In “Giants,” Masters of Sex continued to explore the terms of relationships, first through the lens of Ginny and Bill’s working (and extracurricular) arrangement, and then among others. There’s a central thread about choosing the easy way, or the path of least resistance. But as Betty succinctly observes, nothing is free. What each of these characters give up in order to create a sense of normalcy, however much a delusion, was the main part of the episode’s exploration. Hit the jump for why it’s ok, as long as you’re taking notes.
It was smart, and telling, for Ginny to require Bill to define his terms of her new employment with him at Buell Green: “I want to be very clear on what you are offering me. I would just like the specifics spelled out ahead of time, in writing.” She tells him it’s because she has two children to support, and yes, that is certainly true. But it also echoes a conversation the two have been dancing around all season, which is exactly which parts are work between them, and which are not.
The lines remained blurred, especially after a complicated scene where Ginny suggests stopping their personal involvement in the study. Bill waffles, but when she asks him point-blank whether or not her employment is contingent on them continuing a physical relationship, he says that it is. Ginny acquiesces, and somewhere, Lilian DePaul had the urge to righteously laugh. But Ginny finds a way to gain back some control by staying clothed and taking notes as she instructs Bill to masturbate, before stopping him so she could guide him towards performing oral sex (which he does).
It’s another notation in the complex relationship between the two with Bill, by the end of “Giants,” admitting that there are some things that Ginny does better than he does (interpersonal relationships, for example). It’s a step in the right direction, but it still leaves so much to unpack (like what Ginny is giving up for “the work,” and whether it’s legitimate). Ginny confronts Lilian over her judgements, and the two have it out (in hearing distance of the hospital secretary pool). Neither are necessarily wrong with their arguments, but the bottom line is, as Ginny has to admit (and which serves as part of how the two are able to continue with their relationship with a new honesty) is that Ginny was always going to leave DePaul’s study for Bill. DePaul giving her study away really was, for Ginny, not being asked to the dance by a boy she didn’t want to go with anyway (as she said).
Elsewhere, Betty’s rekindled relationship with Gene over the shared desire for adoption is short-lived, once her former lover Helen (Sarah Silverman) returns, wanting a piece of the money pie Betty stumbled into. She and Gene may also have a newfound honesty grounding their relationship, but there are some things even Gene might not be able to handle (such as Betty’s sexual preference, something I had honestly forgotten all about). The return of Helen led to some beautiful but sad moments between the two, particularly when they laughed together, and later, in the bathroom when they shared a kiss. But Betty has already outlined what their lives would be like by choosing to remain “spinster friends who live together,” and she rejects it.
Masters of Sex has always sought to (like Mad Men) chronicle a time when a shifting of ideas and an opening up of the world was starting to really challenge the notions of its characters. Like Don Draper, Bill doesn’t understand why people see race as a barrier, but he’s not willing to challenge it unless it benefits him personally. Libby, who was last season’s most progressive character, has devolved into its least. Her interactions with Coral and Robert are both so heavily reminiscent of Betty Draper’s treatment of her black housekeeper it’s actually a little shameful (right down to Bill, like Don, telling her that she is actually in the wrong).
Libby tries to apologize, but does so only to Robert, not to Coral, sticking to her feelings about Coral disobeying her (to make up for her lack of equality at home, Libby exerts dominance over Coral — or tries to). But Coral, though young, is not naive, and she throws Libby’s notions back in her face. Pretending that Robert is her lover instead of her brother (right?), she details their sensuality before telling Libby if she should make up Dr. Masters’ bed after Libby’s. Later, Libby instigates sex with Bill under the guise of anger, but it’s weak and uncomfortable lovemaking.
“Giants” was filled with uncomfortable relationships that were most apparent in the halls (and waiting room) of Buell Green. But even there, where things seem (or have become) clearly segregated, lines are blurred — starting with Dr. Hendrix sabotaging Bill’s study.
Episode Rating: B
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I don’t know how many times I will say this (probably every week), but I’m really unhappy with what they’ve done with Libby. The show believes in honesty and “opening people’s eyes,” and a better way to do that with Bill and Libby’s relationship seems to be for them to come to a mutual and obvious agreement that they shouldn’t be together. At the very least, Bill leaving Libby should be an act that is instigated because of him (and his relationship with Ginny), not because Libby is demonized.
— “Try not to perpetuate the sick belief that women need to get a leg up by opening their legs” – Lilian DePaul.
— “They’ll become ours once we love them” – Gene, speaking of adoption.
— Libby really has the most stunning outfits.
— “Did you say ‘white people’??” – Libby.
— Unsurprisingly, Bill is not making friends at his new hospital.
— “Your voice sounds like migrating geese” – Gene to Betty, after her cute song.
— Libby is in need of some real friends. She can’t keep trying to get advice and girl talk out of her husband’s mistress.
— I am a little worried about the Buell Green storyline, only because of how ham-fisted the show is with its “politics in hindsight” (like how Ginny is a feminist crusader, even if the real Virginia was not). If the show really wanted to do something different, it would give time to a black character’s story outside of and unrelated to them being around white characters.