‘Mad Men: Tea Leaves’ Review

Photo Credit: http://www.tvequals.com/2012/04/01/mad-men-tea-leaves-season-5-episode-3/mad-men-tea-leaves-season-5-episode-3/

Season 5 continued with a phenomenal episode exploring just what Betty Francis has been up to since moving out of the former Draper residence. This episode also continued the seeds that were planted last week, making for an extremely entertaining hour and easily one of the best Betty stories to date.

Let’s start with Betty. I was wondering why they had been so shy to reveal her in the previews last week, and now we have that answer: Betty Francis has lost control of her weight. It’s a startling move for the character (and for the gorgeous January Jones), but it also completely makes sense. But a much larger crisis occurred when a lump was found in her throat by a doctor. From then on, Tea Leaves did an amazing job of showing just what Betty would be like if she was dying. She is haunted by dreams and breaks down when a psychic tells her she is loved by her family. January Jones handled this heavy material wonderfully. I loved that Don was the only one able to calm her down. But the best was saved for last when Betty got the call that the growth was benign, and was seemingly disappointed. In some sick way she enjoyed all the attention she was getting. It is proof that Betty will always find a way to make herself miserable. The results of the test didn’t matter, the emotional outcome was still the same.

Meanwhile, at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, Peggy interviewed an eager and abrasive newcomer and Don and Harry went to a Rolling Stones concert. Both of these plots had great moments. Peggy continually has to battle for her equality in the office, but she got through to this new employee, who already has an extremely powerful screen presence, solidified by the scene with his father at the end.

The Rolling Stones concert provided most of the laughs this week after Megan spoke last week of Don’s unfavorable feelings toward Harry Crane. Watching Don being forced to interact with him was pretty hysterical, made only funnier by Harry smoking marijuana with some teenage girls. Harry consistently tries to connect with Don, who just blows him off as professionally as he can.

Another seed further explored this week was the building rivalry between Roger and Pete. The ending saw a rare moment of defeat for Roger as he asked Don “when will things get back to normal?” Sadly, for Roger, never. I cannot wait to see how this plot plays out.

Tea Leaves was an extraordinary episode of Mad Men. Watching Betty Francis struggle with life and death issues was some of the best character work we have seen from the house wife from hell. Everything in the office also managed to move the plot forward and instill a few great laughs. This calls for a special congratulations to Jon Hamm who directed this fantastic episode, hopefully we’ll see some more from him in the future. (9.5/10)

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