EPISODE 5.02 “Tea Leaves”
About a month has gone by since the premiere episode in date. Post-Independence Day 1966. SCDP did, in fact, hire a black secretary (though I was not quite sure which lady took the fall). Thankfully, the secretary, Dawn (bum-duh-dum!), did not become Mr. Pryce’s secretary. She became Don’s secretary (get it?). Not for nothing, Dawn could easily become a significant character given the track record for Draper secretaries, but for her sake, I hope it is closer to Peggy than Megan or Jane or, heaven forbid, Allison. At this point she is in the background with no real controversy despite the jackassery of Roger Sterling racial puns and Harry trying to stir up shit (we will get to him later).
This episode seems to commit to the generational divide a lot with SCDP still having the Heinz Bean Guy wanting to control the content over his ad. The dinner conversation Megan and Don share with the gentleman and his wife show where the lines are divided and it is not clearly as cut and dry. Megan and Don represent a new generation of married couples who met in the workplace. Megan really wanted to make sure she is not still known as ‘the secretary’ but as a career-woman still fighting the notions about their relationship- instead of people immediately think Roger and Jane Part Deux. The whole dinner seems a bit awkward exposing the obvious generational divide, with Megan knowing immediately off the bat what music the Heinz Bean Guy’s daughter listens to rather than being a Betty and calling it ‘kid’s stuff’. But the Don moments of this episode also show he has finally submitted that he is old and of the older crowd. He is the concerned father who wants to know what exactly is Sally Draper into rather than just contently watching her and thousands of others explode at Shea Stadium during the height of Beatlemania.
Don agrees with the Heinz Bean Guy to try and do what was a bit impossible in 1966: Convince The Rolling Stones to change the lyrics of their song into a Heinz beans jingle. They should have asked The Who.
Don goes with Harry to a concert to find them. Harry is tasked with the job while also getting high and (thankfully) failing at flirting with high school age girls. Season 1-4 Don in that environment would make me incredibly nervous but in this episode, Don clearly cannot identify or be coy with the younger girls and he never tries. He simply asks how they feel about The Stones and realizes how ‘lame’ this whole pitch will look with Harry quixotically amidst the stoned fog believing he has talked The Stones into the deal. Don afterward just surmises that he is not really into placating to teenage girl’s fantasies with an ad for beans. He definitely sees Sally in the girls who would throw themselves at Brian Jones. The night SCDP tried to ink The Stones was more of Don doing detective work on how the new generation sees things rather than just playing along like Heinz Bean Guy. But they still have to get the ad to work.
Peggy went with her idea (still brilliant) like the baby with the bathwater. Roger, despite him and Lane agreeing on Peggy’s skills, thinks they need a man to work on the ad to ensure they get the guy to agree to the ad. But they do not want some square and tell Peggy to find a young, hip, interesting copy-writer. Peggy basically has to find the cool kid, that she and Stan each think that could be seen as a threat. Peggy is no dummy. She knows any copy-writer she hires is a threat. Stan Rizzo was a threat and it took episodes (as in months) for them to just be cordial frenemies. But now finding a guy to specifically work on a certain ad that could really life the company is a whole new animal. She discovers Michael Ginsburg who is like a hybrid of Stan Rizzo, Abe Drexler, Woody Allen, and even a little bit of Don Draper. Their initial interview goes off so poorly that by the end of the episode when Ginsburg dials it down to get the job after a more professional interview she is even angrier. Peggy is right to call out his calculations. She had to feel disrespected that Ginsburg turned a complete 180 from their interview when he interviewed with a partner. Was it because she was a woman and/or he does not take her seriously? Either one is problematic but if it is both, I cannot see this going any better than the initial Stan Rizzo rivalry. I think Peggy has every right to continue to be suspicious. Peggy played by all the rules to get to where she is and did it with no bargains (except her failed back-up plan to join Duck Phillips) or family ties. She has mastered playing against the old boy’s club. Now suddenly her company, a company that she has put hours of labor and love into, is hiring people who break all of the rules? I am staying tune to the developments on that storyline.
Now we finally get to the real talk of the episode despite it being the most open and shut part of the episode. Betty Draper got fat or rather, January Jones got pregnant and the show is masking it as her gaining a bunch of weight. Given how much the episodes got placed out of order based on January Jones’ pregnancy and how it only jumped a month rather than months which in Mad Men time is very short, it is understandable how this part episode seemed a bit unremarkable. Tonally after an episode with as much zip and fun as the premiere, this seemed a bit all over the place, especially the Betty story. Betty is fat. Why? Possible cancer or simply she slipped into an abyss of depression, eating her feelings in La Casa de Francis. It was not the former, much to Betty’s chagrin, and she continues the vicious cycle by eating the rest of Sally’s Ice Cream Sundae. The end.
That was really it. Aside from Jones looking a bit padded, a la Unknowingly Pregnant Peggy and straight out of Stephen King’s Thinner, there was no real surprising revelation. Except that she seems a lot nicer to Sally (did anybody put it past her that she was drag that child down with her by making Sally eat her feelings with her?). She and Don also bizarrely seem to not completely hate each other like last season. She now just sees him as a voice she can talk to when Henry is not around but do not think current spouses when she told him the ‘c-word’ as a major possibility. Let’s not think Henry or Megan like this idea. Henry still loves Betty and still sees her as he first met her and you believe it. Megan also would not want to be treated like Betty or have Don think she is Betty. She prefers to not have Don handle her with kid’s gloves when discussing Betty’s possible looming death. She may be young but I think she and Don each underestimate how much and how little one expects from the other.
Matthew Weiner mentioned in an interview how the second episode is really when critics/viewers/internet groupthink always seem to gang up on the show. This seemed like raw meat to the wolves but it did offer some good set-ups to place in bold in later episodes.
More Peggy and Roger moments, please.
Casa de La Francis seems to have a gothic theme that seems to be missing a butler. Better yet a nanny for the kids. I am assuming Carla never returned after she told off Betty and now the kids are unsupervised. Judging by the gothic nature of the house, I can imagine Bobby #4 and Sally having a lot of fun. Perfect for sleepovers.
No more dream Betty scenes. That woman needs a therapist now.
Pete’s actions about announcing Mohawk Airlines really did seem to twist the knife in Roger in front of everybody. Roger is surviving with a clown mask on but the man still has feelings.
The Megan-Don issue over Betty. I get what Don was thinking. Going back to the premiere where Don tells Joan in the nicest way, ‘Oh, hell no!’ regarding more kids and Megan not really enjoying holding Kevin, I think there is an unsaid agreement that neither wants to have more children and that Megan as the mother figure is ill-befitting for her and the kids. I think Megan quietly acknowledges this but it is still pretty dumb for Don to imply she does not understand death. But still, I think he does care about how happy she is and taking care of children who are not hers is not on the list.
I know people were very skeptical of Henry Francis when he premiered as Betty’s rescuer in Season 3. Some people just found him creepy. But I think he has come to be one of the few sane characters. Yes, the marriage is not perfect but he does point out Betty’s shortcomings as an individual directly and he still manages to see her as the woman he first laid eyes on. Betty found a keeper.
No Joan this episode but she appears to return in previews along with Momma Holloway.
I was waiting for a Betty-Megan confrontation but it appears Betty never leaves the house for it to happen. That said, her shaving off years from Megan’s age and making it seem like they married over night seemed to be master class in passive aggression based on her sheer nonchalance. With that said, I wonder about if there are going to be more details of any visual cues to the wedding day. Was it a pretty informal ceremony and how many people went? I mean if Peggy did not even get them a gift, I begin to wonder.
Jon Hamm directed this episode. Shame he got such a tonally messy episode to deal with but there were some beautiful shots of the Draper children sprinting with sparklers in the front yard of La Casa de Francis that made up for the oh so obvious shot of a Betty Body-Double.
The Betty scenes truly were a predictable exercise that would get you killed in a writer’s workshop. If there is a scene that could not make you, as a viewer, feel five steps ahead of the episode it was the palm reader scene.
I still give the episode a break because it was operating out of order in production.