MAD MEN 5.3: “Tea Leaves”

I know that MAD MEN is moving into the part of the 1960s when the clothes and interior design started to suck, but does the show have to become boring to go along with it? I cannot recall ever being so bored by an installment of the four-time Emmy-winning drama.

Maybe because so much time was devoted to Betty (January Jones), my least favorite character. In today’s parlance, Betty is struggling to get her body back after baby. She currently resembles one of the Kardashians — the large one who looks like she could play for the Jets… Khloé. Jones donned a fat suit to exaggerate her own weight gain from her real-life pregnancy.

Anyway, Betty’s mother-in-law helpfully suggests she go on diet pills to burn away all the flab, so Betty goes to a doctor who finds a tumor on her thyroid. Panicked, Betty calls Don (Jon Hamm), who is overcome with sympathy for his baby mama. He tells Megan (Jessica Paré) and even Roger (John Slattery). To his credit, Don is worried about his kids, which seems odd, because I remember that Megan’s unflappable skill with the kids was what first attracted Don to her. Betty runs into an old pal who has terminal cancer, and then a passing seer (seriously?) reads Betty’s tea leaves, calling her the rock of her family. Bets loses it, fearing she’s going to die and even has a dream about it — but then her tumor turns out to be benign. Henry (Christopher Stanley) tells Don about it, but doesn’t tell Betty that he told him. I wonder if she will try and milk her “condition” for concessions from Don?

Meanwhile, the guy from Heinz wants the Rolling Stones to record a jingle, so Don and Harry (Rich Sommer) go to a concert and try to get backstage with the help of some pot-smoking teen girls. Interestingly, Don is more paternal than lecherous with the young lady. He really is getting old…. When Harry finally does get into the dressing room, he gets the contract signed — by the wrong band. Back at the office, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) is put in charge of hiring a new copywriter and settles on Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman), a stereotype of a Jew who comes within a few paces of being an embarrassing caricature. Roger wants him hired because it will make Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce look diverse and inclusive. (Speaking of which, SCDP actually hired one of the black applicants from last week to work on Don’s desk. Bravo!)

The best plotline saw Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) once again cast himself as the messiah of SCDP by announcing the return of Mohawk Air — an account he dangled in front of Roger before stealing the thunder for himself. Roger has had it with the punk, and I look forward to his revenge. One would think that someone with Roger’s connections could really screw Pete over, but would Roger be willing to potentially damage the company to get back at Pete? Yes. Yes, he would.

So, anyway, this episode was a total snore for me — but then again, MAD MEN always seems to toss a clunker into the mix every season. They can’t all be perfect. This will probably prove to be important to the overall season arc somewhere down the line — especially all of Henry’s cryptic phone calls with NYC mayor Lindsay. And the episode will probably be nominated for a slew of Emmys, simply because I didn’t like it.

And neither will conservatives: Did you catch that line from Henry about George Romney, the governor of Michigan, being “a clown”? Yes, he was referring to the father of 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney!

Betty doesn’t seem to have learned anything from this Very Special Episode, which is kinda cool in my book. People don’t always listen to the danger signals their bodies are putting out until it’s too late. So chow down on those ice cream sundaes, Betty. Live for today, because no one is promised tomorrow. Or next season.

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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