Masters of Sex season 3 episode 4 recap

The thing about sex that makes it interesting to talk about and see, especially on TV and the movies, is that it’s supposed to be secret and ‘between two people’,  and that’s how we generally conduct ourselves in real life. Don’t ask, don’t tell. 

That’s why this show is best when there are more people involved, and when the questions of whether or not there are secrets that need to be kept are raised. That’s why this was so much fun - the awkwardness involved in being sex experts, with everything that entails, is only interesting when there are other people involved.

Having said that, I’m not sure which other people are the most compelling.  Specifically, I’m not sure how many seasons can be comprised of Libby Masters having some drama outside the office that parallels the way she feels about her non-existent relationship. There was Coral, and there was Robert, who became much more important than Coral – but at least there was some forced difficulty there. The storyline with Libby’s neighbours, Paul & Joy, who are now facing years of a marriage in name only (raise your hand if you got the allusion here) is sort of fine as a one-off, for Libby to play with these people like Barbies and arrange them into the positions of a loving marriage, but I wish we could pick up the pace. If Joy was there to raise (and then stunt) the idea of breaking away – can we get on that already?

Still, Libby is compelling to watch, as is Virginia, even when I don’t know what the hell she’s up against. I really empathize with the idea that Virginia is trying to be a parent, maybe too little too late, and that Lisa is a visual representation of this complicated choice. What I don’t necessarily understand is what she wants from Bill. They’re in a relationship of sorts but she treats the fur he buys her like some kind of bomb, and I don’t think it’s because she’s being politically correct (in general this show is less overt about the cultural norms that feel anachronistic today than Mad Men was, but man, how big a deal did fur used to be?). I’m not sure what she’s about, exactly.

Maybe that’s not a fair criticism – I’m not sure what lots of these people are about. I guess the difference is that Virginia seems smarter, generally. More able to say ‘f*ck all of this’. Nobody else can, and that’s what makes them tragic. Bill Masters struggling valiantly to offer smiles is the comic angle of this, and poor, poor Barton and Margaret Scully are the tragic. 

I don’t mind either of these two in mortal peril because they’re great to watch, but UGH. Barton can’t tell the truth, ever? This is what it comes down to? Margaret acts like she’s in an enlightened committed relationship – and hey, maybe she is, even if she got her nights wrong – but is a shared bed what she lost her marriage and her daughter for? 

It’s hard to see any wins these days. I mean, Josh Charles is doing just fine – and he really heats up the scenes between him and Virginia - but that’s maybe it. Betty now gets two sassy lines an episode, Virginia is leaning out, Bill is desperately trying to overcome his natural tendencies, to an end he’s not sure about, Libby is stymied, and Tessa – oh man Tessa is such a tragedy, because she’s going through very real things with nobody to talk to, but she’s also so exhausting that who would want to?  I know that’s callous when we’re talking about a child, but consider that the same exact description can be applied to Bill, and you kind of get what Virginia is up against. She’s surrounded by these people.

This show, while super troubled still, is exponentially better when it’s about a workplace than when it’s about a claustrophobic ‘family’. Let’s hope that even with big names in the cast, they’re saving money for cases of the week, because they’re what make the show go at all.