Mad Men “Tea Leaves” Review

Mad Men Tea Leaves Season 5 Episode 3
This week’s episode of Mad Men, “Tea Leaves,” answered the question of where Betty Draper…excuse me…Francis was during last week’s two hour opener: on the couch eating junk food in a muumuu. Thanks to a heavier version of the prosthetic makeup that Peggy wore in season one when she was pregnant, beautiful Barbie Betty has gained quite a bit of weight. Is it wrong that I don’t feel sorry for her? This is, after all, the same woman who once worried that a minor car accident would scar her daughter and make her too ugly to ever get married.

Still, because she’s a politician’s wife, Betty has to go to functions and be pretty; at the urging of her mother-in-law, she visits a doctor for a diet pill prescription (which I was totally hoping would end up in a Valley of the Dolls situation), only to find out during the routine examination that she has a lump on her thyroid.

Betty contemplating her death is an interesting thing. In any other show, it might have led to some sort of epiphany about how horrible she’s been to her loved ones and how, like Scrooge, she needs to change her life. Yeah…that’s totally not Betty, although she does have a moment when a random woman reads her tea leaves and tells her she’s the rock of her family. It’s not clear whether she breaks down at this because she knows how ridiculously untrue it is, or because she honestly thinks her children would be worse off without her. I hate to say it, but my vote is with the latter. Betty is nothing if not blind to herself.

The lump turns out to be nothing…or at least that’s what Betty tells Henry. But remember we never heard the other end of the doctor’s call, and at the end of the episode, we see Betty chowing down on the remaining half of her daughter’s ice cream sundae. Living for the day because tomorrow might not come? Hiding an illness doesn’t sound like Betty (she does own a fainting couch), but she also likes her life neat and orderly and perfect. Cancer would ruin everything and denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

Meanwhile at SCDP, Pete is being extra obnoxious about convincing minor fish Mohawk Airlines to come back to the company, even going so far as to snatch away any part Roger would have had in the account just to be spiteful. More and more I think that Roger will end up taking a leap off the building onto Madison Avenue before the show wraps up its run. His last line of the night, asking Don when everything was going to go back to normal, says it all. I’m so sorry, Roger, but this is the new normal: the next generation taking over; women interviewing men; black secretaries and Jews outside of the mailroom. In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “Your old road is rapidly agin’…please get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand.”

In keeping with this idea, Don and Harry are sent to meet with the Rolling Stones to ask if they might sing a jingle for Heinz baked beans. The idea is so ridiculous that only the client, and possibly Harry, don’t get that it will never happen, but like good ad men, they try. Their adventure only ends in Don sharing a sad exchange with a young Stones fan who admits she’ll do pretty much anything to meet the band. She accuses the older generation of not wanting young people to have the fun they failed to have; Don counters by saying that they’re simply worried about them.

It’s interesting to see how differently Don and Roger are aging. They both took younger second wives, but rather than fight change tooth and nail, Don is willing to be cool about it, or at least seem like he’s cool about it. With Don, appearances are really all that counts.

But not everything in the world has changed. Mohawk still wants a male copywriter, so Peggy is charged with hiring a new one. Rather than pick someone mediocre who won’t be a threat, she selects the best portfolio in the bunch, which happens to belong to a lovably nutty dude who shares Roger’s creepy curiosity about what it would be like to fall out of the building’s window. Because his work is good and he tones down the crazy for Don, Peggy is forced to hire him. At least he’ll make things interesting!

What did you think of the episode? Let me know below!