Masters of Sex: “Phallic Victories” Season 1 Episode 11 Review

Photo Credit:

An intense focus on Masters and Virginia made this week’s episode a truly absorbing hour.

The perfect penultimate episode of any TV season must do two things. First, it needs to be compelling in an urgent kind of way that leaves viewers wanting more. Second, it must set up some big pieces for the finale. “Phallic Victories,” a wonderfully standout episode in an already standout season, was able to accomplish both of these tasks masterfully. We got the most intimate look yet into both Masters’ and Virginia’s lives, all while propelling the narrative toward what I’m sure will be a riveting conclusion. It was everything I could have asked for, and Allison Janney didn’t even have any scenes this week.

It was an incredibly smart decision to separate the show’s two leads and offer a check-in of sorts to see how each of them is holding up. For Masters, the answer is not well at all. Though it was humorous to here him continually call Jane “Vir-Jane,” the real meat of this plotline comes in the form of several visions he has. Masters can’t escape his feelings for Virginia, and now that he’s without her he’s forced to actually confront them. Michael Sheen did excellent work this week in showing just how broken Masters has become since embarking on this journey. His daydream scenes with Virginia, as well as his real-life with Libby, were mesmerizing to say the least.

Meanwhile, Virginia and Dr. DePaul set off to Knoxville, Tennessee to attend a medical conference in the hopes of gaining more traction for the pap smear trials. Virginia has always been an ambitious and independent character, but seeing her step out from Masters’ shadow truly allowed her to shine. I loved watching her bond with Dr. DePaul, and teaching her that femininity and intelligence don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The events of their trip made the scene on the train back all the more heartbreaking, with Julianne Nicholson giving her best performance yet.

There is a small subplot this week that dealt with Ethan watching Virginia’s kids and then having to deal with her ex George. It wasn’t as exciting as the rest of the episode, but it did serve as a launchpad for what I assume will be Ethan’s future on the show. Now that he’s out of work, he can put more focus into his personal relationships. I liked seeing him interact with Virginia and her children, as well as his firm stance against George’s involvement in their lives. It’s clear that the main romantic relationship of the show is going to be between Masters and Virginia, but I think this is one that is worth exploring as well…at least for a little while.

A lot of things were put into place for next week’s big finale. There’s Masters’ presentation on his findings, Libby getting her first clue to the affair, and of course Virginia’s endgame in all of this. The episode ends with a scene of Virginia singing in a carnival booth, intercut with a scene of her and Masters standing awkwardly in the elevator together. (Quick Aside: If that was really Lizzy Caplan’s voice, then I will totally buy her blues album when it comes out. End of Aside.)

Virginia seems excited by her new life, and yet she can’t seem to shake the lingering presence of Masters and the work they’ve done together. Their study is something so life changing, and yet so intimate at the same time. As the season comes to a close, I eagerly await the moment it is unveiled to the public. Grade: A


By Mike Papirmeister


One Response to Masters of Sex: “Phallic Victories” Season 1 Episode 11 Review

  1. Denise says:

    I just don’t see what reviewers see in this show. If the leading man is going to be as unpleasant as Bil Masters is, he best be compelling. Sheen is a capable actor but I didn’t see compelling As for Virginia, she is the worst Mary Sue on TV.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *