliant, at best it’s only passably believable and at worst it reminds me of Jill from Adam Sandler‘s Jack and Jill, which cannot be a good thing. I think the problem is after 4 years of seeing Betty as this super thin, model like character and seeing January Jones in print, that her as fat really doesn’t quite work for me. However, the final shot which is her scranning away a chocolate sundae which Sally has been unable to finish is quite funny.

The Heinz account is hot for Don at the moment, despite the fact the executives are putting pressure on the creatives to deliver something they think is good rather than something that will actually be good. A nice little metaphor there for Hollywood. So in an attempt to appease them, Don agrees to the demand to ask the Rolling Stones to be a part of the Heinz commercial.

Don and Harry, who have a strained relationship at best, go to a Stones concert where a lot of pot is handed round but they don’t actually get to meet the band. This provides some of the funniest scenes in the series, Harry and Don have a fantastically awful working relationship that actually transmits to gold.

Back at SCDP, Don is kind of sidelined in this episode as the Mohawk account is brought in with success, after having left the agency a couple of years back. It is of course Pete Campbell who puts together the account and he is able to assign someone to overlook it, which gives him some leverage over Roger Sterling. Roger is put in charge but without it really dawning on him, he has been given an important position in the company and he himself acknowledges that he has been given a place back in the company other than just being a partner.

This is brought to the fore towards the end of the episode where Pete tells the collected employees that Mohawk is back, but that Roger Sterling will be handling the day to day, before saying: “But don’t worry everything he knows, I will also know.” It is a brilliant moment, in which Roger realises his place and how his significance is lessening. But it also establishes Pete as a man with more importance and has more power in the company than his share suggests. This was something flagged up in the previous two episodes and will undoubtedly come back throughout the season.

It also appears that we have another addition to the cast, with Mohawk being brought in Roger insists on having a copy writer solely dedicated to the account. Along with Don, he assigns Peggy to look for a new writer. She finds Michael Ginsberg, a contentious figure who is kind of controversial and is himself a tad bigoted. He has kind of a scattershot personality, saying everything that comes into his head. On his resume he says that he is related to Allen Ginsberg for the sole reason that they have the same surname. We can gauge the kind of presence he is going to be in the office and I’m betting that Don will probably fire him before the season is out.

All in all my feeling about this episode is very much the same as it was with the last, despite the fact the show has been away for a long time and the geography of it has changed a lot, the show is still of a piece and has a brilliant continuity that makes you happy to revisit the world every single week.