Masters of Sex: “Involuntary” Season 1 Episode 9 Review

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Masters and Virginia verge on some dangerous territory when they take their study to new heights.

One of the greatest feats of Masters of Sex‘s debut season is its keen ability to allow its characters’ work struggles to bleed into every other aspect of their lives. It drives home the point that this is no ordinary study they’re working on, and the ramifications for of getting too personally attached to the job can be huge. This week’s episode, in particular, pays great attention to how this study has affected not only Masters and Virginia, but everyone else around them as well.

Virginia has always had to juggle her home life with her work life, but this week we see the added strain of her schooling. We last saw Dr. DePaul making some sort of arrangement with Masters. I’m not exactly sure what it was about, but it culminated in “the study takes utmost priority.” It’s never directly addressed in this episode, but it made me wonder about Virginia’s high test score. Is she really that smart, or is this a part of Masters and DePaul’s bargain?

The more interesting aspect of this plotline, of course, is Virginia’s place at the hospital.  She appears to be lost at sea amongst her co-workers and classmates, neither of which view her as a peer.  I wonder if she’ll continue with this difficult balancing act as the season heads into its final episodes. DePaul has a striking conversation with her towards the end where she tells her to simply focus on her work–again is this DePaul speaking her mind, or Masters speaking through her? Seeing as how the show has done a great job establishing Virginia’s modern sensibilities, I would hate to see her stop trying. Still, I like that the show doesn’t make her out to be some invincible superwoman. She may be empowered, but that doesn’t mean she’s impervious to failure.

Masters, meanwhile, must deal with both Libby and his mother as they worry his study is becoming all-consuming. With Libby, he takes the news of her pregnancy with a sense of skepticism and dread. The two have a fine little argument, and Caitlin Fitzgerald gets some great moments to showcase her talents. The truth is, the deeper Masters delves into his work, the further and further away he drifts from his family.

This is, more or less, what his mother realizes. I loved watching her gamely go along with the more graphic nature of her son’s work. It was an exciting spin on the concept of a parent taking an interest in her child’s activities so she can strengthen the bond between them.  Being a mother, though, she wasn’t afraid to give Masters some tough love. Her confrontation about the nature of his and Virginia’s relationship was startling, and it was the first time we saw Masters questioning the ethics of his research. Sex can be as scientific as you want it to be, but emotions will always come into play.

This leads to episode’s main focus: the ever-burgeoning romance between Masters and Virginia. It comes into play more than it ever has before, and we see some significant signs of mutual attraction.  Virginia’s sly smile when Masters defends her honor at the film store was touching.  Similarly, Masters gleefully complaining about Virginia leaving scratch marks on his back was sweet in an amusing sort of way. The most powerful scene, however, comes when Virginia begins to read Masters’ performance review of her aloud. It is here where she realizes how much she really means to him, and why this study can never be just about the physiology of the body.

That is why it’s so heartbreaking when Masters tries to pay Virginia for appearing naked on film.  It’s clear he knows the effect it will have on her, as he seems to be trying to remain detached.  His plan works, as a tearful Virginia rewrites her performance review to say exactly that.  The problem is, how can these two remain detached when their study requires them to make the most intimate of connections on a regular basis? This is what I’m guessing the show will explore over the next few weeks, and I can’t wait to see the results.

As far as subplots go, we were unfortunately neglected another peak into the life of Margaret Scully. Instead, we got a rather numbing story about Ethan breaking up with Vivian for religious reasons.  Really, though, it’s because he’s still in love with Virginia. I think it will be more interesting to have him back in the center of the action, instead of as a background character.  His whole relationship with Vivian seems to have been a distraction until the writers could find an appropriate time to bring him and Virginia back together. I certainly hope things get more interesting with him, because this episode made me seriously question his necessity on the show.

In a much smaller subplot, Jane  steps up to be the first subject to be filmed, and then immediately regrets it upon seeing the footage. Jane has often been a welcomed source of comic relief on the show, so it was a nice change of pace to see her deal with more heavy material. Admitting to Virginia that she doesn’t want anyone to see her naked and pleasuring herself on film was interesting.  It proves how traditional thinking can continually get in the way of progressive ideas.

Overall, this was another solid entry for Masters of Sex. I enjoy almost all of what I see, and just hope the writers can figure out a way to make their background characters pop instead of feeling like filler. Then the show really will be perfect. Grade: A-


By Mike Papirmeister

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