Mad Men: Favors

Mad Men: Favors

It’s ironic that this “Mad Men” recap is later than usual, because I ended up watching the show as it aired last Sunday, at Chief Ike’s, my neighborhood bar, and was planning to write the recap the next morning, after I’d re-watched the episode a second time. But when I went to pay my bill, Rob the bartender told me my card was declined. It turned out to be credit card fraud, and I wasn’t able to pay for my online episode on Amazon until Friday.

So, that’s why I just got to watching “Favors” for a second time. I cannot think of a television show or movie that’s made me this sad in a long, long while. I’m not just sad for Sally, for what she saw: her father, his pants down, atop Sylvia, her skirt up, on the maid’s bed, and what she lost.

I’m also sad for Betty. Whether Betty ever finds out what Sally saw, and I suspect she will, this absolutely is a mother’s nightmare, the ultimate unintended consequence, stemming from a decision that was aimed at protecting her child. Betty, concerned that Sally is one of two girls staying at a midtown hotel with a group of classmates in New York City for Model U.N., agrees to let Sally and her friend Julia stay at Don and Megan’s. This is what sets off the chain reaction that leads to Sally entering Sylvia’s apartment at the most inopportune moment, improbably with a full set of keys from the doorman. The more immediate catalyst is Sally’s friend Julia leaving a note for Mitchell, Sylvia and Arnold’s son, under their kitchen door, with Sally’s named to it.  When Julia tells Sally what she’s done, Sally goes back to the apartment to retrieve the letter.

As for Sally, what a twist. From the moment we learned at the top of the season that Don is sleeping with his neighbor, I assumed one of the spouses might catch them, even though that seemed obvious, or perhaps the college-age Mitchell, Don and Sylvia’s son, would. I never once thought it might be Sally. This development is particularly disturbing and layered because Dick Whitman saw his stepmother in a similar pose. How Don handles Sally’s upset, telling her at the bedroom door that it’s complicated, that he was, in a euphemism for the books, comforting Mrs. Rosen, is as unsettling as it gets. This is such a bottomless loss for Don.

Oh, and by the way, can they give Jon Hamm an Emmy?

What brings Don and Sylvia back together is Don tries to help Arnold and, though Don doesn’t speak directly to Sylvia, he gets Mitchell out of the draft. Mitchell, who’d spent time in France at the height of the 1968 protests, first confesses his plight to Megan. He’s at the top of the list, even if he goes back to the University of Michigan. Megan asks Don to help, but Don refuses. He says flat out it’s not their problem. Then Arnold, looking more serious than in episodes past, comes by the apartment, and he and Don go out for a drink. Arnold is devastated about the possibility of Mitchell going to war. He breaks down, off camera. This, and hearing how upset Sylvia is, inspires Don to get involved. He asks Pete if he still has a connection. Then Don tests the water at a dinner with GM execs, which infuriates Ted, who offers to help Don in exchange for Don pulling back on pursuing the Sunkist account since Ted is vying for the Ocean Spray account, and SP & P cannot have two juices. They shake hands.

Pete’s travails with his mother continue, as he discovers, through a conversation that Peggy has with his mother in the office, that her nurse Manolo is making her happy in ways she’s never been happy before. When Pete confronts his mother, at his apartment, and tells her she’s going to fire him, she tells Pete the most horrid things, that he was a sour child and now he’s sour man and he’s always been unlovable. No wonder Pete’s the mess that he is! In such moments, Pete’s mother makes Betty Draper look like a model mother.

There was a great scene with Ted, Peggy and Pete getting drunk at a restaurant after flying with Ted to Detroit. When Ted steps away to call his wife, leaving Pete and Peggy alone with their whiskey sours and sloppy smiles, they had the sweetest moment, with Pete telling Peggy that he can tell Peggy’s in love with Ted, after he mentions Ted’s wife not appreciating Ted’s flying, and that Ted is in love with her, too. Peggy tells Pete that nothing can happen. We shall see.

Then there’s Bob Benson. Before last week’s episode I cracked that my favorite “Mad Men” conspiracy theory was that Bob Benson was a closet interior decorator on a mission to redo Joan’s apartment. Ha ha, I know, but there were so many flying around about Bob Benson and Megan, too, I couldn’t resist. In “Favors,” we learn that Bob Benson is probably gay. After Pete tells Bob, who’d procured Manolo for Pete’s mother, that things are not working out with Manolo, Bob delivers a monologue about love being love no matter the sources, and presses his knee against Pete’s knee. For a brilliant, and I mean truly brilliant, analysis of Bob Benson, read Tom and Lorenzo’s piece on the subject.

Whatever else was going on in this episode, like Peggy calling Stan in the middle of the night, to help with a trapped rat, and even offering to make it worth his while, seems less compelling compared with what Sally and Don are going through. From the looks of “Next on Mad Men,” we’ll see more of how this unfolds.


  1. That scene with Sally witnessing Don and Sylvia actually made me gasp out loud. That the show can still make me do that six seasons in is something.

    And the scene with Pete and Peggy laughing at the table made me realize how little fun these people actually have. Everything is such a drama!

  2. I not only gasped when the camera went to Don and Sylvia, I got off my bar stool and start pacing. I told the bartender that something shocking had just happened — one of the most shocking things in six seasons. (He hasn’t watched Mad Men yet.) I happened to watch this episode with no sound, with captions, because there were sports on the other two sets at the bar. It was interesting to see the dense script flash across the screen. At one point, the caption referred to Manolo as Manuel, and I thought the captionist had erred. But when I watched the episode with sound, it turned out Peggy had indeed referred to him as Manuel. I assume that was deliberate or they thought it worked in the end. Otherwise the scripties/continuity folks would have flagged it. In any event, another new viewing experience.

    One thing I didn’t get into in this recap is how this will play out for Betty, if Sally or Sally’s therapist (I’m assuming Sally’s going see a therapist again) tells Betty what Sally saw, the fact that Betty slept with Don complicates his transgression with Sylvia, since Betty was technically doing the same thing as Sylvia, cheating on her husband, the difference of course being that Don is her ex-husband and the father of her three children. Still, know she can’t get all high and mighty because Don knows she’s no angel in the marital-fidelity department, even if it was ex sex, even if she’s not a sex addict like him, she did cheat on her husband. I don’t think this is going to play out explicitly — even though this is Mad Men, so we never know! –but the Betty-Don moment will certainly inform viewers’ responses to whatever’s up next.

    As for the office mood, it is true they don’t have that much fun — except when they call the doctor for booster shots! — but so many offices are joyless places, filled with people with complicated lives, this rings true to me.

  3. Yeah, I didn’t think about that. Betty can’t exactly get all huffy over the Don-Sylvia transgression and how it affects Sally, because Betty did the same thing with Don.

    I mean, the whole thing is just crazymaking. Who in their right mind (us the viewers or the show’s characters) would ever in a million years have thought Sally would walk into Sylvia’s apartment?! And yet, the way the writers wrote the episode, it makes complete sense. I wonder if the writers gasped when they hit that point in the writing process. I can just picture it: “Wait, what if…” and “Oh wow, how about we have…” and “Holy crap, that’s brilliant!”

  4. A few more thoughts. I think Betty assumes Don is being faithful to Megan and might feel slighted that she wasn’t the only one but might also feel vindicated or relieved that even young, beautiful Megan couldn’t tame his ways. Wow this could get complicated. I think too she will do whatever it takes to keep Sally from going back to Don’s. She will also feel inclined to protect Henry, who is running for office. After all Sally is his stepdaughter.

    Sometimes I wonder if any of the show’s writers grew up in New York City in the 1960s. They got so much so right. But the doorman of an Upper East Side condominium giving a teenager a full set of keys, that seems improbable, even in 1968. It would never ever, ever happen today. Today doormen accompany food deliveries to the door! In a way, it would have been wilder if the doorman AND Sally had gone into the kitchen together and both caught Don and Sylvia making the animal with two backs.

  5. And in today’s world, I can’t imagine kids riding in a cab together by themselves around NYC. I think they were in a cab, right? Maybe that wasn’t such a big deal back then.

    Then again, on “Family Affair,” Buffy and Jodie wandered around the city by themselves at all hours of the day and night.

    On another note, I hope Betty still isn’t trying to “reduce.” She seems darn thin in this episode.


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