Need an hour-long commercial for “your brain on drugs?”
The result? Gibberish.
But wait. It’s not their fault! They were under the influence, as AMC features a peculiar Public Service Announcement: “This is your brain… This is your brain on drugs.”
Yes indeed, let’s give a round of applause to the hurricane of happenings thanks to a hypodermic in the gluteus maximus, administered to select staff at SCDPCGC.
As Don drops his drawers, what perfect timing for Doctor No Problem to needle him about the agency’s lack of name. Identity issues as you take one in the back door for Chevy? Or should I say the back seat? Is the merger jostling the Dick-Don fusion as he (or they) struggle anew as a combined entity? Might we have back door symbolism a-plenty this episode?
Madison Avenue, Prepare for a Crash Landing!
Drunken joy ride in an Impala? Expect a crash.
High on speed? Um, make that “B vitamins and steroids.” Expect a crash.
High-jinks of many sorts? Expect a crash.
And speaking of crashing, Kenny’s behind the wheel but not in control in the opening scene, as a carload of drunken Chevy clients causes an accident. Hmmm. Any takers on that one as a theme for the late sixties?
Still, how can we not love Kenny doing a Vaudevillian soft shoe with his post-wreck bum leg? What about Jim Cutler, racing through the corridors? And Stan with his back up against a wall, an apple illustration over his head, and taking one in the arm for the team – a sharp pen that is, in a game of office dagger throwing?
Don on Drugs
Don on drugs?
Scary stuff. Then again, might there be a kernel of a campaign in his rant about history? Listen up, auto fans: We all have a history and we can’t escape it. We all have history and it drives everything. We all have needs (for a Chevy?) and they’re driving us crazy.
History is certainly bubbling up in Don’s delirium, as we wonder about Sylvia’s head scarf habits triggering recollections of an old ad of a mother serving her son soup, and time travels to ministrations from a very friendly prostitute.
Flash to adolescent Dick, congested and coughing. Blonde, beauty-marked Momma-Stand-In tucks him in her bed, spoon feeds him broth, then schools him in succor with a less motherly mambo.
Shall we add that his stepmother humiliates him in front of the other working girls? Not only does she berate him, but she beats him with a large… wait for it… wooden spoon!
So just how many ideas can you generate for Chevy when you’re drugged?
Stan manages to rack up 666 suggestions; is the Devil cheering them on? Peggy stays sober, but gives in to a sensual smooch from Stan. Ah, but idle your engines, Peggy My Girl. He doesn’t want you, he’ll take anyone. He gets his on-site action from the hippie girl Cutler invites around.
Don? He’s fixated on that blue head wrap and beauty mark – the one that’s like Sylvia’s, whom he’s semi-stalking (and pining for) outside her back door.
So what’s Don’s problem? The double dose of rejection – first Sylvia, then Chevy nixing the agency’s ideas? The resemblance between his ex-mistress and a motherly whore who initiated him into “what the fuss is all about?” May I admit I’m wearying of flashbacks to Don’s Non-Mommie Dearest? And the whoring metaphor? We get it already. Too much of a good (bad) thing is still… too much.
The Not So Cozy Home Front
Mini-flash of my own: Megan as stepmother versus Don’s nasty excuse for a caretaker. Naturally, abuse and disregard are not equivalent to occasional benign neglect. And who can blame Megan, really? She’s still young, her career is on the rise, and she’s trying to perform her wifely due diligence but the lure of her own life is too juicy to pass up.
She leaves the three Draper kiddos at the Park Avenue pad for the night, while drugged and distracted Daddio is still feverishly working. Sally is in charge, but hey – she’s 14! Who cares if Sally surprises a grandmotherly burglar? (Don left the back door open it seems – wishful thinking in a post-Sylvia haze?)
When Drugged Draper drags in, he’s greeted by two cops, his ex and her hubby, frightened kids, and Megan thinking it’s all her fault.
Face first, on the floor.
But all’s not lost. Sally just may accept her father’s apology by phone, as she explains that “Grandmother Ida’s” explanations for what she was doing there (claiming to know Don and family) seemed plausible, at least for awhile. Then Sally tells her dad she really doesn’t know him and of course, she’s right.
History Rules, the Future Drools
The glitz of the ad world just a few seasons back? The promising future of the two joined agencies? Maybe they should leave things in the hands of a little I Ching and whatever drugs may be available.
As for frustrating, ridiculous, and chaotic times, there’s plenty to choose from in this episode, though the “energy shot” seems like a contrived ruse for several darkly comedic moments and another plunge into Don’s hellish past.
And when Betty comes off as rational and adult, you have to wonder.
On the subject of Bad Betty, she’s starring as the Better Parent at Present. And she’s fat no more, back to blonde, and nearly a ready-for-prime-time player when it comes to being a politico’s wife. But wait! Where’s Betty’s beauty mark? Is that why she couldn’t hold Don? Or is that why she held him so long?
Gibberish or not, which is what Ted calls the agency’s own version of Lost Weekend, one thing is for sure. When Don touts and spouts the importance of history, he just may be on to something. History is bigger than touching on nostalgia or buying a product. We’re all motored by history. Hey Chevy! How’s that for a marketing message?
Our increasingly pitiable protagonist may not have gotten his intro to sex in the back seat of a GM vehicle, but history sticks, and it’s sticking it to Dick and Don, and holding them hostage.
The crux of The Crash?
Mr. Draper offers his version:
Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whore house.
Of course, life is a whorehouse to this man. No wonder the ad world suits so well.
And poor, trusting Ted? He looks dazed and confused. After all, he bought into Don’s magic, and is sorely disappointed at the moment. I’m guessing his home life was a tad more stable, like Pete’s (which we know was far from ideal, though it gets a mention).
Amusing touch, Matthew Weiner… taking us out on music by the Mommas and the Poppas…
Image of Sylvia, video “Inside Episode 8,” Click to access AMC TV video.
Image, Kevin Rahm, AMC; Click to access Episode 8 photos.