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New Show Recap: Mad Men, Season 6, Ep. 8 “The Crash”

This week on Mad Men we learn that even uppers cannot put Don Draper in a better mood or make him a likable person. Also, Betty’s skinny again, but we don’t get to see how that happened. Keeping with the theme of the episode, uppers? Anyway, here we go!

The first scene scared the crap out of me, as we see Ken with the Chevy execs in a car, all of them clearly drunk. One of them throws his hands over Ken’s eyes and the screen goes black and we hear a squeal and a crash. Thankfully, though, Ken suffers only a badly beaten up leg and the misfortune of being alive to deliver Chevy’s ridiculous three year schedule of deadlines to the SCDP/CGC creative department. The creatives immediately start yelling at him, but Ken isn’t having any of it and brandishes his cane at them to show that he’s not exactly having an easy time with Chevy either. That’s about all we get of Ken (sort of) but I’m just happy he’s alive.

It turns out to be a big weekend for the firm. Gleason (the G in CGC) has died of pancreatic cancer and the funeral is being held Saturday. The creative team will be working through the weekend to meet Chevy’s deadlines, but can attend the funeral if they wish. In order to help get some pep in the office workers, Cutler brings in a doctor who administers “B vitamin shots” to all takers. Takers of note include Stan, Don, Ken, Cutler, and the two CGC creatives whose names I don’t remember. Ted takes the weekend off to mourn, because he’s a decent person, and so does not partake. Neither do Peggy or Ginsberg.

Don definitely needs SOMETHING to pull him out of his funk because he’s taking Sylvia dumping him worse than your average 14-year-old. He’s lingering outside her door, leaving cigarette butts, and when she tells him to knock that shit off he begs to see her because he has a lot of emotions he needs to get out. She basically tells him to stop embarrassing himself. So Don goes and gets his “B vitamin” shot and instead of getting all creative and motivated, he gets more energetically moody. He keeps having flashbacks to his teenage years in a brothel when he was sick (note to Matthew Weiner: these scenes of Don’s “traumatic” childhood do not make the asshole walking around the screen now anymore sympathetic), and ranting about some past campaign about soup that will just break the whole thing open! Everyone in the office (except Peggy) thinks he’s talking about Chevy. He’s actually talking about convincing Sylvia to take him back. But three days later and some more very weird experiences later, he seems willing to let her go. Or at least stop pouting out loud.

Peggy gets to watch Don, Stan, and most of the rest of the creative team get further and further away from anything near productive, culminating in a scene where Ginsburg tries to throw an x-acto knife at a picture of an apple above Stan’s head. He misses. Peggy helps bandage Stan up and he kisses her, and confesses that his young cousin died in Vietnam and that he just wants to escape the pain. Peggy tries to tell him that you can’t run away from something like that, not even with drugs or sex, and while he takes her (extremely gentle) rejection kindly, he doesn’t take her words to heart. Later, Cutler spies on him having sex with Frank Gleason’s daughter and calls Peggy over to see. Peggy is miffed, though whether it’s because Stan went and had sex despite her advice or because his come-on to her is slightly cheapened now that she sees he just wanted to get laid is left vague.

Because this episode wasn’t weird enough already, we have to drag the children into it. It’s Don’s weekend with the kids, but he’s off being high at work and Megan has engagements to attend to, so Sally is left in charge of the boys. That night she hears a noise and discovers an older black woman sneaking around the apartment. The intruder spins a story that she’s Don’s mother, which Sally IMMEDIATELY questions, but then she smooths it over by explaining that she meant she RAISED Don Draper. And for a hot minute there, I thought this was the real Don Draper’s nanny and a whole bunch of shit was about to be blown sky high. But it turns out she’s just a remarkably well informed cat burglar who’s a good talker. Sally does try to call the police while she’s stealing Don’s watches, but the intruder takes the phone from her and talks the police down before scolding Sally. This whole sequence was kind of terrifying. The conclusion is when Don walks back into his apartment, high as a kite, and sees police standing around along with Betty and Henry. The thief was caught, so Don and Megan just have to go down to the station to identify their things, which I’m sure they’ll do after Don shakes off the mild concussion he gets when he face-plants into the carpet. Talk about a crash.

The episode ends with Ted looking over the weekend’s work and musing, “You guys even spelled “˜Chevy’ wrong.” Don then announces his intentions to only supervise Chevy and not actually do any real work because, “Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whorehouse,” because DO YOU GET IT, YOU GUYS? HE KEPT HAVING FLASHBACKS TO WHEN HE LIVED IN A WHOREHOUSE! This show is not nearly as clever as it thinks it is sometimes.

Highlights: the creative team acting out Alice in Wonderland, Ken tap-dancing on a hopefully not completely ruined leg, Bobby asking Sally, “Are we negroes?” in the tone of voice one would ask “are we out of milk?” Sally pointing out to her father that she couldn’t know the intruder was lying because she literally knows nothing about Don’s childhood.

Lowlights: Of all the people we saw on mysterious, amphetamine-like drugs, Roger Sterling was not one of them. Shame on you, show.

Animated gif from Mad Men of Ken tap-dancing (greatly sped up), captioned "IT'S MY JOB!"
It’s even more glorious sped up.

 

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5 thoughts on “New Show Recap: Mad Men, Season 6, Ep. 8 “The Crash””

  1. > note to Matthew Weiner: these scenes of Don’s “traumatic” childhood do not make the asshole walking around the screen now anymore sympathetic

    Why the quote marks around traumatic? He got raped (I definitely didn’t see any consent in that scene).

    1. I’m not sure how to edit (or if you can), so replying to myself.

      I’ve been thinking about how it is near impossible to say that Don didn’t have a traumatic childhood:
      * His mother died giving birth to him
      * He saw his father die when he was kicked by a horse. This father also regularly beat him
      * He was then raised by his step mother, who called him “whore child”

      Then he joined the army, went to Korea and saw the real Don Draper die.

      1. You’re right. I shouldn’t have put the quotation marks in. I think my frustration stems from the idea that his past should make him a sympathetic character regardless of how he acts currently. I have a lot of sympathy for young Don Draper/Dick Whitman and what he went through, because it was awful and traumatic. That doesn’t make me any more sympathetic to current Don Draper and the way he treats his wife, his children, his co-workers, or basically anyone around him who isn’t him. Having an awful upbringing isn’t an excuse for being a terrible person.

        1. Thanks for replying!

          > I think my frustration stems from the idea that his past should make him a sympathetic character regardless of how he acts currently.

          Sadly, it seems that people mostly act by example. Howver, I agree with your overall view. Current Don doesn’t do anything to endear himself to sympathy. His past isn’t an excuse he can use for his behaviour, but at the same time it is a reason why he acts the way he does.

    2. Yes! Thank you for acknowledging the rape scene, which I haven’t seen acknowledged in any recaps/reviews so far. I agree with Genevieve that these flashbacks aren’t making him particularly more sympathetic but they are shedding light on his character. The fact that his first sexual experience was an assault, was later qualified as an economic transaction and resulted in him getting a beating adds some layers to his sexuality.

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