In the trippiest “Mad Men” episode since last season’s “Far Away Places,” key players from both SCDP and CGC toiled through a manic drug-fueled weekend, Sally dealt with an unexpected guest at Don’s apartment and Cosgrove showed off a surprising proficiency for tap dancing.
“The Crash” was a bizarre, funny and frequently disorienting hour, and while it didn’t dig deep into many characters, it did reveal another important chapter from Don’s past.
[Note: In the spirit of showrunner Matthew Weiner declaring
that this season is about Dr. Arnold Rosen telling Don, “People will do
anything to alleviate their anxiety,” we’re tracking the happiness of key
characters week by week.]
The “Mad Men” happiness index, week seven:
1) Roger: Pretty much everyone at SCDP-CGC (still without an official name) is completely exhausted from dealing with the demands of Chevy. Not Roger.
2) Ginsberg: A sober Ginsberg is a happy Ginsberg: “I believe I’m the only person in the Time Life building not out of his mind!” But are we ever going to find out what happened with his blind date?
3) Betty: Betty didn’t have much to do beyond complain about Sally, Megan and Don, but considering that’s one of her favorite pastimes she seemed to handle it relatively well. Plus, she’s lost weight and gone back to blonde — obviously in anticipation of Henry Francis’ run for office.
4) Stan: Other than Don, Stan was most effected by Dr. Hecht’s “energy serum” — running through the office, challenging colleagues to arm wrestling and offering himself up for target practice. But in a tender moment with Peggy he revealed both his sexual desire for her (or is she just in the right place at the right time?) and the grief he feels over the loss of a 20-year-old cousin in Vietnam. He eventually finds an accepting partner in Frank Gleason’s daughter Wendy (Alexa Nikolas).
5) Sally: We haven’t seen much of Sally this season, but she popped back up in a major way when Megan left her alone and in charge of Bobby and Gene at the apartment. Enter disheveled yet kindly home invader Ida (Davenia McFadden), who actually manages to convince Sally she’s someone from Don’s past. Viewers could be forgiven for momentarily falling for the ruse as well. We know a lot more about Don’s childhood than Sally does, but would it really be surprising for any total stranger to turn up on his doorstep and say they knew him when? At least Sally probably gets another cute outfit out of the whole freaky encounter.
6) Cosgrove: The normally happy-go-lucky “Kenny” Cosgrove could be nearing his breaking point in Detroit, and literally did break (or injure) a leg in that Impala joy ride crash. Fortunately, it didn’t stop him from tap dancing up a storm outside Don’s office — as Dawn looked in on astonishment, wondering what the hell was going on.
7) Peggy: The merger has basically flipped Peggy’s world upside down, and now she’s sharing an office with Don, Ted and Stan. Between trying to console Ted, rebuff Stan’s advances and feeling alarmed over Don’s increasingly erratic behavior, Peggy’s worklife has clearly become far more complicated than she would prefer.
8) Sylvia: She tried to break it off with Don gracefully last week, but he apparently can’t take no for an answer. Instead, he lingers outside her apartment and tries to seduce her back when she calls his office. All Sylvia wanted was to enjoy her affair, but now she has to worry about Don doing something stupid and Arnold finding out. At least until the end of the episode, when it seems like Don has turned a corner and won’t even acknowledge her presence.
9) Ted: The most broken up about Frank Gleason’s death, Ted spent most of the episode in mourning and completely avoided Jim Cutler’s doctor. He came back to work on Monday with no idea of what transpired (“Half of this work is gibberish, Chevy is spelled wrong!”), but more reason than ever to be worried about the fragile merger. And there’s something going on with his wife that we don’t know about just yet.
10) Don: As with most “Mad Men” episodes, “The Crash” really comes down to Don, who appears to be spiraling out of control over the twin frustrations of Sylvia ending their relationship and Chevy’s fussy decision making process. Already battling a wicked cough, Dr. Hecht’s shot sends Don straight into orbit, flashing back to his time in the whorehouse when seemingly sweet prostitute Ms. Swenson (Megan Ferguson) nursed him through a cold and then molested him. She’s ultimately thrown out by Uncle Mack (for reasons not entirely clear but unrelated to Don), but not before she spills the beans about sleeping with young Don, who earns a beating from Abigail.
Back in the present and on a weekend high, Don can barely keep track of time but convinces himself he’s found the answer to the ad man’s version of the meaning of life. Everything Don says somehow makes sense to Ginsberg, but not to Peggy who can’t believe Don spent an entire weekend at the office without anything to show Chevy for it. Don bottoms out by collapsing in his apartment after hearing the news about Sally’s encounter with Ida, and reawakens as Don the artistic crusader — refusing to be a slave to the almighty dollar and taking himself off Chevy until they’re ready to accept an idea. “Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whorehouse!”
Falling off the index: Pete has been routinely vying with Don for season’s most miserable character but he only popped up for one very brief scene here, while it was another one of those entirely Joan-free episodes.