Have a Seat: “Tea Leaves”

It’s that time of week again, where we recap the fifth season of AMC’s “Mad Men”. You can catch up on the previous season here and check out our recap of last week’s premiere here.

If there’s one character that arouse the ire of devoted “Mad Men” fans, it has to be Betty Francis né Draper. Don’s ex-wife can only be described as immature, childish, conceited and at times downright mean. Many fans say she serves no real purpose on the show, and even find it a bit surprising she’s a part of this season. (Although she wasn’t in the premiere.) What purpose does she show only to be the mother of Don’s kids?

Well, tonight’s episode finally gives her a good plot. Betty’s changed since last season too, gaining a considerable amount of weight. Her mother-in-law Pauline tries to talk her into a taking diet pills, knowing where the weight has come from: being too comfortable in her life with Henry. But her self-esteem has also take a toll when she won’t even go out with her husband and the kids.

It’s a trip to the doctor’s office when she finds out there’s a suspicious lump on her thyroid. It might be cancer. Returning home, shocked and in a need a shoulder to cry on, she’s left with calling Don at work. Don provides his sentiment the best he can, by telling her that everything will be alright.

The Betty plot continues with her questioning what her life is right now and where it could possibly be headed. Lunch with an old friend who is currently battling cancer doesn’t cheer her up in the least. But at least she seems to be trying to mend her relationship with Henry. It’s only when she’s pushed to the edge that life seems to hold a little more meaning. When the results come back negative though, it’s back to business as usual. The last shot consisted of Betty finishing Sally’s left-over ice cream sundae which shows that she probably didn’t learn anything from this ordeal.

But enough about Betty, let’s talk about a new “Mad Men” character that just might be as annoying: Michael Ginsburg. As we found out last week, Mohawk Airlines is back at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, thanks to a smug Pete Campbell taking all the credit (to Roger’s chagrin). Peggy is tasked to hire a new copy writer. Stan advises her to stick to mediocre as she might hire someone too smart that might end up being her boss someday. She finds a portfolio that catches her eye and brings him in. Things don’t get off on the right foot, as he quickly assumes she’s a secretary and demands to speak to Don himself. It doesn’t take long for Peggy’s opinion of him to change completely.

After fighting a bit with Roger, Peggy reluctantly arranges a meeting with Michael and Don. There Michael compliments Don’s Lucky Strike letter from last season. The act that he pulled on Peggy is a complete 180 here as his talking impresses Don enough to land him the job.

These were pretty much the highlights of the episode. I was impressed with the Betty storyline, as it gave some importance to an otherwise flailing character. (Whether or not this sticks is to be seen.) Another plot involving Don and Harry Crane chasing down The Rolling Stones fell a little flat and forced, if only to continually prove that the ad industry is scared and worried about the teenagers of the 1960’s. But overall, what worked really worked, and was enough that the episode made a good impression.

BAMF: Hard to say for this one, so I’ll give to it Ginsburg for the time being.

Maddest Man: Easily Betty who is scared through her whole cancer scare, understandably. You could make a case for Roger too.

MIA: Joan, who got plenty of face time in the premiere. (From the looks of next week’s preview, she’ll be back with some big news.)

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