'Mad Men' Spoiled Bastard: Ep. 7: 'At the Codfish Ball'
This is a Spoiled Bastard. It contains spoilers. That’s the point. If you haven’t watched the episode in question, please come back when you have.
There were a series of gears seamlessly interlocking in “At the Codfish Ball,” an episode of Mad Men that very creatively dissected the way men talk to and interact with women and women talk to and interact with each other.
It was a nuanced play on generations that also – separately – was funny, sexy and had a very intriguing idea dropped so casually into the mix it could easily have gone unnoticed. Let’s start there first: What if it’s true that companies don’t want to work with Don? That they don’t trust him, since he burned the cigarette business? Notice how they didn’t say SCDP, just Don. Mohawk airlines is on board and Jaguar flirted with them, and in this very episode Don took Megan’s idea for beans and nailed the Heinz account when it was pretty clear it was walking out the door. But if this notion is true – and great series rarely raise an idea without answering it soon after – this could be more to the point that Pete and Peggy (and maybe even Megan) will be the future, while Don will trail closely behind Bert and Roger as they all fade away.
It’s just something to monitor. Because Don had that sour look on his face. And that's never good.
But “At the Codfish Ball” had other big ideas on its mind. It was interesting to watch how Megan’s parents Emile and Marie spoke to each other – the hallowed out long-term relationship that now is propped up solely by recrimination as a game.
Sally and Glen connected (apparently not for the first time) and flirted over the phone, their bonded hatred over Pauline literally being the element that brings her down.
Stan and Ginsberg joked with Peggy in a familiarly flirtatious way that Abe seemed put off by – which might have been one reason he proposed that he and Peggy move in together (which wasn’t the proposal that Peggy, to her own surprise, was really looking for). Abe's looking to lock things down.
I’m not sure Peggy and Abe even know what they’re doing together. One minute he’s feeling used by her -- someone she pulls out of a drawer at work when she’s finished for the day (or after she works late, wiping out their plans). He doesn’t appear to be too concerned that she’s a kind of career trailblazer for women (in fact, when they first met, he was extremely sexist in that way while touting the importance of his own job). Mr. Alt Weekly can cover riots, wars or whatnot, but he seems less brave as a man. Moving in with Peggy may not mean Abe’s going to practice on her before getting a wife, as Peggy’s mom noted, but it sure seems like a smart financial move. On the other hand, Peggy used to seem annoyed at Abe when he became annoyed about her all-encompassing work habits. He's the one who seemed like a pest about the relationship. Peggy only seemed to remember it, as Don often did, when it most suited her. Peggy's swagger and confidence at work means she can leave at noon to watch a movie, smoke some pot and give a stranger a hand-job, but the sexual revolution hasn’t completely wiped out her mother’s-era notions about marriage (the look of veiled disappointment on Peggy’s face said it all – and as it evaporated from a tortured smile to almost a sneer, maybe that’s when she was angry at herself for being all-dolled up for a proposal from a guy she’s not that in love with).
One episode removed from an enormous, toll-taking fight, Megan and Don found themselves on par for maybe the first time ever. She helped explain to the often-clueless Don things he clearly missed – that her own mother was flirting with him and that when her father was crying on the phone to one of his female grad students, he should have been seeking solace with his own wife. And their grand connection was Megan’s idea about generations of families sharing meals together, an idea that not only fixes the Heinz problem but elevates her work in Don’s eyes (after all, he nearly dismissed her whole work situation and importance in the last episode). He even admitted to Megan that her tagline was better than his. This surprisingly new level of respect cemented itself at dinner when Megan took the information she gleaned from Raymond’s wife – just a few women talking amongst themselves at the bathroom mirror – and used it to immediately shift gears at the table (allowing Don the lead, something he graciously told her previously that she should do), and he used it to seal the Heinz account man-to-man (since it was pretty clear earlier that Raymond might not have been comfortable with a woman steering his company’s business).