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Masters of Sex Season 4 Key Art and Promo: Feelin’ Kinda Groovy

3 Aug

Masters of Sex returns for its fourth season next month (Sunday, September 11) and they’re entering another decade. Last year the 60s were a blur with time jumps aplenty and as a whole the season was more miss than hit; Virginia’s daughter succumbed to the teens in drama curse (and I had such high hopes), the Masters and Johnson relationship had so many back and forths that it felt like constant whiplash and at one point Josh Charles wore a gorilla suit.

There were some flashes of greatness including this speech by Bill and the costuming as we moved through the 1960s was top notch for the entire season.

Now we are heading for the 70s and key parties might be on the menu (or some other swinging variation) if the promo is anything to go by. The usual relationship turmoil between Masters and Johnson is on the cards and in terms of styling there is both a beardy and clean shaven Bill and David Walton appears to be sporting an incredible amount of hair while propositioning Libby. The volume is impressive and terrifying in equal measure. Betty is also back and for this I am very grateful. Please give her more to do this year; the fact that she is on the poster is encouraging. Masters of SexPattern dominates the costuming and the poster, which is fun but is also a reminder of Garden State (a movie I loved when it was released – a thing I put down to being in my early 20s). I am tentatively looking forward to Masters of Sex as I really like watching these actors do their thing and really hope it is big improvement on last season.

Masters of Sex returns Sunday, September 11 on Showtime.

 

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Masters of Sex 3.12 “Full Ten Count” Review: Save Yourself

28 Sep

The 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 semblance of hope despite the many missteps. It is far from a perfect finale and suffers from the weight of storylines that have come before it, but it finally feels like there is some forward momentum instead of entertaining the same back and forth dance we are accustomed to.

Due to other work and travel commitments I haven’t reviewed MoS for a few weeks now and my general view of those episodes is the strong (mostly Betty) moments have been overshadowed by the repetitive nature of Bill and Virginia’s disagreements; it’s not only Virginia that feels like she is suffocating.

Masters of Sex 3.12 BillBill is controlling and single minded and his recent behavior, particularly during the dinner sequence last week has been hard to justify or even tolerate. Virginia’s decision to flee is one that is easy to understand and yet I can’t help but feel the pull of Bill when he lays it all out to her in his last ditch move to get her to stay. His first attempt comes when Bill tells Virginia he is dropping the MD so they will be equals and this gets a brief consideration before the swirl of everything else going on takes center. Not the reaction Bill was expecting, but the drama levels at the clinic are probably far higher than he was anticipating. This idea of telling Virginia how he really feels came from Virginia’s other suitor and this romantic dilemma is part of what has been bugging me this season; Virginia has essentially become the center point of a love triangle and her role in the work has taken a backseat position.

The love story has always been part of Masters of Sex and I am so here for a good romance and yet it feels like Virginia has been reduced to the love prize between a man who is far too good to be true and the man with many flaws. Charming Dan is in part so charming thanks to the person playing him and Josh Charles has been selling the shit out of the perfume man and yet I can’t trust a character that is this good; Dan is the guy who makes bold gestures and then follows through. When he says he will leave his wife (the always amazing Judy Greer) for Virginia he does leave his wife for Virginia.

He can’t quite compromise with her work situation, but luckily for him everything is imploding and this is the ideal time to sweep Virginia off her feet, but how long can this perfect man act keep up? And if it isn’t just an act, how long will Virginia feel complete? I believe her when she tells Bill that happiness outside of the work is her goal, but her constant checking over her shoulder for Bill at the airport is a telling sign that this is still not enough.

Masters of Sex 3.12 Virginia and DanPieces of Virginia’s past have given further insight 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 going against her mother’s desire to see her with Bill and if we’re breaking everything down into their base components then both Virginia and Bill’s behavior goes back to their parents. Bill’s father is the person who informs his desire to rail against authority no matter who else gets hurt in the process. As the not so subtle dream sequence shows at the start of this finale, Bill is incapable of staying down because he doesn’t want to be seen as weak. However weakness can be the inability to admit when a situation has spiraled out of control as this one has.

There are times to fight and times to fall and Bill ends up choosing the latter instead of running through the airport and catching Virginia just in time. Masters of Sex has already done the big rom-com ending back in season 1 when Bill showed up on Virginia’s doorstep in the rain and it is Bill’s decision to stop which gives me hope that this show is not a lost cause. If Bill had made it to the airport and won Virginia’s heart with a flowery speech then the cycle would just be repeating, now there is a chance they can build on the ruins Virginia has left behind. Okay so we don’t see Virginia get on the plane, but every time she looks back it acts as a warning sign to Dan that their union might be less than perfect and it wouldn’t be a shocker if she ditched the Mexico plan.

Masters of Sex 3.12 Libby MastersThe status quo has been altered in another much bigger way and the conversation between Libby and Bill is the one which truly excites me because now Bill knows that Libby knows and has known for a very long time. It is scenes like this one which draw me back into MoS and it must be said that for all the bumps and missteps this season, this cast has been doing some incredible things with what they have been given. Caitlin Fitzgerald’s reaction as Bill vomits out his ‘big secret’ is amazing from uncontrollable laughter to her taking no shit as this really is not the time to unburden his soul and feel better in the process. Libby was so close to finding happiness (for a second time) and instead she chose her family (again) and not just because of some ideal image she has cooked up in her mind. Libby is so much more than this and her anger at Bill after he points out how awful this must have been for her and how she deserves something better is justified; “You don’t get to decide.”

Bill is shocked not only in finding out that Libby has known for years, but that Virginia has been in on it. This is where Libby gets to twist the knife telling Bill they have a pact conjuring up images of kitchen table plotting of Virginia agreeing to never taking Bill away from his family. It is all too much for Bill to take in and Libby gets to sashay away leaving him stuck in jail without his bond paid. And she does so in a fabulous camel coat and pants which shows how far Lib has come from pastel dress wearing housewife. See also these sunglasses from earlier in the episode which make her look fierce and like she is on a glamorous mission, even though this is far from the case.

Masters of Sex 3.12 LibbyLibby’s reason for breaking things up with Paul last week also go a long way in showing why she is so adamant at keeping her family together; she doesn’t want the cycle of bad father/son relationships to continue forever on but by the end of this finale her usually resolute spirit has been broken. It is like the Virginia secret is the very frayed string that was keeping everything together and she doesn’t even lock the bathroom door to hide her tearful breakdown, which Johnny of course walks in on.

Bill is not a mirror of his father, but he has been so afraid of repeating this pattern that he is not a presence at all; even if they did split up it probably wouldn’t be that different really. I hope next season sticks to this separation because it will allow the show to explore so many more possibilities beyond Poor Libby and this character does deserve more; so does the audience when it comes to seeing this same old storyline on repeat.

Plenty of characters who have hovered on the sidelines are complicit in Bill’s current fate and when Bill threatened Dennis earlier this season he mentioned that everyone trusts doctors, which as it turns out is not always the case. Bill has been backed into a corner by not only Dennis’ mother, but also Nora who is working with religious fanatic and lobby loiter Ronald Sturgis (another person Bill has threatened). Bill has been somewhat naive in both cases and both have come back to destroy his career. He plays the kind card with Libby and instead of telling him what he wants to hear, Libby instead points out that this is indicative of his controlling and reckless behavior.

Early in the episode Ronald tells Virginia to save herself acting as an early warning about what is to come. The only warning Bill gets is rather abstract pointing to the broken nature of things as his suspender snaps and he has to wear Lester’s belt. Bill is very anti-belts which once again goes back to his father and his choice of weapon against him. I don’t know if we needed the beating flashback even if it underscored that it is not a fashion related decision. Virginia gets a sermon from Nora and in return she smacks her with a box. Nora is a character who is clearly deeply troubled, but she definitely deserved that from Virginia and I maybe (okay definitely) cheered.

Masters of Sex 3.12 Barton and JonathanIn happier romance news Barton and Jonathan (Richard from Felicity!) have acted on their feelings and got over their disagreements regarding how they want to present themselves – with a lot of help from magical advice unicorn Betty – and have a romantic birthday meal out. Well it is romantic and then Bill’s in jail predicament briefly interrupts things. When Jonathan mentions he isn’t getting younger it is hard to not picture him in college because he pretty much looks the same as he did almost 15 years ago.

Betty has been a strong presence throughout this season even when she is only there to dish out the advice and it would be remiss if I didn’t mention her conversation with Barton from “Through a Glass, Darkly” when she tells him about her relationship with Helen and how “it makes a difference” to be loved like that. Betty is often used as comic relief, but she is also important when getting to the heart of the emotional moments and I hope there will be far more for her to do next season even if she is very good at running interference. Betty also had another fantastic Twiggy inspired dress and wide tie costume moment this week.

Masters of Sex 3.12 BettyAnd this look also works when hiding out smoking in a dark office.Masters of Sex 3.12 Betty smokingTroubled teen plots were absent from this finale and Tessa has been one of the many issues this season and I have gone from a position of defending this story to rolling my eyes at how they have made the teen an irritating obstacle. I don’t think they need to be done with Tessa necessarily, but there has to be a way of exploring Virginia’s relationship with her daughter without this many teen cliches particularly when dealing with the work Virginia does.

Masters of Sex works best when it is Masters and Johnson; this is not to say there shouldn’t be conflict but the writers do need to go beyond the same push/pull we have seen for three seasons and hopefully the actions of Bill, Virginia and Libby in this finale will lead a revitalized show that leads to a return to form.

Masters of Sex 3.07 “Monkey Business” Review: Apeman

24 Aug

The vast number of years Masters of Sex has covered over a three season period and particularly this season does not render it immune from cyclical plot points and “Monkey Business” goes a long way in demonstrating how patchy this season has been. It is disappointing that despite how far these characters have come, they are still falling into certain traps.

Bill is showing off his unpleasant side as he still can’t fathom why his son is so distant (don’t befriend the kid who beat him up for starters) and he unleashes his controlling side all in the guise of helping broken men (and apes) like himself. The gorilla that was introduced at the end of last week’s episode comes into focus this week as Bill and Virginia are asked to help with Gil’s mating issues. What goes from being a flight of fancy and nothing more than a whim for Bill becomes a huge metaphor for all the suffering dudes on this show, but with a strong whiff of manipulation revealing Bill’s competitive and jealous streak.

Whereas Libby Masters, forever on the periphery has been languishing in her own illusions and it is hard to see quite how she will break free without ever leaving Bill. One step towards freedom does take place this week as she acknowledges just how terrible her personal life is; now if she can move forward rather than backsliding as we have seen her do in previous seasons.

Masters of Sex 3.07 Virgina and BillInitially Virginia is the one who champions the gorilla project with Bill scoffing at how ridiculous it is. They later switch positions with Bill linking his own performance problems to both the impotent (and human) Keith to gorilla Gil. With Gil it is all about point scoring and a good anecdote to tell Newsweek magazine if they are successful. Human patient cases can’t be spoken in any detail due to confidentiality and the one which leads to the interview is pure fiction. Isabella and Al were papped on the way out of the clinic and so they have spun this into a good PR story for their broken relationship, but they can use the exposure to showcase their real triumphs. Virginia appeals to Bill’s ego by pointing out how he has a soft spot for “suffering males” and this is a point which Bill uses on her later on by reiterating how much she helped him.

While it could be said that Virginia uses manipulation to get Bill on board the ape plan, Bill certainly runs with it when Dan comes calling with plans for a night out. At this point Bill has no idea Virginia and Dan are sleeping together, but that doesn’t stop him exerting his power in preventing Virginia from going by insisting on the gorilla shenanigans. It would have probably made more sense for his jealousy to kick in if he was aware of their hooking up and instead this just comes across as dick measuring pettiness.

One awkward scene follows another as Virginia ends up flashing her boobs to get Gil in the mood with Bill offering directions out of Gil’s sight. It is all just a little uncomfortable although I should point out that we are not privy to what Gil and Bill can see; the use of nudity on Masters of Sex never feels gratuitous. They are successful in getting Gil to mate, but the victory is hollow for Virginia and she sees it as no more than a fluke. Bill wants to tell all and at dinner he teases their ‘ape’ triumph and instead references the celebrity couple lie that led to this interview in the first place. It is disappointing to see him play with Virginia in this way and even though he is focusing on the broken people they have helped he is so narrow sighted when it comes to those he is closest to.

It is no surprise Virginia turns back to Charming Dan after this dinner and despite Bill’s assertion last week that certain people are slipping away I don’t think he realizes just how isolated he might become; his son despises him, Libby is starting to come to terms with her situation and Virginia has a new ape man.

Masters of Sex 3.07 Dan and VirginiaI really wish I could say this is Josh Charles wearing a mohair sweater and not a gorilla suit.

The man who spoke about love in such a powerful and meaningful way is still there and Bill does want to help the broken and in need; however he is also a controlling asshole who likes to bask in his success. It is a credit to Michael Sheen’s exceptional performance that he is still so watchable and sympathetic even when the story doesn’t support this.

Impotence has affected several characters on Masters of Sex with Lester suffering from the condition last season after a very bad break up from Jane. During the several time jumps Lester has got back together with his former gf and had children with her; it was only after overhearing Virginia and Bill discussing her husband that Jane found out about his issue.

#In a roundabout way the original ‘important work’ ethos of the study is utilized to make Lester see why Jane wants to be the surrogate in helping her friend and while I love spending time with these characters (especially with Jane in signature yellow) it all comes across as slightly tenuous.

Meanwhile, Tessa is chatting to Dan about her mother’s extracurricular activities with Bill while never revealing who she is. That is until Virginia introduces them and causes Dan to squint in confusion. Does her believe her more now he knows she most likely has insider info or does he read their interactions as spiteful lies? When really it is a mixture of the two.

Every 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 because it all revolves around getting pregnant. Seeing Annaleigh Ashford and Sarah Silverman bouncing off each other is always a treat, but I wish there was a way to feature them without resorting to biological clocks. We already know Betty can’t have children so it is Helen with all the bunny infested dreams and how do you find a surrogate in the 1960s? Tap up Dr Austin Langham that’s how.

The fabulous Betty costuming continues in her late night adventure with paisley prints and silk head band (which is making me reach for this one again) coupled with Helen’s leopard print delight.

Masters of Sex 3.07 Betty and HelenBetty did also get to hold my favorite props from “Monkey Business” (no not the artificial insemination equipment) and old magazines whether mock ups or real hold an instant appeal to this magazine aficionado.

First up Betty’s face while showing the Isabella Ricci Newsweek article (and accompanying fake Lord Harry ad which made an appearance in season 1 – would a company really use the same copy work for 10 years?)

Masters of Sex 3.07 NewsweekAnd then I fell down a Google image black hole looking at Photoplay covers and this plays right into my recent You Must Remember This inspired interest in 1960s (and all those earlier decades) Hollywood.

Masters of Sex 3.07 Photoplay magazineThis season is far from a disaster and there is still plenty to enjoy as the performances are always solid even if the storytelling has been on the bumpy side. They just need to get out of some of the character ruts and show progress beyond the work of Masters and Johnson.

Masters of Sex 3.06 “Two Scents” Review: Some Place Better

18 Aug

Pretending everything is the idyllic family life can only work for so long and the balance between fantasy and reality shifts this week for Libby as she plays out Joy’s escape. The focus of “Two Scents” is a swirl of dreams, perception and real life; some go in eyes open while others prefer their rose tinted specs. Virginia’s relationship with her mother turns from passive aggressive comments to full blown meltdown as a trip to the hairdressers with Tessa causes old resentments to come to a head.

Bill’s words about love and why it doesn’t feature in their research were grand and incredibly romantic as if he was speaking them directly to Virginia, but her mother’s reaction to this moment has had a different kind of effect on their relationship. Firstly, they are finding it hard to keep up with their arrangement because of the house guests and a trip to their favorite hotel from last season does not goes as planned; they are far too recognizable to use an alias.

Masters of Sex 3.06 Bill and VirginiaBeing pushed toward the married man you are actually sleeping with by your mother is pretty awkward, especially when you already have a difficult time with her and it isn’t surprising to see Virginia falling for Dan’s charms while they research seduction scents. Bill can sense Virginia slipping away to the point of telling neighbor Paul about this, although he claims it is Johnny who he fears is out of reach. Hence the hotel plan, followed by the office plan and then the elevator plan. None of these go beyond a holding of the hand and Virginia talks of how their coming together had very little courtship (which Dan has promised).

For someone who is rather bumbling when it comes to dealing with human emotion Bill does another fine job of spinning words into a beautiful image as he talks about the first time he saw Virginia and how their relationship is a fairy tale too. It’s not enough this time and Virginia pulls away from him only to return to work later for a rendezvous with Dan. Dancing leads to more with the buttons on the back of her mustard sleeveless blouse revealing to Tessa that work has not been on the cards. Tessa thinks it is Bill her mother has been seeing and instead of showing off her magazine article, the moment is ruined and disillusionment sets in. If she had shown her there is no way she would notice an ad for a hair product over her daughter’s achievement.

Masters of Sex 3.06 EdnaWhen Virginia confronts her father about her mother’s Bill plan, he explains her behavior through the grass is always greener notion as she always imagines “some place better.” In Edna’s eyes Tessa is Virginia’s chance to make up for her mistakes and that is a whole lot of pressure to put on her granddaughter while also being generally shitty toward her actual daughter.

The reason why Virginia was so crushed by the suggestion that she break up Bill’s marriage is because the pride Edna felt last week had nothing to do with the actual achievement and more to do with getting the ideal husband.

Masters of Sex 3.06 LibbyLibby is someone who thinks that by having a husband and family she is projecting the right image so it was quite something to hear how honest she was about her relationship while brushing Joy’s hair. This is a very different yarn to the one she was spinning to Joy before her aneurysm and it is only when Joy can’t understand that Libby is at her most truthful.

Being told you will be looked at as a bad mother if you don’t sign up to the snack roster and come to games by another resentful mother is just the encouragement Libby needs to take a bath in another woman’s apartment. She is already invisible while she cheers on one of the Masters men, she doesn’t need another venue for his honor. We have seen Libby indulge in a fantasy life back in season 1 when Bill left her on vacation by herself. That was after her miscarriage and she invented a dead husband and children she didn’t have at that time. Now she fakes her way through the escape plan Joy never got to live while maintaining her children are fine with the divorce and at first it seemed like she was going to seduce the super. Instead she comes clean to Paul during a blazing argument about Joy’s plans killing her new getaway location.

Masters of Sex 3.06 Virginia and BillPerhaps the most overt case of fantasy versus reality is with the couple who come to see Bill and Virginia this week. Al, an ex footballer and his wife actress Isabella Ricci (both fictitious) are having issues that they think is “frigidity” but really they are doomed to break up. He’s a bit of an asshole with a huge wondering eye problem and she is finding it hard to understand where their spark has gone. When they first met Isabella was under the impression that he didn’t know who she was, but he did and she was 20 feet tall. Real life doesn’t hold up to that first sighting on the cinema screen and because he can’t get that image out of his head they will never get over these issues.

Over in the perfume tests it’s all getting a little competitive when Bill sits in and he suggests what Dan is attempting to achieve is a trick to make someone think they are attracted to someone. It is all about dressing something up and seduction is the fantasy; everything else that comes after is the real life.

Lizzy Caplan Facial Expression Hall of Fame

Masters of Sex 3.06 Virginia Masters of Sex 3.06 Virginia Johnson Masters of Sex 3.06 V Masters of Sex 3.06 Virginia hotelThe presence of Virginia’s mother gives Lizzy Caplan plenty of opportunity to perfect her incredulous and angry face. Dumb dudes like Al also lead to excellent expressions as does their new fame at the hotel. 

Betty Watch 

Masters of Sex 3.06 BettyStill not much for Betty to do this week, but she did look fetching in yellow while talking to Jane. Or rather telling Jane to chill out about the famous people in the building.

Masters of Sex 3.05 “Masters of Gravity” Review: Polish Until it is Perfect

10 Aug

Bill Masters has a point to prove and an audience he can’t wait to show how wrong they are. This battle is one which dates back long before the time period covered on Masters of Sex and his relationship with his father has informed how he reacts to the people he perceives as bullies. This covers those at Washington University who branded him a pervert and kicked him out to the several other institutions he was fired from last season. Now is the time he can perform a victory lap and laud it over the doubters and naysayers. Except it isn’t quite this simple or satisfying and an incident with Bill’s son Johnny dredges up feelings of inadequacy from his own childhood.

The Philip Larkin poem “This Be the Verse” repeatedly popped into my mind – “They fuck you up, your mum and dad” – throughout “Masters of Gravity” as we finally get to meet Virginia’s 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 relationship he has with his mother and the traumatic 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 far more about himself than Virginia. The surprise visit organized by Tessa – on the one night where she knows her mother will have company – offers up plenty of opportunity to see what drives Virginia and gives Lizzy Caplan so many occasions to use her best exasperated expression, which she does so well.

Masters of Sex 3.05 VirginiaFrances Fisher plays Virginia’s picky mother Edna – like a less snooty version of her Titanic character – and she is queen of the backhand compliment mentioning how great Virginia looks and how she only has a few more lbs to lose. She doubles down on the weight hints over breakfast by pointing out how fattening margarine is just as Virginia takes a bite of her marg covered toast.

Nothing trumps the humdinger she delivers after Bill’s ‘illuminating’ speech “Here I thought you’d made a mess of your life, but now I see that you are this close to being able to fix things.” Virginia hopes the evening has given her mother insight into the importance of their research and instead Edna sees this as an opportunity for Virginia to be the ideal man, all she has to do is get Libby out of the way. The entire thing has been lost on her and the pride her mother feels has nothing to with this achievement as all she can think about is her daughter scoring the perfect husband.

This seed has been planted by the meddling Tessa who has placed one of Bill’s signature bow ties in with Virginia’s laundry and Edna correctly assumes they are having an affair. I doubt Tessa wants her grandmother to approve this relationship so she would be just as horrified by this comment as her mother is.

Masters of Sex 3.05 Virginia and her motherThe episode opens with Virginia and Bill in the afterglow of a hookup, which for once has not been interrupted by the baby and instead they get disturbed by the arrival of Virginia’s parents. Despite the difficulty they have in finding alone time together everything is good between them, until Edna sticks her oar in. The expected reaction would be one of horror that Virginia is sleeping with a married man, instead Edna sees this as an opportunity and Virginia’s immediate response is to ask out Charming Dan Logan. Really, Josh Charles is charming all over the place and his character has a well earned nickname.

Masters of Sex 3.05 Virginia shocked faceThis is how happy Virginia is by her mother’s comments.

Appearances are what count and Virginia’s chief complaint about Edna is how she tries to polish something until it is perfect. This dates back to being made to hold a Popsicle on her teeth before a beauty pageant to try and combat her overbite. Just how accurate these memories are is called into question as her dad points out that she was the one who entered herself. Even if this is the case it sure seems like her mother was a rather enthusiastic supporter to the point of pushing her too hard. In Virginia’s mind there is nothing she can do to live up to the standards her mother sets and even being part of a pioneering scientific research team is not enough if she doesn’t have the love life to match. Her mother wants her to have it all, but maybe isn’t so bothered by the career aspect.

The desire to prove something is also deeply embedded in Bill’s psyche and even though Chancellor Fitzhugh comes cap in hand to Bill needing a favor and offering a platform to show off his success; the resulting feeling is not the gloating or fulfilling one he expected. Instead all Bill can see as he gets his standing O is the time he bought his father’s birthday gift while wearing a gift of his own from his father’s fists. In a moment of openness and vulnerability with Libby he tells her “making that man happy was like trying to walk to the horizon.” His father is dead and it doesn’t matter what he does because he will never experience making his father proud. All he has are the physical and psychological scars he imparted on him.

Masters of Sex 3.05 Bill and JohnnyBill’s a pretty absent father himself and he finds it hard to engage with his children in a meaningful way. The opportunity presents itself this week as his eldest Johnny has been beaten up at school. Bill knows the feeling of being beaten by someone bigger all too well and isn’t going to stand for it happening to his kid. Luckily for the bully Dennis he didn’t go for the Ray Velcoro route (knuckleduster/threatening to fuck his dead with his headless mom’s corpse) and while he possibly went a smidge too far as he later admits to Libby, he didn’t lay a hand on him. He just scared him to the point of pissing himself.

When Johnny has tried to reach out to his father we have seen him dismissed or ignored so it is not surprising when Johnny rejects Bill’s attempts to bond over the book he is reading. First of all Bill, Johnny does not confirm he has got to the part in the book which you then go into detail about. Spoilers, Bill. Maybe if Bill had revealed the real reason he went up to the attic to read Johnny might have stuck around to watch TV, instead he leaves his father alone and they are just as distant as before. One awkward conversation does not lead to a new found bond, but it is a step and hopefully Bill won’t completely retreat from his son after this.

Masters of Sex 3.05 Johnny and BillAlso maybe Johnny just wants to read his book.

After his successful and prepared speech which didn’t go into the bitter depths I feared it might he takes audience questions and he is asked “Where is the love?” as the book goes into so much detail without discussing emotions. Bill’s response is masterful (I’ll see myself out) as he uses another scientific discovery to explain why love is absent from their work. Gravity is the shape of space itself and “the apple falls to the ground because it is following the lines and grooves that gravity has carved into space.” In the same respect love “is the very fabric of those bodies. Love is that which carves the lines and grooves; the curvature of our desire.” It can’t be “rendered into columns and graphs.”

Masters of Sex 3.05 Virginia and LibbyThe crowd as a whole responds with emphatic applause and yet not all are thrilled by this eloquent sentiment. Libby looks downcast probably because she has never experienced such a thing with her husband, while Virginia beams with pride and joy (and looks a little turned on). There is an awkward unspoken exchange between the two women and when Bill returns to the table his body language shows his closeness to Virginia; Edna is perceptive enough to spot all of this.

Time for another round of poor Libby. This is no consolation of course, but Libby as always is impeccably turned out and I bet Edna likes this about her, even while she encourages her daughter to break up her marriage.

Masters of Sex 3.05 LibbyThere’s a whole lot of denial wrapped up in truth telling in Margaret’s relationship with Jimmy Cooper (okay Graham) and his other girlfriend Jo. Margaret is so focused on fixing the sex related issues with Graham she doesn’t want to confront what the real problem is.

The session with Bill and Virginia includes helpful demonstrations – which are interrupted by the protesting religious group and I have a feeling they will keep being a nuisance – and the instructions they give prove to be fruitful.

Masters of Sex 3.05 Bill and VirginiaMargaret has not been living in her truth, instead she has been living in Graham’s and he happens to be a guy who is everything Barton isn’t. While this season hasn’t quite been hitting those high notes, “Masters of Gravity” manages to do just that with every storyline and even though I have left the Scully’s until the end they are just as vital to the success of this episode. The intimacy and vulnerability here is so striking; Allison Janney and Beau Bridges are so good at portraying all the pain and love that exists between them.

Masters of Sex 3.05 Margaret and BartonWhen Margaret asks “Where is home?” it is devastating and yet Barton knows exactly what he must do to give his ex-wife the resolution she deserves and he makes the difficult call to his daughter to reveal the truth behind their marriage breakdown. Maybe it would be better in person, but this is likely due to actor availability and the image of them holding hands is perfect. 

The truth can set you free and yet it can also complicate matters tremendously; confessions are spilling all over the place and the denial is just as free flowing.

Betty Watch 

Masters of Sex 3.05 Bill and Betty Masters of Sex 3.05 Betty and BillOnce again Betty doesn’t have a crazy amount to do sadly and the scenes she is are of course a delight. This includes giving Virginia a break from her parents and helping with Dan’s research. She also fixes Bill’s back, which he hurt while sneaking out of Virginia’s first floor window. There are quite a few farcical elements this week and this injection of humor is welcome. As are Michael Sheen and Annaleigh Ashford’s expressions in the above shots. Betty mentions Helen and this gives me hope for Sarah Silverman and a juicy Betty storyline.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2015

Masters of Sex 3.05 Virginia bretton stripesThere are many clothes I would wear from this show and this is a feature I do on The Americans reviews and as soon as this Breton striped long sleeve tee and pants pairing made me realize I need to add this to these reviews. This really is my Platonic ideal of a casual outfit.

 

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.

Masters of Sex 3.03 “The Excitement of Release” Review: To Feel Wanted

27 Jul

At the end of Masters of Sex this week, Bill asks Virginia “Who goes somewhere where they’re not wanted?” and this is an important question that runs through Bill’s quest to get approval from the birthplace of the study. The book has been released and to glorious reviews from the medical community; a community which Bill has felt ostracized from thanks to the controversial subject matter. This is not enough from both a monetary and personal perspective and they must sell themselves and the work all over again in a variety of ways.

Masters of Sex 3.03 Betty and VirginiaPerception is important because they are trying to change how society thinks about sex and those old misconceptions about immorality and smut are still prevalent. There are bags of hate mail and someone from the Committee for Decency hanging around the lobby just waiting to tell Bill that hell is real place (“no worse than St. Louis in August” is Bill’s retort). Suitors or rather investors are just as interested in Bill and Virginia as those who object to the study and there are plenty of people who feel like they could have a mutually beneficial relationship. Motivations vary, but the one thing they have in common is using sex as a jumping off point to sell something else; hand massage machines, magazines, the sexual revolution and perfume. For Bill it is about teaching his work across the country.  

Pretending that everything on the outside is fine is something that runs throughout “The Excitement of Release” and Libby is queen of denial; denial about her own happiness and relationship with Bill. Libby’s neighbor Joy has confided in her that she wants to leave her husband because the idea of a future is a “straight, flat highway into the sunset.” The dreams they had are long gone and the monotony is too much to bear. To Libby ‘husband + wife + kids = happiness’ and she kind of ignores everything that is so blatantly obvious to everyone else; Bill’s grumpy demeanor when he returns home doesn’t sell Libby’s idea.

Masters of Sex 3.03 BillLibby sells out Joy or at least attempts to as she sets up a hangout for Bill and Joy’s husband Paul, much to Bill’s dismay. The two bond over football and when it looks like Bill might reveal Joy’s intentions to Paul he instead gets out his prize collection of football cards. What Paul does is tell Bill going it alone is sometimes the only way to get things done, but the final scene of this episode reinforces the idea of having a team to support. Maybe this is why Paul has a shitty marriage as his wife feels alone.

Paul does a very bad job of pretending he is interested and Bill realizes Paul couldn’t give a shit, but continues regardless; pretense to uphold social pleasantries run throughout this episode as do the catastrophic moments which threaten them. Joy doesn’t get to follow through with her new apartment/life plan because she has a brain aneurysm and even though it doesn’t kill her, the brain damage sounds significant. The ‘what ifs’ generated by this tragedy could send Libby further down her spiral of misery while acting like everything is fine or it might make her reexamine her own life choices. Is this the push Libby needs to admit that all is not well in her ‘happy’ home?

One home which is still under a considerable amount of strain is Virginia’s as her relationship with Tessa is still fractious. Tessa is accused of being ‘deliberately difficult’ and the back and forths between this pair tread closely to forced teen daughter storylines, which have been detrimental to other shows. I worried that Tessa Johnson would be more Kim Bauer than Paige Jennings, but this week showed just how vital Tessa is in relation to the work her mother has been doing and how sex is perceived. Tessa’s sexual assault is sadly just as relevant now as it was 1966 and while I thought her drunk moment in the first episode was a misstep, this was handled in a sensitive manner rather than for shock value.

Masters of Sex 3.03 TessaTessa is embarrassed by her mother’s work and she has been acting out at school; she claims she is being bullied because of the new book and while we don’t see any evidence of this the book does play a big part in how she is perceived. She hangs out with a cute boy on the bleachers reading Human Sexual Response and acts like she knows all about sex from personal experience; it is common to exaggerate sexual prowess and both Tessa and Matt suggest that they have ‘done stuff.’ Derogatory terminology is used with Matt invoking the word ‘nympho’ and he doesn’t get that women can like sex too without being sneered at. Matt has not been paying attention to the information from the book which is being read to him. Also if this is what they call someone’s mother who has simply been reading a book which includes sex it is easy to imagine that Tessa’s peers are saying some truly awful things about Virginia.

The homecoming dance is another source of contention between Tessa and Virginia with Virginia offering to chaperon as a way to show she is there for her. Tessa rejects her because of the notoriety factor and is then pissed when Virginia lets her go because she figures Virginia only changed her mind because she has work (which is true). Drinking games and smooches turns ugly when Matt reveals his level of inexperience and how he wants Tessa to ‘teach him.’ Making excuses as to why she can’t have sex is Tessa’s way out of not wanting to do this while trying to save face, but then Matt forces her head towards his lap and sexually assaults her.

Masters of Sex 3.03 Tessa bathroomVomit is how Tessa immediately reacts to this violation getting it all down her pretty new dress which we see her scrubbing in the bathroom afterwards before breaking down sobbing. It is a heartbreaking scene which is further compounded by her silent tear stained interaction with her mother in the car afterwards. Virginia is late to pick her up and takes Tessa’s insolence as a reaction to this. Her questions about boys at the dance further add to the gulf between them and I definitely yelled ‘tell her’ at my screen. This is not the relationship they share and even though Virginia is so good at talking to strangers about sex for some reason she cannot with her daughter (as evidenced by her asking Bill to have the chat with her in the season premiere).  

At school Matt approaches Tessa as if nothing bad has gone on aside from the schnapps that he thinks made her throw up; is he so clueless that he doesn’t realize what he did was wrong? Tessa smiles through the ordeal, but it is clear she is hurting and Isabelle Fuhrman’s performance throughout is excellent showing Tessa’s vulnerability and how she tries to cover it up.

Teen characters can be hard to warm to when they act out in a way which is detrimental to the leads; Tessa highlights the failings Virginia sees in herself as a mother so it is easy to feel just as exasperated as Virginia is in this moment. The sexual assault could be read as an easy way to get an audience to feel sympathy toward this character and there are shows which have done this, but in this case the escalation is meant to reveal just how out of her depth and isolated Tessa is. Motherhood is something Virginia feels like she has failed at and while Bill gave her an excellent pep talk last week about being a working mother, he’s kind of an ass this week as he worries she is spreading herself thin. Virginia is late for work because she is dealing with Tessa at school, she is late picking Tessa up because of work. The middle ground is hard to find.

Masters of Sex 3.03 VirginaThe timeline settles this week and this in turn means the overall story is a lot more focused. There are a couple of welcome returning faces as well as some equally welcome new ones. Beau Bridges is back as Barton Scully and he has a new wife and different job at the university after rumors led to his demotion (which he claims he is fine with). Bill has turned to his old friend for help getting his book on the curriculum at his old university, but the stigma remains as does Bill’s passionate response to academic rejection. Bill can’t fathom why Barton still works somewhere where he not respected and offers him a job where he is wanted.

Jane is back much to my delight even if she is far from the optimistic and happy person we last saw back at the start of season 2; gone are the bold yellows and here is the miserable and tired look. She’s still rocking excellent pins.

Masters of Sex 3.03 JANEWhile I assumed Barb was the wife Lester referred to in the premiere it is actually Jane and Lester fucks up big time when he calls her a ‘morbidly grumpy housewife’ when she is stood behind him. Awkward. Lester later refers to her as a ‘she-wolf’ to which Betty tells him to get a clue and understand that Jane is miserable because she is bored and she is too smart for the stay-at-home life she is currently living. Betty’s idea is to get Jane to go through their bags of mail as there might be some valid letters among the threats. Lester repeats Betty’s thoughtful comments to his wife and while she’s still mad at him things look a lot better between the pair.

Betty really is a “student of human nature” and a vital part of the team, particularly when it comes to meeting potential investors. Before we get to that here are all the amazing patterned outfits worn by Betty this week. With bonus skeptical looks in places.

Masters of Sex 3.03 Betty and Lester Masters of Sex 3.03 Betty pattern Masters of Sex 3.03 Betty Masters of Sex 3.03 Josh CharlesThe charm offensive comes down to Hugh Hefner and Josh Charles (who is recurring as Dan Logan – flavors fragrances expert) with the hand massage dude really not being up to the save selling technique as these guys. Hef has the resources and a huge built in audience, but Bill objects because it will cheapen the work. Dan sells his business proposal hard and it is so good to see Josh Charles in this mode as it felt very much like having Will Gardner back in court, but selling fragrance instead. Bill might regret his choice as Dan is very interested in Virginia and he certainly has the flirty skills down.

Bill might end up feeling insecure when it comes to Dan Logan, but at the moment all is pretty solid with Virginia aside from his not so subtle watch check when she rocks up to work late. Cut that out, Bill. Returning to the question from the end of the episode as Bill ponders why people go where they are not wanted and Virginia assures him he is wanted by her. He takes the babies crying as a cue to make his exit, but instead he is told to stay and is content to share the bed with a baby that is not his.

Masters of Sex 3.03 Bill, Virginia and LisaConflict swirls around them and yet in this moment there is peace; now to apply this kind of harmony to those around them who are experiencing rejection and isolation.

Masters of Sex 3.02 “Three’s a Crowd” Review: Keeping up Appearances

20 Jul

Moving from 1965 to 1966 with yet another time jump for Masters of Sex this season, albeit a much smaller one than last week as the book goes from galleys to publication. Oh and there is a small matter of Virginia’s to deal with as “Three’s a Crowd” picks up from where we left off with Bill guessing Virginia is pregnant.

Getting straight to the point and this episode covers two of my least favorite TV tropes – getting pregnant from that one off hook-up and opting out of an abortion at the last minute (Mad Men did both of these things). Of course people change their mind when it comes to terminating pregnancies for a multitude of personal reasons, however it is frustrating when it is used to ramp up tension and as a twist when it is later revealed the character is still pregnant.

Masters of Sex 3.02 Bill and VirginaThe pregnancy bombshell that ended last week’s episode set off a whole bunch of warning signs as to where this story might be headed and for the most part it worked better than I thought it would. In part this is because I had briefly forgotten Bill had such a low sperm count that there was no way it could be his. Virginia’s decision to keep the child as a way to make up for all the mistakes she has made raising Henry and Tessa coupled with her signing over custody to George last season is a misguided choice by this character; a new baby isn’t going to make everything right with how she views herself as a mother. Conversations about what a family or being a mother means is what makes this storyline worth it; pitting Libby and George against Bill and Virginia when it comes to how they view these factors.

Libby for one is furious with Virginia when she finds out she is pregnant and is so not hear for Bill’s badly told story that he has only just found out. She sits smoking in silence as he blathers on about how he didn’t notice and their marriage is as fucked as the TV he is trying to fix. Libby’s cream cable knit sweater and pants look (which I pointed out here) is as perfectly put together as she always is and for Libby appearances are what matter here. Even though she knows the baby isn’t Bill’s (thanks to her experiences conceiving his children), this will be the conclusion everyone else jumps to. After all they are actually sleeping together.

Masters of Sex 3.02 LibbyTilted head sympathy look is Libby’s nightmare scenario and for her the image of the ideal family is what she strives toward even if she is being torn apart inside. The new neighbor asking their son if she is a single parent is her ideal of hell, so people believing her husband has fathered Virginia’s baby is next level social suicide. Self-interest divides Virginia and Libby as their voices grow louder as they discuss what plan if any Virginia has. Virginia’s concern is with correcting her mistakes whereas Libby worries about reputation. There is no happy solution to this situation and this love triangle turns into four’s a crowd with the inclusion of baby daddy George.

George still loves Virginia and the idea of getting remarried will only work for him if Virginia is all in, but he can easily be swayed by money to go through with it for the sham. But he won’t be happy about it. One person who is thrilled by the marriage plan all is Libby and she sees this as a way to get Virginia out of her relationship; the looks shared by Bill and Virginia while vows are being said reveal Libby’s dream is not going to pan out. The way things seem on the outside often betray what is really going on and even when the two couples pose happily together after their spouses have been heralded inner conflict and turmoil will always trump fake smiles. For all this outward projection I have a feeling Libby is still popping those pills from last week.

Masters of Sex 3.02 Bill and LibbyIf you weren’t already aware that there are three people in both marriages then this episode really nails home that point with the B story. The Shah of Iran and his wife visit Bill and Virginia in an attempt to conceive as it is vital for the bloodline and throne that they have a child. Unfortunately his highness/your majesty has a low sperm count and conception has been an impossible task so far. Bill has his capping technique which has produced three of his own kids and after this fails he discovers the Princess has her own medical issue preventing her from ever getting pregnant.

At times the medical issue of the week is a little on the nose with how it acts as a mirror to the main action in the episode and this is certainly the case this week. And even though the whole three in a marriage talk is a little too neat for how it compares to Bill and Virginia’s situation it is still heartbreaking nonetheless. Tradition and duty can pull a person in a direction that isn’t what their heart wants for a number of reasons; in the case of the Princess who can’t get pregnant she knows her marriage is over even though this bond is one full of love. She can’t be the third person in the marriage (that Princess Diana interview springs to mind again) watching another woman raise a child with her ex even if she knows it all for pomp and ceremony.

Masters of Sex 3.02 Virginia and BillFor Bill and Virginia they can’t be together also because of circumstance and because of the still rather rigid temperament towards an unwed pregnant woman (and really I think even today the tabloids would have a field day with Virginia and Bill) the George plan is the only way Virginia can escape her temporary exile.

In Bill’s rather disastrous solo interview he gets tangled up as he tries to explain why sex is a physical urge in the same way as hunger and fatigue. This is the mid 60s and attitudes towards sex have moved on from when the show first started, but there are also morality based attitudes which remain the same and the work will be overshadowed if all anyone is looking at is Virginia’s bump questioning who the father is.

Masters of Sex 3.02 pregnant Virginia“We’ll see” is a well used phrase by any parent and it is one I have been on the receiving end multiple times and like Tessa I always saw this and the other go to answer of “maybe” as a yes, so while Tessa is an asshole in the car borrowing scene I also found myself empathizing with her. She doesn’t know that her mother has an abortion appointment and those Bob Dylan tickets as well as telling her friends she would have the car are the most important things to her in that moment. One reason why teen characters in adult dramas can irritate so much is because they are there as an obstacle and in my case it can sometimes feel all too real on occasions where they treat their parents like shit when their own self-interests are disrupted.

The time jump and sudden teen form Tessa takes has been hard to adjust to because she was this super sweet kid when we last saw her and so dealing with conflict and screaming is jarring. Showrunner Michelle Ashford addresses some of these concerns with The Hollywood Reporter and the credits disclaimer from the season premiere here and the vague comments about legal issues surrounding the kids has me more intrigued about what went down behind the scenes.

Virginia’s fears she will make the same mistakes with her children all over again and this is where tradition versus new ways of approaching motherhood come into play as Bill reassures her that maybe a working mother is not detrimental to raising children. Even when Masters of Sex stumbles there are scenes like this one which reinforce what makes the show work; when Bill and Virginia have these kinds of conversations the show sings. Much in the same way Bill does with his rendition of “Danny Boy” in an attempt to distract Virginia from painful contractions. She can be a good mother and work and the idea of a woman having it all is born! The last part is said in jest of course, but it is worth noting that Bill is told that he has it all “and I don’t have enough to stay” after he has informed the Princess there is no way she can conceive.

After several time jumps and another child added to the Masters and Johnson broods hopefully things will settle down in both of these areas as so far this has been a bumpy start to the season.

And finally a look at a fabulous and quite possibly Twiggy inspired outfit:

Masters of Sex 3.02 BettyMore Betty next week please!

Masters of Sex 3.01 “Parliament of Owls” Costume Design Recap

13 Jul

The TV Ate My Wardrobe Masters of Sex coverage leans heavily towards costume design elements and as this first episode of the new season is also costume designer Ane Crabtree’s last episode on the show I want to focus on this aspect of this premiere. So there will be some plot discussion, but maybe not as much as previous reviews.

First thing to take note of is the time jump as season 2 ended in early 1961 and the very useful title card at the start of “Parliament of Owls” tells us it is now 1965. This means bigger hair, more pants and patterns. It isn’t a completely different change style wise with Libby still sticking to pastels and Virginia’s bow and button details remain intact (if not a little bigger in places) and the most notable difference is Virginia’s children who are now fully fledged teenagers (and different actors). The teens are used in this opening episode as a way to heighten conflict and so far they have proved to be pesky to both the adults and the audience. Think more Kim Bauer than Paige Jennings.

Masters of Sex 3.01 shoppingStarting with my favorite Virginia look from the episode in her oh so relaxed and chic combination of capri pants and a green shirt tied up in the middle signifying she is on vacation. Despite it being far from a chilled out break with so many different points of tension Virginia still manages to look the part in her sun hat and sunglasses. In fact you could wear this ensemble today and not look out of place.

A closer look at the pair:

Masters of Sex 3.01 sunglassesLibby on the other hand looks rigid and formal in her pale blue dress and while it is probably on trend for the time, the contrast between the two women and how comfortable they are in their skin is palpable.

Take Libby’s reaction when she sees Virginia hula dancing with Virginia’s daughter Jenny (Libby and Bill now have three children and the title card at the end informs us that everything about the kids is “entirely fictitious”).

Masters of sex 3.01 hula Masters of Sex 3.01 Libby watchingWhile Libby looks somewhat uptight here (although I love the gold belt detail) for their lakeside location, the outfit from the previous day is far more relaxed and shows just how much Virginia and Bill’s arrival has impacted her mental state.

Masters of Sex 3.01This reads as far more playful and vacation mom with her headscarf and gingham (which is so on point this season as Lizzy Caplan showed off on Jimmy Kimmel Live! recently). It is a very put together outfit and fits in with this whole ideal family that Libby is trying to maintain; the cracks are clear and even though she thinks it is best to put on a happy family front it is far more likely to be detrimental to the children.

Masters of Sex 3.01 Bill and VirginiaThere has always is a lot red, blue and white in Virginia’s wardrobe and she is killing it with her headscarf choice here which is the perfect accessory for a road trip in an MG convertible. Plus so many excellent side eye looks in Bill’s direction.

It is important to remember that even though there has been a significant time jump when it comes to personal style evolution it doesn’t tend to be all that dramatic when you are an adult, especially if you have found a look you are comfortable with and I would say Virginia has done just this.

Masters of Sex 3.01 Virginia sunglasses blue dressUnlike Libby, Virginia ditches her headscarf before she steps into her house and this dress is very much Virginia work attire.

Masters of Sex 3.01 Virginia and TessaLater on Virginia switches her work clothes for leisure ones, but there is room for more disdainful looks as her daughter Tessa pushes boundaries. But hey her blouse and pants are a good look.

Masters of Sex 3.01 Bill cardiganBill’s version of vacay dressing is removing his bow tie and putting on a chunky knit cardigan that Olivia Pope would drink a whole lot of wine in.

Masters of Sex 3.01 cardigans and convertiblesThe cardigan and Bill are one.

Masters of Sex 3.01 bedVirginia’s bedwear screams winter rather than a warm weekend at the lake and I wonder if she is trying to be as unalluring as possible because even when a secret affair is not as secret as you think, you probably don’t want to be hooking up when the wife and all of your kids are under the same roof. This is the most forward we have seen Libby about this whole setup and again they are wearing garments that play on how different they are with Libby being the surprisingly provocative one in this conversation.

They do share one thing in this bizarre friendship and that is Bill Masters; for some reason all I can think about is the Princess Diana interview where she talks about there being three people in her marriage.

Master of Sex 3.01 VirginiaThere is a time jump within a time jump in this episode as the narrative moves between the presentation Bill and Virginia are giving to the press and the time at the lake when they have received the first galleys of their book. Their book is released in 1966, which means another year looms on the horizon.

I would be remiss if I didn’t show this shot of Virginia getting ready, practicing her talking points and eating breakfast because it is a perfect showcase of the foundation garments which I discuss in detail over at Flavorwire.

Masters of Sex 3.01 bathroomA well put together lady suit and a bathroom revelation with Bill putting the unzipped skirt and Virginia’s throwing up together to equal pregnant. After all the talk of making sure her daughter doesn’t end up pregnant it is Virginia who ends up in the family way. Super awkward and a story development that I’m not sure how I feel about.

Masters of Sex 3.01 BettyAnd to end things on a bright note with Betty in glorious yellow and while she only made a brief appearance, this ensemble is the best of all things Betty; bold and straight to the point.

I’m looking forward to seeing Ane Crabtree’s work on the forthcoming HBO show Westworld and I am intrigued to see how Masters of Sex will progress now that both feet are firmly in the 1960s.

Work in Other Places: Talking Underwear on TV and the Best Shows of the Year (So Far)

9 Jul

Shameless self-promotion time and if you can’t shamelessly self-promote on your own website then I don’t know where you can.

Over at Flavorwire I had the pleasure of talking to costume designers from Masters of Sex (Ane Crabtree), The Americans (Jenny Gering) and You’re the Worst (Wendy Benbrook) about the importance of undergarments and how both period and contemporary costuming reflects on and can impact current trends.

Masters of Sex 2.03 Fight The Americans 2.06 You're the Worst 1.01Here is an extract and you read the whole thing here

The Americans is a bridge between period and contemporary fashion — the ’80s don’t feel so long ago — and it helps that The Americans‘ costuming isn’t what you might typically expect from this decade (lurid neons, shoulder pads). The show keeps a toe in the ’70s, and that’s reflected in Elizabeth’s everyday underwear choices.

While a visible bra strap might have been an extremely telling costuming choice even in The Americans‘ era, shows set in the present day are likely to use this detail far more casually. For sitcoms featuring young women —  Youre the Worst, Broad City, New Girl, Girls — warmer weather means, “What kind of bra can I wear with this?” dilemmas.”

And over at Complex I wrote about why The Americans is one of the “Best TV Shows of 2015 (So Far)” focusing on the complicated relationships at the heart of this Cold War era spy show: “Disguises, wigs and missions create tense and fraught moments, but the heart shattering action takes place in the most mundane of locations as these characters reveal who they actually are. In a world where secrets protect, the truth is a loaded weapon and The Americans is not afraid of pulling the trigger.”

 

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I review this shit so you don't have to.