Mad Men: Season 5, Episode 7 – ‘At the Codfish Ball’ Review and Synopsis

Sally and Glen have remained friends, even though she has moved away and he is apparently in some sort of private school. Pauline trips over the phone cord and hurts herself while bellowing through the halls for Sally and Bobby to prepare the dinner table for her. Megan’s family comes to visit in order to attend an award ceremony for Don for his writing the anti-tobacco letter he penned post-Lucky Strike. Immediately we can tell that her father Emile does not like Don, setting this episode up for scenarios involving generational and family dynamics.

‘I see she’s convinced you that she is particular. I am proof that she is not.’

Roger tells Mona that he took LSD with Jane and proclaims the drug’s positive aspects. Time is a kind friend to Mona, by the way, with her sandy colored hair and black, form-fitting cocktail dress, she shows that she has moved on from Roger and well past their divorce. He enlists her in helping him secure business for the firm, especially since his purpose has come into question after the loss of the Lucky Strike account.

‘His manners are studied.’

After dinner, Megan’s mom retires to her room and just passes out with lit cigarette still in hand, likely intimating that she has some sort of substance abuse problem, whether drugs or alcohol. Clearly the marriage between her and Emile is not one filled with happiness.
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As stated earlier, Emile and Marie are in town in order to attend an award ceremony for Don but Don expresses hesitancy at having them join. Seeing Don reading a Berlitz book for the French language is significant in that it shows the extent to which he is willing to go to make his relationship with Megan a real part of who he is. It is also the second scene in this show in which we see Don reading a book, the first being when he is in bed reading The Fixer.

Mad Men: Season Four [Blu-ray]

Megan has a great idea for tomorrow’s Heinz presentation but doing it will require Don to override the work Stan and Ginsberg have done for Heinz so far. They are not happy with this news naturally.

After getting an abrupt phone call from Abe, Peggy worries that he is about to break up with her. Joan has the opposite feeling and thinks it could be a marriage proposal.

‘You’re gonna be like an Italian bride. People lining up to give you envelopes.’

Though close to a marriage proposal, what Abe actually wants is cohabitation. Peggy, being the modern girl she is, gladly accepts but you can tell she is disappointed that it was not a marriage proposal.

Don, Megan, Ken and Cynthia take Raymond from Heinz out to dinner. In a bathroom break moment of girl talk, Raymond’s wife, Alice, tells Megan that she hopes they can still be friends.

Mad Men: Season Four [Blu-ray]

‘You know I really enjoy spending time with you. … I was really prepared to not like you. You’re so good for that man, and you’re so lively. I’m just saying, I hope we can continue to be friends.’

Megan returns from the bathroom knowing that Heinz is dead in the water and alerts Don, causing him to prolong the dinner. This allows him the opportunity to turn on the full-Donald Draper and pitch the idea for the Heinz commercial that Megan had developed earlier.

This quick thinking maneuver on Megan’s part ends up saving the account. Maybe Don and Megan’s relationship will be truly complementary? Tellingly, they return, not to their apartment, but to the office in order to have sex.

‘Shacking up? My goodness. Peggy, good for you. … Greg has a piece of paper with the U.S. Army that’s more important than a piece of paper with me.’

In an outburst of frustration, and evidence of a gross lack of self-control, Emile hits the table in rage over Marie’s suggestion that Sally joining them that evening for Don’s award ceremony because ‘Every girl should have the opportunity to see her father be a success.’

‘Don it does not matter what you do. One day, your little girl will spread her legs and fly away. … It’s wings, daddy.’

We have not seen Peggy’s mom in quite some time, but she, Peggy and Abe are all having a sit down dinner at Peggy’s apartment, probably to discuss Abe and Peggy’s plan to move in together.

The news that she will be living with Abe does not go over well with her mother. We know that Peggy comes from a Catholic family and that a nontraditional arrangement will not be acceptable – even though Peggy has already given birth to Pete Campbell’s child out of wedlock so it isn’t like anything should be shocking at this point. Her mother tells her to get a cat if she feels lonely.

Mad Men: Season Four [Blu-ray]

Roger cannot resist hitting on Megan’s mom. Ever the suave, debonair lady’s man, Roger does not miss out on an opportunity to score some action. Sadly for her,  Sally walks in on Marie giving Roger a blow job. What an entre into the adult world Sally is getting tonight. Mon Dieu.

‘Excuse me. I’ve been telling Ken you should get out of your business all together. I’d introduce you to him, but I don’t want to waste your time. …They don’t like you. They’re gonna bury your desk in awards, but they’re never going to work with you. How could they trust you? After you bit their hands.’

A few sheets in the wind, a ceremony attendee tells Don that he should get out of the business. Don is stunned by what proceeds to fall out of this man’s mouth, particularly since so much of it makes perfect sense in light of what Don did to big tobacco with his letter. Recalling his shady past, the audience knows that the Donald Draper of seasons prior, the Don Draper who was married to Betty, controlled his image and limited those who had knowledge of his past. Now we know that, not only does Megan know who Dick Whitman is, but Don has also made himself a target of powerful enemies when he wrote his letter.

When shown earlier in the episode reading Bernard Malmud’s The Fixer, and then later when he is reading the Berlitz French book, we can infer that these books somehow are small clues into Donald Draper’s mind or future. The Fixer was published in 1966 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction. It is a fictionalized account of the Beilis trial of 1913 in Tsarist Russia.

While living in Kiev without official papers, Menahem Mendel Beilis was a Jewish man unjustly imprisoned and accused of a crime he did not commit. Throughout the book he is denied legal counsel, visitors, and claims he is apolitical. Falsely accused of killing a Christian boy during Passover, he is left to contemplate life, human nature, and forgiveness while imprisoned in jail. The novel ends with the fictional Yakov Bok, representative of Beilis, being brought to trial. The novel ends on the famous line, “there is no such thing as an apolitical man, especially a Jew.”

What this book could symbolize in terms of Don Draper’s past or future remains to be seen however, it is worth pointing out that Donald Draper too is a man literally without papers because he is not Donald Draper, but rather Dick Whitman. He also has continuously stressed his disinterest in politics and was famously criticized by Cooper for ‘not having the stomach for seeing how the sausage is made.’ Perhaps in stirring up the controversy with Lucky Strike, Donald Draper has in some way set in motion the events that will lead to his downfall.

‘How’s the city? … Dirty.’


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