Something happened last night. As I was watching Mad Men a wave of familiarity washed over me. The whole episode felt like it was compiled from deleted scenes out of The Godfather – the tone, the ascetic, the way it was shot – all seemed reminiscent of the Coppola classic to me. An underlying darkness and the anticipation of something terrible about to happen all resulted in showing just how unhappy everyone really is. Anyhow, enough about the feel of the episode, and on to the substance. Remember that letter Don wrote after Lucky Strike left? The one that Roger said would kill business? Well Don is receiving an award for writing it, and we’re all invited to the Codfish Ball…
This great honor has prompted Megan’s parents to visit from Montreal, and we quickly discover that Megan’s father, the scholar, is a communist. So he obviously has no affection towards Don’s profession and is concerned that his daughter will be ruined by the lavish lifestyle that they are living. This opinion is only amplified by his own failures and feelings of inadequacies. Something he takes out on those around him, namely the wife he believes doesn’t respect him – cause she doesn’t. She displays this in her competitiveness with her daughter, and her flirting with Don. Megan’s mother seems irresponsible and argumentative, and it’s clear that Megan is more fond of the father who hates her husband then of the mother who likes him.
In addition to the ball, this week also focused on Peggy’s relationship with Abe. After he awkwardly cuts out on lunch, Abe insists they have dinner. Peggy takes this as a sign he is gonna end it with her, Joan however is convinced it’ll be quite the opposite and that Abe will show up with a ring. The result falls somewhere in the middle as Abe just wants to move in together. Peggy is noticeably disappointed, but agrees as she doesn’t want to be alone.
For all the girl-power feminist modern woman stuff that Peggy often represents on the show, deep down she is still waiting for Prince Charming and I think that the lack of a ring is gonna gnaw at her. Peggy’s mother however is less than enthusiastic about the situation, and tells Peggy if she is lonely she should buy a cat. Mrs. Olsen believes that Abe is simply using her daughter as practice until he can find a girl he actually wants to marry. It’s at this point where she demands back the cake she brought over, declaring she would not reward them with for their decision to live in sin. And then she storms out. HARSH.
Now, the night before the big ball, Megan has a brainstorm and finally our friends at SCDP might just have a real idea for Heinz, which as it works out the bean man loves and the account is saved. But Megan has now succeeded where Peggy failed, and this where we might have seen Peggy get jealous in the past, but as she is now preoccupied with Abe, she seems simply relieved that someone other than her is picking up some slack. Ultimately though Peggy is just a side story, the real action is at the ball.
Attending the ball, on the arm of one Mr. Roger Sterling, is little Ms. Sally Draper. Sally wants to grow up and that was really a main focus of this episode. Don, like any other father, is reluctant for her to do so, but the change is of course inevitable. Sally’s attendance at the ball is a reward of sorts after she acted quickly following the fall taken by her Step-Grandma. Unbeknownst to everyone that ol’ G-Ma only tripped because Sally had the phone cord stretched across the hall so she could talk to Creepy Glenn. Anyhow, Sally attends the ball and intends to help Roger snag some new contacts. What she does instead, is witness her other Step Grandmother, (Megan’s Mother) exercise her marital issues through the means of blowing Roger. Way to go Rogde!
So in addition to Sally’s childhood all but coming to an end, the night also featured Commie lectures for Megan from her father, and Don learning a lesson from Ken Cosgrove’s Father-in-Law about the hypocrisy of the very people giving him the award. They will never work with him because they now know they can’t trust him. While they respect the stand he took against Lucky Strike, he bite the hand the feeds, and they can’t accept that. This is a huge blow as Don finally starts to realize some of the consequences of his professional actions. [Quick sidenote, Ken's Father-in-Law is played by one of my favorite character actors Ray Wise (Twin Peaks, 24, Reaper). And as he appeared only momentarily, given his stature, I fully expect his character to pop up again before the season is out.]
After the events of the evening, Don and his extended family have managed to completely fail in their attempt to enjoy the party. Megan’s parents seem unable to hide their contempt for each other any longer, Don realizes that his award means nothing, Megan has failed to gain the approval she so desires from her father, and Sally has said ‘Goodbye’ to any shred of innocence she still had. Good Times!
The tone and look were perfect, and I really enjoyed it visually, plus it gets bonus points for no Betty. Abe however is a character I don’t really care about, and I was hoping he would in fact dump Peggy just so we can get rid of his anti-establishment hippie ass. Anyhow, overall I’d give it a very solid 4/5.