'Mad Men' Season 6 Episode 11 Recap: Sally Draper Has Seen Too Much

 @EllenKilloran
on June 10 2013 8:56 AM
Mad Men Peggy Olson
Peggy Olson is shocked into reflecting on a buried secret in "Favors." AMC

Sally Draper, bless her heart, can't catch a break. We've worried before about her chances of forming healthy adult relationships; and walking in on her father with Sylvia Rosen could very well have sealed her fate to become as dysfunctional and damaged an adult as her old man.

Just a few weeks ago, Sally was left alone at Don and Megan's and woken in the night by a terrifying burglar; in season five's “At the Codfish Ball,” her first "grown-up" night out was soured by finding Roger Sterling in a compromising position with Megan's mother. And while Sally has had to have known on some level that her father had a wandering eye, it was never anything she had to confront in any real way. But now, the image of Don and Sylvia will forever be burned in her brain. How can she continue to idealize her Dad after she's seen him with his pants down?

As much as this episode will likely damage Sally and Don's relationship, at least in the short term, it also gives them some common ground, though Sally doesn't know it. Don/Dick Whitman was around Sally's age when he was living in a brothel with his stepmother (and watched her through the wall while she was “working”); Sally's unseemly discovery goes a long way toward explaining why we've seen so many flashbacks to Dick Whitman's traumatized youth this season. Besides this new and tragic parallel, Don and Sally now share a secret; one that could bring them closer or drive them apart, depending on what Sally does with it.

Matthew Weiner and company are masters of letting the audience in on their secrets just before they're revealed: They'll never let us see anything from a mile away, but they do sometimes give us an inch to quickly calculate what's about to happen right before it does – like when Sally was on her way up to the Rosen's apartment with the super's master keys. In some cases, like this one, giving us a little bit of a heads-up serves to heighten the impact and deepen our investment in the reveal. So a hat tip to Weiner for that. But...

For all of its slick engineering, I've never felt that “Mad Men” was contrived – until “Favors.” On the one hand, it all came together really nicely in the end, but instead of marveling at the narrative acrobatics that got us there, I found that through the rearview mirror they appeared all the more labored – in particular, the excuse to get Sally into the Rosen's apartment. The night after the girls met Mitchell, Julia invited Sally to play a "game," where each girl writes down what they most like about him. Later, Julia signed Sally's name to the sheet of paper and slipped it under the Rosen's door. There was a lot that didn't make sense about that (beyond the "game," which was just a little odd): Sally's friend was clearly interested in Mitchell, and was happy to jockey – successfully – for his attention when the two girls met him in the apartment building lobby. Why the sudden change of heart? Did she really want to give Sally and Mitchell an opening, or did she just want to humiliate her friend? (Also, how hilarious was Julia filling Megan's wine glass at the dinner table, unsolicited? Who's this girl and what does she want?)

“The Doorway” was the title of the season six pilot, but it would've worked just as well for episode 11. Doors opening and closing were everywhere in “Favors,” literally and metaphorically. Sally opens the door on Don and Sylvia reopening a door that (at least I thought) had been permanently closed; Peggy, too, is led – by the accident of dementia – to peek inside a door she had shut tightly behind her: Her relationship with Pete Campbell, and the child she gave away. (Elizabeth Moss was spectacular in the scene with Pete's Mom: Before Peggy realizes that Mrs. Campbell has mistaken her for Trudy, she – and the audience – believed for a hot second that Pete's mom knew about their baby.) Last week's “Next on Mad Men” teaser with Peggy struggling with a door yielded a bit of a let down – she was just trying to escape from a rat.

More on doors: We don't often see Don and Megan's bedroom from the angle we did at the end of “The Favor,” which is Sally's point of view, from her room. I don't recall if we saw those double bedroom doors in “The Crash,” when Sally was disturbed out of bed, but we saw them from almost exactly the same angle at the beginning of the Season 5 pilot. Then, we didn't know where Sally was, and weren't sure who we would find behind those closed doors. It was Don and Megan, of course, and there, Sally saw a little bit more of a naked, sleeping Megan than she probably wanted to. Was it a hint of things to come? Maybe.

Anyway. How about that Bob Benson? Among the gazillion “conspiracy” theories circulating about him, some have suggested he was gay. Congratulations! I suppose we can't be totally sure Benson was being totally genuine when he nuzzled Pete Campbell's knee with his own... after all, he's shown himself to be quite the chameleon, but he did look genuinely mortified as he was shooed out of Pete's office. I don't know about you, but for a second, I thought Pete was going to let Bob seduce him – and I think Pete might have thought so, too.

WHERE'S KEN COSGROVE? He's been missing for three episodes now, and his name hasn't been uttered. Again, the last time we saw him he was tap-dancing on amphetamines.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I predict Sally Draper will get pregnant. Nothing about this episode has minimized my confidence in this prediction.

Also, did I miss something? Much was made about Betty Draper's comment “she's 25” in last week's “Next on Mad Men” teaser – with some linking it to the Megan Draper-Sharon Tate theory, but I don't think Betty said that in “Favors.” Did she? If not, it's further evidence that Weiner was promoting that theory as a red herring. What's he been distracting us from? [Update: It appears Betty may have said "She's 25," in reference to Sally's Model UN chaperone. Thanks, commenter!]

 

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