Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Episode 3: What's More Depressing—Betty's Maybe Cancer, Or All the SCDP Men Turning Into Grandpas?

New, 1 comment
Images courtesy of AMC
Images courtesy of AMC

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

So, did anything really happen in this episode? The second installment of Season 5 began with so many questions, most of which were answered uneventfully. Like, how did Betty gain all this weight? Does she have cancer? What kind of vampire decorated her house? Does the vampire live there too? Since Matthew Weiner let the potential malignant tumor loom over our heads the entire episode, let's just get that out of the way right now: Betty does not have cancer. The tumor on her thyroid is benign. How does she feel about that good news? "It's nice to be put through the ringer and find out I'm just fat."

The episode opens with a less than triumphant return of our girl, Betty Francis. After trying really hard to zip up her dress (actually, Sally and Bobby are the ones struggling here), she decides her evening would be better spent in bed, and does not join Henry at a fancy governor's party. One thing she's not considering here: How much of a pain in the ass Henry's mother is. She comes over the next day and she and Betty attempt to out-bitch each other. Betty brings out the old ice princess routine and wins. Henry's mother suggest that Betty take diet pills (to which Betty asks, "Why haven't you taken them?") and then Betty goes to the doctor to try and get them. This is when he touches her neck, finds the lump, and the most depressing episode in Mad Men history begins.

On a slightly more uplifting note, Megan and Don head to a client dinner with the Heinz people. Here we have a handful of awkward moments packed into one dinner. The Heinz guy asks Don and Megan how they met, and Don says "at work" while Megan says "he was divorced." Subject change: The Heinz guy starts talking about how much his daughter just loves the Rolling Stones, and suggests a Heinz jingle set to "Time Is on My Side." He then suggests that the Stones actually record this jingle themselves. At this point, the bean ballet isn't looking like such a bad idea.

At the office, Pete and Roger continue their incessant Mohawk Airlines banter. Pete tells Roger he can have the account, which really means that Mohawk chose Roger over Pete, since Roger served in the war with one of the guys and he can definitely drink a lot more than Pete. They decide to bring on a regular copywriter for the account. Later, Peggy steps up to the plate, but Roger tells her that Mohawk will insist on a copywriter with a penis.

Back to this whole Rolling Stones debacle: Harry tries to set up a dinner date with Don before the concert, where they plan to go backstage and speak to the Stones' manager and try to get them to do this sad little jingle. Don is not interested in going to dinner with Harry. In fact, mostly everyone in this episode that encounters Harry seems pretty unamused by him, including Don's new secretary, Dawn, and of course, Megan.

Don gets a phone call from Betty where she breaks the news that she might have cancer. She says she's got a "gnome or a nodule" on her thyroid. They have a brief moment where he calls her Birdie and she asks him to say what he always says, which is, "Everything's going to be okay." That seems to be enough to calm her down for now.

Peggy begins the hunt for a copywriter with a penis. She goes through the books that were dropped off and stops at the one that reads "Judge not lest you be judged." This looked much more dramatic in the preview. The books belongs to a copywriter named Michael Ginsberg, who teeters that line of being really annoying and also a possible great new addition to the show. At the interview, Michael asks Peggy for advice on how to shake Don's hand. He also asks if Don will be stopping by. Michael really, really wants to meet D
on. Peggy informs him that she's the one he has to impress right now, and he tries to do that—sort of. He pulls his resume out of his sleeve and Allen Ginsberg is on it. Allen Ginsberg would probably not like Michael, nor are they actually related. He tells Peggy that advertising ain't his day job, and that "I insulted you because I'm honest." Well, that's honest of him to say.

When Betty arrives at the doctor's office to check that gnome, she bumps into an old housewife friend who knows her as Mrs. Draper. The two chat for a minute before the very pushy nurse ushers Betty into her appointment. They meet up for lunch after, which is just the climax of sad. Betty asks her friend "how it feels" and her friend goes into this analogy of being stuck in the middle of the ocean. Then, a psychic joins them, and instead of reading Betty's palm, she dumps out her tea and reads that. (The episode is called "Tea Leaves," so there you go.)

Don and Harry show up to the Rolling Stones concert looking like a pair of grandpas or undercover cops. Don wears his standard gray suit and Harry is sporting a black turtleneck and a horrific plaid blazer. They meet a pair of girls who also think they're cops. Harry smokes a joint with them, and eventually one of the girls brings him backstage to meet the Stones. The other girl keeps trying to flirt with Don, but he seems more interested in asking her open-ended questions. He asks her what she likes so much about the Rolling Stones and she says, "Why don't you get me backstage and we'll see?" Don's not taking the bait, probably because he's got this ridiculous Heinz jingle proposal on his mind.

Harry runs out and says that the Stones have agreed to do the jingle! Turns out, though, that wasn't the Stones, but hey!—another band that no one cares about is very excited to do the jingle! After that let down, Don drops Harry off at his house. Harry procrastinates going inside and eats a bag full of something: Donuts, cookies, it's unclear. Don is itching to get home to Zou Bisou and Harry is itching to be hanging out with the girls who were doing drugs.

The next morning, Don doesn't really feel like going to hang out with Megan's friends. He looks at her all serious and goes, "I have to tell you something," which again, is much more dramatic in the preview. He tells her that Betty is sick, and says that he hasn't told Megan yet because he didn't know how she would react. Megan reminds Don that she loves Sally. You know, just in case it comes to that.

Let's get back to Peggy and this new Michael guy. Peggy hires him, and she brings him in to meet Don. Every time he talks, she tries to talk over him out of fear that he's going to say something awful. Michael is either wearing the same obnoxious tie and blazer as last time, or a new obnoxious tie and blazer. Michael tells Don that he's admired him since "The Letter," which strokes Don's ego just enough to approve of this new hiring. Roger also seems into the idea, as earlier he had suggested that hiring a Jew would "make the company more modern." He then reminds Peggy, though, that Pete was the last person he hired.

Speaking of Pete, he calls a giant meeting at SCDP. Pete really loves to call meetings, especially when they're not in his shithole of an office. He announces that Mohawk Airlines is returning. He shows off a model airplane he probably put together the night before with Trudy in matching pajamas. He explains that Roger will be handling the account, but that everything that Roger knows, Pete will know, too. It's unclear if Pete is making more of an ass out of Roger than he is himself, but either way, Roger storms out. He tells Don that he's tired of proving his worth around here. Cue the violins.

Returning to the idea that Betty might have cancer: The phone rings and she finds out that it's benign. If anyone thought that Betty's health scare would lead her to begin to show any sort of emotion, well, think again. She doesn't call Don to tell him, which leads Don to tell Roger that Betty does in fact have cancer. Roger says, "Really?" and Don says, "I don't know." So, maybe he shouldn't have said that she has cancer before knowing for sure if she does. He calls the Francis Residence to find out, and gets Henry, who is being a real jerk. He tells Don that Betty's "out of the woods" and then hangs up on him. Later on, Betty eats ice cream with Sally and Sally decides not to finish hers, probably because Betty isn't looking so hot and Sally is getting nervous that she too one day might be sitting in her kitchen in horrendous pajamas chowing down on ice cream.

Elsewhere, we see Michael's apartment, which means that he's probably going to be a regular character. Michael asks his father what he wants to eat, and his father suggests they get two girls, "an old one and then a young one." Michael doesn't really feel like picking up prostitutes with his dad that night, so instead, his dad just says a prayer over him in Hebrew.

So, the end. That's it. Nothing happened. In a nutshell, Betty doesn't have cancer. Megan is very chatty at client meetings. Harry is kind of a doofus, and Henry still doesn't like Don. Pete makes Roger feel sad, and everyone acted like a baby. But: Did you see the previews for next week's episode?! A woman in the elevator tells Don to "dazzle" her, while Megan is standing right there. In another scene, she snaps at him, "You're married to me now." Could it be that Don is up to his old tricks? Is infidelity hiding behind the corner and lurching in the SCDP elevator? Let's hope so.

· Episode 1: Who Looks the Most Ridiculous at Don's Birthday Party? [Racked]
· All Mad Men Coverage [Racked]