Last night’s episode of Mad Men was an A++ episode, wasn’t it? I’ve been loving this whole season, and I think “At The Codfish Ball” was my favorite episode so far. I’ve previously raved about scenes with Peggy and Roger, but now I’m quite sure that Sally and Roger is where it’s at. More, please!
There was a lot going on in this episode, since Megan’s parents were visiting and Don ended up with the kids. Thanks to an award he was receiving from the American Cancer Society for That Letter, his family and business worlds collided with fascinating results.
Peggy’s Big Decision
But let’s start with Peggy instead, since there’s a lot to cover with the Drapers. Peggy’s boyfriend Abe insisted she join him for dinner, and she assumed the worst – he was planning to dump her. But after a delicious scene where she joined Joan for a cigarette behind closed doors, Joan told Peggy that dinner was more likely to mean a proposal. So Peggy better have her answer ready.
I loved what Elisabeth Moss did with her face in this episode. She wanted Abe to propose, you know she did. And when he simply asked her to move in with him, she looked disappointed. Peggy is a modern woman in so many ways, but this is a decision that I don’t think she made as a forward-thinking, independent woman. This was the decision of a scared, insecure girl who feared saying no would mean losing everything. It’s not that I think Peggy shouldn’t live with Abe, or that she really doesn’t want to do it. I just think she would have preferred a proposal.
But Peggy can’t admit that, so she sold the idea to Joan and, unsuccessfully, to her mother. Joan, a secret divorcee, was more on board with the idea than Peggy anticipated. She expected Joan to be disappointed for her. The scenes with these two ladies were superb, and I felt for Joan when she said Greg had a piece of paper with the U.S army that meant more to him than the one they’d had together.
Peggy’s Catholic mother was, of course, appalled. It’s the 1960s and her daughter is moving in with a Jew. That’s earth-shattering for a woman like Mrs. Olsen. (Loved the surprised look on her face when Abe mentioned that ham is his favorite.) Of course, Peggy’s mother behaved appallingly. Telling your daughter “You’re lonely? Get a cat. Feed her 13 years. Then you get another one, and another one after that. Then you’re done,” when she asks “You want me to be alone?” is not exactly warm parenting.
And I have to admit, there was part of me that wondered if Peggy’s mother was right when she said that Abe would just “practice” on Peggy until one day he decides to marry and have a family with someone else. You know she was implying that he’d find a nice Jewish girl to marry when he was ready. But will he? I feel like we know very little of Abe and what kind of man he is, and his suggesting to move in with Peggy didn’t exactly strike me as romantic. I’m not even sure if he mentioned that he loves her, and there was no promise of being together forever or with no one else.
We also saw some shades of jealousy at the beginning of the episode, when Abe abruptly left after having dinner with Peggy, Stan and Ginsburg and the conversation turned to making jokes about the Playtex account and Peggy’s cup size. So I don’t feel the greatest about Abe’s motivations.
On the other hand, I do think there’s a side to Peggy that wonders if the arrangement she has with Abe could be better for her in the long run anyway. I don’t think Peggy can completely ignore the traditional values she was raised with, and I do think she was disappointed at first, but I also think it’s fun to watch her sort of pitch the idea to herself. She tried her mightiest to sell herself on the idea that she won’t marry, and she half bought it.
Megan’s Moment In The Sun
Megan experienced her first true taste of success in advertising and proved that she’s more than just the boss’s wife when she wowed Heinz with a great idea for a beans commercial. Not only did she come up with a great idea, but she handled a business dinner with Heinz like a pro after the executive’s wife let it slip that they were about to get fired while they were in the ladies’ room.
Of course, the most interesting part of Megan’s success was that she was the least excited about it. The next day, the whole office was in a celebratory mood. Peggy seemed genuinely happy for her, and told her this was as good as the job gets. You could just see Megan thinking “Oh.”
That sort of empty feeling coincided perfectly with a visit from Megan’s French-Canadian parents. Her socialist father hates Don almost as much as he hates the advertising industry. He doesn’t see her success at work as a good thing. He sees a girl who gave up her dreams of acting to please a man that represents everything he despises.
Sally’s Coming of Age
The visit was complicated by more than just the tension between Don and Megan’s father. It was clear that Megan’s parents were not getting along, and Megan felt like her competitive mother was being too flirtatious with Don. (Don just thought she was being French.)
Then Sally and Bobby were added into the mix, as Betty and Henry had taken the little one out of town and once again they were being watched by Henry’s mother, who tripped over Sally’s phone cord (she was calling Glenn) and broke her ankle.
I loved how much of the episode had to do with growing up. First, Don proudly had Sally tell Megan’s parents how responsibly and smartly she’d acted when her step-grandmother was hurt. She’ll called the police and elevated and iced the ankle all on her own. Then, Sally asked to go to the awards ceremony to see her father get his award. Megan bought Sally a very pretty, modern grownup dress and she tried to get away with wearing makeup and go-go boots. Don made her lose the makeup and boots, but there was a sweet moment with them at the dinner when he said someday she’d wear makeup. (There was also a hilarious moment when Megan’s father said that little girls must spread their legs, instead of wings, and fly away. Hilarious. I’m pretty sure that was a dirty joke made right in front of Sally, not mistake due to language barriers.)
Roger was also at the dinner, and his rapport with Sally was just delightful. Sally obviously adores Roger, because she likes being treated like an adult. And then, in a jarring moment for a twelve year-old, she accidentally walked in on Megan’s mother giving Roger a blowjob in an empty room. Oh poor, sweet Sally. She was too young to wear makeup when she left for the dinner, but what she witnessed made her grow up a little in a way no one wants. How upsetting for her.
The evening was disappointing for almost (I suppose Roger left happy) everyone involved. Megan knew her parents were miserable. Sally expected a grand staircase and had to face a plate of codfish instead, not to mention seeing that horrifying thing from the man who buys her Shirley Temples. And Don discovered that none of the businessmen at the banquet will ever work with him, because the very letter they were rewarding him for deemed him untrustworthy in their eyes.
The episode ended with a funny moment – Sally calls Glenn after returning from the banquet, telling him that she’s in Manhattan with her father. “How’s the city?” he asks her. “Dirty,” she replies.
- The women killed it in this episode, didn’t they? I loved Sally. I loved how supportive Joan was of Peggy. I loved how supportive Peggy was of Megan. I loved how Megan proved she has a mind for the business, even if she may not have the heart for it.
- I didn’t mention the scene with Roger and his ex-wife (John Slattery’s real life wife!) because there was so much else to talk about, but it was positively endearing.
- The moment where Pete demonstrated to Megan’s father exactly what he does all day was Pete Campbell at his absolute best.
- I feel like I didn’t spend enough time on the relationship of Don and Sally. I feel like he’s beginning to realize that soon Sally will be absolutely gorgeous, just like her mother and stepmother. I don’t think he wants to stand in the way of that, but he also knows how men like him can treat women like that. It’s just interesting to watch.
- I think Peggy was genuinely happy for Megan, but I also think perhaps she wonders if Megan is getting everything she has dreamed of. Megan is gorgeous, Megan is married, Megan is good at advertising. I’m so intrigued by this storyline, even if it goes nowhere.
- Peggy’s disbelief that anyone could have ever dumped Joan. I don’t believe it either.
- “Just lie! You think you’re the first ones ever to do this?!” – Peggy’s mom. Oh dear.
- “You weren’t even there, Harry!” Harry “Punching Bag” Crane showed up just long enough in the episode to be told to shut up.
- I think “Heinz Beans. Good things never change.” would have been better than “Heinz Beans. Some things never change.”
- The fountain pen ink on the white carpet.
This is a long review but, damn, I really thought this was an excellent episode. Now head to the comments and tell me if you agree.