Masters of Sex: “Fallout” Season 1 Episode 10 Review

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Big revelations come about in this gripping, albeit slightly melodramatic episode.

Over the course of its first season, Masters of Sex has established itself as more than just a sensationalized late-night drama. Yes there are plenty of scenes featuring naked bodies writhing about, but the show had delved into more complex areas than that. In truth, it is a wonderful character study about people who are so intelligent, yet fail to see what is right in front of them. In a time when society was on the cusp of some great changes, it’s fascinating to witness these people learn about themselves and the world around them for the first time.

That being said, this week’s episode brought about some major plot points in quite a theatrical fashion. I’d never call this show a soap opera, but there were several moments where I felt things were moving too quickly and trying too hard to be exciting. Masters of Sex isn’t one of those juicy, OMG-type shows, so I don’t see why it felt the need to lay things on so thickly. I liked all the ideas that were being presented, but I wish they were done with the expert subtlety that’s been driving the show forward up until now.

The threat of nuclear warfare looms large over the hospital in this episode, as everyone is forced to undergo a bomb drill. This apocalyptic haze forces several characters to realize things about themselves. Sometimes, it felt like the writers were hitting us over the head with these implications. The end of the world is cause for a lot of introspection, WE GET IT! Still, I appreciated certain aspects of the whole scenario. The drill, for instance, effectively secluded certain characters into some very interesting dynamics.

Virginia and Dr. DePaul must huddle under a desk together, and have an affecting conversation about the differences between men and women. You could argue that this facet of the 1950s is a bit of a cliché at this point in the season, but I find anything that strengthens the bond between these two women to be compelling. Austin and Margaret, meanwhile, meet once again after both having incredibly rough days (more on that in a minute). Austin has showed himself to be quite the playboy, and it’s interesting that his relationship with Margaret seems to have manifested itself as something more than a tawdry affair. He seems totally relaxed around her, and I hope that the casual easiness of their back-and-forth grows into something more by the season finale.

Before all this, however, a lot of sh*t hits the fan. This week’s episode had several plots that extended their reach to a multitude of characters. The central storyline dealt with Virginia and Masters discovering one of the subjects from their study became pregnant. As it turns out, Austin is the father. Here we were able to see his exasperation at becoming a new father, as well has some serious tension between Masters and Virginia.

Much of the episode deals with Virginia trying to do the right thing when it comes to the pregnant girl in question, but there are deeper layers to be uncovered as things move forward. Masters hesitance to engage with the pregnant woman–named Flora–has a lot to do with his own misgivings about Libby’s pregnancy. Additionally, his heated spats with Virginia are more related to their now strained relationship than they are to the problem at hand. When Virginia quits the study to go work for Dr. DePaul, the impact is powerful. She’s not just mad about Flora, she’s mad about Masters’ true feelings towards her.

In a small, but poignant subplot, Margaret discovers Scully’s homosexuality after meeting with a prostitute to get sex tips. Her character deals with the news in a very realistic way: first by laughing at the utter notion of it all, and then by grieving at the realization that there is no way to save her marriage. After the rather depressing conversation she has about divorce with her girlfriends, I’m unsure of which direction Margaret will go in. Whatever path she chooses, I’m excited to see her journey. I know you’re all sick of me saying this, but Allison Janney was once again totally spectacular and should just be given all the Emmys right now.

The one aspect of this week’s episode that didn’t work for me was the dynamic between Masters and Ethan. Don’t get me wrong, the two make excellent workplace rivals, but the way in which things came to blows this week felt very exaggerated. Ethan and Virginia’s renewed relationship is intriguing, but it seems, for now, to merely be a red herring as to why Masters was giving his underling the cold shoulder. In the end, the two men engaged in a physical altercation over Libby’s pregnancy and it just seemed way too over the top. Masters spends a lot of time bottling up his emotions, and this felt like an unrealistic time for them to come pouring out. Again, I like that he confronted Ethan on his involvement with Libby, but I just wish they had gone about it in a more natural way.

Overall, this was a pretty enthralling episode. Going into the final two weeks of the season, I’m more invested than ever. I just hope this show realizes it doesn’t need to go out with a flashy bang. A more precise punch can have just as much of an impact. Grade: B+

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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