Masters of Sex: “One for the Money, Two for the Show” Season 2 Episode 11 Review

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Nobody wants to be the person who everyone else sees right through.

The penultimate episode of Masters of Sex‘s second season progresses the study further than anything we’ve seen in previous weeks. This isn’t to say that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed the weekly examinations of everyone’s lives, but it’s good to be reminded that the show is capable of both intense character development, and genuine plot progression.

After Masters hired a PR man last week, their first project is to do an interview for a CBS News human interest story. The purpose of the taping is to allow Masters and Gini to bring their study into American homes; to discuss not the scientific data or terminology, but the overall goals of their research for the public.

From the outset, Masters isn’t to excited about the idea. For one thing, he’s still got some bruising from his fight with Frank, which he now has to cover up with makeup. For another, he’s William Masters, and William Masters and a late night TV special don’t exactly go hand-in-hand.

Masters struggles throughout the taping to feel important; to feel like he’s doing the right thing. It becomes difficult, however, when he’s put in uncomfortable clothing and given a new hairstyle. Sheen initially plays Masters’ typical buttoned-up demeanor for laughs, but it soon becomes clear that no matter how many cameras are aimed at him, no one’s really hearing what he has to say.

During the episode’s final confrontation—more on that later—Masters asks Gini why anyone wants to listen to him in the first place. She responds that he has interesting and important things to say, and she’s right. When he finally gets the chance to speak about the reasons behind the study—to make sex less of a taboo—he begins to shine in front of the cameras. It’s a moment of triumph, but unfortunately it’s short-lived. Once the CBS producers suggest using hired actors to stage a fake patient interview, he’s out of his comfort zone once again, and it seems like no one really hears his voice.

Gini, meanwhile, experiences a moment of isolation herself when she realizes she’s become all but invisible to her children. It seems the choice to give them less and less screen time this season has been deliberate, mainly to show how much of Gini’s time is being devoted to her work. When her ex-husband tells her he wants to take them to Europe for six weeks, she’s naturally hesitant, until she realizes how little time she’s actually been spending with them.

Her children are more familiar with their babysitter and their dad’s new wife than they are their own mother. In one heartbreaking scene, Gini’s son asks her who’s going to give Christmas presents while they’re gone. Lizzy Caplan delivers a perfectly nuanced reaction. There’s a moment where she catches her breath, realizing just how separated from her family she truly is. Then, she calms herself, and explains that her children’s postcards from abroad will be her present. Yet, it’s difficult to forget the pained look on her face.

I’m still not really on-board with the Austen/Flo subplot, but I will commend it this week for actually tying into the episode’s main themes. Flo wants Austen to ravage her a la Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind, but the role-playing session goes awry when Austen doesn’t seem to know exactly how to “take advantage” of a woman in that way. This part of the storyline felt contrived, but the couple’s post-coital pillow talk was actually very interesting.

Austen suggests that Flo’s desire to be overpowered in bed stems from the lack of men who have desired her in real life. She’s just another person who’s desperate for someone to really see her. Flo even admits that this is probably the case, and part of what makes this scene so intriguing is the casual nature with which she discusses her loneliness. She counters Austen’s point, however, by saying that self-awareness rarely changes a persons behavior. This statement has rung true for just about every character on the show, up until this point.

It’s certainly not true for Libby any longer. Mrs. Masters received her most fully-realized storyline to date in this episode, with things finally escalating between her and Robert. The attraction between the two of them has been clear for a while, but that didn’t make it any less satisfying to see Libby reach forward and kiss him in her kitchen. Even better was her speech that preceded this action—performed with expert candor by Caitlin Fitzgerald—dealing with the fact that her presence is barely registered by those around her. Libby and Robert have often disagreed, but she’s attracted to him simply because someone is finally reacting to what she has to say. This arc may have been fraught with instability, but its results are climactic, to say the least.

In the episode’s final scene, Masters and Gini have another revealing confrontation of their own. Masters is overcome with insecurity. He can’t smile on-camera, he can’t speak correctly, and he’s discussing the treatment of sexual dysfunction when he can’t even have sex himself. Gini tries to calm him down which, after a day of torment, actually seems to work. The ending shot of her holding his head in her lap speaks volumes about where their relationship will go from here. It seems they’re finally ready to admit that this is more than just a professional relationship.

“One for the Money, Two for the Show,” proved to be an exhilarating chapter in Masters of Sex‘s second season, just as it’s about to come to a close. The last time Masters presented his work in front of a group of people, things went horribly wrong. Now, he’s about to present his work on national television. I can hardly wait to see the reaction. Grade: A-

 

By Mike Papirmeister

 

 

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