Masters of Sex livened itself up this week by taking note of some of the comic absurdities of sex, which should never be ignored. It also had answers to a number of my complaints from its first two weeks: we’re getting a more complicated portrayal of Bill, and a more sympathetic one of Ginny. Also, amidst the humor were some quieter moments of tragedy and sadness, and a complicated redemption for two of the most easily likable characters, Libby and Betty. Still, the show, like Bill’s study, is not without its problems. Hit the jump for how, if you want to know how old Maureen is, you can count the rings on her ho-ha.
“Standard Deviation” was about double lives, with women’s rights at the forefront. Ginny struggles to be taken seriously as an assistant, a position she only seems to hold at night in the cathouse. There she wears a lab coat and runs the interpersonal side of things, putting her nearly on par with Bill. Yet in the office she remains a secretary, running his errands and being treated as a clear subordinate by a new female doctor, Doctor DePaul. DePaul faces her own problems being taken seriously — she’s put in with the secretaries, who whisper that she looks like a man and that they would never let her exam them. Her shutting Ginny out is automatic, and it’s sad, since it should be the women who are doing the most to help each other.
That is something that does happen at least with Ginny and Libby. Tired of seeing Libby blame herself for her sterility, Ginny tells her that Bill is the problem. In the end it doesn’t necessarily matter, because Libby does get pregnant despite the odds. But her knowledge of what Bill put her through to save his own pride is now in her arsenal.
Betty also takes issue with Bill’s reluctance to accept truths when he finally meets her storied fiancé, but only after her surgery to reverse her tubes being tied fails. Determined not to allow that to ruin her future, she hides that truth (and just about everything else) from the Pretzel King so that she can have the life she wants. But what, of course, about him? Is Betty not acting like Bill, hiding the truth about something they knows their spouse is so committed to?
In other traded secrets, Bill was able to blackmail Scully into letting him move his study back into the hospital. That move, and the revelation of Scully’s homosexuality, seemed forced and trite, but it fed into the episode’s theme as well as the idea of “deviant” sexuality not being so out of the norm as Bill originally thought. Masters of Sex also finally gave Bill some context — he’s always been focused on the study of human sexuality, and has waited twenty years to build his life perfectly in service of it. It shows why he’s so frustrated and coldly focused on the study: he’s devoted his entire life to it. Does it excuse his behavior? No. But for a minute we actually saw a man under that chilly scowl.
“Standard Deviation” was a big step up, incorporating humor, drama, sex and compelling narratives in a way the first two episodes danced around but never achieved. Now that secrets are coming out motivations are being explained, the show might start really kicking into gear. It also is doing a great job of incorporating women’s issues with an increasing understanding of sexuality. The playing fields are starting to be leveled in a number of ways.
Episode Rating: A-
— That effect TV shows use now to erase the wrinkles of actors they want shown in flashbacks makes people look so bizarre.
— “Mount Everest doesn’t ejaculate, Bill” – Scully.
— The Incans did not mess around with their birth control …
— Betty telling Ginny that Bill is in love with her felt really forced. He lusts after her and respects her work, but he’s too much of a mannequin (and their interactions are so sparse) that the assertion rang hollow.
— The prostitutes, as always on the show, were a joy. Their many ways of orgasming (or not) was something Bill should have not dismissed so quickly.
— “We’re so far from the bell curve we can’t even hear it ringing” – Bill, not convinced by homosexual and prostitute sex.
— I was so sure that Ethan and Libby, both pissed at Bill, would have a baby-producing one-off affair. But seems that wasn’t needed!
— I’m pretty sure Bill would make a terrible father, for the record.
— “If you want to make something of yourself, you have to hitch your wagon to a man” – Betty, speaking for women of the age.