By Karmen Fox
For The Baltimore Sun
9:18 AM EDT, May 20, 2013
Get ready for one wild, drug-induced ride.
"The Crash" begins with what the audience will essentially endure the rest of the episode: A hostage-like frenzy with drug-induced maniacs.
There’s a car crash, a drug crash, a tap dance and a sex scene. And one censored F-bomb. All in all, it was a bizarre, whirling and -- frankly -- exhausting episode. I felt myself crashing after watching it.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t entertaining or enjoyable. Much like Roger’s LSD trip in ‘Far Away Places,’ the writing and directing showed the altered state of mind without the predictable or heavy-handed cues.
No dilated pupils or racing heartbeats. Instead, they relied on times lapses, rapid speech and, um, rather erratic behavior from the Don Draper and company.
And what drug/energy supplement was a good chunk of the SCDP (-CGC?) staff on? Still not sure. Whatever it was, it seemed less productive than Don and Stan’s pot session and less introspective than Roger’s LSD trip.
After Ken’s near-death ride with the clients, he walks into the partners’ meeting with a cane. None of the partners, stressed from dealing with Chevy deadlines, seem to care about Ken’s crash. Why? Because Chevy didn’t like the pitch. And it’s Ken’s job to make them like it.
Cutler has some sympathy. He wants to make Ken, Don and the whole staff better. His solution? A doctor ready with an energizing vitamin B concoction, sure to revive Don’s creativity.
Walking down the stairs after the injection, Don sees Peggy in Ted’s office. There she’s consoling a grieving Ted and -- gasp! -- even touching his shoulder.
Something in Don snaps (likely jealousy). He looks at Ted’s secretary. He’s convinced he knows her from somewhere else, but he can’t put his finger on it. Laughter becomes piercingly loud, and the secretary’s typing is almost deafening. Then, silence. The fixer-upper kicks in. He’s got an idea, and he’s off to finish the deadline.
It’s late at night, and Don is frantically tearing pages out of a magazine. Ken comes to his office and, wow, what a show!
Ken, insisting his foot is as good as new, begins tapping his bad foot. Then comes the time step. Yes, a time step on ‘Mad Men.’ He busts out a whole tap routine -- cane in hand -- while rattling off his job description, rather poetically.
Taking out gun-wielding clients for crab legs (possible Baltimore shout-out?), getting them drunk while chauffeuring them around, convincing them to fall in love with a campaign (or at least trying to) before crashing the Impala: “It’s my job!” he exclaims as he finishes his number.
He’s got the cane, he’s got the moves -- the only thing he’s missing is a top hat. This man is destined for Broadway. I’m sure Harry can hook him up.
Don then sprints to the copywriter room with a grand and somewhat rambling speech. ”One great idea can win someone over.” Everyone buys it but Peggy. Sure, she finds his speech inspiring, but what is Don’s actual message?
The 72 hours before they present to Chevy, Don is running around the office, falling into time lapses and flashbacks, not even realizing what hour or day it is.
Later on Sunday (day 3 of the epic bender) he calls Peggy, Ginsberg trailing, into his office. He’s convinced he has an idea. But he wasn’t working on Chevy: He was making a plan to win back Sylvia.
The soup ad he finds? A brunette woman with a beauty mark, just like Sylvia’s, with an aqua headscarf, just like Sylvia was wearing when Don was stalking her earlier in the episode, feeding a young boy soup. “Because you know what he needs,” the ad says.
But this image of a beautiful mother figure nursing a young boy with soup comes from a memory more distant and painful than eavesdropping on Sylvia in the kitchen.
Back when Don was Dick at the whorehouse, the prostitute Miss Swinson (that’s Aimée with two E’s with an accent, thankyouverymuch) nursed young Dick then took his cherry, much to his resistance.
So, apparently the cure for a bad cough is hot soup followed by coerced sex. I had an unsettling feeling Aimée would take his virginity when eyeing Dick in 'Collaborators,' warning him to "get his own vices."
But a lot of fault for Don’s emotional turmoil goes to his stepmother. Upon finding out about his tryst with the hooker, she beats him with a wooden spoon, screaming and calling him “disgraceful.”
The physical and verbal beating propelled Don into the sex and booze fiend he would become. Anything to numb the perpetual shame and fear of abandonment. It’s what drives him away from Megan, just like with Betty before.
Sylvia, on the other hand, won’t talk to Don. This rejection pushes him into stalker mode, smoking outside Sylvia’s apartment for hours on end. He marks his territory by leaving a pile of cigarettes. Sylvia, the crafty adulteress, fools Arnie into thinking she’s picked up smoking again.
She calls Don at the office to tell him to stop stalking her. And more importantly, just to be happy that he got away with adultery.
“I know you want to see me, too,” Don says. Is he delusional or just desperate?
“Don’t make me be the one to hang up,” Sylvia remorsefully says. It’s essentially a less adorable and more twisted form of the puppy love “no, you hang up!” conversations. She hangs up first.
After Don announces his half-baked pitch to Peggy and Ginsy, he races home. He’s practicing his speech to Sylvia as he unlocks the door to his apartment where cops and his ex greet him. Yikes.
On Monday, Don’s in the elevator when it stops on Sylvia’s floor. The scene is painfully long and awkward. Other than a quick “How are you?” exchange, neither says a word to each other. Sylvia briefly looks over at him, while Don coolly stares straight ahead.
Don’s stern and detached expression can mean only one thing: He’s over Sylvia. And with that, he’s also called quits to partaking in any creative ideas. Wait, huh?
Just like his abstinence from adultery and Peggy’s separation from SCDP, I doubt this will last long. Don not flexing any creative muscle at work will drain him of his ego.
And Don without his ego, as fragile as it is, is like Roger without his charm. He’ll crack without it. It might wane from time to time, but I refuse to believe he’s capped out all his creative resources.
If he genuinely is serious about cutting ties with his creative outlet, maybe he should spend more time with his children.
Sure, Sally seems grown up. In typical older sibling fashion, she bosses Bobby around and even packs his suitcase for him. (Poor kid.)
When getting ready to go over to Don’s, Betty asks her where Sally got her new mini skirt. Sally says she bought it with money she earned. “On what street corner?” Betty snaps. Leave it to Betty to compare her daughter to a hooker. Like daughter, like Don’s mother? Eesh, hopefully not.
Don’s still at the office when Megan’s about to leave to land a Broadway gig. Rather than wait for the unpredictable Don (more so than usual on this drug), Megan leaves Sally in charge of Bobby and Gene. With the promise of money for boots, Sally can’t resist.
Usually this wouldn’t be a terrible move. Usually. That’s until they get an unexpected visitor. Sally finds a disheveled black woman pilfering through their china. Who is she, Sally asks? Grandma Ida, who kind of raised Don. So she says.
“Grandma” Ida almost had me convinced she might actually know Don when she asked Sally, “Is your mom still a piece of work?” Yes, she is, and so is this shady lady.
When sweet ol’ “Grandma” heads to the other room to find the gold watch she needs to fix (ahem, steal), Sally calls the cops. Ida, master of deceit, takes the phone from Sally and tells the police it was a prank. A guilt trip or two later, Ida’s on her way to get fresh air (i.e. bolt in the night).
Then Don arrives home, only to come crashing onto the ground. Before he faints, Betty hurls accusations of Megan sleeping with the producers and Don sleeping with everyone else. The latter we know is true. It’s not clear if Megan is sleeping around or not, but at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if she were.
To Betty, everyone else is living in sin in the city. She, on the other hand, has a successful husband who’s running for senate. Of course, Betty. Make everyone else’s accomplishments your own.
I’m probably in the minority saying this, but I’m glad Matthew Weiner didn’t kill her off. I forgot how much fun it is hating her. It’s my job!
MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM ‘THE CRASH’
BEST ROGER ONE-LINER: “Your face looks like a bag of walnuts.” It wasn’t his best snarky insult ever, but it’s certainly more chipper than the “You get used to it,” line to Stan about Gleason’s death.
BEST WORK DISTRACTION: Ken’s tap dance. This is my favorite scene of the season, thus far. The only thing that could beat this is Pete and Ted punching the crap out of each other. I don’t care if Peggy likes Ted, I still don’t like him. I was actually rooting for Stan this whole time. I just wish he didn’t make a pass under such sleazy circumstances. Speaking of…
SLEAZIEST PICK-UP LINES (TIED): “You don’t know how much I need this,” and “You have a great ass.” Stan to Peggy on both occasions. That whole conversation was out of a sexual harassment PSA. And she didn’t have to take it. He settled for Wendy, who also settled for him after Don rejected her to focus on winning back Sylvia.
CHEESIEST PICK-UP LINE: “It’s broken.” Wendy to Don as she puts the stethoscope up to his heart. At first, we think it’s his heart (no brainer there), but she actually means the stethoscope.
BEST AD PITCH: “Four score and seven years ago, this country has memorable happenings.” It’s actually quite corny. I don’t know why, but I want to see that on a billboard right now. I’ll settle for an Internet banner.
MOST RELUCTANT SNAPS: Pete calls the copywriter out for being “in poor taste” when he seems pleased that Gleason has passed away. Why do you have to be sometimes likeable, Pete?
WORST DRINKING GAME: Chucking exacto knives at an drawing of an apple above Stan’s head. Couldn’t a game of beer pong suffice?
CREEP OF THE WEEK: Last week that went to Don with his "Fifty Shades of Gray"-level of sketchiness. And while it’s tough to beat Don’s stalker status, this week’s goes to Cutler. Gleason just died and he brought said partner’s daughter to the office to watch out for her. In his book, that also means watching her have sex with Stan. Dude, ew.
MOST ATTENTIVE EMPLOYEE: Dawn. She checked in on Don after he hurled his phone into his liquor cart, asked him if he needed water when coughing up a lung, checked in after his two-and-a-half-hour nap and even offered to clean up the mess. I’ll give her a break for not being at her desk on Saturday or Sunday, because in all likelihood Don sent her home during one of his time lapses.
MOST LEFT-OUT EMPLOYEE: Ginsberg. He’s not churning 666 (how portentous) ideas like Stan and his ad archives expedition was reassigned to Peggy. Rather inconsequential, but it’s enough to have him pouting and feeling incompetent. Poor Ginsy. Where’s Brown-Noser Extraordinaire Bob Benson when you need him?
BEST MEMORIAL DAY BEACH READ: "Sterling’s Gold: Wit and Wisdom of an Ad Man" the real-life book Roger was stashing in his suitcase in ‘For Immediate Release.’ Not an actual biography as featured in the show, but a light read filled with all of Roger’s best one-liners. Because, really, are you going to pull a Don and read Dante’s ‘Inferno’ on the sand? No, it’s Ocean City. Enjoy yourself.
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