In Sunday night’s all-new episode of “Mad Men,” Betty returns, Peggy makes a new hire and Don gathers no moss at a Rolling Stones concert. Spoilers ahead!
Betty is back, and struggling with a weight problem. Her sour-faced mother-in-law pointedly suggests diet pills (Betty: “Why haven’t you taken them?”), and Betty reluctantly agrees. During a doctor’s appointment, she gets something a little different than a weight loss prescription: Her physician discovers a suspicious lump in her thyroid. Fraught with anxiety, Betty calls Don.
Later, at lunch with an old friend, Betty is approached by “Cecilia with the gift of sight,” who reads her tea leaves. Cecilia tells Betty she is loved by all around her, to which Betty bursts into tears.
Don’s new secretary is black, and named Dawn. Smart! I’m excited to see where this goes.
Peggy has to deal with return customer Mohawk Airlines, but not as a copywriter — as a scout for a new copywriter for the account. As Roger points out, old-fashioned Mohawk wants “someone with a penis.” After looking through a pile of resumes, Peggy brings in Michael Ginsburg for an interview. Ginsburg is Jewish, boasts an over-the-top Brooklyn accent, a loud jacket, and thinks Peggy is a secretary. She doesn’t like him, but Roger thinks Ginsburg might be the man for Mohawk. Can Sterling Cooper Draper Price hire a Jewish ad man? Roger thinks so: “Everybody’s got one.” A lovely detail from this storyline: In Peggy’s interview with Ginsburg, her own well-concealed Brooklyn accent comes out ever so slightly.
Don and Megan have an awkward dinner with Heinz clients. Mr. Heinz wants Don to pursue the Rolling Stones for their next TV spot, hoping the band could sing a ditty along the lines of “Heinz Is On My Side.” Feeling like dopes, Don and Harry Crane dutifully attend a concert and wait backstage, where they dally with a duo of underage groupies. Needless to say, the suits don’t get a meeting with the Stones.
At the end of the episode, Betty gets her test results back, and the tumor is benign. Michael Ginsburg gets hired, and Peggy wonders if she’s shot herself in the foot.
Food and its relation to home life figure prominently in this episode, Betty’s (CGI) weight gain being the most obvious example. During a striking dream sequence, Betty discovers Henry, Henry’s mother and the children in mourning clothes at the kitchen table. Sally turns Betty’s chair upside-down at her place, signifying her mother’s death to cancer, but also weirdly associating the meal table with the site of loss. In waking life, Sally’s burgeoning eating disorder rears its ugly head again, as she refuses the ice cream sundae her mother prepares for her. (Back to reality, Betty helps herself to the rejected sundae.)
After the Stones concert, Harry scarfs a burger in Don’s car and bemoans the diet his wife has dictated for him.
Culture of fun:
Don and Harry stick out like buttoned-up sore thumbs at the Stones concert, even as Harry pathetically tries to fit in with the weed-smoking, bubble-haired teenyboppers. Later Harry articulates the difference between the concert groupies and his normal acquaintances: “These young girls are FUN!” A continuing theme throughout “Mad Men” has been the older (often married) male characters’ increasing discomfort with the 60s culture shift, even as they’re attracted to free-spirited, nubile young women. (For once, Don seems sexually sated by wife Megan.) Depression Babies, meet the Flower Children.
The musical cues this season are overwrought. Playing “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” at the end of an episode? Good. Inserting generic, manipulative score at obviously dramatic moments? Bad.