Spoiler Alert Thursday: Mad Men, At the Codfish Ball

Some thoughts:

1.  What exactly is this life’s purpose that Emile scolds Megan for abandoning?  Emile’s speech about Karl Marx and abandoning “the struggle” to embrace wealth that is “bad for your soul” makes it sound as though Megan used to be some sort of revolutionary who lost her way, and Megan, who is chastened by her father’s words, seems to agree.  But didn’t Megan come to New York to become an actress?

(Also, everyone keeps referring to Megan and her family as French, rather than Canadian.  Are they French or Quebecois?  My ear isn’t good enough to tell.)

2.  I suppose it was nice that the women in the office were so supportive of each other in their moments of vulnerability, crisis and success.  Joan gives Peggy a sweet little pep talk before her dinner with Abe (although I cringed at that a little, since you could smell the disaster a mile off), and after the disappointing revelation, she was tactful, sympathetic and encouraging; and Peggy’s happiness for Megan after her victory with Heinz was sincere and lovely.  But really, no cattiness at all?  These are women who haven’t especially liked one another, and in this episode they are hit with news about their co-workers that must rub their own sore spots — Joan, whose husband recently left her, is asked to lend an ear when Peggy wants to talk about her boyfriend issues; and Peggy, who suffered a major professional setback when Heinz fired her, learns that Megan just landed the account.  I expected some jealousy, some snideness, a few little jabs at least.  Although the feminine solidarity was nice to see, it was a bit odd.

3.  It was funny to be reminded that there was this brief moment in history when an old WASPy guy in a three piece suit would take LSD and tell everyone that they should try it too, and then be totally shocked to learn that his colleague’s father-in-law is a Communist.

4.  It will be interesting to see how Ed’s revelation — that no one will ever trust Don again, after the Lucky Strike letter, and that Don may as well get out of the business — will play out.  Things have been too easy for Don this season — for the first time, he has a marriage and a domestic life that seem to work and to make him happy.  Does this mark the beginning of the end for his remarkable professional success?  On the other hand, it may be worth noting that Ed is an executive at Dow Corning, which, as Roger points out, makes much of its money killing the Vietnamese and destroying the environment.  So, maybe Don’s indictment of a business that profits from death hit Ed a little harder than most, and Ed’s grim predictions are overblown.  After all, beans never killed anyone, and Heinz still likes Don.

5.  It’s a little odd that Betty is entirely absent from an episode about mothers and daughters.  I assume that’s because she’s busy “reducing” off-camera, and we won’t see her until she’s skinny again.

6.  But forget all of that, because, OMIGOD, BLOWJOB.

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11 Responses to “Spoiler Alert Thursday: Mad Men, At the Codfish Ball”

  1. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Life has prevented me from watching yet. I shall do so as soon as possible.

  2. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I didn’t even know they knew how to do blowjobs back then!

  3. jms Says:

    I know, right? However, it wasn’t until a few years later that the innovation now known as “locking the door” was invented. That development was what enabled the sexual revolution to take off.

  4. ben Says:

    I didn’t even know they knew how to do blowjobs back then!

    I had a similar reaction when I learned that Chapman—of “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer” fame—reacted to accusations that he had to use a french trot in producing his translations by calling his accuses “envious Windfuckers”.

  5. Adam Kotsko Says:

    On the French vs. Quebecois thing, my understanding is that Americans were even more incurious about foreign countries back then than now — reinforced by Peggy not realizing that Canada “had baseball.” They speak French, so to most people, they’re just “French.”

    Your point on #4 is a sound one.

  6. Josh K-sky Says:

    I really love getting to see the world through Sally’s eyes. Kiernan Shipka is captivating at every turn, and I like the idea that the long run of Mad Men will turn out to be her story. (I don’t really know anyone who’d be her age today — she’s a hair younger than my parents’ younger friends and a bit older than the oldest reaches of my peer group.) Having read jms’s #6 before watching, I was a little worried that this would be the episode where she, um, spreads her legs and flies away, but instead we got her tiring of innocence but slightly more repelled than attracted by experience.

    This episode seems to tie Sally with Peggy, Megan and Don who are all having to deal with the consequences of getting what they want, or perhaps something close but not exactly right — the compromises of adulthood, companionship, success and accolades all on display.

  7. dbarber Says:

    does it seem to anyone that this season has been peculiarly thematic?

    Which is to say that at the end of each episode, I’m able, without much difficulty, to see the various analogies being set out, and to imagine the episode as something like a “phenomenology of … adulthood compromises, being-a-woman, secretaries, masculine violence, etc.” I feel like this is being shown to me even in the cuts, which (again peculiar to this season) seem to create direct segways between various situations.

  8. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I agree with Dan, and I’m not sure what to make of it.

  9. jms Says:

    I agree as well. And there’s always a line dropped by one of the characters (I’d say in this episode it’s the one that Josh makes note of) that pointedly encapsulates the themes. So far this hasn’t bothered me too much, but the show definitely seems a little more self-conscious than in the past.

    Also, I agree with Josh that Kiernan Shipka is an amazing young actress. She also happens to really look like a product of both Don and Betty. The show does a great job in general of casting relatives — Megan looks like both Emile and Julia Ormond, and the Olsen family genuinely look related.

  10. Dave Says:

    I also agree with Dan, as well as Adam–I’m not sure what to make of it. Some of the (limited) stuff I’ve read seems to opine the loss of subtext/subtlety, but I’m not so sure. I’ve liked this season so far.

  11. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I wonder if part of this sensation is an artifact of past marathon watching. I’ve been watching episode-by-episode since the second season, but I have also normally rewatched in marathon format before the next season begins, so I’m more focused on the broader plot arcs than the individual episodes.

    But I also recall some complaints that they were too inattentive to the episode format in past seasons.


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