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The end of the innocence
June 10, 2013 - Ray Eckenrode
“Mad Men” 6x11:
Episode title: “Favors”
Significance: Most notably, a reference to the favor Don did for the Rosens in trying to help their son, Mitchell, avoid active duty in Vietnam (and whether he did it out of guilt or affection). But we also learned why Bob Benson has been doing so many favors for Pete: He’s in love with him (not that there’s anything wrong with that). And even Peggy offered a little something something up to Stan if he’d come over a do her the favor of disposing of a mortally wounded rat. All three favors involved some kind of sexual undertone, leaving plenty of room to discuss why any of us do anything nice for anyone. The charming Mr. Benson left no doubt: “Couldn’t it be that if someone took care of you, very good care of you, that you’d begin to feel something for him?” he asked Pete.
Time passages: Without a lot of clues, we can only assume this episode takes place roughly late September of 1968.
Sally Draper loves her father, no, check that, adores him.
Despite all the trauma he’s brought upon his family, despite all his obvious personal failings, despite everything, his only daughter has seemed to always see the best in her father.
“You hate that daddy supports my dreams,” she tells her mother fitfully early in “Favors.”
Don and Sally’s relationship has been one of the most honest and mature we’ve seen during six seasons of “Mad Men.” In some ways, Sally’s worldview here mirrors that of the audience. We know Don Draper is a selfish, self loathing, pitiable bastard. But we can’t help but relate to him, even admire him on occasion. And that made Don’s latest and greatest betrayal of someone he loves sting so much more.
The final 10 minutes of “Favors” – the fallout after Sally catches Don and Sylvia in bed in the Rosen’s apartment – ranks among the best 10 minutes of “Mad Men” ever. We’ve never seen Don Draper look so desperate, so lost, like the weight of not just this betrayal, but every betrayal, has come back upon him.
And we know, we just know right away that Sally is not going to spill the beans about what she’s seen (at least not right away and maybe never). We know in that one instant Sally realizes every good thing she imagined about her father was just that, a young girl’s imagination. And we know that she knows she’s now complicit in the deception. Speak out and she’ll lose Megan, the cool stepmom who’s become a role model for her; she’ll lose her big-city getaway; and she’ll have to listen to her mother’s “I told you so’s” for a very long time. No, it’s keep quiet, internalize it, and move forward for Sally.
The scene where Don and Sally negotiate an uneasy truce in whispers through the closed bedroom door cuts quick – a broken man on one side, a not-so-little-anymore girl on the other. Don’s words ring hollow, but he must say them. Sally – who’s now fully stepped into adulthood, despite never even getting to second base yet – expects them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t sting. The ugly truth is on the table. We grieve for the little girl lost, for what she’s seen can’t be unseen and what she knows now can’t be unknown. And deep down she has to wonder, as we do, just how much like her father she really is.
About last week: In case you missed it, a season’s worth of speculation and rumors about Megan possibly being murdered seemed to be coming to a head after last week’s cryptic episode full of death imagery. But Megan was safe and sound upon Don’s return to New York. Whether she’ll remain that way is yet to be seen.
Brand names: While the Sunkist-Ocean Spray juice war was front and center, there were a couple great cereal cameos by Super Sugar Crisp and Raisin Bran and good ol’ Prell shampoo got a shoutout from Sally and her friend.
+ For as slick and calculated as Bob Benson’s actions have been so far this season, didn’t the pass he made at Pete seem a little too awkward?
+ We love the fact that Jonesy the Doorman has the same penchant for causing unintentional chaos on “Mad Men” as the character that actor Ray Abruzzo played in “The Sopranos,” Little Carmine Lupertazzi. Matthew Weiner, of course, created “Mad Men” after leaving “The Sopranos” writing team.
+ How great are Elisabeth Moss and Vincent Kartheiser? The show really hasn’t touched Peggy and Pete’s long-ago relationship in years, but it all came pouring back after a brief conversation between Peggy and Pete’s misguided mother and the two just nailed all the nuances of their shared history in that drunken diner scene.
+ It’s interesting how Ted Chaough, who once seemed like a villain in this whole tableau, now is coming across as the Anti-Don, someone faced with the same challenges and temptations, but who makes the “right” choices in dealing with them. That’s got to end badly for Chaough, right?
+ Speaking of great acting, Don’s 10 seconds of indecision in the apartment lobby is the best thing Jon Hamm’s done on the show. Brilliant. Once upon a time, we had a theory that the “Mad Men” opening montage should be interpreted literally and that the show will eventually show it’s lead character jumping from a Madison Avenue skyscraper to his death. As we’ve gotten to know Don Draper better, we abandoned that idea, thinking he’s much too selfish to ever commit suicide. But for a second there in “Favors,” we almost could believe he’d do it.
Sweet tweet: “@SavvyAuntie: I think the person who does Don Draper’s sweat deserves some sort of Emmy.”
Lines of the night:
+ “He can’t spend the rest of his life on the run.” –Don Draper (who should know)
+ “At least one of us ended up important.” –Pete Campbell
+ “You were a sour little boy and now you’re a sour little man.” –Dorothy Dyckman Campbell
+ “Imagine if every time Ginger Rogers leaped in the air, Fred Astaire punched her in the fact.” –Ted Chaough
+ “It’s all your juice.” –Jim Cutler
+ “This isn’t a handshake of gratitude, it’s a binding contract.” –Ted Chaough
+ “You were good to me, better than I was to you.” –Syliva Rosen
+ “You are the sweetest man.” –Megan Draper
+ “I owe you.” –Arnold Rosen
Don Draper looked as lost and alone as we've ever seen him in "Favors."