Nov 13, 2013

TV Recap: Masters of Sex - "All Together Now"

Left to right: Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan
Welcome to the weekly recaps of the new Showtime series Masters of Sex that follows the history of Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson's (Lizzy Caplan) actual studies of sex. Make sure to tune in every Wednesday for a dissection of the week's episode as well as thoughts of the show in general as well as potential thoughts of where things are headed. Also, please feel free to check out my recaps on Bob's Burgers every Tuesday and Brooklyn Nine-Nine every Thursday.

Plot: After Virginia and Masters has sex, he begins to reconsider her place in the study and attempts to bump her back down to secretary. Meanwhile, Margaret (Allison Janney) is seeing Dr. Langham (Teddy Sears), which doesn't bother Barton (Beau Bridges) because he is more concerned with his secret gay relationship. Masters knows about Barton's gay romance and when he comes to him after being beaten in a gay district, Masters claims that he knows. Barton tells Margaret that he doesn't care about Margaret's actions, which only makes her more concerned and paranoid that Barton is seeing someone else. Langham is trying to figure out if he has a complex for older women. Masters is supposed to have a special night with Libby (Caitlin Fitzgerald), but isn't entirely there, suggesting that their chemistry is dying. They find a new secretary on the grounds that she can spell "anesthesia." Tension between Virginia and Masters begins to get into more personal territory as they start doing sex studies on themselves and what each other's roles are.

Rating:  4 out of 5

Allison Janney
In a strange, interesting way, the show has entered another phase of its story. Where we have been building tension, we open the episode on Masters and Virginia having sex. While it is for the study, it almost feels the breaking of the seal and the start of a relationship. Much like how Masters dealt with the miscarriage, he tries to put everything into place by not looking her as a partner, but a secretary. It doesn't fly and it is kind of a relief. However, it does make the final few turns needed to call it quits between Masters and Libby. The only question now is on how long it will take for Masters to embrace Virginia's relationship and actually take it to somewhere besides having sex for study.
In a way, this episode is really about Barton. Even if we get plenty of story revolving around Virginia buying a car, it is really Barton's series of events that are brought into question. If the past two episodes were about the Masters couple and their separation, then this is about the Scully family taking their relationship to new territory. The notable thing is that Barton manages to quickly become sympathetic in ways that benefit the story.
Even if he decried homosexuals in the past and that the audience knows his secrets, we didn't know if anyone else on the show has. In fact, Masters doesn't seem surprised by this when forced to perform emergency surgery on him after Barton gets beaten up in a part of town considered to be gay. It would incriminate his career and inevitably break things off with Margaret. He has to hold onto the secret not only out of respect to his wife, but to his career. It was a time when deviant preferences weren't accepted and somehow this only makes him seem more troubling.
The fact that he isn't bothered by Margaret and Langham's relationship is also telling in its revelation that he doesn't care. People, though not her, know his secret and he can't stand for things to blow up. Whether it was from a night of several revelations or just real emotions bubbling, his lack of care for Margaret's affair suggests that he is becoming more comfortable and is not actually in love with her. It may be the most anticlimactic ending to a shocking reveal that could happen, though it does open the door for other things. 
And things are in place for Margaret's unfortunate discovery. Much like Langham is sacrificing a great deal by cheating on his wife, things are at risk to turn into a soap opera, and while I have enjoyed what they have done with Margaret, I don't know if the reveal is going to hold much of an impact. True, the taboo of gay relationships is enough to make for some unpleasant aftershocks, but I am not entirely sure how it will benefit the story in ways that won't feel familiar. 
Any way that it goes, the building blocks are in place and we have some enticing things to look forward to. The Masters and Virginia relationship has begun, though still with notable gender politics issues and Masters' personal insecurity. Also, the Scully family feels like it is on the verge of some issues. Either way, this has become about more than sex. It is about attraction and sexuality in ways that while relevant to the show's bigger themes, feel like they're more benefited than shoehorned in. Things continue to get interesting the more that it suggests that sex isn't just an activity, but more of a trait that helps to define people. In this case, it is explaining relationships on a very personal level in ways that are dangerous and very intriguing going forward.

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