Masters of Sex: “Kyrie Eleison” Season 2 Episode 2 Review

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Troubles arise as Masters and Virginia try to lead separate lives.

Translated from Greek, this week’s episode is titled “Lord, Have Mercy,” and no, it’s not a reference to John Stamos’ catchphrase on Full House. The second entry in the season presents us with several stories of characters who feel that they’re losing control of their lives. Often, when it seems like you aren’t in command of a situation, a natural reaction is to call upon a higher power for assistance. While no one in this week’s episode outwardly prays to God, it’s very clear that everyone is grasping at straws, silently wishing that things were different.

We’re first introduced to a young girl named Rose (Ana Valentine Walczak), and her wealthy family who are big donors are Memorial. Rose is quickly brought under Masters’ care after her parents discover her bleeding out from a botched abortion. This being her second instance of terminating a pregnancy, her parents demand that she be given a hysterectomy so that she remains sterile. In a moment of defiance, Masters refuses to deny Rose the chance of ever having children again. In his eyes, what she really seems to be suffering from is a case of nymphomania.

As with last season’s exploration of homosexual behavior, Masters remains progressive in his assertion that people who deviate from the norm shouldn’t be dismissed outright. What’s truly heartbreaking, is watching the effects of Rose’s mother’s slut-shaming. Rose wants the hysterectomy, because she’s been led to believe there’s really a darkness inside of her. “I don’t want these sick thoughts anymore,” she pleads with Masters. “If taking out a part of me makes them go away, do it. Cut it out of me.”

Of course, nothing is ever taken care of that simply on a show like Masters of Sex. Masters’ refusal to do the surgery reflects both on his open-mindedness, but also on his need to be in charge in his new surroundings. Since joining Memorial, he’s been forced to make several changes under the supervision of Dr. Greathouse. Most importantly, he’s unable to bring Virginia on-board, even as a secretary. Instead, he’s given a new assistant named Barbara (an adorable Betsy Brandt), and received unsolicited input on the study from Greathouse.

Betty, meanwhile, visits Memorial each day in an attempt to hold together the facade of her new life with the Pretzel King. Going under the guise of getting “fertility treatments,” she really just sits in Masters’ office and reads a magazine. At one point, a man recognizes her from her past, and her entire new image almost comes crashing down.

Interestingly enough, her presence proves useful in helping with Rose. After learning about her predicament, Betty snoops around and finds her hospital room to give her some sage advice about her own mother’s shaming and learning to stand up for yourself. The scene is poignant, as Betty, a woman who literally used to sell herself, talks to someone who could very well have been a younger version of her. In the end, Betty’s chat, along with an offscreen pep talk from Masters, allow Rose to declare, “I’m not my worst part.” For a show set in such a repressed decade, this statement is refreshingly modern.

Things aren’t as uplifting on the home front, as Libby fears she’s no longer master of her domain. She hires a new nanny named Coral (Keke Palmer), and is alarmed at how easily she’s able to calm the baby by putting it in a swaddle. Libby has never really been able to crack through Masters’ steely reserve, and the one area in which she’s always been in control has been at home with he child. Now, seeing another woman take on the role so easily is threatening. Even Masters, upon seeing Coral quiet his son, admits, “she does seem competent,” as if to say that Libby isn’t.

This leads to a petty and shrewish side of her that we haven’t seen before. In a scene in which Coral pronounces the word “ask” as “ax,” Libby is quick to correct her diction, snidely remarking, “I’m always grateful  when someone points something out I could do better.” It’s a low blow, especially since Coral, being African American, likely doesn’t have the same educational opportunities that Libby did. It’s startling to see Masters’ demure wife act like this, and yet its fascinating to see the show portray a power struggle in such a wonderfully understated way.

Then there’s Gini, who faces the most perplexing lack of control in the entire episode. At the University, she’s used to pushing forward to get what she wants, but for the first time she realizes her ambitious nature can also be incredibly hindering. She pushes forward with Vivian Scully (Rose McIver, who turned in an excellent performance this week) to find out more about her absentee father, only to realize she’s completely ignored her heartbreak over what happened with Ethan. Then, in a much more emotional moment, she forces an incoherent Dr. DePaul to meet with her oncologist. They discover that her tumor has metastasized, which only serves to further upset DePaul, and will likely make working on her pap smear research more difficult.

When Austin tells Gini that they’re both “lone wolves,” he means it as a compliment. They’re both people who go after what they want, and are usually unaffected by the reactions of others. Yet, throughout the whole episode, Gini’s take-charge attitude has only gotten her into more hot water. Her resourcefulness is an appealing quality, but she seems to have forgotten about the needs of others along the way. After a day of struggling to find company at her workplace, Gini is only able to see the isolation in the wolf, and not the power. For an episode that deals with people constantly trying to gain a foothold on their lives, this was perhaps the most enthralling aspect. Even when you’re at the top, are you really in control in the way you want to be?

The majority of “Kyrie Eleison” provided another riveting hour of television. It’s captivating to watch Bill and Gini attempt to become successful on their own, when its so clear how much they need each other. Once scene, which cuts back and forth between the two of them each having an uncomfortable work conversation, displays just how deep the water they’re treading in is.

The one downside to an episode like this is that the study seems to have been put on the back burner; it’s talked about quite a few times, but never really participated in. I have a feeling this will change soon, as the quietly powerful final scene indicated. Both Masters and Virginia experience a moment of hesitation before leaving their separate lives to join together at the hotel. You can tell that, for a moment, they wish they didn’t need to rely on each other so much. It’s this sort of enabling relationship that’s so intriguing, and I’m excited to see it further explored in the weeks ahead. Sometimes, in matters of the heart, no one really has any control. Grade: B+

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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