I found it interesting that this episode opened with Betty and Don dealing with pesky mother-in-law issues.
Don's literally speaks a different language than his, though Megan's mere is probably no match for the malevolent Mama Francis, who clearly enjoys manipulating the heck out of the daughter-in-law she can't stand. Don and Betty also both face the irritation of having to do things with their new spouses that they don't want to, whether it's a trip to Fire Island or a Junior League gala.
These bits of family discord seemed in keeping with this episode's focus on the generation gap, and the culture clash between them. For me, Don and Harry's trip backstage at the Rolling Stones concert was the centerpiece of this episode, more so than even Betty's big (really big) reveal and the health scare that proves to be her wakeup call. Jon Hamm gets major props for nice touches in his directing debut on "Tea Leaves," penned by Erin Levy and Matthew Weiner.
Don and Harry go through the looking glass to a netherworld of young (like not that much older than Sally young) girls smoking joints out in the open and openly plotting to give themselves up with abandon to the cute English rock star of their dreams.
The girls put Don and Harry in their place, comparing them to the caricature of "Bewitched," and scoffing at the notion of their anti-establishment heroes doing a mere "TV ad." Harry is much more than comic relief (and at that he is wonderful) in this sequence.
The age difference between him and Don is evident in that he goes for the joint and is enamored of the whole scene. Even if he is still bumbling Harry Crane who can't tell the difference between the warmup act and the real Rolling Stones. The bumbler who can't tell when he's digging himself a deeper hole with the boss. (Don seems fairly disgusted by Harry's appetite, and not just his taste for White Castle.)
Ever the scheming ad man, Don can't help but ask his Ms. Flirtatious how listening to the Stones makes her "feel," and he's a little startled by the answer. Not only is it sexually frank about wanting to "jump on Brian Jones like Jack Ruby" but it's also sarcastic about an world-shaking tragedy that is only about two and a half years removed from the time frame of this seg.
Don is so startled he can't take the bait when she takes off his tie (Don of season three or before would have had her in the hallway in a split second.) The girl is taken aback too, which is why she gives him the zinger: "None of you want any of us to have a good time just because you never did." Don responds, honestly, as a father more than a libido: "No, we're worried about you."
The Betty business in this episode, an inspired way to deal with the real-life pregnancy of January Jones, reinforced my hunch that she will try to reconcile with Don. The health scare is the wakeup call for her. (That and her Bunuel-esque dream sequence of the family at breakfast!) She reaches out to Don as a scared little girl, and he falls into the old role of reassuring "Birdie" that everything's going to be OK. It's interesting that Don's main reaction to Betty's news was how it might affect his children, and we learn that he doesn't really see Megan as mommy material.
We saw Megan and Henry Francis in their own ways be very touchy about the lingering presence of the exes. Surprised to see it coming this quickly for Megan. Betty must be on the phone to Don all the time. It didn't help that Don didn't even want to tell the Heinz couple how he and Megan met.
Although it was good to finally check in with Betty, overall her stuff felt heavy handed in this episode -- particularly the speech about "what it's like" the friend gave in the tea room. It felt like it could have been half as long. Pamela Dunlap, the actress who plays Pauline Francis, plays a great villain, but the character seems two-dimensional.
At Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, the priceless moment had to be Roger Sterling's rationalization for diversity in the workplace: "Turns out it makes the agency more modern." This from the guy you'd expect to make the biggest fuss over hiring a Jewish copywriter.
I immediately liked the actor who plays the latest SCDP hire, Ben Feldman. He was good enough to rise above caricature with the Michael Ginsberg character, and his storyline gave Elisabeth Moss room to shine too. Like Peggy and Don, I'm intrigued.
Pete and Roger go at it over the Mohawk account, in keeping with the generational theme of this seg. It's always hard to see Roger look genuinely hurt by something. Slattery is so damn good.
We learned that Lane Pryce was good to his word at the end of last week's opener. Some of the black applicants did get interviews and the "most qualified one" was hired for Don's desk. And wouldn't you know she's named Dawn, probably just to give Harry Crane another LOL foot-in-mouth moment.
It figures that Henry Francis would now be working for the hot-shot New York Mayor John Lindsay. That certainly puts Betty in all the right social circles, should she want to circulate. Loved the line about Henry not wanting Lindsay to stand next to Romney -- George Romney, then-governor of Michigan -- because he's "a clown."
I can already hear the clackety clack of millions of outraged conservatives fulminating through social media at another swipe at the GOP from the liberal media. Bring it on!
-- Cynthia Littleton