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