Sterling Gets Ahead…

Written by  //  April 30, 2012  //  Televised Entertainment in Review  //  9 Comments

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.

About the Author

"Two Fingers" Berben

Our illustrious managing editor, Vanessa “2 Fingers” Berben, gets in fights with her friends about how much deeper they should be feeling this episode of TNG. A researcher/curator for Nintendo's i.TV app, you can stalk her around the web at The Huffington Post, Starburst Magazine and FEARnet and in the latest issues of Starburst and Stiff Magazine. Follow her (preferably whilst humming the Imperial March) on twitter , facebook and tumblr.

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9 Comments on "Sterling Gets Ahead…"

  1. Mark in Omaha May 1, 2012 at 9:52 am · Reply

    I’ve asked this before and didn’t get an answer. Why does it say you have three comments and I see none?

    Great recap as usual. I didn’t see it Sunday night, I went to a live music show at The Slowdown here in the great city of Omaha. One of THE premiere small venue sites in the whole country. Band were Brother Lucius, Shooter Jennings, and Cody Canada & the Departed. Fabulous show. Advertisement over. So I didn’t read your review until today (Tuesday) since I’m smart enough to not read a review until I’ve seen the show.

    Interesting that the last shot was Sally calling up her buddy and saying the city was dirty instead of the disilluioned people sitting at the table. What was Megan’s passion supposed to be? Was she pursuing a stage career or something?

    I love the screen shots, you can see detail you ignore while watching the show. Do you see that Peggy has picture of JFK on her wall. How did Norwegian Catholics end up in New York city anyway? Yes, Peggy’s Mom is a bitch but considering the time and her faith of course she would have hit the roof when her daughter told her she was going to live with Abe without marriage. My folks had a shit fit when they found out I was sleeping with my girlfriend when I was in college in 1974. I agree that Peggy was probably supposed to look conflicted. She was thinking she was either going to get a proposal or get dumped, the third option probably never occured to her. Then had to think how other people would respond. Joan stepped up and made her feel good, and Peggy stepped up and made Megan feel good.

    Are Megan’s parents rich or something? They have the manners and style that says upper class, but her father is a Professor and a Socialist. Roger was quite the charmer at the party, wonder if it did any good. Why would Ford care if he wrote a letter about not taking tobacco money?

    Other tidbits, Mrs. Heinz asking for Sanka, my Grandma used to drink Sanka, basically fake awful coffee with no caffeine. Ken telling his wife to shut up when she asked for coffee in the middle of Don’s pitch. What happened to Pryce? Two weeks and haven’t seen him at all.

    • Alistair Blake Arabella
      Alistair Blake Arabella May 1, 2012 at 10:39 am · Reply

      Thanks! Sorry, I blanked on explaining the first time– it’s kind of neat since a shorter version of these gets on HuffPo, they’re linked back to this post. Whenever a site picks them up & republishes them it “pings” back to this original one & you can follow the links below to see it on different websites. This week’s HP post’s a deeper look into the Shirley Temple song used as the episode title. I think the writer’s weren’t so much alluding to the movie as they were to the drama behind the scenes when novelist Graham Greene basically called Temple a prostitot & got sued for it. I make the connection b/w Temple becoming a woman & Sally becoming a woman.
      Nice on the Slowdown! I think that bottle of Bud is appropriately “Alistair-sized.” I thought the shot of them sitting at the table would’ve made a better closing scene, but I guess they wanted to bookend the episode with her talking to Creepy McGee. I’m completely going off vague memory – but I think Megan was a singer? Or an actor?
      I think that Megan’s parents are well off– her mother seems to be the one with the money, just in the way she carries herself, & she seems to judge Megan’s father (who’s also an author, which could net him more $$) as someone she’s better than. I’m not sure why she married him; he’s obviously cheating on her & her on him, so who knows what’s going to happen with that.
      Oh I’m sure Roger was VERY happy at that party– that shot of Marie going down on him was hilarious! He’s got a new perspective on life– I don’t know if he’s going to be upset when & if Don tells him what Ed Baxter said to him – but his point was that Don “turned” on Lucky Strike– maybe he doesn’t know that LS turned on them first, but in denouncing them he was shitting where he slept in Ed’s eyes– he was telling Don that many companies don’t trust him – will Don take their money then turn around & do the same thing to them? They really aren’t all that loyal– they turned on LS when they found out they were going to be fired, they dropped Mohawk Air when they thought they could get American Airlines– they don’t really instill confidence.
      Perhaps the show needs to take a step back from Lane Pryce for a bit– his left hook was too much for them to handle. I think the real reason is that Jared Harris is pulling double duty right now– he’s on MM and Fringe at the same time, & they could’ve had similar shooting schedules– Fringe only has one more season, & it’s not clear yet if Harris will be back for that– his character was already killed off once 2 seasons ago but in a show-twist he’s back since their reality was altered by another character returning to our universe after being thrown into non-existence. I’ll stop trying to make sense of that show now. But if you’ve followed from the beginning– it’s getting really good after a shaky 3rd season!

  2. Mark in Omaha May 2, 2012 at 9:14 am · Reply

    Read your other article but couldn’t post there. Way to go on catching the reference. Have you read anything by Graham Greene? Try The Bomb Party, the man just dripped with cynicism. What would he think of the reality mothers on Toddlers and Tiarras or that awful women who tarts up the little girls and calls it “dance”? Might as well call it TV for pedophiles. There is a scene in The Godfather (book) about the movie producer that won’t hire the Frank Sinatra character for a movie, seems like he has a thing for very very young girls and the mothers go along because they want to make their child a “star”. They cut it from the original movie, but restored it to a TV version I saw recently but the girl is now 16 or 17 instead of 10 or 12.

    • Alistair Blake Arabella
      Alistair Blake Arabella May 4, 2012 at 1:19 pm · Reply

      Thanks! Is it really bad to admit that I haven’t checked out Graham Greene yet? Although considering he liked to call Temple “That little bitch” – I need to check him out. He’s just too full of spite for me not to take notice.
      I don’t get the majority of shit they put on “The Learning Channel” – can’t stand the prostitots, or the horrible people dressed up as brides. So gross. Have you seen “Taboo” yet? I forget what channel that’s on but that’s the one with people that like to fuck bridges and cars. So hilarious!
      So did Sinatra have a thing for young girls? I’m a huge fan, other than his marriage to Mia Farrow when she looked all of 16 – did he have a problem with the kiddies like Michael? That’s creepy.

  3. Kid Notorious May 5, 2012 at 3:09 pm · Reply

    I loathe to be the picker of knits… But Don’s open letter in the NYT about Lucky Strike didn’t help launch SCDP, it was a last minute desperate hail mary to *save* SCDP… “You didn’t break up with me, I broke up with you”…

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