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!