Plenty of favors, both formal and sexual - but mostly sexual - were exchanged in this week’s Mad Men, lending the episode its title: “Favors.”
Don does all he can to help the Rosens’ son Mitchell from entering prison for draft evasion. All in the hopes, of course, of Syliva returning the favor.
Ted ends up doing the bulk of the favor, asking a friend to give Mitchell a relatively harmless pilot position.
Mrs. Campbell’s male caretaker may or may not be offering her some sexual favors of his own.
And of course…Sylvia returns the favor.
But “Favors” is less about the favors themselves, and more about the motives behind the favors.
So many of our favorite Mad Men characters are supremely selfish, with only brief moments of compassion or consideration. It makes us wonder what’s in it for them.
We’ve already discussed Don’s motives. He’s clearly not over Sylvia. He wants to help Mitchell so that he can get her to talk to him again; so that he’ll be seen as the hero.
Ted is one of the only “compassionate by default” characters on the show, making his favor more of a reflex than a cunning strategy.
He agrees to help Don help Mitchell with very little hesitation - and this, after Don nearly destroyed a dinner with Chevy by “testing the waters” on their willingness to help, given their large military contract. Only after his initial willingness does Ted realize he can use the situation to get a little something out of Don.
What does he want out of Don? Just for him to be a better partner; pay attention, stop subtly competing.
The most interesting motive reveal of all this episode comes from the frustratingly enigmatic Bob.
We get our first real glimpse into who Bob is and what he’s after with a perplexing scene between him and Pete.
After hearing that the caretaker may be taking advantage of Pete’s Mom, Bob, who recommended him, gives a long impassioned speech about how loving a man can make you feel lively, ending with a subtle-ish come-on to Pete.
That Bob is homosexual would not be particularly shocking or groundbreaking - especially given Salvatore’s storyline over the first three seasons - but that he is interested in Pete certainly would be. It seems a tad asynchronous, so we’ll see how it pans out.
Hopefully this isn’t the last of the Bob-related reveals, as his odd nature seems to be leading up to something big.
Bob isn’t the only one with some Pete-related chemistry this week. Signs that were pointing to something between Peggy and Stan, and then Peggy and Ted, are now inching ever-so slightly towards Peggy and Pete.
Beginning with Pete’s mom mistaking Peggy for Trudy - complete with an accidental reference to their child together - and ending with parallels between their lonely isolated home lives (Peggy seems to be searching for someone that can be there to kill rats - and it won’t be Stan, who adamantly proclaimed “I’m not your boyfriend), it seems Peggy and Pete may soon find themselves settling for each other out of sheer convenience.
The biggest moment of the episode came, however, when Sally walks in on Don collecting his “favor” from Sylvia.
Tensions have been rising all season long, and we knew Don’s affair would come back to bite him in the ass. Despite Sally seemingly coming to a reluctant surrender of her panicked disgust over discovering her father cheating, the event may just have irreparably damaged her and her relationship to Don.
As soon as Sally saw Don and Sylvia together, the act became so, so real.
The affair between Sylvia and Don may just be the crashing-down of Don’s world that the entire season has been pointing to. We’ll see if Sally lets it slip.