5 Things I Learned From Last Night’s Mad Men: “Favors”

While this episode wasn’t one of my favorites, I was glad to see some purpose to Don and Sylvia’s relationship finally come forth, as well as to finally get some insight into Bob’s relationship with Pete. But mostly — this episode just felt lonely to me. Peggy sitting with her cat and a cigarette. Don resting his ear against his daughter’s door, desperately trying to save any semblance of respect she had for him. Ted carrying his two boys out of his wife’s room to avoid having another conversation with her. Pete throwing an empty box of cereal at an empty cabinet. Empty and lonely. That is how this episode left me feeling.

Here are 5 things we learned this week:

Inter-Office Battles Continue. Nobody in this office seems to know what the other is doing. Don never knows when meetings are and continuously comes in way, way late. Ted sends out memos that not a single partner seems to read. The partners stand in a hallway yelling at each other, rather than conducting a productive meeting.  And Ted continues to sulk, yelling about juice in his office: “I don’t want his juice, I want my juice!” These men are reduced to children in every sense of the word. Entitlement, bickering, and now literally fighting over juice boxes. Once again, a truce is reached at the end of this episode—Ted will help out Mitchell, if Don calls a cease-fire on this inter-office war. Once again, I’m left convinced nothing will change

Turns out, 1-A is a problem that can be solved… if you’re Don Draper. Don discovers that Sylvia’s son is 1-A, available for immediate service. Don desperately wants to solve this—and I can’t distinguish if he wants to do this for himself, or for Sylvia. But he works every angle, and he goes as far as asking Pete for some help. Eventually, he gets his answer not from GM as he suspected, but from Ted. At a pretty minor cost. And I can’t help but wonder, did he do it for this kid? Or did he do it for this moment on the phone with Sylvia—this moment of her complete happiness, her complete relief. It all seems too selfless for Don, but it was a respectable, powerful act of kindness regardless.

I wish I had a Stan. I continue to love Peggy’s relationship with Stan. I couldn’t tell who she was going to call when she found a rat caught in her trap—certainly not Abe. But I suspected Ted or Pete. Despite the fact that all of Peggy’s relationships with men have fallen to pieces over the past few weeks (and she even has bought a cat: to eat mice or keep her company?) it’s heartwarming to see she still has someone she can depend on. Even though he doesn’t come to her rescue—their moments over the phone continue to be the most loving moments on the show for me. Recognizing his sexy voice, genuinely apologizing for waking him, and he picks up. He calms her down. This is certainly more endearing than Ted’s relationship with his wife, than Don’s tryst with Sylvia, than Megan’s façade of a marriage with Don. It’s loving.

Context is Everything. We saw it last week when Don was in California—outside of New York, outside of his office, outside of this life, he becomes less imposing. Less impressive. This week, we see it through the eyes of a horrified daughter. Don’s affair with Sylvia becomes what it truly is—dirty, grimy, hidden sex in a maid’s bedroom on lunch hour. He becomes just a dirty old man caught with his pants down. And when Sally stands up and yells that he makes her sick—she is able to say what we all have been thinking for weeks. She is able to see Don for what he is—a man she held up above all others who has completely let her down. And maybe, in this moment, Don sees it a little bit himself.

Bob definitely has ulterior motives. But they aren’t what we thought they were. This season’s use of doubles is almost a little too blatant if you ask me, but, effective. Here we have a nurse who does nothing but care for Pete’s mother, and while it is unclear if their relationship is as sexual as she would have us believe, she definitely feels love for him. And she is much happier than she was when we first saw her show up on Pete’s doorstop. And here we have Bob—who has said more than once that he cares for Pete. That he wants Pete to be happy, that he is on his side, that he will do whatever it is that Pete needs. And Pete welcomes this—he appreciates the adoration. But once Bob lays it out on there in Pete’s office, once the relationship crosses what Pete deems appropriate, he flips a switch. He fires Manolo, and he most likely will have no further interaction with Bob. Pete is left with nothing but an empty apartment, an empty box of cereal, and there is not a soul in the world that cares about him.

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