Mad Men
Tea Leaves

Episode Report Card
Couch Baron: B+ | 5 USERS: A
YOU GRADE IT
Growing Concerns

...and then we cut to Betty, who's sitting on the couch in an ugly robe that I think she only used to wear if she were sick or massively hung over. She's also chomping away on Bugles and I hope the company got a discount on the product placement given what's going on here. I might as well put this out there now: I am not one of those people who don't find Betty to be an interesting character. Likable, no -- but I do understand her and think she's very consistent. However, this weight gain is -- ahem -- a big deal, given that she's been very clear about how much her mother valued her appearance and how she passed that down to her. Remember how she talked about wanting to disappear once her physical beauty had faded? Remember how disparaging she was of Sally's temporary chubby period? And now she's completely let herself go in her mid-thirties? Not that people don't change, of course; I'm just saying that given how strongly the show has developed the specter of Betty's mother, I think it needs really to show us a strong reason why Betty let this happen. I have faith that it will, but the fact that January Jones's pregnancy opened the door for this storyline makes me raise an eyebrow just a little. I should add that I think it's going to fit very well with what I'm starting to sense is the seasonal theme -- people feeling left behind by the youth culture of the late sixties -- but I want the character motivations to work too.

Anyway, after a few moments (they do seem to be dragging out some scenes longer than usual this season; I'm all for establishing things and letting them breathe, but it didn't take more than a second for me to digest this tableau) there's a knock on the door and Betty sighs knowingly when she opens it and sees that it's "Pauline," Henry's mother, who enters without wasting the time waiting for an invitation would have taken. She explains that she just wanted to see how Betty was feeling and she doesn't betray any evidence of doubting Betty's story, but that's probably because she doesn't really need to. Betty offers that it's so nice of Pauline to stop by "when a phone call would have sufficed," and it's nice to see that Betty has adapted so well to having a mother-in-law. Whatever she may say about Don and his lack of "people," she was probably grateful he didn't come with one of those. Pauline, seemingly sincerely, says that Betty was missed the night before, but becomes more pointed as she tells Betty that while Henry probably doesn't show it, her absence from these functions upsets him. "I want him to be happy. And you being with him is part of that." Well, it's nice that she's switched up the nature of her interfering, I guess. Betty tries to stick to her story that she wasn't feeling well, but Pauline sees right through her (DAMMIT) and says she knows how it happens -- "you get comfortable and you give up a little bit, and then it just gets out of control." Betty looks like these words are hitting home, but when Pauline goes on that there are pills Betty can take, Betty can't resist asking the heavyset Pauline, "Why haven't you taken them?" Now I don't feel so bad about my accidental jokes. Pauline evenly tells Betty she would if she could, but she has a heart condition. "And honestly, at my age I don't have to please men anymore." Betty looks chagrined, but Pauline asks if she doesn't want to get back into that "incredible closet of yours" again, and adds that it'll be easy for Betty. "You're just one of those girls." Given how hard Pauline's trying, I hope Betty doesn't reach for the bag of Bugles until after she leaves.

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