Masters of Sex‘s sixth episode, “Brave New World,” marks the end of the first round of advanced screeners that critics received before the show officially aired. Since there was already a plan for me to recap the show week to week, I’ve been watching it like that instead of binging it all at once. I’ve always subscribed to the idea that if I’m going to be experiencing it weekly with everyone else, might as well get that perspective rather than just say, every week, what a lot of other critics were saying to me on Twitter: “it gets better.” Where were the receipts for this? It took five weeks for us to get any emotion out of Bill Masters, and yes — last week’s “Catherine” and “Brave New World” were great episodes that included some decent payoff for our troubles. And if you are binge-watching the series then that’s great, but it’s also a lot to ask of an audience to wait for over a month to be given a compelling reason to stay with something, even if people who have seen future episodes swear it’s going to be worth it. With that in mind, hit the jump.
What “Catherine” and “Brave New World” had a lot of, though, was Libby. If you want more Ginny, this episodes might not have been wholly satisfying. But I find Libby to be the show’s hidden gem (I also thought that of Betty, but we haven’t seen her in awhile and are unlikely to again). Libby both humanizes Bill and shows him to be a monster, while also representing a newly awakened class of women. She’s not as free as Ginny nor as behind the times as Margaret, but she knows what she wants without being able to attain it. Her struggle has been the most compelling one the series has offered yet. Thus, more Libby has made for two great hours.
More generally though, “Brave New World” was about the dawning knowledge of female sexuality, specifically, about the duality of the female orgasm. Ginny and Bill wax on about Freud and brainstorm ideas that get Ginny so worked up she feels like now is the time to strip down and put Bill’s hand on her breast. I’m sure many employers would love that to be the case when they promote underlings, too. Still, for all of Dr. DePaull’s tutting about qualifications, Ginny has earned her place as Bill’s assistant rather than his secretary, because were it not for her, there wouldn’t be a study at all.
Sex was all around, from Jane’s triumphant masturbatory test to Langham finding approval from mommy (more or less) in Margaret, who found her own sweet spot. Bill and Libby overheard the frisky couple next door, and Peyton Place was getting people steamy all over the country — something is in the air!
Most importantly, though, Bill is starting to thaw. He actually smiled voluntarily while in Libby’s presence, and looked practically giddy later when discussing ideas for new studies with Ginny. Has he earned our affection or interest? Not particularly — he’s still irritating and terrible to his wife. But at least he was slightly less insufferable this week than usual. Maybe it was the crying last week.
Essentially, it’s easy to see why critics who block-watched the first six episodes were excited about the series and found it promising. It does build to something, and the relationships are growing deeper and more interesting with time. Still, for those of us who have been trudging along week to week, it hasn’t been quite as charming. But we’ve made it this far, and it seems things are finally getting good.
Episode Rating: A-
— It’s disappointing, though not surprising, that Dr. DePaull would act as she does to Ginny and to Bill about Ginny. But consider her point of view. She has sacrificed and struggled a great deal for her position, and here Ginny has barely been working for Bill but for a few weeks, and she’s already being called a Doctor and is in one of the most exciting studies in modern medicine. It would be grating. At the same time, Ginny has been nothing but kind and deferential to DePaull, which must grate on her even more.
— Fellow tall woman Allison Janney killed it in this episode. So heartbreaking and then, ultimately, so lovely that she got her first O. Poor Mrs. Scully!
— “My clitoris best my vagina? That’s crazy!” – Jane
— I’m interested in men’s thoughts on this show. There’s a lot of feminist rhetoric and a lot of time spent discussing vaginas. Does this appeal?
— Another heartbreaking moment was when Libby started lying about her home life, then got confused and backtracked on it. Everyone saw from a million miles away that the older couple was going to come on to her (Sex and the City made that a plot forever ago), but Libby being confronted by such wanton sexuality certainly should have given her something to think about.
— I’m not entirely sure that Ginny suddenly baring it all for Bill was much more than a shock moment, but we’ll see how it plays out next week. I just didn’t feel like we’ve earned that scene yet. What were her motivations there?
— I loved the analogy that the book club lady gave about the comfortable shoes and sex.
— “The problem is not in your pants it’s in your head” – Jane. Regarding Langham’s therapist visit, I thought that a psychoanalysis of the Freudian variety was supposed to sit in relative silence, and not offer up a sprawling opinions on your first visit about everything that could be wrong with you, plus ways to fix it. The writing there seemed too contrived.
— “Women do not even need a man! We’d be better off without you!” – Ginny