* Establishing Shot: Growing pains
No one is born an adult. That is especially true of li'l Sally Draper, "Mad Men's" representative of the youth movement. While she's played around the house and gotten slapped by strangers and lost her mind at the prospect of seeing The Beatles at Shea Stadium, she's maturing at a fairly rapid pace. This is the same girl who was caught touching herself at a friend's house (she obviously hasn't learned of the great security of the bathroom) and has taken a serious drug only a few episodes prior.
All adults are products of their upbringing, and Sally will be no different. Luckily, she's been reared by a selfish, adult-sized child who is doing her best to pass along all of her damages like the set of your late great uncle's novelty mugs that no one wants to inherit; a man whose life code was cemented by a Depression-era drifter hobo who lives under an identity he stole from his dead superior in Korea; a woman who raised one New York State political mover-and-shaker and doles out prescription pills like Dr. Feelgood. So Sally clearly has a leg-up.
Like most children, she thinks she's ready for the move into adulthood. "At the Codfish Ball" gives Sally many reasons to feel like she has one foot in childhood and the other in The Land of Mortgages. She recovers from tripping up her (drunk? doped up? just groggy and grouchy?) new grandma by elevating the injured ankle on a pillow after calling for help, which receives nice applause upon entering Don's house. She's able to go on a big girls' shopping spree, ending up with a dress and complimentary make-up and go-go boots... although she's not old enough yet to actually wear the make-up and go-go boots.
Finally, attending an awards banquet with the adults, she enters into the confidence of Roger, the slick older gentleman who is riding his LSD trip seemingly backwards through time. If anyone can relate to the young teen, it's the man who is rediscovering his inner teenager. So he says that she's her date, turning her into his Girl Friday to stash business cards and dole out a "go get'em, Tiger" whenever he needs it. She also recognizes the power of sitting at the adult table at a strictly adult event; notice how she talks to Megan about leaving Don's award there.
But not every experience is sweet, or nice, or romantic. Sally's first disappointment comes in entering the ballroom but not making an entrance by strutting down an extravagant staircase into the grand room, the kind of visual that movies cruelly tease us with, barely having the heart to show us what an actual Marriott rental space looks like. Later, she is served the most unappetizing fish, one of her least favorite foods (thanks Bobby!).
If that makes adulthood seem less enticing, I don't even know where to begin with walking in on Roger getting serviced by Megan's mom. One has to assume that Sally has some residual baggage from her parents divorce, if not in the way that she is being raised (she's said on numerous occasions she'd prefer to live with Don) but how they split. Sally has to figure something is up, especially when both of her parents have shacked up with someone else. The innocence in her long-distance phone calls to the Lovin' Spoonful lovin' Glen belie her growing education in the carnal: peering in at Megan's exposed back in "A Little Kiss," this week's experiment in mouthwash on-the-go.
"At the Codfish Ball" was the latest in a long-forming arc of Sally Draper: Real Life Person, but a crucial one. One wonders how long the city will stop being "dirty" and starts becoming "really interesting." That day is coming sooner than she'd like, a thought shared by her father.
* The Close-Up: Don't look at me like that
Our main characters all looked to their superiors for validation this episode, with some being more kind than others. More often than not, the support or condemnation fell according to generational lines, hinting at the burgeoning gap that will be torn even further apart as the decade rolls on.
We'll start with Peggy Olsen, the girl who doesn't really know what she wants. Last we saw Pegs dancing with the idea of marriage, she was fingering (and trying on) Dr. Faye's wedding ring during the focus group in s4e4's "The Rejected." Peggy looked at the band less like the embodiment of a dream and more like a curiosity, a riddle she couldn't quite crack. It's a bit surprising then to see Peggy so anxious in front of Joan, suddenly being confronted not by the possibility of getting dumped but being latched on to forever. She seems to take a shine to it.
Her reaction to the proposed move-in is tempered, but not nearly as downright downtrodden as her mother's. Living with someone before you marry is now one of the requisite steps one takes in the long climb towards the altar. In fact, if one of my friends said they were going to marry someone they haven't lived with, I'd kink my head to the side like a dog overhearing the word "cheese." Thanks to this specific time period, the paradigm has shifted to the point where Katherine Olsen's indignant reaction would seem out of place.
It's just a shame we don't have a time machine to go back and tell fictional Peggy about this development. Instead, she gets the next best thing: genuine kudos from the suddenly un-married Joan Holloway, the woman who Peggy probably holds in higher standing than all the rest. With this vote of confidence, Peggy is able to right her suddenly less-assured ship, if only for a week.
Peggy was also able to pass along some female-centric kudos to Megan, the woman Peggy inspired to get into the advertising game, who just had her first big success. This is a big deal for the newbie. Considered to be merely a floozy when the year began (or, at the very least, the worst kind of nepotism), Megan is able to overcome her dislike of her co-workers to band behind them and create a solid campaign. To further her ascent, she perfectly alerts and sets up Don on the last-second pitch that saves the Heinz account from spreading its legs and flying away to a rival ad group.
When she looks to her Marxist father for affirmation, he provides the exact opposite, questioning when she's going to do, saying, "I hate that you gave up. Don't let your love for this man stop you from doing what you wanted to do." What did she want to do? I can't believe that her socialist father boos ad writing but gives plaudits for actors. Not only do we not know exactly what it is she wanted to do, she doesn't seem to know, either. A disappointing twist to an otherwise world-beating episode for Megan, Queen of the Time-LIFE Building.
All of these revelations seem to center around yet another award given to Don, this time from the board of the American Cancer Society. The good folks who believe in this movement are also incredibly rich folks, giving Roger an ample opportunity to load up on new clients from the "bucket" they're being lowered into this golden pit with. However, when the award is given out and CYNTHIA!!'s father -- played by the always great Ray Wise -- says, "They love your work. But they don't love you, How could they trust you, with the way you bit the hand?"
The pomp and circumstance all fails away, just as worthwhile as the applause that Sally received earlier. The exact same move that garnered support from Peggy and blew away Ginsberg is the same one that may actually kill the company. It's irony in it's nearly purest form: the companies who are trying to market to young kids don't realize the inherent value of a piece of advertising that will be seen almost directly by children.
But who ever said that parents understand?
* B-Roll: Nice and tidy
- Well this was one of the funniest episodes of all time. I belly laughed throughout at any number of great lines from Roger (too many to list, though some of the quips even outshined his, "such a shame, he just got his foot in the door" line from "Guy Walks in to an Ad Agency" (s3e6). The aforementioned "spread your legs" line slaughtered, as did the final "dirty." I honestly didn't know that "Mad Men" was allowed to be this funny. Thank god that's the case -- this (admittedly excellent) season needed a change of pace.
- A lean, funny, sharp bit of filmmaking from seasoned director Michael Uppendahl ("The Beautiful Girls," "Christmas Comes But Once a Year," "Sixth Month Leave") and newbie writer Jonathan Igla. This is the second credited script from Igla, who received a co-writing credit in season 4's finale "Tomorrowland." This is usually a move reserved for writing assistants who have to finish their big assignment at the end of the year as if "Mad Men" is one big grad school program. This time around, he didn't share writing credit with Matthew Weiner, which is a rarity nowadays. So good for that guy.
- Oh, and Pete is Trudy's Prince Charming. That's enough. File this under: no seriously Pete's the best.
- Continuing down the path of "good lord, Roger seems younger all of a sudden," we have his interactions with Mona where she claims, "I thought you had married Jane because I had gotten old. Then I realized you did." This is matched with Marie's, "inside you is a little boy," which really makes the fact that he was inside her terribly creepy.
- Kudos to AMC for learning that content service warnings could also be dramatic time bombs. The first advisory came a few scenes before the graphic, adult images, making me almost forget that something was going to pop up. Or, in this case, bob up and down.
- And can we take a minute to also give kudos to AMC for letting a highly suggestive blowjay scene take place on basic cable television? This is a great lesson in what the show is teaching us throughout its run: social change takes time. Just think, the Monica Lewinsky scandal was only a scant 14 years ago....
- The combined age of the two other winners of Don's award totaled 439 years. I half-expected him to pull this Bob Dylan speech out of his pocket.
- Hahaha Margaret Dumont. God dammit, that line killed me.
- There is definitely a correlation between Don reading an Ian Fleming Bond novel behind his highbrow father-in-law's back. Another call back to the peers vs. adults argument, I guess. Anyone have any other ideas? Please, throw them in the comments.
- They're starting to shoot Don's office differently this year, focusing less on the left side profile shot and utilizing shots from the right of Don's door. What does this mean? People get tired of seeing the same things over and over. Oh, and it's an allegory for the Russian Revolution, natch.
- As much as I love Sally, good lord are her siblings worthless. All Bobby does is change actors and be terribly annoying, every once and awhile stumbling on to an awkwardly placed line that blatantly spells out what's going on, ("I want a rocket ship!"). That's still more than Gene, who is a living, breathing MacGuffin. The best thing the combined Draper boys have ever accomplished is almost suffocating in Betty's dry cleaning bag waaay back in s1e3's "The Marriage of Figaro."
- From the "Glass Half Empty" files: we've officially passed the halfway part of the season. Just want to warn you that arguably the best season of the show to date is currently on the downswing of the rollercoaster. Be sure to lift your arms high in the air and scream! Your photo will be taken when Ali recuses himself from the draft for being a conscientious objector.
- Just wanted to alert everyone that my cousin Suz is officially driving the "no way Megan and Don last through the season" bandwagon. Contact her for seating availability and whether or not you're allowed to have what you want. If not, just take it. Seems appropriate.
- Loved the way the married couple pitch worked for Heinz. Megan starts out in a single, running through her spiel before, Don gets a single on his own. The vast majority of shots are two'ers, essentially just having two people in frame (in this case, Don and Megan). This is the standard until either Don or Peggy has to relate one-on-one to the person across the table, then the shot selection echoes that before heading back in to the two-shot pitch. After they sell that campaign, they decide to celebrate by reverting back to horny teenagers. Ones with carte blanche access to the Time-LIFE building, but teenagers none the less.
- The closing shot is one of my favorite in the history of the series. So many people so unfulfilled. There's another joke here about Megan's mom, but it's late.
* Tune In Next Week For...
Lane Price attends a Mets game, reports the next day that Mr. Met's wife found "mustard on his pubis," Betty Draper continues her refusal to emote, Richard Nixon starts recording... something, and Roger realizes that he can once again "roam [Joan's] hills," forcing him to go to work in boots.