Recap & Reactions: Mad Men reads your “Tea Leaves”

On a night of exciting season premieres (Game of Thrones, The Killing), I’ve decided to keep my focus trained on the continuing efforts of AMC’s period epic, Mad Men. Earlier tonight, we were treated to the fifth season’s sophomore episode, “Tea Leaves.” While it may not be clear exactly where this season is headed just yet, there are definite traces of the series’ characteristic slow burn. Check out my spoiler-filled thoughts and comment with your own after the break!

This week, we finally got caught up with Betty, who is still married to Henry Francis. The break did not treat her well, unfortunately, and we are shown almost immediately that she has gained a noticeable amount of weight. It is unclear at first exactly why this is, but we soon learn that there are potential complications with her thyroid. Ouch. Meanwhile, the fine folks at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce are still trying to satisfy their clientele, chiefly the Heinz account and the acquisition of Mohawk airlines.

These served as the main plot threads of the episode and lead to some interesting situations. I’ve never really cared much for Betty as a character, as she often comes off as childish and vindictive. That said, I think the writers are setting her off on a relatively interesting arc this season. Forcing her to finally face her own mortality seems to be having a profound effect on her sense of vanity (as seen by the final moments of the episode where she finishes Sally’s sundae). We can’t really be sure how this will play out in the long term, especially given the results of her thyroid testing, but I’m intrigued to find out what this means for her as a character.

The other major thread of the episode concerned Don and Harry’s attempt to secure the Rolling Stones as spokesband for Heinz beans. This thread brought me great joy. The conception of the idea at the dinner party seemed all too believable as the means for which many such ad campaigns come about. The entire subplot worked beautifully as an illustration of how easy it is for even the most culture-savvy businessman (Harry) can have their plans surreptitiously thwarted by being woefully out of touch. It’s probably something that happens throughout ad agencies even today, and the eventual train wreck should appeal to everyone’s sense of schadenfreude.

Oh, yeah. We can totally get the Rolling Stones to do your stupid-ass jingle. They need the money, right?

In addition to all of this, the acquisition of Mohawk airlines required SCDP to hire a new permanent copy writer. While the setup for this subplot involved one of my favorite lines of the season thusfar (Peggy’s “I’ll work on that” comeback), I was quite pleasantly surprised by Michael Ginsberg. From his slimy personality readjustment to his lonely home life, I have a feeling that his presence on the show will make for some fantastic moments in the coming episodes. His dialog was snappily written, and I think he’s going to end up as a sort of wild card among the First Class gang. I’m really looking forward to what the writers are planning to do with him as the season unfolds.

I'm just gonna go ahead and stick with Wildcard for his codename...bitches.

Overall, this was a solid episode that was qualitatively in line with what I’ve come to expect from Mad Men. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to watch Paul F. Tompkins live-tweet the Game of Thrones premiere.

About Darren Orsetti
Amateur screenwriter. Amateur blogger. Life-long haver of skewed priorities.

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