Tag Archives: 1960s

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!

Julie Hammerle

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