Masters of Sex 1.10 “Fallout” Costume Review: Floating or Falling?

2 Dec

As with Mad MenMasters of Sex has barely touched upon the political climate of the time period unless it directly impacts the characters. In “Fallout” there is no escaping it as a huge Civil Defense simulation is taking place across Missouri with their hospital being one of the practice staging areas. [We’ve now entered 1960 and these events occur a few weeks after the last episode, from what I can gather it is this exercise they are depicting – choice quote from that newspaper article “To many housewives it meant they had to miss part of their noontime television and radio broadcasts.”]*

In terms of the personal relationships, the threat of annihilation could apply to many of their own situations and while some of the imagery in “Fallout” is less than subtle, the backdrop of this test allows these characters to address many of their problems that have been simmering below the surface.

Masters of Sex 1.10 in the darkStrained is one way you could describe the current state of the Virginia/Bill relationship and it’s pretty much nuclear at this point (sorry I will try and refrain from more lame puns). It’s pretty apt that one of their several heated discussions in this episode is interrupted by a drill and they’re plunged into darkness. At this point Virginia doesn’t know about Libby’s pregnancy; it’s clear to the audience that Bill is taking out all of his frustrations on her. Bill uses Austin’s baby daddy predicament as a cipher for his own lack of agency in the conception of his child; he states that Austin can’t simply forget what Virginia has told him and thinks that she isn’t the one who should be making these kinds of life altering decisions. It’s a sticky situation as Virginia has broken their anonymity clause and she is seeing it from her perspective as a single mother. Virginia takes to finding out the identity of the male like a spy, as she waits for Bill to leave before she ‘cracks’ his safe and her all black attire adds to this notion in the shot below.

Masters of Sex 1.10 spyingOur personal experiences inform how we respond to these situations and Virginia confronts Masters later regarding the news that Libby is pregnant. The envelope full of money felt like a giant slap in the face and their working rhythm has been shattered, Virginia has been trying to figure out why Bill would do this and the Libby revelation holds all the answers. It’s been clear that there is more to their participation than just science and Virginia realizes that the money came from a place of guilt as they had formed an emotional attachment. The only option that Virginia sees is to quit and while we have already been on this part of the Bill/Virginia carousel at the start of the season, Virginia is the one making the break this time. We get another staring at a reflection scene to close out the episode and it’s reversed with Bill gazing at Virginia’s empty desk. Bill the guy who claims he doesn’t get emotional is clearly letting Virginia reach some previously uncharted territory.

Masters of Sex 1.10 desk chatWhat this decision leads to is a pairing that has been growing over the past few weeks. In one of the simulated bomb warnings Dr. Lillian DePaul and Virginia share a desk shelter. As with the Virginia/Bill relationship, this one started out frosty and has been slowing thawing as Lillian comes to understand that Virginia isn’t the person she first perceived. Lillian is the one with the biggest ticking time bomb inside her; as with the threat of nuclear war she has her own condition that could kill her at any time. The research Lillian wants to do is incredibly important for the future of women’s health and the measly check of $600 is going to do nothing to advance her program. Virginia tends to be a glass half full kind of woman and she suggests charm as a way to obtain more funds and even though there are many similarities between Lillian and Bill, he has his gender to give him a boost when his terrible bedside manner fails.

Masters of Sex 1.10 Lilian hair downLillian attempts the Virginia school of getting things done; she puts on crimson lipstick and lets down her hair but instead it comes across like she is hitting on a married man. It’s so awkward and clearly something she is not good at nor feels comfortable doing – when asking about his tie “What would you call that color?” she gets the deadpan response of “Red.” As soon as Virginia mentions how nice Lillian looks, Lillian ties back her hair and claims she looks like “a rodeo clown.” Lillian is not one to take a compliment, but she is willing to accept Virginia’s assistance with her funding issue. Virginia is taking a step back with her position as she returns to a secretarial role and yet it could have a huge impact to both Lillian as a friend and the future of women’s healthcare funding. Despite her friendly and outgoing persona we haven’t seen any friends of Virginia’s aside from Jane or Libby, so no one that is connected to the hospital. This relationship could be just as beneficial to Virginia and she widens her circle even if this is another connection through work.

Masters of Sex 1.10 Margaret in whiteMargaret has plenty of friends and yet she is still incredibly isolated as she can’t share any of her Barton fears with this group. They discuss another friend who has just got a divorce and this woman has now pretty much been exiled. Divorce was still rare at this time and there was a fear that it might spread if you associate with the woman in question – this reminds me of the Helen Bishop story in Mad Men and how none of the women wanted to befriend a divorcee. As one of Margaret’s friends puts it “The man strays, the wife pays.” Put this on a slogan tee. Margaret’s looking rather delicate in this white lace top, though the hint of red with the gorgeous crescent shaped clip (which looks a tad like the USSR sickle symbol) shows the burning passion that has been awoken in her.

Masters of Sex 1.10 Margaret in a barSwitching it up later Margaret wears pastel blue with a double broach (Margaret’s broach collection is beginning to rival Diane Lockhart’s) for her trip to the bar to find out from a prostitute how she can please Barton in the bedroom. While Margaret hasn’t connected the dots about Barton’s sexuality the prostitute figures it out pretty quickly thanks to Margaret’s description of their sex positions, his disinterest in topless women in Tahiti and the young man who Margaret mistook for his pimp. Margaret laughs about this at first and seems briefly relived until devastation sets in. It goes without saying that once again Allison Janney is a revelation as she plays a wide variety of emotions. Margaret’s costuming alternates between red and blue within this episode; the hint of red, to the baby blue, followed by the deep red of Margaret’s bathing suit and cap. There is also a shot of Margaret in her stunning scarlet dress with Barton at their anniversary party and the use of this color in the pool scene feels like a reference to her freedom in finding out this truth. Knowledge is a powerful thing and now she knows she isn’t to blame for Barton’s lack of sexual interest she can finally relax.

Masters of Sex 1.10 poolIt concludes with this beautifully shot swimming pool sequence as Margaret and Austin reconnect, not in a sexual manner but on the level just prior to when they first hooked up. Austin is in a tailspin after the revelation that he got one of his study partners pregnant (the diaphragm has a 6% chance of failing) and up until now he hasn’t felt like he has had much responsibility (hopefully he feels some toward his wife). Austin is a big fan of metaphors and on this occasion he starts talking about his situation as if he is like one of the new fangled satellites that isn’t tethered to anything and is just floating. Margaret corrects him and explains that they’re actually in a constant falling state as gravity pulls them towards Earth and as Earth curves away it holds them in place. The juxtaposition of this conversation while they are both floating in the pool is mesmerizing and it’s clear why these two characters are drawn to each other. It once again comes down to space imagery and thanks to the time period and how important space exploration was at this time it’s going to be a repeated theme.

Masters of Sex 1.10 Lester and JaneJane is one of the few people wearing color this week and it’s her standard yellow. Jane has acted with kindness and openness throughout the series so it is a big surprise to see her go all mean girls on Lester and humiliating him in front of the other secretaries. This is a reaction to his knowledge of her participation in the study and she later apologizes to Lester for the harsh words telling him “you can only be accountable for yourself.” In these moments of heightened panic (even the simulated kind) people tend to look inward and in this moment Lester demonstrates a streak of confidence we haven’t seen before as he tells her that if this was his last night on earth then he’d kiss her and then he does. Yes, I’m totally shipping this pair.

Masters of Sex 1.10 Jane as hall monitorBill isn’t taking this drill seriously as he has too much work to do and lots of other things on his mind, he yells at Jane for not being in the office, but as she is one of the hall monitors (hence the helmet at a jaunty angle) she has other things she’s meant to be organizing. Bill continues to get exasperated by the whole thing and he can’t believe how everyone is reacting.

Masters of Sex 1.10 OrIt reaches new heights of absurdity when he enters the OR and everyone is crouched down around a patient. It also means that Bill has to work with Ethan as the other surgeon is part of the overall drill and this leads to a huge confrontation and a sucker punch all while in their surgical gear. Bill is mostly mad at Ethan because of Libby, however Virginia also factors into the scenario as Bill is clearly jealous of their intimacy and ability to have some semblance of PDA. Libby doesn’t appear this week but her presence is felt.

America Calling

Here is a better look at one of the posters that is dotted around the hospital, a poster that was designed in 1941 and uses red, white and blue to evoke patriotism. It’s a simple design and focuses on a personal responsibility as part of the wider effort. While tactics like this probably wouldn’t work on someone like Bill, it definitely appeals to people like Jane and she has shown she is just as vital to the grand scheme as an innovator like Bill.

*Correction it’s not 1960 yet, it’s still only 1958 though the simulation I’ve linked to sounds a lot like the one in this episode. The time covered during season hasn’t always been clear and so I apologize for leaping ahead too far in time.

2 Responses to “Masters of Sex 1.10 “Fallout” Costume Review: Floating or Falling?”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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

    […] version of Virginia in this episode, as he no longer has the real one to talk to after she quit last week and Bill is not the kind of person who will make the first move towards a reconciliation. Instead […]

  2. Masters of Sex 1.12 “Manhigh” Costume Review: | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 16, 2013

    […] New World“), to show the disconnect between Bill and Virginia last week and as a place where Lillian attempted to get more money for her study. Here it looks like Virginia has been punched in the stomach or as […]

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