Masters of Sex: “Catherine” Season 1 Episode 5 Review

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This show has officially created some of the most alluringly intricate characters on on TV right now.  So, where are they going?

Masters of Sex did a lot of unveiling this week in a rather bleak, but emotionally potent episode.  Virginia reveals more of herself and her struggles as a single mother.  Libby, who’s grown exponentially since the pilot, reveals her fears about her marriage.  Most importantly, however, Masters reveals more about his insecurities than ever before, showing a rather large crack in his hardened façade.

I liked all of these scenes, as you can learn a lot about certain characters when they’re at their most vulnerable.  The show has done a spectacular job of building up these complex beings involved in a complex situation.  Layers have been added and stripped away, and it’s all been fascinating.  Yet, we’re nearing the halfway point of the season so I have to wonder: what’s next?  Now that we have these great characters, what is their ultimate goal?  Masters of Sex has established itself as a far quieter show than, say, Homeland or American Horror Story, but I still would like to have some idea of what these people are working towards.

Each week we see Masters and Virginia working on “the study,” but their endgame is unclear.  This week there was a lot of talk about romantic chemistry, and whether a spark between couples subjects was necessary in order to get accurate results.  This is intriguing, but I don’t know what sort of outcome they hope to produce.  Seeing as how this show is based on a true story, it’s not as though the writers can make things ups as they please.  Still, it would be nice to hear something other than “look at how all our subjects fit this pattern!”

The same can be said for Masters’ and Virginia’s personal lives.  Masters, in particular, faces some harsh realities when he discovers Libby has miscarried.  This brings up a lot of riveting tension with his wife and with his mother.  Michael Sheen and Caitlin Fitzgerald, who plays Libby, are both outstanding this week as they deal with their grief in different ways.  The closing scene of Masters finally breaking down in front of Virginia–yet asking her to close her eyes while he cried–spoke volumes.  This plotline effectively tugged at the heartstrings, but it seems like such a major change of pace.  Masters’ entire home life, and his relationship with his wife for that matter, revolved around this baby.  Now that he’s decided they shouldn’t try for another, what exactly are they going to do?

Virginia’s direction is equally as foggy.  This week, she struggled once again to balance her work and her children after her son tells her he would rather live with his father.  It’s a tough thing for her to hear, and Ethan Haas offers an unlikely shoulder to cry on. Ethan seems to be finally accepting their relationship as friends, which is good considering he’s now reluctantly dating Provost Scully’s daughter.  A lot of emphasis is put on Virginia’s various relationships with the men in her life, which contradicts the emphasis put on just how modern of a woman she is.  Back in episode 3, Virginia admires a new female OBGYN from a distance.  I’m more interested in this aspect of her character, although I will say her growing relationship with Masters is one of the show’s key components. Perhaps there is a way to highlight them both at the same time.

Also, on an unrelated note, why have the awesome Allison Janey guest star as Provost Scully’s wife if she’s only going to be onscreen for a few minutes?  I hope we get to see more of her soon.

If I made it sound as though this week’s episode was bad, I apologize.  It was really very good.  My point here is not to criticize the quality of the show, but more to ponder over what’s to come.  Masters of Sex isn’t a steamy soap opera or a twisty thriller, so I don’t think it needs to be so mysterious.  I’m all for plot points being organically revealed over time, I just wish these characters had a greater sense of purpose.  They’ve been established so well, I think it’s time to let them loose.  Grade: B+


By Mike Papirmeister

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