Masters of Sex: “Surrogacy” Season 3 Episode 8 Review

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An episode that makes strides with Bill and Gini, but fails everywhere else.

After last week’s debacle, I think it best to rate Masters of Sex‘s success on a scale from “Gini exposing her breasts to a gorilla” to 10. This week falls somewhere in the middle, as the show continues to explore intriguing ideas, but once again falters in its plotting.

The worst example of this arrives from Betty’s narrative, which takes a circuitous route to a rather obvious answer. When Betty and Helen first enlist Austin to help them conceive a child, the most logical next step would be to have Austin inseminate Helen the natural way, since no hospital or clinic would take them.

Instead, Betty devises a sitcom-esque scheme in which Helen and Austin pose as a fake couple to try and hoodwink Bill into giving them a child. You know, Bill Masters, the world’s leading expert on sexual reproduction, who definitely won’t see right through this idiotic idea. Oh, wait.

I suppose this plotline is good for one thing, however—a scene in which Betty really lets Bill have it. Annaleigh Ashford gives a worthy performance, and her struggle to conceive a child with Helen is admittedly heartbreaking, but she, and her character, are far above this sort of material. When Betty asks Bill not to insult her intelligence, I had to scoff, because, well, it’s a pretty easy target after a seeing the results of her plan.

Meanwhile, across town, Libby has full-on entered an affair with Paul, which is great for her, except for the fact that the show felt the need to bring back Robert, the last man she had an affair with. Apparently Robert was killed in a car crash, and that’s why she can never fully give herself over to Paul. I like the idea of Libby moving on from Bill and having something for herself outside of the marriage, but what is the point of including Robert’s memory into all of this? This is the first we’ve heard of the character all season, so it’s a little hard to suddenly start caring about him again. Also, Paul’s vegetative wife is never once brought up, which I guess is okay, but just seems a little odd.

Then there’s Sculley, who is given two brief scenes this week that are about as interesting as watching paint dry. Even though he works in the same clinic as Bill, Gini, and Betty, he never once interacts with any of them and, in fact, seems to be in a completely separate building. In this building, he’s helping out a new doctor during his first week. This doctor is also gay and can tell that Sculley is gay. That’s it. There’s literally nothing else to this plot point. The new doctor is gay and has really good gaydar. He and Sculley will probably sleep together. Hurray.

Now that I’ve gotten the more “gorilla-ish” aspects of this episode out of the way, I can talk about the good stuff. Gini’s impromptu trip to Vegas with Dan proves to be quite interesting. The entire episode’s theme deals with the idea of surrogacy, and finding a substitute for some aspect of normalcy in your life. Bill uses this idea literally when he starts up a surrogacy program at work, trying to use proxies to help cure sexual dysfunction. Gini, on the other hand, takes leave to try and find a temporary replacement for the mainstays of her life.

She gets this two-fold in Dan, who at first is an obvious surrogate for Bill as the two of them take on his casino clients like tag-teaming pros. Yet, Dan is a lot different than Bill. He’s affectionate, and he listens. When Gini stops him from having a bellhop who broke into their room arrested, he does as told, and even offers to help him when the bellhop reveals how much the Vietnam war has messed him up.

Here, it almost seems like he’s acting as a surrogate for George, playing the role of an ideal husband and father. Yet, Gini seems concerned when she discovers that Dan has turned down a lucrative offer from the casino to remain in St. Louis. She definitely seems to like his presence in her life, but she’s unsure of which version of him she wants.

Bill, meanwhile, is busy trying to get the surrogacy program started before Gini returns to work. It is through this that he comes into contact with Nora, a girl who used to live on the same street as him and is now all grown up and ready to help out with sexual dysfunction. Nora is an obvious stand-in for Gini—a little too obvious in some instances…like, we get it, you guys—but the difference here is that she only looks at Bill with a sense of awe.

Gini has seen Bill at his worst, and has helped him through it. Nora, on the other hand, only sees Bill as good, which is clearly a boost to his ego. The idea of Bill pursuing Nora sexually is creepy and gross, but the idea of him moving on from Gini is fascinating. So far, the show has relied heavily on the idea of Bill needing Gini at all costs. Shaking this up could make for some exciting new territory.

Hopefully this territory comes soon. With only four episodes left in the season Masters of Sex will have to actively work to return to its former self, and stay out of the gorilla playpen. Grade: C+


Some Other Notes:

  • I didn’t even bother bringing up the fight between Lester and Jane because it is so, so dumb and so, so annoying and I just can’t. Goodbye.
  • Very glad that real-life couple Michael Sheen and Sarah Silverman got to have a scene together.


By Mike Papirmeister

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