'Mad Men' recap: Season 5, Episode 7, 'At The Codfish Ball'

Just another day at the office for Don and Megan Draper.
Just another day at the office for Don and Megan Draper. (Frank Ockenfels/AMC)

It's time to meet the really, really bad parents.

Look, no mom and dad are perfect. They make mistakes. They miss ball games. But Megan Draper's folks (played by guest stars Ronald Guttman and Julia Ormond. Julia freaking Ormond) fight loudly in French, cheat at an American Cancer Society Ball and basically make their daughter feel like crap.

Also making her daughter feel like crap, in a particularly non-French but more brutal way, is Peggy's mom.

Sigh. I want to give my parents a call and just have them say something nice to me.

Lets start with Megan folks, who are visiting from Montreal (yet have really, really, really French accents) to see Don get the Most Ironic Award of the Year from the American Cancer Society. Remember that anti-smoking PSA SCDP did just to stick it to Lucky Strike for ditching them?

Things start out slowly (this really was a slow burn of an episode, ultimately fulfilling but still), Megan's mom is full of life and flirty with Don ("She touched you six times in an hour," Megan later notes, which Don simply dismisses as her being very French). Megan's dad is uber-professorial and does not enjoy the pair's home ("It's exquisitely decadent," dad says) or Don's profession ("He's a Communist or a Socialist or a Maoist or something that makes him hate me for what I do," Don tells Roger, apparently blind to the fact that hardcore advertising folks may turn people off). 

Don does, it should be noted, appear eager to please his father-in-law as he laters reads an English-French dictionary in his office. The evolution of Don continues.

Holy tension. Throughout the entire episode. You'd think Megan's parents visiting would cause the ultimately fight-turned-rough-sex session for Megan and Don, but it actually brings them together.

Sally and Bobby Draper (Bobby finally has a line!) are staying with Don since Henry's mother tripped and broke her ankle. Sally was talking to Glen Bishop (creepy Glen, back in full force and gone through puberty) at the time but rushed to her side later even she lies later about grandma tripping over her phone cord.

Megan cooks the kids spaghetti and the next day has a brilliant idea that she gets in the shower (where all good ideas come from). She remembers that her mom used to make her spaghetti, so what about an ad for Heinz Beans showing moms throughout time serving their kids Heinz (from cave moms to modern-day), ultimately ending up with a lunar mom serving her lunar kid beans?!

I'm assuming when we do end up on the moon, we won't be eating beans, but this is one good idea. Don loves it, particularly in light of Peggy's epic Heinz ad fail of 1966.

"My god, get over here," Don tell her. Nothing turns Don Draper on more than a good advertising pitch. And Megan.

I loved how this episode showed the power of Megan and Don working together, as opposed to, say, fighting like cats and dogs at a hotel. Megan's one smart cookie, but she faces Don's old habits of discounting his conquests as mere objects, ignoring their smarts (except for Peggy). There's also the pressure of Megan being seen by co-workers as "the boss' wife," as Michael Ginsberg snarkily calls her.

But later, at a dinner with Raymond, the Heinz guy, and his wife, Don and Megan work like a charm together. When Raymond's wife hints that he's ready to bolt from SCDP, Megan goes to work, seamlessly yielding to Don to tell Mr. Heinz "your big idea."

Don's pitch is eloquent, he gives Megan credit for one part, they work like a dynamite team. Sold!

"Oh god, I want you," Don tells Megan in the cab afterward. Here, it's, as always, hard to tell what Don really, deep down, likes: Megan's beauty and youngness or her budding copywriter talents. The lines are blurred in true "Mad Men" fashion. You want to think he's attracted to both qualities, and the writers here do a good job at making you really think hard about it and still not being quite sure.

Everyone's in a good mood before the American Cancer Society ball. The ladies go shopping and get Sally a dress because she wants to go to the ball with her "papa." "Papa" said the French way.

How can Don say no to that (though later he tells her to loose the make-up and boots because Sally was thisclose to looking like an "Austin Powers" dance girl).

"Every father should get to see their father as a success," Megan's mom notes.

"YOU WON'T BE HAPPY UNTIL I'M DEAD," is her husband's response. I mean, he says it in French but it's still loud and powerful.

Megan explains to Don that her mom caught dad talking with his new graduate student over the phone and she was crying and there's all sorts of Montreal affairs afoot.

Megan's dad is not in the best mood, and decides to take it out on his daughter with some perhaps too-tough love. "Is this your passion?" he tells his daughter. "I always saw you were single-minded about your dreams and that would help you ... Don't let your love for this man stop you from doing what you want to do."

Megan is dumb-founded ... and kind of knows her dad is right. At this point, halfway through the season, we're left wondering if Mrs. Draper will remain Mrs. Draper by the season's end. Maybe if she has more excellent beans pitches?

Oh, and Megan's mom gets her revenge on her husband in the form of giving Roger Sterling a little (ahem) lip service. Of course it's Roger. Were you expecting Pete? Sally just happens to walk in on them, though they don't notice her, and she returns to the Draper Table of Sadness.

How does Sally recover? Call Glen of course. "How was the city?" he asks.

"Dirty," she says.

Bad Parents Part II: The Peggy edition

For the record, I really like Peggy's boyfriend, Abe Drexler. He's smart and hard-working and good for Peggy (unless she goes to the movies).

But he acts a bit distant when visiting her in the office. Especially since he has to endure Michael calling Peggy a "traditionalist in the boob department" when talking about her old-fashioned plans for a Playtex ad and Stan dubbing her a "boob-carrying consumer." Not sure if Abe is intimidated by Peggy being her own working woman or if he's just kind of grossed out.

He calls her later to meet up for dinner, and seems really upset. Break-up? Seems that way.

As she (and everyone) should, Peggy goes to Joan for relationship advice. Joan thinks it can either be a break-up or a proposal but really thinks it will be the latter.

One of the best lines of the night from Joan: "Men don't take the time to end things, they ignore you until you insist on a declaration of hate." Joan should really write an advice column.

Peggy gets pumped for the maybe proposal (new dress!) and has a happy-sad reaction when Abe just wants to move in together. Put a ring on it, Abe.

They break the news to Peggy's mom over dinner. You remember Peggy's mom, right? Rude, resentful, angry, old-fashioned. She's still all of those things.

When she hears of their shacking-up news, she leaves and takes the cake she brought with her.

And Peggy asks her if she just wants her to be alone for the rest of her life.

"Well, you know what your aunt used to say," Peggy's mom begins. "If you're lonely, get a cat. After 12 years get another one and another after that. Then you're done."


I wonder how Don and Roger's parents would behave towards their sons if they were still alive?

More highlights from tonight's episode

Don's crisis: Sure, he gets an award, but he's shocked to learn that no one wants to do business with him anymore because who can trust him after the anti-smoking letter ad SCDP wrote (turning his back on Lucky Strike). Hopefully, he'll get his stuff in order.¿

Good to see you, Mona!: The former Mrs. Sterling is back and looking good! Plus, she said this to summarize 1966: "I, for one, am not going to let a bunch of dirty teenagers in the paper disrupt the order of things."

Future Sally: After walking in on Roger and Megan's mom and being disgusted, Sally's either going to be a nun or go full-out bad girl, right? Will she lose her virginity to Glen? Eww.

Yes, it's very shocking: "Someone dumped you!?!" -- Peggy's reaction to newly single Joan.

Best summation of Pete Campbell: Sally thinks the awards ball is going to be fancy, and as Roger sees Pete approach he says, "Your Prince Charming? Nah."

Most cutting line: Megan's dad dismisses her "Big beans success." True description, but still mean.

Peggy and Megan: BFFs: Can't help but think a war is brewing between Peggy and Megan, but Peg congratulates Megan on her Heinz success. "I don't know what the Canadian equivalent is to baseball, but this a home room!" she says. Silly, Peggy. The Canadian equivalent to any sport is hockey.