Mad Men "Favors" Review: All the Lonely People

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Mad Men S06E11: "Favors"

I feel like Mad Men is starting to repeat itself with its seemingly endless reaffirmations that Don Draper is an awful person. "Favors" showcased the Way of the Don fairly well in his willingness to lose everything—even things that aren't entirely his to throw away—in his pursuit of Sylvia. The alarms started blaring as soon as the shaggy-haired kid moping in Don and Megan's apartment was revealed to be Sylvia and Arnie's recently drafted son, and they only got louder as Don gave his all to get Mitchell a cushy National Guard gig. At one point, Don even went as far as to declare the war in Vietnam "wrong," which didn't sit right with me, not because I always thought Don would be for the war, but because I just don't think Don cared either way until it immediately affected him... or, more precisely, his love life.

So Don saved Mitchell—with some indispensable help from Ted—after almost ruining things with Chevy for the entire firm by steering the light dinner conversation into much darker subject matter. Sylvia rewarded his good deed by welcoming him back into her home and her pants... only for Sally to walk in on guilty sexy funtimes. Poor Sally. Between Betty's BOYS ARE BAD, SEX IS BAD, DON'T BE SLUTTY stance, Roger's "betrayal" of her affections during last season's "At the Codfish Ball," and now Don—it's no wonder she's incapable of talking to boys.

Don tried to talk to Sally, but his entire conversation with her smacked of desperation and fear that she would tattle to Megan, Arnie, Mitchell, and maybe even Betty—though I'm sure at this point Betty couldn't care less. Don's a selfish guy and because of his selfishness, he ended up brooding alone at the end of "Favors." It's standard Don Draper operating procedure. It's also becoming standard Sally operating procedure because like-father-like-offspring and all that.

The turmoil at the Draper home was in direct contrast to the situation at the Chaoughs'. Ted and his wife have been having issues all season long and while Ted isn't perfect—still making googly eyes at Peggy, still making it his life's mission to best Don at anything—Ted clearly has a vastly different approach to his family and children than Don does. Ted may pine for Peggy, but other than that one kiss, he hasn't acted on his feelings. And when his wife complained about him never being home, he made an effort to come home. Of course, the Chaoughs' issues go much deeper than that, and Ted's decision not to wake his wife with the surprise that he'd returned at a respectable hour confirmed that it will take much more than eating dinner with the fam to fix their problems, but Ted's presence made his kids happy, which currently gives him a better track record than Don on that front.

In addition to Don and Sally, there were quite a few lonely people going to bed in Mad Men's New York at the end of "Favors." Peggy took her first step toward growing up to be a cat lady when Stan refused to come over in the middle of the night to dispose of a rat in Peggy's apartment. Peggy's attempt to barter a favor backfired because Stan knows her too well. When he refused on grounds of not being her boyfriend, Peggy promised to make it worth his while. "No, you won't," Stan grumbled and hung up.

And Pete didn't fare much better in an episode that featured quite a few Peggy/Pete throwbacks to earlier seasons—notably, Momma Campbell mistaking Peggy for Trudy and getting all awkward about "the baby," and Pete mentioning his father's death in a plane crash. In a way, their positions of power within the firm's new structure have reversed. Pete picked up on it himself when he lamented that at least one of them ended up being important—and he wasn't talking about himself. The current Pete has grown up to the point that if he could build a time machine and try to redo things with Season 1 Peggy... it might actually work. He's more mature and insightful, less entitled, and a little more genuine. He's still obsessed with his status, but he's also more accepting of where he falls on the social and corporate ladder. That doesn't mean he likes where he is, but he seems to understand it. I can't image the current Pete ever trying to blackmail Don the way his Season 1 characterization did. In an argument with his mother about Manolo the Nurse, the Momma Campbell told Pete that he was a sour child who grew into a sour man and that he'd always been "unlovable" (that's just COLD, Mrs. C). Season 1 Pete would have argued with the point and secretly obsessed over it in private, but our current Pete just seemed to accept it. He thinks that he's unlovable too.

Pete's story in "Favors" peaked with the big "reveal" regarding Bob Benson and cemented the cynicism that permeated everyone's little and not-so-little favors when we found out the Nicest Guy Ever miiiiight not be so nice after all. First there was the lie about Manolo nursing his father back to health that conflicted with his initial story about his father being dead. I'm willing to drop the Bob Benson: Serial Killer theory, but it breaks my little grinch heart to think that the only reason Bob has been SO FREAKING PLEASANT to everyone is that he simply wanted to get in Pete's pants. I'm anxious—and worried—about when we'll next see Bob again because while Pete was definitely more generous to Bob than Don was to Sal when Don found out about Sal's sexuality, he still wasn't exactly kind.

Still, Bob's friendliness hasn't always been directly associated with Pete—it's also been the key to his continued employment at SC&D—and now that know Bob's interest in Joan wasn't romantic in the slightest, I really just want them to go on more adventures at the beach as platonic BFFs. I suspect there will be some awkwardness between Bob and Pete in the future—due to Pete's self-consciousness more than anything else—but Bob has proven himself time and again to be the utmost professional in his job sooo... mostly I just really like Bob and don't want him to go the way of Sal, okay? Okay.

I always feel a little weird when I don't love a Mad Men episode because Mad Men should always be flawless, but despite the Bob Benson revelation (which, admittedly, after all of the amazing internet theories, was kind of a letdown), "Favors" did a lot of wheel-spinning. Don and Sylvia make me go "UGH," and Don compromising client relationships for his own gain or amusement is nothing new; at this point, it's more than a little frustrating to watch because other than Ted yelling at him, there's no consequence and he just keeps doing it.

But hey, Peggy got a cat!


NOTES

– WTFLOL Mad Men moment: Roger juggling oranges!

– Megan Draper Death Watch: Who else thinks the Drapers' doorman is kind of flaky? Like, he's super friendly and accommodating, which is awesome for his tenants, but as far as being the front line of security for the building, he seems a bit lacking—and not just because he forked his keys over to Sally like eight times. (Okay, two, but still.) He just really spent a lot of time absent from his post, you know?

– "He can't spend the rest of his life on the run." Not that Don would know anything about that...

– During the conversation with Arnie about how 18/19-year-old soldiers have no sense of their own mortality—or, as Don pointed out, anyone else's—did you get the feeling at all that Don was momentarily regretting stealing the real Don Draper's identity? Or even in general, do you think he ever feels slightly bad about it?

– What will Peggy name her cat? I can honestly see her just calling it "Cat."

What'd you think of "Favors"?