Commentary

'Mad Men' Episode 611: 'Favors,' Or Comforting Mrs. Rosen

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 11Titled “Favors,” this was one of the season’s most surprising, brilliant, but difficult-to-watch episodes, featuring extraordinary performances from the entire cast -- but actors Jon Hamm and Kiernan Shipka deserve extra kudos. How many times can poor Sally lose her innocence?  And how many times can Don survive all hell (or his inner Dick) breaking loose?

While we’re counting, the fact that Don would get caught like a rat in a trap was foreshadowed early in the show with the actual rat, trapped and bleeding, in Peggy’s dump of an Upper West Side apartment.   Sex, rats, and favors don’t mix much. The episode was also a lot about keys and doors, and places that shouldn’t be entered.

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But mostly, it was about conflicts (Sunkist vs. Ocean Spray) and massive role confusion: within families, between parents and children, (Pete and his mother and Don and Sally), in romantic relationships (Manolo and Mrs. Campbell, Pete and Ben), and friendships (Sally and the evil, Eddie Haskell-like Julie.)

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 11Peggy mistakes Stan for a boyfriend, calling him in the middle of the night, asking for a killing favor, just as in Annie Hall, Diane Keaton called Woody Allen to take care of a “bug the size of a Buick” in her bathroom. Peggy even offers to trade sexual favors in return for Stan doing the rodent deed. And he responds that the problem mammal would be “dead by the morning.” (And we learn that Stan sleeps not with the fishes, but under an oversized poster of Moshe Dayan.)

Confusion reigns, like some darker midsummer night’s dream: Pete’s mother mistakes Peggy for his ex-wife, Trudy; she also goes all cougar on her nurse, Senor Wences (I mean Manolo),  and Bob Benson makes some sweet kneecap love to Pete, who has openly stated that “homosexuals are degenerate.” 

“When it’s pure love, why does it matter who it is?” the service-oriented Bob tells him, getting weirdly other-worldly and sappy, like someone whose takeout coffee was just laced with pixie dust.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 11As sons and daughters, it’s odd that Pete and Sally would find themselves in the same boat, both grossed out by the thought of their hypersexualized parents “doing it” with strange partners.

Obviously, Pete’s been plenty damaged by his cold and cruel mother already.  But Sally’s situation is worse, made more troubling by her father’s selfish attempts to  cover up, telling her, as he stands outside her door, that he knows what she “thinks" she saw. He uses the “I was comforting Mrs. Rosen” line like she’s a five year old. Earth to Don: this is not a situation like Peggy’s, when you can sit at her bedside and tell her “you won’t believe how much this never happened.”

It happened. And now the worst of all damage is done: by trying to “save” his mistress’ son, and taking a victory lap to celebrate, Don has managed to inflict his own childhood nightmare (seeing his Uncle Mac attack his stepmother, when Don/Dick was about the same age) on Sally.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 11In that maid’s room off the mustard-colored kitchen, the scene was set up to be as squalid as possible: Don standing with his pants around his ankles,  black socks still on, with Sylvia receiving on the bed with her naked legs up in the air.  Meanwhile, Sally is dressed as a conservative schoolgirl, in knee socks and a blouse with a bow

The terrible irony was that Betty somehow thought that by staying with Don, and not in a hotel with boys and a teacher, Sally would be better off.

When they were at Bobby’s camp, Betty told Don that Henry thought Sally was just like Don. And at times in this episode, her cadences sounded exactly like his. And Sally ended up standing at Sylvia’s kitchen door, listening, and wanting to sneak in, just as Don did when he was moping and smoking in the hallway.

Back in their apartment, Sally has to watch Don get honored by the Rosen boys, and hear Megan call him “the sweetest man!”

“You’re disgusting, “ Sally tells him, as she gets up from the table and runs inside. (It’s a parallel to what Pete says about his mother and  her “Manny.”)

Meanwhile, at the office, Don is also often MIA, not reading memos, not going to meetings. I don’t know how he expects to get through this.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 11But it seems that every time we get collectively fed up as viewers, and count Weiner and the MM writers down or out, they come springing back, out of the blue, to give us all a flying punch in the face, to paraphrase Ted C’s interesting aerial Fred Astaire reference.

That line was unexpected and fitting: indeed, Ted is sometimes forced to play Ginger to Don’s Fred, doing everything Don does, except while dancing backwards and in high heels. As former enemies and now oddly conjoined co-creative directors, brothers under the skin, Don and Ted sometimes act like masters of the universe, lead dogs peeing on their respective territories. (And don’t forget that cranberry juice is an active diuretic!)  Other times, they’re just mad little babies, peeing in their diapers and crying “I don’t want his juice! I want my juice!”

The scene with Ted’s wife stretched out on her bed in her flaming orange bedroom, complaining that he is never home, paralleled the scenes that Don used to endure with a more-petulant Betty in their suburban bedroom. (Weiner is a bit of a misogynist when it comes to creating nagging wives, although Ted’s wife seems more tuned in to reality.)

Ted’s wife is lonely, and there are also a series of interesting shots showing alienation: Don alone in the elevator, sweating and pacing like an animal; Pete alone, with no cereal to be found in the box; Peggy living alone among rats -- but later, not so triumphantly, with a cat, which is what her mother had meanly predicted for her.

The ending, with Don walking down the hallway a defeated man, was made all the more powerful by the lack of music. His shoes were squeaking, like a hobo’s, and he seemed to be shuffling off this mortal coil.

Only two more episodes left this season. Do you think Don will escape again?

30 comments about "'Mad Men' Episode 611: 'Favors,' Or Comforting Mrs. Rosen".
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  1. Tom Weisend from Rue La La, June 11, 2013 at 12:06 p.m.

    I have to wonder what we are supposed to think of Bob abd Pete's moment in the office? Pete seemed inert, didn't even draw away his knee seconds after referring to homosexuals at "degenerates." This on the heels of his mother telling him he is and always was unloveable. Your "pixie dust" analysis of Bob's "does it really matter" soliloquy is perfect.

  2. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, June 11, 2013 at 12:12 p.m.

    Thanks, Tom. The line about pete being a sour little boy and a sour little man really stung. He seems to be a heterosexual who rages against women, commitment, and having kids, and I guess was as damaged by his mother as Don was by his.
    And I believe Bob is just an opportunist.

  3. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, June 11, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.

    When the suds of the soap opera portion of the show rise above the edges of the Norge washing machine, i turn to the concurrent plot: the ad business. The partners' status meeting before the real status meeting showed an insight into multi-partner endeavors before the e-mail and to some extent after its advent. Additionally, a partner of mine once pontificated (actually he pontificated more often than Pius XX11 actually) that are no conflicts; in this case, seems like a good like for Sterling Cooper to follow the example of 60s mogul Marion Harper and start a holding company to hold onto conflicts. Media strategy to delay having to do creative work was also a common ploy, but usually with an account you already had. As for the detergent part of the plot...once again...I am so slow I now not only have to watch the show twice, I also read Barbara's comments twice and then forward them to my son, the exegete. TV before the internet was not q

  4. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, June 11, 2013 at 12:51 p.m.

    uite as good as what followed. Like Radio being made better by TV. Or movies made better by, well what they made better by?

  5. jessica ulin from optimedia, June 11, 2013 at 12:56 p.m.

    brilliant synopsis, barbara! my favorite line was "makes some sweet kneecap love to Pete"...hilarious and right on. i agree that bob seems to be just an opportunist, but we shall see. can't wait for the next two! have we officially abandoned the sharon tate storyline?

  6. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, June 11, 2013 at 1:03 p.m.

    @tom-- the ad part has gotten better since the merger! do you think that Ted will end up with the whole thing?
    @Jessica-- still room for Tate, sadly. The new thing was that Mark Lindsay, the rock star that Sally says reminds her of Mitchell, lived in that same house, apparently, before Tate did!

  7. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, June 11, 2013 at 1:31 p.m.

    The most dramatic Don is always the self-destructive one. Except he has finally gone from the rogue to the bastard. His lies to colleagues, wives and mistresses always got a pass because, well because he was Don. But to his own daughter? He has doomed her to his own life. Amazing person, that Peggy. She can bring out the best in everyone, including Pete. Go figure? I actually saw some good in Pete during his drinks-among-friends few minutes with her. While I was surprised by Bob's move on Pete, I suppose I shouldn't have been, as it was foreshadowed by Manolo giving Pete's behind the once over early in the show.

  8. Bob Shiffrar from Lehman Millet, June 11, 2013 at 1:50 p.m.

    After getting caught in flagrante Sallio, Don looked, quite literally, like a dead man. I've seen some stills of that scene, and I believe Hamm is wearing blueish-purple lipgloss and a sheen of flop sweat.

    Oh, and I believe Candice Bergen lived in the Tate house before Tate and Polanski. In a completely unrelated topic, my college friends and I used to drive up to that house (to the gate, anyway) on the anniversary of the murders. Quite a party scene up there; certainly too noisy to hear the sound of ice rattling in cocktail shakers in the homes way down the canyon. I'm sure it thrilled the neighbors to no end. The old house has since been replaced by a massive pink concrete monstrosity called Villa Bella.

  9. Helene Kremer from L'esprit de Vin, June 11, 2013 at 2:35 p.m.

    This episode was riveting, but I was disappointed there was no follow-up with Joan and the Avon account. I'd love for Harry to get the boot but good, Joan was so intuitive in media.

    Ugh, I used to think Bob was a harmless "accounts guy," but he's just bizarre.

    @jonathan I never noticed Manolo checking out Pete's backside, now I'll have to watch the show again!

  10. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, June 11, 2013 at 2:37 p.m.

    I agree, Helene. I'm sure they will get back to it, and I don't have a good feeling that it will work for Joan. But this is why I love this comments section! you guys add so much! Great insight, Jonathan, and love the additional color and background about the Tate murder house, Bob!

  11. Tom Scharre from The Hunch Fund, June 11, 2013 at 2:39 p.m.

    Always look forward to your re-caps.

    But I must say, dismissing Bob Benson as "an opportunist" in that crowd is like saying you've identified "the murderer" in a swarm of killer bees.

  12. Timothy Mcmahon from McMahon Marketing LLC, June 11, 2013 at 3:03 p.m.

    How could we leave out Don's "How could he live like that" in response to the draft dodger's plan to flee to Canada. Ha! Priceless irony.

  13. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, June 11, 2013 at 3:13 p.m.

    Good point, Tim. "Saving Mitchell" was a complicated response from Don-- partly because he feels bad about Arnie, partly to be a hero to Sylvia, and party because he can so identify with a stupid kid who made a bad decision.
    There was so much in this ep to go over, and I had to leave lots out!

  14. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, June 11, 2013 at 3:19 p.m.

    So Bob Benson is somewhat obsequious - just like all young, eager, account executives. And whatever he's done to make him appear as an opportunist, at least it's been for the good of the company, i.e., accompanied Joan to the ER; helped Pete with his mother situation (temporarily); talked Ginsberg out of his panic attack; and filled in for the evil Cutler at the Manischewitz meeting. He's perfect for account work, i.e., doing anything to make the client happy. (And, no, I was never an account executive.)

  15. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, June 11, 2013 at 3:40 p.m.

    And what about Moshe Dayan? That was completely out of nowhere. Nothing is there in this show just because. Is Stan a closet hawk? Or is his name really not Rizzo? Of all the posters to put over your bed!

  16. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc., June 11, 2013 at 3:50 p.m.

    Terrific recap and play-by-play analysis. Jon Hamm was superb, I believe it was the first time he's ever portrayed Don as being truly ashamed to be Don. Will Hamm never shake hands with Emmy? Damn shame.

  17. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, June 11, 2013 at 4:05 p.m.

    Thanks, Rob, Jon, and Patrick. At first I thought the poster was Rommel, the "Desert Rat." That would make more sense. Maybe it was? Also, Moshe was a known womanizer. Love the eye patch.
    @Patrick-- When he had to answer to Betty when she found the box, he was humbled and leveled, but he was also just looking for an escape. Here he's done permanent damage, the sins of the fathers on the child, and he knows there is no way of escaping it. Is Sally doomed to repeat it? Ugh.

  18. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, June 11, 2013 at 4:07 p.m.

    and LOL, Rommel was the desert fox, not rat! So t hat clears that up.

  19. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, June 11, 2013 at 4:18 p.m.

    You might be thinking of The Rat Patrol, starring Christopher George. Who wouldn't want to ride around the desert, standing on the back of a Jeep, machine-gunning Nazis? Especially when their bullets can't kill you because you're the star of the show.

  20. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, June 11, 2013 at 5:10 p.m.

    moshe just had his big moment a year earlier with the 6-day war.....judging from the size of the rat, she should have gotten a ferret instead of a cat.......the mets weren't that bad in '68 and were only a year away from the championship.........and did the kid leave the note or take it?....i think she left it and within that has to got to be some plotline....

  21. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, June 11, 2013 at 5:29 p.m.

    @Tom-- did Della Femina do the Mets' advertising?
    "Meet the Mets-- greet the Mets?" maybe that will be in the plotline for their championship year.

  22. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, June 11, 2013 at 6:11 p.m.

    i think.........that preceded the della femina time....that was a kind of theme song.....with the mascot and banner day and all the rest........jerry's agency did an ad campaign that recalled jackie robinson and the dodgers....must have been when wilpon took over.....perhaps wilpon and jerry and koufax all went to the same high school in brooklyn....but perhaps i am wrong....lafayette high..........

  23. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY, June 11, 2013 at 6:51 p.m.

    Interesting that 1968 is when George W. Bush, soon to lose his college draft deferment, went to the offices of the Texas Air National Guard and said he wanted to apply for pilot training. The waiting list was huge and it was only because of his father's connections that he got to the top of it. Mitchell Rosen may have the same opportunity, but it's Ted, not Don, who came up with the idea and Ted who has the relationship that could make it happen (Arnold's eminence as a leading heart surgeon would help, too). Don doesn't know much about doing good deeds, but I think he genuinely wanted to do one here, and for Arnold, not Sylvia or their son. But he went into default mode as soon as Sylvia turned conciliatory and trotted out the "I didn't want you to fall in love" line. All I could think was, "You DON'T love her, so why screw up this chance of developing some kind of real relationship with Arnold and Ted?" Who knew it was possible to have Don and Bush in the same thought?

  24. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, June 11, 2013 at 7:54 p.m.

    Don did come out to say he was against the war. For all his reasons, he said it and now we know what side he is on. His pre-meeting at Sunkist (the Anita Bryant mouth) did leave him speechless and may be an underlying cause why he would be willing to surpass them via Ted as a good enough excuse. Benson may wind up saying something that reveals a secret later and Pete wouldn't know a knee tap from digital tap. Trapped like what happened in Peggy's living room is what Don is by his pant legs. By the way, John Hamm's better half directed this episode.

  25. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, June 11, 2013 at 8:09 p.m.

    CLINTON, too, had something to do with the guard but maneuvered out of it. Plus some draft card thing too, I recall. But he went to Oxford and Yale and then got married, but by then draft was winding down. Hamm also did the Clinton sadness move there, I thought, stopping only before the quivering lip.

  26. Dorothea Marcus from Weichert Realtors, June 11, 2013 at 9:25 p.m.

    Manolo and Pete's mother reminded me of "nurse" who Peter Florrick hired to attend his mother. @ Cynthia, I agree with you that Don was motivated primarily out of a desire to help Arnold. Re letter to Mitchell, Sally failed to retrieve it, shocked as she was by the tableau of her father and Sylvia. Liked scene of Pete and Peggy and Ted. Was surprised how Peggy carried through the "favor" theme by offering to "reward" Stan if he came to her rescue.

  27. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY, June 11, 2013 at 10:03 p.m.

    Yes, Dorothea -- I thought of Peter Florrick's mother, too (and of how convenient it was when Mad Men had an "encore presentation" at 11, letting me watch Good Wife at 10 then MM afterward). A good thing from last Sunday -- I was pleased to learn that Sally's interest in the UN activity was real and that she prepared for it. There were certainly some "smart" high school girls in 1968, but it seemed there were many more whose only goal after graduation was to "get an MRS degree."

  28. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, June 11, 2013 at 11:14 p.m.

    @Paula==interesting point about Anita Bryant!
    Btw, Hamm's girlfriend is a talented actress.writer named Jennifer, but she's not the same Jennifer who directed this episode.

  29. Larry steven Londre from Londre Marketing Consultants, LLC and USC, June 13, 2013 at 9:53 a.m.

    Chiat-Day use to love making T-shirts to support their publicity efforts. I had a Chiat-Day & Night one. Would the Sterling, Cooper & Partners' employees want to wear the S,C &P T-shirts, especially with the two sides battling and partners without credit in the new name. Would Don ever wear a Sterling, Cooper & Partners shirt? Ted? Peggy? Just thinking...

  30. Marilois Snowman from Mediastruction, July 15, 2013 at 10:45 a.m.

    Imagine the episode if it had been Mitchell who discovered Sylvia and Don, rather than Sally. Wonder if the writers explored that.

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