Review: ‘Masters of Sex’ – ‘The Excitement of Release’: How does sex smell?

Senior Television Writer
07.26.15 18 Comments

Showtime

Some thoughts on tonight's “Masters of Sex” coming up just as soon as I sell an airplane to the Amish…

* The Marriage of convenience remains a dominant theme of the season, even in an episode where George is absent. We see Libby trying very hard to convince her new best friend Joy to stay in her marriage, because if this woman can walk away from a marriage that isn't perfect but is still vastly better than her own, then what excuse does Libby have to still be with Bill, other than vanity? Barton Scully returns, no longer living with Margaret, but now with a new female companion who either doesn't know or doesn't care about his sexual orientation. (Even if rumors of it forced him out of his job as provost.) Bill tries desperately to make a match with an academic institution to help make “Human Sexual Response” a nationally-recognized textbook, while Gini and Betty in turn seek a more profitable marriage with the likes of Hugh Hefner or Josh Charles' perfume magnate Dan Logan. (And boy, does Gini seem more than professionally interested in Dan's description of the fragrance he wants.)

* A more authentic marriage – albeit one we are only learning about well after the fact – involves the return of Helene Yorke as Jane, who apparently returned to Lester after her acting career fizzled out. No mention of what happened between Lester and Betsy Brandt's Barbara, though perhaps that will come up later. Yorke was one of many fun supporting players in season 1, and her absence was felt last year; this isn't the most elegant way to bring her back, but I'm glad to have her around again. 

* I'm running hot and cold on the Tessa material so far. For long stretches of this episode, her scenes felt like they belonged on an entirely different show. But then we got to her friend forcing her to pleasure him – and, worse, having no idea that he did anything wrong – because he assumes Virginia Johnson's daughter must be game for anything sexually, and it felt very much a part of this series. Many good things come out of Masters and Johnson's work, but there's a dark side to it, and of course someone like Gini's (fictionalized) would be among the first to be exposed to the bad part.

* The scene where Bill shows Joy's college football star husband Paul his collection of football cards didn't really tie into the rest of the episode, but was another strong (if uncomfortable) window into Bill's sad and lonely childhood. To Bill, these cards were an escape, and something to be proud of; to a guy like Paul who actually played the game, it's a nerdy and juvenile memento that should have stayed in the back of the closet forever.

* This one was directed by Miguel Sapochnik, and yet somehow did not involve the Night's King raising his arms to salute the work of Masters and Johnson. Oh well.

What did everybody else think? How you feeling about the season so far?

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