Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review: Mad Men "The Crash"

Non Spoiler Review:
The Crash is this season's experimental episode, as Jim's doctor arrives to give everyone a boost to handle a weekend creative session on the Chevy campaign. Don continues to pine for Sylvia, which completely diverts his energies from the account, leaving Sally to babysit her brothers while Megan runs off to a play.

Despite the breakup, Sylvia continues to weight heavily on Don (and the show). This week's episode started out odd and grew increasingly bizarre to the point that I was ready to throw in the towel. But the second half really saved it by showing some great moments among creative, further Don flashbacks, and a scary moment for Sally and her brothers.

The Crash wasn't one of the best by any means, but it shows some transition in Don and the consequences those around him are beginning to feel as a result of his affair. It's still unclear where we're going to end up at the finale, but now Mad Men at least feels like it's going somewhere.

Spoilers Now!
Don hovers outside of Sylvia's apartment, listening to them inside and leaving his cigarette butts on the floor. He later sits in a meeting with Ted, Jim and Roger. Ken arrives, walking with a cane as a result of a drunken joyride Chevy took him on after dismissing the new creative for the campaign. With nerves fried, Ted and Don berate him despite that he nearly got killed. It appears the agency has signed up for three years of endless creative with Chevy. Jim just likes the fact they're paying them.

Dr. Rosen is on the phone for Don. It's actually Sylvia, angry with him for loitering in the hallway after Arnie saw all his cigarette butts. Arnie thinks she's smoking again. She asks him to just try and be happy that he got away with it. She wants to be able to trust him now that it's over, but now she wonders how she ever trusted him at all. If he ever cared, he has to stop. Don is feeling emotions too and just wants to talk about a few things, but she won't hear of it. Sylvia tells him he loved Megan once, and hangs up.

Don throws the phone, then begins coughing. He flashes back to a similar coughing fit when he and his stepmother were living in the brothel. They order him to sleep in the cellar until his fever breaks, but one of the prostitutes, Amée, takes him into her room to care for him instead.

Jim interrupts Don's nap to let him know Frank has died. As a result Ted won't be able to work with creative over the weekend to come up with a new campaign for Chevy. Peggy wants to attend the funeral but makes herself available. Jim brings his personal doctor to the office to check over everyone, including Don, and give out some shots—his specialty energy serum, which he explains is a complex vitamin dose. Jim Cutler tells him they need 72 hours of uninterrupted creative focus. 

Afterwards, Don begins coughing again, and while on the stairs spies Peggy consoling Ted in her office, with her hand on his arm. Don starts to lose his grip on reality, thinking he knows Ted's secretary from somewhere other than work. He goes on to tell Ken that he needs to be in the pitch meeting to deliver it. Ken, wired on the shot, begins tap dancing and declares he's just Chevy's toy, then walks away without his cane. Don returns to the creative meeting where the majority of them, aside from Michael and Peggy, are high on the doctor's vitamin juice. Don gives them a pep talk but Peggy isn't buying it. 

The memory of Amée seems to inspire Don. He returns to find everyone back from the funeral. There's a young girl named Wendy reading their fortunes. Peggy asks Don if he's slept, but he wants her to remember a soup account they did at Sterling Cooper in 1959, but she doesn't remember. Don realizes it's Saturday. Peggy tells Jim he's made a mess of him.

Don goes to his office to find Wendy in there. She explains he was getting some ice for their drink to watch the sun set. He tells her he's on a deadline. She listens to his heart with a stethoscope and says it's broken. 

The kids are with Megan for the weekend as Don calls to advise her he's still at work. She has to leave, as she is supposed to be at a play. He promises to be home soon. Megan asks Sally to babysit her brothers. 

Don returns home but only hovers outside Sylvia's door again and lightly knocks. He hears music inside from the radio and falls asleep with his ear against the door.

Stan is wounded in some office shenanigans, so when Peggy tends to him in her office he starts making out with her, despite her asking him to stop. She protests she has a boyfriend, but the two begin kissing. He explains his cousin was killed in action. She suggests he has to let himself feel loss, not dampen it with drugs and sex.

Sally comes out of her room to find a black woman in the house who tells her she's just visiting. She informs her she's her grandma, though not really. She just raised her daddy. She was looking for a serving plate to make him fried chicken. She calls her over to give a hug to her grandma Ida and wants to know who else is in the house. Sally has never heard of her. Ida asks if her father is Donald Draper. Sally goes over and gives her a hug and tells her her little brothers are there too. Ida asks when they'll be home. 

Don finds the soup campaign he was looking for in archives, and it mirrors Amée giving him soup when he was sick. His fever had broken and she asked if he liked girls. She then proceeded to seduce him, telling him not to worry, she'll do everything. The soup campaign says "Because you know what he needs".

Ida is rummaging through the house as Bobby comes out asking who she is. Sally explains it's grandma Ida. Ida says she once gave Don a gold watch, and she got him a new band for it. Bobby tells her there are several in the drawer. While she's gone Sally calls the police but Ida grabs the phone and explains they were playing a joke. Ida tells her she hurt her feelings and she's going out for some air, and when she comes back they had better be sleeping. 

Don types up a new pitch and calls in Peggy and Michael to hear it. His message is what holds people together—a history. If the strategy is successful, he says it's way bigger than just a car. It's everything. Peggy wonders if he's been working on Chevy at all. He has to go and leaves. Peggy finds Jim at the door of Stan's office, watching Stan have sex with Wendy. Peggy says she's going home.

Don arrives at the apartment, muttering the lines he'll pitch to Sylvia. But he finds Megan, the police, Betty, Henry and the kids. Betty tells him he left his children at home while an elderly negro woman held them hostage and robbed him blind. She came through the back door, which was left open. She robbed a bunch of places in the building, but the police think they caught her and need him to ID his things. Betty continues to berate him. Don collapses.

In his flashback, Dick witnesses Amée berated by her pimp for holding out on him, and she admits she took Dick's virginity. His stepmother proceeds to beat him and calls him disgraceful. Don wakes up. Megan empathizes with his reaction and apologizes for leaving Sally with the kids. In the morning Don heads down in the elevator, only to have Sylvia get in at her floor. She asks how he is. Busy, he replies. They say nothing the ride down and he gets out. 

Don calls Sally to tell her he's okay. He assures her Ida fooled plenty of adults too, but Sally realizes she doesn't know anything about her father given how easy she believed her. She did everything right, he says, and Don confesses to her he left the door open and it was all his fault. 

Don and Jim go in to see Ted, who is back in the office. Don learns Wendy was Frank's daughter. Ted is irate at the Chevy work from the weekend which is mostly gibberish. Don tells Ted he'll need to do this himself. Every time they get a car this place turns into a whorehouse, he says, and leaves.

The Verdict:
The Crash was messy and awkward, but I'm assuming that was the whole point. I'm left very confused by the overall craziness of it—from Ken's car accident and the unusually nonchalant way the others dismiss him when he could have been killed, to Sally's bizarre encounter with Ida, which could have been as much drug-inspired as everything going on at the agency.

Don's loosening grip on reality got a jolt with the entire office being high on speed. He's far more wrapped up in Sylvia than I thought. Did the threat he put his children under break through to him at last? Probably not. I don't really get the cold shoulder he showed Sylvia in the elevator as any more than Don exerting his authority rather than actually moving forward.

Stan and Peggy's scene was a nice acknowledgement of their attraction for one another. Whether this goes anywhere, though, is doubtful. Peggy seems hooked on the idea of staying with Abe.

Are we to take anything from Don's persistent coughing? Is he going to be diagnosed with something potentially life threatening in the finale? Either that, or the affair will be blown wide open, as well, as Sylvia made a valid point—Don should be happy that he got away with it.

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