Retrolicious–Mad Men 6.11: “Favors”

Hosted by Tami Winfrey Harris and Andrea Plaid

Wait…what’s going on with Bob Benson’s knee?

Not the move, Bob Benson. So not the move.

Not the move for Bob Benson, Matt Weiner. So not the move.

Okay, not such much his knee but the unrealistic scenario Matt Weiner and his crew created in which Benson’s knee would come into play. This week, as the roundtable became a Table For Two, Tami and I talk about the Notorious Knee, the possibility of D & D (Don and Dawn), and Sally, with a good helping of spoilers.

Andrea: Now, we know one thing about Bob Benson: he’s interested in the blatantly homophobic Pete Campbell. I know that you, Tami, think Benson is sketchy, but the one thing I’m thankful for is that, unlike Thomas on Downton Abbey, Benson’s alleged sketchiness isn’t tied to his sexual identity. Mad Men has been decent on that tip regarding cisgay male characters.

Tami: You know I’m ‘bout to go off, right? Andrea, we talked about this on Facebook. I am not feeling Bob Benson’s “coming out” to Pete Campbell.

I have a very hard time believing that years before Stonewall, a closeted gay man–a junior associate–would make a pass at a partner at his job, seconds after that partner calls gay people “degenerate” and with no indication that his coworker is interested in same-sex relationships and every indication that he is not.

Bob took a tremendous chance. And it didn’t ring true. I also need him to have better taste in men, ‘cause Pete? No.

Also, gayness does not explain why Bob is always skulking around. Another shoe better hit the ground. I’m crossing my fingers that Bob does not become a Thomas.

Andrea: I totally feel what you’re saying about Bob, Tami. At the same time, I’ve heard about gay men–from gay men–who’ve hit on blatantly homophobic guys. It’s damn rare because of the very real possibility of escalating harm, but not out of the range of possibility. Now, will Pete get Bob fired because of his pass remains to be seen because that’s not out of the range of possibility–and that would be a more realistic ending to Bob’s tenure at Sterling Cooper & Partners, if the show’s history regarding gay men holds true.

Let’s chat about something Racializen nicthommi talked about in last week’s thread. In discussing Don, nicthommi said:

“There are some aspects of the change that I think he’s indifferent to (like having a black [secretary]; I do think that despite being cute she’s safe from his sexual advances).”

Mad Men's Dawn, giving us some lovely Uhura face. You're welcome.

Mad Men‘s Dawn, giving us some lovely Uhura Greeting Face. You’re welcome.

Thoughts about that, Tami?

Tami: I agree, Andrea. I think we have been shown that Don’s womanizing is at least partially about erasing his past as a poor, rural, orphan boy, and replacing it with the image of the strong, powerful, rich businessman–a rainmaker that men (allegedly) want to be and women (allegedly) want to be with. Part of crafting that image involves being with women more idealized than a black secretary like Dawn.

And I think it is important to note, Don is a serial cheater, but not a sexual libertine. He was turned off by the idea of swinging and likely would put race-mixing in that category. Unlike, say, Roger, I can’t see him getting his kicks from some exotic, colored strange. And a “respectable” women like Dawn wouldn’t be the place he’d go to get it if that did turn him on.

Andrea: My confusion this week is with Peggy. I’m not quite sure what Weiner is trying to do with Peggy: a couple of weeks ago, she was kissing on bosses and co-workers; last week, she accidently stabbed her boyfriend, and he broke up with her while they rode to the hospital; now, Peggy is screaming about mice and calling up the dude who grabbed her ass at the job to come take care of it–and wound up getting a cat. Are we looking at Weiner reframing Peggy as the crystallized fear that fuels a thousand romantic comedies and self-help books–The Cat Lady?

Tami: Maybe she’ll start writing Peggy Olson’s Diary: “Dear diary, today I weigh 130 pounds. Ugh! Going on a diet…”

Andrea: And Sally…aye, Sally. Walking in on her father getting naked with Sylvia, the mother of her crush, only to have her dad gaslight her about what she clearly saw. I reminds me a lot Eve’s Bayou, when Cicely does the same thing to Eve when Eve told her about seeing their father with another man’s wife. If Sally becomes a creative person, that event will be the cornerstone of a her work as it may shape her ideas about sexuality.

Tami: The last part of Sunday’s Mad Men was like a horror film. From the moment Sally began walking toward the Rosens’ door with those keys, I was hiding my eyes and murmuring “Don’t go in there, girl!”

And as Don received accolades for being a good man, while Sally sat by fuming…Oh! I think this might be the thing to make Don unravel. It is one thing for Betty to know his true self; it is another to have Sally, who always so admired him, to know. Jon Hamm played the hell out of Don Draper last night. Him tucking and adjusting while chasing after Sally, looking as if he were about to pass out…And Sally is too old to fall for Don’s “I was comforting her” dodge. And that, I’m sure, makes him look even more pitiful in her eyes–a cheater, a liar, and a coward.

Do you think Sally will keep Don’s secret?

Andrea: I think Sally, being Betty’s child, will find a way to cruelly remind dear ol’ Dad about his fucking her crush’s mom. Even if it’s in her memoir that she’ll write in her 30s.

  • jan

    Just wondering what y’all think about Tom and Lorenzo’s take on the situation. Also, I just wanted to point out that the year is 1968 for Mad Men, so Stonewall (1969) is only a year away instead of years.

  • nicthommi

    Hmm, not sure what I think of this episode but I wanted to point out that when Betty refused to let Sally go on the trip to NYC, she made the snide comment that the teacher who was chaperoning was “just 25″ which is I believe Megan’s age.

    Granted, the last time Sally went to the city things didn’t work out so well but we know that for a woman whose main superpower/source of pride is her ability to attract men, it really bothers her that her replacement is so young.

    I do wonder what they are setting Peggy up for when she went from having several options manwise to having none in a very short period of time. It’s interesting that she was afraid to live in her house with Abe so I basically expected her to hightail it out of there as soon as they broke up but it was interesting that she seemed to have done MORE work to make it look like a home as opposed to what I’d expect to someone who wanted to get out. I wonder if his comment about her not being brave and just pretending made her tough it out. B/c I really don’t see how you go from sleeping with a homeade spear b/c your boyfriend is out for the night to living alone in a neighborhood that you really fear.

    It’s also interesting to watch Ted Chaough view himself as being in a battle with Don that Don wasn’t aware of. He’s probably lucky that out of his two partners, Cutler is the one still around, b/c once again, that guy is a cool as a cucumber. He’s basicallly like, I’ve got this, they’ll take themselves out.

    For a guy whose main talent seemed to be knowing what people needed and finding it, Bob Benson definitely got it wrong with Pete Campbell. I mean, I have no direct or indirect knowledge of how gay men navigate making a pass at a man that at least presents as straight, but it’s odd that ouf of all of the people that he has made himself useful to, Pete is the one that he helped b/c he had feeling for. I mean, if he wanted an age appropriate crush, I’d say pick Ken or Abe.