Masters of Sex: “Three’s A Crowd” Season 3 Episode 2 Review

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…And four is really pushing it.

Masters of Sex is not a procedural show by any means, but it often delights in its ability to use a “case-of-the-week” as a thoughtful allegory for the complex goings-on of its central characters. Season 2 pulled this off impeccably, using Bill and Gini’s patients as to shed light on the harsh realities of things like slut-shaming and repressive gender roles, while the two researchers continued to trek toward a more liberated existence.

The best part about these sequences is that, though they may be explicit in nature, they pair well with the more subtle nuances of Bill and Gini’s personal lives. Really, the case-of-the-week plot and the overarching plot represent two sides of the same coin. One is just a little more upfront.

This week, however, we got a subplot that was a little too on-the-nose. The Shah of Iran and his Queen Soraya (Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce‘s Necar Zadegan) arrive at Bill and Gini’s practice to seek fertility treatment. When it’s confirmed that Soraya is unable to bear children, she breaks down, knowing this means her husband will have to conceive an heir with another woman. She tells Masters that she’d rather leave the marriage than see that happen, because she knows the love that she and her husband share will change forever.

This narrative isn’t just a more extreme incarnation of Bill and Gini’s current mental and emotional states, it’s a essentially a shot-for-shot recreation of what they’re going through. Before Soraya cries to Bill about how a triangle can only stand on its tip for so long before falling on its side—a pretty well thought out metaphor for someone who just came out of surgery and is in a state of distress—we see that Gini has made plans to remarry her ex-husband so that their child isn’t born out of wedlock, and the study isn’t tarnished by public scorn.

Yes, the baby is not Bill’s, it’s George’s, and yes, Gini’s marriage to George is a sham, but Bill still reels from the fact that he’s not the only man in his partner’s life anymore. Soraya’s storyline is interesting by itself—The Shah and his wife did indeed visit Masters’ practice in real life—but paired with the Bill-Gini-George love triangle, it feels rather heavy-handed.

Luckily, this subplot only accounts for a few scenes in this week’s episode. Also, the love triangle is really more of a square. In one fantastic sequence, Libby berates a pregnant Gini for her rash decisions and how they affect those around her. Yes, it’s a selfish thing for her to do, but after seeing this character spend so much of her time trying to maintain a façade, it was incredibly refreshing to watch as she finally dropped the fake smile and lashed out.

Caitlin Fitzgerald turns in an outstanding performance this week, both in her arguing with Gini and in her later approval of the sham marriage. Libby has somehow managed to have a sense of order in her life, despite the fact that her husband keeps threatening to topple everything over. This new arrangement isn’t ideal, but it ensures she’ll remain in good public standing, and if it just so happens that George and Gini fall for each other once again, it’ll be one less thing for her to worry about.

Equally as impressive this week is Lizzy Caplan, which may sound like a moot point this far into the series, but the journey that Gini goes through in this episode is startling. Her struggle to be both a successful career woman and a good mother has always been compelling, but it’s the examination of women’s roles, and Gini’s deviation from the norm, that really makes this show engaging. The episode speeds through the nine months of her pregnancy rather quickly, culminating in the idea that perhaps she’s just not the mothering type.

Even more interesting is Bill’s reaction to her doubts. On the surface, it seems like an impassioned feminist rant, but, true to character, it’s really an effort to service his own needs. Bill has always been detached from his children, probably because of the simultaneous smothering and complete obliviousness of his own mother, and so it makes sense that he views the book as his real baby—though, the fact that he said this out lout to Gini in the midst of her contractions was oddly hilarious.

Yes, he’s fighting for equality and open-mindedness, but he also needs Gini so desperately, that he’d say just about anything to ensure her focus remains on the study. It gives his empowering words a sense of uneasiness, and marks the beginning of what I hope will be a season-long theme. Just how far will Bill go this time?

Masters of Sex may suffer from bouts of overzealousness when it comes to articulating its ideals, but it never fails to bring thought-provoking new points to the table each week. Now that the book has been published, it’s time for the public to react to the work. It’s going to be an uphill battle for Bill and Gini, as well as George and Libby, which means the fun is just beginning. Grade: B+

 

Some Other Notes:

– William Masters sang O’Danny Boy…don’t know if I’ll ever get over that one.

– Gini is clearly a firm believer that the right outfit can brighten up any situation. The dress she wore to her sham wedding was stunning.

– Lizzy Caplan hardly looks old enough to be the mother of teenagers, but I think the dynamic between her and her daughter will prove immensely fascinating.

– More Betty in more scenes, ASAP. Thanks.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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