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On "Mad Men," Favors Can Easily Lead to Heartache

By Sarah Carlson | TV Reviews | June 11, 2013 | Comments ()


BensonSad6.11.png

In a season rife with themes of control, desperation and duality, “Favors,” the eleventh episode of “Mad Men” Season Six, couldn’t have been more perfectly titled. Truly: What is it called when you do something for someone else with the motivation of getting ahead yourself? Altruism wasn’t always on display among the back and forth of characters trying to help each other out. Some acts were small, such as Jonesy (Ray Abruzzo) the doorman lending Sally his keys for a few minutes. Other acts were dangerous, notably Don’s willingness to potentially jeopardize the firm’s Chevy account by poking around the General Motor executives’ thoughts on draft dodging. Jonesy has a variety of motivations for helping Sally, sure — he wants to keep the buildings’ residents happy so he can keep his job. But it also is apparent he not only cares for her and other residents but for his job. He takes the time to talk to each of them, and even chastises a fellow employee’s lack of dress code decorum once off the clock. He takes his work seriously, and he is kind — good. His actions, likewise, are good. The opposite is true for our dear Mr. Draper, however, and the shocking turn of events involving Sally were not only inevitable but will surely go down as one of the more memorable sequences in the series’ history.

Viewers can give Don a little benefit of the doubt when it comes to Mitchell Rosen’s situation. After returning his draft card in an act of protest, Mitchell (Hudson Thames), Arnold and Sylvia’s son, is reclassified as 1A (Available for unrestricted military service) despite being in college. As Mitchell considers fleeing to Canada, a part of Don really does sympathize with the situation based on his own military service, his view of the current war as “wrong” and as a father of two sons. But his scheme is ultimately about him and what it would mean for his ended affair with Sylvia. The news that Mitchell may have an out as a pilot, thanks to Ted’s connections with a brigadier general in the Air National Guard, is enough to provoke a nearly hysterical Sylvia into softening her approach to Don. “I hope you know that I was just frustrated with you,” she tells him in a phone call. “I do now,” he replies. “I didn’t want you to fall in love,” she says. “You didn’t feel anything?,” he asks. “No, I just … I don’t want to go through this again. You were good to me — better than I was to you.”

SallyReaction6.11.pngSally’s discovery of Don and Sylvia having sex not long after the phone conversation was the perfect way to get the message of selfishness across to Don. He is perfectly aware of just how horrible the situation is — just look at his expressions and demeanor once he returns home that night from bingeing at a bar. He looks terrible. His chasing Sally through the building after she caught him and Sylvia that afternoon left Don disoriented; he stumbled through the lobby looking lost, shocked at how quickly everything turned. (Remember, this is the lobby where Jonesy died from a heart attack before being brought back by Arnold, a trip a drunk Don already asked him about once and may have experienced himself while face-down in a Hollywood Hills pool.) Don’s deceit is all the more cruel given the part he played in potentially saving Mitchell from war. “You are the sweetest man,” Megan tells him. “I owe you,” Arnold says after he and Mitchell stop by to offer their gratitude — a promise to return the favor. “You make me sick!” Sally yells. From behind her bedroom door, she doesn’t fight her father’s story of the “complicated” situation in which he was “comforting Mrs. Rosen,” but her silence may not last long.

It was the thoughtless behavior of Julie (Cameron Protzman), Sally’s silly and less studious friend, that sent her into the Rosen’s apartment that afternoon with the help of Jonesy’s keys. Julie thought she was doing her friend a favor by sliding a love note for Mitchell signed with Sally’s name underneath the Rosen’s door, but if she actually understood Sally, she wouldn’t have embarrassed her so. Peggy’s requested favor of Stan is less callous but comes with too much baggage. No, he isn’t her boyfriend, so no, he’s not going to come kill a rat in her apartment in the middle of the night. He doesn’t buy her last-minute offer to make the trip worth his while, either. She has grown used to having a partner around, and she has to learn how not to rely on that sense of security. Ted’s favor for Don by calling his connection had the most decency to it of all the acts in “Favors,” and even Don was surprised at the undeserved grand gesture — “Well, I bet you don’t have a lot of friends, Don, so I’m going to assume this is important,” Ted told his partner. What he wants in return is for Don to lower his weapons in the current war waging at the agency, still unstable after the merger. As Don and Roger worked on a Sunkist account (uh oh — oranges), Ted flew Pete and Peggy to meet with Ocean Spray reps, two similar companies with way too similar of products. They can’t keep competing, Ted tells him. “We’re on the same damn side.”

TedFamily6.11.jpgTed’s confrontation with Don isn’t too far removed from the discussion he had with his wife, Nan (Timi Prulhiere), except now the roles are reversed. Ted’s family misses him, and Nan can’t compete with the chaotic world of advertising, not to mention Ted’s favorite young copywriter. “You’re obsessed,” she tells him. Earlier that night, Ted said as much while he served as Ted served as designated pilot for the Ocean Spray meeting: “This is the agency I’ve always wanted: ambition, brains and beauty.” Yet he was clearly jealous of Pete and Peggy’s joking and familiarity. Pete believes Peggy is the one who really knows him, and Ted could just feel the same way about her. But he also cares about his family, and his return home the next night to play with his sons could almost be seen as his granting Nan’s request that he at least try to enjoy his home life as much as his work one. Even if he doesn’t feel that way, his attempt to heal the rift is admirable. For now, he has been set up as the anti-Don, and I hope it isn’t only so Matthew Weiner can come in and send him down the same path as our anti-hero. Ted’s status quo is bound to change somewhat, though; situations of false happiness can turn unhealthy after too long.

Bob Benson has perfected the art of the fake smile, and now we know the reason. He is gay, and he is in love with Pete. Bob’s barely coded confession came thanks to Pete’s disgust at the idea of his mother, Dot (Channing Chase), and her nurse, Manolo (Andres Faucher), having an intimate relationship. (The hilarious banter about her newfound feelings between Pete and Peggy was an episode highlight — “Did your father ever give her spa treatments that released a fire in her loins?”) Manolo’s interests turn a different way, Bob assures him, and bless him for continuing after Pete dubbed Manolo as a “degenerate.” But why is it impossible, Bob wonders, that an elderly and easily confused woman would consider it love when someone — anyone — takes care of her and shows her kindness? If she’s happy, let her be. And is it so impossible for Pete to begin to feel differently for Bob after all that the young account man has done for him, when Pete’s “well-being is his only thought”? “When there’s true love, it doesn’t matter who it is,” a dreamy-eyed Bob says before he shifts his knee over to touch Pete’s.

Bob’s confession behind his desire to assist Pete is a nice contrast to the few lines shared between Pete and Peggy about Ted. As Pete let Peggy know he could tell she and Ted are in love, she retorted: “You’re the one who’s in love with him.” “Well, I could use an account,” Pete replied. “And he’s been generous.” Pete has saddled up to Ted as much as Bob has to Pete, but it is hard to believe anything sinister or even sneaky lies behind Bob’s workplace maneuvering. That Bob is eager to please and get ahead at SC&P is nothing new. But instead of him being a spy or a psychopathic murderer, much of Bob’s motivation actually comes from his heart. No, we can’t help who we love — look no further than the fact women and now men keep falling for the likes of Pete Campbell. We can, however, control our actions. Look at Ted. Now look at Don and Sylvia. “Tell him I’ll give him a month’s pay,” Pete says to Bob after he moves his knee away. “And tell him it’s disgusting.” Manolo is fired and Bob is harshly demeaned rebuffed before he can get his smile back on straight. Sometimes, a good deed really can’t go unpunished.

Sarah Carlson is a TV Critic for Pajiba. She lives in San Antonio. You can find her on Twitter.


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  • Welldressed

    Pete Campbell can occasionally be briefly redeemed, but is overall a reprehensible person.
    So why on God's Green Earth am I shipping him and Bob So Damn Hard?
    Cue the shame spiral.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    I still don't know what people see in Sally, actor and character

  • TheAggroCraig

    "Don, stop being an asshole!"

    -Ted, speaking for all of us

  • babykangarootribbiani

    just when you think don can;t get any lower, BAM! man finds a shovel. up until now, despite the Grandma Ida incident, I think Sally still saw Don as the guy who scooped her up in his lap and gave her a kiss, cooing, "Happy birthday, baby" (Yes, i;m rewatching the early episodes). But Sally is not that little girl in the frilly pink party dress anymore, and like she realized she doesn;t really know anything about her father, he;s actually not the best guy either. I can;t really think of anybody who Sally would tell, but I really can;t wait to find out. And on another note, I love the last shot of Peggy this episode, smoking on her couch with her new cat. Like a boss.

  • BWeaves

    1. Sally once again blows the rest of the actors around her out of the water. I hope she has grounded parents in real life. I'd hate to see her turn Lohan.

    2. Sally walking in on Don cheating on Megan. Oh, I cannot wait for the fallout on that.

    3. I thought the scene with Ted, Pete and Peggy was very sweet. Even as a junior partner, Pete always feels unappreciated. I think if the group splits, Pete will go with Ted. I thought Pete and Peggy have gone from uncomfortable pasts, to "You know me best."

    4. Mrs. Campbell is a national treasure. I loved her scene with Peggy.

    5. Speaking of Mrs. Campbell, WTF BOB? Is Wiener just fucking with us because we all hated Glen (his real life son)? I do not think Bob is gay. The scene read more like Bob was trying to get the upper hand of Pete. Bob's just a smooth talking social climber. Does anyone else think Bob's face is getting doughier?

    6. Stan telling Peggy that he's not her boyfriend, and won't come over and kill a rat. Peggy finally manned up and got a cat.

    7. I'm a little confused about Stan having a giant photo of Moshe Dayan over his bed. Ginsberg, I could see having that photo. But Stan?

  • I was hoping someone would tell me who was on Stan's wall. But now I'm just confused.

  • BWeaves

    You know, after a previous week's comment about Stan being a mother hen to Ginsberg, I'm beginning to wonder if they don't have a bit of a bromance going. Forget shipping Stan and Peggy. I'm shipping Stan and Michael.

  • alwaysanswerb

    Poor Bob Benson. He has just as awful taste in men as everyone else on this show.

  • ZombieMrsSmith

    "Favors" has been my favorite episode this season so far. It's interesting that so many watchers and reviewers are going crazy with their predictions for the deeper meanings in each characters' motivations or destinies. I think the writers have been directed to reconfirm that none of the main characters can get out of their spirals, no matter how much life, love and work change around them. I just don't see any dramatic events or changes for the season's end.

    Don will continue to cheat, drink and disappoint himself and his children; Pete will continue to be an obtusely old-fashioned Republican disgusted by everyone else's wrongs and oblivious to his own; Megan will keep trying to be a good wife and avoid the truth of her marriage and on and on.

    I totally fell in love with Peggy all over again though. She is so right for the time and as someone who worked in advertising in the 80s and 90s she's a familiar touchstone—smarter than all the men in the room, but pitied because she'll never make it to the top. The Esquire recap dared to suggest that getting a cat was the next step for her in becoming the old maid/cat lady, but I think that's wrong. She's a trailblazer. There's no guarantee that she will find success, or love or happiness, but she will do things her way and feel comfortable with her choices. I think Matthew Wiener loves her most of all and she, not Don, represents himself.

    The Bob thing really struck me as awkward. I'm not convinced that he is gay, mostly because I don't think for a second that he thinks Pete is gay. He's just a weasel who will do or say anything to get what he's aiming for. I think he was setting Pete up to "out" him to try and get rid of him when the Sunkist account doesn't come through. Pete is already seeming paranoid and skittish and his accusations will sound shrill and petty to the other partners.

  • Agree with you about Bob. Can we just figure out what his deal is already? Or can the newly sympathetic Pete get to punch him this season?

  • Gigi Agius

    I totally agree with you regarding Peggy. I love her more and more every week.
    And Elisabeth Moss did an amazing job in the scene between Peggy and Mrs. Campbell. She was able to convey sooooo much silently and instantly.

  • mairimba

    Bob's not gay. If you re-watch the scene, after he gets up and is on his way out, the look on his face was of relief. But I don't think of he was finally confessing his love to Pete. It was more of the whole Manolo situation didn't get any deeper. I love him (and his thighs), but I still don't trust him.

  • I didn't take it as relief, I took it as putting the pieces back together - but, that was me.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Once again proving that the world's most beautiful soap opera about ennui is far more interesting in the reviewing than in the watching.

  • alwayssunnysomewhere

    Couldn't agree more, Mrs. Julien. I read the reviews each week in hopes of finding the humanity and the substance that escape me when viewing the program.

  • Xulux

    I almost expected Don to give Sally his favorite "this never happened" line. Didn't Sally walk in on Roger with her step-grandmother a couple seasons ago? She should be getting used to this now.

  • e jerry powell

    The poor child should have someone else open doors for her the rest of her life at this point.

  • Vulture ran a piece yesterday suggesting that maybe Bob is not gay. It was pretty convincing. We discuss the knee on knee scene in this weeks episode of Mad Cast (https://itunes.apple.com/us/po...

  • Mrs. Julien

    I didn't buy it for one second that this would be the time Bob would overstep his scrupulously maintained blandness and make a move. Pete just insulted Manolo specifically about his sexuality. Now is not the time for tentative knee pressure.

  • Yeah. I'm pretty sure Bob Benson is a corporate-ladder climbing sociopath. As soon as he saw how much it disgusted Pete, Bob knew he could use it against him to make him doubt himself. It was a tactical move, not a sincere one.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I like the Machiavellian way your mind works, Brian.

  • I mean Pete first said the nurse was a "degenerate" after hearing that his "interest" may go another way, and Bob saw that as his opening? Was Bob like, "He hates homosexuals? Now is the perfect time to vaguely confess my love. He'll fall head over heels for me!"

    He knows Pete is a man's man in the midst of an existential crisis, deeply lonely, and with out a proper place within the agency. He wants to stir the coals of Pete's self doubt, and knock him out of the food chain. He is working with Cutler, trying to squeeze in there. Shady, shady, shady.

    or

    He is gay, and has been in love with Pete this whole time.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Boom!

    http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/2...

    It's fascinating stuff.

  • Amazing. Thank you.

    I'm just always digging for the fantastical.

  • John G.

    the people who are the most disgusted and worked up about gays tend to be closet cases.

  • ed newman

    While I also feel like something was off about the come-on, I am struggling to figure out how it advances any of Bob's possible agendas. Sal got canned for being too public with his homosexuality. Benson didn't go near that taboo line but even moving in its direction seems more risky than any possible benefit.

  • katy

    Don did catch Sal with a hotel employee on a business trip, but didn't say anything. It was a good lesson on how their business isn't about what you do, but what you won't do.

  • ourobouros

    Actually Sal got canned for rejecting the advances of a client. He was in the closet the entire time.

  • ourobouros

    It did seem a little contrived at that point, I grant.

    But then again, you only hurt the one you love. :(

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