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Masters of Sex 3.04 “Undue Influence” Review: Self Help

3 Aug

Bill Masters is not a charismatic guy; something he recognized earlier this season when he tried to promote Human Sexual Response solo. Bill understands Virginia is a vital component in both the creation of this book and selling it to the general public and it is why a book tour without Virginia would be a disaster. Virginia however has other things on her mind namely her baby, her wayward daughter and her son who is thousands of miles away in Vietnam and has written to tell her he is sick.

Her plate is already full and there is no room for anything else and so when Bill idly starts reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People while he is on a bookstore stakeout he attempts to adopt some of Carnegie’s methods throughout the episode.

Masters of Sex 3.04 BillIt would do Bill good to take a moment and consider the needs of others, particularly the long suffering women in his life, but Dale Carnegie’s self-help best seller* might not be the place start because it is essentially about getting what you want. One of Carnegie’s methods involves getting what you want by making the other person think it was their idea in the first place. It is all about exerting your influence undetected, but Bill is not so good with this aspect because he lacks the charm of someone like Dan Logan. Bill is good at referencing and quoting other people to prove a point and yet the subtleties evade him. When he tells his neighbor Paul that he understands how he feels in a gesture of kindness it comes across hollow, but the back pat and semi hug is a lot more human; even if Bill looks like he would rather crawl out if his skin in that moment.

*’You Must Remember This,’ the fantastic podcast detailing Hollywood’s first century is currently doing a Charles Manson series. ‘How to Win Friends’ has come up on numerous occasions as Manson read this book in jail and used the methods to get his ‘family’ to do his bidding. Not that Bill is a Charles Manson type, but it is hard not to think about how Manson manipulated plenty of people with the help of Carnegie’s teachings.

Betty can see straight through Bill’s new approach and has even had personal encounters with Carnegie himself; she doesn’t need to read an advice book to know why Virginia is shying away from the book tour and Bill could have saved himself both time and money if he just went to Betty in the first place. What Masters of Sex needs to do this season is give Betty more screen time because a) she lights up the screen whenever she is on and b) she shouldn’t be used just as the wise and worldly woman narrative device. Currently Betty is the Kalinda Sharma case solving magical unicorn.

Masters of Sex 3.04 TessaExtending to agony aunt as Tessa is spending the day at the office after being suspended from school and Betty’s other vital scene in the episode highlights the above points. Tessa wonders why people need to understand sex in this much detail anyway and she’s feeling shitty for a number of reasons; her first sexual encounter was traumatic and even though she acts like this is a good approach to not getting pregnant she is clearly in a lot of despair. She has also found out that her mother and Bill are involved thanks to the aftershave in both her mother’s bathroom and Bill’s desk drawer – is this not a common brand? way to jump to an accurate conclusion – and all she can smell is hypocrisy.

This brings us to another bleak scene between Tessa and Matt in his car. Talking isn’t making her feel better about her awful day and so she opts for the one thing which will make her numb. This time the act is consensual, but it doesn’t make it okay. I’m struggling with the Tessa stuff this week and while I mentioned how the last episode felt like a compelling/relevant teenage storyline in an adult drama rather than being shoehorned in, it is not without growing pains.

Masters of Sex 3.04 Libby and BillBeing honest is something that comes up on several occasions throughout “Undue Influence” with Carnegie’s tome suggesting things that sound truthful, but are really subtle manipulations. I believe Bill when he says those words to Virginia at the end regarding how important she is because it mirrors how he spoke to Libby when he felt like that toward his wife. But the gentle prodding with getting Virginia to take the fur coat feels like book reading Bill. He even points out that it is an uncharacteristic move and this is classic getting someone to do something by thinking it was their idea. I don’t think Bill is shady, but I am shaking my head in a disapproving way as he has taken a personal moment Libby has brought up and pretty much transferred it onto Virginia in this moment. Virginia is the “dazzling girl” and Bill is caught between real life and well, real life.

The discussion which really homes in on this idea of honesty comes from the returning Margaret Scully who encounters her husband for the first time since they signed their divorce papers three years previous. Margaret has a happy(ish) sex life in that she is having sex with someone who she knows is into her and yet there are underlining issues; premature ejaculation and the burden of Barton’s secret. Margaret and her daughter are no longer on speaking terms as Margaret bore the responsibility for the divorce and she believes she can’t be truly happy unless she can tell Graham about the real reason behind her split. Allison Janney sells this line of thought so beautifully as she tells Bill “it haunts me carrying around a secret that doesn’t belong to me and it isn’t mine to tell.”

Masters of Sex 3.04 Virginia and MargaretGraham doesn’t understand why they must look to the past to try and fix the present because he practices William Glasser’s Reality Therapy and this deals with living in the moment; however the past informs so much about who we are. Margaret’s experience with Barton has profoundly impacted her relationship with sex and love. For Virginia she guards her heart in box because of how heartbroken she was at 18 when she fell madly in love with a soldier who then returned to his fiance – in the book this show is based on Thomas Maier goes into detail about this relationship and its impact – and her conversation with charming Dan reveals just a little bit more of the romantic George referenced a couple of weeks ago.

Libby clings to the few happy moments in her marriage where it felt like Bill needed her, but also fretting about the fate of her neighbor who was about to break free. When Libby sees Barton on the sly (how did she get in undetected?) and he asks her about the pill she comes up with a decent excuse, but as a man who has lied to his wife many times he can see straight through her ‘keep the mystery’ reason. Being queen of denial comes in handy, but it doesn’t lead to the happy life she pretends she has.

An emotionally devastating outing, but thankfully there are humorous encounters peppering proceedings as Bill attempts to play out Carnegie’s advice with some eyebrow raising moments giving Michael Sheen a chance to flex his excellent comedic muscle. The brown paper is quite a good metaphor for what is happening on Masters of Sex at the moment as the show is still intriguing, but when you peel it back it isn’t quite what was expected as certain storylines like Libby’s have stalled and she’s stuck in the ‘Poor Libby’ life that she escaped from last season. Other plot points like Virginia’s ‘too much on her plate’ cycle is fine until we get these constant bickering “we’re a team” discussions and even though time has moved on by quite a margin some of the characters feel like they have stopped still.

And now to leave you with a few costume highlights including the Betty pattern treats.

Masters of Sex 3.04 Betty Masters of Sex 3.04 Betty patternsPlus Virginia’s buttons and scarf delight.

Picture1No Virginia in her fur as the screen went to black before she put it on.

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3 Responses to “Masters of Sex 3.04 “Undue Influence” Review: Self Help”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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

    […] parents. This season is delving deeper into her past as she alluded to her first love last week and why her heart is so carefully guarded. With Bill we have seen in some detail the difficult […]

  2. Masters of Sex 3.07 “Monkey Business” Review: Apeman | TV Ate My Wardrobe - August 24, 2015

    […] week I have been lamenting about the lack of Betty besides her fabulous costuming and amazing advice; the return of Helen prompts her own subplot and yet this is also on the dissatisfying scale […]

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

    […] into her psyche from her contentious relationship with her mother to the impact of her long ago broken heart which was first alluded to in “Fight.” Dan is the chance to do things right while […]

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