Masters of Sex: Fantasy, Reality and Confronting the Past

21 Oct

Confronting the past and looking to the future are big themes in Masters of Sex’s puntastic named episode “Thank You For Coming” as we learn more about the past relationships that have shaped both Masters and Johnson. In terms of color and costuming red and pink are repeated throughout this episode offering up different interpretations of sex and love.

Masters of Sex 1.04 Virginia lipstickVirginia spends the episode as the object of desire of three very different men; her ex-husband George, Ethan and Bill Masters himself. Two of these men have experienced the passion with Virginia that one of her signature colors represents, while the other has only his scientific data as an attempt to understand this side of his assistant. Red is one of the colors that Virginia wears with frequency and for her it’s all about passion and strong emotions.

Masters of Sex 1.04 grey dressAnother repeated style point for Virginia is that both her dresses and blouses tend to have bow details around the collar. While the Peter Pan collar is probably a more indicative style from this period, Virginia’s bows show that she is more fashion forward and less traditional than someone like Libby Masters.

Masters of Sex 1.04 Masters and JohnsonVirginia tends to navigate towards darker color and she dresses head to toe in black for the Masters’ dinner party. This might come across as a somber choice for a lighthearted setting. Instead it reflects Virginia’s music club past where dark colors are the norm and not seen as mourning attire.

Masters of Sex 1.04 Virginia in blackHere’s another look at Virginia’s dinner party costuming including the pillbox hat and it is one black veil and some sparkles away from Janet Snakehole territory. There is not much else to say about Virginia’s costume in the photo above, but it is an excellent example of the epic bitch face that she utilizes more than once this week as she has to deal with unwanted advances from both Ethan and her ex-husband George. It’s not surprising that Virginia has perfected this expression with all the shit she has to put up with in her personal life.

Masters of Sex 1.04 red collarVirginia isn’t the only one in black at the dinner party and Masters’ mother Essie adds some flare with a red bow and collar detail with matching red earrings. Conflict arises at this dinner party when Virginia asks for a story about Bill as a child and what his mother perceives to be a cute story is just another painful reminder to Bill that his father was abusive to him. Part of his own concerns about becoming a father is linked to the fear he will repeat the same mistakes.

Masters of Sex 1.04 red and pinkThis is where the color red comes into play once again as Bill’s mother is no longer wearing the black clothes she has favored since his father died four years prior. It is a sign of her independence and she is finally no longer feeling the effects of the strict control of her husband. It is clearly still having a huge impact on Bill and it goes a long way to explain why he is so rigid. It also contrasts with the nurturing pink tones of Libby beautiful maternity clothes in the same scene and Libby represents all that is pure to Bill. This in itself is incredibly problematic and there is no way that Libby can be the perfect wife and mother that Bill expects her to be. At this point the facade is there even if he is developing strong feelings for Libby’s opposite; Virginia. Bill is putting all the women in his life into boxes but he should realize that you can’t reduce a person to a simple list of attributes. There is much that can’t be measured by science and study.

Masters of Sex 1.04 Libby Peter Pan CollarHere is Libby in a Peter Pan collar maternity dress reflecting Libby’s traditional role as wife, host and mother-to-be. While Libby might not be the most interesting character on this show, Caitlin Fitzgerald injects a warmth and charm particularly with her scenes with Virginia and I wonder whether their friendship will withstand Masters’ growing feelings for Virginia.

Masters of Sex 1.04 LibbyThis is the first time that Libby has worn anything dark so far on Masters of Sex and the embellished white collar gives it a touch of femininity and keeps it in line with her other costuming despite the color. Libby is a woman of means and her accessories reflect this; the pearl necklace in the photo above and the fur shawl that we see her wear earlier in the episode. It’s not surprising that Bill’s mother misinterprets her husband’s actions and she is so reductive when it comes to her thoughts on men; she thinks that men run away from regret and disappointment but Bill proves this theory wrong as he attempts to confront his feelings about his father (thanks to a well timed patient), whereas Essie is the one who is running away from her past.

Masters of Sex 1.03 Bill Blue SweaterIt’s a rare sight to see Bill Masters in day wear that doesn’t involve a bow tie or scrubs, so it is a treat to see him in this blue sweater sans bow tie at home. Despite the relaxed nature of his collar, Bill is anything but as he questions why Libby is trying to set up Virginia with Ethan. Bill gets very defensive and he suggests they would be terrible together – something that we as the audience know to be true – it comes across as more than this as he has feelings for Virginia. One thing that did pleasantly surprise me was how Masters’ mother reacted to Virginia’s two divorces; instead of seeing it as a negative she is receptive to Virginia’s family set up.

Masters of Sex 1.04 VivianTalking of Ethan, he is still having a hard time coming to terms with Virginia’s rejection and despite sleeping his way through the hospital staff he still can’t get over her especially as he has put her up on a Technicolor pedestal – Virginia’s daughter Tessa knows what the what is as she instantly takes a dislike to Ethan. Enter Vivian and if Ethan is going to sleep with anyone the daughter of the Provost is probably the last person he should be doing it with. Luckily for him he is saved by a phone call from the hospital (not so lucky for the woman who is labor and has a drunken doctor) and things don’t go too far. Vivian is wearing both pink and red in the seduction scene representing both her innocence and sexuality.

Masters of Sex 1.04 checks and stripesVivian looks incredibly young the next day in her candy striper uniform as Ethan is incredibly sorry for his actions the night before. It turns into a sweet and sad scene and Ethan is clearly a mess. The story that Vivian tells of Ethan’s kindness at her Sweet 16 contrast with what we have seen of him so far and I wonder if we will see more of this good person that she describes. Ethan doesn’t even remember this interaction when he first meets her earlier in the episode and he’s worried that she is another forgotten woman that he has slept with. It is entirely possible that he is just as self-centered as he first appeared but this episode shows more character growth for Ethan than the previous three episodes combined. I also really like the contrasting pattern with Vivian’s stripes and Ethan’s check shirt.

Masters of Sex 1.04 Virginia lab coatCircling back to Virginia (and her well practiced disdain face) I posed the question last week about Virginia and the lab coat – whether she would carry on wearing it when the study moved from the brothel back to the hospital and I am glad to see that she is. This puts her on the same level as Bill during their out of hours study even if he is the only one of the pair that has an MD.

Masters of Sex 1.04 Virginia redMore red for Virginia as she looks on at her ex-husband George with another silent expression of WTF as George turns up as a volunteer for the study. Virginia has already expressed how she is barely keeping everything together and it is the wistful notion that Virginia is magical that backs up Mama Masters’ assertion that men are running towards pleasure; these men don’t see Virginia’s personal struggle just the ecstasy that they might feel when they are in her presence.

For more Masters of Sex coverage head here.

2 Responses to “Masters of Sex: Fantasy, Reality and Confronting the Past”


  1. Masters of Sex 1.11 “Phallic Victories” Costume Review: Are You Good Enough? | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 9, 2013

    […] maternity wear is beautiful once again and while the peach attire is new, the outfit above is a repeat costume. Libby is luminescent in these scenes and it might be a kiss ass comment from the new wannabe […]

  2. What To Watch Tonight: Sunday, October 27th – Pop Insomniacs - March 20, 2015

    […] “Masters of Sex”: Fantasy, Reality and Confronting the Past [TV Ate My Wardrobe] […]

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