Review: ‘Masters of Sex’ – ‘Kyrie Eleison’

A review of tonight's “Masters of Sex” coming up just as soon as I look like I should be sitting on Edgar Bergen's knee…

“And then he said, 'I'll tell you what you're not, Rose. You're not your worst part.'” -Rose

Because Bill's new employer is reluctant to reunite the Masters and Johnson team, “Kyrie Eleison” largely deals with the two of them trying to make their way without each other, at least until they can have their regular Dr. and Mrs. Holden assignation.

There's a lot of set-up at the new hospital, including the introduction of Bill's new secretary Barbara – played by Betsy Brandt, a treat whenever she's in a more comic mode like this – and the amount of pressure he's under from Doug, and from the wealthy donors. Virginia, meanwhile, tries to care for Dr. DePaul as her cancer worsens, and explores what seems like a promising opportunity to apply what she learned from the sex study in a new context.

As it turns out, though, their respective colleagues' interest in sex, and the study, isn't remotely as pure and high-minded as our two heroes', which leads to an intercut sequence where Doug eagerly listens to details of the study while Virginia's new doctor friend gets much too excited pondering new uses for the Ulysses camera. For a show that's done such a good job finding humor in the world of sex without ever snickering about it (other than in the opening credits), it's a bit much to cut from Dr. Ditmer's over-excitement to Doug smoking a cigarette. But the episode as a whole is a nice reminder of the importance of the study, and the pitfalls of trying to do it in such a repressed time period.

We get a lot more of Betty in this one, as she begins going through her fake fertility appointments with Bill, before she takes an interest in Bill's hypersexual patient Rose. On the one hand, it's fairly cruel the way that Betty is raising her husband's hope when there's no possibility of her getting pregnant. On the other, she's doing it in part to enable Bill's work, and though she doesn't trust Bill's people skills, we see in his treatment of Rose that he does have both insight and empathy for people struggling with being told that they're not “normal” in some way. Rose in some ways is like Barton Scully, convinced that there is something fundamentally wrong with her that can possibly be fixed by surgery (in this case, the radical option of a hysterectomy), but Bill gets through to her, and finds a temporary fix for the physical consequences of her behavior by giving her an IUD.

It's interesting how Bill is often so much better with his patients than he is with the people he cares about in his personal life. Here, he helps a young woman in trouble, but he's still adrift, still running off to Alton for his role-playing with Virginia, who's lost herself as her current boss gets sicker and her former boss isn't allowed to work with her.

It's a vulnerable spot for both of them to be in, and one that nicely sets us up for next week's very unusual, excellent episode, which I'm very much looking forward to discussing with you on the 27th.

Some other thoughts:

* With Bill's mother now off in the 21st century, chain-smoking and trying to ruin everyone else's fun, Libby hires a nanny in Coral, played by Keke Palmer. It's interesting to see the ebbs and flows in her relationship with Libby just in these early days, with her at one point venting to Coral about the problems in her marriage, and then later smugly trying to correct her pronunciation of “ask” in a fit of pique after Cora; proves better at calming the baby. Libby's in a tough spot, given the way Bill treats her (and what he's doing behind her back), and she's really very much alone.

* Langham's wife has moved to Alton, IL, which happens to be the location of Bill and Virginia's regular assignations as Dr. and Mrs. Holden. Chekhov's Suburb?

* I never would have noticed the resemblance without the joke, but with minimal makeup and her hair pulled back, Julianne Nicholson really does look a bit like Charlie McCarthy.

* Vivian Scully explains that her parents are now off in Europe, which allows the shows to park those characters elsewhere until Bridges and Janney are available again.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at