Mad Men: Season 5, Episode 3 – ‘Tea Leaves’ Review and Synopsis

Betty is fat. This is the big reveal of the episode. But why is Betty fat? Does she miss Don? Is it a thyroid problem? No one is quite sure but it is frustrating Betty’s confidence as well as her husband, Henry, who wants her to accompany him out to a Junior League meeting.

Of course, Don is still in his love nest with chanteuse Megan.  It is interesting that Megan points out that Don refers to the representative from Heinz by his company rather than by his name. It illustrates a difference in world outlook that is perhaps indicative of their different ages and positions in life. Don sees people as a means-to-an-end while Megan still sees them as individuals.

The theme of the generation gap is prominent in the dinner Megan and Don have with Raymond from Heinz and his wife. Raymond’s wife’s interjection that the business talk ‘was boring’ also recalls the strict gender demarcations introduced in the first season of Mad Men. Men discuss business, women handle the pleasantries. Megan, already demonstrating her lack of awareness of certain social graces with her revelation that Don is divorced, does not share this sentiment with Raymond’s wife if her facial expression can be taken as evidence and appears to awkwardly laugh along.

Don is progressive though, if his secretary Dawn indicates that. Dawn was a hire from the last episode’s closing scene featuring the protestors from Y&R responding to Sterling Cooper Draper Price’s ‘equal opportunity employer’ advertisement. Harry Crane, ever eager to please, lets Don know that he got tickets to the Rolling Stones concert Don requested in order to convince the Stones to do Raymond from Heinz’s lame commercial idea about ‘Heinz being on your side.’

Mad Men: Season Four [Blu-ray]

Pauline pays Betty a visit about her absence from the Junior League meeting. Pauline tells Betty she needs to lose weight to get her confidence back and make Henry happy which is Pauline’s primary concern in this intervention. When Betty acts the child with Pauline, asking her why she hasn’t used weight loss pills, Pauline comments that she no longer needs to please a man, reminding the audience of Betty’s role in the Mad Men world.

Betty’s visit to the doctor for diet pills reveals a lump on her throat that requires her to see a specialist. She returns home to share this news with Henry but he is not home so instead Betty flees back into Don’s arms via telephone. She let’s him know about the lump on her thyroid and the whole conversation is fraught with the ghosts of their shared past. It’s both awkward and poignant because it resurrects old sentiments that longtime audience members remember well.

Betty runs into a friend, Joyce, while at the doctor’s office. The dilemma with Betty’s weight and how it affects her confidence is illustrated when she is uncomfortable with her husband seeing her naked. The weight issue coupled with the possible thyroid problem makes Betty’s situation unique for her character because, while the audience is accustomed to her not being the strongest character, we are not accustomed to seeing it manifest on so many levels.

Mad Men: Season Four [Blu-ray]

Back at SCDP, Michael Ginsberg, Peggy’s choice for the new copy-writer position, delivers a bizarre interview performance with Peggy  which shows that she can still be thrown for a loop by the unknown. Betty’s lunch with her friend Joyce reveals her frustrations with Henry’s mother Pauline as well as Betty’s underlying jealousy of Don’s having moved on with Megan. Roger wants Peggy to hire Michael sight unseen because he needs a male copy-writer to please the new Mohawk Airlines account he hopes to win to inject some life into his flailing career.

Don and Harry go to the Rolling Stones concert and end up waiting backstage for the band along with a mob of teens. They’re smoking pot and cigarettes while Don is in a suit and Harry in some beatnik look that is both befitting and awkward. Of course, Don and Harry were played for fools and they discover this when the Rolling Stones actually show up and the whole backstage erupts. Who Harry met with behind closed doors remains a mystery but afterwards Harry and Don are in the car and Harry is stoned out of his mind. While it isn’t hard to dislike Harry, sometimes he provides the right kind of comic relief this show needs. He’s also changed a lot from the uptight guy introduced in the first season.

During his interview with Don, Michael Ginsberg schmoozes Don to the point of convincing him to make the crazy young guy an offer. Michael’s performance is the exact opposite of what it was in his initial interview and Peggy’s mixed emotions about the whole thing can’t help but show in how she reacts to his receiving the job.

‘It turns out we both have a dream of throwing something out this window.’

Betty receives good news from the doctor about the tumor on her thyroid, much to Henry’s relief. Pete announces the signing of Mohawk Airlines, completely stealing Roger’s thunder where that account was concerned and angering him in the process.

‘You know, I used to love that kid. I used to hold his hand and help him up on the swing set. … He grew up.’

Mad Men: Season Four [Blu-ray]

The tension between the generations is brought to a head within the office by Pete’s usurpation of Roger. Roger’s statement about helping Pete onto the swing set when Pete was a child, followed by Don’s response that ‘he [Pete] grew up’ draws into focus both the passing of time from parent to child as well as in the corporate world where he who was once the rookie later can become a leader.



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