"It’s just Mom and whores"
Did Mad Men finally jump the shark? Or maybe I should say jump the couch? "The Crash" was one of the more jarring hours of Mad Men I've seen. The entire episode takes place over one weekend, during which the agency has to develop a mind-blowing pitch for Chevy, who has rejected all of their work and ideas thus far.
Jay Cutler, the Roger Sterling of Cutler Gleason and Chaough, decides that a visit from the Dr. Hecht is in order. Dr. Hecht (the Beatles' infamous Dr. Robert or Dr Feelgood?) gives the staff a shot to boost their energy and creativity for 24- 72 hours. Basically, his "special mix" of B12 and....amphetamines. Cut to a frantic episode, complete with tap dancing Ken Cosgrove (just when you thought Kenny C couldn't get any better), weird I-Ching reading hippies wandering around the place, and plenty of flashbacks to the adventures of lil' Dickie Whitman in the Whorehouse. BTW, when asked where he learned to do that, Ken replies "My mother! No...my first girlfriend" FREUDIAN SLIP, KENNY. Also, here's the THEME of the episode in big flashing lights.
I've read many comparisons about the jagged, disconcerting feeling in the episode to the general chaotic loss-of-innocence type atmosphere of late 1968. Just as the lawnmower accident was referencing the Kennedy assassination, this episode was definitely the Vietnam episode. Between the visual reference to The Deer Hunter, the direct reference to Stan's cousin, and the lack of a time construct in the episode, I thought it was a deft way to tackle the issues surrounding Vietnam.
My biggest complaint of the episode wasn't the Lynchian tone or the slow moving plot. What I am sick of is the heavy handed "symbolism" Matthew Weiner continues to throw at the audience. After 72 episodes, I wish the audience was trusted more to make the connection between Don's upbringing, his sadomasochistic tendencies, and his appalling treatment of women. We get, Matty. Here's the soup ad Don spends most of the episode looking for. Look a little familiar? Right down to the mole.
The fact that I can basically put these three pictures next to each other and it explains the whole episode is embarrassing. We get it. Don has power, love, sex, and money all confused. Also, pain. He can't let himself be happy because he doesn't think he deserves it.
Given Don's preference for brunettes, it also makes sense that the return of Thin Betty is also the return of Blonde Betty, who at her snippy best. "Did you know Henry's running for office?" Praise your new husband while commenting on your ex's lack of parenting skills. Oh Betty. Such a B.
Checking on the other non-prostitute type figures in Don's life....
Peggy: Continuing with the THEME of this week, Stan looks to Peggy for comfort. She is both his nurse (tending to his wound), and potential lover. The chemistry between Stan and Peggy was off the charts. It's too bad you don't like beards, Peg. That's where you and I differ. Peggy was also seen comforting Ted earlier in the episode, upon hearing about the death of Gleason. Isn't she the best? Unlike her encounter with Ted though, Peggy puts the kibosh on the situation with Stan. She knows what he's looking for, and why she isn't the one to provide it. As the other copywriters denigrate into blithering idiots, she and Ginsberg are the only ones still focused on Chevy. That's our gal.
Joan: I swear, if Joan was here, she would've put a stop to this nonsense. In fact, it made complete creative sense to have Joan sit out this episode. Her sensibility and approach to work wouldn't have fit in with the shenanigans going on.
Grandma Ida: This was another big WTF moment. While the scene was shot and acted perfectly (kudos to Kiernan Shipka, who continues to be brilliant as Sally), I couldn't tell if I was made more uncomfortable by the general tension or the depiction of Grandma Ida as a thieving, menacing black figure. In a behind the scenes video- Weiner explains that they "really wanted to show that Sally Draper doesn't know anything about her father" and by making Grandma Ida black, they underscored that point. I understand the thought behind this decision, but once again, the execution was heavy handed and also...racist.
Megan: Megan looked awfully nice when she went out with that casting director. Maybe Betty's barb about her being on a casting couch somewhere is true. And god I hope it is. It'd be interesting to see the tables turned on Don.
Let's hope the next episode is less Don and whores, and more everything else. For example, more Joan and Roger (Always more Joan). And I swear, if they hurt Ken Cosgrove again, I will burn SCDCPCGC down. For a hot second I thought they were going to kill him off in that first car scene and yelped out loud. No more of that.