Last night, Mad Men returned to the world of shared drug use. “The Crash” saw a motley crew from the still unnamed agency indulge in illegal medical enhancement. Through the rose colored glasses of influence, our dark heroes enchanted us with their stories.
- Director: Michael Uppendahl
- Writers: Jason Grote and Matthew Weiner
- Cast: Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Elisabeth Moss, Robert Morse, Rich Sommer, Aaron Staton, Kiernan Shipka, Jessica Parè, Kevin Rahm, Christopher Stanley, Jay R. Ferguson, Mason Vale Cotton, Ben Feldman, Nancy Linsky, Linda Cardellini, Shaun Rylee, Alexander Michael Helisek, Harry Hamlin
Episode Title: “The Crash”
An unexpected visitor causes trouble for Don, while Peggy searches for inspiration.
- Shots of Speed: Jim Cutler’s answer to an injury, Frank Gleason’s demise, and the threat of another dismissed Chevy campaign was the cocktail shot into the buttocks of himself and his cohorts. Blame whatever unusual rhythm on the illegal influence. This isn’t the first time Mad Men’s used substances as an excuse to play with the framework of an episode. To the same effect, Don’s lost a handle on time before, and it’s always coincided with an impaired mindset. Surely this will be as contentious as the other conceptual shows, but we can’t help but admire the model.
- Flashback Fever: Don’s hacking coughs while haunting the office preceded this week’s round of flashbacks. Throughout the series, the flashbacks have centered on his childhood. Each one ending with another crippling realization about his painful upbringing. This season’s has focused on his mother problems. “The Collaborators” shed light on his overbearing mother substitute’s bedding by his uncle. Never knowing his young prostitute mom and being abused by his father and step-mother was damaging enough. But during his stay at the whorehouse, one of the girls nursed him back to health when he was ill, only to take his virginity as soon as his fever broke. One of Don’s semi-lucid moments echoed the sentiment that constantly plagues him: “Does someone love me?”
- Manic Depressing: Don’s plea for Sylvia to reconsider ending the affair should have been a warning. He’s not handling the termination of his most recent tryst well. Dr. Hecht’s shot was meant to inspire creativity in the quest to please Chevrolet, but it just informed Don on how to get Sylvia back. It seemed like he was working on a new idea for the car company. But as the 72 hour trip wore on, it was obvious he was planning the acquisition of Mrs. Rosen’s heart. The sight of his family and the news of his children’s plight killed his desire with one fainting spell. Here Mad Men displays its panache for silences again; the quiet during Sylvia and Don’s shared elevator ride and his curt response to her effectively closed that door forever.
- Grandma Ida: When Sally awakened to a parentless apartment with a disheveled mature African-American woman rifling through her father things, confusion was immediate. Though her presence was suspicious, like Sally’s explanation of ignorance to her father’s history, we weren’t sure the woman was an impostor. Parenting’s never been a properly shepherded post for anyone on Mad Men; Glen Bishop was so forgotten only Betty remembered him. Her cold manner was reserved for her own children, but she gets points for at least trying. Side note: Bobby distinguished himself again; his quick, “Are we Negroes,” at the insinuation that the robber was their grandmother was a welcomed chuckle during a tense scene.
- Needs: The loss of his cousin overwhelmed Stan whilst in the throes of that mystery shot. Already drowning in drink and drugs, Peggy’s doctoring prompted him to go in for the kill—the kiss. She responded at first; even a bearded brother type is irresistible when it’s Stan. Ultimately, she didn’t sink to the level of everyone else in the office. Instead, she gave him some amazing advice, the exact opposite of Don’s to her in Season One. He needs to deal with it head on without clouding the loss with sex and drugs. Stan ignored her and slept with Gleason’s daughter while Jim looked on. Her moral compass isn’t exactly due north. We wonder what happened behind closed doors while she comforted the grief-stricken Ted.
- Merger Woes: Ted had no idea what he was signing on for with this merger. Returning to the office after mourning his loss, Don declared himself only an advisor the Chevy account. Considering the internet has already determined the car their working on the failed Vega, we wonder if Don’s lack of involvement will be attributed to its lack of success?
- The Extras: On Mad Men, everything has a literal and metaphoric meaning, including the episode title. For a few seconds, it looked like Ken’s life was claimed by a car crash due to the drunken antics of his Chevy team. To assuage our fears he not only reappeared in the next scene, but tap danced under the influence of that wonder shot ( it’s already been parodied). On the home front, Betty is skinny again. She’s not at her waif weight, but she’s blonde and thin again, without any acknowledgement. That’s worrying considering the fuss that was made during entirety of the Fat Betty plot. But yay Betty!
- The Others: Yet again, Peggy and Don seemed to be the only ones making progress in their story arcs. We love Peggy and are dedicated to the dark prince Draper, but everyone deserves to advance. Joan made no appearance this week, and Pete’s was ever so brief. It’s fitting, neither is likely to indulge in ridiculous office antics or a three day drug binge. Still, let’s see someone shine.
- Betty: Where did you get money for that skirt?” Sally: “I earned it.” Betty: “On what street corner?”
- “The timbre of my voice is as important as the content. I don’t know whether I’ll be forceful or submissive but I must be there in the flesh”—Don
- “I’ve had loss in my life. You have to let yourself feel it. You can’t dampen it with drugs or sex. It won’t get you through.”—Peggy
- “I asked her everything I know and she had an answer for everything. Then I realized I don’t know anything about you.”—Sally
“The Crash” was a resounding, albeit off-putting success. Watching it once simply won’t do. The deep layers made it an episode to be buzzed about for a while. We’ll be the first to love it unabashedly. But we still want to see someone else’s drama unfold as well.
Mad Men airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on AMC.
What did you think of the episode?