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Tag Archives: 2.12

Masters of Sex 2.12 “The Revolution will not be Televised” Review: Leap of Faith

29 Sep

The first season of Masters of Sex ended in an unlikely rom-com fashion; boy stands in the rain telling girl how much he needs her. This year the new President of the United States closes out the episode making grand statements. Using the Kennedy 1960 election victory and inauguration marks a time for great hope and the promise of change as witnessed by the reactions to his speech and victory – while we don’t find out how any of these characters voted there is a sense of wonder at his election – there are tears and smiles at what might be, plus shock at the lack of top hat. There is a new guard in town and he is ditching with tradition. The same could be said for the pioneering work of Masters and Johnson, however this is not their time to stand in the spotlight as there is still much work that needs to be done and Bill is no longer fearful of their rival after he reads how unsubstantial Dr. Kaufman’s work is.

At the heart of “The Revolution will not be Televised” is an examination of compromise and trust; two of the cornerstones of a successful relationship. Taking a leap of faith can require both so what happens when Bill makes a huge decision and sets the wheels in motion before he consults Virginia? Bad things that’s what and while on the surface everything between Bill and Virginia at the end of the season is in a good place, this sabotage and its impact on Virginia’s personal life is going to loom large as a point of potential conflict.

Masters of Sex 2.12 Bill and VirginiaThis finale covers a lot of ground both in time (from November 1960- January 1961) and story. This has been true of the entire second season and at times episodes have felt overstuffed with how many different plot points and social issues they attempt to cover. This finale was mostly successful in addressing the major storylines of the second half of this season; Bill’s impotence, Barb and Lester’s dysfunctions, the Flo/Austin dynamic, Libby’s desire to feel part of something and the recent custody battle between Virginia and her ex-husband George.

Starting off as the episode did with Bill’s problem and we see how the pair comes at it from a scientific angle with moments of success and failure; overall it appears this new method is one they can base their line of research on and Bill is cured to an extent. As a team they work incredibly well together on this matter when Bill finally opened himself up and admitted that a) there was an issue that needed addressing and b) he let Virginia see him in this vulnerable state. Intimacy is one thing, but without trust and completely laying yourself bare (both physically and emotionally) only so much can be achieved.

Bill ended last week being cradled by Virginia and this week it is his turn to provide the comforting embrace. Virginia has not been very present at home and after allowing her kids to go on a 6-week trip to Europe with their father George and his new wife Audrey, the question of custody comes up. Back when the divorce papers were drawn up George never signed the custody document and this leaves Virginia wide open to legal proceedings. So for George to have a chance at custody it means an impending smear campaign to show what an unfit mother Virginia is, effectively putting both Virginia and the study on trial. George takes a drink to the face for this threat – which looks so satisfying – and it causes Virginia to spiral.

Masters of Sex 2.12 Libby and VirginiaOne thing Virginia does is contemplate quitting the study all together and rather than discussing this with Bill she instead talks to Libby who also happens to be going through her own crisis. Libby’s response to Virginia’s dilemma is to ask her what she wants for her kids – safety, happiness, that they know they’re loved – and to suggest that maybe what is right for both Virginia and her kids is to let them go for now.

The question of “Can a woman have it all?” in this form is a relatively new idea, but it has clearly existed for a lot longer than the last twenty years and just because the 50s/60s were predicated on this notion of a certain type of family dynamic with the ideal housewife it doesn’t mean women didn’t struggle with this same BS question. Libby mentions how maybe they should look at what their lives are actually like rather than what they thought they would be and this is an extension of her speech to Robert from last week. Libby has been deeply unhappy for a long time and motherhood has not filled the empty void as she expected it would. Instead it left her feeling more alone and the gulf between Libby and Bill has got even wider.

Like George who suspects that Virginia is sleeping with Bill, Libby knows Bill has been having an affair for years and while she doesn’t mention Virginia by name after her reaction to the TV interview last week, Libby has to know it is Virginia. Libby explains to Robert the different stages of her denial about Bill’s affair at first pretending she didn’t know, followed by looking the other way and then focusing on the children. It hasn’t been enough and then she met Robert; she’s not willing to give up on finally feeling. The Libby story has been a bit of a mess this season, but these final two episodes have been rather satisfying in finally seeing Libby experience a connection like this and in how she has articulated both to Robert and Virginia this idea of wanting something more.

Masters of Sex 2.12 John and JackieAnother cornerstone of a successful relationship is communication and this is something Virginia and Bill possess in droves, except when they don’t. Communication is key to overcoming Bill’s boner problem tying in with the Kennedy election victory and in Bill’s dream he gets to play the role of JFK with a ticker tape parade and Virginia in Jackie Kennedy attire. The celebration is cut short by Libby standing in the middle of the road as the wronged woman dressed all in red.

Masters of Sex 2.12 LibbyThe outfit and shot (this episode was directed by Alan Arkin, pulling double duty) are stunning and at this point Libby is both the scarlet and the wronged woman. Is this Bill’s subconscious pointing out that Libby is stepping out on him (and at this moment is recalling her incredible sexual encounter with Robert in the bathroom) or that she is someone who should be considered before he can ride off into the sunset with Virginia?

Both Virginia and Bill neglect to tell the other what they intend to do with Bill killing the TV appearance without telling Virginia about his plan to do so and Virginia doesn’t let Bill know about her George custody issues. Bill gets some much needed advice from an old friend and I definitely cheered when Barton Scully sat down. Barton points out that Bill has a very specific way of blazing ahead and not considering the people he might hurt in the process (as well as himself in the long run). It’s the one man show and focusing on Bill’s terms only that leads to moments like this. Barton talks of letting people in and taking a leap of faith; how even though Margaret left him, by telling her everything has still meant they have been in it together. Bill and Virginia are so in sync in certain ways, but they still have a habit of shutting down when they are at their most vulnerable.

Virginia scoffs at the tissues that are placed in front of her earlier in the episode and she projects this very strong, unbreakable figure and her only moment of teary weakness this season has been to do with Lillian’s illness (*sob*). Lizzy Caplan is exceptional in this episode at conveying the unraveling of Virginia; from the way she answers the phone after she has told her kids about the new arrangement as she sucks back in her anguish and holds it together, to the full on letting it go despair after they have seen their rivals on TV (oh hi Ethan!). There’s also a manic energy when Virginia explains what she thinks is a foolproof plan to get Henry and Tessa back, a plan that would have been better if one of Bill or Virginia had spoken to the other about these matters. I couldn’t quite figure out just why Bill was so insistent about Virginia scrapping this plan other than he knows how much her kids matter, that is until it is revealed who the saboteur is. Oh, Bill.

Masters of Sex 2.12 group shockCostume designer Ane Crabtree and her team have been killing it all season and here’s just one such instance; in the scene above they are watching the Dr Kaufman/Ethan TV piece and I love how in tune everyone in this scene is as they are all wearing something on the grey/blue color spectrum in similar tones from this palette. Even Betty who tends to stand out in a bold ensemble is wearing something more muted and this offers a sense of unity even if there is someone among them *cough* Bill *cough* who “has massively fucked up.” Unlike the first half of the season, the study has a home, even if it is a shaky one at this point.

Masters of Sex 2.12 mirroring colorAnother case of compatible colors with Barb and Lester both in autumnal tones and earlier they even wear matching clothes, well pajamas. There is a certain synchronicity to this pairing and watching their relationship blossom has been incredibly satisfying. Lester uses his passion for film to come to terms with his approach to romance; he doesn’t want the phony Hollywood ideal, instead he wants something passionate but messy like Antonioni. After a discussion with Bill regarding taking sex out of this relationship and how it hasn’t been problematic, it becomes clear that Lester and Barb do want to explore this side and this is how we close out the season. Both Bill and Virginia admit their past failings when treating Lester and Bard – this also in way feels like Bill silently apologizing to Virginia for killing their TV appearance – and they want to start again by really helping them this time. Trust and a leap of faith are both key to this process; they are all in this together as equal partners striving for the same goal.

Masters of Sex 2.12 Barb and LesterHere’s a stunning shot (although rather dark) of Barb and Lester outside the movies talking about Pillow Talk. It might be because of all the Kennedy imagery throughout the episode and a similar hairstyle, but the pink ensemble Barb is wearing is giving me so many Jackie Kennedy feelings.

Masters of Sex 2.12 BettyAnd even though she didn’t have a crazy amount to do in the season finale, I wanted to include this shot of Betty in a beautiful pink cheongsam complete with a stunning butterfly pin as she gets all misty eyed at JFK’s speech. Betty did also pipe up about while she makes fun of Bill’s bow ties, the long one he wore on TV just isn’t him and he should insist on his regular attire. I hope that Betty gets to be more than just the comic relief in the office next season and gets something more substantial like she had at the start of this season.

One story that has been far more miss than hit for me is Austin and Flo. The general tone and direction of their interactions have felt widely out on their own and while this is still the case this week, the gender reversal aspect felt more of a success this week. It turns out that Flo is connected politically and now that Kennedy is in office so is one of her brothers and this is super appealing to Austin. Austin wants to go to the fancy DNC party with Flo and she turns him down explaining by pretty much calling him a dumb blonde. Austin is dumbfounded that he isn’t up to the standards of Flo’s family and this is the most I have enjoyed this pairing all season.

So while Cal-o-Metric has been one of the weakest aspects of this season, there has been a lot more good on Masters of Sex to make up for narrative messiness and at times a lack of clear direction. At the heart is the Bill and Virginia relationship and whenever this has been the focus it has been mesmerizing, which is why “Fight” is such an exceptional episode. Everything to do with Lillian and Virginia’s friendship was a pure knockout and I’m so glad we got to see something this special, even if it was cut short by Lillian’s cancer. There will always be Lilantha. Masters of Sex is an ambitious show and this has been clear by how many different topics it has covered this year and despite not hitting all the marks, it has been a stimulating watching experience and one that will hopefully be a bit more focused in season 3.

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The Americans 2.12 “Operation Chronicle” Review: “Take it Easy”

15 May

These words from Philip offer little comfort to Elizabeth as she questions how well their own children would handle Jared’s current predicament and she believes this day will eventually come. Family has played an intrinsic part on The Americans this season and remains in focus as we head into the final episode of the year. There is the burden of isolation that runs through all of these characters with some choosing this path of loneliness, while others cling to the relationships they have. Some of these connections are there to serve a greater purpose and yet still produce moments of emotional honesty even if the bonds aren’t real.

One unseen threat – to Philip and Elizabeth – is Larrick as he continues his hunt, building the tension and dread as the episode progresses. How much you can rely on the country you serve is called into question and Paige also feels doubt towards her parents as she continues to (rightly) sense they are lying to her.

The Americans 2.12 kitchenA couple of episodes ago I wrote about the kitchen location and how it represents the constant push/pull between their home life and their work; it’s where they spend time with their kids and doing domestic tasks, but it’s also where they debrief and plot. There’s also the rebellious streak with Elizabeth smoking in there and having sex on the dining room table while the kids sleep upstairs. The family they have is part of their cover and the initial union between Philip and Elizabeth was nothing more than part of this setup. Emotions were never meant to come into play, but when you bring children into the world together and really fall for each other, well then it is going to get complicated.

The first season saw Philip and Elizabeth take the first steps towards making this real and in doing so they have become stronger as a couple, however they have also compromised their abilities to remain impartial. With Paige and Henry, Philip might have always been the fun dad and Elizabeth as the disciplinarian but in “Operation Chronicle” we see that Philip has a lot more confidence in their abilities to deal if they were put in the same position as Jared.

Elizabeth is far less certain of this citing the fact they had each other when they first came to this unknown country, plus they had training. The one thing they have in common is their lack of choice. Jared is now heading to a destination unknown – Switzerland, Hungary and Australia are all options – and he’s going to lose any connections he once had. Jared has already lost his family, but to lose everything else that makes up his identity doesn’t sit well with Elizabeth. This feels like a role reversal as Elizabeth is taking the position of questioning the decisions of the Centre; this isn’t her duty to her country talking, but the promise she made to a friend and her instincts of being a mother. It’s not like Philip is shoulder shrugging the whole thing, but he’s of the more pragmatic school of thought on this one.

When it comes to their own kids, Philip has faith in them pointing out how smart Paige is and while Henry is still a kid, who knows in a couple of years? In fact we’ve seen Henry’s capacity for defending both himself and his sister when he smashed a bottle of beer over the creepy duck feeding dude last season. Plus he knows how to break and enter, even if it is just to play video games. Henry also provides some pop culture analysis this week discussing the first Star Trek movie (which he is not a fan of) and the forthcoming Wrath of Khan (which he thinks has some potential thanks to Khan, but he doesn’t have high expectations) so hey he could be a movie critic. Get in there Henry, while there is still money in it.

The Americans 2.12 PaigeThere continues to be tension between Paige and her parents, with Elizabeth on the receiving end of Paige’s disappointment this week thanks to a work emergency. The emergency is real (Jared), but of course they concoct a semi-believable lie to throw Paige off the scent. Paige listens in on their phone call, but the click of the receiver reveals her presence and her parents are far too experienced to fall for this. Paige wanted to pack her bags for her big protest trip with her mom and this disappointment is genuine; yet another occasion where their work has got in the way of spending time with their kids. Paige talks to Pastor Tim – who I get a creepy vibe off, it might be his hair – about her parents and how she thinks they both could be having an affair and whatever it is, she doesn’t believe anything they say anymore. The magic is gone and her instincts are right, I mean they have both technically had affairs, it’s just there’s no way Paige would ever think they were something as dramatic as KGB spies.

The above outfit would not look out of place now proving that plaid is a timeless pattern that transcends the decades of the latter half of the twentieth century and this one we are currently in.

The Americans 2.12 meeting FredOh hey it’s Elizabeth’s disguise she used a few weeks ago when she went to an AA meeting and now she’s using this as a cover to help push Fred towards getting what they need with the RAM paint samples. It’s appropriate that these two disguises are paired together as Philip had his moment of despair while wearing this attire in the same episode as Elizabeth’s post AA share session. Stan mentioned how KGB spies would look for weakness and exploit it and Philip and Elizabeth are doing just this with Fred. Fred is a loner and so Emmett used tales of his family to make Fred feel wanted and part of something, by bringing Elizabeth along to this meeting Philip is doing the same thing. They also appeal to Fred’s sense of superiority and this achieves the response they want as he agrees to going through with their plan.

The Americans 2.12 FredLet’s take a moment to look at this stunning shot of Fred in the snow and looking as isolated as it comes – oh hey thanks Polar Vortex for helping create these shots even if it’s the worst to shoot in.

The reasons behind helping the cause are varied; for Elizabeth and Philip it’s how they were raised, with Larrick it’s blackmail, for some it’s money, others think their government is corrupt and deserves it and for someone like Fred it’s there chance to be a somebody and belong. Loyalty and trust are hard to come by and while Philip and Elizabeth now implicitly trust each other, it hasn’t always been the case. This is one of the benefits of falling in love and while it has had a negative impact on how well they do their job at times, this kind of trust is not the kind that can be bought. Of course they still have very different processes and Elizabeth’s hot headed nature is the kind of thing that could put them in danger, it has put them in danger in fact. Philip is more emotional in general, but more measured in the field and as they come up against the unseen Larrick I wonder if either of them is really prepared for what they will face.

The Americans 2.12 Clark and MarthaMartha’s figured out one of Clark’s secrets and that’s his ‘toupee’ situation. Philip is quite taken aback by this, but there’s no way that thing that sits on his head feels like actual hair. If anyone was wondering whether Martha and Clark use any form of protection the used condom disposal answers that question, but uh oh as Martha wants to have kids with Clark. This isn’t up for discussion and now I’m wondering if Martha will go to any kind of extremes to get what she wants.

As Clark, Philip discusses why having kids in this line of work is a bad idea and this applies to his real life, but the kids he had are part of that cover. Those kids, like Jared are a product of a larger plan they are unaware of and these children are caught in the crossfire (for Amelia the literal kind). It’s a complex scheme because their children are going to be their number one priority and they’ve been told to produce something they will be more loyal to than the country they are serving. Elizabeth is the more staunch believer and her reaction and instant desire to protect a child that is not even hers shows the lengths she would go to if there was a threat to either Paige or Henry. Family trumps country.

The Americans 2.12 NinaWhat about a lover? Stan is being asked to betray his country to save Nina’s life and while she’s playing him, her life really does hang in the balance if he doesn’t come through. Stan’s been going through it this season and I’d really like to see him get a win, as long as this doesn’t cause Nina’s death, nor negatively impact Philip and Elizabeth. Stan has been tasked with getting information on Echo (the title of the finale) to save Nina and Nina has another benefactor in Oleg as he gives her an envelope stuffed full of cash if she has to go on the run. Where would Nina go? Like Jared, Nina would end up somewhere unknown and alone and the connections she has made, both real and fake would end here. Stan is also pretty isolated as Sandra’s moving in with this other guy and his son can barely look at him; unlike the Jennings’ kitchen which is generally full of warmth (Bible destruction aside), the Beeman’s couldn’t feel anymore sterile or unwelcome. Not even a pilfered VHS copy of The Rocky Horror Picture Show can win Stan cool dad points.

Taking it easy is a luxury none of these characters can afford, especially when there is a silent threat stalking them. The seen and the unseen is an important concept as there is a lot of blind loyalty and following orders from someone they never see. In losing Kate and their answering service George, they have lost their physical connection to what they are trying to achieve and now they are being sent short messages with missions that serve the cause, but don’t protect them from other dangers. Larrick and Stan threaten Philip and Elizabeth for very different reasons and Larrick poses a far bigger menace to the personal safety of their family. One other source of peril is Philip and Elizabeth themselves as while they are a more united than they have ever been before, there does still exist conflict between them and how they deal with the problems they encounter; could this be the real enemy within?

With just one episode to go the crackling tension that has been building all season is about to boil over and I have a feeling we are in for some heartbreak come next week. How many physical and emotional casualties will there be? As with last year my worries lie at the feet of both Nina and Martha.

Julie Hammerle

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