A notable absentee from the first two episodes of Season 5, Betty Francis (formerly Draper) was back in Episode 3, looking a little bit different from the last time we saw her. Looking, well, fat.
Of course, most long-running TV shows have to deal with, at some point, one of their female leads getting pregnant and changing shape. There’s two choices really, you can either have her character also be pregnant, or you can try and work around it. It’s an interesting decision the makers of Mad Men have taken to reject option one, which seems like it would have been fairly easy to run with; a newly-married woman getting pregnant. There must be a reason why, so maybe we’ll see as the season progresses.
Instead, this episode saw non-pregnant Betty having instead put on a bit of weight to match January Jones not looking exactly the same as she normally does, though with the aid of a fat suit to give her more than just a bump. There’s a health scare associated with this, but it didn’t really feel like a plotline with any legs and was resolved by the end of the episode, though the real causes for Betty’s weight gain haven’t gone away as she ends it tucking into Sally’s leftover ice cream and looking thoroughly sedated by her new life with her new husband.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out and whether Mad Men can work a decent storyline around her possibly fleeting appearances, because it all felt a bit disconnected in this episode. Much better was the goings-on back at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, where Pete and Roger are still squaring off, with more and more of the power in the relationship flowing towards the younger man, culminating in a crass and self-aggrandising victory speech after Mohawk Airlines signed up, largely off the back of some classic Roger schmoozing.
Don and Harry, meanwhile, went off on a wild goose chase to try and get the Rolling Stones to do an advert for baked beans, with Don hanging with groupies back-stage while Harry works his magic. For Don it’s another of those slightly otherworldly experiences that he has from time to time, blending himself into a scene very alien to his normal life, but it gives him the chance to try and understand the soon-to-be crucial teenage mindset more than he ever will from his own children (his terror at maybe having to raise them overshadows any feelings he has for Betty, in the midst of her cancer scare).
For Harry it’s a chance to be the bumbling oaf again, providing the episode’s great comedy moment as he emerges victorious from the dressing room with a signed contract, only for the actual Rolling Stones to arrive from a different door to general hysteria and Don’s bemused: “So who were you talking to?” A completely different and much less marketing-friendly English rock band, that was who. Peggy also had a good line when asked to hire a new male copywriter, with Roger telling her that she can’t do the Mohawk account because she doesn’t have a penis. “I’ll work on that,” is her quick response, and how far she’s come from the first season is evident.
The jury’s still out on Ginsberg, the snappy Jewish writer she reluctantly hires. He’s entertaining, in a way, but also irritating, but hopefully we’ll see some depth to him, possibly hinted at in his closing scene with his father. This was a slightly patchy episode, but there’s plenty of changes afoot (not least with Dawn, the new African-American secretary, in place) and plenty of potential for great things to come.
- TV in Review: Mad Men, “Tea Leaves” (polentical.com)
- Mad Men: Season 5 Episode 2: Tea Leaves – TV Review (screencrave.com)