Friday, May 4, 2012

Review: Mad Men "At the Codfish Ball"

Non Spoiler Review:
Don is receiving an award by the American Cancer Society for his infamous letter, which brings Megan's parents to town to attend with them. Peggy gets an interesting proposal from Abe, while Roger deals with the end of his marriage. In the midst of this Sally ends up staying with her father after a mishap takes Paulina out of the babysitting equation.

I really enjoyed At the Codfish Ball. There was a healthy mix of really funny moments—Roger plays caretaker for Sally and has some smart one-liners—and really unpleasant stuff. In all the storylines, joy quickly gets turned on its head as characters stumble upon unwanted information and expose the nasty goings on behind the scenes.

Sally continues to grow more interesting as a character, and I'm excited to see where her arc ends up in the series. Betty's absence is really noticeable now, and I'm kind of missing her, however we do get some old guest stars popping up.

Spoilers Now!
Sally and her brothers are left with grandma again, so she's complaining about that on the phone to Glen (who appears to be away at some boys school). Unfortunately, dear Paulina trips over the phone cord and twists her angle (with suitable drama). Sally frantically calls Don, who is entertaining a visit from Megan's parents, Neil and Marie.

Meanwhile, Roger is having dinner with his ex wife Mona, and seems to have come to a new understanding of himself and why he married Jane. Don is being honored by members of the American Cancer Society, which he feels a bit jealous about.

Megan's father, a professor with a struggling writing career, doesn't care for Don too much and he and Marie bicker constantly as she makes little effort to hide her disappointment in his lack of success. Don returns home with Sally and Bobby and makes introductions. Paulina broke her ankle, he explains, but Sally took care of her until the ambulance came (though told everyone she tripped over one of Gene's toys).

They have dinner, but Marie retires early, and Megan goes to check on her. It's apparent she's a drinker. Megan gets an idea while hosting dinner that she thinks might work for Heinz, so pitches it to Don. Don seems impressed, so calls in Stan and Michael to tell them they're changing the campaign.

Stan and Michael come in bitching to Peggy about the idea, thinking it came from Don. But she's already distracted, given Abe wants to have an urgent dinner with her. Peggy goes to seek Joan's advice, thinking he's going to end it. Joan muses it could be a proposal because men don't take the time to end things. So Peggy shows up for dinner dressed to the nines. Except Abe wants to move in together at her place and doesn't propose at all. He likes the idea of them waking up together everyday. Peggy says yes.

Peggy and Abe have her mother over for dinner. When they reveal they're moving in together, Catherine declares they're living in sin. Abe leaves them to talk. She doesn't approve of her daughter's choices and promises Abe will use her as practice until he wants to get married, leaving Peggy on a very bitter note.

Don, Ken and their wives take the Heinz executive and his wife out for dinner again. In the bathroom with his wife, Megan finds out that they're getting fired from Heinz. She whispers it into Don's ear when they sit down, prompting Don to go into salvage mode and keep them at the table. Megan suddenly urges Don to tell them about their previous night's dinner and his idea. The Heinz guy listens and is interested, but wants to think about it, however his wife loves it and sells him on it. On the drive home Don and Megan are elated, and Don compliments her for knowing exactly how to sell the pitch (given the Heinz exec would never accept anything from a woman).

In the morning Joan asks Peggy what happened. Peggy reveals they're moving in together. Joan thinks it's romantic and she's brave. The rest of the office is celebrating the coup in sealing the Heinz account, so Peggy genuinely congratulates Megan and says it's a big deal that she should really savor. Megan is feeling uncomfortable with all the attention.

When Don gets home, Megan's parents are fighting, and she explains her father didn't get his book deal and called a female grad student rather than his wife. Don has granted Sally permission to attend the awards dinner with them (sans makeup), so they, plus Roger, all go together, with Roger declaring Sally will be his date. Roger looks after Sally all evening, while Marie flirts with him. The dinner at first seems quite positive and fun for all involved, but quickly takes a dark turn.

In a moment alone, Megan's father tells her she's skipped her life's struggle and gone right to the end and she shouldn't let her love for Don stop her from doing what she wants to do. As an academic, he sees no value in her career choice, which seriously upsets Megan.

Sally goes to the bathroom but accidentally looks into a room and sees Roger getting a blowjob from Marie. Traumatized, she returns to the table in silence, while Marie and Roger later arrive separately.

One of the American Cancer Society members (a little drunk) tells Don that they'll give him awards but they'll never work with him, given they can't trust him after he wrote that letter. It means he'll always bite the hand that feeds him. And that ruins Don's evening, too. 

Later, Sally phones Glen again. He asks how the city is. Dirty, she replies.

The Verdict:
I really enjoyed this one, given part of it was from Sally's perspective, who just keeps getting more interesting. We also get a much happier Don and Megan coming off of last week's messy fight, and the two seem closer than ever, given Megan not only nails the Heinz account, but single-handedly sells it (via Don) without batting an eye. You can see the love (and shock) when he realizes just how astute she is. It also draws comparison to earlier moments in the series when Betty and Don shared dinner with clients, and she strived to be his partner in wooing them. From the look in Don's eyes, it appears he's seen that in Megan.

It was an episode of guest stars. Glen makes an appearance, leaving me wondering if he's stabilized or still serial killer material. Roger's ex looks to be doing quite nicely, as well as a toxic shot of Peggy's mother, and welcome comeuppance for Paulina.

Catherine delivers the most awful treatment of her daughter yet (and I was just waiting for her to drop the bomb about her baby in front of Abe). Did she actually think her mother would be anything but horrible to her? I'm still not sold on Abe, given he feels like filler until someone better comes along (like Michael). But at least Joan has returned as Peggy's confidante.

Despite all the good feelings—Heinz, the American Cancer Society award, Megan's parents visiting—it's all so fragile. Don's big gamble last season to change the business from Lucky Strike has seriously backfired by labelling him a traitor, even to his supporters, and manages to deflate all the joy from the evening. Megan can't seem to manage her parents or impress her father who will never find any value in what she's doing because of his own failures.

Bearing witness to Marie and Neil's constant animosity, and then marital infidelity with Roger, hammers home that the life in Manhattan Sally fantasizes about is just an illusion, and things aren't a dream there either. One of the final shots of the silent group at the table was a fitting note to exit on.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...