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Mad Men: "Favors" OAD 6/9/13 ***SPOILERS***


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#1 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 10 June 2013 - 03:36 PM

Note: If a media player appears on your screen below, you may want to press play for background music while you read this review:

 

 

 

 

Last night's episode, "Favors", certainly was not one of the episodes in which it seems like nothing important happened to Don Draper. Of course, we should have known this from the beginning because it opened with Roger juggling oranges and, in all seriousness, telling Don: "Not all surprises are bad."

 

True, Roger, but in most people's lives the significant ones tend to be. And many feel like they are juggling oranges all the time to avoid the traumatic ones.

 

The historical background of this episode finally puts focus on the Vietnam War, making it personal, letting us know that the draft had changed from the WWII concept of a nearly universal responsibility share by all Americans to a 1968 economic/social class struggle - a draft obligation based on influence which was based on comparative wealth. The lottery wasn't instituted until December 1, 1969, but even after that the non-winners could still avoid being losers through influence. And thus we have a story line that involves the use of a game of who-you-know to get someone a chance to avoid the war by joining the Air National Guard and maybe even a chance to run into this guy:

 

220px-GW-Bush-in-uniform.jpg

 

Arnold and Sylvia want to avoid experiencing this possible scene with their about-to-be-drafted son Mitchell:

 

Here I stand, watching the tide go out
So all alone and blue
Just dreaming dreams of you

I watched your ship as it sailed out to sea
Taking all my dreams
And taking all of me

The sighing of the waves
The wailing of the wind
The tears in my eyes burn
Pleading, "My love, return"

Why, oh, why must I go on like this?
Shall I just be a lonely stranger on the shore?

 

And so Arnold and Don were in the bar with the music of Acker Bilk, "Stranger on the Shore", playing in the background:

 

MM611-01.jpg

 

Vietnam (the war, not the country) influences almost every important happening in this episode. It underlies the chain of events that move from Mitchell to Arnold to Don to Ted to Sylvia to Sally. And Pete's mother's nurse Manolo is a former Army nurse - available because of Vietnam which underlies the chain of events that moves from Bob Benson to Pete Campbell to Manolo to Dorothy Campbell to Peggy. It even underlies the chain of  events that begins with the missing-from-the-apartment-war-protester Abe to Peggy to a rat in a trap to Stan.

 

Everyone is granting favors - and in this show "favors" is a double-entendre  - which gets Peggy a  “I’m not your boyfriend” from Stan when she says she'll make it worth his while.

 

And it still isn't clear about Bob Benson.  We have that scene that might be letting us know that Bob is gay, or not. Bob did a favor for Pete by referring Manolo to take care of Dorothy. After confusing Peggy with Trudy causing Peggy a bit of a panic, Dorothy implies to Peggy that Manolo is a satisfying partner. Peggy tells Pete. Pete confronts Bob and we then have a scene in which a sickeningly charming Benson explains  love to Pete who's been described as "unlovable" by his own mother.

 

"Is it really so impossible to imagine?" Bob questions. "Couldn’t it be that if someone took care of you, is it impossible that you might begin to feel something for him? When it’s true love, does it matter who it is?” Benson moves his knee against Pete's.

 

Now the obvious assumption is that Benson is gay - hey, one of Roger's surprises. But wait a minute. We know Benson as a manipulative creep who can see right into the heart of his target's weaknesses. Pete has "manhood" issues and Pete over-expresses homophobic opinions. So do we really know if Bob is gay or just being the manipulative creep he has appeared to be so far? James Wolk as Bob Benson is playing that role perfectly.

 

But the big favor to be granted in this episode continues the process of killing the Don Draper that Dick Whitman likely envisioned, this time because of Don trying to help Mitchell  ...well... Arnold ...well really... Sylvia.

 

It is a complex process. But it rapidly leads to a scene with Don trying to hint to the GM folks that he needed a favor to get Mitchell one of those protected-from-the-draft jobs. That didn't go well.

 

Combined with the conflict between Sunkist and Ocean Spray as clients, Don's fumble with GM has ticked Ted off.

 

We have gotten our first real look at Ted's personal life. It seems normal and stable. He can have a conversation with his wife without the mean, manipulative Don-Betty or Don-Megan tensions. But Ted's wife appears to be fully aware of the problem Ted sees in Don - that for Ted it's a personal contest. She just wishes he'd not be so obsessed with the work situation.

 

We learn that Ted deals with things at work through memos. We know Don never saw a memo he couldn't ignore. Ted confronts Don. A hapless Don doesn't understand why Ted's so upset because Don is just operating like he always does ...well, sort of... well, not really. Ted lectures Don telling him about the work: "Be better at it." Don seems to realize he has been dropping the oranges.

 

Don and Ted make a peace accord sealed with a handshake. Aware of what Don was after with the pro-war GM guy, Ted let's Don know he knows a guy that can help with the Mitchell problem. Ted bluntly says: "I bet you don't have a lot of friends, Don, so I'm going to assume it's important." Ouch!

 

And so the favor of saving Mitchell is put into motion. But that favor passes from Ted's guy to Mitchell to Arnold to Sylvia and back to Don and puts into motion a new laison between Don and Sylvia.

 

Which then leads to Sally walking in on Don and Sylvia. Poor Sally. Her last visual lesson was accidentally seeing Megan's mom Marie in flagrante with Roger. And she finds herself in the wrong place again, this time because of a supposed "favor" done by her friend.

 

Here we see Jon Hamm at his best, playing Don/Dick, the confidence gone, the pain of failure. Dick realizes that Don has seriously failed his kid by being the irresponsible person he knows no parent should be. This is in the context of what we know Dick Whitman thinks would be the ideal parent he didn't have and he should be as Don Draper. He's failed to keep his eyes on the oranges both at home and at work.

 

And Kiernan Shipka playing daughter Sally railing "You make me sick" against Hamm as father Don turns out to be a superlative performer.

 

MM611-02.jpg


Edited by phrelin, 10 June 2013 - 03:48 PM.

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#2 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 05:07 PM

Phrelin, reading your synopsis with Acker Bilk's "Stranger on the Shore" playing in the background was a perfect companion to the episode. Thanks for the memory, and, once again, for your insightful interpretation.


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#3 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 07:30 PM

So Don was desperate for that creepy punk to get out of the Army just so he could bonk Flabby McThighs again? Has he really sunk that low??



#4 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 08:06 PM

So Don was desperate for that creepy punk to get out of the Army just so he could bonk Flabby McThighs again? Has he really sunk that low??

 

I think you missed the point -- by a country mile.


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#5 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 11:25 PM

Which is.............................................(crickets)?



#6 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 08:24 AM

The point is he felt guilty for what he had done and tried to make things right by helping Mitchell out. And then, since he is a genuinely flawed person, he went back and did the very thing which he felt guilty for again.

One note of correction for my friend Phrelin, who was after all just trying to be humorous: each state's Air National Guard is independent. Lt. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard and the fictional Mitchell Rosen would have served in the New York Air National Guard. It is not likely they would have met.

The two episodes prior to this one have seemed very much like the first minutes of a Law and Order episode where they try to lull you into thinking that everything is ok before they shock you. This episode, however, still didn't represent the finding of the body, more the rise in the music first. Things are even more tense now, even more broken.

For the most part I actually didn't care for the writing here. Ted Chaough has never seemed like an immature person before, and Megan Draper has never seemed more like a prop. The whole business that put Sally in the Rosen's apartment seemed contrived, too.

And then there is Bob Benson. At this point is there a viewer who is not saying, "what the **** is this guy's deal?" We see again that he might be, is probably, homosexual. Is he in any way associated with Sal Romano? (although I do not mean to imply that all homosexuals know each other, only that this show has a way of bringing back loose ends.) Is there more to his story than his sexuality?

I personally have toyed with the notion that Bob is Don's long lost son; that his first sexual encounter was shown to us not just to illustrate Don's persona but to imply that the prostitute became pregnant at that time. If so, the fatherless boy would have grown up quite differently from Don, happy on the outside but still deeply broken on the inside. Bob comes to New York, ingratiates himself into SC&P (possibly without even working there) and tries to penetrate Don's inner circle. As he fails, he gets angrier and angrier, possibly to the point of murdering one of Don's other children (and/or his young wife, who is Bob's age or younger) in a fit of long-repressed rage.

We shall see. In the meantime, I have been somewhat less than satisfied with the loose ends of this season. Still waiting for some explanation for Betty's transformation from brunette and rubenesque to blonde and tiny (other than just "she wanted to",) getting tired of waiting for the inevitable fistfight between Cutler and Sterling (both names, I'll point out, refer to silverware) and more than anything just waiting for the long fuse to finally pop.
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#7 ONLINE   gpg

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 09:02 AM

IIRC, there was a discussion between Betty and her husband ( or maybe her mother-in-law) regarding the need for Betty to lose weight to assist her husband's political aspirations. I think it took place early this season, but maybe it was from an episode late last season.
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#8 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 09:07 AM

I can't wait to read this thread! I am behind a couple of eps. 

 

phrelin- love the Acker Bilk addition. I was in England for a year when that came out, and I thought his name was "Ackah Bilt".


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#9 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 05:49 PM

I agree about the lazy, drifting writing here. Though I disagree about Don's motive to save the kid. The very first thing he did was try to get back in her Playtex. He's really hung up on that crumbling cougar. A lot of juice has gone out of the show without Don's constant philandering with super hotties. It's like a variety show that's turned into a talk show. I didn't sign up for a talk show!

 

Yes, Bob is just plain odd as a character. Seems unduly artificial and forced. Surreal, really. And for what payoff? I don't see him as Don's son, but note they've been keeping Pete away from girls all season so I can definitely see Pete ultimately falling for Bob. He's always seemed quite gay anyways! Anybody in love with Peggy can't be that far from being into guys.

 

Peggy is stagnant for another week. Ted is going nowhere. Roger is just a wisecracking sidekick. Megan is being given no dramatic role, though it looks like she finds out about the affair next week (just from the post-show trailer). Pete slogs on as this whining hand-wringer bystander. And nobody seems to be doing any actual advertising!

 

Also Betty switching into a cold, calculating bitch (ok, bitch, but not calculating) who now "uses" Don for her own pleasure without a drop of emotion is completely missing the point of her. That's not who she's ever been. And she's totally frustrated by her boring husband and always had a super-weak spot for Don emotionally. I don't see her magically turning into Bobbi Barrett without a motive.

 

Weak tea. Let's blow some s*** up next week, Weiner!


Edited by Maruuk, 14 June 2013 - 06:00 PM.


#10 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 06:15 PM

Finally caught up with the series last evening. I am wondering if I would have honed in on Acker Bilt's 1963 hit "Stanger on the Shore" had phrelin not supplied the .mp3. Thanks again!

 

Agree on the loose ends, but I am sure they'll be nicely tied up, though not prettily or happily. 

 

My take is that Pete is a repressed gay, and that somehow he'll be outed. He doesn't have the, uh, stuff to do so himself. 

 

Who jumps or falls out of a skyscraper? Or is that six year opening a "loose end"??


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#11 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 09:32 PM

Yeah, here he had this gorgeous, loving wife and he's never been the least bit interested. Plus he protesteth a bit too much with all his gay bashing. DUH! I can see it.

 

I had heard a while back that Sal was returning but so far a no show. Too bad, great character!


Edited by Maruuk, 14 June 2013 - 09:33 PM.





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