Sterling Gets Ahead…
No One but Roger’s Happy on this Week’s Mad Men
The title of last night’s Mad Men, “At the Codfish Ball” stems from a Shirley Temple / Buddy Ebsen song and dance number featured in 1936’s Captain January. It was a hit for Temple, but the real drama was behind the scenes – film critic / novelist Graham Greene became embroiled in a lawsuit with Temple and her family after he called her a coquet and a totsy (the nerve!) and suggested that Temple’s popularity stemmed from her slightly pedo-appeal. (I give the Temple/Greene/Sally Draper thing more attention in The Huffington Post if you’d like to read more about my take on this.) Temple, much like Sally Draper, was at the age where girls haven’t quite started to shed their baby-faces, but have started to move away from childhood into adolescence. Temple, only eight years old when Greene made these statements, was just entering that phase, where Sally’s quickly approaching teenager status.
Sally’s in that confusing period when we start seeing our parents as people, not idols. I think she’s long since shed any pedestals for her mother, but she still looks up to her father and had a jarring experience this week while staying with him. At the start of the episode she’s talking on the phone with her friend (the kid that had a bit of a fixation on her and her mother before being sent away to school) when Grandma Pauline comes to call her for dinner and trips on the phone cord, breaking her foot.
Sally and Bobby come to stay with Don and Megan while she recovers (why Betty can’t watch them isn’t even mentioned) which in a way helps Don break up the awkwardness at his place with Megan’s parents, Emile and Marie Calvet, staying for a visit. Megan’s dad, a Socialist, doesn’t approve of Don’s success and thinks it’s overshadowing his daughter’s ambitions. Megan’s mother, played by the still crazy-beautiful Julia Ormond, is a bit insecure – she competes with her daughter, flirts with Don, and harbors resentment towards Emile for his infidelities. The house-call coincides with an awards celebration being thrown by the American Cancer Society honoring him for his rallying cry against Lucky Strike that helped launched SCDP.
A few readers were wondering why, of all the games, Roger saw the 1919 World Series when he was tripping on LSD. Over a dinner with his ex-wife he exudes a newfound clarity and peacefulness, telling her that he thinks he saw that game in particular “Because that’s when it went bad. I just realized, nothing I had was mine because the game was thrown.” He tells her he’s looking at his career and his life with a new passion, and isn’t going to miss any opportunities for success.
Peggy is still with Abe, but something’s off – he gets all weird and awkward when he joins her, Stan and Ginsburg for lunch and calls her later to ask her to dinner. She goes to Joan for advice, thinking that Abe’s about to break up with her, and Joan tells her she thinks it’s going to be a proposal instead and advises her to cut out early to go shopping for a new dress.
As that girl-fest’s going on, Megan, in work-mode, goes to Don and reveals she had an epiphany about what they could do for the Heinz ad – she got inspired serving spaghetti to Sally at dinner last night, remembering how her mother made the same dish for her as a child. This leads her to think about Heinz and how they could do something showing mothers from different era’s serving their child Heinz beans, going into the future and featuring the tagline “Heinz – Some Things Never Change” – it’s actually a great idea, as we all know dude from Heinz somehow wants something both new and futuristic that’s at the same time comfortable and familiar.
Don wants Megan to take the glory for it, which is a nice showing of support; even though the other writers don’t believe she could come up with it herself. Later Peggy congratulates her, and tells her to enjoy it – she likes Megan, and can’t help but think of her own struggles when she started playing in this boy’s club. I think that show of girl-support may just fade if Megan gets fast-tracked to the top after she had to fight so hard to get there.
Peggy shows up for her dinner with Abe wrapped up like a big pink present (wonder if Joan went with her on that shopping trip?) but instead of a proposal or a dumping, Abe asks her if she would move in with him – or more technically, could he move in with her – I’m actually having a hard time gauging how Peggy reacted to this – her face gets tight and a little guarded, and I wasn’t sure if she was relieved or disappointed – relieved that it wasn’t a break up, or a marriage proposal, as she wasn’t sure she wanted one – but also maybe a little disappointed that it wasn’t a proposal. He tells her to think about it, and she says she doesn’t need to, saying “I do” with meaningful eyes, telling him she wants to move in. So it’s sort of hard to figure out if she’s happy or not – she seems happy – she tells Joan later that she’s happy it was just a move-in request, so either she’s deluding herself or she’s genuinely pleased with the idea.
Up until now, Abe’s been fairly supportive (despite the occasional griping) of her career – for the times they’re living in, I think that’s pretty forward thinking of him – he’s never made any kind of a hint to her that he’d expect her to give that up if they married and I think that’s one of the things she’s the most afraid of. It could be that Peggy sees this as her chance to give being married to Abe a test run to gauge if he would expect her to become a homemaker once they tied the knot. But at the same time she may be worried that she’s not doing things the traditional way. Later Peggy’s mom comes over for dinner and she gets totally pissed when they tell her the news, abruptly leaving and taking the cake she brought over with her, that bitch, telling them she’s not celebrating them living in sin.
Speaking of more awkward dinners, Don and Ken and their wives (when is the wardrobe department going to get Cynthia a better wig? Oh… that might actually be Larisa Oleynik’s hair… sorry) meet with Raymond from Heinz and his wife. The women go to the bathroom, and Raymond’s wife admits to Megan that SCDP is about to be fired from the account. She comes back and whispers the news to Don, who’s a bit unsure of what to do until she prods him into pitching their new idea to Raymond right there at the table. She knows Raymond’s not too keen on women thinking for themselves (judging from his acceptance of Peggy’s ideas), so she acts as if it was Don’s idea – Don, actually doing something cool and unselfish (he’s got, like a MILLION karma points he needs to get back after last week’s “ditch and tackle” incident), makes sure that Raymond knows that Megan had a lot to do with it too – the two of them go back and forth, setting up the pitch so that when Megan delivers their slogan – he’s totally sold and they save the day.
Back at the Draper’s they’re getting ready for the award’s gala and Marie flips her shit because Emile turned to one of his grad-student fuck buddies after getting bad news from his publisher. Sally gets a bit tarted up to come with her dad to the event and you see Don getting a bit wistful thinking about how he’s going to lose his little girl soon and tells her to ditch the makeup and the go-go boots. It’s going to be a fun night, kiddos!
Marie’s totally making “fuck me” eyes at Roger at the gala, who’s there to try and make some new contacts for SCDP. Megan gets chewed out by her dad for putting her own dreams and ambitions aside in favor of Don’s. Don gets depressed after being told by Ed Baxter (Ken Cosgrove’s father-in-law) to enjoy the award because none of these people are going to ever hire him after he “bit the hand” that fed him by publishing that letter against Lucky Strike in the first place. Sally gets more “adult-time” than she bargained for when she searches for a bathroom and walks in on Roger getting head from Marie. The last shot of that dinner is just priceless, with all of them (minus Roger, whose of course on top of the world right now) sitting around together in shared dissolution.
Later that night Sally’s back on the phone with her friend, who asks her how’s the city – she quickly replies “Dirty.” And that’s just how I like it.