Betty Draper made her first Season 5 appearance in Tea Leaves -- Jon Hamm's directorial debut, and the first time a central Mad Men character is forced to confront mortality.
At the time of filming, January Jones was heavily pregnant: while the fetus wasn't written into the show, the extra pounds were. At the suggestion of her passive-aggressive mother-in-law, Betty heads to the doctor for some diet pills. He discovers a lump on her thyroid, and sends her for some tests straight away. While there, she runs into an old friend battling cancer, and the sick friend convinces her to have lunch, where they are joined briefly by a psychic. Half a century ago, of course, cancer was much more likely to represent a death sentence than it does today -- Weiner/Hamm do an excellent job of illustrating how cancer's elevated morbidity informed the way people talked about the disease (or rather, didn't).
After a disturbing role-play scene in the season premiere, Megan Draper is back to her vapid, climbing self -- cheerfully playing the dutiful sexpot wife while making sure Don keeps up his end of the bargain: When he balks at a planned trip to Fire Island to see her friends, citing a generational disconnect, Megan reminds him it wasn't a problem the evening before at the Rolling Stones concert.
Still, Don and Harry Crane were very much the square pegs backstage at the concert, which was strictly business: While Heinz has taken more of interest in Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, they still seem to want to write their own campaigns. This time, Heinz exec Raymond Geiger wants Harry and Don to convince the Stones to record a song for a TV spot. The pitch is unsuccessful -- Harry unwitting signs the opening act instead of the headliners -- but Don manages to wrangle some free market research from a 14-year-old groupie.
Pete Campbell is becoming increasingly brazen in his attempted takedown of Roger Sterling after last episode's failed coup of Roger's office. This week, Pete takes all the credit for bringing Mohawk Airlines back to the agency, and belittles Roger in front of the whole gang by characterizing the veteran's role on that account as little more than administrative support. Though Roger keeps his cool and holds his venting until he is behind closed doors with Don, this rivalry is a ticking time bomb.
Insisting that she isn't threatened by some healthy competition, Peggy agrees to hire Michael Ginsberg -- a young, overeager and irreverent copywriter -- on his portfolio alone; pushing aside her (legitimate) concerns that Don will hate him and that he won't play well with others. But Ginsberg's sincere gratitude for the job offer and an intriguing scene at home with his devout Jewish father indicate the wunderkind might be in it for the long haul, his complete lack of finesse notwithstanding.
Don is concerned enough about Betty's health scare that he blurts out the potentially bad news to both Megan and Roger, rather than wait for the test results to come in. Megan feigns concern but has Betty dead and buried seconds in to the discussion; Roger is characteristically cavalier -- even though Don prematurely confirms a cancer diagnosis in his disclosure. Very curious indeed, as Don Draper is not one to jump to dramatic conclusions.
But we can all breathe a sigh of relief: Betty's lump is benign, news she relishes for a few moments before reminding herself that it means she's just fat. Don and Betty's respective spouses are none too happy about the scare's effect on relations between the former Mr. and Mrs. Draper. Megan looks almost disappointed when she learns that Betty will live to see her children grow up, and immediately degrades the cancer scare into an excuse for Betty to call her ex-husband. (That remark would have drawn a verbal slap from the old Don Draper.)
When Don calls the Betty's house for the results, Henry curtly shares the good news but clearly has no intention of letting Betty know Don called. Undoubtedly, Don's (presumed) lack of follow up will not be lost on Betty: Now that she is free to go back to her narcissistic, childish self, how will she punish him for his negligence?