Mad Men recap (’At the Codfish Ball’): Abe moves in with Peggy and her ham


Admit it.

Between this post and this post you probably figured I had squeezed every last drop of Jewce out of last week’s episode, “Far Away Places.” But I actually decided to leave something out — Ginsberg’s pathetically transparent declaration that he loves the clams at Howard Johonson’s.

I say pathetically transparent because Don saw right through it, quipping that Ginsberg had never been to a HoJo. I could have gone on and on about the greater meaning behind the Jewish guy’s trying to fit in by professing his love for a signature treif dish at the All-American family rest stop/restaurant (is there any other kind?). And there is something to that, though I think the exchange was less about longing for forbidden foods and more about wanting to claim a piece of the middle class fantasy that the firm formerly known as Sterling Cooper is in the business of selling.

Well, sure enough, this week, in “At the Codfish Ball,” the kosher plot thickens. Early on, we find Peggy at work, eating Chinese with Ginsberg and her Jewish boyfriend, Abe. But, at that point, it’s actually Stan (not Jewish) who comes off as the big shrimp lover.

No, the big kosher/treif moment worth breaking down comes later, when Peggy’s mom arrives at Peggy’s apartment for dinner and she starts making chitchat with Abe.

“It smells good in here.”

“Pegy made a ham. It’s my favorite.”


At first, I wasn’t sure if it was a note of surprise or skepticism that I sensed in her voice. But by the end of dinner, things became clear — mother isn’t buying any of it. About the ham. Living together. Or Abe’s professed devotion to Peggy.

“I thought you’d be relieved that I wasn’t marrying the Jew.”

“It has nothing to do with that… You’re selling yourself short. Because this boy will use you for practice until he decides to get married and have a family. And he will, believe me.”

Yes, Peggy’s mom is hard and sometimes crazy (her advice about cats, for example). But what must make it difficult for Peggy to just cut the cord is that her mother is also devoted in her own way and actually has some down-to-earth wisdom to dole out.

And in this case, mother knows best, maybe not about felines, but about the risks of love birds moving into together and especially about the way Peggy’s handling the whole the situation.

Let’s start with the basic fact that Peggy herself was hoping for a full marriage proposal, and needed to work through her initial disappointment at only being asked to shack up. But her mom was also right on another point — Peggy’s whole approach was fueled by some mix of naiveté and passive aggressiveness. Peggy seems to have no problem moving forward with Abe without telling him about her cheating on him with a stranger in a movie theater, so she should probably be able to move forward with Abe without shoving it in her mother’s face. And even if you feel that you must let your mom in on what’s going down, maybe try a less in-your-face approach that doesn’t put her on the spot, one that doesn’t involve inviting her to dinner under false pretenses and essentially hoodwinks her into unwittingly sanctioning the arrangement through a formal dinner.

If Peggy really wants to be treated like an adult, she should act like one. She would have told her mother on her mother’s turf (possibly in private), and given her mother the space to deal and the choice of when to make an official visit. And enough with the Jewish card. I’m sure her mother is less than thrilled with Peggy’s dating a Jewish guy… but she’d be just as hard on Peggy if she were living in sin with a former altar boy.

So, yeah, I’m siding with mom on this one — at least when it comes to Peggy. As for her thoughts on Abe, well, for starters, as mentioned above, if anyone has loyalty and commitment issues in the relationship, it’s Peggy. That said, mother may be right about how things will eventually turn out with this couple… but I think he’s earnest.

About Peggy and the ham.

(This article was also published on JTA’s Telegraph blog)

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