No current TV show generates more Monday morning conversation than Mad Men. With that in mind, Flavorwire is recapping Season 6′s Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce drama by giving you a handful of talking points to spark your own water-cooler debate. Titled “Favors,” last night’s episode saw some of the characters’ most carefully guarded secrets come to light, interrupting their sordid lives and destroying the illusions they’ve worked so hard to create. Let’s get the most ham-fisted example out of the way first: Bob Benson. This inexplicably helpful, upbeat new accounts man has been a mystery all season. Before tonight, we knew he was a good liar with a penchant for self-help tapes. And now, it turns out he’s gay. We’ve had a couple clues about that, too; last week, Michael Ginsberg flat-out asked him whether he was “a homo,” and, in retrospect, it makes sense that he seemed to have no romantic interest in Joan. But come on — this is the big Bob Benson reveal? Despite creeping us out all season, he’s not a spy or a serial killer but a Stonewall-era gay man? Are we supposed to be shocking, or is this a bit of a red herring in advance of something truly surprising?
Of course, there is one genuinely dramatic element of Bob’s revelation: the fact that it’s Pete Campbell, of all people, who he chose to come on to with that uncomfortable knee-brush move. This is all in the midst of explaining to Pete that his mother isn’t actually sleeping with her nurse, Manolo… because Manolo’s interested in men, too. The conversation seems to end exactly how you’d expect a man hitting on Pete would, with the firm’s biggest baby ordering his underling, “Tell him I’ll give him a month’s pay, and tell him it’s disgusting.”
Obviously, this is a veiled threat directed at Bob, but it’s interesting that Pete doesn’t go farther with it — say, firing him or exposing him to his coworkers. There’s still time for all that, and it should be interesting (and possibly terrifying) to see how he continues to process the knowledge that he works with a homosexual — specifically, one who happens to think Pete might also be gay. On one hand, he seemed pensive (dare I say “receptive”?) the last time we caught a glimpse of him last night; on the other, in the promo for next week’s penultimate Season 6 episode, Pete was brandishing a gun and talking about going hunting.
The other big reveal in “Favors” happened the moment Sally snuck into the Rosens’ apartment, only to find her father in bed with Sylvia. She’s a smart girl, and I’d be surprised if her revelation ended with this particular affair. A few episodes ago, we saw Sally casually mention how little she knows about her father. Now, she’s got some real insight into his nature, and judging by her performance at dinner — “You make me sick!” — she may be sorry she was ever curious.
The richest part of this whole storyline, orchestrated as it is around a somewhat unbelievable coincidence, is the moment when Don comes to Sally’s door and tells her that he was only “comforting” Sylvia. The single biggest reason he’s been so successful in advertising is his intuition that when you tell people what they want to hear, they’ll believe you — and that’s what seems to happen with Sally. Still, though it seems she’s decided to keep Don’s secret for now, I’m fairly sure his daughter’s resentment towards him will come to a head before the season is out.
Additional talking points:
- Don’s moral code: Yes, he seems to have one! Now that he’s helped Mitchell avoid death in Vietnam with a plum spot in the Air National Guard, his conscience is clear to sleep with Sylvia again. Arnold would surely agree… right? After all, he does tell Don, “I owe you.”
- Don’s new double: Mad Men uses more doppelgangers than a 19th-century novel, from its Goofus-and-Gallant comparisons between Pete and Don to the contrasts between Joan’s and Peggy’s struggles as women in a male-dominated workplace. But perhaps the clearest set of doubles in Season 6 is Don and Ted, rivals whose truce united their companies, leaving them to share a role after the merger. We’ve seen Ted flirt with infidelity in his largely chaste interactions with Peggy, but tonight he came home from work and seemed to finally appreciate his wife and family again. Don, meanwhile, came home to a surprise visit from the husband and son of the woman with whom he’s just resumed an affair, and the daughter who caught him in the act. So, now who’s Goofus?
- Pete’s mom mistakes Peggy for Trudy: It’s so good to see them reunited, “for the good of the child you have together,” she tells Peggy. Awkward!