Mad Men Recap: Amphetamines

On Sunday night’s episode of Mad Men “The Crash,” things fall apart for the creative team at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce/Cutler Gleason and Chaough; Jim Cutler calls upon a doctor to boost the team’s focus on the Chevy account; and Don Draper has flashbacks of his sordid past.

I don’t know if it’s possible to have been anything but speechless after last night’s Mad Men. The chaotic nature of episode 8, appropriately named “The Crash,” has changed everything the viewers know about Don, but changed nothing at the ad agency.

Over three days, the creative team at the yet-to-be-named Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce/Cutler Gleason and Chaough mash-up completely collapsed. We still know nothing about Jim Cutler, the mysterious executive sporting thick-rimmed glasses, who, as far as we know, had the same job as Roger Sterling when he was at CGC. Cutler, however, was the key to all things unstable in this episode after he had a “doctor” come by to administer a shot of “vitamins” that offers 24-72 hours of absolute focus.

Amphetamines. Duh.

Peggy and Ginsberg chose to not engage in the mystery amphetamine shot, and the show offers a disorderly collection of shots that take us from Peggy’s innocent and healthy attitude in life to Don’s spiraling high — time-loss included. Each scene is short, with hardly a few lines of dialogue. Somehow the episode toggles between day and night almost seamlessly, and in the middle of it we realize we’re just as lost as the incredibly drugged-up staff at the agency.

As viewers, we know the goal of the amphetamines was to induce focus so the agency could create a campaign for Chevy (the factor that merged the agencies in the first place), and we are already greeted with the harsh reality that the agency might not be cut out to write for Chevy. Every idea so far has been turned down and almost everyone at the agency is burdened by the rejection.

Unfortunately, the creative team accomplishes nothing but “gibberish,” as Ted Chaough calls it,(one of the ads even misspelled “Chevy”). So, at the end of the three days, it’s fair to say the agency has accomplished nothing creative.

Our mysterious Don Draper has continued to unfold before us. The initial teaser for the season, labeled “episode 0,” by AMC, promised the audience more details about Don’s past throughout this season. Thankfully, Matthew Weiner, the producer of Mad Men, has kept his word. Steadily, starting with episode 1, we’ve gotten short flashbacks to Don’s early adolescence when he moved into a brothel.

Don’s amphetamine buzz carried us through a number of stages, from incredibly hyped to extraordinarily self-righteous, but the majority of time-lapses were filled with elaborate flashbacks of Don overcoming a chest cold in the brothel, eventually losing his virginity to a prostitute. Not consensually.

The episode ends on a terrifying note when Sally Draper, Don’s daughter, is left to babysit her brothers Jean and Bobby. While reading Rosemary’s Baby (great choice, Sally!), a mysterious women lets herself into the Draper apartment and starts rifling around, asking questions and fudging answers to make herself seem familiar.

Considering the elaborate flashbacks Don has had of his time living in a home of so many women, the viewer is temporarily tricked into her game as well. Within minutes it’s clear that the woman is no friend, but poor Sally can’t do anything to end it. At the end of it, she realizes that she knows nothing about her dad. Honestly, does anyone?

Don, who spent the majority of his 3 days blacking out and creating too many awful plans (not at all chevy-related) at once, mainly trying to get Sylvia Rosen back into his life – returns home to an intervention-like welcoming. He finds out about the woman breaking in — and he collapses. Just one more scene adding to the episode’s name, “the Crash.”

Eventually, Don essentially resigns himself on the Chevy campaign, assuming his role of a creative director who strictly manages the creative team without being directly involved in the brainstorming, Ted Chaough is not pleased, and Don simply replies

“Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whore house.”

This post was originally written for SWAY the blog

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