Mad Men Season 5 Ep. 7 Recap 'At The Codfish Ball'
As always, spoilers galore. So either click away or continue.
Get out your corsages and gowns, it's father/daughter night on Mad Men. Whether they were still alive and breathing, or in the case of Peggy and her mother, being used as a symbolic figure to back up an argument, father/daughter relationships seemed to be a recurring theme of 'At The Codfish Ball.'
That dynamic, as well as ideas about young girls' burgeoning sexuality and the way romantic relationships can either stifle someone or set them free is weaved throughout the episode, from Peggy, Stan and Michael's discussion about Playtex to Megan and Don's relationship to Megan's parents' obviously deteriorating marriage.
Let's start off with Sally, who's been sneaking in phone calls to Betty's man, a.k.a Glenn, while her mother and step-father are off on another fantastic voyage. What's interesting at this point with her and Glenn's relationship is they're more friends than potential boyfriend and girlfriend, trading the usual pre-teen complaints about overbearing adults, school work, and in Glenn's case, his first case of heartbreak. And speaking of overbearing adults, no sooner than Sally mentions the loathsome Grandma Francis that she walks by, trips over the phone cord and breaks her ankle.
Sally's "oh, what happened," sounded a little nonchalant and staged at first, but it quickly becomes clear she didn't set her up. Though she does lie about it to Don when he asks her to recount the story of in front of Megan and her parents. Although that probably has more to do with the fact she wasn't supposed to be on the phone with Glenn in the first place, as Betty, and maybe Don, wouldn't approve of him.
Of course Sally Draper's not the only one facing a disapproving adult in this episode. From the moment Megan's father Emile walks into she and Don's stylish Manhattan abode, his distaste for Don ("his manners are studied" he says at one point) is apparent. And so is his unhappiness with his wife Marie, which becomes crystal clear when he snaps at her to "Have a drink. Become nice again." Ouch. He's also cheating on her emotionally and sexually, crying to a young co-ed on the phone when a publisher rejects his book. And from her none-too-subtle (at least to everyone else--to Don she's just French) lingering stares and touchy-feeling demeanor towards Don, Marie seems to love her husband's miserable company. She almost tingles with delight when Don remembers her favorite drink.
Emile can see through Don's persona to an extent, but it's difficult to tell if his animosity is fueled by his political opposition to the latter's lavish lifestyle and occupation or to the fact he's almost old enough to be Megan's father as well. Whatever the reason, in his eyes Don is just an uncivilized country hick who managed to get lucky and who now carelessly throws his money around. It recalls Betty's post-Dick Whitman reveal statements in season three's "They Gypsy and The Hobo: "I knew you were poor. I knew you were ashamed of it. I see how you are with money, you don't understand it."
However, one good thing does come out of the tense dinner with the in-laws is Megan's idea for yet another pitch to Heinz beans. After serving Sally her favorite meal of spaghetti, she comes up with a pitch to do Heinz beans through the ages. The scene where she first tells Don about the pitch finds them almost revisiting old territory that led to last week's Howard Johnson's blowup, with Don alluding to office sex and Megan declining. It also notable that while she asserted her independence during last episode's fight, Megan's first impulse is to let Stan and Michael think the new Heinz pitch is Don's creation (which they think anyway) to avoid any backlash. It quietly illustrates the father/daughter nature of their relationship, with Megan both seeking not to be controlled by Don while also wanting his approval and protection.
But she more than proves she can hold her own during dinner meeting with Raymond from Heinz. When Raymond's wife reveals he's about to give SCDP the boot (and good riddance I say; this douche wouldn't recognize a good pitch if it punched him in the face) she quickly informs Don (who looked like he shared my sentiments) and gently prods him to go into pitching her idea. She masterfully plays the dutiful wife, encouraging her husband to explain "his" idea, and their tag teaming works perfectly, with Raymond finally agreeing to become a SCDP client.
While this was definitely a good plan--Raymond obviously holds an idea in higher esteem if comes from a man's, particularly Don's lips--Megan doesn't seem all that thrilled the next day when everyone celebrates the triumph. Even a honest-to-goodness pat on the back from Peggy can't lift her spirit. It could be because although she clearly played an integral in signing an account, unlike Peggy's past success, she could only do it by playing the boss's wife; even though she isn't leaving the office in the middle of the day, her work/wife identities are still crashing into one another and are still wrapped up in Don. Perhaps this is the unhappiness Emile sees at the Cancer Society Awards dinner when he chides her for taking the "easy way out" in marrying into Don's money and pushing aside her own dreams. And from the forlorn look on her face while sitting at the menage a cinq of misery table that is her husband, parents and step-daughter at the end of the episode, Emile may have hit a nerve.
Peggy definitely hit one of her mother's buttons when she revealed she and Abe planned to "live in sin." But first things first. After Abe calls to and pushes to have dinner during a weeknight, Peggy, fearing her workaholic ways may be ruining another relationship, goes to Joan for some girl-talk. It was nice to see how their interaction has evolved; while Peggy still sees Joan as the bombshell who never suffers rejection, Joan climbs down from her queen-bee pedestal to not only give her sound advice, but to deliver one of the episode's best lines: "Men don't take the time to end things. They ignore you until you insist on a declaration of hate."
Unfortunately for Peggy, Abe doesn't want to walk down the aisle, but to split the rent. I could see this coming as soon he started talking. Even though he talked about how she made him happy and how he loved seeing her every morning, I knew his wasn't about to propose. It's not the writers' fault though; I guess it's a guy thing lol. I still felt for Peggy, who, going from one extreme (breaking up) to another (getting hitched) in her mind, got offered something in-between that neither feels like an ending or a new beginning. The look on her face when she said 'I do' to living together was gut-wrenching. Though Joan's reaction to the news the next day again reveals how far their relationship has come since season one; she could have easily filled Peggy's head with fear or thrown salt on the whole idea of "shacking up," but instead chose to congratulate her on her bravery. I guess being married to a self-absorbed, rapist douchebag for years gives you a new perspective on relationships and men.
But Peggy's mother Katherine is old-school to the bone, and a fight between the two erupts after Peggy breaks the news during dinner. Her father may be long dead, but his memory is invoked by both women; by Peggy as someone who'd want her to be happy and by Katherine as an authority figure to set her on the straight and narrow. Kathrine's judgmental reaction is the same one she had when Peggy moved into the city a few seasons back, and she ends her diatribe by saying "if you're lonely, get a cat.They live 13 years, then you get another, and another after that. Then you're done." Damn, no Christmas card for you Ma.
Now back to Don and Sally, whose relationship is clearly about to enter the combative teen years. A preview is offered when he tells her--in what's most likely to be the first of many wardrobe to discussions to come--to wipe off her makeup and take off a pair of boots before accompanying them to the Cancer Society dinner. His remark that the sight of her sans war paint makes him happy further drives the point home that Don isn't in any hurry to see Sally become a woman. What father ever is? But it could be too late for that after she walks in on Marie and Roger in a most indelicate situation. Let's just say Marie wasn't at work, but she was definitely doing a job.
Truthfully there couldn't be a better (or worse if you're Emile) time for Roger, fresh off a life-changing LSD trip, to have met the deeply unhappy Marie. Like the Roger of barely a few weeks ago, her former free spirited self has been stamped out by a failing relationship. Of course Roger, newly single and more than ready to mingle, seizes the opportunity for sex. But his libido isn't the only thing that's reinvigorated; Roger is hungry to find new business and not simply be a party boy anymore. During a surprisingly civil talk with his ex-wife Mona, he asks for her help in getting good with potential clients. Of course Jane's name (as well as his daughter who's old enough to be Jane's sister) inevitably crops up--another young girl reference.
For his and SCDP's sake, Roger better use all the charm his has to lock down some new business; because if what Ken Cosgrove's father-in-law said is true, Don won't be getting any love from any clients anytime soon after the stunt he pulled with Lucky Strike. And if Megan takes her father's advice to heart, things may also be taking a turn in his personal life. As Emile so inelegantly (and accidentally) put it "one day your little girl will spread her legs and fly away."
So what did you think of "At The Codfish Bar?" Discuss.