MAD MEN / GAME OF THRONES / MINDHOLE BLOWERS / NETFLIX



'Masters of Sex' Continues to Be the Rare Show Where Nudity Actually Is Essential to the Plot

By Dustin Rowles | TV Reviews | November 25, 2013 | Comments ()


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Vaginal Rear Entry Male Superior — The personal relationship between Virginia and Bill continues to experience its rough patches, mostly because Bill continues to be a giant, unfeeling asshole. The thematic through-line in the episode was evaluations, and if Bill and Virginia were giving each other marks for their sexual performance, they’d grade each other well. However, Bill would fail in social interaction, pleasantness, and problem-solving abilities.

This week, after Bill’s mother sensed that Bill had developed an attraction to Virginia (because SHE HAS EYES), she basically told him to knock it off, think about his wife, and stop acting like his terrible father. Bill, naturally, was defensive, but he got the message

In order to relieve that guilt, he turned right around and offered Virginia money for her participation in the sex study, which was absolutely the wrong thing to do, since — in Virginia’s mind, at least — it was “our” sex study, for which there was no reason for her to be paid. But Bill wanted to create some detachment and reduce their sexual activity to a transaction in order to relieve himself of the remorse he feels for cheating on his wife, both emotionally and for science. Ginny, however, didn’t react well. She didn’t want to be thought of as a participant in a sex study; rather she wants to be known as a partner in their joint research.

Anal Rear Entry, Female Superior — That must have been how Bill felt after Libby finally apprised him of her pregnancy. Not only is his wife again trying to successfully navigate a pregnancy that he clearly didn’t want, but Bill must have wondered how, although he didn’t question it for long before Libby threw this in his face: “The purpose of sex isn’t an orgasm, Bill. It’s life. It’s love,”

I’m not so sure Bill agrees. Meanwhile, Libby probably shouldn’t be smoking while she’s pregnant, or had 1956 not yet received that memo?

Neck Strain, Vasocongestion, The Start of a Very Promising Stomach Spasm — Sex is many different things for many different people. For Libby, it is life and love. For Ginny, it’s for science. For Bill, it’s to get his rocks off. For Jane: It’s an intense, pleasurable emotional experience. While Jane is happy to reduce her physiological reactions to statistics and offer them to science, she’s not ready to give to the wider world her video-taped emotional response to sexual pleasure. She thus backs out of the videotaped portion of the study, though Virginia is all-to- happy to fill her spot.

Heart Broken, Female Inferior — Ethan Haas, meanwhile, broke poor Vivian’s heart. She thought she had some control over the relationship, enough at least to compel Ethan into converting from Judaism to Catholicism, since he didn’t care either way. However, he had a change of heart, and then used his decision to honor his Jewish faith as a convenient excuse to break off his engagement with Vivian. Vivian was heartbroken.

Female Masturbation, Reclined, Male Watching — Despite his attempt to detach himself from Ginny, Bill obviously wasn’t able to let go of his prurient obsession with her, and the creepy quotient was magnified exponentially when, at the end of the episode, Bill retired to his study to watch the film of Virginia masturbating. Just wait until Libby finds that film reel, Bill. How are you going to explain that one? Huh? That for science to, buddy?

Meanwhile, while Bill was watching Ginny play out her magnificent Herbal Essence commercial, Ginny was weeping in her car over the way Bill had mistreated her once again. That was just the moment when Ethan arrived, ready to console her. That poor guy (that poor, abusive guy) just doesn’t know how to quit her.

Elsewhere, Mr. Skin and Lizzy Caplan fans had a very, very good week.

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  • Maddy

    Unforgiveable lack of Allison Janney in this episode, but I still enjoyed it. I don't dislike Masters as much as I did in earlier episodes, but I wish they would flesh out Virginia, she doesn't feel like a real person to me for some reason, although her scene telling off the guys in her study group for being sexist pigs was pretty awesome. I really like Bill's mum, but I get why he doesn't like her. He's basically the least sympathetic character on the show to me (besides Ethan because he is the WORST) but I think he's pretty interesting, and Michael Sheen is doing a stellar job making such an emotionally distant character even somewhat relatable. Libby breaks my heart in every episode :(

  • Sean

    I am curious about the hate many seem to have for the character of William Masters. All the shows we love have assholes at their core. Tony Soprano, Jimmy McNulty, Don Draper, Walter White, not to mention Homer and Bart Simpson. Assholes one and all. If anything, Masters seems to be a more complex character than any of those. And appears to have been an asshole in real life.

  • Modiano

    Its acceptable to hate Bill Masters, but I would never stop watching the show because he's an asshole. I keep recommending this show to anyone who will listen. Yes, he's kind of the worst (though you named a few that are far worse), but the writers have the abusive father back story which makes me at least understand it and give him some credit for not perpetuating the cycle of violence. He's emotionally abusive, but is he worse than Ethan? I can't imagine Bill ever striking someone in the face. Maybe its just a credit to the actor, but Bill Masters seems to be someone who struggles with his cold nature, but had no one telling him to get his ass to therapy and deal.

    I'm curious if the childhood abuse is a contrived plot point for the show or if there is evidence that Bill Masters actually grappled with this?

  • e jerry powell

    I'm fighting off the urge to have to read the book. That will make me even nitpickier about the show.

  • Sean

    I had wondered that about the abuse too. I don't think that Masters is intentionally emotionally abusive, he is just desperately trying NOT to be his father. He has no experience in knowing how to behave with people. The acting is fantastic. There are flaws, but it is a great show. I have convinced several people to watch. All have liked it.

  • Modiano

    Right. My dad was physically abused, but refused to perpetuate that cycle with his family. He is a good man...loyal to a fault and protective of his loved ones. However, he was/is emotionally abusive to those he cares for most. I know in a perfect world he would not choose to be this way. He just never developed the coping skills to change it. I see Bill Masters in a similar way...maybe without so much of the loyalty part.

  • e jerry powell

    Me and my nitpick: Peyton Place, that movie that the provost's wife met Austin after, was December 1957, but your point is taken.

    Women didn't really start being concerned about smoking during pregnancy until the mid-sixties (my mother quit smoking as soon as she found out she was pregnant with me), so I didn't really blink when Libby lit up. Really, the bigger scare at the time was the thalidomide that women had been given for morning sickness; there wasn't even much discussion of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome until the early seventies, so women were more or less doing whatever the hell they wanted to, even wives of obstetricians. Disappointing.

  • Cree83

    While I can appreciate the quality of this show, it's getting harder and harder to watch because I hate Bill so much. And watching for the other characters doesn't work all that well. Lizzy Caplan is great, but her entire character seems to be defined by her personal and professional relationship with Bill. The writers just haven't put much into who she is outside of the realm of Bill and the sex study. Not to the degree they've fleshed out Bill, and his marriage, and his childhood, and his relationship with his parents, and his relationships with his colleagues, and ugh, enough about horrible horrible Bill.

  • e jerry powell

    I have to wonder how Ginny felt about it. He dumped her -- asking for the divorce on Christmas Eve 1992 -- to marry a woman he'd been crushed out on since before he was married to Libby (the woman who would be his third and last wife). KING DOUCHE, that Bill. Ginny would later say that she never loved Bill, but she also never much cared for being single (four marriages including Bill, you'd figure something like that). I guess the dynamic between them never really changed; she always seemed to see it more as a partnership, and he was just an ass.

  • Sean

    Yes, we Caplan fans had a nice evening. As for the smoking in 1956, no one knew. Women smoked during pregnancy. Hell they did that at least into the 80s. However, if you watched Homeland right before, you had knocked up Carrie smoking.

  • e jerry powell

    True. The first smoking/pregnancy studies came out in 1964, so my mom quit smoking in 1967.

  • Sean

    I know my mom smoked during pregnancy in late 68/early 69. Could explain my lifetime of lung problems!

  • bastich

    So if the show contains essential nudity, then does it also contain the occasional gratuitous clothed scene?

    (I need something to be offended about, dammit!)

  • e jerry powell

    Mostly Vivian in her candystriper's uniform.

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