TV in Review: Mad Men, “At the Codfish Ball”
April 30, 2012 10 Comments
I usually dislike the “Previously on Mad Men” snippets which kick of new episodes, because they accent the melodrama, which is an integral part of the show to be sure, but less vital to me than the subtler moments. Nonetheless, “At the Codfish Ball” grabbed my attention as soon as I saw the face of Glen Bishop (played by Marten Holden Weiner, son of series creator Matthew Weiner). One of the weirder presences in previous Mad Men, I’ve been bemoaning Glen’s absence. How might the years have changed him?
If you’re not afraid of some spoilers, let’s talk about it…
We open with Glen on the phone, answering a call from Sally.
GLEN: Weeknight. Nice.
It’s a clever way of bringing him back into the series. Don’t waste time inventing a new way for him to appear; show that he never actually lost contact.
VOICE: Hey Bishop, who you talking to?
GLEN: Your sister. Just figuring out when we can ball.
Don is developing a relationship with his in-laws, the Calvets. They don’t arrive as a single character, but as two married people with their own tense dynamic. Don doesn’t have to please them so much as avoid becoming entangled in their own sniping. The Calvets have a tendency toward drama.
When we see Roger, we see that the LSD trip he had last time out was not a stunt to be forgotten, but part of his character development.
ROGER: I did have a, um, well I had a life-altering experience….My whole life people have been telling me I don’t understand how other people think, and it turns out it’s true.
ROGER: You know, it’s very interesting, but a lot of times you think people are looking at you, but they’re not. Their mind’s elsewhere.
DON: Lots of people that haven’t taken LSD already know that, Roger.
Megan starts to come into her own by coming up with a good idea for the Heinz account.
MEGAN: Heinz beans. Some things never change.
I definitely like the idea of highlighting women who have been kept out of the marketplace of ideas, and I suppose it makes sense for Megan’s intellect to come out in terms of advertising, given where she works and what the show is about. But I’d been hoping she’d be smart in a different way. Uh-oh — does that make me like Emile?
Emile is a doctor, but not that kind.
DON: When you have a high degree in any field, they call you a doctor. It’s from the Middle Ages.
Megan shows off her acumen even more at dinner out with the Heinz executive and executive wife, realizing that the account is about to be lost and prompting Don to make her pitch into his pitch, and right away. For Don, it’s a turn-on.
Peggy’s non-jealous reaction — in part because she’s got Abe on the brain, and in part because she’s a pretty smart cookie — is a nice twist.
PEGGY: What happened?
MICHAEL: Boss’s wife had an idea.
PEGGY: Is it any good?
STAN: It’s better than what we had.
PEGGY: Good for her.
Peggy discovers what Abe has on his own brain when he pops the big question.
ABE: I think we should move in together.
PEGGY (coyly): I mean, how would we ever do that?
ABE (obtusely): Well, however you want. I mean, I think your place would be better.
It turns out that Peggy is touched and excited, as the closeness matters more to her than the marriage license. They’re both very much ahead of the times for 1966. Peggy’s mom Katherine, not so much.
KATHERINE: I need my cake.
KATHERINE: Because I’m not giving you cake to celebrate youse living in sin.
Sally Draper is growing up.
Emile gives Don some advice, father-to-father…
EMILE: Don, there’s nothing you can do. No matter what, one day your little girl will spread her legs and fly away.
…while Roger treats Sally as seriously as he treats anyone, when they sit next to each other at an awards dinner.
SALLY: Who’s he?
ROGER: His name is Ed. He’s at Dow Corning. They make beautiful dishes, glassware, napalm…
Marie Calvet (played by Julia Ormond!) and Roger hit it off. What Sally sees them doing is the shock of the week. Not the act itself, of course, as Marie is demonstrating the carnal side of her life philosophy…
MARIE: We should have everything we want.
…but the shock of a ten-year-old having to see it. I trust that they didn’t tell Kiernan Shipka what she was reacting to.
There are some more cultured moments in “At the Codfish Ball,” including Don appearing to read. Twice! The first time, it’s Bernard Malamud’s The Fixer, in bed.
The second time, it’s do-it-yourself French language instruction, in the office.
At the end of the episode, we get Don’s disappointing realization that he may have burned too many bridges by that public letter he wrote telling off the tobacco industry. Indeed, no one feels like celebrating much, and there’s a group sense of despondency…
…as we wind up ending where we began, with Sally calling Glen on the phone…
GLEN: How’s the city?
Despite the sadly fun endings, I found this to be a quiet episode. Solid, but not stellar. Loved last week, liked this week, looking forward to next week.
AMC first broadcast Season 5, Episode 7 of Mad Men on April 29, 2012.
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