When the character Barb didn’t get much screen time earlier this season on Masters of Sex, it was troubling. You don’t cast Betsy “Dammit Marie!” Brandt in a supporting role, put her behind thick glasses, give her a few fumbling lines and Danny Huston’s secretary and call it a day. Thankfully, Barb made it through the time transition to return with a heartbreaking story, and Brandt is stealing every scene.
The ninth episode of Season Two, “Story of My Life,” written by Amy Lippman and directed by Jeremy Webb, continues her story as she suffers with vaginismus brought on by childhood sexual trauma. Of course, Virginia being Virginia, she oversteps her bounds and tries to impart psychological healing along with the physical, while Bill manipulates Lester and treats him as a proxy to try to find remedies for his own impotency. Compassion makes the two see the error of their ways, thankfully, and this shift of Masters and Johnson toward sexual dysfunctions is a welcome change to the story and an important part of their real legacy.
Thomas Maier writes in his book Masters of Sex, which spurred the TV series, that the duo found great success in their therapy. “If fear, worry, and shame caused sexual dysfunction, then they worked tirelessly, and inventively, to provide a remedy. Together, Masters and Johnson had charter the physical universe of human sexuality, detailing each nuance of male and female anatomy and response. Now they had discovered a therapy to help couples express themselves intimately to their own satisfaction.”
Virginia finally appears to be recognizing her relationship with Bill for what it is — an affair — but will anything actually change? And what are Libby’s motivations for volunteering for CORE, and what are we going to see happen, if anything, between her and Robert? And could Lester’s Sunset Boulevard and French New Wave talk be any more adorable?
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Join us next week for episode 10, “Below the Belt.”
Sarah Carlson is Television Editor for Pajiba. She lives in San Antonio. You can find her on Twitter.