Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mad Men Episode 5-7: At the Codfish Ball

Recap: This episode features significant steps for Sally in her journey to adulthood, alongside a great deal of immature behavior among the adults. It also shows Don, Megan, and Sally being stunned by realities that push them to new points of growth.

At the Francis home, Sally and Bobby are being babysat by Grandma Pauline. Sally talks by phone to Glen and they establish that they are not girlfriend/boyfriend. Out in the hallway, Grandma Pauline trips on the telephone cord and falls on her face, injuring her foot. Bobby and Sally take care of their grandmother and Sally calls for help.

Meanwhile, Don and Megan are entertaining her parents, Dr. Emil and Mrs. Marie Calvay, and Marie immediately flirts with Don. They drink a lot. Emil, a professor, talks about visiting a publisher and getting a book published, and we learn that Emil is a socialist. Don gets a phone call and has to go out to pick up Bobby and Sally to take care of them since Grandma Pauline can’t. We see Marie and Emil bickering, and later they argue loudly in the other room while everyone else, including the children, can hear them. Megan explains to Don that her father is a philanderer with his graduate assistants. Megan serves dinner and makes spaghetti for the kids. Soon after dinner, Marie excuses herself from the table and goes to the bedroom, falling asleep with the burning cigarette between her fingers. Megan checks on her and puts out her cigarette. Don and Megan have pillow chat and Megan informs him that her mother competes with her and has been flirting with him, something Don hadn’t realized. The next day, Megan, her mother, and Sally go shopping and buy expensive dresses for the awards banquet where Don will receive honors from the American Cancer Society for the anti-smoking letter he published in the New York Times.  Meanwhile Emil babysits Bobby.
Roger has a few drinks with his ex-wife, Mona, and tells her about his life-altering experience with LSD, recommending that she try it. He then asks her for a favor – to arrange a meeting for him with Firestone. Considering that he pays her alimony, she agrees.
At the office, Peggy and the Creative group discuss the Playtex account, a conversation that makes a joke of Peggy’s breasts. Abe is put off and excuses himself from the room. Later Peggy gets a call from Abe, who wants to take her to dinner that night, a weeknight. Peggy goes to Joan’s office to talk about it, because she thinks it’s odd and she fears that Abe might want to break up with her. Joan advises her that given the situation, he is more likely to propose than to dump her. Later on, after Peggy’s dinner, where Abe proposed cohabitation rather than marriage, Peggy is interested in Joan’s opinion of the proposal, and Joan congratulates her. Next Peggy and Abe invite Peggy’s mother over for dinner and tell her that they’re living together. Her mother disapproves and leaves immediately.
Megan comes up with a great ad campaign for Heinz beans and Peggy congratulates her and tells her to enjoy her victory. At a dinner, the client ends up accepting Megan’s new idea, which saved the account because the Heinz guy has been secretly visiting another agency and had decided to go with the other agency until he heard Megan’s campaign.
Before the banquet, Roger shows up at the Draper residence and Marie immediately flirts with him. Sally comes out in full makeup and her new outfit, and Don makes her remove her makeup and take off the boots if she wants to go to the ball. Roger takes Sally as his “date” and the entire group – Don and Megan, Marie and Emil, Roger and Sally – heads to the American Cancer Society ball. At the ball, Don connects with Ken’s father-in-law and hears, “This crowd will bury your desk in awards but they’ll never work with you – not after you bit the hand.” Don is stunned. Marie and Roger sneak off for some oral sex and Sally happens to peek into the room where they’re doing it. She is stunned by what she sees. Megan’s father has a talk with Megan and tells her that her extravagant lifestyle with Don is bad for her soul. “Is this your passion?” he implores. “Don’t let your love for this man stop you from doing what you really want to do.” Megan is stunned by this advice because it rings true and addresses a core issue.
The episode ends with Sally talking on the phone with Glen again. She says, “Bloato broke her foot.” Glen asks, “How’s the city?” Sally replies, “Dirty.”

 A major theme of this episode is parenting relationships.
·         Grandma Pauline is supposed to be taking care of Bobby and Sally, but Sally takes care of Grandma Pauline instead – putting her foot on a pillow, putting ice on it, calling for help, and keeping her calm.

·         Don picks up Sally and Bobby after Grandma Pauline’s accident, like a father. Later he provides fatherly rules, disapproving of Sally’s makeup and boots, but lets her go to the ball if she dresses as he thinks appropriate.

·         Don tries to take care of Emil’s luggage and seeks Emil’s approval, as a son might, but is frustrated because he doesn’t get it.

·         Don offers parental advice to Marie and Emil to pace themselves with their drinking.

·         Emil babysits Bobby and lets him fill a pen with ink on the floor, over white carpeting, like a bad or negligent father figure, maybe to irritate Don.

·         Marie retires after dinner and has a cigarette burning while she falls asleep. Megan fills the role of mother, checking on Marie and putting her cigarette out for her.

·         Roger’s relationship with Mona seems to be one in which she has always tried to take care of him in a motherly way, to some extent. She has always given him advice on getting accounts, although like a rebellious child, he never followed her advice. Now she agrees to again help him again by setting him up for a meeting with Firestone.

·         Joan gives Peggy motherly advice about Abe’s dinner invitation: he might want to break up, but it’s more likely he wants to propose, so have your answer ready. Following the dinner after Abe proposed living together, Peggy wasn’t totally sure how to react. Joan’s perspective was the kind of motherly, loving advice/congratulations that Peggy would have wanted to hear from her own mother but didn’t. 

·         Peggy and Abe entertain Peggy’s mother for dinner. Informing her that they plan to live together, Peggy says she knows what she’s doing, and they’re adults and don’t need her approval. However, it appears that they want her mother’s approval or blessings. Her mother plays a motherly role, but disapproves strongly and advises Peggy to get a cat if she’s lonely.

·         While talking to her mother, Peggy says, “I think Daddy would be happy.” This shows that Peggy is trying to get parental approval even from her deceased father.

·         Megan advises Don that she heard from the Heinz guy’s wife that he was going to lose the account. Then Megan leads Don through a conversation in which they present Megan’s new ad campaign idea at the dinner, with Megan prompting Don a great deal. This kind of advice, encouragement, and prompting is not necessarily parental, but reminiscent of how good parents help children.

·         Megan seeks Don’s approval for her ad campaign idea. Don mentors Megan in her development of campaign, fostering her growth in a way that, again, is not strictly parental but reflects how good parents help their children grow.

·         Megan enjoys congratulations from the sales and creative teams but seeks out Peggy’s approval in particular. Peggy says, “I know what you did and it’s a big deal…if anything, I should be jealous…it’s a good day for me…you should savor it.” Peggy shows that she’s proud of Megan, somewhat like a parent, and Megan accepts her advice to savor it by saying, “You’re right.”

·         Roger gives Don advice to use the American Cancer Society ball to advantage, saying “You’ll be like an Italian bride” [raking in money].

·         At the ball, Ken’s father-in-law, Ed Baxter, gives fatherly advice to Don by telling him what he believes is the truth – that Don is fooling himself to believe he will get business through people at the American Cancer Society.

·         At the ball, Roger gives Sally advice on how to behave, similar to the way a good parent would teach a child a skill: put my business cards in your purse, and say, “At-a-boy Tiger.” She learns this routine and enjoys it.

·         At the ball, Emil is fatherly when he challenges Megan’s life path and advises her not to stop pursuing her real passion, acting.

Another theme is the importance of food in relationships, from the dinners where people get together to talk at a restaurant or banquet or where they gather for a home-cooked meal, to the favorite foods like beans or spaghetti that kids universally love and have associated with being loved by their moms throughout the ages. It was interesting that Sally, who didn’t like fish, took a bite of the fish at the banquet and also got a “bitter taste” of the adult world.

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