Commentary

Episode 608: "The Crash: She's My Mother/ She's My Sister/ Don Gets His Heart Examined."

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 8Peggy: “That was very inspiring. Do you have any idea what the idea is?”

Called “The Crash,” this week’s episode reflected a fresh focus for Mad Men: Whores and death and death and whores. (Kidding. About the refreshing part.)

What was new and unexpected, however, was that form followed function: Just like the tweaked out speed trip it was intended to depict, the episode felt all high and low, artificially amped, but also, at times, to use a Sixties term, like a huge “downer.”

Did I like it? Not really. But I admired it.

I give Weiner and the writers points for having the cojones to go with such a deconstructed form. (They showed that they had inside -baseball-balls as well, in that many of the jokes felt self-referential.)

advertisement

advertisement

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 8Even though it mined familiar territory (more whore flashbacks!), Don’s story did go deeper, exposing his history more poignantly than ever before. Thus, the episode felt scary, chaotic and abjectly empty at times. For so long, we lost Don to a nether world dream/fever/fugue/speed state; meatime, in the real world, no grown up was in charge.

If there was an overriding theme, it was about what happens to children who do not have adults to take proper care of them, and adults who act like children. Given the kids-are-not–all-right theme, the episode was also about the very upsetting loss of innocence—for little Dick, Sally, and Wendy, the I Ching girl.

It’s never fun to see a molestation/deflowering scene with an underage kid, and even worse to see with the awkward young Dick, (sorry, that’s his name) “seeing what the fuss is all about” right after being spoon-fed chicken soup by kindhearted prostitute Aimee. In her housecoat-like getup, she offered him the only act of maternal nurture he ever got as a child.

To follow that tender act with the sexual one (shall we call it a rape?) was the most painfully literal illustration of a Madonna-whore scene that I’ve ever seen. But it delivered Don’s ROSEBUD moment!

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 8See, he’s mixed up! Madonna/whore, whore/Madonna, Don can’t just call the whole thing off!

Yes, the mothering/devirginizing was with a woman who had a black beauty mark on her face, and wore a babushka, just like Sylvia! Then he got violently beaten with a wooden spoon, in a kitchen closet(!) by his stepmother, who also resembles Sylvia.  And then he created an ad with a mother who knows what her baby son wants, and she too had a black beauty mark and wore the headwrap!

More Madonna/whore: When Cosgrove did the amazing tap dance, Don asked him where he learned it. He said, “My mother. No, my first girlfriend.”

Don can’t separate mother nurture from sex. Thus, he is destroyed when Sylvia rejects him. It reawakens all the pain he’s never allowed himself to feel while fucking his way through all those mistresses on automatic pilot. I have more respect for the doctor’s wife as an ex than an active mistress. She might be screaming like a fishwife inside her kitchen, but she’s acting like a grown-up with the increasingly unhinged, mooning, leaving–butts-outside-her-door Don.

The episode clearly showed the difference between the other adults and Don, as well. When Ted’s partner died, he took the weekend to be a human being, pay his respects and mourn his loss, work notwithstanding. Had he been at the agency, he would have acted like a parental unit, and come out with some usable work, not gibberish that even misspelled Chevy.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 8Similarly, Peggy has moved on from Don. She did the proper thing, and attended the funeral,dressed in black, with a pill box hat, like a Kennedy widow.  And then she came in to work. When she finally rebuffed Stan’s overture, she showed that she has grown a lot since the days of Pete. She tells Stan to feel his pain, not avoid it through sex and drugs. That’s the opposite of the advice Don gave her, during the time of her own breakdown and loss, when he said she should “forget this ever happened.”

I am so sad about Sally, who is, to paraphrase the Chevy discussion about kids getting cars from their parents, “the child who is father to the man.” Her mother is a self-involved baby.

Betty complains about Megan treating her like the “hired hand,” but offers more insults than actual care to the girl. Blonde, but still slightly plump, Mother Betty is the one who treats her daughter like the hired help.

That’s why it was so upsetting to see her left in charge of the apartment and her brothers at such a tender age for this lost weekend. It clearly underscores that Don, in his hugely damaged way, is merely repeating the same neglectful pattern with his own kids, and that’s a horror.  He is abjectly negligent this season. (As an aside, he had no thought about the safety of his own family when he left the back door of his apartment open, in the hopes that Mrs. Rosen might sneak in.)

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 8As for “Grandma Ida,”  I didn’t think Weiner  would have the chutzpah to combine that many stereotypes in one to make the thief a black mammy type. (Realistically, a well-dressed white person has a much better chance of wandering around a Park Ave. doorman building  unnoticed.)

So when she showed up, I wasn’t sure whether Sally was dreaming or not, since in a previous episode last season, Don had a fever dream in which an ex-girlfriend came in the kitchen door, and he ended up having sex with her, then killing her.

Let’s face it, the greatest line of the night was Bobby asking, “Are we Negroes? But Ida put her finger on what was wrong with almost everyone in the cast this week when she told the police “those children ought to be in bed and they ain’t too well behaved.” If anything, Sally acts too well behaved, too brave and nice and trusting.

The scene was really scary, especially when Ida took the phone away. She could have tied them up and killed them. (And it’s pretty funny that Bobby is the young Weiner, interested only in whether he can watch TV.)

Too bad that Betty had to take even that traumatic moment for the kids and turn it into a victory lap for herself, putting down Megan’s casting couch, etc. Henry running for public office is her concern, not the nightmarish trauma that Sally has gone through.

Another thing that got me furious: Both Megan and Sally apologize to Don that it happened! The only reason it happened was because he was the inexcusably negligent parent.

TMad Men Season 6 Episode 8hey all think he cares about his kids enough to faint at the news of the robbery, but it has not one iota to do with his kids. It has everything to do with coming down from his speed jag of obsessing over Sylvia and how to “get his foot in the door” with her. Over the course of the weekend, breaking through to Sylvia gets conflated with breaking through, “getting in the room” with the Chevy  client.

In the end, he is rejected by both of them. So Don does the only thing he knows how to do: starch his collar, button up his shirt, Brylcream the hair, and put on the armor -- and reject them back. Before that, of course, we got his ultimate line about whoredom: “Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whore house.” 

But in MM, the whole advertising industry is a metaphor for whoredom. And that makes it even more ridiculous that so many actual advertisers  (a car and an airline) use Hamm’s most stentorian voice in their own commercials. What a lack of creativity! Weiner might have been getting at that with Don’s line bout the “timber of my voice being as important as the content.”

Don’s reaction is not exactly a recipe for success.  So that’s why I’ve got Sonny and Cher in my ear right now. I’m hearing, “You better sit down, kids.” But how genius was it that an episode that was all about kids ends with a song from the Mamas and the Papas?

 

 

 

 

 

 

31 comments about "Episode 608: "The Crash: She's My Mother/ She's My Sister/ Don Gets His Heart Examined."".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, May 20, 2013 at 10:07 p.m.

    My head is still spinning from this episode ("Dick"). If the undertones and themes weren't so sad, it would have been a fun romp and the last line about "whorehouse" would have been a great closing joke. But I'm totally struck by Sally telling her own father she hardly knows him. In the pacing and the timing, I almost believed when she said she was Don's Grandma. Looking ahead to how things must ultimately end, will it be anything but disaster for most of the principals?

  2. larry price from tmpg, May 21, 2013 at 11:10 a.m.

    Dear Barbara- great stuff as always. At first I thought the thief was some connection to the real, original, Don Draper. Thanks always, Larry

  3. Thomas Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA, May 21, 2013 at 11:14 a.m.

    Kinda feeling, honestly, that the show's lost its way this season, getting repetitive and misfocused. We're eight episodes in and there's only been one Great one, with far too much Don and his increasingly annoying self-centric angst coming at the expense of everybody else's screen time -- not nearly enough Joan, Roger, even Pete.

    This latest entry felt like a bunch of smart people desperately spinning their wheels but not knowing which direction they're heading and trying to buy time. It reminded me, in context if not content, of several Sopranos episodes in the last seasons, where they were just playing out the HBO string for money, already knowing how it was going to end; like when Tony got shot and went in a coma for a month, or when he traveled into the desert and did peyote. You'd think maybe there'll be a revelation for him but there never was.

    "Mad Men," which was always heavily laden with existential ennui, at least used to have enough of the zip, verve and crackling fun that makes advertising a decent place to sell out but still enjoy life. Now it just feels like a drag. Maybe they'll pull out of it somehow in the final string of episodes, but this season six is far and away the worst of series to date. It's depressing (on both a micro and macro level) and becoming a bit of a chore.

  4. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, May 21, 2013 at 11:23 a.m.

    Barbara, as head-scratching as this episode was, I was enthralled by it. Perhaps the "booster" shot Don and staff were injected with was also used regularly by creatives at Leo Burnett, which might explain how they came up with Pop'n Fresh, the Jolly Green Giant and the various animated characters used to sell Kellogg's cereals! (However, I think last year's episode depicting Roger's acid trip seemed more realistic.) Finally, I didn't get the sense that "I-Ching girl" was an adolescent; I figured she was 19 or 20.

  5. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 21, 2013 at 11:44 a.m.

    @Tom-- interesting that you make the Sopranos connection; (Weiner was one of the writers, and actually wrote the coma series, my least favorite part!)I thought there were a couple of Sopranosesque in jokes in this one: the joy ride with GM seemed right out of the Pine Barrens Episode. And the way that Cutler and Roger sat around waiting for news, playing chess, was just like Tony's guys behind the meat store playing cards! Then Roger said to Don, "Your face looks like a bag of walnuts." (Paulie Walnuts, anyone?)

  6. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 21, 2013 at 11:45 a.m.

    @Larry-- yeah, I also thought that about the original Don Draper. But what are the chances? Just so odd that he made her a black mammy type making chicken and eggs! So chicken and eggs: discuss!

  7. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 21, 2013 at 11:46 a.m.

    @Rob-- yeah, she could have been 19 or so. But still, she was just back from her father's funeral. And the way Cutler was watching through the door was so creepy and upsetting!
    What did we think of all the "door" references?

  8. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, May 21, 2013 at 12:12 p.m.

    chicken and eggs----orthodox and didn't eat bacon...had poultry on the farm and the pig died.......
    no lox either, the salmon ran out...............but the age-old question: did they eat the chicken before the eggs.....................................this was a most ridiculous episode, but ya gotta give weiner credit for doing what he wants to do.......clearly he ain't got no client to answer to...........maybe it's time to bring some actors from the sopranos in for an episode or two...............sal coming back would help the show...and betty and her candidate would be more fun that watching imbeciles try to do auto campaigns...............
    i keep waiting for september 1968 to hit as that was the year i got a copy job at BBDO on 46th and madison....now a hideous glass building, but at the time a 12 story splendid stone palace right across from the ad lib bar.......seemed like a pretty staid place to me......

  9. Lydia Estrada from Lydia Estrada Media Services, May 21, 2013 at 12:51 p.m.

    I loved it for the fear (was right there with Sally in that room and terrified for her), hilarity and sadness it provoked. The hour actually felt long. I am a sucker for understanding Don and his plight, but I do want the show to move on to others, namely Joan. Thought the scene of Cosgrove was classic representation of client-agency abuse and misuse of power. It is dejecting to realize a dream (car account) only to have it become your worst nightmare.

  10. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 21, 2013 at 12:56 p.m.

    @Lydia-- yes. I didn't get a chance to get into that dance (it has become a really popular GIF around the internet.) But it's more of Weiner's foot fetish! Poor Cosgrove got his foot wounded in that crazy joy ride, and then he had to dance, dance, monkey!

  11. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 21, 2013 at 1:34 p.m.

    http://getglue.com/conversation/Clairetastic/2013-05-20T20:04:06Z

  12. Larry steven Londre from Londre Marketing Consultants, LLC and USC, May 21, 2013 at 2:11 p.m.

    You didn't bring up two important things: The "special" vitamin shots, reference Dr. Feelgood --- Check out http://www.nysun.com/out-and-about/dr-feelgood/20251/

    Vega and Nova: And I did a little research on the "new" Chevy... It was probably the Vega, which had problems of oil-burning, overheating, rust and an under powered engine. Just more than 1.9 million Vegas were made from 1970 to 1977 in GM’s plant in Lordstown, Ohio. While it wasn't a perfect episode match, I thought about the Chevrolet Chevy II/Nova (Many Marketing classes would mention the problem with the name--- NoVa---No Go. It was a compact built by the Chevrolet division of GM produced from the 1962 -1979, and 1985 - 1988 model years. Nova, a top model in the Chevy II lineup through 1968. The Chevy II nameplate was dropped; Nova became the name from 1969 -1979. Built on the X-body platform, the Nova was replaced by the '80 Chevrolet Citation, introduced in 1979.
    The episodes from three and two weeks ago were two of the best; wasn't that fond of this week. Really disliked the implications of the Negro Grandma Ida character, and the family meeting. I thought it started as a dream too. Seemed so unreal, to me.

  13. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 21, 2013 at 2:38 p.m.

    Thanks, Larry. Didn't have time to get into the whole "vitamin" shot thing, Very interesting! and they went from the Shoot em up GM guys (which made no sense) to the shoot 'em up doc, asking all the employees to pull down their pants.
    Everybody is vulnerable to the shots!

  14. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, May 21, 2013 at 5 p.m.

    Barbara, I agree, Cutler lasciviously watching was creepy, and even more so when he called Peggy over to observe. And in my earlier comments I forgot to applaud the choice of Sergio Mendes' "Going Out of My Head" in the scene where Don listened to it playing on the radio in Sylvia's kitchen as he stood outside her apartment.

  15. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 21, 2013 at 5:40 p.m.

    yes. music choices were totally inspired on this one.

  16. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc., May 21, 2013 at 5:54 p.m.

    Since it's a personal crusade of mine, and since it came up in Larry's comment, just want to point out that the Chevy Nova myth is just that. "Nova" means the same thing in Spanish that it means in English, a bright star that suddenly appears in the sky. "No go" would be very bad, very ignorant Spanish. The Nova was a hit in Spanish-speaking countries, not a failure. GM checked out the name in numerous languages before adopting it. Cute story, but false. See: http://www.snopes.com/business/misxlate/nova.asp

  17. Dyann Espinosa from IntraStasis, May 21, 2013 at 5:55 p.m.

    Barbara,
    Your writing and your insights have made me watch Mad Men again. Just to have a context for your articles and comments.
    Plus, your turnaround time from airing to article is a real feat!

  18. Mickey Lonchar from Quisenberry, May 21, 2013 at 6:02 p.m.

    Weiner & Co. were terrific in the early seasons in keeping the Draper characterm an enigma. At various times, we were led to admire him, pity him or despise him. This season, however, there is no such nuance. Don's a scumbag. He's a shitty father, a lascivious husband, a self-absorbed narcissist, a boss from hell and now, it appears, a hack of an adman, resting on his laurels. The introduction of the Ted character brings this into clear focus. No longer does the excuse 'that's who admen are' hold water. Ted is the anti-Don. Hard to envision Draper redeeming himself any time soon.

    http:www.quisenblog.com

  19. George Parker from Parker Consultants, May 21, 2013 at 6:12 p.m.

    @Barbara... I read your reviews of Mad Men religiously, even though, I have to confess I stopped watching the show a long tima ago when it stopped being about advertising and turned into an afternoon soap with a lot more sex and psychiatry. You may all rave about Mr. Weiner's writing expertise, but it is obvious he has never worked in advertising. Then again, I assume he was never in the mafia. Once again proving, after a three martini lunch, I have no idea what the fuck I am talking about.
    Cheers/George "AdScam" Parker

  20. Larry steven Londre from Londre Marketing Consultants, LLC and USC, May 21, 2013 at 6:21 p.m.

    The replies had been really good this week, ironic since it was not a favorite episode for some, including me. After bad father and husband, I find Don such a disgusting creative now. I have developed a section on my website regarding Mad Men in the classroom. It's at http://www.LondreMarketing.com/using_mad_men.php All the Mad Men best.

  21. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc., May 21, 2013 at 7:36 p.m.

    The rare miss in MadManLandia. We all needed shots to suspend so much disbelief.

    Still, like a car wreck, just can't turn away...

  22. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, May 22, 2013 at 8:27 a.m.

    calling a car nova is not so good...all i picture is a guy at zabar's constantly being told to "slice it thin"
    My guess is that they thought it sounded like "novo" or new in Latin....as in "et antiquam documentum, novo cedat ritui".....i worked for a guy from detroit (carl ally) who hated the detroit way of doing advertising.....he suggested once to fiat that since GM and Ford are naming things after european places, maybe Fiat should introduce the Fiat Deerborn to compete with the Monte Carlo....

  23. Jonathan McEwan from MediaPost, May 22, 2013 at 2:49 p.m.

    First, the car has to be the Vega. It hasn't launched yet. They are putting the guys through their paces and they referenced the car not launching for a year or two. Vega launches in 1970.

    As usual, you're write up always see things I miss. I did see a huge parenting thing going on, role reversals, handing the keys to the car to the kids. I did notice that the woman in the oatmeal ad knows what you need and looks just like Sylvia. But I think sometimes shock overwhelms and an obvious symbol gets overlooked. Grandma Ida. A complete stranger. Claiming to have raised Don... You didn't mention that it all seems nuts and it's because it's all about identity. AND she steps in as the ultimate ludicrous symbol of maternity. What white kid would ask "Are we negroes?" It's all to punch home an audacious point. Don's twisted mom issues. Didn't he leave the back door open for Sylvia, his other mom substitute, Madonna/whore? Going into the bedroom and robbing him blind. He has four watches... Had four watches. I want to replay the episode and watch all those feverish pitch lines they throw out in the brainstorming session. So many were about parents giving kids cars. Or maybe parents giving themselves speed. Since that's what the shots were that set the insanity in motion. Cars. Speed. Women. Moms. And kids in danger... Can't wait for next week.

  24. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc., May 22, 2013 at 7:13 p.m.

    With respect, I doubt many outside of New Yorkers would have any idea what Zabar's is or "nova" for that matter. And as long as we're on it, "Vega" means "meadow" in Spanish, and meadows "don't go" either.

  25. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, May 22, 2013 at 8:18 p.m.

    with double respect, i was joking---part of the joke being all the world is the upper west side.....and when i hear the word (nova) first thing i think of is smoked salmon........that star thing can't be the reason they chose the name....best guess is someone thought it meant "new".......new at the time being the favorite of car makers....ALL NEW FOR 1969.....and other folderol
    las vegas of course is a cruel joke on someone looking for meadows until steve wynn built shadow creek....the mormons, i am told, abandoned vegas once the summer rolled in and headed for utah....only coming back when howard hughes trusted them to run his casinos...senator reid notwithstanding

  26. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 23, 2013 at 10:49 a.m.

    Yes, Tom-- I think you are right that they thought it meant "new." Bossa Nova, anyone?
    @Jonathan-- all about speed a great insight. passing the keys to the next generation-- and what were these elders giving them?
    As for Grandma Ida, I'm sure the writers wanted to drill home the point that Sally had no idea who her father was. But that character was such a massive diversion that any kid, even one who knew her Dad's story well, would be thrown for a loop by her.
    I guess chicken/egg is a form of life cycle, like child/parent.

  27. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc., May 23, 2013 at 1:14 p.m.

    Tom, you were joking? Is my face salmon-colored!

  28. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 24, 2013 at 11:06 a.m.

    One more thing I forgot to include: the kids were watching "The Prisoner" a TV show in which individual identities were replaced by a number.
    Very clever.
    Plus, I was worrying that "Grandma Ida" would hold the kids prisoner!

  29. Bob Batchelor from Cultural Historian and Writer, May 25, 2013 at 8:40 p.m.

    I guess I am in the minority. I enjoyed the episode and its postmodernism, which seems to fit the era. Also, it caught the "run like hell" paces that we have all been put through by clients who want to see us dance...(wish there were more Cosgrove time, actually, I like his character...what happened to the short story writer?)

    Looking forward to tomorrow night's episode and Barbara's write-up...always awesome!

  30. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 26, 2013 at 4:33 p.m.

    Cosgrove tap dancing, rather well too, in front of the only "negro" in the office ? No problem ? Thought the drug up the ass for 3 days was a bit much even for MM. As for the car client, let's remember with what Cosgrove came back from Detroit - a 3 year calendar of demands for deadlines, no ads, just deadlines. And Carter remarked how well they are getting paid for it. If anyone has ever had auto clients, it was the auto mentality. They had money to burn with a superiority complex. Local automotive had (and still has to a degree) demand attitudes since they held deep pockets to keep publishers publishing and agencies to tickle. As for Sylvia, how many women said no to Don with something to lose ? Her husband leaves her and she has no financial resources. Since Don knows he can bed without fed to his pleasure, what calls him to her ? Does she disappear from his life, take her own or comes back for repeat performances looking more like women in his past than his present ? (Note; I had a 1974 Nova. The worst car with the worst carburetor causing other problems on end and finally blew up.)

  31. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 26, 2013 at 5:34 p.m.

    Bob-- yes, I was wondering about Cosgrove's literary career as well. Figured he'd be off writing full time by now, a regular Mailer.
    And welcome back, Paula Lynn! We missed you.
    Wanted to add one more thing about the Madonna /whore experience: (is that a good name for a band, btw?) he was "spoon-fed" mother love, then sex, and then his stepmother beat him with a spoon. From loving to deadly spoonful!

Next story loading loading..