Back in the days before Red Bulls and when red eye meant a late night flight, not an espresso infused drink, some well to do movers and shakers saw a doctor for an energy boost in the way of a vitamin shot.
The secret ingredient?
Speed, amphetamines, uppers aka dope. Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin) prescribes the shots for the yet unnamed agency in the latest episode and we see more running around and hear more phones ringing than ever.
Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) is seen speeding with a carload of drunk executives in a Chevy Impala. He’s there in Detroit to get approvals on the new agency’s ideas. They nearly kill him with a game if chicken. He returns with a 3 year approval schedule from the company. The partners are disappointed, though Ken has been injured from an accident related to playing chicken on the highway with the Chevy executives.
Don (Jon Hamm) struggles with his ending affair with Sylvia (Linda Cardellini). An upsetting phone call from her brings us to the first of a series of flashbacks to Dick Whitman’s childhood (Don’s original identity).
New partner and artist Frank Gleason (Craig Anton) passes away and the firm mourns by getting energy shots from Jim Cutler’s doctor. The speed gets everyone going, including Roger (John Slattery)—the only one there with a heart condition.
As the stuff kicks in, Don heads back in time to his whorehouse upbringing. Aimée takes care of a young Dick Whitman, and this leads to sexual abuse and Don losing his virginity to the prostitute.
After the commercial break, the creative department is swimming around and grasping for ideas, cranking out lists of cracked out gibberish all the while Don is sweating and running around like a mad man. Time passes in psychedelic jump cuts with dialogs references to Alice and Wonderland and even a cult favorite 60s psych. spy-fi show The Prisoner is shown in the background of a scene.
Sally (Kiernan Shipka) and get brothers are left at home in the Manhattan apartment and across town Don speed binges on work and obsesses over Sylvia.
Also at the office, Stan (Jay R. Ferguson) gets ‘accidentally’ stabbed with an Xacto by Ginsberg (Ben Feldman).
Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) heals his wounds, and Stan leans in for a kiss. Peggy seems like she is dissatisfied with her boyfriend and is flattered again by another man passing at her.
Sally hears someone in the apartment, discovering that she is being burgled by an older black lady Ida (Davenia McFadden).
At the conclusion of the episode we find that Don left the rear door open in his drug addled frenzy. The children were not harmed, but Megan (Jessica Paré) and Betty (January Jones) realize the kids are not old enough to be left alone. 14 year old Sally did try to call the cops but the robber intercepted the phone call.
Draper, still at the office cranks out some nonsense on his typewriter, and calls in Peggy and Ginsberg.
As I have stated before, Don’s creative energy is tapped out. He has lost sight of the Chevy overtime goal, has ignored his family as he reflects on his loss of virginity at a young age.
When he returns to his apartment he finds Betty, Henry (Christopher Stanley), Megan and the police.
By now the weight of the amphetamine rush, his professional and personal failings drop him to the ground like a ton of bricks. The 3 day binge has taken its toll on Don.
He also misses Sylvia and this is the closest he has gotten to expressing his real emotions. The disgrace of another flashback to his past wakes Don up.
The next morning, Don and Sylvia share an elevator ride. They only mutter pleasantries, though barely so.
The episode ends with Don being rested and a bit more clear headed, fresh in his suit. He tells Ted (Kevin Rahm) that he will be the creative director for the Chevy campaign but not a copy writer. The long-tail of the assignment has Don weary.
This was a purposely confusing episode with rapid paced jump cuts to portray the passage of time. Learning more about what makes Don tick, sexually and personally is intriguing but the reveal that he lost his virginity at the whorehouse he grew up in was not surprising. Imagining the young innocent Dick Whitman growing up to be the Don Draper we know today is a huge leap. The background flashbacks do paint a picture of how he deals with women in his life.
A highlight of the episode, and the meme posted the day after air was Ken Cosgrove’s “It’s my job” speed-induced tap dance. With the writing on the side, he’s a triple threat on the sales team!
To speculate on the next episode from the teaser is fun but hardly fruitful. Pete and Joan are getting along, tensions are high between Don and Ted, and Don takes a road trip. I think we’ve seen all of the Dick Whitman reveals for the season, my feeling is that the will be taking a break from flashbacks for now.
[READ MORE at FORCES OF GEEK]