Mad Men Review: Pity, Dirty, Funny

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Like many Mad Men episodes, and the series in general, "At the Codfish Ball" was a slow burn. It was taking so long to build up that I was ready to unabashedly declare it the worst hour of the season thus far.

Fortunately, once the Draper clan made its way to the eponymous gala, there was so much to adore that the lack of previous enjoyment was forgiven.

It is so often the little things that make Mad Men such a treat, and nothing epitomized that more than the quick conversation between Pete and Dr. Emile at the event. Of course Emile takes on the opinion that an account man does absolutely nothing at the company. Thankfully, after listening to the academic complain and condescend all episode long, Pete Campbell put him in his place if just for a few moments.  

Emile was certainly an easy target, what with his ego ready to burst anyway, but it was a treat to watch Pete do what he does in a matter of seconds.

Don in Bed

They were all there to watch Don receive his award, and that he did. What he probably didn't think he would here that night was the fact that nobody in the business liked him or would work with him because of his open letter a ways back. How could they trust you after the way you bit the hand? Ken's father-in-law asked Don.  

I'm not sure when this episode was filmed, but Jon Hamm was so good at showing disbelief in that moment that I wouldn't be surprised if someone was behind the camera telling him Albert Pujols had signed with the Angels.

Poor Megan. She achieved what was probably her most significant professional moment ever the night before, but all she hears from her disapproving father is how much she is giving up for Don. Really, Emile? She's on her way to being the top female copywriter at a major New York Advertising Agency, but it means nothing because she's married to a man with some money? Is this guy super wrapped up in his ideas, or is he just impossible to make happy?

Whether he's happy or not, Emile certainly isn't making his wife happy. Marie gave off a great first impression. After drinking herself stupid for a few days straight, she then jumped at the chance to hit Roger Sterling with the old downstairs make out sesh on the piano. The only person who is probably more scarred than us viewers is Sally Draper.

Yes Sally, the city is dirty, and you witnessed it firsthand. The worst part of it is that the act most likely ruined what was working out to be a fantastic duo. Roger and Sally were so enjoyable to watch at the dinner. Whether it was tag-teaming clients, or just him simply buying her Shirley Temples and making alcoholism jokes, these two were fun. We'll never get to see that again. She'll probably tear her own eyes out first.

After all that went down in the final few moments of "At the Codfish Ball," there couldn't have been a more satisfying ending than watching the entire Draper gang sit down at the table mostly befuddled by the events that had just taken place.

The other half of the episode was much less interesting. Whenever Peggy's family gets involved, I could usually care less. I was tired of the story even before her mom came in and started yelling at her for moving in with Honest Abe.

Thankfully, the hour also included Sally almost killing Momma Francis with the telephone, Don and Megan's fantastic tag-team pitch to Heinz at dinner and the ridiculous moment when Sally came out in an adult looking dress only for Emile to make a ridiculously inappropriate comment about her soon spreading her legs.

"At the Codfish Ball" brought us back to normal on a structural level after last week's trio of trips, but it also left me wanting more up until the final 15 minutes or so. What did you think of the episode? How great was Megan's pitch? And who do you think had the worst time at the ball?


Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.1 / 5.0 (70 Votes)

Dan Forcella is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.


@Sandy To add to that, the phrase is "couldn't care less". Dan, I think you should stick to reviewing the shlock over on the CW. It's not that I expect everyone to like Mad Men and certainly the show is open to many interpretations it's just that I'm continually shocked how your reviews-without fail- avoid even attempting to delve into the true meat of the show's material such as character motivation, the social commentary, how the story arcs work with the larger themes within the series, etc. OTOH, the one attempt at deciphering the character's motivations fell completely off the mark here (as pointed out, Emile wasn't just trying to be a dick when he expressed sadness over Megan sacrificing her dreams). No mention of the technical aspects of the show either? I'm sorry but if you're actually paid to sit down, watch and review MM then this is all rather sad. If you're not paid, well, don't quit your day job.

Beverly brooks

By the way, where is Betty?


Thank freaking God they're addressing the fact that Megan never really wanted to be a copy writer and that she never earned a damn thing. Her character was such a let down, at the end of Season 4 I was thrilled that Don was marrying her. Now its really bringing the show down. Megan has done nothing of substance at work and then all of the sudden she's saving accounts? I loved her parents, her dad setting her straight was fantastic. I loved Roger and Mona, great scene. This pair of exes have more spark in them than the new, lovey dovey Drapers. As always, loved Sally. Great to see Glen, holy crap we've watched these two grow.


"Roger and Sally were so enjoyable to watch at the dinner."
Loved the interplay between them. Sally is about the most intriguing character on the show.
Pete's put down of the french FOP gave me new-found respect for the twerp. Well played.
I agree the Peggy story is lame, dull.
The way the show wrapped up, each character with their own thoughts based on the night's events, all played to the camera perfectly, each of them displaying on their faces exactly their perspective on the evening's events. Bravo!
Once again, I slog through the tedious episodes to get to the nuggets. Sometime it's worth it, often it's not.
Hooray for Sally: "It's dirty."


Please - if you are going to blog etc - know your words!
From you: "What he probably didn't think he would here that night was the fact that nobody in the business liked him or would work with him because of his open letter a ways back."
You want HEAR. For goodness sake - use the right words!


@Dan Forcella, you're missing the point regarding Emile's disapproval of Megan's choice of career. He's professing to be disappointed that she stopped pursuing her dream to be an actor, which is obviously a sore point with Megan, hence her emotional reaction.


I enjoy all the symbolism on Mad Men. But I guess it is open to your own interpretation. I thought the fish on Sally's plate, showed she was like "a fish out of water" there, and flat out didn't belong at that adult party. That was later shown by her witnessing Roger & Marie (her step-mom's alcoholic mom) together. Sally is more or less bringing herself up, and the adults in her life seem younger and less balanced than she. I think Peggy's story is interesting, and so sad that she doesn't think she is deserving of a proposal of marriage. But we've seen enough of her mother's shabby treatment of her, we got the point before. I think it's interesting to see how Megan's developed into such an excellent ad writer. It all seems so hard for Peggy, she works late every night and hasn't been getting it right lately, for all her effort. If Megan surpasses Peggy at the job, and I think that will happen, it's going to be very difficult for Peggy to stay at the firm. I am finding each show has so much to offer, and so much to think about afterward, I can't imagine being bored with it!


Although Roger may be slightly buzzed, he always has the best lines. And you know when he appears in a scene that sparks will fly.


When Peggy states to Megan that it is almost like her "first time" this is telling. She derives all of her satisfaction (sexual sublimation) from work. Her actual first time with Pete was less than satisfying and caused heartache in the loss of her daughter. Now she believes she should be excited about a possible proposal from Abe, and dresses the part, but soon realizes that what she needs from him is less than what her mother expects of her. Did anyone notice Megan's mother's hand holding a cigarette echoes the musical intro to the series? Perhaps she represents the older generation who supress their real disappointments in alcohol and tobacco. Don, who straddles two worlds, both rejects tobacco and embraces it.


@Rogers Crotch: I don't think so. The honor certainly goes to you or your namesake.
Anatomical jokes aside, the episode was a bit lacking. Firstly, I don't like what they are doing with Peggy. She is being sacrificed to make Megan look God's greatest creation. Don has lost the edge we liked him for and I am just waiting for this phase to pass. Roger was once again in great form, immaterial of how happy he or his penis felt at the end but I had hopes that we would see more of Cooper after his power play last week.

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Mad Men Season 5 Episode 7 Quotes

Megan: Didn't you notice she touched you six times in an hour?
Don: She's French.

I thought you married Jane because I had gotten old, and then I realized it was because you had.