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Masters of Sex 2.02 “Kyrie Eleison” Review: “You’re Not Your Worst Part”

21 Jul

Masters of Sex is interested in far more than the act that can lead to another life and “Kyrie Eleison” (Greek for “Lord, have mercy“) takes a look at the various life lessons that have been passed down from mother to daughter; stigma, loss and misunderstanding are all prevalent. While we already know so much about Bill’s own unhappy childhood and difficult relationship with his mother – so much more than he has ever shared with Libby – it is time to shine the spotlight on several of the other female characters. Part of this occurs through the teenage patient Rose and ethical quandary Bill finds himself in, but it’s also a lot more organic than every character interacting with Rose and spinning off this ‘case of the week.’

Masters of Sex 2.02 Bill and BettyBill is in a fight with Betty as she’s faking fertility treatments to keep her husband happy and Bill is not thrilled with his role in this charade. This is the second time Betty has blackmailed Bill while using the study as leverage – in season 1 she provided the brothel where Bill observed, now she holds the key to the funding – and despite threatening to tell Gene everything, Bill doesn’t want to jeopardize his new position in this manner. Betty keeps referring to his “dopey sex study” something Bill takes great offense to as this study could dramatically change how people view sex and the medical conditions that are currently referred to as “deviant behavior.”

Rose despairs because there is darkness inside her and she thinks sterilization is the only way to “fix” her problem; there are appearances to keep up as her mother wants her out and ready for cotillion. Once again the WASP way of sweeping everything under the carpet and the favors that come with a sizable donation look set to win this argument.* Greathouse already looks like he is going to be a problem as he completely misunderstands the point of the sex study and there’s clearly something going on between him and Bill’s new secretary Barbs (the amazing Betsy Brandt).

*It’s hard not to think of Dawson’s Creek and the reason Jen Lindlay was sent to live with her Grams; her parents caught her in bed with another boy at a similar age to when Rose was first caught. It’s a common tale of repressing sexuality in teens by sending them away and one that leads to far more shame. Basically don’t send your kids away for shit like this. It is not the cure. 

Masters of Sex 2.02 Bill's officeIt’s a ballsy move for Bill to go against orders this early in his job at Memorial, but Bill is not going to stand by and be told what is best for his patient just because privilege is at play. We rarely see Bill’s tender side and it often occurs when he has a patient who is being oppressed – in season 1 he helped a woman who had an abusive husband and he didn’t play by the segregation rules on a ward – here he sees what could be a hopeful future for Rose as long as she understands that “You’re not your worst part.” There is hope through understanding and this is why this sex study is so vital, so people stop calling others tramps and whores (sadly this still happens regardless of better understanding).

Betty has her own life lesson to impart on Rose and she’s been an eavesdropping bystander to the whole case; she also has her own experience when it comes to sterilization and she unsuccessfully attempted to reverse the procedure last season. Betty’s mother called her a tramp and a whore for as long as Betty could take before she snapped. Betty’s version of standing up for herself comes with dark consequences as she used the heel of her pump to strike her mother which resulted in blindness and a glass eye. Betty realizes that this might not be the best advice and she’s equally surprised when Rose mentions Bill’s words of wisdom. If only Bill would let others in beyond his patients and Virginia (on the rarest of occasions). No, Bill is more likely to let out his feelings when he is alone as we see when he emotionally reacts to what happened to Barton.

Shoe observations represent more than just a violent act for Betty as her expensive heel break when a past client bumps into her in the hospital corridor. Betty utters that $50 shoes are just as poorly made as $5 ones and despite her expensive furs (which she wears several of this week) there is always someone lurking to remind her of who she used to be. Betty mother was the first to call her these names and it is hard to escape something that ingrained, even when you’ve freed yourself from those ties.

Masters of Sex 2.02 VirginiaVirginia is still facing dirty looks and unwanted attention as a result of the study and the one doctor who appeared to be different from the other multiple leery advances turns out to be the kind of guy Virginia accused him of being last week. Under the guise of finding out about their research techniques Virginia gives a detailed explanation of how Ulysses works to Dr Ditmer and he ends up getting more than just a little turned on by scientific terms like “vaginal sweating.” Yep the dude lets it all out and if it wasn’t so scuzzy then it might make for an interesting write up for the study. Instead Virginia is rightfully horrified at this encounter and then pissed when an elevator full of woman ignores her calls to hold it for her. If that sweater wasn’t so cute I would probably suggest Ginny burns her clothes to get the skeeze off.

There is one doctor who is not pursuing Virginia’s romantic attention; his horndog status is well publicized and he hits on patients and yet Dr. Austin Langham has no interest in Virginia. Austin like Virginia has had his private affairs aired publicly and the big difference here is that assumptions are being made about Gini and she’s either ostracized or leered at, whereas Austin can still hold a booze soaked party in his office and get a good attendance. Ah, those classic double standards (the Friday Night Lights season 1 episode “It’s Different for Girls” demonstrates this perfectly) and instead of refusing Austin’s offer to dance, I’m glad to see Virginia driving into the skid (to borrow Austin’s metaphor) and not hide herself away. I’m not sure I agree with his lone wolf analogy and it sounds like Austin has been getting more therapy, but this pairing as just friends is so utterly delightful.

Those who dislike Virginia extend beyond those who work there; Vivian Scully makes sure her opinions are well and truly heard by everyone within a 50 meter radius when she comes to get her broken arm checked out. Vivian is still reeling from her own family tragedy and Virginia’s attempt to act like BFFs riles her and she gets an emotional release by berating Virginia about Ethan. What this conversation does is give Virginia information, however limited that something has happened to Barton as he has taken a leave of absence, information that she imparts on Bill who in turn goes to see Vivian about what really happened. Even though Vivian doesn’t know and really doesn’t want to hear it most likely, Virginia helps her out even after she tells her that she will end up “old and ugly and alone.”

Masters of Sex 2.02 Lillian and GinnyThis brings me to my favorite relationship of the show; Virginia and Lillian. Masters of Sex creator Michelle Ashford spoke to Time last week and this quote really resonates:

“I think sometimes female friendships tend to be portrayed as either ‘We’re best friends and tell each other everything’ or ‘I did like you but now we want the same man, so I hate you.’ But the truth of female friendships is they are often as complicated as romantic relationships, sibling relationships, mother/daughter relationships — there’s competition between women, and envy, women can be both very judgmental and incredibly selfless in the love and support they offer one another. There are a million emotions under the sun that play out in female friendships, and I think we’re just committed to making the women (and their friendships) that we portray on our show as very specific.”

The Lillian/Virginia relationship is incredibly complicated and we see it in yet another light in “Kyrie Eleison” as Virginia takes on a motherly role with her boss. Lillian’s getting more and more words mixed up and Virginia is concerned this has something to do with her cancer (my booze theory was way off). Virginia takes charge and books an appointment with Lillian’s oncologist and the prognosis is not great; they are both fighters and so Virginia refuses to see this as a defeat. Virginia takes Lillian’s “every good fight begins with pizza” as another word mix up, far from it and I’m totally with Lillian.

Prior to this the pair have a bathroom chat (and anyone who read my My So-Called Life discussions knows how much I adore a TV bathroom chat) to do with the film Virginia wants Lillian to make rather than plain old pamphlets. Virginia goes a bit stage mom as she insists Lillian wears makeup to reduce the shine – “What does makeup have to do with medicine?” – with Lillian playing the part of reluctant daughter (this is good advice and something Richard Nixon will regret not knowing very soon in this timeline). It brings up their own mothers with Virginia describing a woman who had big dreams for herself and her daughter (and it sounds like mother did not get her own) and Lillian’s had a passion for bridge, or rather she killed herself off a bridge and it suddenly becomes clear why she is so guarded and driven. Hugely different experiences, but they are drawn together in this incredibly tender friendship that started in a combative place.

Masters of Sex 2.02Bonding over tales of childhood occurs in the Masters house too; not between Libby and Bill (which really would be a shocking moment), but with the nanny Libby has hired to help with baby Johnny after Bill sent his mother packing. Coral lost her mother at a young age like Libby and Libby shares a whole lot about her fears regarding Bill’s distance and discomfort with the baby. There is a sisterly vibe as Libby takes Coral’s hand and what fun things they have planned. The atmosphere changes when Libby can’t find a solution to Johnny’s crying in her Dr. Benjamin Spock book and starts to fret. It’s compounded further by Bill’s arrival home and his inability to hide his annoyance at the loud crying. Swaddling is the solution, something Coral does and Bill is all “well, duh, I did tell you that.” Not helping, Bill.

Masters of Sex 2.02 LibbyThe atmosphere changes and what started as gal pals shifts to a more traditional employer/employee definition in the most cringy way possible. Libby feels scolded and stupid for the swaddling incident and so she lashes out in an extremely passive aggressive manner as she patronizes Coral by pointing out how she pronounces things incorrectly. Libby uses the guise of being a team and having to present themselves in the same way, but no this is her exerting her power through her privilege and it’s pretty ugly. One other shift is that Libby is wearing a whole lot of pants – something she barely did last season – and there is still a strong feminine style with the choice of capri pants and soft color sweaters. Coral’s attire reflects her young age and has a school girl innocence to it, particularly the white ankle socks in the first photo. Race was briefly addressed last season, though in no kind of depth and while Libby has liberal views her jealousy and insecurities could provide their own conflicts in this area.

Masters of Sex 2.02 BillBill has already started using his new job as an excuse to avoid home and the affair they say isn’t an affair continues as the episode is bookended with trips to the hotel. The research is now taking a more psychological direction which will have implications on both a personal level and on a grand scale that could change how people see certain types of behavior. Bill still stands in the shadows making his excuses to his wife even as he tries to shine a light on what some consider to be a sinful act. You can still be your own worst enemy even when dishing out great advice like “you’re not your worst part.”

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3 Responses to “Masters of Sex 2.02 “Kyrie Eleison” Review: “You’re Not Your Worst Part””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Masters of Sex 2.03 “Fight” Review: “Maybe it was Wednesday” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - July 28, 2014

    […] those who don’t have their own agency is something we have seen repeatedly (including last week) and as it is a newborn baby who is at risk this week his response is […]

  2. Masters of Sex 2.06 “Blackbird” Review: “Lilantha” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - August 18, 2014

    […] talked a lot about Virginia and Lillian as the best female friendship on television and […]

  3. Something to think about | OneChicklette - August 22, 2014

    […] thing” in a recent New York Times Social Qs answer by Philip Galanes – in which he paraphrased the terrific show, Masters of Sex – and I thought that was a lovely sentiment to keep in […]

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