Masters of Sex: “Two Scents” Season 3 Episode 6 Review

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Masters of Sex delivers its most explosive scene of the season so far, but it still doesn’t know what to do about its Libby problem.

For those who have been following the exploits of William Masters and Virginia Johnson—well, the Showtime versions of them, anyhow—since the beginning of the series, it will not come as news to you that the least interesting part of Masters of Sex is the actual sex. Yes, this episode features a famous actress who bares her breasts to Gini and orgasms with Ulysses in front of Bill, but this is pretty par for the course three seasons in.

Interestingly enough, the steamiest sequence in “Two Scents” doesn’t involve any sex at all. Josh Charles’ Logan wooing Gini through an after-hours dance number is surprisingly seductive, even without anything more than the two of them swaying to no music. Perhaps it’s because Gini’s already complex relationship with Bill is beginning to show more than a few signs of strain, or perhaps it’s because Charles is just so damn charming. Either way, it’s more engaging than when Isabella Ricci—who, FYI, is not a real actress—rips off her shirt in Gini’s office. They’re just boobs, after all.

“Two Scents” toys with the idea that humans are still prone to exhibiting animal behavior, even though we’ve far surpassed our primate ancestors in terms of intellect and self-awareness. In short, we can’t help but do it like they do on the discovery channel.

Bill is quick to point out how dangerous this line of thinking is, but the unfortunate truth is that there are real life examples everywhere around him. It can be found in the subconscious reactions of the women who smell Logan’s scents, in the leering, lustful eyes of a man who’s married to a gorgeous movie star, and even within Bill himself.

One of the episode’s most tragic narratives sees him becoming the assistant coach to his son’s football team, something Johnny doesn’t even want to be a part of. Even worse, is that his new job causes him to be closer to Dennis, the bully who he previously terrorized. It’s clear from the start that Bill is only in this for himself, which will likely lead to some damaging repercussions for Johnny.

One important distinction the show makes is the different types of animal instincts that plague men and women. Gini may not have the same outwardly destructive streak as Bill, but she’s drawn to Logan despite the fact that he’s another married man in her life. This also has negative repercussions on Tessa, who was so close to having a positive moment with her mother this week, only to have it ruined by the sight of her mis-buttoned blouse.

Then there’s Gini’s mother, who refuses to see the pain she’s causing her own family. The look on Tessa’s face when Grandma Johnson abruptly changes the subject from her published essay to an ad for a new hairdo is heartbreaking. Here is a woman so firmly rooted in her expected societal role, that her attempts to advise and nurture come off as self-serving and extremely detrimental.

When Gini finally lashes out at her, it feels well-deserved. Lizzy Caplan delivers her best work yet this season as she berates her mother for always having strings attached to her praise. It’s a powerful scene, heightened by the tight camerawork and skillful performances.  The question now, though, is whether or not this will be a benchmark for repairing Gini and Tessa’s relationship. Yes, Tessa can finally empathize with her mother, but the aforementioned final scene of the two of them could potentially have undone all that good work. Hopefully, it wasn’t all for nothing.

Throughout all of this, there’s Libby Masters, who seems to exist on a behavioral plane all her own. I can’t decide which is weirder: Libby sneaking off to her vegetative friend’s secret apartment for some private bath time, or later telling her friend’s husband about it’s existence as an angry reaction to him wanting Johnny to continue playing football.

I can kind of understand the apartment thing as it allows Libby to enact a fantasy of sorts where she’s no longer under Bill’s thumb. But her fight with Paul seems far overdramatic, and it presents yet another frustrating point in her character arc.

Libby is a fascinating person, and her scenes of marital suffering feel authentic and quietly heartbreaking, but solutions to her problems never make any sense! Trouble with the spouse? Just be super mean to your nanny, take up the cause for civil rights, sleep with one of the civil rights activists, take care of your neighbor’s comatose wife, and then destroy any happiness your neighbor has left. I mean, what is going on? Caitlin Fitzgerald is a terrific actress, and I do think Libby is a necessity of the show, but I wish they would stop making her plotlines so random.

“Two Scents” ends with Bill being called upon to look at the sexual problems of an actual ape. It should be easier to fix than human sexuality, but something tells me it won’t be. Now if only this show could fix it’s Libby problem, it could really fire on all cylinders once again. Grade: B+

 

Some Other Notes:

  • I only have one real note this week, and that’s that I have never heard of the term “mollycoddling” before, but it was used about five times in this episode. The more you know, I guess.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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