Masters of Sex: “Full Ten Count” Season 3 Finale Review

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The season 3 finale of Masters of Sex is utter chaos…and it’s exactly what the show needed to go out with a bang.

Masters of Sex has never been a series that has needed a strong sense of agency. It’s stories usually succeed around quieter, character-based moments that reverberate through several episodes that follow and make impactful statements on the way society used to treat—and often still treats—women, homosexuals, people of different races, and even single people.

Yet, this season has suffered from a lack of such moments. Bill and Gini’s usual revolving door of patients-in-need has given way to subplots about Barton’s new dating life and Tessa’s evil scheme of the week. It’s a shame, really, because though the procedural nature of this setup can often be repetitive, it’s these types of stories that usually give the show its heart, and ground its characters in a sense of morality as they are forced to make tougher and tougher decisions. The work that they’re doing is important, so they must charge forward. After all, look at all the people they’ve helped.

Season 3 has featured a slew of moments where Bill or Gini talk about all the people they’ve helped, but without explicitly showing them, the other storylines have felt quite hollow. Bill trying to build up Gini’s ego in order to manipulate her, and Libby continuing to complain about the life she’s trapped in are beats that have been hit far too many times before to be interesting on their own. What the show really needed was a spark.

That’s exactly what arrived with “Full Ten Count.” Yes, it’s far more heightened than a typical episode of Masters of Sex, but it works as a strong finale, particularly because of how far the plot moves forward, and how much potential these characters now have for the future.

Several momentous plotlintes unfold simultaneously, with everything revolving around Bill and Gini’s press conference with Little Brown at their office. The narrative puppetry that takes place in this episode is impressive, with the writers throwing several curveballs into the mix at once, and everything coming out smoothly on the other side. Well, smoothly in a storytelling context, not in the case of the character’s fates.

Before the press conference can begin, Bill is unknowingly duped by Nora, as she’s able to frame him for solicitation for her surrogacy work. This, on top of the police accusations from last week put Bill in a very tight spot, and it’s Libby who surprisingly is able to set him straight.

Libby’s conversation with Bill appears to start in the same way most of her conversations go, where she bemoans the life she’s forced to live. Instead, she scolds him for being so reckless with his decisions; for acting without thinking. Caitlin Fitzgerald is terrific in this scene, forcing Libby to stay strong despite the mess her husband has put her in.

This happens to be the time when Bill admits his affair to Libby—something she already has known about for years. Bill’s shock at his wife’s prior knowledge isn’t surprising. A man who keeps his head buried in his work such as he does would be completely oblivious to what’s going on at his home. Still, it’s important that he announces his relationship with Gini as a full-blown affair, and not something that’s related to the work they’re doing. It’s taken a while, but Masters is ready to admit his love for Gini. It’s just too bad that he picked a very wrong place and a very wrong time.

At the same time, Gini comes to the conclusion that it is Dan she wants to be with, and so the two arrange for her to get divorced in Mexico and then married in Vegas shortly after. I’ll admit that I was hoping her final decision would revolve around more than just Bill or Dan, but the conversation she has with Bill at the prison ends up being very important. She finally tells him that he doesn’t have her completely pegged down. Yes, work is important to her. But so is being happy. And if one is going to get in the way of the other, then she’ll choose to be happy.

Libby has chosen to be happy as well, and finally gets the guts to leave Bill. The final scene shows what I thought would be a rom-com chase to the airport, as Bill runs to get Gini back to the press conference before the Little Brown publicist exposes Bill’s recent arrest to the public. Instead, Bill gives up halfway through. Burdened by the words of his father, he knows he’s been beat and has decided to call it quits. It’s a shocking move for sure, but it’s basis in character makes it feel very authentic. Bill has never been pushed so low before, and without Gini to build him back up he’s completely stuck.

I’m sure next season will feature his triumphant return, but for now the show has left us on a powerful note. As Betty said, the only thing you can really control is yourself. Bill has spent the entire season trying to control everyone around him, and it’s left him in the dust. The series, however, seems to have totally relaunched itself. It came far too late to save this season, for sure, but I like the renewed spirit of Masters of Sex. After all, when you’ve hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up. Grade: A-

 

Some Other Notes:

  • Libby may have finally gotten the courage to leave Bill, but of course Paul Edley is gone, so her life will still likely be sad.
  • Gini knocking out Nora with a box was a completely unprofessional move on her part, but I also kind of loved it because Nora is the worst and Gini is a badass.
  • Tessa is nowhere to be found in the final hour of the season, leading me to believe she’s traveled to the parallel universe where Barton works and can’t figure out a way back.
  • Speaking of which, Mr. Sculley takes his new beau on a date for his birthday and holds his hand. It was super cheesy, but also kind of cute.
  • That’s all for now, Masters of Sex fans! Thanks for sticking with me through the less-than-stellar episodes. A full season recap will be up soon!

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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