MASTERS OF SEX Recap: “Phallic Victories”

     December 8, 2013


More emotional payout this week on Masters of Sex, where so many of the simmering relationships are playing out in the hour leading up to the first season finale.  Masters of Sex has had an interesting trajectory for its inaugural season, and taken some unexpected but appreciated detours (with the Masters/Johnson relationship in particular).  Everyone is still suffering though — the de facto emotion of the show — and “Phallic Victories” (what a title…) was indeed not about victories though at all.  Hit the jump for why “having a dick doesn’t hurt.”

masters-of-sex-poster“Phallic Victories” brought quite a few things full circle this season, showing the character growth and changes (when facing the same situation in a new way) that have been the show’s real calling card.  Ginny is back with Ethan, who she started out with, and which flamed out so spectacularly and so quickly at the time it seemed impossible they could repair it.  But now he’s working on her terms, not asking her to marry him so much as be his partner, and she in turn is more willing to commit to being so.  The final shot with her on the elevator with Bill though proves that of course that door is not really closed for her professional or emotionally, even though her having romantic feelings for him is still not something that’s easy to buy.

Again though, Ginny holds the cards in that relationship, because he seems to need her more than she needs him (though obviously something is tugging on her still, and her defense of him to DePaul shows a lingering sentiment).  Even Ginny’s relationship with DePaul, especially after their road trip, proved a shift of upper hand as well.  Proving herself indispensable once again, DePaul is forced to rely on and ultimately confide in Ginny all of her secret desires and ailments, hoping to pass her work with pap smears off to Ginny — something that could be prove particularly fruitful if Ginny is able to link up with Bill and his budget again.

masters-of-sex-phallic-victories-nicholson-caplanThe “everybody loves Ginny” theme was heavy in “Phallic Victories,” and as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes that’s come at the detriment of her character development.  The show has had its show-and-tell off balance a lot this season, but “Phallic Victories” did a nice job of reinforcing Ginny’s strengths (that we actually see and can champion) alongside hearing praise of them from Ethan and George (and Bill’s fantasies of her presence and advice).

It seems that, after this hour, there will be two central questions to attend to in the finale: Ginny choosing a future with Ethan, who might be leaving the state, or going back to Bill (the fallout from which will be dealt with next season), and the success or failure of Bill’s presentation about his study.  History allows us to cheat somewhat when it comes to these outcomes, but what Masters of Sex has proven this year is that even when the obvious is at play, the nuances of character relationships and emotions is what is worth watching.  No matter the results of these choices next week, the show has also set things up nicely to give Season Two a compelling start.

Episode Rating: A-

Musings and Miscellanea:

— This was a nice episode for little moments, like Libby acting as Bill’s secretary, Ethan and George squaring off, and DePaul and Ginny’s surprising bus journey.

— I’m still not convinced that these “what if” fantasy moments really work on the show.  Bill interacting with Head-Ginny did lead to some interesting conversations and realizations when it comes to his insecurities, but the show employs the technique so infrequently it’s kind of jarring.

masters-of-sex-phallic-victories-michael-sheen— I like how Jane is battling through with Bill, even though he is (surprise, surprise) acting like an asshole.  Also, it was good that he figured some things out for himself with Ginny having to hold his hand, although he probably does need someone to rein him in regarding all that he wants to show for the presentation.

— It was nice to see Libby showing an interest in the personal lives / history of the study subjects, I absolutely would and do share her curiosity on that front.  But did she lead herself into trouble with Ginny’s file?  Was her reinforcing her fidelity to Bill about being loving, or about guilt tripping him regarding the study and his potential participation?  She certainly was picking up on the awkwardness between Bill and Jane when discussing Ginny …

— “How does a man stop a woman from drowning? He takes his foot off her head.” – DePaul, part-time comedienne.

— Ethan and Ginny’s kids were so adorable in this episode.  His confrontations with George over parenting were both heartbreaking and hilarious, depending.  Having watched so many dramas were this subject of “but I’m their father!” is broached, I have to say that Masters of Sex has done one of the best jobs of handling it in a believable way.  The fact that George realizes some things about himself and is willing to express that Ethan was one thing, but him still jabbing him about his “consolation prize” was the winning touch when it comes to staying true to his character.

— That wasn’t really Lizzy Caplan singing at the end, was it?  If so, I need her to release an album, stat.