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US TV Recap

Mad Men review 'At The Codfish Ball': 'Some things never change'

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Season 1, episode 7 | Aired Wednesday, May 2 2012 at 7:45pm EST on

'Some things never change'. It's been one of the hardest ever pitches for the staff of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, but last night they finally nailed Heinz Baked Beans with that four-word tag-line.. And it all took was an idea that not only reassured the boring old fuddy duddys at Heinz, but also appealed to the senior figures at SCDP.

"It's the future. It's all I ever wanted," said Heinz exec Raymond, who was wooed by the idea of kids eating baked beans in space in 2055. The true brilliance of the concept - devised by Megan - was that it wasn't really about the future at all. It was about maintaining the status quo, about stodgy tomato-based tinned food selling by the trolley-load forever. Like so much of Mad Men's fifth season, it was about playing on our fears of what the future may hold.

Mad Men S05E07: 'At The Codfish Ball'

© AMC / Michael Yarish



The pitch to Heinz, which was based around the idea of mothers passing on their cooking skills to their daughters, felt like a huge win for the SCDP company, but it appears to signal a turning point in Megan and Don's relationship and also highlighted the continuing struggles for the female characters to escape the same fates as their mothers and grandmothers.

Peggy has lost her go-getting spirit, accepting a humiliating non-proposal and settling for shacking up with her boyfriend Abe. Her acceptance in her private life also appears to have dampened her spirits at work, where she warns Megan that a winning pitch is "as good as it gets". The secretary-turned-creative has hit a glass ceiling and she seems content to accept her lot.

Megan is also struggling to deal with abandoning her dreams for the financial securities of a marriage to Don. He may be the man with everything she wants, but her father Emile reminds his offspring that she used to want so much from her life than a career in advertising.

Mad Men S05E07: 'At The Codfish Ball'

© AMC / Michael Yarish



Don's wife has been a hard character to love since becoming a full-time cast member. Maybe it's a weird part of us that wants Don and Betty back together, or maybe it was the strange, creepy sexual power games between the couple, but something made her feel cold and almost-deserving of Don's inevitable future infidelities.

But tonight's episode changed all of that. Megan isn't someone out for what she can get and using Don. She's accepted Don and is settling for Don. If anything it is her that is being held back in the relationship. Credit must go to Jessica Paré, who is playing the role with incredible balance, strength and subtlety at all the right moments.

Elsewhere, Joan, as always, remained the voice of downtrodden females, advising Peggy to take everything on her chin and roll with the punches. Meanwhile, Sally Draper is whacking on the make-up, shortening her skirts and looks every bit the mini-me version of her mother Betty. Like her mother, she is also quickly learning what b**tards men can be.

Out of all the ways you have your childhood ideas about men corrupted, it's unlikely anything could match walking in on your step-grandmother performing fellatio on your dad's best mate.

Sally Draper's witnessing of Roger Sterling's return to his bad boy best was the grand set-piece of 'At The Codfish Ball' and was the latest in a series of crude jaw-dropping moments that have been sprinkled through Mad Men's season five.

After a lovely evening celebrating her father's award win at the American Cancer Society with Roger as her chaperone, Sally's night out took a dramatic 'blow' for the worst. Roger's "go get them tiger" gags and cheeky one-liners suddenly took on her a darker tone when Don's daughter walked in on him during a final intimate moment with Megan's mother. The city is "dirty", concluded Sally during one of her late-night phonecalls to her creepy pal Glen. And she's right.

The darkness that surrounded the female characters in this episode was offset by the lightness of yet more classic one-liners (Is this the show's funniest ever season?).

Roger as usual stole the show with the instantly quotable, "For all we know, Jesus was trying to get the loaves and fishes account" zinger. But surprisingly, Pete Campbell ran him a close second, winding up Megan's snooty father by giving him an ego-trip and massaging his vanity, only to reveal at the last: "And that is what I do every day!"

Mad Men continues on Sky Atlantic on Tuesday nights at 9pm. It airs in the US on Sundays on AMC.

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