“Mad Men” came back strong last night with its second episode of season 5, called “Tea Leaves.” The commercial breaks didn’t seem as dreadful as they did in the two-hour season premiere last week, which was bloated and I think a tad indulgent–even more so than usual.
The episode opened with the image of a clearly bloated Betty (who wasn’t even seen in the open); a scene any true-blue viewer won’t soon forget. January Jones didn’t look herself.
I can only image that this sequence must have been filmed during her recent pregnancy. Something was wrong; she knew it, her husband Henry knew it. Betty goes to the doctor for diet pills, only to learn she has a potentially cancerous lump on her thyroid.
A call to Don was in order, rather than Harry, and after a protracted series of vignettes, where Betty herself dreamt what it would be like after death. She also has a chance to reflect on the mess she’s made at home. The tumor turned out to be benign. Whew!
I especially enjoyed that dreamy monent, where husband Henry and the kids were all dressed in black, but still eating dinner. It was just to sort of moment that “Mad Men” and Matthew Weiner delight in. Sad and sweet, but somehow decadent all the same.
The other big scene came when Don and Harry went to see The Rolling Stones in the hopes of persuading them to appear in a Heinz beans commercial. As Harry and Don wait to see the band, they encounter two luscious teenagers who quite literally are up for anything.
Don tried his best to engage them as to what turned them onto the band; curiously, I wondered if he was more interested in them carnally, or in actually discerning their feelings about the Stones.
At one point one of the girls asked him if he really felt he could get the group to do a commercial He responded that they had already done one in England … for a cereal.
The band was never shown, but their then-manager Allen Klein was mentioned. What’s next: The Beatles at Shea? One of them turned Harry onto to a joint, to which Don just shrugged his shoulders.
A clearly flummoxed Harry finally did make it backstage and signed the band, the Tradewinds, not the Stones, to a contract. Sitting with Don, in his car while rehashing the evening (and, throwing back a bag full of White Castle burgers) was priceless.
Don’s totally apathetic. Harry thought it was a good evening and said they’d have to do it again; Don just said it was time to leave and goodnight.
Jon Hamm had directed this show and deliver a hamm-slam-dunk in my book. His intimacy with the character paid off in spades. Brilliant, brilliant job. No question, “Mad Men” is back.