Episode #5.07 “At the Codfish Ball”
This is an episode that comes a few weeks or so after the big Megan-Don fight and let’s just say they both put it past them. Megan’s parents have come down and the hosting couple is on their best behavior from the workplace to home right down to their rather conservative bedroom attire. Don is trying to learn French, that the Calvets rather disrespectfully speak back and forth the moment they come in, which Megan is annoyed by. She wants Don to be himself and not try to come off pseudo-intellectual for her judgmental intellectual father who thinks Megan has settled down too early.
This is the most Megan-centric episode, obviously because we meet her family but there are still missing pieces left likely for the future and some to find in the past. When Don and Megan had their first romantic encounter, she mentioned she came down here to follow her path as an artistic person, she stopped short on artist, mentioning she had a degree in literature and was into acting, painting, and writing. She made it known then she was into the idea of copy-writing and advertising but was she really? For a young woman who was making $70 a week as a secretary, I am sure any job sounded way more interesting at that point. Was she trying to get closer to Don when she said that? Her father seems to think that she has given up on her dreams. But what, Dr. Calvet, what? So vague on the ambitions. Was it acting? It is not like she is alone in the ambitions at the SCDP, with Ken Cosgrove having to have pseudonyms to be published and Pete being too intellectual for his own good. Or is that Dr. Calvet will never be satisfied until she dumps her capitalist pig husband and become this generation’s Brecht? The man cannot really be happy his Quebecois daughter raised under socialist intellectualism is not just working for the machine in the United States but also married to it.
What helped Dr. Calvet’s case is the fact how chilled out Megan was after she helped save the Heinz account and also the pitch. She got to celebrate with the boy’s club but had to be prodded by Peggy afterward to have any reaction at all, which is a 180 degree turn from when she and Don celebrated with office sex the moment the dinner was over. That part of it seems to show that Megan is in a different position from anybody at the company. She knew about the account being in danger because Mrs. Beans confided in her that it was going to happen on a wife-to-wife level. She tells Don and she helps him work into her pitch that he is taking the credit for at the dinner table but let’s face it, Don never screwed Betty or anybody after hitting a home run pitch and he certainly didn’t do it with any copy-writer.
Maybe that is as satisfactory as it gets for Megan by making made Don look good and really happy. Her role as the wife and copy-writer, we expect there to be cynicism with the ‘boss’s wife’ having an idea but Peggy, Stan, and Michael just say ‘the boss’s wife’ and admit it is better than what they have and move on. Still Megan feels the workplace is a bit too cynical, right down to Harry Crane making a re-appearance in the celebration acting like he was there with the Drapers and Cosgroves when he was making the most explicit, sexually suggestive comments about Megan in the premiere episode. Not every guy at work is like Harry but I am sure Megan has overheard and thinks guys at work say stuff of that nature. It is going to be pretty impossible for her to be seen as an independent copy-writer when she is married to a partner yet her relationship with Don was made and built around the workplace. I cannot imagine her leaving for another agency or another avenue is going to go over well, especially when she proved herself as talented and creative to make a good pitch.
Megan and Peggy are tied together because they are working women copy-writers and modern women at that. Peggy is streets behind thanks to her devoutly Catholic upbringing but she has grown more and more open to it. This includes co-habitating with Abe although she gave her hopes up when her original fears were of a break up until the more traditional Joan brought up the possibility of an engagement. But I think Peggy is fine with just living together un-married. I do not know what she was thinking inviting her mother to having dinner with Abe and give the news. Let’s face it, Peggy’s last boyfriend had her mom on his side because she was married to the job. Was it to get a rise out of her or that she legitimately thought her mother would be proud she got a stable relationship that does not end with her keeling over to unexpectedly have a baby? Peggy’s tough time at work seemed to spill over into her anxieties involving her relationship with Abe. He may not be ‘practicing’ on her, but is their relationship going to last? He seemed to take no enjoyment from hearing the casual sexual harassment that she takes from Rizzo and Ginzo.
This is also the most Sally-centric episode of the season and we realize how easier it is for her with no mother Betty around. Grandma Pauline breaking her ankle would make Betty go nuclear if she was there but she just calls her father’s house who has no real panic. This may speak to his relationship with Megan with the kids. In the premiere when Sally opens the bedroom door by accident (and at this point, the child should realize no two-door entrances lead to bathrooms) she gets a peep of Megan in a Bond Girl-esque silhouette completely naked, and I wondered if Don ruined Megan as a mother-figure for the kids. Turns out, Sally loves her. She gets to go shopping for mod clothes (including awesome go-go boots too hot for the party) and eat food only a picky-eater 12 year-old could like. Sally may have been the oldest to Megan’s baby in the family but she is the favorite and I cannot ignore the parallels she shares with Megan, that is mostly the parent issues. Daddy girls who both have mothers that are a bit too touchy and volatile brats who would be more sympathetic if they were not so bratty. At some point Megan has gotten desensitized to the fights that involve her father cheating with one of his students and making sure her mother does not flirt with her boyfriends/husband or sleep with lit cigarettes buds. For Sally it would be at the ball for Don receiving an award from The American Cancer Society.
Sally seeing her ‘date’ Roger Sterling (he who had a heart attack while having one-half of a twin ride on his back around the office) get orally serviced by Mrs. Calvet is one of the shocking moments on the show ever. You expect Megan’s mother and Roger to do something intimate when they both disappear but not THAT. Sally says no more to the Shirley Temple drink and just sits there glazed eyed. She recovers to having a little fun with it talking to Glenn (more on him) on the phone but that was when she kinda pulls back the notion of being in an adult world.
This episode was way more back to basics after the most experimental episode on the series but it was a fine hour of television. Though it had to be Chinese water torture for Megan haters.
Fantastic little moment of Don and Megan overhearing her parents fight with Megan having to explain to Don it is a bit inappropriate to cry on the phone to your students about not getting your book published when you wife is right there. Don still needs to learn things.
Although what Sally saw probably ruined any future for these two, I loved the rapport between Sally and Roger.
Peggy and Joan get a scene that recalls their dishing during ‘Tomorrowland’ but there was something a bit passive aggressive with Joan suggesting Peggy go out shopping for clothes for the dinner when Pegs wore an outfit straight out of catholic school. I want their friendship to work and be awesome but we have to remember how mean and passive aggressive Joan was with Peggy as a young secretary from the very beginning of the show.
Mad Men got so into the zeitgeist of the Summer of 1966 that now I have lost track of when this is going on in the fall. September? October?
Love the return of Mona Sterling, who still does not mind being Roger’s partner in crime once more. In another era, maybe Mona would be working side by side with Roger.
One reason Don should have gotten off of ‘love leave’ quicker, the fact that he has become a bit of a persona non grata with his message to Lucky Strike (which ironically enough, Megan and Peggy were the only two people at the company who supported Don writing that letter) and needs to recover that. But is he too tarnished?
Julia Ormond as Megan’s mother. The fact that she speaks both French and English on this episode is further complicating the fact that I confuse her with Juliette Binoche a lot.
This was not a slip of the tongue:
Roger feeling so smugly introspective after his LSD trip. Don had the best response:
And I know he is Matthew Weiner’s son but Creepy Glenn will never be un-Creepy, Mr. Weiner.
I think Janie Bryant must feel like a kid at the candy store. No longer dressing housewives but younger, mod young women like Megan.
If people can still bitch about Sal and Paul Kinsey, I can bitch about the lack of Lane in this episode.
Kiernan Shipka is perfection as Sally. There’s a reason why she stayed over so many Bobby Drapers.