Mad Men Season 5-07 ‘At The Codfish Ball’ Recap
Don’s in-laws came to stay, Peggy and Abe move in together, Megan seals the Heinz deal and Roger Sterling gets a blowie. The main criticism that gets thrown around by people who have no idea what they’re talking about is that Mad Men is slow and Mad Men is boring. No, it’s not. Sure the pace is different to most high octane TV shows where plot exposition is rammed down your throat every minute of screen time but saying its boring is plain and simple wrong.
Now in its 7th episode of the 5th season, Mad Men is fully in its stride and shows no signs of getting stale. The episode opens in what appears to be a boys dorm corridor, two are playing hockey when one of them gets a phone call. Turns out this person is Glen Bishop and on the other end of the line is none other than Sally Draper, as it turns out being separated was never going to stop them communicating. Both of them participate in conversations about what’s going on, Glen is seemingly Sally’s only hope of a normal life outside of a privileged one.
However, as usual her phone calls and illicit meetings cause some mishap. The extended phone chord, that weaves its way across the hallway and into Sally’s room, trips up Grandma Francis and breaks her ankle. Sally and Bobby are then delivered to Don’s house where they are housing Megan’s French Canadian parents, Marie and Emile Calvet, for the weekend while Emile visits the publishers and Don receives an award for the American Cancer Society for the publication of the open letter in the New York Times.
Marie Calvet is played with steely glamour by the terrific Julia Ormond, perhaps best known for the rather thankless role she was given as Cate Blanchett‘s daughter in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Moving effortlessly in and out of French as she bitterly argues with her husband and throws compliments and complaints toward Don, much to his chagrin.
In the office the ever approaching 3rd meeting with the Heinz account executives has people on tender hooks. Peggy is no longer concerned with that but is more concerned with the fact that Abe is rather apprehensive around her and then asks her out on a dinner as he has something pressing on his mind. Concerned about what it could be Peggy turns to Joan who offers up the fact that it could be a proposal. With a smile on her face Peggy leaves the office early, which seems like the first time in weeks. However, instead of a proposal for marriage Peggy is instead greeted with a proposal for her and Abe to move in. She is visibly disappointed but it is another step forward in her and Abe’s relationship.
Megan on the other hand is ready to stamp her claim on her position in the company. She comes up with a pitch for Heinz that Don responds to so well he throws out the other ideas and gets the ball rolling on Megan’s idea. Over dinner Raymond’s wife accidentally gives Megan the heads up on the fact the Heinz will be dropping SCDP and in a moment of inspiration Don delivers the pitch instead of exploding into anger, successfully managing to turn it round and Raymond loves it.
This is quite a big turning point for a number of reasons. Following the warning of Bertram Cooper at the close of last week’s excellent episode, Don finally steps up to the plate and reclaims his importance in the company. It is one of his most impressive pitches (despite the fact the idea kinda sucks). It also gives Megan her own place of importance and puts her above Peggy, the only other female creative who failed to deliver and then got taken off the account. The ever changing social geography of the show has been very important this season, and this change (although very, very subtle) could be the most drastic. It will be interesting how the relationship between Peggy, Megan and Don alters further over the course of the season’s last 6 episodes.
The next night is the night of the American Cancer Society dinner, where Don, Megan, Roger, Marie, Emile and surprisingly Sally are invited to attend. They all meet at Don’s swanky apartment beforehand where tempers are beginning to fray. Emile’s publishing meeting didn’t go according to plan but instead of talking to his wife about it he was apparently on the phone to one of his young, female postgraduates which begins to cause an argument between him and Marie. This leads Marie to enact her revenge and sets about using her French charm on the now single Roger Sterling.
All of the adults are stunned by Sally’s appearance who turns heads when she appears in her new dress before they take their leave. She is the spitting image of a young Betty and has exactly the same attitude. It again leads room for another great Mad Men line which is this time delivered by Emile: “Don, there’s nothing you can do, no matter what one day your little girl will spread her legs and fly away.” Immediately funny but the line is also quite barbed and is possibly aimed at his own daughter rather than Don’s.
Meanwhile, Peggy hosts a dinner for her strictly Catholic mother in order to tell her the news of her and Abe (a Jewish person, not looked upon kindly by the domineering matriarch) moving in. She takes it badly and moves to insult Peggy about the shame she is bringing upon herself.
Across town the Drapers, the Calvets and Roger make their way to the dinner where the sexual tension between Roger and Marie is more than palpable. Roger notices but finds a way to distract himself by teaching Sally the trick of the trade in how to schmooze other clients. Don becomes preoccupied with Ed Baxter, Ken’s father in law, who is a business owner and another prospective client. As the evening draws on the character tensions escalate. Megan’s communist, Marx worshipping father loathes the advertising industry and does not approve of the lifestyle of his daughter simply having money given to her on a platter when she should work for it.
Marie breaks off from the table and seduces Roger, they end up in a back room together where Sally witnesses Roger receiving a special blow job from her step-grandmother. A terrific performance here by the excellent Kiernan Shipka, her reaction is beyond priceless as she weaves her way back to the table. Don also becomes slightly stunned when Baxter informs him that other businesses are very apprehensive to sign onto their company in fear that they could become the subject of a enraged ad in the paper.
The episode closes oh so perfectly with Sally on the phone to Glen. Asking her “How’s the city?”, she responds beautifully “Dirty.” before cutting to black. Terrific.