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'Mad Men' finds drama 'At the Codfish Ball': Finding your center

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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

While Don is off getting his dues, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) faces some tough choices. Abe (Charlie Hofheimer) forces her to prioritize himself over her work. What may be most surprising is that Peggy does so. Up until now in Mad Men, Peggy's professional rise has been her focus. "At the Codfish Ball" reveals that she wants something more out of life, too. She may not be a traditional woman in many ways, but she does desire a loving husband. Might Abe be the one? Joan (Christina Hendricks) certainly thinks so when Peggy goes to her for advice.

But Abe doesn't propose marriage. Instead, he simply wants to move in together. Peggy readily accepts. Is this a mistake? Peggy's mother (Myra Turley) thinks so, telling Peggy that Abe will only use her for practice until he finds the woman he actually wants to get hitched to. This doesn't seem likely. Peggy and Abe are of a different generation, and Peggy's mom just doesn't understand that. For them, living together first is right.

It's great that Peggy stands up to her mother a bit. She understands what her mom is saying, but also reserves the right to believe her mother is wrong. Peggy is neither naive nor immature anymore. She has earned the ability to make her own decisions. Living with Abe is going to make her happy, so she should do it, and she does. No one else's judgment matters. Kudos to Peggy for reaching a point where she realizes this, and also begins to see that a career is nice, but it isn't everything.

Roger is also in a good place in "At the Codfish Ball." Free of his wife now, he meets with his first spouse (Talia Balsam), and they get along. Roger even asks her for a favor! This is not really something he could have done while still married to Jane (Peyton List). Yet, Jane matters not at all in this situation. Roger is finding some peace in his life, Mona can see that, and it really strips away the conflict that has long boiled between them.

Roger credits his LSD trip for his new worldview. Is he right? Well, that's hard to say. Taking drugs certainly does make Roger see some things in a new light. But the experience only enhances reality and brings out things within himself that he may have found anyway. It is a catalyst for Roger to make some much-needed changes in his life, but that doesn't mean he should run off and drop acid again, as enjoyable as that episode is, for him and Mad Men fans.

This serenity is in total contrast of Roger allowing a married woman to blow him, but then, some things never change. Roger remains a horny little bastard, a descriptor meant in the fondest sense.

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.