Mad Men, Season 5 Episode 3: “Tea Leaves”

“When is everything going to get back to normal?” – Roger Sterling, Mad Men 5×03

Roger’s quote basically echoes a theme throughout the episode for a few characters. Roger is feeling lost at sea, getting used to changes around the office – particularly the addition of Dawn, Don’s new secretary chosen from the pool of African-American applicants. Betty wants to be back in her old body again, and Peggy is wishing people would realize that women achieving in the workplace is beginning to become the new normal.

Betty’s weight gain brings out a lot of fascinating questions for me about Betty’s character and her relationships with people. I have often written off Betty as a bitch and a negative role model in terms of a healthy lifestyle and relationship with food for Sally. I’ve encountered many people who think I judge her too harshly, and during this episode, I actually started agree with them. The first time we see Betty again she has both of her kids struggling to get her into a dress. You can see what almost looks like a look of disgust on Sally’s face,  but we’ll get to that in a second. Betty shoos away the kids, saying she’ll take care of it, and ends up faking feeling sick.

I wonder about Sally’s development and budding relationship with health and weight pretty constantly – Betty has always valued weight and looks above all else, and in the past has constantly been dieting and substituting food with cigarettes, and Sally surely didn’t miss those cues. Does she think less of her mother now that she is heavier? It was interesting that Sally only ate a quarter of her ice cream and then her mother grabbed it to finish it.

And what about Betty’s relationship with her mother-in-law? I found that fascinating, that Pauline would come to the house and encourage her to take diet pills. I also found her comment about her own weight fascinating: “at my age I don’t have to please men anymore.” It saddens me that, to these women, staying in shape and being healthy revolves primarily around being nice-looking for their husbands and only in a distant second does health even play a role.

Betty’s cancer scare gave the episode – and Betty – quite a lot of depth. In the past 4 seasons, I think that this is the first time I can remember Betty having honest and frank discussions with female peers. Her conversation with her friend over tea was so interesting. Betty was being real with someone in a public setting for one of the first times – crying, asking frank questions, etc. Betty also seemed to realize what was important in the world; being intimate with her husband and actually spending time with her children and appreciating them.

I greatly admire and love Henry for treating her exactly the same. I love that he said to her when she didn’t want to get out of the tub nude, “I see you all the time. You’re beautiful.” And I also found their exchange after the call that Betty didn’t have cancer so illuminating of their individual personalities:

B: Good to know I”m just fat.
H: I told you, I don’t see it.
B: Of course you don’t, your mother’s obese.
H: I feel like I’ve been given a gift! Don’t you?

Betty is almost like a child – blurting out rude things and moving on quickly to the next item, harping on smaller problems and her appearence. Henry is a big-picture thinker, and they almost balance each other. I’m interested to see how the weight thing plays out this season.

What amazed me about Betty’s new storyline were the online reactions – some people reflected how this  and the cancer storyline would effect Betty, her relationships with Don, her family – and some people simply wrote “woah! Fat Betty! Blambalam” a la the song of the same title. When are we going to stop solely defining characters based on weight?

Speaking of interesting marriages and balance, Megan and Don had one notable scene – when they both went to a business dinner with a Heinz executive and his wife. Don and the Heinz exec start talking shop, and Megan is actually in the loop – she has worked a bit on the account, and at the very least understands basically what they’re saying since she works at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. But when the Heinz executive wife turns to Megan and says “this is boring, isn’t it?” – Megan has to think for a moment before she decides to play the role of “wife” tonight, nodding and smiling. Megan, to me, represents the new changes that are coming – she is going to shake things up, and I’m hoping in the future she’ll find her voice at a business dinner where she’s supposed to just be the “wife”.

Peggy also faced some pain-in-the-ass workplace politics. Now that they’ve signed Mohawk, they need to get a phenomenally good copywriter to work full-time on their account. Lane suggests Peggy, and Roger quickly dismisses the idea, saying “they’re going to ask her to make drinks.” When Don and Roger approach her about leading the search for a new copywriter, Roger is once again quick to write Peggy off as a choice (after he cracks a joke about Dawn privately to Don):

Don: They’re going to insist on a regular copywriter.
Roger: One with a penis.
Peggy: I’ll work on that.

During her search, she sees a portfolio from someone named Shelly and rejects it, saying “might be a woman – god forbid.” Sean, Peggy’s office mate,  warns her against hiring someone too talented, saying “he’s going to be your boss someday.” And indeed, when she brings in Michael Ginsburg, he thinks she’s the secretary and even when he finds out that she’s not, still demands to speak with Don. Sexism is alive and well in SCDP, but Peggy seems to be growing more outwardly frustrated about her lack of upward mobility.Roger – and the rest of the old timers – are wondering when things are going to “get back to normal”, but the answer is that they won’t – things are a-changin’!

What did I miss? What did you think about Betty’s weight gain and Megan and Peggy in the office? Let me know!

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Mad Men, Season 5 Episode 1 & 2: “A Little Kiss”

First of all, let’s just discuss how fabulous it was to be back at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The clothes are a little bit gaudier since we’re heading into the late ’60s, but the emotional turmoil! The smoking indoors! The furtive looks! Megan popping her blouse open in the office! Okay, okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s dive in!

Sally’s sexual development and ideas about sexuality is something that is constantly on my mind while I watch this show. When Sally was caught masturbating at a friend’s house last season, she was scolded by Betty and sent to a child therapist. Don was resistant to the idea. Now, Sally is caught between  two very conflicting roles of sexuality being presented to her by two very different women. Betty is very uptight and strict about the displays of affection she has shown to both Henry and Don – little pecks; very rarely anything beyond that. We never catch Betty out of her nightgown. Megan, on the other hand, is exceptionally free with her sexuality overall, particularly compared to Betty, lavishes affection on Don, and Sally catches a glimpse of her bare bottom sleeping on her father’s bed. What do you think is going on in her mind at such an impressionable age?

Now. Pete. Let’s talk about Pete and Trudy for just a second. On the one hand, Pete is an ambitious businessman and a communicative husband. On the other, he has conversations with his train buddy (who is a total jerk) about his wife’s post-baby body:

Pete: She’s getting back to herself.
Train Bud: How old’s the kid?
P: I thought it would be a little faster […] there was a time she wouldn’t leave the house in a robe.

Oh, I’m sorry, Pete, I didn’t know that the rate at which Trudy is losing the weight she gained having your baby wasn’t fast enough for you. I know this discussion is only indicative of the time period, and not fully a reflection on Pete – women were expected to be wives and mothers, and their beauty (aka weight – don’t even get me started on that one) means everything. It’s pretty clear what Pete thinks a role for a women is when he says “do I look like I’m wearing a skirt?” to Peggy when she tries to hand off Joan’s baby. Pete is all about playing by the rules, and to him, the rules are that women belong in the home or answering his phones.

To Pete’s credit, though, he does clearly value and love his wife and her opinion. She cheers him up when he talks about his dissatisfaction at work, and they are very caring towards each other. Plus, he doesn’t gossip at the office about Megan’s performance at Don’s surprise party.

SPEAKING of Zou Bisou Bisou and the birthday party that Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce – and 2012 viewers –  will clearly be talking about by the water cooler for the rest of the month, let’s break down Don’s 40th birthday bash and it’s aftermath:

  • This party reeks of Megan’s style and demeanor. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just not very Don. Don is all about steak, cigarettes, sleeping with women, and deep dark secrets. Megan accepts and loves Don’s dark past – the opposite of Betty – but Megan is extremely different. She has friends that are not only black but gay, which makes the status quo from SCDP a little surprised and perhaps even uncomfortable at first. When Roger thanks Don for not inviting Joan (although I personally was devastated we weren’t treated to some party-Joan), Don says, “It wasn’t up to me. Can’t you tell?” and looks over at Megan laughing hysterically at her friends. Just an interesting shift from Betty’s style, which was much more along the lines of whatever she felt would most please Don.
  • Then there is the actual performance of Zou Bisou Bisou – Megan – in her short short short black dress, spreading her legs, hiking up her skirt, gesturing towards her crotch – shocks nearly everyone in the room. Harry shouts out “oui oui!” and claps; Roger turns to his wife and says “why don’t you sing to me like that?” (and her response is the best: “why don’t you look like him?” PLUS the conversation they have right at the very end of the episode at 5 AM – Jane: ‘what time is it?’ Roger: ‘shut up.’ Not very nice, but altogether hysterical).
  • After the party, Megan is thrilled with how it turned out and wants to chatter away with Don about it all night. Don asks her to not waste money like that again, and she says – which made me exceptionally happy – “it was my money, you don’t get to decide what I do with it.” HUZZAH! SOME ASPECTS OF FEMINISM ARE TRULY BREAKING THROUGH IN BOTH PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE! HIP HIP HOORAY! It made me think about how this show will move along going forward,  and I’m excited to see people’s – particularly women’s – attitudes change towards the workplace and the “women’s” jobs and the “men’s” jobs. I’m also looking forward to the relationships Megan forms with our favorite old characters – she is clearly a new kind of woman; particularly compared to the other ladies we know so well by now.
  • Harry and Roger both make fun of Zou Bisou Bisou – Roger to Don, who smacks him down back into his place – “we don’t make fun of each others’ wives here” – and Harry to Megan’s face, without his knowledge. Megan is clearly pretty taken aback and hurt by it, and snaps at Peggy, complaining that people at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce are so stodgy and uptight and heads home. Harry seems to feel pretty bad, but it’s still a disgusting display of workplace sexual harassment.

Okay, now let’s just take a minute and talk about Megan and Don’s sex life:

  • Megan knows exactly how to keep Don interested. She is providing the mistress role for him; which he kept going back to over and over again in past seasons, bringing some spice into his sex life in the form of floor sex (that was vaguely reminiscent of rape for a second until you see that she really was into it). Megan’s even uninhibited in the workplace – popping open her blouse to give Don a peek on her way out of the office. However, Don seems to be letting his mind drift from work somewhat – which brings us to Peggy!

Peggy is clearly the hardest working person at SCDP, and that troubles her – because it used to be Don. She’s frustrated with Don’s lack of interest in pushing the client to dig their Heinz Beans ad idea. Peggy is clearly the person who knows Don best in the office, in their own weird 1960’s version of mentor/mentee. I did love that Peggy has her adorable journalist boyfriend now – it makes my heart soar. Not just because she’s not single, but because they seem to understand what the other is all about. I also loved that Peggy is wearing the same dress in one of the early scenes that she wore last season. Look at that – the employees of SCDP are real people!

As for  Joan – it was refreshing to see her in a different role here, and I relished every second of it. I found it fascinating to see more of her relationship with her mother (and wished I could punch her mom when she said “you’re not exactly at your fighting weight”). I loved her conversation with her mother about how Joan wants to continue working at SCDP,  because it revealed so much about Joan and her outlook on life and work that I’m interested to see play out over time and as society shifts over the next couple of years:

Mom: I had to [work]. Your husband’s a doctor.
Joan: I promised, and they need me.
Mom: He’s not going to allow you to work.
Joan: ALLOW me?
Mom: “Whither thou goes, I will go.”
Joan: And how did that work out for you?

Joan is challenging the old-world way her mother has of thinking about motherhood, being a wife, and working (yahoo!). I also loved Lane’s sweet conversation with Joan when she came to visit (overdressed in a tight cocktail dress, popping out – poor Joan. working so hard to impress). He was so kind to her, telling her how much she and her work had been missed at SCDP. I loved that he treated her somewhat like an equal. Which brings me to Lane…

Oh Lane, you and your love of seductive female voices. He was clearly smitten with Delores, and was desperate to meet her – which didn’t exactly work out for him. Lane is polite to women and knows his manners, but he’s still unable to resist a seductive voice. It seemed only fitting that Lane would collect the resumés of the African-American applicants pouring in after their “prank” ad in the Times; particularly since none of us will forget Lane’s little interlude with the black waitress from the Playboy Club. Lane is the most forward thinking of the bunch, and I’ll be interested to see how his British sensibilities mesh with the changing times and his more liberal attitude towards things like race.

Phew! I think I’ve hit all my major points of things to look at from Episodes 1 and 2 of this season. Look for an Episode 3 write-up soon!

Edit: Not sure how the video links got confused there, but they should be fixed now – feel free to watch Zou Bisou Bisou over and over again!

Mad Men, Season 1 Episode 1: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”

Summary:

It’s March 1960. Don Draper, a high-level advertising executive at the Sterling Cooper agency in New York City, struggles to find ideas to keep an account for Lucky Strike cigarettes while at the same time managing his tangled personal life; unknown to his stay-at-home wife, Betty, he is having several extramarital affairs. Peggy Olson finds employment as Don’s new secretary but immediately finds it difficult to fit in with the other secretaries, especially Joan Holloway. Junior accounts manager Pete Campbell, who is about to get married, takes a liking to Peggy and pursues her sexually.

Analysis & Discussion under the cut!

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HAPPY NEW YEAR! I’m ba-aaaack…

Ah, blogosphere, it feels so good to be home again! Hope you all had a happy and healthy one. But it’s the new year now, and there is TELEVISION TO BE WATCHED.

First things first: OUR NEW SCHEDULE! In an attempt to keep the content flowin’; I’m revamping the whole schedule and mixing it up a bunch. We’ll be watching Mad Men and Parks & Recreation, Here is our new schedule:

  • Mondays: This week’s episode of Mad Men. We’ll be watching Season 1, and if I get good feedback and a good conversation, maybe we’ll keep going!
  • Fridays: This week’s two (old) episodes of Parks & Rec. They’re only 20 minutes each!

I’m also going to start reviewing recently aired episodes of shows, including:

  • Parks & Recreation
  • 2 Broke Girls
  • New Girl

And, just for kicks, I’ll throw in some old episodes of shows like Toddlers and Tiaras or Sister Wives. Because they’re on Netflix Instant now, and I have so many sassy things to say about the girl who calls soda “magic juice”.

 

DRUMROLL PLEASE…

Our next venture into TV-Land will be in two parts: Mad Men and Parks & Recreation!

I haven’t laid out a schedule for viewing either show yet, so stay tuned for that.  I’d love to start doing live episode reviews the day after they air for Mad Men once Season 5 begins in March!

I’m currently deciding between watching a certain couple of seasons of Mad Men or trying to cram it all in there. Same for Parks & Rec, although I’m not quite as worried about that – those episodes are only 20 minutes each. What are your thoughts? 🙂