Review: ‘Masters of Sex’ – ‘One for the Money, Two for the Show’

Senior Television Writer
09.21.14 43 Comments

Showtime

A review of tonight's “Masters of Sex” coming up just as soon as she's a man and I'm a woman…

“I can't twinkle! I can't fuck!” -Bill

As we get close to next week's season finale, “One for the Money, Two for the Show” does a better job than many recent episodes of suggesting that all the disparate aspects of the series are part of the same show. For one week, at least, Libby's time at CORE and even Langham's weird relationship with Flo felt thematically connected to the study, to Bill and Virginia's relationship, and to the other things the show is ostensibly about, as characters in all corners of the show had to deal with the problem of feeling invisible to the ones they care about.

The CBS news editor has no little to no use for Lester and his cinema verite aspirations. Flo tries to engage Langham in “Gone with the Wind” role play because she's spent too much of her life being looked past. (It's an issue the perpetually handsome Langham can barely understand.) Libby confesses that she's been hanging around CORE  because Robert's seeming contempt for her made her feel better and more alive than Bill's eternal polite neglect, and they even have sex in her home.

In a development I've been wondering about all season, Virginia's ex-husband George makes her finally recognize the impact all her late-night sessions with Bill in Alton have had on her kids(*): she's become a well-liked but largely invisible parent to them while Pam the babysitter and George's new wife Audrey handle all the maternal duties.

(*) Who are still played by the same actors even though this episode takes place several years after the last time we saw Tess and Henry earlier in the season.

And in the episode's powerful closing sequence, Bill deflates after a mortifying day on camera has filled him with anxiety about how he looks, how he presents himself to the world, and why Virginia Johnson would ever want to spend time with him, let alone the millions of Americans who may watch the CBS segment. (And though it's not his intention – nor the role I imagine she'd prefer to play in the relationship – Bill's attack of self-pity does afford Virginia a chance to behave motherly towards somebody that day.) It's been an uneven season, but Sheen and Caplan continue to get these great showcase moments, and continue to kill with them.

I mean, if I had my druthers, we wouldn't be spending a second on Flo, and Langham would probably have vanished from the series along with Jane, Ethan and the Scullys, because I don't find those two together nearly as funny as I'm assuming the “Masters” writers do. (Think of it this way: every minute Flo gets is a minute that Betty doesn't get.) But at least for one episode I was only mostly annoyed they were there, rather than utterly baffled.

And though the show took its sweet time getting to Libby and Robert's inevitable moment of passionate release – a very strong scene for Caitlin FitzGerald – when that moment came it felt like something very much about Libby's relationship with Bill, rather than simply something to keep her busy until she susses out the full extent of her husband's relationship with Virginia.

And maybe that's the biggest question of the episode, and for next week's finale: how much does Libby piece together as she sits in the outer office all day, stewing and smoking and watching Bill get along so well with Virginia? She obviously recognizes that emotionally, she now comes in second to Mrs. Johnson, but would she make so bold a move as to sleep with another man if she didn't have a very strong intuition that her husband was being unfaithful to her? I really don't know the answer, in part because I thought for sure that the Libby/Ginny conversation late in “Asterion” was implying that she had figured it out at some point in the previous three years and made peace with the idea. So now I'm gunshy and waiting for an explicit revelation – whether Libby catching them in the act or loudly announcing her deduction to one or both of them.

Season 1 ended with Bill making his study public to the staff at Maternity, which turned into a fiasco. It appears we're heading for a parallel conclusion here with the airing of the CBS report. Will all of the season's other threads – Bill's impotence, Libby and Robert's affair, Betty's quest for St. Louis real estate dominance, Flo and Langham's torrid relationship – be tied up next week? Or will the ragged, time-jumping nature of the season lead to a more open conclusion?

We'll have a lot to talk about next week, plus I'm hoping to find time to do another Michelle Ashford post-mortem review.

But as for tonight's episode, what did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com

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