Dec 4, 2013

TV Recap: Masters of Sex - "Fallout"

Left to right: Julianne Nicholson 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: Things go awry when Masters and Virginia discover that one of their subjects had gotten pregnant. There is big debate over whether they should break the anonymity clause for patients and have them communicate. Meanwhile, America is suffering from a potential Russian attack and the hospital decides to have a drill to make sure they are prepared for any hydrogen bombing. Barton (Beau Bridges) tells Dr. Haas (Nicholas D'Agosto) that he is ashamed of him for breaking his daughter's heart and calling off the wedding. Virginia finds Dr. DePaul (Julianne Nicholson) and decides to help her get her pap smear proposition passed. Lester (Kevin Christy) is doing his best to shake the reputation of shooting sexual videos and film documents of the drill as it could be the final moments of civilization. Margaret (Allison Janney) consults a prostitute about her conflict with her husband, which leads her to finally believe that he is gay. The man from the study is Dr. Langham (Teddy Sears), who doesn't want to break the anonymity clause either. Virginia helps DePaul get her bill passed. Masters faces the biggest conflict when Virginia decides to pay off the unfortunate victim of the trial with money from the other patient before quitting. Langham and Margaret consider getting back together.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Top to bottom: Allison Janney and Teddy Sears
In a sense, the symbolism feels like a direct sequel to "Race to Space." Even if the actual episode is light on sex studies, it is almost like the aftermath of a trial gone wrong and the fallout shelter mindset that the hospital has gone under are both similar. As Masters walks out at the end, a radio announcement claims that the drill was done for the day, but there are still problems. Masters' problem isn't that of nuclear attack, but that his one source of joy, Virginia, has now left him for DePaul. It was all because he had a thing for her and desired to see her taken care of. He just wanted to make sure that he took care of his clients. The only issue is the notion that came with it wasn't all that pleasant. 
Of course, it is fascinating just to see sex from an ethical standpoint. While there had been taboos all season about the idea of sex as a behavior was enough for the show to survive, it has started to make some brilliant consequences. Masters inadvertently finding out about his wife's pregnancy from Langham or the pregnancy debacle all reflect a loss of innocence on par with the miscarriage from earlier this season. In fact, it is the breaking point for the Masters/Virginia dynamic that has been building all seasons. Where we wanted them to get together, we now see them separating. The only real loser here is Masters, whose main drive has now left him alone with an unloving wife.
It is an episode of abandonment in ways that are unnerving. With two more episodes this season to go, there is plenty to mull over as we now have a lot of cliffhangers that are in effect as of this episode. Will Barton use his powers to fire Haas on the principle that he dumped his daughter and now has every reason to be  upset? Also, will the revelation that Margaret now suspects that her husband is gay drive him even angrier and eventually get exposed to the point of being a pariah? I have begun to believe that the show's main core is the Scully family, which continues to be intriguing here. We barely get any time with Barton, but he says enough to let us know where things are going, provided that he doesn't get exposed and lose what credibility that he had.
Of course, then there's Langham, who is also quite the player. He impregnates a woman and then has an affair with Margaret. From the looks of it, things are back on. Maybe things will go well enough that she won't press matters involving Barton's sexuality. As long as they are both happy, everything will work out. However, their unassuming roles in tearing apart the hospital is delicious in that they both question the ethics of the rules set in place. If people get pregnant while having literal anonymous sex, what should the aftermath be? They signed a waiver keeping Masters from responsibility, yet it feels wrong to leave a woman with a kid. It is the pathos that drives Virginia to quit and makes things even more uncomfortable.
I am glad to see DePaul rise from the role of annoying teacher to actual peer. This episode gives me hope that as two women of science that they will continue to push the agendas forward. Virginia was always aggressive and keen on how to get her way. Her advice to DePaul here is ingenious and eventually succeeds, leaving optimism for whatever could come next. We don't see it here, but there is the spark there that came to Masters and Virginia all the way back in the first few episodes when the study was new and exciting. 
It is especially going to be hard when Masters wasn't the one with all of the skills. He may have lead the studies, but in every episode, Virginia is the one reviewing notes and essentially playing a glorified version of a secretary. We have known for quite some time that Masters had a thing for Virginia and to see it stripped away may just hurt his ego way too much. For all we know, he'll abandon the study without a partner. As "Race to Space" showed, he isn't capable of doing elaborate studies on his own. Then again, who would replace her? Things could go perverse and force the secretary (Helene York) to take over.
But still, this was an episode ripe with symbolism. The fallout drill was an ingenious tie-in not only of American paranoia, but also everyone's personal issues throughout the episode. The idea that following protocol and everything will be fine backfires for Masters and he loses more than he wanted. Masters of Sex seems to work even when there is very little exposition of sex present in the moment. It has gotten overtly emotional and dramatic in just the right ways. The only question now is what will happen to the former partners and what will happen in the final two hours of the first season to make for a satisfying conclusion?

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