"See the mess you made?" Peggy Olson asks Jim Cutler, who brought in a Max Jacobson-like doctor to administer some sort of stimulant to the firm's creative team. The "vitamin superdose," as the doctor calls it, makes a mess of the agency, as the team buzzes around the office speaking more or less jibberish. It makes for a messy episode as well.
"The Crash," the title of Sunday's episode of "Mad Men," refers to a car accident that opens the episode: a dangerous joy ride Ken Crosgrove goes on with some drunken Chevrolet execs. But most of the episode is actually about the high before another crash, the amphetamine-fueled frenzy Don goes into, realizing he and Sylvia are done for good.
Two themes emerge from the madness that was Sunday's episode: Flashbacks show Don (née Dick Whitman) growing up in a whore house. A prostitute named Aimee takes care of a sick, adolescent Dick before taking his virginity. "Your momma don't know how to take care of nobody," she tells a coughing Dick (though the woman she refers to is actually Dick's aunt).
Grown-up Don remembers her giving him soup and in a hysteria, searches for the ad her kindness inspired. The ad – for oatmeal, not soup, it turns out – repurposes the prostitute Aimee, mole and all, as his mother. "Because you know what he needs," the tagline goes. We've long known Don's mother was a whore. His first whore, we learn, also acted like his mother.
This oedipal conflation of mothers and sex is echoed elsewhere in the episode. Ken, supposedly crippled by the accident, breaks out into tap dance (he too received some of the company speed) when Don presses him about the Chevy account. Asked where he learned to tap dance, Ken responds feverishly, "My mother. No, my first girlfriend" (who presumably also took Ken's virginity).
Furthermore, young Sally is acting as a mother to her brothers Bobby and Gene. She packs their suitcases, makes them peanut butter and jelly and babysits them while Don and Megan are away. But Betty (blond again, after her brief foray into being a brunette) questions the short skirt she has bought with her babysitting money. Sally says, "I earned it."
"On what street corner?" Her mother snipes back, calling her daughter a prostitute when she has actually been acting like a mother.
It's no wonder Sally reads "Rosemary's Baby" in the episode.
In an interesting twist on the mother theme, the vagrant black woman who breaks into the Drapers to rob them fashions herself as Don's mother. She calls herself Grandma Aida when Sally confronts her. Aimee took Don's virginity; Aida takes his gold watch.
(Bobby – whose contributions to the show are few and far between – has one of the episode's better lines: "Are we negroes?" he asks Sally, not all that concerned about the stranger in his home.)
The flashback to Don's past ends with his aunt (the one charged with taking care of him after the death of his mother) discovering that Aimee had slept with Don – for a mere $5 from his uncle. Aimee, a buxom blond, resembles Betty.
His aunt, when beating Don after hearing about their act, looks a lot like Sylvia (though Megan's face is the next to appear after Don's dream). Sylvia, by insisting their affair is over, is giving Don's heart a beating of its own.
The heart is another recurring symbol in "The Crash." One of the CGC creatives must be taken to the hospital after the stimulant injection, because "his heart stopped."
Don, at the peak of his high, invokes his heart when encouraging the creative staff, "In my heart I know we cannot be defeated, because there is an answer that will open up the door."
He is cornered by Wendy, later to be revealed as the daughter of Frank Gleason, who has died of cancer. She plays with a stethoscope (which may remind Don of Dr. Rosen)."You want to get it on?" she asks, in thinly veiled innuendo.
"I want to hear you heart," she tells Don. "Oh, I think it's broken."
"You can hear that?" Don says, somewhat shocked that the hippie woman who was dabbling in fortune telling tricks might have actually stumbled upon some truth.
But she was only referring to the stethoscope: "I can't hear anything. I think it's broken."
Don is undeterred. Loitering outside Sylvia's apartment, Don hears a song outside her apartment that sings, "I must think of a way into your heart." It inspires Don to return to the office to work on a pitch, not for Chevy, but for Sylvia to take him back.
But when he returns to his apartment to woo her he discovers the police and the robbery that happened while he was gone. He passes out, probably because of the speed. But he assures Sally later that it wasn't a heart attack.
That doesn't mean his heart isn't broken; he is the world's greatest pitch man and he knows this, telling Ken that to sell Chevy, "the timbre of my voice is as important as the content." His pitch to Sylvia, however, has fallen short.
A song closing out the credits sums up his defeat: "Words of love, so soft and tender, won't win a girl's heart anymore. If you love her then you must send her somewhere where she's never been before. Worn out phrases and longing gazes won't get you where you want to go."
As an aside, the "Inferno"/hell theme reappeared, with Stan telling the creative team he has 666 ideas. And the elevator is still stage for a telling scene between Don and Sylvia – it appears to be Don's vehicle of choice as he moves through the circles of his hell.
One also wonders if Peggy was not offered the speed injection or if she simply just turned it down. It is suggested this was a practice at CGC, and Peggy has been game to smoke marijuana with the boys before. Either way, she had some words of wisdom for Stan who, after trying to kiss her, tells her of his 20-year-old cousin dying in Vietnam.
"I've had loss in my life. You have to let yourself feel it. You can't dampen it with drugs and sex. It won't get you through," she says.
It's advice Don Draper should take as well.