Review: ‘Masters of Sex’ – ‘Standard Deviation’

10.13.13 4 years ago 42 Comments


A quick review of tonight’s “Masters of Sex” coming up just as soon as I take a Midol and watch “General Electric Theater”…

A good chunk of “Standard Deviation” functions as a Bill Masters origin story, which is a valuable thing at this stage, given what a mysterious, close-to-the-vest character he’s written and played as. I love Michael Sheen’s iciness in the role, but it helps enormously to see the man Bill was before he learned how to hide in plain sight and to get a much stronger sense of his relationship with Provost Scully, so the moment when he blackmails his mentor will demonstrate just how ruthless Bill will be about this study.

Even more interesting, though, was the material at the brothel, and the reason Bill felt desperate enough to go against Scully like that. The young Bill Masters had a simple, almost wholesome idea – take a basic human impulse and activity and make it easier for people to understand and enjoy – and with both the female and male prostitutes, he’s being exposed to many different kinds of sex that he was not prepared to catalog, from something incredibly dark like the story of the girl who was molested by her uncle to sex between two men, which was considered far more alien in 1957 than it is today. Without going too much into future history, Masters’ later research about, and work with, homosexuals would be a source of enormous controversy, and a complication of his overall legacy. Whether or not “Masters of Sex” covers enough ground to make it to that point of his career, it’s fascinating to see Masters’ reaction to the so-called “outliers and misfits” and look ahead a decade or two.

Another strong episode, especially for Sheen, but also advancing other stories like Libby’s attempt to get pregnant (and Virginia telling her the truth about Bill’s infertility) and Betty’s failed surgery (and the introduction of Greg Grunberg as the Pretzel King), among others.

What did everybody else think? And did any fans of “Parenthood” and/or “Arrested Development” need a moment or three to adjust to Mae Whitman as a virginal ’50s bride-to-be?

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