Review: ‘Masters of Sex’ – ‘Thank You For Coming’

Senior Television Writer
10.20.13 44 Comments


A review of tonight’s “Masters of Sex” coming up just as soon as I refuse to pay you for babysitting your own children…

“Thank You For Coming” takes a big leap forward in time – Libby is already five months pregnant – which I suppose the series will have to do at certain points if it wants to cover as much of Masters and Johnson’s work as possible. But the conflicts the episode deals with are very much on point from what we’ve seen in the previous four episodes.

“Thank You For Coming” (written by “Party of Five” co-creator Amy Lippman) once again deals with the effect Virginia Johnson has on the men around her, here including Bill Masters, Ethan Haas and a new player for us (but an old one for her) in Mather Zickel as her ex-husband George.

There’s so much talk about how unusual Virginia is – Haas compares their brief time together to the Technicolor scenes in “The Wizard of Oz,” and every other woman to the black-and-white ones – that the show might be in danger of having the reality not live up to the obsession. But the writing for Virginia, and Lizzy Caplan’s performance, justifies it. This is a woman out of time, but also one supremely comfortable in her own skin, and with the power she so clearly wields over the men around her – I especially liked the casual moment at the dinner party where she offers to take the lead with her male dance partner, cheerfully suggesting, “How about you be me and I’ll be you?” It’s a little moment, but it says a lot about who she is and why the men around her are fixated to the point where George would fake his way into the study (albeit also for cash), Ethan would try to use Provost Scully’s daughter as a proxy, and Bill would arrange a private interview with George just so he could learn how to satisfy his beguiling secretary.

The other big development of “Thank You For Coming” involves the arrival of Bill’s mother, played by the great character actress Ann Dowd, and the resentment towards his abusive father that her arrival stirs in Bill. It’s a bit trite that he should be treating a woman whose husband abuses both her and their son right at the moment he’s dealing with his mother’s presence in his home, but Michael Sheen is so good – and, despite Bill’s behavior in so much of the rest of this episode (and series), so sympathetic – that I’m ultimately okay with it.

The next two episodes are perhaps the strongest of the ones Showtime sent out in advance, and hopefully I’ll have time to do a deeper dive on one or both of them. In the meantime, what did everybody else think of tonight’s show?

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