Tonight’s “Mad Men” episode, “Tea Leaves,” pushed the AMC series further along into the shank of the 1960s, with drugs, rock and roll and well, not as much sex as last week’s naughty lingerie cleaning bout.
Surprisingly, the episode put Don’s ex, Betty, in the spotlight as the character, played by an unrecognizable January Jones (who was pregnant for much of the filming of the fifth season), gets a real health scare.
Betty is gaining weight and wonders if it’s due to dissatisfaction over her life with Henry. But a doctor tells her he’s found a lump.
Jones, who has been handed an icy, unlikable character for much of the run of the show, gets to play sympathetic tonight. Even after she learns the tumor is benign, we feel for Betty. Especially when she reaches for daughter Sally’s unfinished ice cream sundae at the end. Don’t try to eat your way out of unhappiness, Betty!
Some other observations:
Pete continues to be a total ass. Admittedly, Roger is a jerk. But Roger’s a funny jerk. Pete’s prima donna complaining about his office space last week and his public pissing match with Roger this week over the renewed Mohawk Airlines account is like Betty’s tumor: It makes Roger sympathetic.
And what about Roger? I’m worried that he’s gonna off himself before the season is over. The silver fox seems increasingly desperate and alienated.
Harry continues to be a comedic highlight of each episode. Last week he was going on and on about his attraction for Don’s new wife Megan … while Megan stood behind him. Tonight Harry and Don go to a Rolling Stones concert to try to talk to the band about singing a TV jingle for Heinz. Harry breathlessly tells Don that he’s just talked to the band. But the Stones are elsewhere in the building. “Who were you talking to?” Don scowls, prompting Harry to eat 20 White Castles. Now Harry knows how Betty feels.
The 60s are here! The 60s are here! Don and Harry get offered a joint by a cute young woman hanging out backstage waiting for the Stones. The new black secretary is on the job. A new young copy writer who’s quick with his wits — and a good match for Peggy — joins Sterling Cooper Draper Price and single-handedly shakes up the Protestant-skewing makeup of the office.
Clients say the darndest things. Last week the bean makers wanted to see their beans carrying picket signs. Tonight the Heinz people asked for the Rolling Stones. Aren’t they cute when they don’t have a grasp of reality?