From its opening shot — a scary, jumbled moment of a terrified Ken on a joyride with Chevy executives — this jarring, surreal “Mad Men” episode was about loss of control, and the disorientation that comes with it. Don, stymied by Chevy’s demands and plagued by a nagging cough, nonchalantly agrees to a “vitamin shot” offered by Cutler’s version of Dr. Feelgood. (The real Dr. Feelgood — who wasn’t the guy we saw on the show; I didn’t quite catch the name but it was just one syllable — was Dr. Max Jacobson, who during the ’60s administered methamphetamine shots to a vast clientele including many famous names. After one of his patients died of amphetamine poisoning, Jacobson’s medical license was revoked.) Off Don goes into a narcotic haze; hours fade away and reality blurs into fantasy. Was that really Don standing outside Sylvia’s apartment, late in the episode, or was that Don’s daydream? Did Ken’s snappy tap dance really happen? (I think so — based on Dawn’s priceless expression — but it was certainly odd.) Was Don at the office for the entire weekend, and if so, why did he suddenly appear to have shaved? What happened during those hours Don lost? “The Flood” cries out for a second viewing.
A few threads that emerged from the haze:
– Peggy (who, sensible as always, must have declined the shot) had a rather sweet moment with high-as-a-kite Stan, in which the chemistry that’s always existed between them turned into a kiss. First Ted, now Stan — things aren’t quite heaven on earth with Abe, are they? I loved Peggy’s gentle comment, “I’ve had loss in my life” (her father, certainly, but perhaps she’s also thinking of the baby), and how this scene became a quiet anchor in a swirling episode.
– We were reminded once again that Sally, who’s busy becoming a mini-Megan in her miniskirts, is still a kid. Left alone with her brothers in the apartment (Megan was “on the casting couch,” as Betty acidly put it; Don was tripping at the office), Sally had to deal with an intruder who claimed to be “Grandma Ida” — in other words, Don’s old nanny. Of course she was a thief — but, watching it, I wasn’t sure (could this be another piece of Don’s story that we hadn’t heard yet?) and Sally wasn’t either. “I realized I didn’t know anything about you,” Sally later told her father on the phone — how could she know that her shadowy father didn’t have an African-American nanny? (Her mother did.) Played by Kiernan Shipka with a wonderful blend of teenage surliness and vulnerability, Sally’s wandering through a mysterious forest of grown-ups, fascinated (note that she’s reading the very inappropriate “Rosemary’s Baby” in bed) but ill-equipped. She often seems — like the audience — to be visiting from some other world entirely, sent to observe.
– The teenage-Don-in-the-whorehouse flashbacks, which are plentiful this season, fill in some blanks (in case anyone was wondering how Don lost his virginity, here it is, thanks to a freebie from Aimee/Amy after she nursed him back to health). But clearly he’s drawing connections between his past and his present; realizing that, when a powerful car company engages SCDP, Don & Co become prostitutes: the clients own them, demand their work at all hours, use them and toss them away. “Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whorehouse,” Don says (also, surely, noting Joan’s situation) — and, with the wisdom gained by a lost weekend, he bows out of Chevy, except in a supervisory capacity. Meanwhile, he’s begging with Sylvia, who doesn’t want him back. Don wants what he wants — especially when he can’t have it.
– Line of the night: “You just flushed the toilet in my head.”
And what did you think? What did you make of Don’s explosion of incoherent productivity — and of the fact that the oatmeal-ad woman looked a lot like Aimee? Do you want to read Stan’s 666 ideas? Do you — unlike Gleason’s hippie daughter — think Don’s heart is broken?
It’s official: No one, other than the Drapers and the Rosens, lives in this apartment building. At least, nobody else ever uses the elevator. (Photo by Jordin Althaus; courtesy of AMC)