I was shocked to see that some readers called Mad Men “un-gay” last week. Are we watching the same show? Mad Men is about trembling white-collar tools on the cusp of social change, and the homosexuals of 2012 should be laughing at them. If these dudes had our intuition and capacity for understanding, they’d be much better off. As such, I find the show to be a suspenseful exercise in fretful inevitability, and an aesthetically pleasing one, to boot. Who is supposed to appreciate Joan’s knowing smirk except gays? What about Peggy’s weariness? Roger’s Donkey Kong sophistication? Exactly. To me they’re little candies. Welcoming, delightful, and sorta sinful.
It was a grim episode for Ms. Betty Francis last night, who returned to Mad Men sporting extra poundage, a tumor, and a hat full of misery. But still a fabulous episode for us! Here are the five faaaaabbest moments from “Tea Leaves,” the second week of Mad Men’s glorious return.
1. Megan Draper proudly represents the Harper Valley PTA
Now that the world’s done pretending “Zou Bisou Bisou” is fascinating (What was THAT about, Twitter?), we can get back to observing Megan Draper’s true appeal: being the official mascot of slinky 1966 glamor. Just look as she attends dinner with Don and a couple of Heinz-affiliated fogeys: She’s pert, astoundingly accessorized, and sporting a poof that would dwarf Jeannie C. Riley’s. Sorry, does that make me a Harper Valley hypocrite? Don doesn’t want Betty’s sullen Grace Kelly death mask anymore; he wants a feisty Diana Rigg type whose attitude can fill out a catsuit or a fantastic purple print.
2. Peggy vows to buy a penis.
Last episode Roger’s own wife Jane tore him down with a saucy comeback; today, Peggy — who rarely interacts with Roger, tragically enough — subverts Mr. Sterling with an unamused aside. After Don told Peggy that returning client Mohawk Airlines needed a regular copywriter on their campaign, Roger dismissed Ms. Olson and said, “Someone with a penis.” Without skipping a beat, Peggy deadpanned, “I’ll work on that.” And she kind of did! In a follow-up scene, Peggy’s wearing an outfit with an orange, swinging appendage under her collar. She’s rightfully smug about it.
3. Betty weeps hysterically because her tumor is malignant not what’s making her fat.
To be fair, poor Betty: Though she’s been monstrously selfish and immature since season two, sometimes I see through the icicles in her face and discover a legitimate victim. Since Joan hogged all her screentime in the two-hour premiere, Betty usurped Joan’s presence last night with a whopper of a storyline featuring a tumor diagnosis, climactic test results, and worst of all, about 30 extra pounds. Yep, Betty donned Shallow Hal chin flab, choked back some bathtub tears, and mourned her thinness like a Hawaiian volcano worshipper. Betty overeats regularly now, and when she finds out that her tumor is benign, she weeps to patient husband Henry, “It’s nice to be put through the ringer and find out I’m just fat.” Oh, shame! You’re going to live with yourself now! And your kids! I hate it too.
Oh, how I cackled at this. Betty, you’re wearing Miss Swan’s wardrobe and expecting a sympathy vote. Try again.
4. Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce gets a dose of sweaty, Jewish libido.
This smug, guileless newcomer to SCDP is confusing the hell out of Peggy, who interviewed and hired him, but his inspired portfolio and alpha wackiness are, um, SO HOT. Dig that clammy hairline! That waterlogged collar! That crocodilian vomit stain of a tie! He is SEX. He infuses SCDP’s antiseptic cubicle farm with some zing, and I hope it means an onscreen tryst for some lucky lady. A lucky lady named Don, I mean. Come on, Draper, just one handsy meeting with Mr. Michael Ginsberg here, please? A little scotch, a little repartee, and then a 22-minute couch wrestling session. That’s all I want. Thank you. Invite the Smashing Homosexual from last episode if you like.
5. Henry Francis? Does not CARE about your boo Don Draper.
Henry Francis is screwed. His humorless wife is bored in their stable marriage, and he can’t provide enough misogyny or general disrespect to placate her. He gets where she’s been. And he knows Don/Dick/Keyser Soze Draper is gravely f*cked up. So when Don called to check in on Betty’s potentially fatal tumor, Henry shrugged off that bastard with no more than three half-sentences. Pretty cold for a straight dude! I don’t think Don is quite used to dismissive confrontation. Not everyone has the balls and ballistics to be television personality Jimmy Barrett, the greatest Mad Men character of all time, who called Don “garbage” for having an affair with his wife Bobbie. Dear Jimmy: Please return to the show. I’ll comb your eyebrows, buy you fine cigars, and let you bark at everybody. And at me! Oh god, please bark at me.