Mad Men Recap: Feast or Famine

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 9You wanted less Megan, and you got it — this week’s Thanksgiving-themed Mad Men was much more of an ensemble effort than most episodes this season, and it was stronger for it. Roger schemed, Peggy fumed, and Don yelled at his wife and daughter but reined it in quicker than he has in the past. That’s progress, right? Plus, Betty’s back, y’all, and she basically reenacted scenes from my dieting history throughout the episode. Let’s all give thanks for what happened in “Dark Shadows.”

L’chaim! | Off a lead from Bert, Roger set up a business dinner with execs from Monarch Wines, who were looking to market their Manischewitz to a wider audience. Having been a guest at many a Passover seder, may I suggest: “Manischewitz, for those who like their wine to taste like children’s cough syrup”? It soon became clear that Bert thought Jane (maiden name: Siegel) would be a big hit with the Jewish potential clients. The elder man’s reaction to the news that Roger and his young wife were splitting — “Already?” with a glance at his watch — was a hoot, as was Sterling’s stereotypical follow-up questions about his dinner guests, “How Jewish are they? You know, Fiddler on the Roof — audience or cast?” Bert suggested Roger ask the firm’s resident Jew for assistance — remember when they used to ask Peggy about bras and weight-loss devices? Same deal — which led Roger to proposition Michael in the same manner he did Ms. Olson a few episodes ago. And just like Peggy, Ginsberg got a nice chunk of change in exchange for a few ideas Sterling could use during the soft sell. “I’ve got to start carrying less cash,” he muttered. Ha! Jane agreed to help, but only if Rog got her the apartment of her choice so she could make a fresh start. He agreed, and the dinner was a success. But irked about the wine exec’s dashing son’s chutzpah when it came to Jane, Roger invited himself up to his wife’s new pad and they had sex. The next morning, she miserably observed that her new digs were tainted by her marriage’s bad karma. “You get everything you want, and you still had to do this,” she said, dejected. Roger, surprised by the revelation, agreed. Sterling didn’t win any fans at work, either, when Peggy found out that he’d hired Michael for some ad-hoc copy writing. (Kudos to Elisabeth Moss for the complicated emotions that flitted across her face when Peggy realized she’s no longer Roger’s go-to.) “I can write for anything,” she later asserted. It pushed Roger to point out that she’d only done what was best for her, too, and drive home this season’s recurring theme: “It’s every man for himself.”

Who’s the boss? | When not dreaming up Manischewitz mottos, Ginsberg created a playful pitch for Sno Ball that involved authority figures taking a snowball to the face. Though everyone liked it more than Don’s hellish take on the frosty concoction, they agreed to bring both to the client meeting. But at the last minute, Draper decided to present only his own idea. The fact that Sno Ball bought it was lost on the young copywriter, who brazenly told his boss, “I feel bad for you.” Don’s reply? “I don’t think about you at all.” Ooh! 1960s burn! SCDP’s creative director was full of that kind of, um, encouragement for his staff — when Pete called him early on a weekend morning to whine that The New York Times Magazine hadn’t even mentioned the firm in a piece about advertising, Don reminded him that Campbell had boasted about his long interview with the reporter. “Don’t wake me up and throw your failures in my face. It’s Sunday, for chrissake.” How’s that fragile self-concept doing, Pete? Without the Times publicity, you see, Campbell’s fantasy about Beth seeing the story and showing up at his workplace in a fur, pearls, and black unmentionables was obliterated. (Side note: I originally described that scene as involving a “topless Rory Gilmore,” but then decided that those words just shouldn’t go together.) So all he could do to feel better was snap at her husband, Howard, during their pre-Thanksgiving commute.

Worth the weight | Betty’s absence ended with the blonde beauty still large, but not in charge of her feelings or her appetite. So off to Weight Watchers she went! Watching Bets hit all the dieting moments of shame was enough to make anyone reach for a sympathy bon-bon. She guzzled whipped cream from the can, then spit it out. When Henry offered her a bite of his late-night snack, she didn’t accept until ruling that the morsel counted toward the following day. And when her WW leader asked her to speak at the meeting, she gave this brief, barely held together summation: “I had a very trying experience. I was in an unfamiliar place and I saw, felt, a lot of things I wish I hadn’t. And I lost a half a pound and I feel like I should pat myself on the back, because it was really hard.” GET OUT OF MY HEAD, BETTY. Lest we feel too bad for the former model, it was easy to dislike her again when her jealousy of Don’s new relationship made her prompt Sally to ask her dad about his first wife, Anna. Megan fielded the bratty pre-teen’s questions as best she could, but it won her no thanks from Don, who reverted to form by berating her and grabbing the phone to lay into his ex. Megan made him see that he was doing exactly what Betty wanted, which seemed to bring him back to his senses. He apologized, but only after she did. (Another side note: I’m still undecided about whether Don is becoming a better man or not. The things he says when he’s angry are truly terrible.) Don later gave the whole truth to Sally, who immediately put together that they’d visited Anna’s home during their California trip, and everyone made up in time for Thanksgiving dinner. At Megan and Don’s, that meant a feast attended by her actress pal Julia, who’d just landed a role on the gothic soap referenced in the episode’s title. And out in suburbia, that meant the Francis family took turns giving thanks aloud. “I’m thankful that I have everything I want and that no one else has anything better,” Betty said, in one of the most true-to-character sentences we’ve ever heard her utter. But maybe we can cut her a teeny break. Because if we were restricted to her sad holiday plate — a sliver of turkey with a drizzle of gravy, one Brussels sprout, a teaspoon of stuffing, a tablespoon of green bean casserole, and a pathetic serving of what looked like candied yams with marshmallow topping — we’d probably be a little on edge, too.

Now, let’s hear your thoughts! Are you hoping that Joan has more screen time in next week’s ep? Did you prefer Don’s Sno Ball pitch or Michael’s? And are you with me that Peggy’s line, “Am I the only one who can work and drink at the same time?” was one of the best of the night? Hit the comments and sound off!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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18 Comments
  1. re says:

    Michael’s ad was obviously better than Don’s. Also Megan is still very annoying even with less screen time. The way these writers treat Betty is just hateful!

    • really? says:

      why? Megan isn’t annoying and Betty’s character has been the same spiteful winch since season 1. They are staying true to form. Also, it’s okay if we thought Snowball was funnier, but the thing about it is, Don sold the other idea. Maybe he’s coming back to form coming up with ideas that may not be practical but that sell to his clients. We’ll know in a few weeks what it is.

      • Flora says:

        Thanks for your comment, “really?”

        I’ve long despised Betty as a character, but I do appreciate her role as Don’s sometimes-foil in this show. Megan is simply a counterpoint, and will either help demonstrate Don’s growth or lack of it. Though, I seem to be the only person who likes Megan, but I can understand the point of view of many viewers that they are annoyed that she’s given more screen time this season than older, established characters like Joan. I’m also wondering where Layne has been lately, but it looks like he’ll be back in the next episode. It must be really hard juggling such a large ensemble cast on a character based show, but I trust the show runners are doing the best that they can with the various plot points in play this season.

      • anna says:

        Betty’s not a winch or a wench and she was nothing but loving to Don in season one. She is now understandably upset that Don treats Megan better than he treated her.

    • wildsubnet says:

      I really disliked Megan last season and the opening episode did not give me any reason to think she would be any better this season. But then she stood up to Don, and became a real character, in my mind. Can’t stand Betty and nothing in this episode changed my mind about her. She is truly a terrible person.

    • Emily says:

      Why must every Mad Men recap cue the Megan bashing? Megan haters are starting to sound like Glee haters, a la Rachel/Blaine (Finchel? Klaine?).

  2. Blow says:

    Was it just me or did Don kinda steal that idea from Ginsburg?

  3. Heathers says:

    What’s up with “Betty’s back y’all”? MM isn’t taking place in the south or the ghetto.

  4. kanesmummy says:

    I thought Megan’s comment about the smog alert and how it’s toxic and didn’t want that stuff in her apartment seemed very cryptic. As did Don’s long gaze out of the window as she said it. Wonder if that is symbolic of Betty’s attempt to poison their marriage or foreshadowing of something more sinister???

    • Flora says:

      It did indeed look smoggy outside, but it made me wonder that if there was such dangerous toxic air in New York City that day, did anyone tell the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

  5. BrianR says:

    Wow Alexis looked reallly good. Yum.

  6. Chloe says:

    I’m not crazy about Megan but I don’t mind her, either. What bothers me this season is the lack of Joan in most episodes. I was hoping that she and Roger would get together, now that she’s had his baby and they’re both unattached. Instead, we only see her for a scene or two each episode and those scenes aren’t even with Roger. As for Betty, she’s a horrible person but fascinating to watch……kind of like a train wreck. LOL

  7. Linda K says:

    Roger is a hoot and the show is better for his character. Megan is OK and she looks good until she opens her mouth. She does have a good heart and brings out the best in Don….but do we really want that??? Her and Don together is just strange! Betty is a downright nasty person which gives the show some bite. Seeing her struggle with her weight makes me snicker after after all her nastiness. I am really liking the development of Sally’s character and she is coming up with some of her mother’s sharp retorts. It will be interesting to see how she develops. I, too, like it when Joan is included in the story and have also wondered about her and Roger now that they are both unattached….hmmm I would like to see Peggy and Ginsburg get together and see where that might go. Just some of my thoughts. Love the show.

  8. Britta Unfiltered says:

    I think Betty’s line about having everything she always wanted and nobody had anything better was ironic even to her. I think Betty is very aware that other people have what she doesn’t…a skinny, sexy body, a passionate marriage, the respect and love of her own daughter…Trust me, she knows this stuff very well, her statement was said as a way to convince herself she had everything, and she failed flat. I did laugh hard though at her attempt to ruin Sally’s relationship with Megan with the line about Anna Draper. It was so totally something I would do. I felt really bad for her when she found the note that Don wrote Megan, so I understood where she was coming from with that.
    .
    Sally is becoming quite the mouthy you-know-what these days. I dislike Megan, but I really wanted to see Sally punished for how she was talking to her, and then I wanted to see her punished again after how she talked to her mother. I have had my mouth washed out with soap for saying much less hurtful things during my childhood.
    .
    I can’t believe we went yet another entire episode without seeing Lane. He exists, right? Did I just make him up in my head?

  9. Flora says:

    Something just occurred to me, for all the hate that Megan gets, not one person complains about how much screen time Michael Ginsberg gets, and for a brand new character he gets a ton. Just something to think about…

  10. Rob says:

    I like Megan, though I do recognize she has dominated the season to date. I KNOW there is a reason for it. Don is a better man with her, but clearly less creative (work) with her. Betty is just mean, but she is good for the show. I loved how Megan, Don and Sally ended up handling her meddling.
    Ginsberg is annoying, though I am sure my dislike for him has something to do with him currently exhibiting more talent than Don. I love Roger. Like Joan. Could do without Lane and Pete.

  11. toughcrowd says:

    You guys are rough. I love all the characters. And understand that not all can be on weekly.

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