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Recap: Mad Men, Episode 5.07, “At the Codfish Ball”

Previously on Mad Men: The Heinz account suffered because the executive hated all Peggy’s pitches, Peggy pulled the nuclear option on Abe in a minor tiff, Sally’s friends with bathroom-intruding Glen, and Don wrote an awesome letter on why he hates tobacco even though he’s still smoking. Onward!

We open this episode with Sally phoning Glen, and I know this show likes to play fast and loose with timelines, but I hope to CHRIST that Glen is at boarding school and not college because Sally is twelve and ew. Anyway, the phone cord stretched into Sally’s room trips Mrs. Francis the elder, causing her to break her ankle and because Betty and Henry are away, Sally and Bobby go to stay with the Drapers this weekend. This is super exciting for Sally as she gets to go shopping with Megan and her mother and then to a gala event where Don is being honored. Roger acts as her “escort” to the event and it’s all super wonderful and charming and Grown-Up for Sally until she accidentally walks in on Megan’s mother blowing Roger. Whoops. Our little girl is growing up.

So that part where I mentioned Megan’s mother up there? Yeah, Megan’s parents are in town and it’s very interesting to see them in the flesh after all the references and telephone conversations. While Megan seems to have a super close and great relationship with her parents over the phone, the couple Calvert in person are just as dysfunctional as everyone else on this damn show. They’re in town because Dr. Calvert is trying to sell a book to some publisher, and it’s clear from the first moment the Calverts are in the same room that the marriage is strained. Megan’s father is either a communist or a socialist, they’re a little fuzzy on the point, but the bottom line is that he very much doesn’t approve of Don and Megan’s life because of how much money they have. Megan’s mother (played by the lovely Julia Ormond) is deeply unhappy, at least partly because Dr. Calvert is having a pretty serious affair with one of his students, and flirts with Don, who’s clueless. This is at least a bit of what leads to her ending up with her face in Roger’s lap at the dinner. While that mess is going on, Dr. Calvert is busy telling Megan how disappointed he is that she’s given up her dreams of becoming an actress only to accept the comfortable reality of working in an ad agency and being married to Don. Listen, I get that the whole “living with six other people in a one bedroom apartment while trying to achieve your dreams and eating nothing but bread” is terribly romantic to teenagers and people too old to remember what that really means, but it SUCKS and I don’t blame Megan for the choice she made. Besides, I’m sure he’d be just as disappointed if she was in her 30s and still struggling with acting and would be all “why weren’t you smart enough to move on when you could?” and I kind of don’t like Dr. Calvert. Or Mrs.Calvert. Both Megan’s parents bug the shit out of me, basically. They seem like those people who are always having a “crisis” that is 100% caused by their own actions and those people are exhausting. Definitely explains a bit about Megan, though.

Megan gets a bit of a win tonight, in that she comes up with a great new idea for the Heinz account involving a mother serving beans to her son throughout all of history and into the future. Later, while she, Don, and the Cosgroves are out with Heinz, Mrs. Heinz basically tells Megan that they’re going to loose the account the next morning. Megan whispers this to Don and then prompt him to tell Mr. Heinz the idea “He” had about the new direction for the account, and when Don talks it through, Mr. Heinz is actually pretty happy with it. The account is saved, and Don makes sure that Megan gets the credit for the idea and the timing of the pitch, admitting that he just wanted to scream at Mr. Heinz. The one person who might be bitter about the (Peggy) takes the news with wonderful grace and congratulates Megan, even though Megan seems a bit uncomfortable with taking credit. I was watching the show with my mom and she asked me if I thought Peggy was being genuine here. I do, because I don’t think Peggy is the kind of woman to be that sort of underhanded and while I love that about her, it does make me nervous for her future in the agency. Are these men really modern enough to have two female copywriters on staff? Just last episode, Bert Cooper ripped into Don for leaving “a little girl” in charge of his department while he went to the Catskills.

Roger has a conversation with his ex-wife all about how awesome LSD was and we get a bit about the fallout from him planning to divorce Jane. Basically that Roger is very much at peace with the whole thing and his ex had been betting that Jane would leave him. We also hear how psyched he is that the American Cancer Society is honoring Don, because he’ll get to schmooze with a lot of very important business owners, which his wife helps him with by providing him with photos of some of the bigger fish so he can be sure to introduce himself. He sees it as kind of a new beginning for him and the agency, and she agrees to help him after quipping, “You are still supporting all of us.” I’m starting to think Roger is Scrooge McDuck with all the cash he’s been tossing around and this new revelation. Roger goes to the dinner with Don and co. (walking into the Draper’s apartment in his tux, Bobby asks, “Are you babysitting?” and I sort of want to see that episode, too) and does indeed do a great deal of schmoozing, including being quite charming as Sally’s “date” and having her hold any business cards he collects in her purse. Sally is thrilled with this arrangement until she catches him with her step-grandmother and then she seems pretty put off for the rest of the evening.

Peggy has a bit of an eventful episode, Abe asks her out to dinner to discuss something “important” and Peggy freaks out that he’s going to dump her. She approaches Joan for advice and Joan says that she thinks Abe will propose, saying that if he was going to dump her he’d be ignoring her. Peggy expresses amazement that Joan would ever be dumped, but goes along with her advice. It’s a sweet moment between the two of them. At dinner Abe does end up asking Peggy a big question, but it’s that they should move in together. Peggy looks dumbstruck for a couple of seconds, but agrees to it. She tells Joan at work the next day and Joan congratulates her and when Peggy tries to play down her disappointment at not receiving a proposal, Joan points out that Greg had “a piece of paper” with the army that meant more to him than the one he had with her. Things are going great until Peggy invites her mom over to dinner to tell her the new living arrangement, at which point, her mom storms out, chastising her for living in sin, and says that Peggy’s father would also be disappointed in her. That Abe is going to “practice” with her until he’s ready to get married for real to someone else. It clearly hurts Peggy a lot and I sincerely hope that Mrs. Olsen’s prediction doesn’t come true.

Don’s ambivalent about his award from the American Cancer Society, but after juggling Megan’s family and his own children for the week, he does seem to enjoy himself at the actual event and gets a nice shiny award to display. After the win that he and Megan pull off with the Heinz account, things seem to be riding high for them until Ken’s father-in-law pulls him aside at the end of the dinner to tell him that he’ll never work with any of the captains of industry on the American Cancer Society, despite their award to him. They respect what he did, but they also saw that he was willing to bite the hand that fed him. This is what Pete said about that stunt, but I seriously doubt that Don will ever admit to him that he was right.

The episode ends with a table full of sad faces at the ball; Megan, because her father disapproves of her life, Megan’s father whose book wasn’t successful, Megan’s mother whose attempts to lash out against her own life seem unfulfilling, Don, who has just found out that his actions may have hurt his entire agency, and Sally because she’s witnessed something she comprehends enough to know she shouldn’t have seen it, but not enough to completely contextualize it. We then go back to the Draper’s apartment where Sally’s calling Glen again in the middle of the night. She tells him that they’re in the city because of her grandmother’s broken ankle and when he asks what it’s like she thinks for a second and answers, “Dirty.”

7 replies on “Recap: Mad Men, Episode 5.07, “At the Codfish Ball””

I love when the show focuses on Sally. Her interactions with Roger were hilarious, but of course he was going to ruin things. Poor Sally. I also liked the way Peggy dealt with Megan. The second she pitched the Heinz idea, I was like “Peggy is going to be so pissed!”, but this show doesn’t make the women all super catty with each other, which I appreciate (see also Peggy and Joan’s slightly uncomfortable but mostly awesome friendship). I really liked this episode.

It seems to be her way of ‘paying it forward’ because she told Megan about how when she did “they acted like it happened all the time” and so she made sure that Megan really knew and appreciated her moment. It was so sweet.

The fact that Peggy refuses to buy into “competing” with other women, be it Joan or Megan, is part of what makes her such a wonderful character. I’m hoping they let her keep that and she doesn’t end up punished for not being more “aggressive.”

I think part of it is that Med Men has so many female writers. I imagine that if the writing staff was all-male, then Peggy and the other women would be much more catty with each other. It’s definitely refreshing to see women supporting each other!

I’m pretty certain it was lust on first sight for both parties. There were some serious sparks between them at the Drapers’ apartment.

edited because: several hours later I realize ‘lush’ and lust’ are remotely the same thing.

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