Masters of Sex: “Monkey Business” Season 3 Episode 7 Review

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Bill Masters is the worst, and so is this entire episode.

I know I talk a lot of how incredible Lizzy Caplan is as Virginia Johnson, but Michael Sheen does an equally impressive job portraying Bill. His performance is nuanced in a way that brings humanity to even his most monstrous actions, showing how desperately he tries to fight off his worst self. It’s part of what makes this show utterly captivating to watch, and what makes me continually root for Bill even when he reaches a new low.

Until now, that is. The unfortunate thing about performances is that, no matter how great, they’re really only half the battle. A good piece of acting can certainly elevate a subpar script, but if the script is as lazily assembled as the one in “Monkey Business,” then there’s not much hope for anyone. Sheen and Caplan remain magnetic screen presences, but all their hard work does nothing to stop this runaway train of an episode from careening off the tracks and over a very large cliff.

Let’s discuss the elephant, or rather, gorilla, in the room, shall we? The episode’s title refers to an actual ape that Bill and Gini try to cure of sexual impotence. It’s a literal representation of some of the themes that were posited last week, but it’s so f*cking on the nose that I can’t help but roll my eyes at the whole thing.

On top of that, it’s just plain bizarre. Gini ends up having to expose her breasts to the ape in a truly humiliating moment for her character. This is after, of course, she and Bill meet with his kooky former trainer (Alex Borstein) who definitely did the same thing while she was working with him, and possibly went even further.

The problem I have, aside from the fact that entire ordeal was both unintentionally hilarious and extremely uncomfortable, is that the execution of the entire narrative made no sense. Everyone’s motivations continually shifted in completely implausible ways. Bill is initially against helping out Gil the ape, retorting that they shouldn’t be helping an animal if they’re not going to help Jane’s human friend with his own impotence—something that he is also initially against doing. There’s really nothing stopping him from helping out this man either way, so the show adds in an invitation to the movies from Logan as a way for him to try and stop Gini from having any contact with him outside of work.

Jealousy does not look good on Bill, and this week’s episode sees him in a full-on envious rage. His encouraging of Gini during their time at the zoo with Gil is borderline abusive, and his comments to the reporter from Newsweek are so smug that I wanted to reach through my screen and smack him across the face. The one funny thing about this episode’s dealing with an animal is that it parallels quite nicely with Bill’s primal “if I can’t have her, no one can” mentality. Seriously, you are the world’s leading sex researcher. Grow the f*ck up.

Gini, meanwhile, is very excited at the chance to work with Gil, but then immediately is willing to put off her plans for a day so she can go to the movies with Logan. Bill’s continued insistence—seriously, the scene in which he turns down the invitation stretched on for what felt like half the episode—that they devote the day to work changes her mind again, but then she’s back to regretting her decision when her breasts become involved. This last part actually makes sense, but I’m just frustrated that a woman as strong as Gini would feel the need to go through it. And why? Because Bill is encouraging you to do so? You’re so much better than that.

Other deeply weird plotlines include Jane deciding to be the surrogate for her friend’s impotence therapy. It basically feels like an excuse for her to cheat on her husband—but it’s for a good cause, you guys! Meanwhile, Libby is clearly going to bang her vegetative neighbor’s husband and will therefore win the town’s Classiest Woman of the Year award that they always give out to people who do things like that.

Oh, and the lovely Sarah Silverman returns as Helen in a somewhat cute plotline about her wanting to have a baby with Betty. It’s a little too straightforward for my taste, and things move along at a surprisingly accelerated rate, but Silverman’s chemistry with Analeigh Ashford is picture perfect. This was easily the most enjoyable part of the episode.

When Masters of Sex is good, it’s powerful television. When it’s bad…well, to be honest, I don’t ever think I’ve seen it this bad. I hope things pick up, but at this point, I don’t know if they will. Grade: D

 

Some other notes

  • Tessa has also gone back to being a super bratty teenager instead of the complex character I had hoped she was becoming. Pretty much, everyone is a terrible human this week.
  • The one bright spot is that Teddy Sears’ Austin has returned, and he’s always a bunch of fun.
  • So, Alex Borstein’s character totally slept with Gil the gorilla, right?

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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