A Look at In a World…

Saw this film back in September, but this was before I had a blog.  So, deciding to port over what I wrote to here.

So, apparently the Russian community is very tight.

In a World Poster

“In a World” where Lake Bell is a female director playing a woman who is a woman vocal coach named Carol Solomon, who strives to make it in the huge world of vocal performances.  She lives in the shadow of her father, Sam Soto, played by Fred Melamed, who does believe in her work, but also reminds her that the voice acting business is not in the market for female voice artists.  This comedy says much more than that, though.

When Solmon is kicked out of the house and moves in with her sister, she starts down a journey in another case of trying to break into the old boy’s club.  Solomon dares to beat the odds, be the best around and…become the trailer voice-over artist for the trailer of the upcoming “Amazon Games” quadrilogy.  Yes, this is a thing.  This also means becoming the next voice to utter the words “In a world” during a movie trailer.

In what I see as partially a love letter to the late and great voice-over master himself, Don LaFontaine, “In a World” intrigued me through its premise alone.  Vocal performance is a talent I follow and rarely do we get feature length movies that look at the process of working with the voice.  Many a time we’ll watch an animated movie, cartoon or TV show and suddenly go ‘Hey, I know that voice.’  This movie takes a look at the behind the scenes work for an up-and-comer, but “In a World” is a pleasant surprise of a movie that pokes fun at the industry without getting too preachy with its own message.

Like many sons and daughters, Carol exists as a fraction of her parent’s glowing prowess, a representation of one trying to step into the limelight without being compared to the parent’s ongoing success.  Carol is no pushover and never do we see her play the gender card and go on about Hollywood keeping the girls down or ranting about feminism.  No, this film is not about women’s lib or starting a revolution.  Good for that, as that message would have been muddled underneath a well-directed and written independent film.

From the start, we’re given a sort of semi-tribute to the late LaFontaine through some commercials he did, what vocal performers thought of him trail-blalzing the way for voice acting and his overall legacy.  Right away, you’ll notice a sort of reverence for LaFontaine.  He was known to many as that movie voice over guy who pops up in trailers but, like voice actors in cartoons, anime, video games and the like, rarely do we get to see the man or woman behind the voice.  This film is a nice change of pace and takes a look at that.

In a World- Just Carol

We are told and see one of Carol’s many quirks is her accents: she tries to record a new dialect each time she overhears or passes one, whether by trying to get the person to answer specific questions or hide her recorder.  It’s her quirky behavior in addition to being motivated by her passion to be the best that makes me like this character.  The fact that she’s been a vocal coach living in the shadow of her much more famous father makes her drive seem more believable and not just a random task for her to accomplish by movie’s end: this profession drove her father to success and now she’s in it to prove her worth.

In a World- Carol and Sam

Sam, meanwhile, is up to receive a lifetime achievement award for his work and though he’s compared to Don by others, he’s also told that he is not as good.  Sam mentions that there’s little to no market for female voice actors and is more interested in his new, younger lady friend, Jamie, played by Alexandra Holden, so he gives Carol the boot.  No worry, though.  She has until the evening to be cleared out.

Soon, Carol ends up moving in with her sister, Dani, played by Michaela Watkins from Saturday Night Live, and her husband, Moe, played by Dr. Blake Downs himself, Rob Corddry.

Huh.  Children’s Hospital now has TWO of its main actors starring in this film.

In a World- Demitri and Nick

Despite being put out of her parent’s home, Carol continues working, seeking accents from anyone she can and receiving the help of the producers at the Sound Mix a Lot studio, including Louis, played by Demitri Martin, and Hernes, played by the man, Ron Swanson himself, Nick Offerman.  Louis, as evidenced by anything he says or does when Carol is mentioned or around, is pining after Carol, but does keep it professional.  To the point where he will keep talking on the phone to her even when Hermes knows Carol already hung up.  But because he can’t be straightforward from the start, the quirky desk girl pines for him when he’s available.  Plus, let’s face it, if all guys and gals were straightforward with their feelings, romance films would be pretty short.

Carol is encouraged to try out for the aforementioned Amazon Games role, the producers saying that she’s perfect for a quirky, modern pick.  Speaking of her quirks, she carries them wherever she goes, whether when just going for a walk or bothering Dani at work.  When an Irishman stops by Dani’s job, Carol just has to have the voice, so she asks Dani to ask him some questions for the purpose of getting his accent.

Sam, meanwhile, has put all his chips into his successor, Gustav Warner, played by Ken Marino.  Warner is cocky, to be sure, but like both Sam and Carol, he has the voice to back up his cockiness and is also in consideration for the Amazon Games.  Warner hosts a party for folks in the area, and it’s here that he and Carol meet for the first time, though neither knows they’re vying for the same role.

As this happens, Moe listens to the tape Dani made with her asking the Irishman questions, and she mentions that there’s no boyfriend in her life.  More on that later.

In a World- Lake Bell and Gustav

When Louis still does not manage to talk to Carol at the party, he’s left dragging the drunk desk girl to his home.  Carol, meanwhile, stumbles upon a secret passageway in Gustav’s home and finds it littered with animal skins and items that seem to come from years of traveling.  Gustav finds her and they, again, without knowing who each other is, have some nighttime fun.

Meanwhile, Dani returns home and overhears her tape being played, while Moe, with few to no words, gets up and leaves.  Again, more on that later.

The morning after, Carol awkwardly makes her way from Gustav’s home to do some more recording.  Louis mentions that Gustav’s maid saw Carol leave and spilled the details- the Russian community is very tight- so now he’s in a funk and takes it out on the staff.  In about as mild a way as Demitri Martin can, anyway.  Carol and Dani decide to have some sister time, which involves swapping secrets over cheese and television.  Turns out Dani’s little conversation with the Irishman goes deeper than the tape reveals.

One of the few times we get a big family moment, Carol and Dani have dinner with Sam and his girlfriend and we get some insight into the family’s past.  Mom passed away awhile ago.  Sam still doubts about Carol’s ability and even more so after she reveals that she is in contention for the Amazon Games trailer voice over.  So what will Sam do?  Of course, he throws his own name in the ring, so we have a three way battle between father, daughter and one night fling as Sam, Carol and Gustav all vie for the position.

In A World- Lake Bell and Demitri Martin

Now that Carol is in the game for real, Louis takes the time to finally admit his feelings to her during their training to the point that they end up bonding over karaoke and keeping each other at night.  By talking, mind you.

So we finally get to the night of the award ceremony where Sam is slated to receive his lifetime achievement award.  The crowd gets a sneak peek at the trailer for Amazon Games, but whose voice brings life to the trailer?  Well, that would give away the ending, so let’s leave the plot there.

“In a World” is a very smart film and Lake Bell proves she has what it takes to make a name for herself in her directorial debut.  I’m impressed with the film’s pacing.  It moves along at the steady tone one expects for an independent film and allows the audience to soak in as much of the scene as possible, never in a rush to move the film along for the sake of time.  Rather than rely on tired old romantic clichés or sappy music, the direction allows the actors to play out the scenes and lets them dictate the moment rather than forced drama being forced upon the viewer.  This is the exact opposite of what I got from “The Butler” and yes, they’re two completely different films, but it’s one of the most recent films I’ve seen where the direction played a major issue with the way tense or dramatic scenes played.

In a World- Producers

Bell structured the film in a way that allows each of the characters gets their moment and never did any side character feel overused or shoved into a scene.  Hermes and Cher, played by Tig Notaro, as the sound producers are funny together and help keep Louis in check during his freak outs, but also push him into asking out Carol.  Despite the short screen time they’re given, the relationship between the three producers, the desk girl and Carol feels believable and I was convinced that this crew had been doing vocal performance work for a long time.

In a World- Lake Bell with Dad and Girlfriend

This goes hand in hand with well written dialogue.  The quirky characters, great banter and direction reminded me a lot of Juno when watching this film.  Sam and Carol feel like a real father and daughter with Sam regaling in his old days while trying to remain encouraging to Carol despite also kicking her out of the house.  When Carol and Dani have their sister talks over the telephone or while watching television and eating cheese, there’s a genuine sense of camaraderie.  And I like that the family is not a perfect unit with both Carol and Dani holding grudges against Sam for never fully giving them credit for what they’ve accomplished.  Sam has his flaws, but he’s not a bad person and Fred Melamed sells his role as a father trying to maintain a relationship with his daughter while simultaneously competing with her.

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Side note, Sam bears a striking resemblance to Stu, Stephen Tobolowsky’s character on Californication.  Not sure why, but that stuck with me throughout the film.

In a World- Demitri and Lake

Louis and Carol’s eventual attachment has traits of the classic love story: boy likes girl from afar, ends up with other girl he likes but doesn’t fall for, boy and true love bond and they get together.  But not entirely.  They don’t exactly become an official couple since they prefer to keep things professional and I don’t recall them ever becoming intimate, either.  Instead, they bond over karaoke and talking about what pills will help them get to sleep quicker.  Louis is awkward, yes, and I do think sometimes he goes on a bit longer than necessary, but he doesn’t feel like an unrealistic character.

On that note, none of the men do.  Some have said that Sam and Gustav are archetypes of the typical man, but I don’t see it.  They aren’t overt sexists or chauvinists, nor do they compete with Carol solely because of her gender, but because they feel they’re both better suited for the role.  As I mentioned, they can be boastful, but they have the vocal talent to back up their words.  Also, Gustav has some of the funnier moments in the film, such as when he and Carol kiss and he begins by making out with her nose.  This is followed up by another funny moment, the morning after, where Carol struggles to get her bra off of Gustav’s hands when he’s still asleep.

And this leads me into Carol herself, who Bell plays with great variance in her humor.  In one moment, she can mock a random girl she meets on the street or talking about a sexy baby voice, but then when in the recording booth, she sounds like a voice that will get you pumped to see a movie based on the trailer alone.  Carol is not overbearing, but overcoming.  Her motivation is to be the best, to make something of herself.  She isn’t driven because she’s a woman, she’s not trying to end a feud with her father and her gender isn’t treated as a handicap.  She’s a strong woman who has what it takes to compete in the vocal performance field.

As I said before, the movie has great social commentary on the roles of women in voice over professions.  I’d counter that there are a plethora of great female voice talents out there now like Tara Strong, Wendee Lee and Arleen Sorkin, but the film makes a good point when it mentions that audiences generally don’t hear a woman doing a trailer for a movie.  Then again, nowadays, a lot of movie trailers usually just have dialogue or narration from the movie.

There’s a lot to be said about the role vocal performance plays and the power behind it, but I’ll save that for the end and get my one nitpick out of the way.

The one flaw I have with this film is the subplot with Moe and Dani.  If they had just been there as support for Carol and giving her a place to stay, I’d have no problem with it.  However, the couple is given scenes that ultimately add nothing to the plot.  For example, a British girl living in the same building needs to take a shower since hers does not work, and Moe makes a point of calling Dani to make sure she won’t be home in the time it will take the neighbor to take her shower.

In addition, Dani’s tryst with the Irishman and Moe leaving, while a tender moment, also have no effect on the overall story.  That said, I do like the moment where Dani comes in and finds Moe listening to the tape.  There’s no melodramatic music playing and Dani doesn’t try to fight it or start an argument.  She simply falls to the ground and cries when she realizes she’s been caught red handed.  It’s a stark scene with nothing going on in the background as Moe leaves their home with Dani making a half hearted attempt to keep him from going.  Good direction, but I think it’s just there for the sake of creating easy drama.  This could have been dropped from the film and nothing would have been lost.

“In a World” is an entertaining movie that focuses on an aspect of performance that does not get as much attention as it should.  It has memorable, relatable characters and a plot that challenges Hollywood norms, but also knows when to avoid becoming preachy.  Not once does Carol feel like a victim and even more than that, there’s an interesting twist that goes along with the questions raised about gender roles in vocal performance.  In what could have been a film that treated the female gender as a handicap, Bell instead crafts a well woven tale about a character who strives to emerge from the shadows and make something out of her passion.  I am much looking forward to what Lake Bell does next.  A surprise enjoyment for me, “In a World” is a film I would absolutely recommend you check out.

A Look at Masters of Sex- Season 1, Episode 8: “Love and Marriage”

“And so the minute we work out how to fit a brownie into a woman’s vagina, our problems are solved.”

I love that line.

“Love and Marriage” gives us both the rise and crumbling of some of the show’s couples, gives us an inside view of the female anatomy and reminded us that James Buchanan was, at the time, the only Presidential bachelor.  Remember that.  It will be handy for trivia.

Love and Marriage- Jane and Virginia discuss performance evaluations

We start off with Virginia and Jane, who is ever curious about her job performance.  But as long as there’s no mayonnaise on Dr. Masters’ sandwiches, Jane doesn’t leave paper clips strewn about, does not ask question and is careful about the desks, she will be fine.  As long as she turns out better than her cousin, May, who was fired from her boss after they had late night sex, he felt guilty for cheating on his wife and used May as a scapegoat, she’ll be fine.

Love and Marriage- Dr. DePaul won't allow Virginia to place out of her anatomy course

Later, Virginia pays a visit to Dr. Lillian DePaul, who is examining some corpses that she plans to use for her class.  She notes to Virginia that the corpses have been assigned numbers.  However, given that the corpses once had names, a family, a life, she wants all of that information to be used so her students will have a connection with it.  Virginia mentions that she wants to finish her undergraduate degree and still needs to complete a basic anatomy course, which Dr. DePaul just happens to be teaching.  Given how busy Virginia is with the study, and how much she already knows about the body, she hopes that she can just place out of the course.  Of course, Dr. DePaul won’t have that and is positive that Virginia can use her other assets to continue getting ahead.  Noticing the ever apparent friction between the two, Virginia, unable to place out or take the class for partial credit, decides to enroll.

Love and Marriage- Margaret and Austin end their fling

That evening, Margaret Scully is sitting on a bench by a train station, as if waiting for someone to arrive.  Far off, she spots Austin Langham cancelling a pair of tickets.  As it turns out, Margaret also had second thoughts on going out of town.  Furthermore, she declares that they can no longer be together.  Her cover story to Barton about visiting her Aunt Caroline would have stayed with her forever and it would be beneath her to shoulder such a lie.  As it is, Langham and Mrs. Scully’s fling has come to an end.  Langham, though clearly upset, respects the decision and promises to always think of Margaret with great affection, but the book has closed on their affair.

Love and Marriage- Virginia reads about systolic and diastolic pleasure

Back at the hospital, Virginia reads about systolic and diastolic pleasure with the enthusiasm of a corpse.  This sort of information, she notes, belongs in a scientific journal with the rest of the boring information.  Bill, watching nearby, refuses to relegate this type of information to a journal, but wants it to be used in Friday’s presentation.  Virginia suggests spicing things up by showing the dynamic findings of vaginal contractions, but you can’t just wire up a vagina for graphical verification.  Now, anyway.  Bill gets his second wind and is ready for round two for the night, but Virginia is expected at home and she reminds Bill that he has, you know, a wife.

Briefly, we get a glimpse at Langham’s home life with his many kids and finally meet his wife, Elise, played by Elizabeth Bogush.  Austin comes bearing gifts, including a Hoover vacuum for Elise.  Not the best gift, but nothing to write a column about, either.

Love and Marriage- Barton comes to meet Dale, also finds Margaret

After her breakup with Austin, Margaret takes solace in drinks at a hotel.  And who else is sitting a few seats away from her but Dale?  Mrs. Scully asks whether Dale’s waiting for a mystery woman.  Suddenly Barton!  And, of course, the situation turns awkward as Barton tries to spin the situation: Dale is an up and coming student with a bright future in pathology, so Barton left his cancelled board meeting to meet up with him.  Margaret doesn’t buy it, but leaves Dale with the parting words that he should stay single to avoid the sting of being let down by someone who loves you the most.  When she leaves, Barton catches up with her and confesses everything: Dale gets him prostitutes.  Yep.  That’s how the story goes.

Virginia finds herself arriving late to Dr. DePaul’s class, but appears to make up for it with her knowledge of the body.  Dr. DePaul, however, doesn’t seem to want to give Virginia the satisfaction of knowing more than the class, so she avoids picking on her when possible.

Love and Marriage- Lester holds Ulysses

Elsewhere, Bill goes to meet Lester Linden, played by Kevin Christy, a cameraman who knows his way around the hardware.  For example, one of Lester’s camera actually went all the way down a person’s throat.  Given Lester’s expertise, Bill proposes that said technology be used for a greater purpose.

Love and Marriage- Libby and handyman Walter, played by Flex Alexander

Said purpose does  not involve his wife, as Libby has found herself dancing around the house with the help of the handyman, Walter, played by Flex Alexander.  Though originally called to help with the gutters, Walter notices Libby dancing and shows that he knows just as much about the tango as he does about architecture.  Walter and his wife, before she died, used to dance often and he’s able to show Libby a few moves.  It’s brief, but we do see shades of the happy, lively Libby that we got to see in Miami a few episodes ago.

Love and Marriage- Ethan and Austin discuss love and marriage

So if Libby gets to be happy, someone else has to be stuck.  We return to the hospital with Austin Langham and Dr. Haas, who just overheard Vivian singing along to “Love and Marriage,” as the two discuss…well, love and marriage.  Langham is still distraught over both his breakup with Mrs. Scully, but also the evident lack of passion in his actual marriage.  Haas, on a bit of an upswing, advises Langham to shower his wife.  After all, a wife stays with you despite your faults and failings.  He’s quick to point out that Langham isn’t exactly husband of the year, never mind how Haas said once that Vivian took advantage of him.  Either way, the talk of loyalty and devotion gets Langham thinking of a jeweler in Washington that the two can visit.

Virginia brings the ‘video of the vagina’ idea to Jane, who at first finds it creepy.  Despite being voted most likely to be in pictures, Jane finds it repulsive until Virginia mentions that Jane would play a role in the cutting edge of science.  Besides, no one would recognize the anonymous organ.  Convinced, and once again wanting to play a role in the study, Jane agrees.  Oh, and she requests that her vagina be named “Beav St. Marie.”  Not on the top on my list of names for my unborn daughter in the highly unlikely chance that I am wed, but I digress.

Love and Marriage- Lester hardwires camera into Ulysses, ready to insert into Jane's Beav St. Marie

Lester manages to hardwire a camera into Ulysses, though he’s still unclear on why he needed to do that.  But it’s for the best, as the camera can now shoot 24 frame per second in color.  Enter Jane, patient F-26-002 and Beav St. Marie’s close-up.

Love and Marriage- Dr. DePaul shows class the body of Dr. Lloyd Dames

Back with the anatomy course, Dr. DePaul shows the class the body of a man named Dr. Lloyd Dames.  He had four kids by his wife, Susan, and nine grandkids.  He also played the accordion.  When Dr. DePaul brings up the scalpel, none of the men are eager- one even faints.  Once again, only Virginia Johnson has the knowhow for this.  Sure.

Love and Marriage- Margaret isn't won over by Barton's passion and tells him it's time for a divorce

At a picture show, Barton, who actually managed to convince Margaret to go out with him, points to the young couple in the next car.  When Barton tries to put the moves on her, it only works for a second.  Margaret lets him have it and notes that passion does not make the marriage.  When Barton proposed the date to a topless Margaret, he didn’t seem to notice her body, but there was still love in his face.  That’s because, as Barton notes, that they’ve been married for 30 long years and are still the best of friends, but that’s not enough for Margaret.  Time for a divorce.  And Barton needs to let her go or she’ll break.

Love and Marriage- Ethan and Austin at jewelry store

Haas and Langham arrive at the jewelry store and look for rings.  Langham regales Haas and the female clerk with his story of how he proposed: he planned to put the ring into a cream puff, but he caught a nasty stomach virus and had to be taken to the ER.  When the ring fell out of his pocket, he declared that all he ever had was in the ring.  The ER applauded.

The two then make their way to Dr. DePaul’s lecture.  While not the overtly sexist crowd that DePaul seemed to expect, there’s a lack of interest on everyone’s part, including the slide man, who fell asleep when going through slides.

Love and Marriage- Dr. DePaul talks to Bill about funding and allowing Virginia to take classes

Masters and Dr. DePaul talk funding.  Masters has mostly come out of his pocket.  As much as DePaul hates to admit it, Virginia is a good student.  DePaul will continue to allow Virginia to take courses, but she’ll need help from Masters with her proposal.  She has six months.

That evening, Virginia studies for an exam with the help of Henry and Tessa.  When asked about why she would pursue studies when she already has a job, Virginia replies that having a degree is like magic: people believe you know what you’re talking about.

Scully meets up with Bill to discuss the study’s data so far, but he’s interested in something else: a cure.  A way to change his sexual habits.  Bill comments that such methods are unverified, but mentions a psychologist in New York who uses adaptational psychodynamics.  A drug is ingested and when said habit is observed, the subject vomits and the brain is rewired to enjoy activity that they originally saw as repulsive- like having sex with a woman.

Love and Marriage- Vivian asks too many questions about Ethan's dinner plans at Del Monico's

Dr. Haas runs into Vivian in the hospital cafeteria with plans for them to go out to Del Monico’s, a fancy restaurant.  Haas tries to leave it at that, but Vivian continues to ask too many questions until Haas is forced to reveal the ring.  No cream puff or stomach virus here, but Haas’ premature surprise is pretty much blown.

Love and Marriage- Barton tells Dale about the drug he's taking that would get rid of his homosexuality

Dale and Scully reconnect, with Scully intending to take the drug while Dale masturbates in front of him.  Scully would then get sick and be rid of this sickness forever.  Dale is hesitant until Scully reminds Dale why he pays him in the first place.  There will never exist a time when the two of them are any more than a business transaction.  Dale counters when he points out that if he wanted to be sick, he could just go visit his parents.  Sure, Dale is not proud of who he is.  Same with Scully.  The difference is that Dale basically gives the middle finger to those who hate him.  He’s not cowering behind closed doors, like Scully is.

Love and Marriage- Walter and Libby at hospital after Libby faints

Back at House Masters, Libby and Walter continue to dance until Libby faints during a dip.  She’s brought to the hospital and the doctor, after making an offhand remark about Walter bringing the car around, informs Libby that her blood pressure is 100/65.  It’s not abnormal, but the hormones caused the blood vessels to widen.  That increases the blood flow to the baby.  That aside, Libby’s pregnancy should proceed without any problems.  How about that?

Love and Marriage- Bill and Virginia look at the footage inside Jane's vagina

We finish with Bill and Virginia, who discusses the class.  Though she feels like an outsider, she still strives to win Dr. DePaul’s acceptance.  Bill turns on the camera as the two get an inside look at Beav St. Marie.  The camera is shaking throughout, despite Lester’s warning that using the vibrator function would ruin the camera’s focus.  As it turns out, it’s just Lester’s hand shaking.  Bill feels a woody and reaches his secondary arousal when the refractory period ends.  Not at the sight of the inside of Jane’s vagina- though that would be a pretty good reason to go up- but because they’re the only ones to witness this revolution in science and sexual exploration.

But if you’re a straight man or a lesbian and you saw the inside of a woman’s vagina, I think you’d probably get a stiffy, too.

Moving on, “Love and Marriage” continues the internal and external conflicts that we witnessed in “All Together Now.”  A few moments out of left field for me, but we got just enough of most of the story arcs here without it feeling sandwiched together.  More focus is on the emotional aspect of relationships as opposed to the sex, which takes a backseat this week for more focus on character development and interactions.  Last week showed us the blossoming of relationships, now we’re holding those relationships up to a cracked mirror.

Love and Marriage- Dr. DePaul

I’ll start with Dr. DePaul this time, who got probably the most screen time she’s had all season so far.  I like the idea of her showing the class a corpse and giving the body’s back story so the students can form a connection.  It helps humanize the otherwise cold Dr. DePaul and shows that, despite being in a boy’s club, she is still a good doctor and professor.

Again, DePaul’s distaste for Virginia is understandable, given how DePaul had to scrape and fight her way into the club, while she believes Virginia won it all on attraction.  She’s motivated by her fight to win acceptance, but now we as an audience know why she’s been fighting for pap smears.  The reveal of DePaul herself having cervical cancer was well done and, on my first viewing, almost went by me because of how it was underplayed.  The episode didn’t dwell on it- it just allowed us to see through DePaul’s facial expressions how she is running on a clock and trying desperately to win approval for her study.  It gives the audience another reason to root for DePaul, but at the same time, does show that she sees a greater good in this push besides helping save her own life.  Remember, back in “Brave New World,” DePaul told Virginia that pap smears are already mandatory in New York hospitals, but not in St. Louis, and she wanted to begin an outreach program to save women’s lives.  Now, episodes later, we find out that one of those lives is her very own.

Though now it seems as if Dr. DePaul may have at least a begrudging respect for Virginia.  From her test scores and incisions on the corpse, it’s clear that Virginia does know her way around a body, just without all the medical knowhow that Dr. DePaul had to acquire.  Their relationship is combative, but there’s a mutual understanding that they’re both outsiders in the same boys’ club, just trying to win acceptance.

Love and Marriage- Virginia in Dr. DePaul's anatomy class

That said, I’m not really a fan of the way in which Virginia is proven to have more medical prowess and knowledge than her male colleagues.  She corrects one of them when he identifies the spleen as the liver, and after none of the other students want to perform on the body, and another faints, a student passes on the scalpel and insists: ladies first.  The problem is I do not find it credible or believable that students taking an anatomy course would not be able to identify the body properly and get cold feet when it comes to bringing a scalpel to a body.  This can’t be the first time they’ve been in DePaul’s class and I refuse to believe that the others are so timid and cowardly that Virginia is the only one who can get things done.  This makes them all look incompetent by comparison and just serves to help make Virginia look credible in Dr. DePaul’s eyes.  But this can be done without making the rest of the class look like weak, little morons.  You can’t tell me that they never expected to perform on a body in an anatomy course.

Love and Marriage- Dr. DePaul talks with Virginia in library

Sure, DePaul takes note of Virginia’s knowledge, but it feels forced, in my opinion.  Just lazy writing.  Luckily, DePaul isn’t all cheery, as she rightfully points out that Dr. Masters does not want Virginia in too many classes because it will distract her from the study.  But since DePaul has something to gain from Masters’ help, it makes sense that she’d allow Virginia to continue.  What’s telling, though, is that DePaul refuses to embrace Virginia’s alternative methods to gaining recognition from her colleagues.  When going over her presentation, DePaul notes to Virginia that she needs something to make others really pay attention.  Virginia suggests having a friend in the audience applaud, but Dr. DePaul refuses, stating that she prefers support over adulation.  By proposing that Dr. DePaul do this, Virginia is asking DePaul to embrace the very thing DePaul does not like about her: getting by on assets other than knowledge.

We know Dr. DePaul wants to prove her worth, but from her descriptions of the hospital, you would think all of the men at the hospital were sexist jerks.  Sure, Langham makes an offhand remark about how DePaul could cure insomnia, but nothing here suggests sexism.  In fact, most of the criticism toward DePaul came from women.  When DePaul was first introduced, the secretaries sneered at the idea of another women looking up their skirts.  So while this is still very much a boys’ club, very little here suggests that conditions are as oppressive as Dr. DePaul makes them out to be.

But as long as we’re talking about DePaul and Virginia, let’s move on to her.  First off, I like her growing friendship with Jane.  Given their solo study during “Brand New World” and Virginia getting Jane the secretarial position, their relationship is growing and feels very natural.  Jane comes off as someone Virginia can relate to on the same level, as opposed to Libby, who Virginia likes as a friend, but also looks up to due to her busy work schedule.

We’re seeing more and more of Virginia standing on her own feet when she turns down Bill’s offer at another round of coitus, but as DePaul notes, if Virginia stood on her own feet, there’s a chance that she could walk off.  Though I’m not a fan of the way her involvement in class was handled, her 100 percent score on the exam felt earned, as if this was one of the plateaus she had reached.  She’s not doing this entirely to be accepted by others- she’s doing it because, as established, she is her own woman.  She’s moved on from the sobbing woman in “Catherine” to walking a fine line between work and home.  Like she tells Henry, having a degree adds credibility to her work since she will be taken seriously.  What could be interpreted as trying to please both Bill and DePaul is just Virginia trying to make it on her own steam.  She’s making this choice because she wants to, not out of obligation to her work.

Love and Marriage- Henry and Tessa help Virginia study

Side-note, character consistency for you: Henry no longer seems to hate Virginia anymore or want to live with his father.  Funny how characters shift back and forth.

Love and Marriage- Vivian is ecstatic after learning that Ethan plans to propose

The message of love and marriage going together like a horse and carriage is shown through both the old and new guards of relationships. The young guard, Ethan Haas and Vivian Scully, are bright, cheery and full of hope for the future.  Though Haas panics when he overhears Vivian singing “Love and Marriage,” his decision to buy her a ring shows his willingness to move forward.  Or a willingness to move too fast.  He’s not exactly in a position to criticize Langham on his marriage when he was so afraid of Vivian going to Barton after he deflowered her, not to mention telling Jane that Vivian forced herself onto him.  Again, though, I like that Haas has somewhat of a steady relationship for once and he does appear to be over Virginia.

Haas’ image of marriage is coming to life here.  Remember, he told Jane that once a man deflowers a woman, he’s stuck with her forever.  He’s almost living out that very fantasy here, but now it’s as if he’s embracing it as opposed to running away.  Both he and Vivian are living in a dream world where everything turns out sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.  Haas believes that a woman will stand with her husband no matter what, but given the time period, there may not be better options.  Recall back in “Standard Deviation” when Betty told Virginia that the only way a woman could get ahead was to hitch her wagon to a man.  Even if, for some reason, Vivian lost interest in Dr. Haas, she has limited options.  Haas’ motivation doesn’t seem very genuine, given his roller coaster reactions to most women.  First, he’s afraid after he takes her virginity, then he says Virginia, the women who he helped during one of her lowest moments, is no longer her friend, and now he thinks a ring is the next step for his relationship.  He’s moving way too quickly and not being practical.  He still deflowered the Provost’s daughter!  Forget about rational thinking, this is still a giant conflict of interest.  No fantasy can escape that.

Love and Marriage- Langham notes that James Buchanan is the only presidential bachelor

Haas’ vision of a perfect marriage contrasts with the other two main relationships of this episode.  We’ll start with Austin Langham, whose wife is all but forgotten about.  When we first met Langham, his entire reason for wanting to get involved with the study was to have sex with Jane.  Then he couldn’t get it up.  And then he had a fling with Mrs. Scully in what felt like a genuine, yet rushed, connection.  Now here we are and it appears that he has cold feet.  The breakup moment is a bit sad because, as we’ve seen in the past two episodes, Langham and Scully bonded over their flaws and experienced a sense of elation that neither managed in their own marriages.  Seeing them happy was good enough, but Langham isn’t doing this to form any sort of emotional connection.  It took his psychiatrist to tell him that he only saw women as types, not people.  When Mrs. Scully got too close, they had to end it, though for different reasons, as Mrs. Scully says it was just a fling.

Langham comes off as a seasoned man compared to Haas.  He’s been married to Elise for years and his disinterest is noted not just with his flings, but with him buying the Hoover vacuum as a gesture.  And probably a reason to get her to clean more.  The conversation he has with Haas at the hospital is one of his better moments, not just because he calms Haas’ dream fantasy marriage, but because his marriage shows that love and marriage don’t go together like a horse and carriage.  Like Barton and Bill, Austin may care about his wife, but he’s not particularly interested in her.  It’s interesting to see characters play out the lives that other characters crave.  Austin is living the future that Haas imagines and it’s a mundane one.  Any passion Austin has for a woman is saved for ones like Jane or Margaret.

Love and Marriage- Langham's wife, Elise, played by Elisabeth Bogush

Even worse, Elise seems to know about the other women when she makes an offhand remark about some other woman out there crying when Austin comes home.  Yet she’s anchored down by their children.  In a way, Elise is living out the life that Betty wants to live where she walks down the aisle and has children of her own.  And instead of Austin showing any emotional attachment to his own wife, maybe taking Haas’ advice and buying something for Elise to show his loyalty, the gift ends up going to the jewelry girl.  But hey, Austin gets his second wind and he’s back in the study, Jane or no Jane.  So all’s well that ends well for Austin!  As for the wife and kids, not so much.

Love and Marriage- Margaret talks to Dale about lovers losing interest and never feeling whole again

As for the Scullys, Margaret has taken her second step toward happiness through declaring she and Barton get a divorce.  When Barton notes that, after 30 years, he and Margaret have remained friends, her only response is that it’s not enough.  And in my mind, I can’t help but feel that Margaret has felt this way in her heart all along.  Instead of love and marriage, Margaret has experienced inaction and marriage.  From the way the family sits so far apart at dinner, to her and Barton sleeping in separate beds and now Margaret being surprised at Barton wanting to take her out, this relationship seemed destined to crumble from the minute we learned Margaret had never experienced an orgasm.

I can’t compliment Allison Janney enough on her performance.  She adds layers to Margaret and paints her as a fractured woman, but one who is not going to remain in a rut forever.  If her fling with Austin is evidence of anything, it’s that she can and will do better than a man who does not want to make love to her.  Like Libby in Miami, Margaret is envisioning a life without a husband because what she has does not work.

Love and Marriage- Dale and Margaret

Her run-in with Dale, while very convenient that they happened to be in the same place, is also very telling, and is a conversation that she also ought to have with her own daughter.  When she tells Dale to stay single for as long as possible and how you’ll feel like a failure when your loved one loses interest, she compares it to surgery in that you will never feel whole again.  And between both Barton and Austin, Margaret has never felt whole.  However, her affair with Austin brought her back from sexual exile and on a path toward completion.  Also, as unhappy as Margaret is with Barton, this episode shows that she’s at least open and honest about her affairs and lies.  She admitted last week to having sex with another man.  She refused to leave because she knew the lie about visiting Aunt Caroline would remain with her forever.  We see that Margaret isn’t in the business of keeping secrets and lies, which sets her in stark contrast with Barton.

Love and Marriage- Barton and Dale, not proud of their homosexuality

We see Barton at one of his weakest moments this week when he’s almost exposed during his run-in with Dale and Margaret.  His story about picking up prostitutes just shows disconnect with his marriage and reluctance to accept who he is.  He may as well hang his head in shame anytime he pays Dale a visit.  There’s a real sense of awkwardness when Barton comes to Bill and asks him how his homosexuality can, in a sense, be cured.  It doesn’t appear that Barton will come to terms with it anytime soon.  Calling his relationship with Dale a business transaction shows that, even when he’s exposed, he can’t fully accept his ‘deviant’ nature.  We can only hope that Dale flat out refusing to play along with this has an effect on Barton.  Granted, Dale admits that he isn’t proud of who he is, either, but he refuses to cower to those who hate and fear him.  If Barton wishes to come to similar terms, he needs to start with acceptance.  Again, like Langham’s marriage, Barton and Margaret have seen the effects of long term relationships and, for them, they have not been pretty.

Love and Marriage- Libby learns that she's pregnant

And so we’re left with the Masters.  You know, let’s start with Libby first.  Surprise, surprise that she’s pregnant again.  I guess Dr. Haas really did save her life, but I wonder what Bill’s reaction will be, especially so soon after the miscarriage.  This week gives us another look at Libby when she’s at her happiest: away from her husband.  Walter is really just here to give her a dancing partner, but he does get her to loosen up and have fun.  When Walter talks about dancing and says it’s easier when you don’t think about it, we know it can apply to both dancing and the miscarriage. But, as Walter knows nothing about that, we can chalk it up to convenience.  Flex Alexander and Caitlin Fitzgerald do have a spark when they’re dancing, but Walter himself feels like a device.  Oh, he’s good with his hands and dancing.  Stereotypes aside, we get a not so subtle hint of racism when Libby’s doctor says that ‘the boy’ can bring the car around.  Whether Walter will be around for more episodes is up in the air.  It’d be great if we saw him more not just to give Libby more to do, but so we can learn more about him.

Love and Marriage- Bill talks with Dr. DePaul about Virginia

And Dr. Masters himself.  He’s more of an observer and planner this time around.  Although we see his repeated attempts to resume the study with Virginia show his growing interest in her, it’s clear that Virginia is pushing back.  They’re growing closer within the study, but things like Jane’s story just foreshadow that Virginia may be reluctant to continue under the conditions.  Bill, however, pulls strings with Dr. DePaul to keep her in the class, but when she correctly points out that Virginia, someday, may not need him, it almost makes him obsessed to keep her on a tether.  He has a reason to hold onto Virginia.  That’s part of what drives him to continue with the study.  But not with Libby.  After all, last week, Virginia was the one who had to talk Bill into going home to spend time with Libby.  Now he doesn’t seem willing to want to do that on his own accord.  It’s maddening, but it further shows how much Masters is burying himself within his study, while at the same time distancing himself from his wife.

“Love and Marriage” was an eye-opener for many characters this week.  Sex was not priority number one here and we were allowed to watch tensions rise and spill over with characters like Barton and Margaret.  Dr. DePaul was given greater weight to her proposal through the reveal and I hope that drives her to continue striving to achieve her goal.  Bill and Virginia continue to walk a tightrope, but this week, their arc took a backseat to the dilemmas of the other characters.  They’re still vital, Masters and Johnson, but this week was more about the rest of the cast.  This episode also showed that none of the characters have what they truly want, and those who do, do not have the practical, or in the case of Virginia, educational experience needed to guide them to their goal.  There were some moments of lazy writing and plot convenience, but they didn’t take away too much from my enjoyment.  Another good episode.

Also, “Love and Marriage” not sung by Frank Sinatra.  Blasphemy.

A Look at Parks and Recreation- Season 6, Episode 6: “Filibuster”

“I am not a sore loser.  It’s just that I prefer to win and when I don’t, I get furious.”

More wise words from Ron Swanson.

After a brief hiatus, Parks and Recreation returns to television with Leslie Knope making a grand stand, as well as some fun at a roller rink with the rest of the cast.

Filibuster 1

The episode begins with April waiting for Andy to pick up for their Skype call, but before much can happen, she hears the sound of Andy’s guitar.  Wouldn’t you know it?  Andy has returned to Pawnee.  Oh, and he delivers a swift kick to April’s computer, saying she won’t need that anymore.  Guess not.

Filibuster 2

At a Pawnee City Council meeting, Councilman Jamm has proposed a bill that would allow anyone in Pawnee to vote in any election- such as the upcoming recall- so long as they have an official Pawnee address.  Leslie sees this as a clear attempt to disenfranchise all of the new Eagleton residents who have been merged into Pawnee, but when the matter is tabled, she sets her sight on the main event of the night: Ben’s early 90s roller skating birthday party.  Why?  Because Ben has a thing for women in roller skates.

Filibuster 3

We then cut to said party where Tom, dressed as Kris Kross, and Nadia, bond for awhile before Tom is reminded that Nadia will be going away to Rwanda to work with Doctors Without Borders.  Rwanda, a place that Tom knows is full of rich guys that will want to buy her stuff.  So Nadia suggests that Tom win her a giant stuffed bear as a going away present.  The same bear that Ann later purchased for $50 after realizing it’s similar to a bear she used to have when she would practice making out.

Donna, meanwhile, entertains herself through playing Big Buck HD.  Ron walks by and tries his luck, only for him to suck at it.  Maybe the gun was too light, maybe he’s too close to the deer and maybe there’s no sight.  Regardless, real life does not equate to actual hunting.

Back at the council bounding, Chris alerts Leslie and Ben to an emergency meeting that Jamm has called in order to pass his bill.  However, Leslie will not stand for that.  Well yes, she will, and she refuses to yield the floor so she may speak as much time as she may consume.  Which is until 11 p.m.  On roller skates.  For Ben, it’s very sexy.

Filibuster 5

For Leslie, though, it’s a battle of wills and challenges, as she cannot leave the floor, sit down or get outside help from the crowd.  Three strikes and she’s out.  One strike she blows when she sits down to remove her roller skates.  No matter, she regales the crowd with stories of her very first vote, or what Pawnee’s first mayor said about voting- and killing Indians.

Filibuster 9

Andy and April catch up, though Andy does not dish many details on his time in London.  When it’s time for him to go, he gets cold feet and jumps into a dumpster, leading him and April to sit down and discuss the real problem: he’s afraid.  He doesn’t want to return because the job is both scary and confusing to him.  But April, in one of the show’s very tender moments, tells Andy that no one knows what they’re doing.  People are just faking it at their jobs until they figure it out and Andy will, too.

Filibuster 8

Leslie’s filibuster gains some traction when the folks of Eagleton come in to support her.  However, it turns out while they like Leslie’s efforts, they plan to have someone from Eagleton run for Council so their views are represented.  Leslie does ultimately triumph when 11 p.m. arrives and she has not blown her last strike.  However, her celebration includes a quick run to the ladies’ room.

Filibuster 7

Meanwhile, Ron gives Donna a taste of actual hunting, telling her that there’s no substitute for the real thing.  However, from the contemplative look on Ron’s face, it’s clear that he still wants to go back and play the game.  He does and ends up placing in the top 10.

Filibuster 13

Leslie and Ben plan to go home and celebrate Ben’s birthday another way since the party has long ended, but Ingrid de Forest arrives to let them both know that she’s been selected as Eagleton’s candidate to run against her.

“Filibuster” is a fun return for the series.  I hesitate to say whether I’m a fan of the main storyline because, while important, I found that the other moments involving the characters at the roller rink were more interesting.

Patton Oswalt- Parks and Rec

From the beginning of the filibuster, we knew how this would play out.  Wendy Davis’ filibuster is still fresh in people’s mind and while I’m perfectly fine with “Parks and Recreation” taking real life political events and integrating them into the show, my issue is that we’ve already seen this scenario play out this year in April when Patton Oswalt made a guest appearance in “Article Two.”  So while I understand the writers wanting to use Davis’ filibuster as the influence for this episode, I couldn’t help but feel we were treading through familiar territory.  Though, in hindsight, it’s interesting to think about how Patton Oswalt’s filibuster was about Star Wars, and when Ted Cruz had his quasi-filibuster, he said “Mike Lee, I am your father.”  But I digress.

The filibuster does go to show Leslie’s commitment not just to her position, but to the citizens of Pawnee, even when it turns out that she doesn’t have their votes.  To her, it’s a matter of principle and every citizen should have the right to vote.  Like the real life arguments on voter identification and gun control, the arguments here never make a lot of sense on either side.

Filibuster 10

Jamm trying to trip Leslie up had its moments: for example, do other City Councils have gongs at their meeting?  If not, they should.  And it was funny seeing him tempt Leslie with a frozen margarita.  He’s a despicable character, yes, but he’s so fun to watch.

Filibuster 14

Andy and April’s subplot was as charming as we’ve seen.  Her smile and exuberance upon seeing Andy stroll back into Pawnee was a sign that these two do make a great couple.  Their dynamic is warm and you can tell that they’re glad to be back together.  We’ve seen glimpses of Andy’s potential before when Ben wanted to bring him on board to help with his charity.  Before, Andy has been someone who wanted the simple life of making music and being with April.  Now that he’s moving onto something bigger and better, he is, naturally, scared, but April is more down to earth and is able to talk him out of his fears.  Also, I couldn’t help but smile at the idea of April making Andy baloney sandwiches by using cookies as bread.  Andy’s return, brief as it was, felt welcome and I look forward to seeing what he’s up to in London.

Filibuster 11

Equally fun to watch this week were Ron and Donna, especially now that Ron appears to be less wound up about privacy.  Donna’s level-headedness about video games versus Ron’s real life approach to, well, everything, would make it seem like these two would clash, yet they share some laughs when Ron takes Donna out for real life hunting.  Also, maybe I’ve watched too much television, but did anyone see it coming that Ron would type “ASS” in as his initials when he refused to type his own?

Filibuster 6

Tom seems to click more with Nadia than any of his previous girlfriends and I like his efforts to prove his worth to her, even if that does end up involving the two of them taking Ann’s bear and returning eight out of her fifty dollars.  From the conversation Nadia has with Ann, it’s clear that she does care for him and Tom does show a softer side.  Also, apparently there are a lot of professional Indian skee-ball players out there.  Who knew?

Filibuster 4

Ben and Chris are mostly here for moral support, though I did get a kick out of Chris trying to revoke his hug from an Eagleton resident after they learn that they don’t intend to vote for Leslie.  Also, Ben’s thing for women on roller skates was a nice insight into someone who’s mostly been the straight man.  It was an odd, quirky detail that made me like him as a character a little more, strange as that sounds.

Overall, “Filibuster” was a solid episode and return for the series.  While the main plot was a bit familiar, both it and the roller rink subplots provided some good laughs and left us on a cliffhanger.  It’s great to have the show back and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.

A Look at Masters of Sex- Season 1, Episode 7: “All Together Now”

We ended last week with William Masters’ hands on Virginia Johnson’s breasts, and
we start this week’s episode with the two taking part in the study themselves, in the name of science.  Not quite as awkward as Dr. Haas having sex with a girl who turned out to be a virgin, but it’s pretty bloody close.  Minus the blood.

All Together Now- Bill and Virginia after taking part in the study themselves

The episode begins as subject M-42-156, Dr. William Masters, participates in the sexual study with his temporary companion, Virginia Johnson.  Still seeing this primarily as research, they talk themselves through the phases- plateau, orgasm, resolution and the like- until completion.  After they’ve finished, they speak of themselves as subjects and which position is best for clitoral stimulation.  There’s a hint of awkwardness during all of this and Virginia suggests bringing in more subjects for a broader sampling.  Bill agrees, but also believes that he and Virginia should continue participating as well.

All Together Now- Langham with Margaret Scully at tennis club bar

Dr. Austin Langham heads for the bar at a tennis club when he runs into Margaret Scully.  Barton?  He’s off playing poker, so she’s by herself.  As is Langham, as his wife is at home with their son, who has an earache.  That awkwardness presents itself here as well until Margaret asks Austin what he thinks about New York.  The reason is because Barton will be heading there for a three day conference, so she could use some recommendations on kinds of restaurants she thinks Barton would like.

All Together Now- Ethan Haas meets Virginia at car dealership

Dr. Haas is preparing for work, while a still naked Vivian relaxes between his sheets.  Though he’s not concerned about her presence while he’s gone, even telling her about his spare key.  Vivian makes the surprising offer to stop by after class in order to help prepare for dinner with Haas’ brother.  Haas is fine with it, though he didn’t expect Vivian to even be interested.  Following this, Haas makes his way to a car dealership where two men put the moves on Virginia, one of them saying that she looks like Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief.  However, Haas slips an arm around her, warding them off, and they begin looking for Virginia’s dream car.

All Together Now- Dr. Masters meets with Jake and JoBeth Prescott, played by Brian R. Norris and Shanna Collins

Back at the hospital, Dr. Masters interviews the Prescotts: Jake, played by Brian R. Norris, and JoBeth, played by Shanna Collins.  The two have been trying to have a baby, but to no avail.  After learning that her sister bopped out five babies in four years, JoBeth figures she can give it a go as well.  But after a year, there’s no luck, even during frequent nighttime intercourse.  Masters inquires into their positions, at which point they mention ones such as the Reclining Lotus- from the Kama Sutra- which intrigues Masters.  He’ll help them, but he requires their assistance in return with the study.  However, he decides to let Johnson do the explaining later, as she’s much better than explaining these things than he is.

All Together Now- Adelaide, temporary secretary, played by Pepper Binkley

Following this, we’re introduced to the new secretary, Adelaide, played by Pepper Binkley.  Masters, who seems to have initially forgotten that he replaced Virginia, yells out for her until he remembers that Virginia has been bumped up to research assistant.  Well, we’re actually introduced to Adelaide as the second replacement, as the previous one, Ruth-Ann, just didn’t work out.  Adelaide comes off as very enthusiastic, but Masters just wants her to fetch Virginia.

All Together Now- Virginia and Ethan have girl talk about cosigning for a car

But Virginia is too busy having girl talk with Dr. Haas in the back of one of the cars.  Haas, being a guy who still can’t manage to get over how he feels about one particular woman, asks why Virginia didn’t pursue her first boyfriend.  As her boyfriend became a farmer later on in life, Virginia felt she was destined for more, including this very nice car, which she’s all ready to purchase.  Trouble is she needs Bill to cosign for it, as the hospital does not provide loans for single women.  Haas, at the ready, offers to sign it in Bill’s place since he’s already there.  Also, if Virginia takes more time, the car may end up going to the curious couple observing the vehicle.

When Virginia arrives at the hospital, she runs into a tearful Adelaide, who tells her that Masters has let her go due to her filing documents alphabetically.  Oh, and she also couldn’t spell anesthesia.  What a terrible candidate, indeed.  When Virginia confronts Bill about this, his focus is on the Prescotts.  When he does get to the secretarial position topic, he orders that the candidates be screened more thoroughly.  In the meantime, he wants Virginia to resume that duty, but after receiving her new title last week as a research assistant, Virginia won’t be relegated back to a secretary.

All Together Now- Libby tells Ethan that she wants to continue the cervical capping

Outside, Libby meets up with Dr. Haas about wanting to continue the cervical capping, something Haas is very much against, as it’s a violation of medical protocol.  Libby insists that Bill cannot handle stress due to the miscarriage and doesn’t know what’s best for him.  She wants them both to love something together, but Bill is far too distant.  Without a child, Libby cannot compete with any other people in Bill’s life, most of all Virginia.  Haas immediately states that Bill is not going to leave with Virginia, but Libby is not sure.  Either way, the cervical capping will continue, but Bill and Libby do need to have sex.  After all, as Libby states, they’re owed a miracle.

All Together Now- Ethan, brother David and Vivian

Keeping with Haas, we then cut to him eating dinner with his brother, David, played by John Pollono, and Vivian.  David inquires about Vivian’s children, only for Haas to catch and remind him that he’s thinking about someone else.  Huh.

All Together Now- Barton in seedy alley, about to be attacked

Dr. Langham arrives at the Scully home, complete with cashews and loving, ready for Margaret Scully.  Barton, not understanding the meaning of subtlety, drives to a seedy alley.  A man approaches him, claiming that he’d like to get in and get out of the cold, but Barton refuses.  The man says he can keep Barton company until the man he’s waiting for arrives.  When Barton asks why the man thinks he’s waiting for another man, the man responds that this neighborhood is “where faggots come to get fucked.”  Before Barton can respond, he’s grabbed by two other men and he’s both beaten and stabbed.  Just before the men can steal his money, Barton’s gentleman caller, Dale, played by Dale Wittrock, arrives and the men flee.  Barton, bleeding like a hog, refuses to go a hospital, but the man chastises him for not meeting at either a train station or New York.

All Together Now- Bill and Virginia ask each other their questionnaires

Back at the hospital, Masters and Johnson ask each other their questionnaires: Masters’ first time took place in a cabin on Rainbow Lake, Johnson in the back of a Plymouth.  Neither is actively engaging in coitus, though Johnson, again, is able to separate sex from love, while Masters sees some overlap.  They take part in the study again and post-coitus, Masters appears to be in such a jolly mood that he finds himself humming a catchy tune.  The data is better: Johnson came twice in an hour during positions three and four, and came first.  Could have just been sexual etiquette, Masters implies, since ladies are first, right?  Right?

Libby calls the hospital to remind Bill of their evening to themselves, so Bill will have to cancel his sudden offer to Virginia to have dinner.  However, before he can get far, he hears some sounds further down the hall and finds Barton trying to stitch himself up.  Barton’s cover story about his attack doesn’t fool Bill, who reminds him that this secret could ruin his reputation, his relationship with Margaret and Vivian and all he’s attained, all just to meet some boy in an alley.

All Together Now- Margaret finds that Barton has come home early after she slept with Austin

Of course, due to this sudden change of plans, Barton heads home just as Margaret and Austin have just finished having sex.  Noticing the change in Margaret’s mood and hearing the sounds coming from upstairs when Margaret is speaking to him on the stairs, Barton says nothing as Margaret flat out orders him to go to his bedroom and stay there.

Back at House Masters, Betty Drape-I mean, Libby Masters, has taken pleasure in a cigarette and a drink of Lord Henry.  When Bill arrives, they recall the story of how Bill bought her first martini.  Though Libby is a bit tipsy, she very much wishes to spend time with her husband, but Bill insists on drawing a bath for her and only her. Oh, and he knows they both won’t fit in it.  What a shock.

Back with the Scully family, Barton eats in silence until Margaret rages at him.  Why won’t he ask questions?  Why won’t he throw a fit or get angry?  Show some anger, she practically says to him.  Barton does not explain why Margaret’s infidelity doesn’t bother him and he won’t yell at her.  Margaret counters that Barton’s late nights are all because he doesn’t want to make love to her, but other women.  Barton assures her that is most certainly not the case.

All Together Now- Jane takes over as secretary

Some new developments take place at the hospital the next day: Masters arrives to find that Virginia has found him a new secretary and it’s none other than Jane herself!  She’s already on top of business with Bill’s scheduling and can spell anesthesia.  Elsewhere, Langham encounters Barton on an elevator, but they don’t exchange many words.  Libby comes in for her appointment with Dr. Haas, but she also needs to speak with Virginia about Bill coming home late and not making time for her.  Virginia says she’ll speak to Bill about it, but when she does, Bill tells her to butt out and that he’ll take care of the matter himself.  He knows the study is important, but he acknowledges that he will work less since the study does still interfere with his marriage.  In fact, he begins that very night.

All Together Now- Margaret and Austin happy together

Austin and Margaret go for a drive, not to a hotel- as Margaret imagined- but to get dinner.  Margaret opens up to the man who reinvigorated her sex life: she wants Langham all to herself, yet she feels she has to tell people about him.  The happiness she’s experienced is like a nurse hands you your child or when your father walks you down the aisle.  In effect, Langham has saved Margaret’s life.

All Together Now- Langham talks with his psychiatrist about Margaret

So yeah, Austin heads back to the psychiatrist and insists he does not have a thing for older women.  Though Allison Janney is quite a stunning woman, but I digress.  This isn’t what Austin wanted when he first met up with Mrs. Scully. He’s beginning to see her as a human being, rather than his past flings that he identifies by type: Jane is adventurous, Tracy was a sex kitten, and Diane was an unapproachable ice queen.  Now there’s a possibility of emotional attachment and it doesn’t appear that Austin is in any mood for that.  Not now, at least.

All Together Now Haas meets Libby in pediatric ward

Libby meets up with Dr. Haas in the pediatric ward, an area she says no one ever would have expected to see her in.  He’s held up his bargain, so now he needs Libby’s help with an important matter: picking sheets from a catalog that a girl would like.  When Libby does, Haas takes the choice- honey linen- to Vivian and admits that he likes having her over.  He also goes almost full disclosure by admitting that his last girlfriend wasn’t completely compatible with him, so that’s in the past.  He and Vivian are the future.

In a mirror of the episode’s opening, we return to Masters and Johnson having sex for the study.  They go through various positions: both sitting up, female superior, partially reclined, any angles that are optimal for clitoral stimulation, and even the rocking horse!  They make small talk in between, almost like a married couple, and when they’re both dressed, it’s now Virginia who makes the offer that she and Bill have dinner.  Bill has no time for that, though.  He has a wife and a very late dinner to get to as we close out the episode.

“All Together Now” is definitely a more serious episode with more emphasis placed on the drama of the moments rather than the show balancing between comedy and drama.  Like last week, a lot of secondary character plots are advanced and this feels like more setup not just for Bill and Libby, but others like Barton, Margaret and now Austin.  Love triangles are out in full force here, but we’re allowed to see them all play out from each perspective.

I can’t imagine having sex with your boss, multiple times, in the name of science, can be a pleasant experience, yet Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan play it well with all the awkwardness and poker faces you’d expect one to have when having sex with a colleague for a reason other than passion.  Masters narrating the phases is very similar to him monitoring the older couple’s sexual activities in “Brave New World,” so even though he’s having sex with someone he’s clearly interested in, he can and will revert back to clinical doctor mode for the sake of data purposes.

Given the frantic and complicated lives of both Masters and Johnson, coupled with this study, it’s clear from the start that they can only keep sex and emotions separated for so long.  Masters has been established as a man who likes to be in control, but what if Virginia, the independent woman that knows herself better than anyone else, began to show interest?  It only complicates an already tricky situation.  And given how it was Virginia who suggested dinner to a man she previously told to go home and be with his wife, it’s only a matter of time before all of these emotions come out, and probably not in the best way possible.

All Together Now- Margaret and Barton the morning after she cheated on him

But let’s save Bill and Virginia for later and focus on the Scully family.  Barton Scully is, as we know, a gay man living a lie.  He’s neglected his wife’s sexual needs for years and done things that could jeopardize both his personal and professional career.  This is the first sign that the perfect family image he has is beginning to crack.  After all, recall that in a flashback in “Standard Deviation,” Scully told Masters that one of the qualifications for studying human sexuality was having a perfect family.  To lead an unconventional life, you have to know how to hide in plain sight.  But Scully’s assault and subsequent operation with Bill just hints that the unconventional life is heading to the surface.  Margaret’s frustration is understandable: she’s been sexually repressed by a husband whose refused to lay a hand on her for years, and when she receives that pleasure through infidelity, he doesn’t so much as raise his voice.

All Together Now- Bill stitches up Barton after being attacked

And what’s worse, at least for Margaret, is that Barton’s assault doesn’t seem to make him want to be a better family man.  Rather, he tells Dale that he loves his wife, but he loves Dale as well.  He wants to be incognito instead of just stopping altogether.  I can’t fault Scully for wanting to be what he really is, but what I will fault him for is not being faithful or passionate about a woman he clearly cares about.  The same can obviously said for Margaret, but the difference is that Margaret was caught in the act.  No, Barton never saw Austin, but Margaret copped to having an affair with another man and Barton was not fazed in the slightest.  Margaret asks if Barton would ever fight for her and if she matters to him and he says that she does, but that response doesn’t satisfy her desire to know why their relationship is so fragmented.  Now she’s blaming herself.  It just further shows the growing disconnect between the two and Allison Janney is, again, great here as a woman who, after years of sexual repression, shows emotions that had long been buried.

All Together Now- Margaret Scully and Langham admire each other

That said, I do like seeing Mrs. Scully happy.  Her telling Austin that he needs milk to keep up his strength, her brief look in the mirror when she’s on top of Austin during sex and their moment in the car show the excitement she’s experiencing for the first time in years.  My problem with it all, again, is that it feels too soon.  After all, we only just met Mrs. Scully two episodes ago, had her backstory condensed into a few moments during “Brave New World,” and already she’s admitting to Austin that he saved her life.

This relationship moves too quickly for my liking. In my opinion, this could have worked better if Margaret Scully, like Austin and Jane, had been introduced in the series early on as a secondary character, but as the series progressed, we learn more about her and she becomes integral to the overall plot.  As is, what we know is that she’s a woman long deprived of sex and the first man who reignites that spark has saved her life and has him fearing emotional attachment.

All Together Now- Margaret tells Langham that he saved her life through happiness

The episode doesn’t give us much new information regarding Austin either, given that we know already that he’s not one to get emotionally invested in women.  After all, he admitted that Jane would only sleep with him for the good of science and he wanted to be warned about his partners, so he’s not interested in merging sex and emotions.  It doesn’t help that he considers Margaret someone who could be his mother.  I do hope that Austin comes around because both he and Margaret do appear to have genuine- albeit, rushed- feelings for one another.  From the loving glances they give each other, Margaret feeding Austin a meatloaf sandwich and their warm dynamic make them fit well together.  If Austin were just less awkward around her.  And there are better ways to learn about and examine a character than having a psychiatrist do it.

Also, not really a fan of the scene where Barton is assaulted, if only because of how over the top and cheesy it felt.  “Where faggots come to get fucked?”  Really?  In the 1950s, I’d expect the terms ‘nancy boy’ or ‘pansy’ or ‘queer’ or just ‘homosexual,’ but taking it to faggot just feels like an attempt by the writers to make Barton sympathetic.  We know his situation already, and given how Dale stated that Barton had other places to meet him, Barton is just putting himself in situations where he knows he can and will be hurt.  It’s hard to fully empathize with a character who we know is very intelligent, but is also very stupid at the same time.

All Together Now Haas and Vivian together

Keeping with the Scullys, Vivian has a bit more to do here than last week, but she’s mostly around so Dr. Haas can truly confess his true feelings for her after he’s made it clear that he and Virginia are not even friends anymore.  Huge departure from declaring Vivian as the woman who forced herself onto you, Dr. Haas.  It’s strange that Haas would cast Virginia aside so quickly after a quick glance at her and Bill coming out of the room where the study takes place.  It could just be more resentment and it’s unclear whether he truly wants to devote time to Vivian or if he’s still secretly pining for Virginia.  After all, not too long ago, Haas offered to take Henry and Tessa off of Virginia’s hands to free up her schedule.  Here, he offers to co-sign the documents necessary for Virginia to purchase a car.  Now, all of a sudden, he says they’re no longer friends.  Haas is very wishy-washy when it comes to women.

Though if Haas is still integral to anyone’s life, it’s Libby’s, as her desire to continue the cervical capping is quite telling.  It appears as though the reason she wants to have a baby is to keep Bill around so he doesn’t become emotionally invested in another person.  These moments are not as strong as they could have been because they don’t have the same emotional weight as Libby seeing Nancy Lawson’s newborn or talking with the older couple in Miami about her pretend life with two children and a dead husband.  Libby says that she and Bill are owed a miracle, but it doesn’t seem to be a genuine miracle when it’s done just to hold onto your husband that’s interested in his research assistant.  She wants something they can both be passionate about, yet Bill already has that in Virginia  How these two originally came together baffles me, yet Caitlin Fitzgerald, again, does a good job as the ever concerned wife trying to maintain her marriage.

All Together Now- Libby turned down by Bill, again

And it’s nice that Caitlin Fitzgerald gets to double as Betty Draper through her drinking and smoking, just showing her disillusionment with her marriage.  Libby is caught between both Masters and Johnson because while Bill wants to please his wife, he also wants Virginia, who considers Libby a close friend, to stay out of it.  Never mind that Bill and Virginia already asked each other the questionnaire, not to mention Bill asking Virginia’s ex-husband questions about her.  The more time Masters and Johnson spend in this study, the more they’re going to start sounding like a husband and wife rather than a doctor and research assistant.  At some point, Libby is going to be pushed out of the equation.  Dr. Haas, the one man she seems to be able to have a long conversation with, now appears to do a better job of connecting with her instead of Bill.

All Together Now- Virginia in awkward position with Bill and Libby

And that’s unfortunate, because all Libby desires is happiness.  That won’t come if her husband is too interested in his research assistant.  And this puts Virginia in a difficult position when Libby comes by and practically pleads that Virginia help Bill come home more often.  Virginia does care about Libby as a friend, but she also cares about proving herself in this study, even more so now that her title has been changed.  It seems to help, since Bill does head home and shower Libby with the passion he seems to have reserved for Virginia during the study.  It’s just a shame that this more passionate side of Bill only comes out through Virginia’s insistence.  Also, what does it say about Bill when his sex drive and ability to perform with his wife is only due to Virginia?

All Together Now- Bill and Libby have a warm moment

Bill and Virginia are in a sexual game of tug of war.  Masters is the first to initiate dinner plans, but Johnson turns him down.  Once Bill, through Virginia’s urging, is driven back into the arms of his wife, there’s a hint of disappointment when Bill is the one who turns Virginia down so he can spend time with his wife.  Again, we’ve seen little to no evidence that Virginia has any physical attraction to Bill, so it will be interesting to see how her feelings for him develop.  Side-note, we don’t learn much about temporary secretary Adelaide and she’s tossed aside so quickly that she seemed expendable.  I get that Bill is a very by the book person, despite his growing feelings for Virginia, but I thought he came off as a bit harsh to just get rid of her so soon, especially if it was just for organizing things alphabetically.

“All Together Now” has some good moments of internal and external conflict with the characters.  While I do wish we got to see the effect Bill and Libby’s relationship has on Virginia, she’s still used effectively to help bring them together, something Libby has desperately wanted.  Jane as the secretary is a nice addition and I wonder if this will affect her and Austin’s involvement in the study.  Seeds of development are slowly being planted for bigger payoffs as the season continues.  There are some dull, clunky moments that are more apparent this week, but they don’t detract from what’s an otherwise good episode.

Also, Libby, stop calling your husband “Daddy.”  It’s just creepy.

A Look at It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia- Season 9 Finale: “The Gang Squashes Their Beefs”

Are we really at the season finale already?  That was fast.

Well, anyway, here we are at the end of season nine with “The Gang Squashes Their Beefs.”  The gang realizes that they’ve made one too many enemies throughout their years of being dicks.  So, in the name of thanks and giving, they decide to use the holiday as an opportunity to squash some of those beefs.

Squash 1

The episode begins with Mac and Dennis renting “Thudergun Express” from Mondo Video for their Thanksgiving party, and realizing that they themselves should be thanked, but run into an obstacle when the clerks running the store are none other than the McPoyle brothers, with Liam sporting an eyepatch due to someone eating it at his wedding.  As the McPoyles still hate the gang and blame them for Liam’s eye loss, they ban them from the store.

At the bar, Frank and Charlie are freezing because the heat is broken at their apartment.  Why, because the landlord won’t fix the heat until Frank pays the rent, which he won’t do until the heat is fixed.  As Mac and Dennis return, Charlie notices that the hoagies Dee picked up reek of gasoline.  Turns out Dee had to get them from a gas station since Gail the Snail works at the WaWa and won’t let Dee get anything.

Squash 3

At this point, Dennis points out the gang just has way too many beefs, so for Thanksgiving, they should try and squash those beefs.  At Dennis and Mac’s, the gang prepares their Thanksgiving dinner just as, they note, the Pilgrims and Indians did when they squashed their beef.  Mac went the extra mile and invited Bruce so he, Dee and Dennis could reconnect, but he also invited his and Charlie’s mom, but doesn’t look like they’ll attend.  Dennis plans to get everyone liquored up so they can sign his peace treaty, prompting Frank to note how often Dennis wants people to sign documents.

Squash 6

The landlord, Hwang, is the first to show up, followed by Ryan and Liam McPoyle, as well as Bill Ponderosa and Cricket, who, as it turns out, the gang has no beef with.  At all.  Sure, he was a priest before he met them and now only has one working eye, but generally, the gang doesn’t see themselves at odds with him.  Also showing up is not Bruce, but the random man, played by Zachary Knighton, from “The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis” whose car was accidentally blown up by the gang.

Squash 7

Liam came under the assumption that he’d be getting a new eye, but as that’s not the case, he demands that Mac and Dennis can either find him a new eye or simply apologize.  So they take the easy way out and go on the hunt for a new eye.  Of course, they go to Cricket who, again, only has one usable eye.

When Gail the Snail arrives, her one request is that Dee be her best friend for the day.  Do that and the gang can come back to WaWa.  Sounds destined to fail.

Squash 8

Hwang and Frank have an intense stare-off throughout the day, while Charlie attempts to play mediator.  His solution is that half the rent be paid first, then the heat is fixed, and then Hwang gets the rest of the rent.  Frank’s solution instead is to just burn the money.

When dinner time arrives, Dennis makes a toast and speech about how the Pilgrims and Indians squashed their beefs, so everyone should follow suit by signing his peace treaty.  He has everyone go around and admit a beef they have, starting with Bill to the McPoyles, but each time a story begins, it goes in a different direction.  For instance, Bill admits that he broke into Dee’s apartment and sniffed her panties.  This story gets a round of applause, as does every other story, such as Gail giving Hwang a handjob under the table just to piss off Frank.  Dennis tries to get things back on track when he reminds Bill about the wedding, but Bill doesn’t remember it since Frank allowed him to drink.  Hence, the McPoyles now blame Frank, which snowballs into a free for all argument.

Squash 12

Solution to the entire argument?  Food fight, of course!  Well, except for Cricket, who gets  a hatchet to the shoulder.  The gang is forced out, but not before Mac notices his room is on fire from the money Frank burned.  The plan is to lock everyone else in the apartment as the gang realizes that it’s much better to jam their beefs down inside.  Much better to be inconvenient to people rather than admit you have a problem.  So, they head over to Frank and Charlie’s as we close the season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Squash 11

In what felt like a ‘Who’s who’ of the gang’s enemies’ list, “The Gang Squashes Their Beefs” ultimately ends up not squashing anything since they realize they’re better off with each other.  As better as these five can be, anyway.  Sure, it was fun to see some characters return, but aside from the McPoyles, none of them had any major impact on the storyline or had much to offer besides their presence.  Though watching Liam struggle to cut a card or sit on a bed provided good moments of physical comedy.

However, the gang’s attempts to solve issues only accentuated them, with Charlie occasionally trying to be the peacekeeper, until he ends up having a beef.  More of the funnier moments come from the gang themselves, such as Mac’s complete nonchalance at his room on fire.  Another would be the gang taking Dennis’ idea to bury the hatchet literally with Charlie wanting to serve squash and beef, Dee bringing a slate to wipe clean and Mac with a bucket of soil to bury a hatchet.  As Dennis notes, it’s all on the nose, but completely unnecessary.  That’s the sort of odd humor we’ve come to expect from the gang and it’s good that, amidst all of the Thanksgiving craziness, the gang had the more standout comedic scenes.  And it was nice funny for Frank to point out that Dennis does have tons of creepy documents for people to sign.

Squash 5

In the end, the gang still managed to learn, well, a not so great lesson, but hey, it brought them together just in time for Thanksgiving, a few weeks early, in fact. They’re horrible people, and they meddle in the lives of others who are not much greater.  At least they somewhat got to bond over food.  So, we say farewell to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia until we return for Season 10.

A Look at Masters of Sex- Season 1, Episode 6: “Brave New World”

After last week’s rough end for the child formerly known as Catherine, this week’s episode of Masters of Sex is a fun change of pace for many of the characters.  The fallout from last week is still present, but Bill and Libby try to press forward.  Side characters enjoy more screen time to move the plot forward, and while we do still have some downer moments, this episode is not without its moments of comedy.

Brave New World- Virginia and Jane at presentation by Dr. Anna Freud on clitoral orgasm

The episode begins with some footage of Sigmund Freud discussing the clitoral orgasm as an adolescent phenomenon.  His daughter, Dr. Anna Freud, goes over the nature of femininity, while the audience, including Virginia Johnson and Jane Martin, watches with intense interest.  Johnson sees it differently, and says as much to Masters when she returns to the hospital.  Masters explains that after adolescence, there’s a transfer of sexual response.  Most of the women for the study have described themselves as frigid, but to Johnson, the men play just as important of a role.  Why aren’t they implicated?

Brave New World- Libby envious of Nessie Lawson's child

Regardless of a clitoral or vaginal orgasm, Johnson notes that Masters hasn’t talked at all about the loss of his child since the procedure and that he needs some time away.  Last time he took a vacation was in 1953, so sounds about right.  Libby, in the meantime, visits a neighbor, Nessie Lawson, played by Rachel Kimsel, to discuss the mail and milk delivery, and it’s here that the loss of a child becomes evident to Libby.  She notices Nessie’s still leaking nipple and hears the cries of a baby in the home.  When a caretaker brings the baby to Nessie, Libby can just watch a woman living the life she hoped to live.

That evening, with the darkness of night clouding him, Mr. Barton Scully has a young gentleman meet him in his car.  It’s unclear to me whether this is the same man we met in “Standard Deviation,” but for now, Scully’s concerned about his reputation and asks the man whether he’s brought up his name.  The man insists he doesn’t kiss and tell, but given how he can tell this isn’t the first time Scully’s met with another man, it’s not too outrageous that someone else knows about him.  But whatever, Scully, unzip those pants and let Mr. No Kiss and Tell get to work.  When he returns home to play the straight man, he finds his wife reading Peyton Place, a book she borrowed from Vivian.

Brave New World- Bill and Libby prepare for their trip to Miami

At House Masters, Libby packs for their getaway trip to Miami, but Bill is too into Freud and how illusions save us from pain.  This serves as a very telling moment, as it shows that the William and Libby Masters who walked out of the hospital after losing a child are trying to move forward with their lives, though Bill is less interested in discussing the matter.  Libby, however, acknowledges that the two of them can’t pretend it didn’t happen.  Bill insists that they should focus on the future since the two of them are all that Bill needs.  All that Bill needs.

Brave New World- Jane tells Austin that the problem isn't in his pants, it's in his head

The next day, at the hospital, Austin meets up with Jane.  His erectile dysfunction is still fresh in their minds from last week, but he insists that isn’t the reason he wanted to see her.  Jane, however, talks up her visit to see Anna Freud while Austin asks for her help.  In what could be seen to me as one of the episode’s best lines, Jane says that the problem isn’t in Austin’s pants, it’s in his head.  My question is which head?  Jane never makes that clear.

Brave New World- Dr. Lillian DePaul and Virginia Johnson discuss mandatory cervical testing

We finally return to Dr. Lillian DePaul, who comes to the office to speak with Masters, but finds Johnson instead, letting DePaul know that Masters has already left for his vacation.  Never mind, then.  Dr. DePaul leaves a message that she needs to discuss cervical testing.  Well, Johnson refers to it as a pap smear, which gets Dr. DePaul’s attention, as Johnson read her proposal for mandatory smear testing when it was on Masters’ desk.  Noting the gender bias, Dr. DePaul comments that if it had been men, the proposal would have received full backing, as it’s mandatory at New York hospitals, but not in St. Louis.  Her plan is to start an outreach program to teach and save women’s lives.  While Johnson initially offers to help pull some strings, the laundry list of requests needed turns out to be out of her sphere of influence.

Brave New World- Margaret's friends, Lenora (Joan Severance) talks about Harriette (Ann Cusack) participating in sexual study, compares it to walking on whipped cream

Still in St. Louis, Margaret Scully invites a few friends over.  They gossip about life until Lenora, played by Joan Severance, blabs that one of the women among them, Harriette, played by Ann Cusack, has had her evenings occupied by matters other than being at home.  Turns out she’s participated in Masters and Johnson’s study and she could not be happier, as she lights a cigarette and shows some confidence in her discussion.  Her partner, M 51-147, taught her more about love than the 20 plus years she’s been married to her husband.  But it doesn’t stop there.  She compares the revelation to when started wearing shoes that fit, size eight-and-a-half loafers: It was like walking on whipped cream, she regales.

In the sunshine filled city of Miami, Libby and Bill try to enjoy some time to themselves and get their minds off of the miscarriage.  Bill, however, still looks like he’s dressed to go for work and buries himself in books.  Libby reminds him that they can’t keep hiding from other people’s children forever.  He does manage to unwind, but the two of them are interrupted by what sounds like a family next door singing “Pop Goes the Weasel.”  But then it turns out to be a couple doing the horizontal polka while and popping the weasel.  As it turns out, however, the very active couple turns out to be a very happy pair of senior citizens.  Gives you some hope that, when you enter your 60s and 70s, you’ll still be able to get your rocks off, doesn’t it?

Brave New World- Jane tells Virginia that she can climax when someone is touching her breast

Back at the hospital, Jane and Virginia discuss Freud’s views on marriage.  Well, sort of.  Virginia just speculates that, one night, Freud was a bad lover in bed, found his wife one day with her hand in her knickers, and after that, he decided to take it out on all women.  They discuss Freud’s theory of immature orgasms the way one discusses sports until Jane points out that she can climax when someone is touching her breast.  Well, they have science on their side and Virginia has done these studies enough to know how to do it on her own, so what do you think happens?

Brave New World- Jane hooked up and ready to go with Ulysses

Virginia hooks Jane up, sets her up with good old Ulysses, and reminds her that there can be no clitoral stimulation.  When Jane’s finished herself off, all the data on cardiac reaction matches what Masters and Johnson have studied so far, with one exception: there was an uptick in intensity.  That’s right: the clitoris beat the vagina, crazy as that sounds in the 1950s.

Brave New World- Bill timing the older couple in the next room

Back in Florida, the older couple has popped the weasel three times in the day alone, as noted by Bill, who can’t help but be fascinated in their exploits instead of his own wife.  They’re like lions, he says.  He wants to relax, and Libby suggests that they give them a run for their money, but when Bill both notes they’re in the plateau phase and looks at the clock to keep track of their stamina, his shot at sex with his wife is blown and she goes to bed.  Not that he would have been all that interested to begin with, but it does show the growing disconnect between the two, as Bill studies the couple like something out of Ripley’s Believe it or Not.  The next day, to further emphasize Bill’s disconnect, begins with a phone call from Virginia, who relays the results of her independent study.  Who knows?  It’s conceivable that women may not even need men at all in order to achieve satisfaction greater than that achieved when together.

Not exactly what Bill was getting at, but he is intrigued by what Johnson found and hopes to further investigate it when he returns.  Turns out he’ll get his chance sooner than he thought.  When Libby overhears the conversation, she concedes that the vacation is not just working.  People have different ways of grieving, she says, but Bill remains buried in his work, while what she would like is some support.  Maybe from a husband.  So, to placate them both, Libby decides that the trip is over, but just for Bill.  She will remain in Miami because she is interested in being happy.  Also, not a request, so Bill better get moving.

Brave New World- Langham talks with his psychiatrist, played by Alan Ruck, about his dysfunction

Langham meets up with a psychiatrist, played by Alan Ruck, who discusses Langham’s mother.  Langham insists his mother has nothing to do with his lack of performance, but the psychiatrist proposes that Langham’s dysfunction made him feel judged.  Around the same time this is happening, Margaret Scully arrives at the hospital specifically to meet with Virginia.  Why do I mention these two together?  Well, keep reading.

Bill arrives home alone and takes solace in alcohol.  He calls Virginia to let him know he’s back, but she’s too wrapped up with preparing dinner and keeping Henry and Tessa in check before they eat.  The next study session will take place tomorrow night.

Brave New World- Libby with older couple

Libby, meanwhile, meets up with the older couple: Morris, played by Barry Bostwick, and Barb, played by Caroline Lagerfelt, who are as vibrant and youthful as their sex sounded.  When asked about her own life, Libby mentions that she has two children: a 12-year old named Tommy and a 10-year old named Susan.  Her husband?  Died in a plane crash.  While Libby may not be able to keep her story straight, she does enjoy some independence and time away from the calculating Bill.  That evening, Morris of the couple comes to Libby’s room with alcohol in tow.  Barbara, has turned in for the night, but he’s still raring.  He dances with Libby for a moment and puts the moves on her, but Libby, faithful as ever, has him leave before he calls her now living husband.

The night of the study begins with Bill and Virginia questioning Margaret Scully with the same type of questionnaire we’ve seen used with previous subjects.  Turns out that after she had Vivian, she and Barton only had intercourse once a year.  Her orgasmic response is described as not really painful, but more of a rubbing sensation.  Sort of protracted, but she does experience a great relief.  When it’s over.  Virginia asks whether Margaret has ever even had an orgasm, but Margaret does not even know the answer.  As a result, Margaret does not qualify for the study, as it’s part of the study’s baseline that subjects have experienced an orgasm at least once.  Margaret leaves the hospital and makes her way home.

Margaret’s bad day follows her home, where Vivian suggests that her parents see the film adaptation of Peyton Place.  Barton backs out, noting that he’d just fall asleep, but insists that Margaret would have just as good of a time if she saw it by herself.  Right.

Brave New World- Dr. DePaul talks with Bill about Virginia's credentials

Dr. DePaul catches up with Bill Masters in what I think is only their second scene together.  DePaul tells a bit of her life story and how she never had a mentor to make it where she is.  She wishes there were more women in this field of study.  Despite her expertise, she’s still mistaken as a secretary, which brings about DePaul’s main issue: how does Virginia Johnson, who is not a doctor by any stretch of the imagination, get mistaken as a doctor- as was the case earlier in the episode- and just accept that?  If she’s a doctor, surely she should act professional and correct those who mistake her for being a doctor.  DePaul’s point is that Johnson hasn’t earned her credentials and finds it unfair that Johnson apparently uses her beauty to substitute the knowledge that DePaul spent years acquiring.  Though Masters points out that this is a conversation best had with Johnson, DePaul respects him as a doctor, which is why she came to him.  However, she suspects that Masters isn’t thinking with his brain when it comes to Johnson.

Brave New World- Margaret Scully and Austin Langham after movie

Margaret finds herself in tears when watching the film, but regains her composure when she walks to her car and right past Austin Langham.  They bond over their troubles, as Langham is still reeling over the talk with the psychiatrist, and reveals that he took part in the very study that Margaret tried to enroll in.  As they move closer and Langham reassures Margaret with a tenderness that Barton lacks, they both have their moment of happiness in the car.  And Margaret gets hers.

The study ends with one of the subjects noting that Virginia certainly acts like a doctor, even if she isn’t.  Overhearing this, when the woman has left, Bill declares that Virginia will no longer be his secretary.  Though Virginia believes she is being fired again, Bill clarifies that she will be his research assistant.  Combined with Bill’s fascination with the older couple and her solo work, there’s so much information they could test, learn and discover together.  Fitting that Virginia have a title that reflects her work.  When Virginia mentions that Jane managed to achieve an orgasm just by touching her breast, Bill, in an offhand comment, remark that it’s something he’d want to see one day.

So, in the interest of science, Virginia suits up…well, suits down– Lizzy Caplan’s breasts making a reappearance- and, for the good of the study, brings Bill’s hand to her chest.  After all, they’re both doctors.

“Brave New World” is a nice follow-up to “Catherine,” with just enough of last week’s events referenced here without overshadowing this week’s plot.  One of the key focuses this time around is on the couples, save for Vivian and Dr. Haas, who is limited to a mere mention when Vivian says that he once cooked for her.

Bill and Libby’s trip to Miami is typical of a lot of television shows: character in a bind?  Send them to an exotic locale so they return fresh and clean-clean.  But Bill’s obsession over not just his work, but the elderly couple next door, not just prevents him from openly acknowledging the miscarriage, it further alienates him from Libby.  One would think that him mentioning to Virginia that he had second thoughts about having a child and his emotional breakdown would lead to at least the slightest change of heart, but each time Bill seems to relax, something snaps him back into doctor mode and Libby is neglected again.

Brave New World- Libby tells Bill that the vacation is not working out and that he should return to St. Louis

That said, this episode marked a small, but strong turning point for Libby, as she’s beginning to imagine a life without Bill.  Sure, the stillborn is fresh in her mind, but she’s not willing to let it ruin her always cheery demeanor, which I think could be a small sign of denial, but at the same time, does show her willingness to move forward.  The reminders of what could have been- noting that the hotel bed was big enough to fit a family, watching Nessie Lawson deal with her baby- don’t ruin her vacation, but the uncomfortable looks Libby displays during these scenes shows that she is still dealing with the fallout from the operation.

However, it also hints that there is more bubbling under the surface and that Libby is displaying a growing desire to be independent.  It is nice to see her happy without looking over her shoulder and expecting a cold remark from Bill.  Granted, her hastily thrown together story about her two kids and a father who died in a plane crash aren’t entirely convincing, but she’s making an effort to be her own woman.  She’s slowly becoming the free bird that Virginia Johnson already is, albeit without two kids and an ex-husband.  That said, the fact that she reverted back to the faithful wife when the elderly man attempts to win her over shows that she does still care for Bill, even if he has more interest in a couple of geriatrics over his wife.  Heck, the sight of her lingering in the background when he talks to Virginia about the study shows the growing detachment Bill has with Libby.

Brave New World- Awkward Scully Family Dinner

Then we have the Scullys, with Barton now dealing with the possibility of being outed, which was hinted at when one of the male subjects in “Standard Deviation” noted that Bill was not the first person in the medical field to fuck him.  His awkwardness around the male prostitute, the lack of passion in kissing his wife and the fact that they sleep in separate rooms, hints at a long line of disappointment for Margaret Scully.  Reading Peyton Place just serves as an ever painful reminder of the passionate love life she can never have due to the rigid nature of her marriage.  At this point, she’s just looking to feel something.

Brave New World- Allison Janney as Margaret Scully

It’s also worth mentioning that Allison Janney is in top form here and excellent as the love deprived woman who can’t even tell or remember if she’s ever had an orgasm.  From the awkward description of her sex life as protracted and a rubbing sensation, followed by her silent sobs in the elevator when she’s rejected from the study, paints her as someone who just wants to rekindle the spark in her love life.  Never mind her marriage, Margaret just wants to experience that sensation that Harriette describes when she talks about the study.  She’s damaged goods due to her closeted husband.  The excitement and wonder in Harriette’s eyes when she talks her sexual awakening is a clear indication that she wants in.  It validates Masters and Johnson going through with this study to answer the multitude of questions about sex and liberate a repressed public by helping them understand their bodies.

As it is, she’s not qualified and it’s clear during that scene that both Masters and Johnson are uncomfortable not just with interviewing the provost’s wife, but having to turn her down even after learning about the lack of sex in her life.  It’s a sad moment and it’s made worse by the fact that Barton does care for Margaret, but, for obvious reasons, he cannot bring himself to make love to her.  He doesn’t treat her like a test subject the way that Bill does with Libby- he’s just living a lie and trying to keep on his mask.

This brings us to Teddy Langham, whose still dealing with inadequacy issues he experienced in last week’s episode.  The line about Langham feeling judged due to his inadequacy hints as something further about his past.  However, for the purposes of the episode, he and Margaret Scully make the perfect matching as a pair of fractured individuals who want more in their love lives.  Strange, though, that Langham told Masters and Johnson that he wanted warning if he would be paired with someone other than Jane, and here he is, making love to someone he didn’t expect to run into and he does just fine.  Yes, it’s a little too convenient how they wind up together, and given that we’ve only had two episodes to know Margaret Scully, it feels too soon to have her go through such a drastic change, but seeing her experience passion for the first time in who knows how long was one of the warmer moments and I couldn’t have cared less about how fixed it seemed.

Brave New World- Virginia tells Jane to avoid clitoral stimulation when using Ulysses

Virginia and Jane definitely have the most fun in this episode with their solo study.  I like how the writers are not just giving Virginia something to do outside of worry about her kids- who are seen, but not heard this week- and helps her grow into the role of research assistant when she’s promoted by the end of the episode.  What we learned about Virginia Johnson up to this point is that she’s very practical and to the point when it comes to sex, unlike Bill Masters, who has to give a textbook definition for everything work related.  This is the episode where, more than any previous moment, it’s clear that she has much to contribute to this study.  It also encompasses Johnson’s mentality through the first two episodes and what led to her assertiveness in “Standard Deviation,” where she demanded to be referred to as an assistant and to be taken seriously.

Brave New World- Jane sees that her clitoris beat her vagina

At the same time, I’m glad the writers are making great use of Jane, not just for the study, but for giving her some of the most quotable lines of the episode.  From her openly declaring that she can climax when someone is touching her breast to being fascinated when her clitoris beats her vagina, Jane has the same optimism and wonder for the study that Masters had when he studied rabbits.  Even more than this, having Jane be the guinea pig adds credibility to her involvement with the study, as her and Johnson’s discovery ultimately leads to Masters and Johnson wanting to explore this new world of possibilities.  It’s also believable that Jane would want to lend a hand, as she’s actively avoiding Langham so she won’t have to help fix his broken penis.

The big moment, of course, comes with Johnson stripping down and having Masters touch her breast.  Sure, it helps bolster their professional relationship- which is more than the other relationships have- but given that Johnson has rarely shown any romantic interest in Masters whatsoever, it feels a bit forced.  Yes, it’s for the good of science, but I think a moment as big as this could have waited another episode.  More so because of the fact that Masters still lost a child last week and Virginia even told him earlier on that he needed some time away.  So it seems as if that advice about taking some time off has gone out the window and, along with protocol.

The only other person left to discuss is Dr. DePaul, who I’m glad we finally get to see again.  She seems to be here as a potential adversary to Virginia Johnson, but here, she has a real point and her frustration at Virginia is not unjustified.  When we first met Dr. DePaul, Virginia is just in awe that a woman in that profession could make it to where DePaul did on her own steam.  Here, not only are we told that DePaul is not blind to blatant sexism- in regards to the lack of women in the study- but that she lacked a mentor figure that Johnson has in Masters.

I understand DePaul’s reasoning: she’s spent years attaining her title, but is mistaken as a secretary.  Yet Johnson, who, in the pilot, just wanted to enroll in classes, is treated as a doctor, much to DePaul’s annoyance.  She feels that Johnson hasn’t earned the right to be referred to as a doctor, and I can’t say she’s wrong.  Having someone basically take a shortcut to attain what took you years can be discomforting- it’s one of the reasons that I take issue with citizen journalists, even though I’m no journalist myself.  At least, not now.

It’s a revealing moment that DePaul, who just wanted Johnson to get her coffee at first, now sees her as a potential threat, but again, she isn’t wrong when she points out that Masters isn’t thinking with the right organ in regards to Virginia.  Though I suppose of DePaul dressed in brighter colors and was more accessible, the way Virginia is, maybe she’d be seen as a doctor.  At the same time, none of the females outside of Virginia thought much of DePaul when she was introduced, so it’s not unrealistic that DePaul isn’t getting the credit she feels she deserves.

Overall, “Brave New World” was a calmer, light-hearted follow up to “Catherine.”  While it had its darker, more depressing moments, the comedic element was more apparent here in an attempt to have our characters move on with their lives and not dwell on the negative.  Or, in the case of Margaret Scully, get rid of the negative altogether when she bonds with Dr. Langham.  The show, again, made effective use of its secondary characters.  Instead of trying to give everyone screen time, as was the case with “Catherine,” more folks like Jane, Teddy and even Margaret’s friends helped open up the world established here and invite others into this new world of sexual discovery.

A Look at Masters of Sex- Season 1, Episode 5: “Catherine”

“God may have created heaven and earth, but he’s not an obstetrician.”

I dunno, Dr. Masters.  This God sounds like he’s got a pretty impressive résumé.

Episode 5 of Masters of Sex delivers on many points: it continues the balancing act of drama and humor without getting overtly silly with its subject matter, has payoffs for major characters and, like the episodes before it, asks and answers questions about self-reliance and how much power a person has.  It builds upon previous themes and adds to them with some extra layers of tragedy, but still sets up moments that will have a greater payoff as the season continues.  Much like “Standard Deviation” two episodes before it, “Catherine” shows the actors in top form and delivers a quality episode.

The episode begins on a naked Lizzy Caplan.  Though she’s in a bubble bath, so the thrill is gone before it can begin.  But hey, Virginia Johnson gets a few moments of peace before she’s interrupted by her kids.  Turns out George wasn’t a fan of giving lectures at school, so he dropped them off early.  Too bad for Henry, however, since he lets his mother know that a weekend with his father is better than a million years.  All right…

At the hospital, rather than getting the pregnant woman of the week, we get a couple this time.  The couple has tried many times to procreate, despite the woman being unfamiliar with her cycle.  They have slept together, but have not slept together.  It feels like it’s there just to give Bill something to do early on in the episode, as the case has been so far, but his line about God not being an obstetrician speaks to how much Bill seeks to educate people like these two about the nature of sex.  As powerful as God may be, surely he cannot do everything, right?

Well, God isn’t the one checking in on Libby Masters, either.  Her time is still spent with Dr. Haas as well as Mama Masters, who comes to take Libby away to the nursery.  It’s very brief, but as Bill watches his wife and mother walk off, there’s a slight smile on his face, as if he’s at peace with the fact that his wife is happy.

masters-of-sex catherine 200 challenge

Other happy folks include the subjects, as Masters and Johnson have come upon their 200th test.  Two hundred times watching people go from excitement to plateau to orgasm to resolution and it’s time for a change of pace.  Couples.  Masters is against the idea since it would not be a controlled study and there’s no quantifiable way to measure their love.  In comes Virginia Johnson with the practical response that you can’t quantify love.  It’s not some statistic or random number.  When two people climax together, it’s because they love each other.

But two people climaxing together is apparently as rare as Haley’s Comet.

masters-of-sex catherine- jane and langham

With this new approach, we finally return to Dr. Austin Langham, played by Teddy Sears, from the pilot.  For the good of science and to be pioneers on the front line, he’s more than willing to hop back in the sack with Jane Martin, played by Helene Yorke, and reconnect the brief spark we saw in the first episode.  I like the continuity here and as we’ve seen this pair work well before, it doesn’t come out of left field that Masters and Johnson would consider the two of them for the study.

Well, not really, as it turns out that Langham is instead being paired with a random woman, better known as subject F-102.  She gets handy and tries to jack him off, but Mr. Winky downstairs is fast asleep, not rising to the occasion, as subject F-102 puts it.  Langham tries to work himself up- after all, who better to know how to do it than us, guys?  Am I right?- but to no avail.  Better luck next time.

EPISODE 105

And speaking of luck, Dr. Haas finds himself on a proper dinner date with Vivian.  After a brief meeting with Scully, who knows the bare minimum about Haas and his daughter, Haas wants to do things the right way, as in no pouring whiskey on Vivian’s breasts.  Fearful that she will rat him out, Haas wants her to stay quiet, calling his behavior a lapse in judgment.  Vivian doesn’t see it that way.  In fact, in this scene, Vivian has become one of my favorite female characters through her conversation with Haas.  She’s not interested in settling down now when she has so much ahead of her.  Why can’t she have a casual relationship, full of fun, daring adventures, and that feeling of easiness?

masters_of_sex catherine in bed with vivian

From there, we go straight to the bedroom and probably one of the more realistic sex scenes on Masters of Sex as we get some close-ups of both Haas’ and Vivian’s faces during coitus.  It’s stark, lacks any of the humor in these scenes we’re used to and we see the pained expression on Vivian’s face.  Awkward, yet Vivian has no problem with Haas doing what he’s doing.  That is, until they look down and they’re both seeing red.

Whoops.

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That evening, Virginia arrives home and finds Henry watching television way past his bedtime.  But he doesn’t care since his mother spends all of her time at work, anyway.  And he’s ready to move in with George.

All right, where did this come from?  I’ll touch more on this later, but for now, Virginia promises that one upcoming night after work, she’ll go out with Henry and Tessa on the ferris wheel and take them out to dinner.

These types of promises usually don’t end well in any film or television show.

Back at Casa Masters, Libby finds Bill sleepwalking again, this time he’s packing clothes for a person and a baby.  That morning, Libby reminds Bill that he hasn’t had a check up in ages, so there’s no clear way of knowing what’s triggering the sleepwalking.  Mama Masters arrives to take Libby shopping for paternity clothes and, in an act that gives Libby more excitement, begins to ask about potential baby names for their child.

Haas, meanwhile, is bearing his soul to Jane.  From his point of view, Vivian forced herself onto him, never mind the fact that she’s still younger than he is.  Either way, he’s screwed himself into a corner.  Deflowering the provost’s daughter is one thing, but deflowering her at all, to Haas, means that a man is now stuck to the woman.  You break it, you buy it, so now they’re destined to be together forever out of obligation.  Jane’s solution: yellow flowers.  After all, they mean friendship, so he better buy a dozen.

Back to Dr. Langham, who is livid about not being told that he would be paired with someone besides Jane for the test.  In Langham’s mind, Jane will only sleep with him if it’s for the good of science.  So when the two finally are paired together, Langham’s little guy gets stage fright again.  Despite the attraction factor being there, Langham is not adhering to any patterns observed by Masters and Johnson.  And so, when the study is forced to end, Langham is left to wonder why his dick won’t work.

masters of sex catherine scully

To the hospital we go as Bill, now back in clinical doctor mode, struggles to find
a heartbeat.  When she’s told to rest, Libby insists that Bill remain by her side, but he cannot.  Charts and the like take up priority.

mastersofsex catherine virginia with kids

But wait, there’s always Virginia, whose leaving work with her two kids in tow for the promised ferris wheel and time well spent together.

Naturally, Virginia rushes to Libby’s side while Bill berates Haas for whatever he might have missed.  Haas, however, reminds Bill that he always had the choice to be his wife’s doctor himself, regardless of what kind of protocol he may have violated.

Henry, none too pleased about his mother yet again not being there for him, wanders
off.  Haas spots him before he gets too far and the two bond over why dads are great and why moms suck.  Cute, but it at least gets Henry back into the hospital and lets him get all his anger out to someone besides a family member.

masters-of-sex-catherine kids are back

After Haas brings Henry back and the kids fall asleep, Virginia grows increasingly upset about the lack of control she’s having in her life: her best is not enough, and worse still, George would never accept Tessa and Henry because he was not the one who wanted children.  Haas, in a tender moment, consoles her, telling her that she’s not a bad mother.  He even offers to take the kids off her hands for a day, not because he wants to reconnect, but because he wants to.  After all, Haas is comfortable with his girlfriend that forces herself onto him.

Back to the pregnant woman of the hour, Libby pleads that Bill stay with her.  More than that, time to lay off the clinical doctor talk and treat her like his wife instead of a patient.  Bill, somewhat shaken, refuses to let this shake his composure, but complies.  During the operation, Bill removes the still body of what would have been their child.  It was a girl.

At Casa Masters, Bill’s mother lets him know that his ordeals are far from over.  Her attempts to comfort him are rejected as Bill, still holding onto what seem like years of anger, speaks of how this sickness in his family spills over everything and everyone.  His mother still has her head in the clouds, and he’s just a chip off the old block.

The next day, Masters runs into Scully, who offers his condolences.  Masters takes it with somewhat cold disregard, but Scully attempts to lighten the situation by offering a hug, except that it could easily be misconstrued.

Bill is done with children, and he lets Libby know this when he comes to pick her up.  They have each other, which is all they need.  Libby leaves without saying a word or taking his hand.

EPISODE 105

Back to work it is, as Masters heads back to work.  He wants the couples to be completely anonymous, but Johnson still sees the attraction as a factor.  Noticing that Bill is not discussing the loss of his child, Virginia forces her way in, telling Bill that he’s fallible and cannot prevent problems.  He’s no god and science cannot make everything right.

Masters concedes that he had mixed feelings on being a father, but now, after seeing Libby go through all of that pain, their loss, he’s at an actual loss for words.  And, in what could be seen as Michael Sheen’s Emmy nominated scene, William Masters lets out an anguished cry from what feel like days upon days of pent up emotion.

“Catherine” is a very powerful episode that shows a lot of the cast at their lowest points.  However, rather than milk some moments for easy drama, this episode delivers great performances and deals with tragedy and loss in many forms.

As with previous episodes, one constant we see is how much people wish to remain in control.  When things seemingly go their way, a wrench in the plan throws everything and everyone off.  They’re dependent on things happening as they see them, never mind random variables life will inevitably throw their way.

Bill Masters, through his clinical doctor talk, conversations with Virginia Johnson and declaration of having no more children, is, more than most previous episodes, is a man who does not know how to react when he loses control.  His emotional response at episode’s end comes in response to a loss, not a desire.  Bill’s been able to handle most situations, but as Johnson points out, even he cannot do everything and he should not take blame for something out of his hands.  After all, he told the couple near the beginning of the episode that God may have created the Heaven and the Earth, but he’s no obstetrician.  Fitting that a man with a God-complex is brought crashing down to Earth by the loss of something that gave his wife actual happiness.  Bill has power, but he is a man hampered down by his insecurities and inability to let people in.  Remember, he couldn’t even articulate his wife’s miscarriage to her without speaking like a doctor instead of husband.

masters_of__sex_ catherine crying

Losses can change a person and Bill seems to shut down most of his emotions due to the lost of his child.  We’re told by Mama Masters that when his father died, Bill closed himself off and fell apart.  Through his sleepwalking, the near loss of the study, memories of his childhood brought upon by the arrival of his mother and now the loss of his would-be daughter are all moments that are building up to something more than the cathartic reaction we witnessed.

Bill walks through his days with a mask, a mask he refuses to let down for fear of showing his vulnerability.  Yet things like sleepwalking have led him to unconsciously lower his defenses, showing that he does have a heart.  After all, we saw much of that fruitful optimism within Bill Masters when we flashed back to his early days during “Standard Deviation.”  Yet here, with him practically begging Virginia Johnson to close her eyes so she doesn’t see him cry, we see a man coming to terms with the fact that he cannot control every variable.  Bill’s reaction feels all the more real because him telling Virginia that he was mixed on the possibility of having a child showed his fear.  Think back to when Bill asked Virginia how she managed to be a good parent, with her unsure if she even was.  That fear and uncertainty could be Bill wanting to close the door on an uninvited guest who had not managed to make it into the world yet.

And yet the professional side of Dr. Masters often refuses to let others in.  His reluctance to treat his own wife like his wife instead of talking to her like a subject in a test tube shows us that Masters is a man whose still not ready to put emotions at the forefront, even more so when dealing with his wife.  Before, Masters could pass Libby onto Dr. Haas for the examinations, but here, Libby has to beg Bill to join her in the operating room so they can at least lose the child together.  It shows the toll this marriage has on both Bill and Libby, and given the real life circumstances of these two, we know how this will inevitably end.  Though, much like Betty’s operation during “Standard Deviation,” we see that Masters can and will step forward and overcome his insecurities when performing an operation, as witnessed when he insists to one of the aides that he perform on his wife instead of letting someone else do it for him.  Nice moment and is believably handled.  As are the confrontations between Masters and his mother, as his restrained anger just hints at rage burning within Masters for years.

Masters-of-Sex-Catherine Haas and Johnson

Virginia Johnson experiences a lack of control as well, through her son.  While it may make sense for Henry to opt for the more ‘fun’ parent, his anger at his mother, for me, comes out of left field.  Remember, when we first met Henry, he was a quiet, introverted child who was into comic books.  This is the kind of kid who you’d expect to keep to himself in class and would never in his life get laid.

Crap.  What if Henry is me?

All right, moving on, I don’t feel Henry’s acting out was accurate with what we’ve seen from him so far.  He never came off resenting his mother or wishing he lived with his father until now.  Virginia is doing the best that she can on her own steam and despite how stressful that’s proven to be, it seems to be the path she wants to follow.  Remember, Betty explained that the only way for a woman to get ahead in life is to hitch her wagon to a man.  Yet Virginia had such respect and admiration for someone like Dr. DePaul, who managed to make it on her own steam, that it makes sense that Virginia would continue working long hours and making sacrifices just so she could make something of herself without being anchored down by a man.

This is why a lot of these individual moments work great as standalone scenes, but watching them in retrospect shows how much these episodes set up for later moments.  Had there been scenes planted early with Henry talking about using a zap gun on Virginia, it’d have made more sense, but here, it just feels like easy drama.  Even more so when it’s telegraphed that Virginia not only won’t be able to keep her promise to her kids, but that something work related would keep her from spending more time with them, which it did.

Adding to that, Virginia having a challenging time balancing home and work is something we know already, so it’s familiar territory, but having Henry want to leave her altogether gives it this extra added punch.  Virginia is struggling, but she’s not about to buckle and hitch a ride to a man just to make things easy.  She’s not in this for an easy ride, as she wants to provide for her family on her terms.  It would just take her being more assertive.  We’ve seen this side of her already when she argued with George about letting the children watch television on a school night, so we know there’s a tough mother within this liberated woman.  She just needs to be more proactive.  We can only see Masters of Sex play up how hard Virginia’s life is before it gets too repetitive.

Though I find Virginia’s subplot weak in this episode, it did open the door for Ethan Haas to come in and be the friend, the shoulder- or hanky, rather- to cry on.  He’s opened the door to giving Virginia the friendship she originally wanted in the pilot and could give Henry and Tessa a father-like figure until George returns.

But then Haas goes and blows it through his actions with Vivian.  The whiskey on her breasts was one thing, but now that he’s deflowered her, she has him shackled to her forever?  Though I find these situations humorous, Haas seems less interested in settling down as much as he just wants a woman to give him the time of day since Virginia is preoccupied.  Now that he has that, he fears he’s under her control.  She’s a girl who wanted to have fun, but then she’s completely devoted to him.  Love is a funny game, indeed.  Speaking of the Scully clan, I am glad that Scully’s secret from “Standard Deviation” is touched upon, but not dragged out for unnecessary tension between Scully and Masters. The secret is out between the two of them and it’s unsure now what repercussions there will be, but I appreciate that it’s just acknowledged and not played up for drama.

Masters of Sex Catherine- Women Scully Wife

Allison Janney as Margaret Scully is great with what little dialogue she’s given.  She reveals to other women at the dinner party that she, in fact, was the one who pursued Scully.  She explains that men don’t know what they want, so that’s why they have wives to tell them.  You have to make men love you.

Mina Thorne 1

Which may be why Mina Thorne mostly does domination material.  And I don’t expect to stop referencing adult film stars when discussing this show.

masters-of-sex- catherine jane

In fact, many of the women are used to great effect and I’d argue they command the show outside of Dr. Masters.  Jane Martin is here as Langham’s experimental partner, but she’s also the ear that hears Haas go on about Vivian. However, she wonders why it is scientifically impossible for a man to put himself in a woman’s shoes for even one second.

Probably because we can’t rock the heels as well as you can, Jane, but I digress.  She doesn’t just exist as a sex partner, she’s used effectively to try and help Haas’ dilemma.  I like the writers making use of two characters that we barely got to know in the pilot, so they feel more fleshed out here.

Well, not so much fleshed out for Dr. Langham and his apparent erectile dysfunction.  It was the comedic moment of the show, to be sure, and while it felt a bit out of place in the timeframe of this show, Langham screaming “Why won’t my dick work?” did add for some needed comedy amidst all the drama.

Then there’s Libby Masters herself, who Caitlin Fitzgerald continues to play with this charm and innocence.  Fitzgerald plays the victim well here and I believed her pleas to Bill when she wanted him to remain with her.  After all, his announcement of the stillborn came with the amount of vigor as reading a phone book, and to a woman whose just lost a chance at happiness, this is not what Libby needs.  And yet despite this, she still managed to walk through most of this show with her head up.  She’s looking for paternity clothes and likes watching babies, she helps her husband through his sleepwalking ordeal- Libby has the traits of a dependable, loving wife who got dealt a bad hand.

She’s married to a man that didn’t originally want to be present during her own operation.  This leaves me to wonder what it would take for her to become more assertive.  I can’t imagine that she’ll just lie down and accept Bill’s proclamation that they will have no more children.  Even if it is done to prevent her from going through more pain, Libby’s silence leaves no clear indication how she will react when she’s had time to fully recuperate.  Oh, and she’s still calling Bill “Daddy.”  I thought we talked about that.

The stillborn is the episode’s highlight and a touching moment when Bill performs the procedure himself.  Again, like operating on Betty, he swallows his pride and does his job because, in his mind, it’s the right thing to do.  Now if only he thought that clearly as opposed to being cold and calculating with his wife.  In response to him thinking up the name “Catherine,” I have an alternate episode title for the writers: “Subtlety.”

“Catherine” shows that there are no easy ways out for the main characters.  At this point, I would not say it’s better than “Standard Deviation,” but it is much better than “Thank You for Coming” simply for involving more of the cast and advancing their story arcs.  There are a few issues, but they did not detract enough from me enjoying another great installment.