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Mad Men 6.11 “Favors” Review: What Do You Expect in Return?

10 Jun

Last season on Mad Men Sally referred to New York City as “disgusting” after she witnessed a very adult act between Roger and Megan’s mother Marie, after “Favors” she might never want to return to her father’s apartment again. There are many secrets in the SC & P office (getting used to the new name) and it is easy to forget some of the personal relationships that have long since ended; this episode did a very good job of highlighting this and showing just how lonely these characters are. It would be so easy for everything to come crashing down around them if every truth was to come out, which is why favors are such an important commodity. Even when nothing is expected in return, the knowledge that comes from knowing a person’s darkest secret can becoming a bargaining chip in the future.  The Ted/Don conflict which has really existed in them bitching to others about their situation is addressed, but even if everything is well in business the same could not be said for the private matters of these characters. The doom that has permeated this season has led to discussion of what violence might befall a certain character, but the real horror on Mad Men is when dark truths are revealed.

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The episode opens with Peggy – still living in the apartment she hates – being given another reason to want to flee this abode as she sees a rat. The rat makes a return later in the form of a blood trail across the floor (conspiracy theory doom alert) and when she calls Stan he doesn’t take up her offer to come over, he’s not her boyfriend after all. Peggy can’t ring Ted, because of his wife and kids situation and she doesn’t really have anyone else to turn to – Peggy you need to get yourself some better, ok some actual friends. One relationship that has long since changed and dissolved is between Peggy and Pete, it’s easy to forget that they were once intimate and have a child. The conversation between them while they are drunk and at dinner shows how familiar they are with each other and Pete reiterates that Peggy really knows him, echoing his statement from the end of season 2 when he confessed his love for her and she first told him about giving up their baby. It’s moments like this that remind me why I have been a Pete defender in the past and the effectiveness of these Pete and Peggy scenes is because they are so few. These scenes remind us that Pete isn’t just a weasel of a character, even if his own mother tells him that “You’ve always been unlovable.”

It turns out that someone is in love with Pete and the mystery of Bob Benson is revealed; it isn’t one of the many nefarious or soapy suggestions, instead he is gay and is in love with Pete. Pete’s disgust at the suggestion that Manolo is gay (he calls him a degenerate) doesn’t prevent Bob from giving a misguided speech “Couldn’t it be that if someone took care of you — very good care of you — if this person would do anything for you — if your well-being was his only thought — is it impossible that you might begin to feel something for him?” Pete rejects this and Bob’s knee touch rather emphatically by telling him to let Manolo go and that Manolo (read Bob) is “disgusting.”  Poor misguided Bob, now we know why he was so happy to do everything for Pete, but this approach is no way to make someone love you. Later on we see Pete alone in his dreary apartment with not even enough cereal to have for dinner; this is part of a montage of the SC & P at home; Peggy has got herself a cat that she can rely on, Ted returns home to his family and even if they don’t give him the satisfaction of work he is trying and then there is Don arriving back at his apartment drunk and disheveled.

Of course this isn’t a new state for Don to arrive home in and he’s even passed out with the police in his front room this season; this is a whole different scenario as he really doesn’t know what he will find when he opens the door. Don has spent most of the episode harping on about how important his children are and this is why he is trying to help his friend’s kid get out of his 1A (eligible for military service) situation. There is another reason of course and that is his feelings towards Sylvia, I also think he is doing this out of a sense of guilt as Arnold is a friend who he has wronged. The conversation between them in the bar and how broken Arnold is about this draft news is enough to quick start Don’s favor asking and I actually don’t think getting back with Sylvia is his intention (am I being too naive?) Of course this is what happens and Sylvia’s way of saying thank you is through sex. Sylvia explains that she ended it because she was frustrated that Don had fallen in love with her. I thought it would be due to Don treating her like crap in the hotel, but apparently not.

The huge moment is when Sally sees them and as soon as Sally got the keys to all of the apartments I started watching through the gaps in my fingers as if this was a horror movie. This is the kind of horror that Mad Men excels at, not the kind that we have been expecting since Megan wore the Sharon Tate t-shirt. Sally’s feelings towards her father fluctuate from “I don’t know you” to using him in a scoring battle with her mother, but this cements the former and will likely mean that Sally will stop doing the latter for now. Both Kiernan Shipka and Jon Hamm are excellent in their reactions in this scene and later on when Don tries to explain that what she saw wasn’t really what she saw.

Don rarely loses the facade of cocksure Don Draper to broken Don Draper, but one such time was when Betty confronted him with the Dick Whitman box of information and he could barely get a cigarette out of its packet. The way Don acts in the foyer of his building after Sally has run out is like this and he looks completely lost about what to do or say; he looks like he has been stabbed. Sally has gone and there is nothing he can do to stop her from telling Megan or her mother about what she has seen. So he does what Don always does and goes and gets wasted. When he returns Sally hasn’t said anything and Megan is oblivious, it gets even more fraught when Arnold and Mitchell turn up to say thanks to Don for all he has done and Megan praises him. Sally looks like she might throw up during this entire scene and she finally yells that Don makes her sick.

This can neatly get explained by Sally’s friend Julie (who is also pretty oblivious) telling Megan that Sally has a crush on Mitchell. The conversation between Don and Sally as they stand on either side of the door is Don using his best sales pitch to try and make Sally think that what she saw was in fact something very different. Sally is both too old and smart enough to know that this a lie, Don must realize this too but there are so many unspoken secrets in Don’s life that adding another to the pile is probably not going to do much. Don’s big Dick Whitman secret is mentioned in conversations with both Megan and Pete (I always forget that Pete was the first person to find this out) and his service is referenced in his bar chat with Arnold.

Other thoughts

– Ted says what we have all been saying all season “Don’t be an asshole, Don.” Now that things are settled between Ted and Don (that handshake is a binding contract) will Ted be more at peace when he goes home or will he still want something or someone (Peggy) more?

– Anytime there is an indication that Sally likes an older boy I get worried, Sally brings out the great protector in me. I’m also happy that Sally thinks that boys will not be that into girls who come across as dumb (like her friend Julie). Don’t ever change Sally.

– When Pete’s mother mentions the child that Peggy has with Pete, she thinks that she is talking to Trudy but Peggy reacts like she has been sucker punched; it’s a small moment from Elisabeth Moss but the emotion that she delivers in this scene at this point and when she realizes that Mrs Campbell is confused is fantastic. As is her reaction when Mrs Campbell starts talking about the passion with Manolo.

– Ted mentions that the dinner that he shares with Pete and Peggy is the agency he hoped for, this contrasts with the forced meal he shares with the Chevy guys later. Both are dripping with subtext, but one is a lot lighter and less tense than the other.

– Peggy has noticed that Stan sometimes uses a sexy voice.

– There are only two episodes left of Mad Men this season, is it all going to come crashing down around Don?

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2 Responses to “Mad Men 6.11 “Favors” Review: What Do You Expect in Return?”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Mad Men Women Honored at the 2013 Women in Film Crystal & Lucy Awards | TV Ate My Wardrobe - June 13, 2013

    […] has been a big week for Kiernan Shipka’s character Sally Draper as she caught Don sleeping with Sylvia, Shipka […]

  2. Out of the Box: Look of the Week | TV Ate My Wardrobe - June 14, 2013

    […] Draper didn’t have a great week on Mad Men and her friend Julie could be blamed for Sally’s despair; Julie took the note that […]

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