Masters of Sex: “Brave New World” Season 1 Episode 6 Review

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Firing on all cylinders, this week’s episode gave us both gripping character work and solid direction.

Okay, there’s no way the Masters of sex writers have been reading this blog, right?  Is there?  No, there can’t be.  Can there be?  Okay, I’ll stop.  I’m just excited.  Honestly, I’m not trying to sound arrogant, but this episode took every one of the qualms from my review last week and addressed them head-on.  I’ve never seen a TV show have such a quick turnaround like that before.  The results were a resounding success, giving us one of the strongest episodes to date.  I finally feel like I have a sense of where things are headed, and boy do I like what I see.

The study now has a tangible goal.  After going to a lecture by Anna Freud, Virginia is perplexed by the idea that there are different kinds of orgasms a woman has as she goes through puberty.  After running a test on Jane, she’s able to pretty much discredit this theory and realizes that women can have just as much pleasure by themselves as they can with a man.  In fact, being by themselves can sometimes be even better. Given that the two main female characters on this show–Virginia and Libby–are at two very different ends of the sexual spectrum, I think this will make for a fine case study that could seamlessly be parlayed into the characters’ personal lives.

Speaking of personal lives, both Masters’ and Virginia’s are moving into promising new areas.  Masters is forced to realize his marital problems when he and Libby take an ill-fated anniversary trip to Miami. While Libby’s answer to dealing with her miscarriage was to move past it, Masters can’t seem to stop surrounding himself with work.  Even on vacation, he’s fascinated by the sexual activity of an elderly couple in the room next door and, more intriguingly, perks up when Virginia calls him to tell him about her discovery with Jane. Libby sends him home alone, and it’s a moment of strength for her character.  “I’m not going to argue with you, but I’m not asking either,” she says.  It’s heartbreaking to see her carry on at the hotel without him, but you get the feeling they may be better off separated.

Virginia, meanwhile, finally gets to have some balance between her romantic interests and her professional goals.  The female Dr. DePaul from a few weeks ago is back, and she’s perturbed by how quickly Virginia has been able to move through the hospital’s ranks without ever becoming an MD.  Dr. DePaul’s resentment towards her is totally justifiable.  She worked so hard to break through a glass ceiling in the medical community, only to be rivaled by an attractive secretary.  Still, she fails to see that Virginia looks up to her and only wants to help.  It makes her seem full of petty jealousy.  Or maybe I just don’t like her because Virginia is so damn likable to begin with.  Either way, their rivalry will be interesting to watch, especially during a difficult time for women in the workplace.

The Virginia moment everyone will be talking about, however, came at the episode’s end.  She tells Masters that some women can achieve orgasm without any vaginal stimulation at all, and he tells her he’d need to see it to believe it.  So, she hops up on the examination bed, unbuttons her blouse, and places his hand on her breast.  Yes, Masters and Virginia agreed that they would serve as each other’s “control group” for the study, but this is the first time something has come of it.  It also occurs right after Masters praised Virginia’s work and gave her the new title of “Research Assistant.”  The act itself might be in the name of science, but there’s an emotional charge behind it that can’t be ignored.  With this, the floodgates have been opened and I’m incredibly excited to see where Masters and Virginia’s relationship goes next.

Ethan was MIA this week, but his absence gave room for one of the most tenacious subplots this show has had yet.  As the wife of a closeted gay man, Margaret Scully has never experienced an orgasm.  She realizes this during a truly gut-wrenching interview with Masters and Virginia when she tries to sign up for the study.  I’m so glad they decided to bring Allison Janney back for more.  She gave a masterful performance this week that affirmed just how much of an acting powerhouse she really is.  Margaret’s decision to hookup with Austin in the back of her car was a little farfetched, but I’m willing to let it slide because it was a wonderfully cathartic moment.  Plus, if it means more of Janney during the rest of the season then I can’t complain.

Now that the show has asserted its endgame, I’m more invested than ever before.  If things keep moving at this pace, Masters of Sex could easily be the best new prestige drama of the season.  Grade: A


By Mike Papirmeister

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