Sunday, April 29, 2012

MAD MEN 5.7--"At The Codfish Ball"

 Remember when you were young? You shone like the sun. Now there's a look in your eyes, like you realise that it's Sunday and time for yet another inexplicably popular installment of Witless Prattle's coverage of Mad Men. Last week, we had some zany and surprisingly enlightening stuff as Roger dropped acid and hilarity ensued. Let's see what happens this week and see if now that we're past the halfway mark this show can go one episode without a drug trip or dream sequence!


"I've got a lot of rejections, so who knows what I'm full of?"

 Thank heaven that they managed to squeeze Glenn into this show somehow, and how fitting that even though he's off at boarding school, he still functions as the harbinger of doom for this show, as while he;s talking on the telephone with Sally, the elder Mrs. Francis trips and breaks her ankle.

 Glenn Bishop--he's a bit like Sauron, in his way. And Sally proves she's the proverbial chip off the old block when she later blames it on Eugene's toys being in her path. When the show is in it's final season and she's busily murdering everyone on her rise to power, we'll say it started with a phone-cord tripwire. Also: Thanks for showing him without pants, Mad Men. In a weekend where I saw a unicorn brutally gore someone, I think pantsless Glenn is even more disturbing.

 Don, meanwhile, has his own problems--he's meeting the in-laws, and if I had to guess, the only thing worse than meeting your in-laws for the first time is if your in-laws happen to be speaking French (I was bemused that Don was studying a Berlitz book of French--it's bad enough when one is so paranoid they constantly wonder about what's NOT being said, but it's gotta make you even more insecure when they're saying it in a language you can hardly understand) This leads to a certain bit of tension--for one thing Megan's parents are having a lot of infidelity related problems, for another Don feels all weird doing the nasty with Megan while her in-laws are sleeping over (bear in mind this is the same man who fingerbanged a client's wife in a restaurant) for another, there's a lot of things in flux.

 For one thing, Heinz is this close to walking away from SCDP. It's only when Megan, extrapolating on her family's traditions finally cracks it, and she and Don come up with a last-ditch pitch to make Heinz happy. We see the Don of old--the one who sold the Carousel, the one who cracked selling Lucky Strike--pops up again (he'd been, as Bert Cooper sad last week "on love leave") but the mechanics of it are a little different this time. For one thing, it's him and Megan working as a team, and given we've seen them arguing and hate-fucking for most of the season, we really needed a GOOD indication of why they were together that didn't involve cleaning up milkshakes or Zou-bisou bisou, or anything like that.

 Roger, meanwhile, fresh from his LSD trip last week, is approaching things with (he imagines) more clarity and a renewed vigor. He has a  rather animated conversation with his ex-wife Mona about what he took from the acid vision and he does seem to be entered and more determined than we've seen him in awhile. Though now every time I hear John Slattery's ads for Lincoln (15 or so every episode now!) I kind of think they'd be better if he had a head full of acid for those as well. The description of on-board GPS would surely be more interesting.

 Meanwhile, Peggy and Abe are getting serious, much to the dismal of several, I'm sure. There's a great bit that I was happy to see this week when Peggy and Joan get to have a talk about what Abe has in mind (proposing marriage? breaking up?) and it's good to see the two of them together again, partly because they have great chemistry and partly because their relationship was one of the cornerstones of the show and it's kind of lain fallow for a bit.

 I also liked the subtext of Peggy being worried that Joan would be disappointed that Abe and Peggy are shacking up without getting married first. It's a nice subtle reminder of the first phase of their relationship, when Peggy was a naive secretary just out of steno school and Joan ruled Sterling Cooper with an iron fist.

 Contrast this with how Peggy's actual Mom takes the news--namely she punts Peggy out of her life. It's hard to really get on her about this--after all, Peggy's already dumped one illegitimate child on her doorstep, there surely comes a time when you run out of "get out of jail free" cards, especially in a catholic household.

 All of this culminates in Don getting a major award from the American Cancer Society for his take-down of Lucky Strike last season (and no, it's not a lamp shaped like a leg.) Sally decides to dress for the occasion, apparently as Electra Woman. While things are initially going well--Don gets to rub elbows with the movers and shakers of the major industries, Sally and Roger have giggly fun on the sidelines (while Megan's mom flirts with Roger--more on that in a bit) gradually and rapidly--it was amazing how quickly things melted down, especially as the show was ticking down its last few minutes.

 Megan gets shamed by her father, who alludes to something she's in danger of giving up on. Don is told by someone in the know that despite the fact that he'll surely get tons of awards, none of the companies that the board of the American Cancer Society is made up of will ever give him work--his letter was a great piece of theater, sure, but it also said "the person that wrote this is a snake who would surely do the same to me if I fired them."

 Oh, and Sally, who was already a cauldron of mental illness held together by the brittlest shell of sanity, walks in on Roger getting a blowjob from Megan's mom. That kind of thing does sorta spoil the evening, to be honest.

 The brittle nature of a high (or a victory) and how quickly it can fall apart runs through the episode. Megan feels the Heinz thing is big news (and is told as much by Peggy, who tells her to savour it) as it turned a loser into a winnder. Don felt the award was the gateway to higher channels of power and better clients. Roger thought acid-fueled enlightenment would be enough to turn his life around. But the turn of an unfriendly card can sour it just like that.

 And on that rather bleak note, that's all for this week. Join us next week when Ginsberg wonders if he's Jewish enough, Don and Megan go to the state fair and ride the Tilt-A-Whirl, and Joan invents the game Pong on an oscilloscope in a senses-shattering tale we just had to call "Lady Lazarus." I'll see you on the dark side of the moon in seven, y'all. Until then--soupy twist!

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