Tag Archives: 2.04

Masters of Sex 2.04 “Dirty Jobs” Review: “Is It Worth It?”

4 Aug

Dr. Austin Langham spent so long lying to cover up his rampant philandering that he has since become the Masters of Sex truthsayer after his wife so very publicly dumped him in the season premiere. Now Austin is experiencing the bachelor lifestyle without the burden of his lies – it’s not all good as he’s on a diet of chips for dinner and he misses his kids – and he’s got pearls of wisdom to share; impacting the various other characters who are withholding or spinning a yarn that is further from the truth than they would like to believe. If the truth can set you free, why not return the favor?

Masters of Sex 2.04 AustinTruth and trust are intrinsically linked; the conflict at the heart of “Dirty Jobs” and the show in general is down to the walls these characters have erected to protect 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 that were previously off limits and yet they still left the hotel room playing the same roles and insisting that it’s about “the work” and nothing more. Until they can both accept that this relationship runs deeper than that to not only themselves, but each other they are going to continue to struggle. Austin can see through Virginia’s very well told story detailing why she was in the hotel with Bill and her reasons for quitting the study the previous year because even though she talks a good talk, certain intimate actions Austin has witnessed like fixing Bill’s bow tie have betrayed her.

One person Austin can’t detect is lying is Lillian as he’s so excited to find someone to share his Virginia/Bill news with that he doesn’t detect that moment where Lillian’s disappoint betrays her lack of knowledge about this relationship. Virginia has been Lillian’s confidant since they bonded on a bus trip last season and Lillian disclosed her cancer secret; now it feels like Lillian has shared everything and has got nothing in return. Lillian gives Virginia the opportunity to open up about what she keeps closest to her heart and when Virginia claims there is nothing to confess this feels like an ultimate betrayal; Lillian even disclosed an academic cheating story and nope Virginia’s all “I’m not that interesting.” It’s not surprising Virginia says nothing as she can’t even admit it to herself, except in her dreams where she is haunted by the title of mistress despite the white coat and the very real research they are doing.

Masters of Sex 2.04 presenting the workLillian reacts to this in an extreme way and showing just how deeply this has cut her; she gives away her research that she worked so hard on to the man she named the test after and she won’t even get her own name on the study. For Virginia getting credit for the work she has done is important and part of this is because she has earned it, the other reason is so people can see that she is more than just a ‘mistress.’ When Lillian and Virginia present the work they are dressed alike, down to the high collar and similar shades of blue. The glaring difference is that one of them is in a white coat and the more subtle visual cue is that Virginia’s blouse is prettier and more feminine with bow and pleat detail. Lillian is all about unfussy clothing so that her gender doesn’t come into play in a field dominated by men. In Virginia’s dream she is wearing a white coat, plus her hair is pulled back a la Lillian and yet there is still this nagging voice that calls her mistress.

Masters of Sex 2.04 VirginiaIn Virginia’s working and personal relationships with Bill and Lillian there is a power struggle as Virginia’s influence has made both doctors open up more than they have ever done before, but she is reticent to do the same. Her heart is still locked in that box. They in turn have all the power when it comes to their research so Lillian is well within her rights to give away the work without consulting Virginia, no matter how much she has contributed. Bill can carry on working on the sex study in a hospital without Virginia because he’s the one with the MD and his boss can’t entertain the notion that she is legitimately important to the study. Greathouse thinks that Bill and Virginia’s relationship is like his and Barbs, however Virginia can do the work, whereas Barbs is struggling. Bill even loses a participant because there is no female partner and there are certain things like warming Ulysses that Bill forgets to do.

Instead now he is surrounded by frat boy mentality and when his ploys to get Greathouse to stay away fail – warning him that there might be transference in the observation room (the actual excuse Bill and Virginia used with each other when they first felt something) and pretending there will be “old men masturbating” as the test subjects – he can’t keep his composure shoving Chinese food into one doctor’s mouth forcefully and landing two blows to Dr Greathouse showing the boxing prowess Bill hinted at last week. And he’s fired all over again.

Masters of Sex 2.04 Bill and LibbyStruggles come in all different forms this week and Libby’s attempts to give reason to Bill’s behavior around baby Johnny involves magazine articles that point to disruption as being the heart of the issue. Bill is incredibly calm and reasonable putting on his best doctor voice when Libby freaks out about the lice that might be in the house – they’re “just a few harmless insects” – and he also uses this tone when pointing out that Coral is right about it being unlikely that the lice came from her. When he’s just with Libby this is fine and she talks about their strength as team, with Coral it’s like an affront and as if they are ganging up on her. This is not Libby’s best self and her patronizing tone when she corrects Coral’s pronunciation is superseded in its awfulness by the way she addresses her employee using the lice treatment shampoo. Coral clearly can’t afford to lose this job and so in the end she succumbs to the hair washing humiliation and because Libby claims she can’t trust her to do it herself she insists on doing it in their bathroom right now. Libby gives Coral extra money to get her hair done in a move to make her feel like she hasn’t done anything wrong, but these scenes make for uncomfortable viewing as the power disparity is apparent and Libby’s ‘helpful’ actions often come after Coral has shown how good she is with the baby; it’s a way for Libby to assert her dominance.

Libby flips out when she finds out from someone else that Bill has lost another job as a result of the study – when Libby is asked for juicy sex study secrets she calls it ‘boring’ because she’s never really been on the inner circle even when she did help out – and she’s concerned that he’s so blinded by this that he is neglecting his role as father and husband. This provokes an unexpected emotional response that surprises Libby to the point that her rage subsides immediately as she never gets to see Bill in a vulnerable state.

To his credit Bill does go out and get a new hospital job immediately; Austin’s visit must have had an impact. Austin asks Bill if his relationship with Virginia is worth risking what he has (Libby is framed in the window behind them throughout their conversation) and while Virginia is so intrinsically linked to the work and so therefore she is, I also think that Bill cares a great deal for his family. Even if he is terrified of his son (and the kind of father he will be). Does Austin overstep boundaries in “Dirty Jobs?” Perhaps, but he doesn’t have an ulterior motive or personal agenda beyond stopping someone else from making his mistake and Teddy Sears really does have amazing chemistry with every character he comes into contact with. I also think he was highly motivated by a good home cooked dinner that he knew he would get if he dropped by at this hour.

Masters of Sex 2.04 BettyOne ongoing lie this season has been Betty’s ‘fertility treatments’ with Bill being the most reluctant participant in this charade. It could only go on for so long really and Betty’s big secret came tumbling out after she asked for one lie too many. It wasn’t Bill entirely who revealed the truth, but he definitely pushed for it after Betty asked him to tell Gene that he is the sterile one. Of course Bill has lied about this in the past to protect himself when he told Libby that it was her with the fertility issue. Double standards Bill.

Betty talks at the dinner table about Betty Crocker being a phony and a concept cooked up to sell products – Gene mentions that it was the invention of a woman – opening herself up to scorn from Gene about her own deception. Gene has his own secret and as part of this own love lie he sticks with the meeting Betty at church story, when really he met her at the brothel. Talk about Madonna/whore complex even if Gene was not under the illusion that Betty is a “good Christian girl.” Can this relationship survive full disclosure? In fact it is one sided full disclosure as there is still the matter of Helen, the real love of Betty’s life.

Masters of Sex 2.04 Lillian and VirginiaCircling back to Virginia (wearing an incredible sweater) and the notion of doing things alone after failures in her relationships with Lillian and Bill; both Bill and Lillian have let Virginia down and so much so that she tells her kids that “Everything that is worth doing you have to do on your own.” It’s a pretty pessimistic lesson and it looks like Virginia just bought a bigger padlock for the box that is housing her heart. Virginia receives some unsolicited advice from her Cal-O-Metric boss after Virginia has emphatically stated “I already have a career” and she is told in a rather sarcastic tone “maybe you’re special” when it comes to her dreams. This is enough to put a dampener on everything and coupled with her actual dream that opens “Dirty Jobs” Virginia ends the episode is a less optimistic place. By selling the diet pills to women she’s also spreading some of this misery by targeting people she met a year ago on the street outside their homes and even if she isn’t sticking to the script she’s still making people feel bad about how they look.

If you’re going to set the truth free, then it has to be the whole truth as otherwise you might end up miserable and wanting to go at it alone.

The Americans 2.04 “A Little Night Music” Review: “You’re Afraid. Too Afraid”

20 Mar

Since the season 2 premiere of The Americans Elizabeth’s abilities to compartmentalize has shifted and she doesn’t have the ability she once had to switch everything off. The deaths of Emmett and Leanne have further impacted her ability and while she’s claiming everything is fine, it’s clear that it’s not. The timing is problematic as they have orders from the Center and a separate off books mission to find out who killed Emmett and Leanne. Plus Philip’s long running Martha situation, their cover job and day to day parenting. There are many plates spinning and it looks like they’re all going to come crashing down if they’re not careful; the episode ends with a series of mishaps.

The Americans 2.04 goateeMission 1 – forcefully repatriating Anton, a Jewish scientist who is very glad to be living in the US away from a country that turned him into a non-person because of his religion. Philips first disguise of the week is a simple goatee as he watches him talk in a synagogue and he tells Elizabeth that he is non-recruitable. This doesn’t matter to the Center and Oleg is showing just how much of a pain he’s going to be as he goes above Arkady’s head to get the security clearance he needs. This is one of the many us and them chats in “A Little Night Music” as Arkady points out what a Western move it is to use family connections to get ahead. We’ve already seen Oleg discuss Rod Stewart and scalping tickets; he’s acclimatizing himself to this world but he’s also questioning authority to get what he wants. There’s also the question of Nina and he seems far too interested in her and what she is doing with her undercover work.

The Americans 2.04 Elizabeth recordMission 2 – seduction of Brad to get files on Emmett and Leanne’s potential killer; a gay naval officer they were blackmailing. Claudia is back (!) and despite frosty feelings she wants what is best for Elizabeth and Philip, this means protecting them by finding out who assassinated Emmett and Leanne. Not an easy task, especially when there is so much going on in their lives. I really love the framing of this shot of Elizabeth in the record shop booth as she watches Brad, there’s something quite church like about the window pane in the reflection. More on religion and how Elizabeth feels about it later.

The Americans 2.04 beanieMission 1 involves beanie hats and reading newspapers and this is what costume designer Jenny Gering refers to as “light disguise.” In the final moments of the episode Philip and Elizabeth are rocking dark clothes, baseball caps and beanies as it’s a quick snatch and grab. That is until they get jumped by another couple and their simple plan turns into a giant clusterfuck. Elizabeth takes it too far (something Claudia can attest to) and uses the trunk as a weapon long after she has subdued her attacker. This gives the female accomplice the distraction she needs to steal the car with the unconscious Anton inside. Who is this mystery protection detail?

The Americans 2.04 collegeBonus Philip disguise as he follows Anton to the college he works at to get some more information on him – it turns out he has a mistress – and Philip’s rocking tweed and a blonde wig to blend in. It works and no one spots the one guy who is interested in everything on every notice board. Or maybe they did and that’s why there is another pair watching Anton.

The Americans 2.04 booth seductionElizabeth’s initial scene is the most Felicity I have seen this character be so far. This statement might sound a little ridiculous as Keri Russell does play both characters and I have been watching a lot of Felicity recently, but the way she delivers herself as they talk about music gave me instant Felicity feelings. This is Elizabeth playing the innocence card to get close to her target and it works. The problem here isn’t the cover, it’s Elizabeth and she’s hesitating at getting intimate. This has never been a problem in the past and at first I was unsure whether the rape story was always part of her plan to get Brad to deliver the files she needs. It’s clear this isn’t the case and it shows how Elizabeth is quick to adapt to her own shortcomings; later she physically recoils as she is given Brad a handjob to help with his tension issues. The story she tells Brad is fake, but we know she was raped when she was at the academy so it’s not entirely fabricated; she’s using her experience rather than compartmentalizing it.

The Americans 2.04 ElizabethElizabeth wears a top that mirrors Brad’s naval uniform with a bib like front and everything she wears with Brad is feminine but safe. There’s very little makeup and the wig isn’t fussy or over styled. From all accounts Brad is a good guy and I feel bad that he’s being duped in this manner, he hasn’t managed to deliver the files yet and his hesitation could be problematic.

The Americans 2.04Claudia has concerns and they center on Elizabeth; she thinks she came back too soon and her fear levels are too high. There doesn’t appear to be an ulterior motive and Claudia simply states that she doesn’t want to lose anyone else. The green of Claudia’s coat with Elizabeth’s maroon complement each other; they have more in common than Elizabeth would care to admit.

The Americans 2.04 concernThere’s a lot of laundry getting done in the Jennings house this week and Philip doesn’t buy Elizabeth’s declaration that Brad is a “piece of cake,” Philip’s giving a lot of concerned face in the direction of his wife this week. Last season their marriage was a fractured mess, this year they are stronger and this is causing problems for Elizabeth out in the field. It’s why she’s hesitating with Brad and I also think it’s making it hard for Philip to play his Clark role as well as he did previously. Elizabeth practically scoffs at the idea of Philip’s “lazy morning” with Martha; she’s not masking her unhappiness with this situation very well.

Philip manufactures a fight with Martha as a way to get out her apartment quickly – why would you wash your hair in the kitchen sink?! – as he has a meeting with the plumber (for the travel agency) and because it’s a betrayal against his real relationship. Well his real relationship that is built on a foundation of fakery – remember Philip and Elizabeth aren’t actually married.

The Americans 2.04 marthaPhilip needs to be paying more attention as Martha could be their greatest undoing. Martha is playing with a recording device in bed and she’s applying for a job that asks what her marriage status is. When Martha leaves Clark the voicemail telling him about the application she is wearing the most amazing lilac silk snakeskin print blouse. Pastels are a prominent part of the female wardrobe this week with Paige and Elizabeth also wearing this color scheme; mother, daughter, wife, mistress.

The Americans 2.04 bar confessionsAffairs are a theme of this week from the sanctioned ones that Elizabeth and Philip are committing, to the more regular kind like Anton and Stan. Stan confides in Philip about Nina, well he leaves out the whole Russian element, simply saying that she is someone from work who is also married. Stan refers to their relationship as doomed and also lays out how home life with Sandra is pretty much an empty shell as they lead separate lives. It’s really depressing and it is shot in an appropriately dark manner with only the alcohol behind them bathed in light.

The Americans 2.04 video gamesLightening the mood of the episode is Henry as he pleads his case for video games – “but it’s good for your brain and you’re not just sitting there, you’re doing something” – don’t ever change Henry. This links back to Arkady’s Oleg concerns about him being too Westernized and the Jennings’ have got one kid who wants all the things and the other who has fallen in with the wrong crowd.

The Americans 2.04 graceAh yes, Paige and in this case the wrong crowd isn’t doing drugs, well not the kind you would normally find. Instead they are partaking in the “opiate of the masses” and that’s religion as Elizabeth quotes Karl Marx at Philip. Elizabeth’s reaction to Paige’s Bible reading and this youth group is hilariously over the top as it’s an affront to her personal values. Elizabeth practically spits the word “praying” and she talks about it coming into their house as if it’s the plague and end of times. Paige of course doesn’t know why they are so bothered by it and she’s definitely getting her rebellious kicks from this. Oh and it also looks like my Kelli theory was wrong as the Center has called off the protection on the kids and there’s no way someone from the Center would introduce Paige to something like this, it’s more likely they would go the actual teenage rebellion route of smoking and drinking. Philip is less concerned than Elizabeth and he suggests they eat later as she’s less likely to want to pray if she’s hungry. Elizabeth can’t understand why he’s being so reasonable and I love how this show switches between conversations about parenting and missions in a heartbeat.

Things Elizabeth and Philip have to worry about at the end of this episode: getting files from Brad, Elizabeth’s fear and control issues, Martha’s job application, Paige’s religion phase, Henry wanting video games, getting a new car and who has taken Anton. Philip is spot on with this assessment “There’s been kind of a lot going on.” One thing that is relatively solid is Philip and Elizabeth, she just needs to open up to him. The other relationship that is steady and blossoming is between Philip and Stan; he does have a real friend after all. Well, as real as they can get in this business when it is someone from the other team.

Julie Hammerle

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