Masters of Sex: Giants review

Dynamics are all out of whack as Masters and Johnson adjust to their new residency at Buell Green. Read our review.

“You’re the girl upset that she wasn’t asked to go to the dance with the boy that she didn’t even want to go with.”

We want what we can’t have. Hell, we want what we don’t even want a lot of the time, too. What’s significant here is that if we’re powerful; if we’re a giant, then we can usually get what we want. But there are a lot of different conceptions of what a giant is. Maybe it’s an unbeatable person in your life. Or an intimidating presence that can’t be equaled. Perhaps its an insurmountable monolith; a symbol of judgment and control. Or sometimes, very simply, a giant is just someone with more. And so here is an episode that is interested in examining all of the different giants that inhabit this world. It’s in turn not surprising that the opening shot of the episode is positioned on little baby Johnny, as Libby and Virginia tower down over him. These literal giants dominating the infant, these two tremendous role models in his life, whether he realizes it or not.

Elsewhere, Masters has posited himself as a giant at Buell Green. He confidently strides down the halls rather than the manic shuffle he did at Memorial. He expects rules to just bend for him or that he’s some special sort of exception, and already on his first day he begins to ruffle feathers, both actively, and passively through the office that gets co-opted to turn into his dedicated examining room. Masters is stepping on innocents who are in his wake. He later on in the episode tries to settle a race dispute between old and new clientele in the waiting room of Buell Green, yet another indication that he and Virginia’s residency there is not the best idea. Masters thinks he can fix everything, when in fact he gets a punch in the face to match the one that he doled out last week on Greathouse. Masters might be a giant, but Goliath had to be taken down eventually.

At the same, we see that the study simply resuming isn’t enough for Virginia. She needs stability. She needs a contracted position, one of the many new strings that Masters gets to pull. It honestly feels a little cyclical between these two, again coming down to the semantics and dotted line of their job, but that’s part of the point here as you can see Virginia again getting frustrated and Masters legitimately not understanding and surprised at her insulted reaction, using DePaul’s knowledge of their relationship as a dagger in her side.

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This all culminates in some of the best scenes of the episode, in the beyond sad one where Virginia asks if her and Bill sleeping together is mandatory for her employment there. Masters is of course guiled into saying “no,” when in fact you see Virginia maybe even wants him to say “yes” to the smallest degree to justify her behavior, just as Masters retracts his statement to something far worse. Later, while stuck in this situation, Virginia chooses to remain clothed because she “wants to” and she wants to watch Masters strip as she controls and dominates him, like he tried to do to her episodes ago. Here though, he doesn’t spin it on her and try to assert control in his own action, Virginia is in control at all times as she comfortably sits, controls the watch, takes notes and interrogates him on his form as he uncomfortably stands, eyes closed, fully naked to her entirely robed body, as he claims that she is what he’s thinking about. She’s pulled him from his big, new throne room of an office to this kingdom where he no longer has power and she’s in control. You see him start to unravel elsewhere. Libby jokes about Master’s next job being the doctor of a penitentiary at the rate he’s going, and she might not be that far off if he continues like this.

After everything that Masters goes through in this episode, especially after just getting punched in the face by an African American, we almost need the palate cleanser of a scene where he stands up for Coral and outlines how out of line Libby was with the forced hair washing last week. But how this relationship blossoms and then wilts, the reverse can be said for DePaul and Virginia. They come to a head here as DePaul dresses her and their entire gender by proxy down, while Virginia insists she can compartmentalize while the rest of the floor overhears.

After the events of last week, it’s a little surprising, albeit nice, to see Gene and Betty discussing the adoption alternative, with matters seeming to be more or less patched up. They too act as giants to this orphan that they will rescue. It’s nice to see the increased role Betty and Gene have taken this season, almost becoming the surrogate Scullys (and when are they going to get back from that vacation?) as we watch the trials and tribulations of the honesty play that is their marriage.

And on the topic of which, Sarah Silverman! Playing Helen, who seems to be some sort of psychic in a role that’s very “her.” Silverman really knocks it out of the park in her first episode in her restrained performance to a character that at first feels kind of superfluous, but then turns out to be a former lover of Betty’s, trying to get back into her life.  They both want giants to attach themselves to, and sail above all of this. Betty has one. Helen does not.

We even get a big red hand on top of Betty’s image via the tarot center, telling her to stop all of this and that Helen is not a good idea. She needs to stop the lies otherwise she’s going to get to a point where Gene won’t just look the away way to adoption. When their double date basically turns into a Russian Roulette of stories from the past, matters only get tenser for everyone.

The Betty/Coral saga continues with her boyfriend coming to essentially scare off Betty. She doesn’t learn from this though. Instead she flaunts to Coral that she’s older and knows more of the world (something she again repeats to Masters), as she tries to tell her to break up with him and expecting her to do what she wants. I feel like I understand this dynamic a little better this episode as Betty is frustrated that despite Coral’s many “hardships”, she still has a fuller life than she does; she knows how to handle her baby, Masters gets along with her, and in spite of her husband’s flaws, at the end of the night they share intimacy and love, and Libby’s face during Coral’s description of this seems like bile might start pouring out of her mouth the next second she opens it. We even see in this same episode that at night, Masters reads, not in bed with his wife, but on the other side of the room. It’s almost surprising to see a sex scene between the two of them, which is a weird thought to come to, but it’s true. Their lovemaking plays out incredibly mechanically, like something coerced to happen, rather than the passion and roleplay that bounces around the hotel room walls with Bill and Virginia. Your husband may be a giant, but that doesn’t make your marriage one. That doesn’t mean that two normal people can’t stack on top of each other and be just as tall as you are. Maybe even taller.

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So it makes sense at the end of things here, that Johnson is there for DePaul. She might be the only person that she has to call upon, but it doesn’t matter. Virginia doesn’t even hesitate. These are who the giants are. Charles at Buell Green who rallies Masters and Johnson to try harder and believe in change. Martin Luther King Jr. isn’t mentioned for nothing here. People without ego are giants. People who are selfless are giants. Power is one thing, but sometimes horses need to be shot if they keep making mistakes.

We all may not be so fortunate to live to 93 and choke on a chicken bone.

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4 out of 5