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Masters of Sex 2.03 “Fight” Review: “Maybe it was Wednesday”

28 Jul

Searching for a meaning can sometimes prove elusive or at least a challenge if it is buried beneath multiple defensive layers; the box you keep your heart in might be reinforced and hard to crack. In this phenomenal episode of Masters of Sex we gain further insight into who both Bill and Virginia are and maybe who they would like to be through their role playing. The line between reality and fantasy are blurred and so at times it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins; watching them alternate between the two is incredible and this is an hour of TV to be cherished with powerhouse performances from both Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen.

Masters of Sex 2.03 FightThe Bill and Virginia dance is a classic one step forward two steps back embrace; one leans in as the other pulls away and this motion plays an integral part in their relationship overall, but especially in “Fight.” The backdrop for this evening of research is boxing and a fight between a seasoned pro and a relative newcomer with the advantage changing between rounds with experience winning out in the end. Like Virginia I wanted to see how it ends and playing the final moments over the end credits satisfied this urge and now we are left to wonder just who is winning between Virginia and Bill. Not that a relationship can by monitored in this point scoring way no matter how hard we try and it becomes even more apparent this week that Bill and Virginia are not prepared for the emotional ramifications of their new hotel room research setup.

Part of this relationship performance includes various states of undress with Bill’s undone bow tie and “I’m not angry, but I’ll throw you against the wall before saying hello” setting the scene and starting things off in this dominating manner. Bill is deflecting his feelings from the encounter he had at work with a man who resembles the bully his father was and who is unhappy with his son’s “ambiguous sex organs.” Bill’s compassion for his patients and especially 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 amplified.

This baby has been reduced to terms of what can be defined as ‘normal’ and Bill points out that this is a wide spectrum. There are certain expectations with labels and so when Bill explains that “Erections aren’t the totality of manhood” he is met with sneers and name calling. The study they are performing is meant to challenge ideals and show there is not one set of standards to be met; for this child their study is not going to help when the father is so rigid and forthright with his opinions.

Masters of Sex 2.03 Virginia at homeConversations about defining gender characteristics also take place in Virginia’s kitchen with her daughter as they discuss the roles of the tooth fairies, princesses and princes. The prince is always handsome even if his face gets stomped on by a horse and as long as the princess has seen him before this accident then a kiss will heal his disfigurement. Virginia tries to challenge Tessa’s fairy tale gender stereotypes with little success as sadly the princess cannot go on adventures on her own. If Tessa were to look upon her mother in her red apron and work attire she would see that we can be more than one thing and our expectations differ from reality. Virginia realizes that Tessa likes these kinds of stories as she knows how they will end and this is something you can’t plan for in real life as challenges present themselves when we least expect. If the handsome prince got his face stomped on in real life his face would stay like that forever (well plastic surgery might help, I guess). Maybe that’s a little too bleak to tell a child.

What happens to us as at a young age plays an important role in the stories that are shared between Virginia and Bill as he reveals to Virginia the truth about his relationship with his father. Bill does so through the guise of Dr. Holden and so at first it is unclear to Virginia that he is talking about himself or the extent of the abuse he suffered. Bill likes boxing because it made him feel strong at a time when he had been repeatedly beaten by his father both emotionally and physically. The reasons behind the beatings were random and his rage could come at any time – “maybe it was Wednesday” – and not only did he subject him to this, but he also effectively abandoned him at the age of 14 when he dropped him off at boarding school to never come home again (in reality Bill went home that Christmas, but this was the last time). Libby mentioned last week how Bill has never gone into detail with what happened during his childhood emphasizing just how massive this unburdening of information is.

Masters of Sex 2.03 BillVirginia is also careful to protect herself and her reluctance to trust a man comes from the first time she was in love. Like Bill she shares this story through the part she is playing and so it’s not immediately apparent that it isn’t a work of fiction. Virginia had her heart broken by an army captain who wound up getting married to the fiance he mentioned once in a whole year of dating. This obviously had a profound effect on how much Virginia has since been willing to give herself over to another person and this story also serves as an analogy for what is happening with Bill as there is also a third person to consider with Libby; it is why Virginia keeps her heart out of it. The lines between reality and fantasy are repeatedly blurred as Virginia finishes this story telling a transfixed Bill that she wouldn’t marry a man (so him in this scenario) who she “didn’t both love and desire.”

Vulnerability and intimacy levels alternate throughout with both Bill and Virginia acting as the dominant and submissive one at various points. From the stories they tell to initiating the research with Bill’s bathroom domination going up against Virginia’s thigh seduction. When Bill tries to take charge once again Virginia flips the tables and refuses to beg after standing there naked at Bill’s command; instead she effectively drops her gloves and masturbates to prove that she can get all the pleasure she needs by herself. That round goes to Virginia and her protected heart.

Masters of Sex 2.03 undergarmentsThe real moments of intimacy go far beyond these physical acts and just watching how at ease they are with each other when they’re lounging in bathrobes and their undergarments is far more telling than the unspoken power games they are playing. This is why it is important that Virginia didn’t resort to begging when Bill told her to, however Bill also took away from this night the lesson of when it is okay to get down on your knees and plead. Bill never did this when his father beat him even though he knew if he did then the beating would end, this was his own personal show of power over his father even if he ended up worse off as a result of his stubbornness. It is Bill’s patient who is now at the mercy of a bully and so Bill pushes aside his pride resorting to the position of a begging man; it’s too late and the surgery has taken place. Surgery that has been done using a text book as a resource because there isn’t someone with the necessary experience. If you weren’t already feeling horrified at the attitude of this father he chose to make his child a girl because he was told a “hole is easier than a pole” and he’d rather have a “tomboy than a sissy.” A quick fix that will lead to a lifetime of anguish.

Masters of Sex 2.03 goodbyeThe red apron that represents Virginia’s home role is the only real flash of costuming color this week and “Fight” operates with mostly black and white clothing with Virginia’s grey dress straddling the two. Bill’s underwear is white contrasting with Virginia’s black and the white robes keep them on level ground – they tell their most intimate secrets when both in their matching robes – when Virginia is asked to drop hers and Bill keeps his on the power dynamic shifts first to Bill and then back to Virginia as she wrestles control with her hands. The blurry world of grey comes with Virginia’s dress complete with white collar and cuffs; her work attire is neutral and can be seen as sexy when she is undressing or homely when Virginia is saying goodbye to Bill barefoot – “This is where a married couple would kiss.” Yes, I wanted them to kiss. Prior to this scene when Virginia is on the phone to her daughter she plays with Bill’s wedding ring, trying it on and briefly allowing herself to imagine what this might be like before shutting it down once again. At different points Bill and Virginia stop themselves before they enter into what they would deem to be affair territory and it’s why they have never had breakfast together; breakfast equates to commitment.

Masters of Sex 2.03 white coatBlack attire tends to symbolize passion with black underwear taking on a more risque appearance, but I would argue that the white clothing worn in this episode drops the usual innocence tag and takes on what we would normally associate with black. This white coat is the first time we have seen Virginia wear something like this that wasn’t a medical coat and there is power in this image; it is mysterious and sexy so when she enters the crowded room of men watching the fight she instantly stands out. It’s not surprising that both the strong white pieces that Virginia wears this week are influenced by movie stars as costume designer Ane Crabtree explains on Twitter; Kim Novak’s Vertigo coat is a point of reference for this stunning look and Marilyn Monroe is the inspiration for the sexiness of the bathrobes.

Masters of Sex 2.03 braceletIt’s not all bathrobe seduction as a friendly boxing tutorial turns into a competitive battle followed by farce when Virginia’s bracelet gets caught in Bill’s hair. Virginia thinks that Bill was making fun of her and it becomes another discussion where neither one wants to back down from their point of view. It leads to another moment of intimacy, this time in the form of a haircut and more revelations from Bill about his father and the time he broke his nose (and he claims not his heart). It’s only after Bill wants Virginia to beg and she refuses that he reveals the why of his beatings from his father in that there really isn’t a specific reason he did it and Virginia counters why it would have been okay for Bill to say stop. For a brief moment Bill gets misty eyed and this subtle gesture from Michael Sheen is almost as powerful as his anguished sob last season.

Virginia is angry at Bill for how she thought he was making fun of her during their boxing tutorial as it was an unfair fight, quite the contrary according to Bill as it feels better to win when the odds are against you. Later what Virginia should say to Bill she instead tells their waiter Elliott as she explains that being taking seriously and listened to is much better than trinkets. This sentiment is also hilarious as the amount of times that both Bill and Virginia deflect the subject, when things look like they might be going down a romantic and honest road is particularly high this week. Virginia’s assessment of boxing is that “it almost looks like love” and from what we are witnessing the same could be said for what is going on in this hotel room and in the outside world there is plenty stacked against them.

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9 Responses to “Masters of Sex 2.03 “Fight” Review: “Maybe it was Wednesday””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Masters of Sex 2.04 “Dirty Jobs” Review: “Is It Worth It?” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - August 4, 2014

    […] themselves. Instead it just leads to more heartbreak. Last week’s incredible episode “Fight” saw Virginia and Bill slowly let their guard down with each other sharing pieces of them […]

  2. Masters of Sex 2.05 “Giants” Review: Taking the Plunge | TV Ate My Wardrobe - August 11, 2014

    […] hotel as she tells Bill to strip and pleasure himself. This is a twist on what happened in “Fight” when Bill told Virginia to strip and beg for it and instead she showed she has control over […]

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

    […] “She knows me.” Virginia doesn’t do close emotional relationships (remember she locked up her heart a long time ago) and Bill points out that the reason Virginia didn’t see it coming is because […]

  4. Masters of Sex 2.08 “Mirror, Mirror” Review: Beneath the Veil | TV Ate My Wardrobe - September 1, 2014

    […] looks like there will be further development of the inner lives of these characters; while we had one episode this season that did just this, there are ways to go to understand just who Bill and Virginia are […]

  5. Masters of Sex 2.09 “Story of My Life” Review: “Victim and Narrator” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - September 8, 2014

    […] so much more than when characters are saying these words as themselves. Using the episode “Fight” as one example Hill points out that Bill and Virginia share far more in this set up of fake […]

  6. Masters of Sex 2.12 “The Revolution will not be Televised” Review: Leap of Faith | TV Ate My Wardrobe - September 29, 2014

    […] relationship and whenever this has been the focus it has been mesmerizing, which is why “Fight” is such an exceptional episode. Everything to do with Lillian and Virginia’s […]

  7. Best of TV Costuming 2014: Best of the Rest – From Statement Necklaces to Wedding Gowns | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 30, 2014

    […] with quality hotel bathrobes and in Masters of Sex’s best episode this season “Fight” Bill and Virginia spent a rather sizable portion laying their souls bare while wearing this […]

  8. Masters of Sex 3.05 “Masters of Gravity” Review: Polish Until it is Perfect | TV Ate My Wardrobe - August 10, 2015

    […] events from his childhood at the hands of his father was explored in the exceptional “Fight.” Bill doesn’t like to share too much and yet circumstances have led to him revealing […]

  9. Masters of Sex 3.12 “Full Ten Count” Review: Save Yourself | TV Ate My Wardrobe - September 28, 2015

    […] strongest episode of Masters of Sex to date is still “Fight” and this messy third season ends with a nod to this magnificent two-hander offering some […]

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