My, my, my! As I sit down to write this post, I find it impossible to single out a “scene” proper in an episode that was purposefully disjointed in order to transmit the feeling of SCDPCGC on drugs (and yeah, they have to come up with another name right quick). Roger and Jane’s mind-opening LSD excursion this is not. This is knives thrown at Stan, Ken dancing for his life (more on that in a sec), and Don consumed with the sound of his voice in between searching for old copy and reflecting on his formative whorehouse years. Heck, even Sally (and I’m pretty sure she was like one of the few people in the episode who wasn’t on drugs) has to deal with a funhouse “Grandma” while Megan is off for a night at the theater. This was a bad trip all around, and despite the lovely scene between Stan and Peggy (hmmm… now they could be a fun couple), it’s two smaller moments that stuck with me as I trudged through my own unintoxicated workday (although a dose of something would have improved things immeasurably).
Let’s get back to Ken. Mr. Cosgrove suffers through a thrill ride with the Chevy execs that leads to the titular crash (I really thought that this was one of those times where we were going to backtrack to see how Ken came to meet a kind of doom, but this was not that kind of episode). Ken gets fixed up as good as new with a cane and a shot of something that promises uninterrupted hours of inspiration. The drug leads to Ken’s realization that the only power he has lies in playing the part of the dupe in order to humor the money and bring home the accounts. Translation: he has no power, and all he can do is shuffle off to Buffalo in an effort to stay sane as impotence engulfs him. His routine momentarily drags Don out of his own drug-induced stupor to silently ask, “what the hell is going on around here?” Seriously. My Mad Men viewing buddy had to work, and I literally (Parks & Rec shoutout) looked at my cat and said, “Oh my God.”
But before Ken’s dance against the machine, we see the firm absorb the news of Frank Gleason’s passing. It hits Teddy hardest of all. And Peggy (they could be a really fun couple!) consoles her new mentor as Don watches from afar. And despite all his mooning over Sylvia and the past that forged him, in that second Don is undone. Time was when Peggy was at his beck and call when everything fell apart around him (notably, on the occasion of Anna Draper’s passing). But Don has alienated Peggy, and Teddy is just the sweeter guy. Don can’t compete, so he’s left with searching for an antiquated campaign in order to regain some of her respect. It doesn’t work, and Don ends the hour by throwing in his Chevy towel. So if Don can’t validate his own existence through someone else’s approval, be it memory’s whore or his own daughter or his disenchanted protege, he’s lost. This is going to get a lot worse.