Mad Men 6-8

“Whenever we get a car, this place turns into a whorehouse.”

While it might have been a line in search of an episode, it was one hell of a kicker to an episode that was one hell of a kick in the pants.

This week’s episode of Mad Men, entitled “The Crash” was a drug trip captured in the midst of a fever dream surrounded by the manic rush of three days spent trying to woo the never-satisfied thrill-seekers at Chevrolet.

Don (Jon Hamm) was still coming to grips with a mistress who finally was able to walk away from his charms. Nothing like a visit with Jon Cutler’s (Harry Hamlin) personal Dr. Feelgood to help rouse the staff from its doldrums just in time to pull a few all-nighters.

Maybe because Mad Men has tried to avoid falling into many of the period cliches that have befallen so many other shows about the 1960s, drug use has been rather downplayed. There was, of course, Roger Sterling’s (John Slattery) memorable acid trip in last season’s “Far Away Places” and the occasional marijuana by various characters – including Don. Honestly, the show is better for it. Instead of relying too heavily on characters in altered states, the show has been able to use sporadic freeing of the mind to tell a more overarching story. But I digress…

Turns out, this little pick-me-up also led to another edition of “Will the Real Don Draper Please Stand Up?” Our intrepid ad man repeatedly flashed back to the bad ol’ days growing up in the cathouse. Is he having a bad trip? Is he summoning the next great campaign to knock Chevy’s socks off? Not so much. Instead, it appears that Don is merely coming up with a way to win Sylvia back. It would be strange for most men. But not for a man born and raised by prostitutes.

All the while, Sally (Kiernan Shipka) and her two younger brothers are left alone in Don’s apartment only to encounter a mysterious woman in the middle of the night. Claiming to be “Grandma Ida”, the woman is really just a burglar who has been on her own late night shopping spree in the building. Yet she is able to take advantage of a young girl who knows nothing of her father’s past.

That tattered past has inexorably led Don to this untethered present. When the spooky Wendy divines that Don’s wordless question is whether or not anyone loves him, we are once again reminded that he is a man in search of a lifeline. In the meantime, it appears that he’ll try to fill that emptiness with anything he can find – regardless of how good it might be for him. Perhaps he should have heard Peggy’s advice to an equally cloudy Stan about just dealing with life head on.

Then again, Stan was likely never beaten with a wooden spoon.

Mad Minutes

  • This was easily the most fun episode of the season. Watching normally reserved people in the midst of drug trips has that effect. Whether it was Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) breaking into spontaneous tap dance or Don sprinting through the office spouting grandiose platitudes that led to nothing truly productive, it was certainly a departure from any of the show’s typical episodes.
  • You have to wonder how much more of this Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) can take. Just when she found a company where it looked like her career could flourish, she is unwittingly reunited with Don. Except now the situation is more hectic than before. And it certainly doesn’t help when Jim Cutler is out-Rogering Roger as the office enabler. Peggy is talented enough to write her own ticket. I’d be surprised not to see her write that ticket to another firm if things don’t shape up.
  • It was also perfectly awkward watching a hazy Stan hit on Peggy. Though if there’s a platonic way to tell someone they have a nice ass, that was it.
  • Looks like Betty (January Jones) has been able to shed some of the weight. That was pretty sudden, which reinforces my belief that there could be a few Mother’s Little Helpers involved. She still can’t resist throwing gut punches at Don. It’s one thing to be upset that your ex-husband is being an absentee father. It’s another thing to mention that your new husband is running for office in a situation that didn’t call for it. Look for her eventual meltdown. It might not happen this season. But it’s coming. And it will be epic.
  • Speaking of epic meltdowns, Don is speeding toward a head-on collision with the truth. His daughter is old enough to start asking questions about her father’s past. But the bigger issue could be Sylvia Rosen (Linda Cardellini). She’s feeling squeezed by Don lurking outside her door. It might not take much more for her to spill the beans to her husband in a fit of guilt. After that, it won’t be long before the whole mess ends up on Megan’s (Jessica Paré) doorstep.
  • And one to chew on as the season rolls toward its conclusion … what if Megan is stepping out with Dr. Rosen? Admittedly, I had this seed Inception’d into my consciousness during a water-cooler conversation, but there’s been nothing this season to discount its possibility. Both seem to have frequent reasons (excuses?) not to be with their spouses. Plus, it would be the knockout blow to Don – in a season full of haymakers – to have his loving wife making time with the cuckolded husband of the mistress who rejected him. Far-fetched? Maybe. But it would be a hell of a kicker.