MAD MEN, “At the Codfish Ball”

Mad Men is a drama, not a comedy. However, a few episodes come along which are funnier than your average Mad Men showing, and this was one of them. Ranging from Roger’s references to his LSD trip, along with his insistence that everyone else try it, to (again of course) Roger turning Don’s daughter into his date and co-conspirator, there are a lot of great quotes and lines, more than any episode in recent memory.

Notably, the episode features the full-scaled return of Sally, who has been unfortunately underused in this season; her scenes with her father, and Megan, are extraordinarily well-done, especially since the show finally begins to address that she, in the midst of the show, has grown into a lovely young woman, something the show addressed quite well. I love the character development: the growth of her relationship with her step-grandmother, the continuing insinuation that her relationship with Betty is quite strained and she prefers Megan and Don to the house in Rye. I must say, though, that Megan’s choice of dress for Sally, a nice blouse with a short skirt, makeup, and boots, and Don’s reaction (“take off the makeup and the boots”) are reflective of her and his taste, respectively.

And after much build-up, we finally meet Megan’s parents. Her father, who is either a Marxist, communist, socialist, Maoist, or something along those lines, does not like Don (apparently he can’t marry a woman without her father taking a dislike to him), although we find out that Megan had other ambitions, and her father dislikes Don for giving her a shortcut to the front of the line. Apparently, family dysfunction does exist north of the border: the father apparently is having an affair, and the mother, played greatly by the incredible Julia Ormond, retaliates by, well, you can imagine, with Roger Sterling.

Don, meanwhile, is given an award by the American Cancer Society, and then is told that apparently he alienated some of them, and so they won’t be doing business with him. However, the night is not a total loss, as Roger and Pete work the room to try to acquire new business, with a greater emphasis on “try” than anything else.

Peggy moves in with her boyfriend, a sign of the times that they chose to live together without getting engaged or married, something new at the time. Of course, Peggy’s mom hates it, which is line with anything Peggy does that’s slightly counterculture.

One great plotline I was glad to see finally resolved with the successful pitching of the Heinz account, which came out of an original idea from Megan, who finally makes her bones in the business with a successful idea. She also reads, quite well, that Heinz intends to fire them, and to make the pitch at dinner.

The episode, in a weird way, harks back to the first season for me: a good sense of levity, a nice dynamic between the characters, and a subtle acknowledgement of the times, without getting too heavy handed about it. The characters exist in the world, and their lives reveal a lot about it. The changing social norms (co-habitation, growing acceptance of divorce, fashion trends, growing power of women) are counter-balanced by the forces of stagnation, exemplified by Don and Roger, although both seem to be moving slowly.

My grade: 4.6/5.0


About brettryanclu

I reside in California, and I am a graduate from California Lutheran University, where I received my Masters in Public Policy and Administration. I like to write, talk politics, and exchange comments and opinions.
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