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'Mad Men' finds drama 'At the Codfish Ball': Don's family

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Mad Men - "At the Codfish Ball"


In this week's installment of Mad Men "At the Codfish Ball," Don (Jon Hamm) is honored by the American Cancer Society for his infamous Lucky Strike letter. His family accompanies him to the dinner that goes with the recognition. This includes Megan's parents, Emile (Ronald Guttman, All My Children) and Marie (Julia Ormond, Law & Order: Criminal Intent) Calvet, who come to town for the occasion. But considering that the couple doesn't exactly approve of Don's marriage to their daughter, and that their own union is on the rocks, the night doesn't exactly go so well.

Reviews for this episode: Don's Family / Finding Your Center

Megan (Jessica Paré) really comes into her own in "At the Codfish Ball." Not only does she come up with a brilliant idea for the Heinz campaign, she also masterfully finagles the business dinner to sell said idea just before Raymond Geiger (John Sloman, The Ugly Truth) fires them. She proves her creative and business acumen quite nicely. Not only does this show that she deserves the position she now holds in the firm, but it also demonstrates why she is a great match for Don.

Side note: Harry's (Rich Sommer) telling of the Heinz dinner story and Ken (Aaron Stanton) admonishing him with "You weren't even there!" is one of the best Mad Men bits ever. Classic!

Don could not be prouder of Megan in "At the Codfish Ball." He celebrates with her, and makes sure she gets credit in front of her co-workers, despite her initial protest that she doesn't need it. To the client, sure, Don has to play the master, sharing ownership of her idea. But Megan doesn't seem upset, understanding the nature of the business. Their excited sex afterwards should erase any doubts of those who still don't think they don't have good chemistry or belong together. They have challenges like anyone else. But they also complement and challenge each other, and she can hold her own with him, something few women have been able to do.

It's too bad Megan's parents have to spoil her happiness. They come to town with their bickering, making everyone around them miserable. Emilie feels emasculated, and Marie cheats on him. It's not a healthy relationship, and one wonders how the pair is in any position to judge Megan and Don. Yes, Emilie's concern that Megan may be giving up her dreams may be valid, but Megan seems to feel fulfilled and satisfied where she is. So why do they have to be such a drag?

Don is riding high in "At the Codfish Ball," and why shouldn't he be? He has a wonderful wife, who just saved a major account, and is now being honored in front of lots of important people! But he soon gets a reality check from Ken's father-in-law (Ray Wise), who helps Don make an important realization. What good is respect if no one trusts you? Don's success may make people say good things about him, but it won't necessarily bring him business. Roger (John Slattery) is right. The letter is a mistake.

Sally (Kiernan Shipka) also attends the ceremony. She is feeling so grown up being included, and in her dress, she looks the part, too. After viewers see her talking to Glen (Marten Holden Weiner) on the phone, she seems even more of an adult. But then Sally witnesses Marie giving Roger a blow job. It's a startling scene to her, and one that disgusts her. In that moment, Sally is shown to still be a child. She has not yet reached maturity; this much is clear. It's a wonderful contrast for her, and "At the Codfish Ball" illustrates her awkward age well.

Which leads to a fantastic scene where Don, Megan, Emilie, Marie, and Sally all sit with their heads hanging low, a stark contrast to the picture of glee they begin the evening with. Fantastic!

Reviews for this episode: Don's Family / Finding Your Center

Mad Men continues its amazing (and somewhat different) season five run Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on AMC. In Lexington, AMC is found on channel 24 (analog), 254 (satellite), and 955 (high definition).

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Please click here to catch up on Mad Men with streaming episodes and DVDs. Article first published as TV Review: Mad Men - "At the Codfish Ball" on Blogcritics.