Masters of Sex: “High Anxiety” Season 3 Episode 9 Review

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Can William Masters and Virginia Johnson the sex researchers truly exist without Bill and Gini the couple?

The appeal of Masters of Sex has always hinged on it’s illicit mixture of work and play. Bill and Gini are both liars and betrayers, but they’re also crusaders, which is what makes their trysts—both in and out of the lab—so enticing.

More than that, their extracurricular activities have also improved their efforts at work. Bill is more cordial and understanding because Gini is often able to coax humanity out of him. In turn, Gini is confident and increasingly ambitious because of the work she’s done with Bill. It’s a symbiotic relationship that certainly has its casualties, but it works. And it definitely has its benefits.

But what if the show were to eliminate this element altogether? What if Bill and Gini strictly remained professional, despite how intimate their work can get? Would the results be the same? Not exactly, but “High Anxiety” presents a scenario that’s still very intriguing.

This time, it’s Bill who’s trying to coax emotions out of Gini, and Gini who wants to focus on the work. This is really because Gini is slowly falling for another, even though she can’t admit it to herself. The best part about her narrative with Dan is that she advises him to test out a placebo affect for his perfumes, yet it takes her a while to realize the placebo effect he’s having on her life.

What do Gini and Dan have exactly that she didn’t already share with Bill? Neither of them can fully give themselves over to each other. He’s merely a placeholder for some more stable version of her life. Sure, she clearly wants him to stay, but the most telling moment arrives when he asks if he can just come by to see her, without the pretext of testing his perfumes. “No. It doesn’t work like that,” she says. And just like that, the placebo effect has dissipated.

Bill can sense that Gini is growing closer to Dan, though he doesn’t know at exactly what capacity. I was worried for a little while that he would spend the entire episode being jealous of her, but luckily Nora enters the scene just in time to snag his attention. Yes, her backstory about having an abusive father—the same backstory that Bill has—is a little too convenient, but I’m interested to see where this goes. I still think she’s far too young for him, and that their coupling would be gross, but Bill spent the majority of this episode pining for Gini. I wonder if she’ll start to do the same towards him.

Elsewhere, Libby get’s another kitchen-sink plotline when she forces herself to set Paul up with a friend, only to realize that, no, she does really want to be with him. Seriously, where are they getting these story ideas from, the Disney Channel? It felt extremely out of place.

Libby does have one excellent scene, however, when she commiserates with her husband over drinks. This is a different Libby than we’ve seen before, and I like her quite a bit. She can go toe-to-toe her nefarious husband, and might have some interesting things to say. Unfortunately, Bill ruins the moment by uttering a truly pathetic description of their marriage—“We tried our best”—which of course sends her right over to Paul. Don’t worry, you guys, he was already in a towel when she got to his house, and thus, totally ready to do it.

This season of Masters of Sex has been incredibly uneven, but I have to say, I’m very excited for what’s to come. As much as I love the steaminess of Bill and Gini’s office affair, there’s no way the series can sustain itself with them together forever. A shakeup such as this one could be exactly what this show needs to bounce back on its feet. Grade: B+

 

Some Other Notes:

  •  I’m really starting to fear for Betty and Helen’s future child. First, Betty comes up with a really, really implausible scheme for them to get pregnant, and then this week Helen thinks Austin has killed himself before CHECKING AROUND THE HOUSE to make sure he’s not still alive. They might want to pick up a parenting book.
  • I was  actually hoping the placebo effect would work, if only so that Josh Charles could become a series regular and stick around for a few seasons. I know, it makes no sense, but a guy can dream.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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