Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mad Men Season 5, Episode 7 Recap: At the Codfish Ball

And down goes Bluto.  While Sally Draper talks on the phone to her friend Glen, complaining about her evil step-grandmother, the telephone cord (remember those?) causes the old woman to take quite a tumble.  Of course, Sally lets the blame fall elsewhere and becomes the hero who saves the day.  But with Pauline out of commission and Betty and Henry gone for the weekend, this lands Sally over at her Dad's for the weekend.  That ultimately leads her to fall headfirst into adulthood as she experiences things way above her pay grade.  She dresses up to join the grownups at a big fancy dinner only to discover the adults around her acting like irresponsible children. And we're left wishing Sally could have stayed an innocent child just a little bit longer.

At the Draper residence, Megan's parents are in town for the weekend.  They bring baggage both literal and figurative and pull out some dirty laundry to shake out in front of their daughter and her new husband.  The Calvets are not happy and their favorite activity to do as a couple is snipe at one another which is what they proceed to do within seconds of settling down in the Draper's "exquisitely decadent" apartment.  Dr. Calvet is particularly adept at managing to appear to be self-effacing while his actual target is his wife.  But then he doesn't reserve his condescending dismissiveness just on his wife, mocking the Drapers' wealth and extravagance.

While this married couple play out their version of George and Martha, Roger Sterling and his ex-wife Mona are getting along famously.  Roger is a changed man since he dropped both acid and his young bride and Mona likes the more mellow and self-aware person she sees beaming with happiness before her.  He comes to Mona asking for a favor and he is so honest and straightforward that she's captivated.  Plus, he does still support her so any success for Roger is a success for Mona. So she agrees to help him find out what potential clients may be ripe for the picking.

News that Pauline has injured herself and that Sally and Bobby will soon be visiting is a welcome relief from the marital battle at Chez Draper.  While Don is picking up the children, Emile turns his attention from Marie to criticizing the Draper's wealth and Don's attempts to seem high class.  The constant derision appears to much for Marie who excuses herself from the table no sooner than the children start in on their heaping plates of spaghetti.

Later that night, Megan sees the dynamics of her parents' marriage a bit differently.  She sees her mother as jealous of her - she's Emile's favorite - and notices that the jealousy manifests in her flirting with Don.  Don is oblivious, but then when you look like that you're probably pretty used to stray women flinging themselves at you.

Peggy is still seeing Abe and he's trying his best to work himself into her busy schedule, sharing lunch with her and her coworkers.  But Abe wants more.  When he suggests a special dinner during the week, Peggy knows something is up.  She thinks he's ready to break up with her - Stan did mention that Abe was too good-looking for her after all - but Joan suggests that maybe he's going to propose.  So Peggy takes Joan's advice, goes out an gets a fancy new dress for this special occassion.  And Abe does pop the question.  Will you...shack up with me.  This is not the proposal that the good Catholic girl was expecting, but that girl probably wouldn't be having sex out of wedlock with a Jewish guy so maybe she'll say yes.  Joan certainly makes her feel better by letting her know that it is a beautiful statement that Abe wants to spend more time with her.

Heinz has not been an easy client to please and the team is scrambling to make a new presentation that can keep the bean account.  Megan has an epiphany - a way to sell beans as a family tradition passed down through the ages.  Everyone loves the idea, even Stan who has to scrap all his work to provide artwork for the new pitch.  At dinner with the Heinz exec and his wife, however, there are some signs that it may be too late to keep the client as Raymond lets slip that he and his wife Alice have been in town for a few days.   

Don had planned on doing a formal presentation back at the office the next day, but Megan's intel from Alice that Heinz will be going with another agency forces their hand.  Megan whispers to Don that they're about to be fired and you see his wheels turn as he tries to figure out a way to keep Raymond at the table.  Megan adjusts on the fly and starts to direct the conversation towards the pitch.  And Don clicks into gear and starts doing what Don does - weaving a story full of familial love and bonding.  Over beans.  This resonates with the Heinz exec who thinks that everyone should feel as deeply about the little legumes as he does.  And Don assures the pitch's success by letting the client believe that he came up with something they hadn't thought of before (casting the same mother and child). 

Don is getting an award from the Cancer Society for his open letter against the evil tobacco industry and will be accompanied by his wife, her parents, and Sally, who ends up becoming Roger's de facto date to the dinner.  Sally looks beautiful all grown up in her Nancy Sinatra boots and sparkly modern dress, but Don is not ready for his little girl to be a woman quite yet (especially not after Emile's unfortunate malapropism).

At the dinner, Roger engages Sally as his date and co-conspirator for the evening as he tries to go to work on networking.  Pete Campbell and Ken Cosgrove are also there to swoop around for potential new clients.  Pete has an interesting moment with Emile Calvet when the good doctor (*PhD) tries to belittle him, asking what exactly an account manager does.  But Pete gets the upper hand as he schmoozes the hell out of Emile, buttering him up and playing to his wounded ego's need for reassurance, and after the French Canadian is fully puffed out Pete tells him - that's what I do.  Ouch.

Over at Peggy's place, her mother has come over (and brough cake) to hear the big announcement.  But Katherine, who we've seen as a good practicing Catholic with the local priest a frequent dinner guest does not want to hear that it's 1967 not 1947 or that all the kids are doing it.  Her daughter is not living in sin.  So she takes her celebration cake and goes.  But not before dealing out what she considers to be some hard truths.  Peggy, she tells her, is selling herself short.  Abe may not want to marry you but he will marry someone and start a family with them and it won't be you.  You think Katherine is being old-fashioned and unsupportive, but you later realize she's being protective.  Peggy is a grown woman, but to Katherine she's still her daughter and she needs someone to look after her and make sure she doesn't get hurt.

At the dinner, Emile is looking at Roger like he's a perfectly cooked steak and she has just come to the end of a long meatless Lent.  She laughs at all his jokes and notices when he moves around the room.  Emile, her husband, is invisible to her.  Not only has she been watching Roger all night, turns out he has noticed her as well.  They have a brief conversation about life and decisions, ambition and mistakes and next thing they know they're off in a secret corner and Marie is playing Aloutte on Roger's flute.  Or something like that.  At least that's the story Roger will try and sell poor unsuspecting Sally when she walks in on the two of them.

But before that, give Emile credit for being the first one in her orbit to notice that Megan is not deliriously happy with all her Heinz success, her fancy apartment and her dashing husband.  There is some emptiness in Megan that he sees.  He scolds her for giving up on her passion, for trading it for the Capitalist symbols of success.  She argues with him, but his words hit a nerve and speak to something that's been gnawing at her.  She may be very good at what she is doing, but isn't not making her feel very good.  Something is clearly missing.

Sally has a shocking experience when she walks in on Marie pleasuring Roger and her father has his own shock when Ken Cosgove's father spills some true on him while a bit inebriated.  The Cancer Society Board and all these big executives may love Don's work and shower him with praise, but they don't trust him, can never trust him, and will never hire him.  Don turned on his biggest client, they all saw it.  That's why they're there.  How can they not worry he'd do the same to them?  Don may be an advertising genius, but he's also poison.  So enjoy that award, Don.


Emile:  My daughter pretends to find interesting what I find interesting because she loves me.

Emile:  I see she's convinced you that she's particular.  I'm the proof she is not.

Roger:  My whole life, people have been telling me I don't understand how other people think.
And it turns out it's true.

Mona:  I thought you married Jane because I had gotten old.  And then I realized it was because you had.

Stan: Well, it's not fair that just because you're a boob-carrying consumer that your opinion means more.

Megan:  I think I have an idea.  It might be really good.  But it might be terrible.
Don:  Well, you've established a firm bed of insecurity.

Roger:  We are being lowered in a bucket into a gold mine.  I'm gonna bring my pick and crack something off the wall.

Roger:  Who knows why people in history did good things? For all we know, Jesus was trying to get the loaves and fishes account.

Marie: Every daughter should get to see her father as a success.

Marie: You seem like you were born in a bow tie.
Roger:  I didn't tie that one either.

Emile:  Don, there is nothing you can do.  No matter what, one day your little girl will spread her legs and fly away.

Katherine:  I need my cake.
Peggy:  Why?
Katherine:  Because I'm not giving you a cake to celebrate youse living in sin.

Peggy:   You want me to be alone?
Katherine:  You know what your aunt used to say? You're lonely, get a cat.


Emile tells Don "My daughter pretends to find interesting what I find interesting because she loves me."  What Don doesn't know is that is what Megan is doing for him as well.  She's not in love with advertising and it's not her passion but she pretends because it is Don's passion and it means so much to him.

Don is reading "The Fixer" by Bernard Malamud.  According to Wikipedia, the book "provides a fictionalized version of the Beilis case. Menahem Mendel Beilis was a Jew unjustly imprisoned in Tsarist Russia. The 'Beilis trial' of 1913 caused an international uproar and Russia backed down in the face of world indignation."  Megan jokes to Don that her father won't mind finding out he reads James Bond, but this reflects Don's possible insecurity especially when dealing with a erudite scholar like Megan's father.  Don may be rich and sophisticated now, but down inside there is still lurking the country bumpkin who used an outhouse.

"At the Codfish Ball" was a song and dance routine made famous by Shirley Temple in her movie "Captain January" in 1936.  Apparently, there was nothing at all weird or creepy about a bunch of grown men standing around as a little elementary school girl sashayed and swiveled her hips around.  Temple's dance partner was pre-Jed Clampett Buddy Epsen and their twenty-five year age difference was not meant to arouse any concern as they performed together.  The parallel between their pairing and that of Sally and Roger is clear (if they age gap much, much larger) and we see Sally the young girl being caught up in very grown up activities that the adults should be sheltering her from.  Stolen childhoods and misbehavior by the adults who should know better are strongly paralleled.

Don doesn't mind carrying the bags and doesn't see the need to bother the doorman, perhaps harkening back to his rural, no-frills roots.  Dr. Calvet seems much more to the manor born than Don and is more comfortable with being waited on.  For all his money, there is still part of Don that is the poor, humble farmer's son who was taught not to take any help.

The theme of children growing up too soon comes forward in Michael Ginsburg's discussion of how to market Playtex bras.  Peggy's approach, he says, is to sell sexy bras to old ladies whereas he believes that they should target young girls who are in a hurry to grow up.

In the Heinz pitch at dinner, the back and forth between Don and Megan is pretty erotic.  She's feeding him lines he's in her head and they're communicating on a nearly subatomic level.  She pretends the idea was Don's, inspired by her domesticity.  He accepts the credit but feels guilty enough to try and let Megan take some credit for at least a part of the idea. It's a pretty sexy scene between the two of them, not unexpectedly leading to a little make out session in the back of the taxi that leads, we imagine, to a longer one back at the office.

The next day everyone is celebrating, but Megan is fairly muted.  Peggy, whose account this was and who was fired for not making Raymond happy, is overjoyed for her, yet Megan can barely muster a toothy smile.  Why is she not ecstatic over this, why is she having trouble accepting praise and feeling celebratory?

Notice how Peggy's mom greets Abe with the formal "Abraham" and seems surprised when he tells her that ham is his favorite.  You get the feeling she's still processing her daughter having a Jewish boyfriend.  Not surprising then that her reaction to their big news is about as ebullient as Megan's reaction to landing Heinz.  But it's not his being Jewish that's the problem, it's his not putting a ring on it.  She's dealt with Peggy's unwanted pregnancy, her being a "career girl," and her dating outside of the faith.  But shacking up is a bridge too far.

When Bobby and Sally arrive at their Dad's place, Bobby tells Megan that Sally doesn't like fish.  Megan realized this so she made a different dinner for the kids.  But at the American Cancer Society dinner, Sally showed that she was dabbling with becoming a grown up and tasted the fish.  She wasn't immediately repelled and, as it turned out, it wasn't her worst experience with adulthood that night.  

The episode was bookended with two phone calls between Sally and Glen.  Glen is only a couple of years older than Sally, but he's always been the more mature one.  She was the wide-eyed innocent to his jaded adolescent.  But with what she perceived as Roger's betrayal (and seeing her step-grandmother in that position) she's now as world-weary as Glen.

Spoilers - Don't read until you're all caught up.

Stan tells Peggy that Abe is too good-looking for her.  Typically joking around for the two work buddies.  But, a few years hence, Stan decides he's the right one for her after all.

Of course, Emile was right.  Being a copywriter was not Megan's passion.  She came to New York to be an actress and she was determined to make that dream come true.  So she eventually tells Don that she is going to pursue her passion, despite her natural gifts as an ad woman.  She had some middling success in New York, getting cast on a soap opera, but when she moved to Los Angeles she can't get arrested.

Marie is flirting with Don and she later flirts - and more - with Roger.  We see this as a sign of her unhappiness in her marriage, perhaps also her reaction to growing older and losing her looks.  But no one could have predicted then that she would ultimately find love and happiness with Roger!  Two old coots who lamented their lost years and lost youth coming together in the end to find the person they were always meant to be with.

Learning that practically no one wants to work with Don hits him hard, understandably.  That plus Megan's decision to quit working with him makes him go down a very dark, very deep hole from here on out with various levels of success and failure.  He almost completely bottoms out before rallying.  But Don will be battling the demon he created with "the letter" for years to come.

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