'Mad Men' Recap: Full House - Rolling Stone
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‘Mad Men’ Recap: Full House

Megan proves her mettle at SCDP, but still has her doubts

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Jessica Pare as Megan Draper in 'Mad Men'

Ron Jaffe/AMC

Last week we established that Megan wants to enjoy her work. Now, thanks to a little fatherly insight, it appears that perhaps Mrs. Draper’s aspirations lie beyond the advertising realm. What those aspirations are, exactly, remains unknown (crooning chansons in a smoky underground club, peut-être?), but they certainly would spell further trouble for her marriage, which, at least for this episode, seems to have recovered from the contentious Howard Johnson’s excursion.

Another relationship that ostensibly moved past last week’s bumps in the road is that of Peggy and Abe, who decide to take things to the next level. But Peggy doesn’t need a tongue-lashing from her conservative mother to know deep down that this isn’t her heart’s desire.

Cool Beans

There was no question that Sally‘s sorta boyfriend Glen Bishop would resurface following her move from Ossining to Rye (he is played by Matthew Weiner’s son, after all). If anything, he’s probably one of the few solaces in this poor girl’s life, so I say keep up the phone calls to his boarding school, Sally – especially if they incapacitate your cuckoo Grandma Pauline. During one of Sally’s surreptitious calls, Pauline trips over the phone cord and breaks her ankle, requiring Don and Megan to take in Sally and Bobby while Henry and Betty are out of town (again). The only wrinkle here is the Drapers are already hosting Megan’s parents, Emile and Marie (a ravishing Julia Ormond) Calvet. As they wait for Don to return with the kids, Emile, a Marxist professor, doesn’t hold back his distaste for Don and Megan’s conspicuous consumption.

The next morning, Megan pitches a brand new idea to Don for the Heinz account. Drawing on her experience from the previous evening, in which she cooked spaghetti for Sally and Bobby – a basic meal Marie made for Megan when she was a little girl – she suggests a montage of mothers feeding their children Heinz Beans throughout the centuries, from prehistoric times through the space age. Don is blown away by his wife’s creativity and immediately has Stan Rizzo work up new art.

That evening, the Drapers and the Cosgroves are at dinner with Heinz executive Raymond Geiger and his wife, Alice. In the ladies’ room, Alice confesses to Megan that Heinz is preparing to fire SCDP. Acting fast, Megan alerts Don upon returning to the table and together they present the new pitch  – “Heinz Beans, some things never change” – right then and there. The account is saved, and Don is hotter than ever for his wife. The question is, now that Megan has proven herself as a valuable asset to his company, is Don finally going to start taking her seriously? But Megan is coy when her colleagues congratulate her at the office the following day. Even Peggy, who is surprisingly lacking envy, is nothing but supportive: “This is as good as this job gets,” she tells Megan.

A few hours later, the Drapers, the Calvets and Sally prepare to head out to a gala where Don is being honored by the American Cancer Society for SCDP’s bold decision to no longer represent tobacco companies. But not before Don instructs Sally to take off her makeup and white go-go boots – she’s allowed to keep on her new slinky silver minidress, though. She looked incredible, but I thought that Don’s decision struck a nice balance and showed him in one of his rare good-dad moments. Yes, Sally should be allowed to start dressing in a more grown-up manner, but she shouldn’t be mistaken for Nancy Sinatra.

The episode’s title, “At the Codfish Ball,” represents Sally’s experience of being a child at a very grown-up event. The song of the same name, popularized by Shirley Temple (also the name of the kiddie cocktail Roger procures for Sally at one point) in the 1936 movie Captain January, is a whimsical tune about a sea-creature dance party. But it’s hardly an evening of whimsy for Sally, who must’ve felt as if she had been unwittingly taken on one of Roger’s acid trips. Aside from having to pick at her entrée (fish, which she stated earlier that she hated, necessitating Megan to whip up a pot of spaghetti in the first place), she stumbled upon Marie giving Roger – who had spent most of the evening as Sally’s faux “date” – a blow job in an anteroom. It’s no wonder that when she calls Glen in the middle of the night she describes the city in one word: “dirty.”

As the evening winds down, it’s not just Sally’s evening that’s spoiled. Emile confronts his daughter about whether she’s actually passionate about her career in advertising. Given her modest reaction to saving the Heinz account, he may be on to something. Emile thinks Megan has abandoned her dreams for an easy life with Don: “You skipped the struggle and went right to the end.” After suggesting that being handed this kind of wealthy lifestyle is bad for her soul (although she hasn’t exhibited any signs of corruption – yet), Emile warns his daughter to not “let your love for his man stop you from doing what you wanted to do.” Instead of insisting that this is what she wants to do, Megan implores her father to table the conversation, the hurt in her eyes unmistakable.

Mother Knows Best

Things are still plenty strained between Peggy and her boyfriend (clandestine trysts in a movie theater will do that to a girl), so when Abe insists on dinner at Minetta Tavern on a busy weeknight, Peggy assumes the worst. But Joan – making too brief an appearance this episode – assuages Peggy’s fears by reminding her that “men don’t take the time to end things.” So the only logical explanation is that Abe is going to propose.

So Peggy, all dolled up in a new pink minidress (Joan suggested she go shopping), shows up at the restaurant with stars in her eyes, only to be dejected by the news that Abe merely wants to move in together. It’s not terribly romantic, but it’s sweet, with Abe explaining that this way they can see each other regularly – and even write side by side. But Peggy is still the traditionalist while trying to exude a more countercultural attitude, and she’s visibly disappointed that Abe isn’t making her a bride. When Abe asks if she still wants to eat, she replies with a crestfallen “I do.”

The following evening, Peggy and Abe invite her mother, Katherine, over for a home-cooked meal and to drop the bomb that they’re shacking up (to use Joan’s words). Peggy was prepared for Katherine’s disgust at their decision, but perhaps she should, for this one time, listen to her mother, because Katherine hits on the core problem of Peggy and Abe’s relationship. As happy as they are together, and as traditional as Peggy may be, Peggy is not madly in love with Abe, because if she was, she’d be excited about living with him – and she’s not. She’s going through with this plan because to her, it’s better than being alone. To which her mother retorts, “If you’re lonely, get a cat.” Maybe not the best advice, especially coming from a woman who still views her daughter as damaged goods after that whole having-a-baby-out-of-wedlock incident six years ago, but there is a kernel of truth in it. Katherine’s accusation that Peggy is “selling herself short” because she plans to “live in sin” with Abe are easy to wave off as archaic, but if Peggy is agreeing to this arrangement just so she won’t be lonely, then she doesn’t need her mother to tell her that it will end in heartbreak.

Wrap-Up: So what is it that Megan always dreamed of doing? Acting? Recording her own version of “Zou Bisou Bisou”? We may never get the chance to find out. With her knack for advertising, Don isn’t going to want to let her go, especially after Ken‘s father-in-law, Ed Baxter, an exec at Dow Corning, warns Don that SCDP will always struggle for new business. The industry may shower Don with awards, but there are plenty of accounts that will never work with him, all because of “the Letter.” Don bit the hand that fed him (Lucky Strike), so most potential clients have no reason to trust him.

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