Mother Mary Comes to Me? Okay then. Maman Marie is a cool cucumber and a hot number – en même temps!
Even Peggy’s in on the relationship bright spots that seem to turn sour – thanks to the parental put-down – by episode’s end.
And how does this roller-coaster ride start off, with Drapers et al?
Sally’s visiting on the phone with Glenn. (Remember Glenn?) Step-Grandma Pauline totters about the Creepy Manse (tipsy), trips over the phone cord, and Sally summons an ambulance.
But Pauline’s broken ankle lands the Draper kids – Sally and Bobby – with Don and Megan in the city. It turns out this coincides with Megan’s mother Marie and papa Emile hitting Manhattan for a first visit with the newlyweds.
Megan, Mama Marie, Generational Sex Appeal
Complications? You bet. Emile’s disapproval of Don is impossible to miss, as is his tempestuous relationship with stunning wife Marie, played by Julia Ormond. The back story reveals itself as an argument breaks out over Emile’s “latest” graduate student. Might Megan have married a man like her father in a few conspicuous ways?
Meanwhile, Sally is delighted to join the adults for the awards ceremony where Don is being honored, taking place in a rather stuffy “ballroom” where methinks codfish is being served, not to mention a helping of reference to a Sally-appropriate Shirley Temple.
Ironically, this is the award Don is receiving for his full page ad in the paper denouncing the tobacco industry – his petulant response to losing the Lucky Strike account. Roger’s on the scene, charming as ever, professing post-acid enlightenment. And may I add – he’s engaging in a flirtation with Marie who’s clearly on the make.
But is this tit-for-tat at her hubby’s indiscretion, or is she liberal with her favors regardless of Emile’s activities?
For your consideration: One seductive scene of Marie fixing Roger’s tie, a few penetrating looks and repartee over dinner, and the magnificent Marie finds a moment of privacy with Roger in, how shall I say it, yet another ballroom.
The Child’s View of the Adult World: Gross
Unfortunately, when Sally inadvertently sees Megan’s mother working to improve Canadian-American relations – down on her knees – it’s an adult education the 12-year old hadn’t anticipated. Sally’s green around the gills for the rest of the evening, and “gross” would be the appropriate term at that age. It is, in fact, the term exchanged on the phone earlier with Glenn.
As for Peggy?
Abe has something he needs to talk about. (Never a good sign to a woman.) Joan thinks he may be popping the question. He pops a question alright – the will you shack up with me question, No Ring Required.
It’s hard to discern what Peggy really wants – no doubt because she doesn’t know. And come to think of it – couldn’t we say the same thing for Megan, at least at times, not to mention her beautiful mother?
And speaking of mothers, Peggy goes all out on a homemade dinner with Abe, invites her mom, who leaves in a huff after Peggy tells her that she and Abe are living together.
Mothers and Daughters, Fathers and Daughters
And things were going so well for awhile!
Megan saves the Heinz account – not only with her idea for a campaign, but by quickly reading the client’s wife and taking the ball and running with it. She effectively tag-teams with Don, and in most charming fashion, and bingo! They nail the account together, just before they were about to lose it. Drinks all round at SCDP – and make it champagne!
As to Joan’s predictions of a possible marriage proposal, Peggy appears disappointed with the move-in proposition though she says yes, with mixed feelings. When Joan offers a heart-felt “good for you” the next day, Peggy’s bolstered by her support, like the arrangement is a good one after all.
That is to say that Peggy’s pleased until her Mommie Dearest spoils her pleasure with a dismal dose of disapproval.
Soft-Hearted Don, Critical Emile?
Not only are we treated to these infrequent mother-daughter scenes, but the father-daughter interactions reflect a closeness between Megan and Emile that is adult, yet illustrates the soft spot he has for her.
We’ve caught glimpses of Don’s tenderness for his children before, but it’s front and center in this episode with Sally – a combination of surprise, appreciation, and limit setting – expressed when she dresses for the banquet. As for insisting that his precocious pre-teen eliminate the makeup and go-go boots before heading out to their event, that follows Emile’s linguistic faux-pas, when he says: “Eventually your daughter will spread her legs and fly away.”
“That’s wings, Daddy,” Megan corrects.
As for Megan and her Papa, we’re privy to hints of a long standing conflict of some sort, as Emile is concerned that his daughter isn’t pursuing the life she really wants. So what does she want? Just how much intellectual and creative power is hidden behind those good looks and other obvious charms?
And Marie? What a fascinating addition she is to the picture! Does she want a better relationship with her highly critical husband? Is her vague malaise a mix of more stories to come? Or is she a girl who just wants to have fun?
Honesty’s the Name of the Game?
While Mathew Weiner describes the underlying theme of At the Codfish Ball as disappointment, I’d say honesty – and its failure to accomplish its goals – is equally under the microscope.
Peggy gives honesty a shot with her mother. It’s a no go. Her mother is equally honest (and tactless) in voicing disapproval, saying she’s selling herself short, and that Abe will use her, leave her, and marry another woman. And oh by the way, her father would be disappointed. Ouch!
Megan continues to act in a manner that is refreshingly honest with Don, and Don’s openness with his wife is apparent. Don is honest with Sally – someday she’ll be ready for makeup, “but not today.”
Emile and Marie are honest about Emile’s disappointments and amorous extracurricular activities. Or are they? Isn’t there a great deal of talk – for the 1960s – about happiness, and making oneself happy? Is that an excuse to justify any behavior, or because hints of happiness as fleeting (but our “due”) are leading us to the Hippie years?
Mad Men (and Women) – Happy Talk
Sally wants her dad to be happy with his award. Don wants Sally to be happy. Peggy says to her mother accusingly – “Don’t you want me to be happy?” Megan’s father asks if this – advertising – is his daughter’s passion.
“Don’t let your love for this man keep you from doing what you want to do,” he says.
Hmm. Jessica Paré has done an excellent job of convincing this viewer that she gets what she wants in her role as Megan. So what does Emile know that we don’t – yet?
As it turns out, Sally’s dip into the goldfish bowl of adult life around the SCDP clan is more than a little deceptive. She’s “happy” to accompany the grownups, happy that Roger is confiding in her in a playful way at the awards dinner, happy to be in lovely clothes. It looks glam and alluring from the outside – this adulthood business. But on the inside?
As she finds herself on the phone with Glenn again at the close of the show, he asks how it is in the city. And she says, simply: “Dirty.”