Mad Men, Season 5
Sally Draper is growing up.
Well at least Sally doesn’t have an eating disorder! All of her ice-cream-refusing in previous episodes was just a protracted set-up for the momentous Sally food events of “At the Codfish Ball”: She first refuses Megan’s sole, demanding a heap of unsauced spaghetti; later, at the party where she sees her charming “date” getting a blow job from her stepgrandmère, she takes a grudging bite of the cancer benefit fish.* She’s all grown up, guys.
She also did send that Shirley Temple away with dispatch, a nod to the child star whose fish-studded song-and-dance number from the 1936 film Captain January gave the episode its name:
John, your points about parents and children are astute. Papa Calvet and Mrs. Olson are full of cutting insights about their grown daughters—they speak the fears Megan and Peggy hope aren’t true—but I think you’re right that the young women’s choices may turn out OK. The show is deft in portraying their ambivalence. I loved Peggy at the restaurant, dolled up in pink, trying to decide how modern she is, what she’s comfortable with, how she feels about Abe, how much she can hope for from the man Stan declares “too good-looking for you.” And meeting Megan’s parents goes a long way toward explaining her inconsistent enthusiasm for agency work. Sometimes she finds it thrilling and engaging, but in some scenes she seems to feel it’s not quite enough. This has felt at times like uneven writing, but now we know she’s just been hearing her intellectual dad in her head, scoffing at corporate drudgery, at creativity bent to business purposes.
No wonder Peggy’s more excited than Megan about the Heinz win: Peggy’s job is a thousand times more fascinating than where she thought she’d end up; Megan’s is a few notches dimmer than the stage lights she’d imagined. I do wish, however, that Peggy had shut up a few lines sooner during that moment of congratulation. Couldn’t she have conveyed the sentiments “I should feel jealous. But I don’t. I feel like I’m getting to experience my first time again,” with a warm glance? Clunk-o-rama, writers! Please give Elizabeth Moss something more subtle to work with.
Roger Sterling wasn’t particularly subtle either, in the scene with Mona where he explains his interpretation of his 1919 World Series hallucination—“Why that game? … That was when it all went bad”—but I’ll forgive it because of how marvelous it was to see those two together again. And Mona clearly scored on the luncheon reconnaissance circuit. Roger clocked every bigwig at that benefit, and schmoozed with vigor. The episode set up a tension between those—like Roger—who have decided to keep “trying,” and those who are tempted to give up. Ken’s father-in-law at Dow was down on SCDP’s chances with Don at the helm, which left me wondering if Don will do something drastic—leave the firm?—in an effort to save it. The question is whether Don will start trying again, as he seemed to do in this episode, or whether he’ll give up.
I’m not going to let a bunch of dirty teenagers in the newspaper disrupt the order of things,
Correction, April 30, 2012: This post originally said Sally ate the fish after witnessing the blow job. She ate the fish just before. (Return to corrected sentence.)