‘Mad Men’ Discussion: ‘Are We Negroes?’

Okay, what the f*ck was THAT?!

Seriously, I’ve thought about this A LOT over the course of last night and this morning, and no matter how hard I try I can’t come away from the same feeling I had throughout last night’s episode, which was something along the lines of, “This is f*cking terrible.”

I know I shouldn’t feel this way — it’s just a goddamn television show after all — but I feel cheated, sort of betrayed, and my intelligence feels a little insulted. In the same way that last season’s show centered around an acid-tripping Roger Sterling worked fabulously, this didn’t work at all and fell flat on its face, a la Don Draper in the GIF above. It just felt like a big mess. Nothing made sense. Nothing felt cohesive. It was if Matt Weiner wanted to give himself and his staff a week off and just announced one day, “Hey let’s just throw a bunch of wacky sh*t against a wall and call it art because drugs!” Meanwhile, I’m sure art school students across the land are indulging in deep, philosophical discussions today about what it all meant, but it was a bullsh*t episode, plain and simple.

Yes, I’m pissed.

With that out of the way, let’s squeeze whatever nourishment we can out of the crap sandwich Matt Weiner served us last night and get right to it, shall we?

– After the episode ended last night, I jumped on Twitter and took some comfort in discovering that everyone else seemed just as baffled as I was. This morning, Alan Sepinwall voiced his bewilderment over the whole thing, sharing my sentiment that the LSD episode worked well whereas last night’s speed episode did not.

One of my favorite episodes of last season was “Far Away Places,” which used Roger’s LSD trip as the inspiration for a time-twisting structure that deliberately blurred the passage and sequence of time. It tackled a familiar late ’60s trope in a way that felt honest, natural and not especially gimmicky. The structure and style of the episode called attention to itself, but it also very clearly spoke to what the episode was trying to say about the state of Don, Roger and Peggy’s lives at that moment in time, and how their pasts were knotted up with their presents. It was an episode where nearly every scene felt like it could be part of an acid trip, and yet most could also function as a straightforward “Mad Men” scene.

“The Crash,” meanwhile, was so loopy that I began wondering if every single character — and possibly those of us in the audience — had been given an injection by Dr. Hecht. Everything was off: characters speaking louder and faster than normal, multiple footraces through the office, Ken tap-dancing while offering his freestyle poem entitled “It’s My Job,” Don losing time(*), Sally waking up to discover a rumpled black woman going through her father’s things and claiming to be her grandmother, Betty being thin and blonde again without comment, and the usual Don Draper brainstorming method leading to absolute gibberish that ultimately wasn’t even about the product, but about Sylvia Rosen.

– Speaking of Roger, where the hell was he last night? HOW CAN YOU HAVE A DRUG TRIP EPISODE WITHOUT ROGER STERLING?!?!

– What was in those shots anyway? It couldn’t have just been B vitamins, obviously. Was there precedent for this? Were quack doctors going around all over the place just giving people shots of fun juice in the ass back then?

UPDATE: Commenter Leapin’ Lizards notes that the doctor may have been inspired by Dr. Max Jacobson, aka “Dr. Feelgood.” From Wikipedia…

After fleeing Berlin in 1936, Jacobson set up an office on the Upper East Side of Manhattan where he treated a number of famous names including Marlene Dietrich, Anthony Quinn, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Maya Deren, Eddie Fisher, Mickey Mantle, Cecil B. DeMille, Alan Jay Lerner, Yul Brynner, Nelson Rockefeller, and Zero Mostel.[5][6] Dubbed “Dr. Feelgood”, Jacobson was known for his “miracle tissue regenerator” shots which consisted of amphetamines, vitamins, painkillers, and human placenta.

– Remember how, when we were growing up, sitcoms would occasionally divert from being funny to tackle “heavy” issues like rape or AIDS or something, and the show would come with a disclaimer announcing that it was a “very special” episode? I felt this episode should have came with that same sort of disclaimer expressing the opposite, something along the lines of “we interrupt this season of Mad Men to bring you a steaming pile of technicolor-ed hot garbage that you may at least find somewhat amusing…the serious, smart Mad Men you’ve come to love will return next week.”

– I suppose one bright spot was that Rizzo was enjoyable last night, though Rizzo is always enjoyable, but last night he was especially enjoyable.

– And, of course, via Giphy, the Ken Cosgrove tap dance will likely never be forgotten by the internet, so there’s that!

– “Are we negroes?” — Bobby Draper with the line of the night. His confusion was an apt metaphor for the entire episode.

– I suppose if there was any significant moving forward of a plotline last night it was that Don is spinning even further out of control. He’s literally stalking Sylvia now, which is the most un-Don Draper thing Don Draper can do (meanwhile his creative mojo seems to be fading even faster). My interpretation of this is that it must be mindf*cking him silly that she dumped him.

– Also, enough already with the f*cking Don Draper childhood flashbacks. Okay, so he grew up in a whorehouse and his mother was a whore who beat him with a wooden spoon and he lost his virginity to a whore. In other words, Don Draper had a sh*tty childhood and he’s all kinds of messed up over as an adult. We get it.

– I feel like this post might be too pissy and negative, so here are some more Rizzo GIFs…

– Poor Frank Gleason. Good luck resting in peace knowing that your daughter banged one of your former co-workers in the office you would have been working in before your body even had the chance to get cold. Seriously, what the hell was THAT?

– One final thought: perhaps Matt Weiner should get back to heeding the advice of his show’s main character?

(Ken Cosgrove GIF via)