Review AMC’s Mad Men: Episode 503 “Tea Leaves”

For all the Mad Men fans who thought they were getting an extra hour of their favorite show this season I’m sorry to report that last weeks season 5 premiere counted as two episodes and so accordingly this weeks review will be of episode three.

We quickly learn that, as promised at the end of last weeks episode, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce has indeed followed through on their pledge of diversifying the office by hiring a black secretary who is ironically named Dawn and is assigned to handle desk duties for Don, rounds of mistaken identity jokes ensue. The larger portion of the office action this week surrounds another new hire. Mohawk Airlines has been confirmed as returning to SCDP and Peggy must search for a new copywriter to handle the extra responsibilities.

Enter the plucky Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman) who is clearly a talented young ad man but rubs Peggy the wrong way with his brash antics. Peggy’s ultimate fear is of disappointing Don but after reigning himself in for the second interview Ginsberg passes with flying colors and gets the job.

Ginsberg looks to be an interesting new addition to the show as he seems like he will add some energy to the SCDP office and it his unbridled enthusiasm may well be something Peggy appreciates in contrast to the always cynical Stan Rizzo. The relationship between Peggy and Michael will be an interesting one to see develop as one of the overall themes of this week is to be wary of ones inter-office competitors. This is most blatantly demonstrated as the episode ends and Pete belittles Roger in front of the entire office in regards to the handling of the Mohawk account. Roger has been given control of the account but Pete makes it well know that he landed the account and that he will be monitoring Roger. The warning, as Roger says to Peggy “That’s the last guy I hired”, is that you’ve got to watch your back in the politics of office aspirations.

The biggest shocker of this weeks episode was that Betty Francis (formerly Draper) has gotten a bit fat. Betty’s notable absence from the first two episodes was apparently to illicit the maximum effect of having an episode three “shocker”, ie. January Jones in fat suit makeup. After being convinced by her mother-in-law to see a doctor about diet pills we get a bit of extra drama in that Betty might actually have Lymphatic cancer. The writers decided not too make this a strung out drama, cancer-wise anyhow, as we learn by the end of the episode that Betty’s lump is benign and her weight issues are probably more linked to the depression of being a 60’s housewife and her new found love of sweets and the plague that still haunts us today; Bugles. Betty’s cancer scare does play out some subtle battle lines in the lives of the divorced as we find Betty seeking seeking solace and reassurance from Don, Don’s concern for Betty and the kids and Henry Francis’ smug satisfaction when he learns that Betty hadn’t informed Don when she found out she was OK.

The final but of fun from this week’s episode surrounded the Rolling Stones. Don and Harry get a meeting with the Stones’ manager in the hopes of getting them to sing a commercial for Heinz beans. You know from simple history that there’s no way that they will be successful in wooing the Stones but there was palpable anticipation as Don and Harry wait backstage as to whether or not we were actually going to see someone play the young Mick Jagger and company. Of course we are disappointed and don’t even get a glimpse of the fake Rolling Stones that Harry meets with but we are treated with a little more of the “New Don Draper”. Don strikes up a continued conversation with a young girl who is waiting for the Stones backstage and not only passes on a joint and the opportunity to hit on the pretty young thing but actually seems concerned about her groupie longings and delves into her psychological love of the Stones. The one thing that hasn’t changed about Don is his continued dedication to his job and “market research”.

Looking ahead to the future we may be seeing the beginnings of a downward spiral for Mrs. Betty Francis and it will be interesting to see how long they keep Don’s train on the tracks. I expect great things from Michael Ginsberg and maybe one of these days they will write an episode with absolutely any involvement from Ken Cosgrove. This weeks teasers didn’t seem to expose very much until the very end where we see Roger asking Peggy if she wants to get dinner. Is a Peggy/Roger romance on the horizon? If they can get January Jones to wear a fat suit I guess anything is possible.

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