'Mad Men' recap: 'Favors'

Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm, is not 'Dad of the Year' material in 'Favors.'
Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm, is not 'Dad of the Year' material in 'Favors.' (Michael Yarish/AMC)

Bob Benson's secret is finally revealed. And, no, it's not teaming with the NSA to spy on SC&P's phone conversations.

But before we get into that, let's talk about Don helping someone else run from the military for a change.


This season has been somewhat slow and slightly spotty, especially when delving into current affairs (see: the MLK assassination, which featured next-to-no perspective from the black characters).

At times, this season has briefly alluded to the Vietnam War, whether it’s Kevin’s Greg's self-imposed stay in the Army or Ginsberg lamenting the war’s 200 body bags a week. But it wasn’t until this episode that Don gets entangled in draft dodging.

When Mitchell asks Megan for advice on fleeing to Canada to dodge the draft, Don's convinced Mitch should man up and head to war: "He can't spend the rest of his life on the run." Only Don Draper can pull that off.


When Don and Dr. Rosen head to a bar, however, he changes his tune. He lauds Mitchell for his idealism, playing devil's advocate to Arnie's service-and-sacrifice stance.

But more importantly, Don's bar chat with Arnie was riddled with hints that someone was going to find out about his affair with Sylvia. We just didn't know it would be Sally.

"I've been meaning to knock on your door anyway… for Mets tickets." Even more telling is when Arnie reveals she says she's been lying about little things.

But Don doesn't care about these scares; he's got a woman to win back. With a compromise of his morals -- and a couple of uncomfortable conversations -- he finds a way to help the long-haired Mitchell avoid combat.


But of course, it's not just for Mitchell. He calls Sylvia to tell her the good news. Relieved and grateful, she also asks why.

"I have children, too," he tells her. "I know that's not why you're doing it," she says, seeing right through him.

She then gives Don a bizarre reason for ending their affair. "I hope you know I was just frustrated with you." Is frustration a sign of PTSD? Because that's not quite the emotion I was expecting from a woman who was kept as a sex slave in a hotel room for a few days.

Then she gives the most ass-backwards confession ever: "You were good to me. Better than I was to you." Uh, is she on some sort of weed/LSD/speed/hash mix? Because she's more delusional than Ginsy. (Poor kid. Wonder what he was up to this episode?)

And just like all the other favors he's done for her (cough, money), she repays him with a lunchtime quickie, interrupted by Sally.

Arnold, unaware of Don's selfish motives, visits the Drapers during dinner and praises him for his heroism.

"You are the sweetest man!" Megan coos, kissing him.

"You make me sick!" Sally shouts, running to her room.

Don chases after her and gives her a the lamest excuse: "I was comforting Mrs. Rosen." That might as well be the "dog ate my homework" excuse for philanderers.

Wiping away her tears, she mumbles, "OK."

There's nothing else she really can say. Walking in on your parents is traumatizing, but finding out your dad is having an affair, even if it's not your mother he's cheating on, is heartbreaking.

Sally has been a "Mad Men" fan favorite because she's the only flickering hope for normalcy in a toxic and dysfunctional family. Sure, she's been acting-out with her parents, but with parents like hers, that's a reassuring sign.

As long as she rebels by standing up for herself and not by running away to join squatters in the village, there is hope for her. And how she deals with her father's infidelity is a clear indication of whether she'll lead a functional or destructive life.

But Don's biggest concern isn't how his daughter is handling this news. It's who she'll tell. Megan? Unlikely, since she's on such shaky terms with her that she addresses her as "Mrs. Draper." From the teaser, it seems like she'll confide in Betty.

(Side note: I tend not to take teasers seriously, especially when the "Favors" teaser showed Peggy unlocking the door frantically. What she was running away from seemed much more dangerous than rats. In this case, however, Betty does say that something is bothering Sally.)

But does Betty have much room to judge after their night in the cabin? Of course not. Then again, this is Betty. Unpredictable, unbalanced and unforgiving Betty. Look out, Don.

As for the feud between SCDP and CGC, it rages on in a showdown between Ted and Don.

Ted berates Don for bringing up the war to keep Mitchell from being shipped off to 'Nam, a buzzkill of a dinner topic with Chevy. And Roger's Hemingway joke about blowing your brains wasn't morose or grossly inappropriate?

Ted's hissy fit isn't just about mentioning the Vietnam War. It's about the war on juice. Yes, juice, as in the kind you drink, or in SC&P's case, mix in cocktails.

Don, bewildered, tells him not to take it so personally. Newsflash, Ted: Don's a grade-A narcissist. He's so self-absorbed that he barely notices anyone unless they can give him something he wants. And if he wants to duke it out with you, you will most certainly know.

Ted, of course, is a narcissist in his own right. Everything is about him, even when it isn't. And any negative attention is good attention, especially when it comes to his worthy opponent, Don.

Eventually, the two come to an armistice of sorts: Don gives Ted his juice -- all the juice -- and Ted will put in a word for his buddy at the Air National Guard.

Ted secures one small work victory. His home life, however, is another battle. After coming home late, Ted is chewed out for not spending time with his young boys. Even worse, he's obsessed with work, especially the people there.

"I know you like having a young copywriter in your airplane," she says. Is she hinting that he's been unfaithful before? Or does she just know her husband well enough to know when something is up?

"And I know you like facing Don Draper every morning more than the clients." This woman knows her husband -- certainly better than Megan or Betty knew Don.

Later, we see that Ted's not able to shower his wife with affection after coming home late from work, since she's sleeping. But unlike Don, he's able to spend a fleeting  -- and incredibly adorable -- moment with his kids.

How sweet was that piggyback ride he gave his son? Fat chance we'd see Don doing that with Bobby or Gene.

Luckily, the charming moments didn't stop there. In a slightly awkward yet endearing get-together, Peggy is out for drinks (err, research) with her new love interest, Ted, and her old flame, Pete.

As despicable as he is, it was refreshing to see Pete and Peggy shooting the breeze, acting chummy and discussing her awkward conversation with Pete's mother.

Their past is as checkered as Ted's eyesore of a suit, but there's no reason why they can't get along now. At least when booze and juice is involved. It certainly doesn't hurt that Pete admits that Peggy exceeds him professionally. "Please don't tell me you pity me," he gripes sorrowfully.


Showing up your douchebag ex at work and flirting with your boss who is clearly smitten with you in front of said ex? Peg's got it in spades. Now all she needs is a rat-free apartment, Abe excluded.


Back to Pete's momma drama: Pete is outraged that Manny, his mother's caretaker, is releasing "a fire from her loins." Bob, resident brown-noser, assures him that "when there's true love, it doesn't matter who it is."

With the grazing of his knee against Pete's (or wide stance, if you'd prefer), that's when it all clicks: Bob Benson isn't some mole from a competing agency -- he's gay. And hitting on Pete of all people. Ew, Bob can do so much better.

Suddenly, those short shorts make sense. The only person with a finely tuned gaydar was an emotionally fragile Ginsberg during his mental breakdown last week: "What are you, a homo?" I figured that was his homophobia and/or paranoia talking.

Pete, far from the beacon of tolerance, rebuffs Bob's pass. "Tell him I'll give him a month's pay. And tell him it's disgusting." Clearly, he's not just talking about Manny nursing his enamored mother.

Bob, mustering a smile, says, "Of course," and walks out of Pete's office with his chin up. All those motivational books and tapes must have prepared him to cope with that sting.

Bob had better not be fired for his sexuality, like Sal was. Anyone who can boss Pete to quell his temper tantrum is worth keeping on payroll.


BEST ROGER ONE-LINER: "Not all surprises are bad," after juggling oranges. Roger. Juggles. ORANGES? First Ken tap dances a storm, now Roger juggles oranges? "Mad Men" becomes some sort of Vaudeville/variety show, and I love it! What? I'm a sucker for gif-worthy entertainment.

MOST DISTURBING MENTAL IMAGE: Peggy turning over her couch to find a mortally wounded and stuck in a trap rat flipping around. Blegh. Bummer Abe didn't get that shabby and rat-ridden dump in the cohabitation agreement. At least she has a cat now.

BEST HOOKUP WE DIDN'T GET TO SEE: Peggy and Stan. She called him in the middle of the night to help with her rat problem, offering a li'l something in return. Yes, I'd like to see them hook-up, but only as a one-and-done-type deal (too much of a stoner for our Pegs), and ideally not in a "I'll whore myself out if you kill this rat" type of situation. Have standards, Peggy.

MOST VALUABLE WORK-RELATED LESSON: Don't send too many memos. That goes for emails, too.

BIGGEST SIGH OF RELIEF: Sally knows not to play dumb to get guys. There is hope she won't become like her mother after all.

WORST TWEENER GAME: The fold-up "Things I like about Mitchell" game. Did MASH (Mansion Apartment Shack House) or the paper fortune teller not exist back then? Or did I have a deprived tweenhood for not playing this game at recess?

MOST DISAPPOINTING ABSENCE: Joan. We saw more of Christina Hendricks during the Johnnie Walker commercials than the actual show. Fingers crossed that means she's been working hard to land that Avon account.

BEST BURN: "You don't have a lot of friends, Don, so I'm going to assume it's important." Ted, who really doesn't have any room to talk, not when his wife needs to remind him to enjoy life.

PERSON WE'RE HAPPIEST TO SEE ALIVE: Megan. After all the theories floating around last week, including on this blog, the Internet had declared Megan dead already. Don't hold your breath, Megan fans (yes, I'm sure they exist). There are still two more episodes left. Dun dun dun…