Masters of Sex: Brave New World Review
The world may be brave or new, but tonight deals with something as old as sex itself: trust. Oh and things get touchy-feely tonight between Bill and Virginia.
The name of tonight’s Masters of Sex may have been “Brave New World,” but it was about something far older and more primal than such a title might suggest No, it was about something that Bill will never be the master of: intimacy. While (usually) vital for any sexual relationship, Masters of Sex intriguingly has elected to wait until half a season passed by before rolling up its sleeves and preparing to “talk.” Or rather three (or four) central couples did so. The first and most important following last week’s trauma is of course Bill and Libby’s marriage. After the loss of Catherine, it is unclear whether Libby grieves more for her unborn child or Bill’s refusing to even try to have another baby. Either way, she has at least convinced (or guilt-ed) Bill into a trip to the tropics where the alcohol is plentiful and the time for leisure is boundless. It is a living hell for Bill who hasn’t vacationed since 1955 and who probably hasn’t enjoyed one since discovering what sex was—in abstract theory of course. Ergo, he decides to spend his time listening to the affairs of an elderly couple next door and scheming with Virginia over the phone about their next study, which for the record happens to be about disproving Freud’s accepted wisdom that clitoral orgasm is an immature and secondary form of gratification as compared to the vaginal orgasm brought about by a big, strong, burly man. The sexual politics of this are fascinating and returns some of the early episodes’ naughty hysteria that comes with talking about this taboo dinner table conversation in 2013, never mind the 1950s. Nonetheless, tonight is ultimately more about Bill and Libby who are supposed to be celebrating a 10th anniversary but cannot even grieve the loss of a child. Libby thinks the vacation is to rekindle some kind of romance, but when her husband would rather listen to the mating sounds of senior citizens, there is something awry in her matrimony, bedroom or otherwise. Personally, it seems inevitable that Libby is about to reach a boiling point soon. Her demanding that Bill leave paradise for his sex studies while she stays behind is a progressive cry of independence, but a decidedly weak one in the face of the obvious course of action. When love is not in bloom, and the marriage is a gloom, it’s best to leave soon. She takes her first miniscule step towards that, which we will return to momentarily. But first, there is another marriage that lacks complete intimacy or even an illusion of romance. Provost Scully and his wife Margaret, played by the incomparable Allison Janney, are miserable and they don’t even know it. Here is a woman who must read Peyton Place to be reminded that she has never known intimacy from a husband who can barely kiss her on the forehead when he comes home at night (after meeting his male prostitute no less) and may understand even less her biological needs. She doesn’t end up chasing Bill and Virginia’s study because she wants to help science; she does it because it appears to be her last chance to know what carnal pleasure is after decades of marriage. In what may be the most uncomfortable scene thus far of the series (at least not involving “Catherine”), Margaret has to be described in the most delicate of details by Virginia what an orgasm is and then be denied the ability to participate in the study when she admits that she has never had one. In Masters of Sex’s ever sly and deceptively polite manner, the show has entered into a whole nest of uncomfortable gender politics that is not only Far From Heaven,but far from hopeful. It is a rather grating but fascinating aspect of human nature about what the life of a “beard” or cover story for a closeted individual can be. I would like to say this is also a historical study for something that is in the past, but that isn’t true either, is it? Despite their years of marriage, Margaret and Scully’s lack of intimacy shows how even the kindest of affections—as the provost truly does love his wife in his own way—can ultimately smother one to death. With such mixed messages could there be any happier news? As it turns out, there is in the swinging and wild ways of that nice geriatric couple keeping the passion alive. After Libby banishes Bill, she makes an afternoon of it by ingratiating herself with her neighbors to discuss their romance. She tells them her life story: Her two children, ages 12 and 10, as well as that of her dead husband who disappeared in a plane crash long ago. It is all very neat and perfectly tragic, but in the less complicated way of reality. It is a curious thing about what her dream life would project of what she wanted not only from pregnancy, but also of Bill’s plane ride back to the States. Unfortunately, this dementedly happy daydream sets her up for folly because the couple’s best advice to her at the moment is to throw the kids out at 18-years-old for a “second lease” on their marriage. However, they soon have another remedy for her visible loneliness. It turns out that well before it was cool, this couple discovered a swinging vacation meant everything that implies. And who better to teach her to give in to unbridled passion to than Barry Bostwick? Talk about a time warp to perfection! Unfortunately, she reclaims her 1950s sensibilities and throws him out with the threat of telephoning her husband. Oh Barry, perhaps you should have approached in a wig? Still, it was nice to see at least one couple behave in a (somewhat) positive and wholly loving manner for however briefly on Masters of Sex. It was nicer still to see Dr. Langley and Margaret discover each other. But the real moment of “true” intimacy happened (where else?) on the experimentation table. When Bill finally acknowledges that Virginia is more to him than a secretary, he does so in his usually aloof way by offering her a promotion of sorts. There is no extra money, but at least she will be able to work full time as a research assistant. While this is a terrific vote of confidence for her sterling efforts as the one researcher with the most understanding of the issue at hand, it is also about creating a greater level of trust in their professional relationship, which coincidentally is the very cornerstone of tonight’s subject. Libby doesn’t trust that Bill loves her, and Margaret has very good reason to not to trust her husband (even if she is currently oblivious as to why). But Virginia and Bill have that in spades (or at least surgical scalpels). So, it is a brave new world after all when Virginia takes off her blouse to prove that a woman can reach orgasm from the gentle touch of the breast. And she begins this test by inviting Bill’s hand to the work. Suddenly, I feel like this is a breakdown of protocol. Trust AND intimacy they got, but somehow I suspect this sample is more than a little skewed. Den of Geek Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!