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Mad Men recap: Sins of the Father

Sally Draper’s future therapist is guaranteed plenty of work in a densely plotted episode about love, lust, and disappointment.

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Mad Men Recap

Mad Men

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Elisabeth Moss

The effect of fathers, in sum, has been to corrode the world with maleness. The male has a negative Midas touch – everything he touches turns to shit.” – Valerie Solanas, SCUM Manifesto, self-published in 1967

How far can Don fall? Because it’s looking like this elevator is going to basement-level at least. Sally is probably feeling in agreement with Solanas—the paranoid-schizophrenic militant feminist who popped the King of Pop Art—after having been failed so completely by her father. It can’t be easy, being the daughter of Don Draper. There’s the sense that, between her mother’s cruelties and her father’s indifference, she’s going to have a lot to unpack while lying on the couch. It’s a small favor in itself that “Favors” ended up airing this past Sunday and not next week as a box of curdled chocolates for Father’s Day.

Nobody died last night, unless you count Sally’s innocence, but there continues to be a funeral shroud enveloping the show. Don shows up to the office to find Roger waiting for him with a bunch of oranges to tell him they’re going after Sunkist. The oranges, if you’re going by The Godfather code of visual metaphors, are yet another death omen. “God can turn off the lights at any moment,” says Ted Chaough’s neglected wife, a lesson Matthew Weiner has identified to be true in both life and The Sopranos finale. Mitchell, the Rosens’ young son, has been classified as 1A after sending back his draft card, and the threat of him losing his life in Vietnam hangs like a Sword of Damocles over nearly every scene of the episode. “They would be lucky to have you,” the doorman tells him. As a near-death survivor and the show’s resident Stygian ferryman, his words take on an ominous tone. He’s referring to a college, but comes off like he’s saying, “Room for one more….”

At first, Don’s position is that Mitchell’s fate is not his or Megan’s problem, although he does caution, “He can’t spend the rest of his life on the run.” That’s earned wisdom, right there. Eventually Don is swayed into helping Mitchell for what appear to be noble reasons. He brings up the subject in a meeting with GM, but that’s a miscalculation and the conversational thermometer suddenly drops about fifty degrees. (As Basil Fawlty could have told him, you don’t mention the war.) For all of his salesmanship and his highfalutin pitches, he’s utterly unable to even broach the idea, and he realizes that even Don Draper can’t sell something the client doesn’t already want to buy.

Ted berates him for it, assuming that Don behaved that way purposefully to mess with him. Ted is mad about the fact that Don and Roger’s pursuit of Sunkist has come into conflict with his and Pete’s attempts to land Ocean Spray. “I don’t want his juice, I want my juice,” he whines to Cutler, taking the words right out of a preschooler’s mouth and making me think how amazing a Muppet Babies-style show called Mad Babies would be. He also makes the hilarious analogy, “Imagine every time Ginger Rogers jumped in the air, Fred Astaire punched her in the face,” which is funny for obvious reasons but also because he sets himself up as the Ginger Rogers in this scenario.

But even Ted’s indignation melts at the sight of Don Draper trying to do something nice for once, and fumbling because he’s so unaccustomed to it. “I bet you don’t have a lot of friends, Don, so I’ll assume this is important,” he says before offering to get Mitchell assigned to the Air National Guard so he can get a draft deferment. Don looks utterly baffled by the idea that someone would want to help him for so little in return. The two of them shake hands and bury the hatchet under the floorboards.

NEXT: Papa don’t preach…