Tag Archives: Helen Yorke

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 2.01 “Parallax” Review: Going off Book

14 Jul

The big rain soaked grand gesture that ended season 1 of Masters of Sex is revisited in the form of flashback from both Bill and Virginia’s perspective throughout this premiere – the different points of view give the episode its title – and it is even followed by an equally rom-com like “What do we do now?” This question is incredibly loaded and neither Bill nor Virginia is very good at saying what they really mean; there is no scientific instrument than can speak for the (metaphorical) heart. Everything has been displaced and in this excellent first outing back we see pretty much every character clinging to the past while being deluded about the present. As with last year these reviews will be looking at Masters of Sex through the prism of costume design and how this plays a part in the overall narrative, as well as exploring other broader themes this show is addressing. Masters of Sex 2.01 no eye contactStarting at the end of the episode, which in a sense is the beginning of this seasons time line as Bill and Virginia discuss the finer points of Freud’s “there are no accidents” philosophy – this is one occasion where they agree with Freud after debunking his female orgasm theory – and end up in their standard stalemate relationship position. Bill and Virginia work incredibly well together and are both rather intuitive when it comes to the work, not so much with saying how they really feel as one of them is always erecting walls to protect their heart. Bill was the one to lay it all out this time and then pulled the classic “oh you misunderstood what was saying” after Virginia use word “affair” and how amazing he is for getting that she choose work over love. They can barely look at each other in this scene and they’re wearing their standard armor; Virginia’s high neckline/dark palette is her serious person wear and Bill’s immaculate suit and bow tie reflects his stiff exterior. Masters of Sex 2.01 Bill and Virginia suspendersTheir versions of armor do get stripped away in the bedroom and this is the first time they have been intimate outside of a controlled environment and it is jarring seeing them engaging like this outside of blue robes and medical instruments. The quick cuts as they go from doorstep to bedroom and finally a longer sequence of them naked enhances how impulsive this moment is and they are both laid out bare both physically and emotionally. Bill’s inquisitive side comes into play as he checks Virginia’s pulse and the first mention of no medical equipment is uttered; it’s impossible for this pair to separate the study from intimacy. This is the barrier they have used in the past to justify what they are doing as science. Now comes the psychological side of sex and Virginia ponders how they will measure this kind of data. Ah the study and its ability to provide an excuse for ignoring what is really going on while confronting these feelings in equal measures; Virginia even refers to it as “like nuclear rain falling on us all.” That is some stark imagery. Masters of Sex 2.01 kimonoVirginia barely wears any color in this episode and the ones she does are relatively muted aside from the celadon scarf that gets commented on at the hotel (“you can call it green”) and this incredible floral kimono. Again this is a much different look to the blue robes worn during Virginia’s previous sexual encounters with Bill and while they have of course been intimate with each other prior to this, the different setting and personal details like this kimono show how this relationship enters a new phase only to be back where they started by the end of the premiere. The different versions of the phone call, one in which we see Bill with a post-sex hopeful glow as Virginia turns down Ethan and the other as we hear Ethan’s side and see Virginia choosing work over love (even if she was never really in love with Ethan) earn an “it’s complicated” relationship status update. Masters of Sex 2.01 AustinIf this episode had a sponsor it would be denial and the result of what denial can do is helpfully demonstrated by Dr. Austin Langham as he hides from his scorned wife in Dr. Lillian DePaul’s office – he interrupts Lillian and Virginia having their own conversation about denial – as she roams the halls with her kids in tow yelling about her unfaithful husband. I have to admit that I totally bought into Austin’s sincere sounding declaration that he was a changed man and was no longer the cheating hound dog he was last season. Instead he has actually been sleeping with his sister-in-law and his fear of the study being like a mummy’s curse wasn’t his downfall, his inability to keep it in his pants did that just fine. Virginia getting to hold yet another baby reluctantly combined with Lillian’s admonishing of Austin made this the comic relief this episode craved. It also raised the question of whether Virginia should have ratted out where Austin was as a sign of solidarity even though Austin is the one who is her friend, not his wife and this situation is even more problematic as Virginia is also currently sleeping with the husband of a friend (no I am never buying the “it’s for science” defense which is why the Bill/Libby/Virginia love triangle is so fascinating). In one other moment of hilarity Lizzy Caplan did get to show off her fantastic comic timing as she attempts to use the script given to her to sell the diet pills, improv is definitely more Virginia’s speed. Masters of Sex 2.01 Libby and VirginiaWhile I’m on the subject of the Libby/Virginia friendship it is a good time to point out the stunning outfit Libby wears while on her trip to the hospital – inspired by Dior’s New Look – and there’s a couple of things that stand out to me here. First there’s light and dark; Virginia is in her standard dark tones and it’s not surprising considering the reaction from hospital employees that Virginia is doing all she can to not stand out. Libby is facing similar stares when out at functions and I’m not sure if she is aware of these disapproving looks or is she is using standard WASP protocol and pretending everything is fine, I suspect the latter. The color of this dress matches her son’s attire and it instantly made me think of how the Virgin Mary is often depicted wearing light blue and white. Masters of Sex 2.01 baby johnnyThis is reflected later when Bill scoffs that their baby isn’t Jesus despite being a ‘miracle,’ no to Bill he is like a crying monster to be drowned out by records and thoughts of Virginia. If only he could see the above shot to make things even more jumbled in Bill’s mind. Masters of Sex 2.01 horror povPure horror movie POV as Bill contemplates entering dear, sweet Johnny’s room before opting for the record player. Libby later calls Bill a “baby magician” before realizing that his mother is the one with the baby skills beyond the hospital. Bill’s baby fear stems from his own troubled family history and he banishes his mother back to Ohio after spitting at her how he is sleeping with Virginia and that he has become both his father and her. Bill really needs therapy as these issues are not going away and it is unfortunate that Libby has to deal with both their crying child and her repressive husband. Masters of Sex 2.01 LibbyLibby asks for advice from Virginia with how to deal with Bill’s work situation and Virginia’s words of wisdom focus on Libby “most of all I would take care of myself, it’s all you can do” as Bill is not great when being pushed in a certain direction. Libby does some of the former, but really more of the latter and this calls for more stunning vintage garments including this blue alpaca coat. Masters of Sex 2.01 poisedLibby is all poise at this event showing off what is under the above alpaca coat – a spectacular necklace and pale blue dress -as she tries to make things work, all while Bill is polishing off multiple martinis and snarking about her attempts to talk to Greathouse. Bill has his own chance meeting that helps him secure a new job and outlet for the study (more on that below). Masters of Sex 2.01 Libby floralTying Virginia and Libby together through floral print is not something I would have necessarily expected; Libby wears hers to maintain her social standing and to help Bill’s career through the only way she knows how and Virginia’s comes as personal and professional intersect in a new location. Libby and Virginia are of course linked through Bill and as their friendship developed prior to any Bill/Virginia sexy times it makes everything even more complicated. Libby is a sympathetic figure – which a lot of other shows with a difficult/brilliant man storyline have struggled with – and at the same time she isn’t painted as a weak 1950s housewife. There is real steely determination here and I worried when Masters of Sex first started that Libby would end up as nothing more than a pretty face with a nagging disposition so that you would will Bill and Virginia to be together. Instead we have a character who has strength and isn’t afraid to go against her husband’s wishes if she thinks it will help her family. That Bill has two women like this in his life who want to go to bat for him, despite his prickly and difficult nature is pretty astounding.

We know that when Bill lets his guard down there is a very caring side as he shows when he accompanies Barton to his electroshock therapy. When Barton pukes on him he barely blinks “it’s just a suit.” Bill can’t hide his disgust at this barbaric course of treatment and he uses science to try and convince Barton that he shouldn’t continue down this path.

Masters of Sex 2.01 Scully womenI’ve talked about how the theme of this episode is denial and Barton has this is droves as he tries to convince himself and Margaret that he can be ‘cured.’ Margaret sees through his sexual advances as soon as he wants to do it from behind pleading with him “there’s only a shred of me left that feels like a woman.” Margaret and Barton break my heart on every level in this episode – and have all but guaranteed repeat Emmy nominations for this time next year – as they both struggle with the reality of Barton’s sexuality. He so desperately wants to feel another way that his last resort is suicide and he is saved by his wife and daughter who have just returned from a shopping spree. Mother and daughter discuss the color of Vivian’s new top – she’s moving away from the pinks of last season as she has grown up and is talking about moving away – when they hear what they think is a thud from the basement window. Instead it is Barton’s hanging attempt and thankfully they reach him in time to save his life. Where the Scullys go from here is unclear, but they aren’t letting even those nearest to them in as Margaret makes excuses to Bill; a long distance phone call is the 50s version of a video call I guess. Masters of Sex 2.01 LillianWhat dish of denial is Lillian cooking up with her medicine cabinet story? Am I wrong in inferring that alcohol might be behind this shiner? One thing that I love about Masters of Sex is that it doesn’t have just one great lady friendship, there are currently three – though Jane will be departing soon sadly – and each brings out a different richness. Lillian and Virginia call each other out on their BS, Lillian disapproves of the diet pills Virginia is hawking and Virginia quickly flips the tables when Lillian blames her black eye on an object and not a person. Lillian has trouble getting her words out which might add to my booze theory or it could be down to her illness which I fear will take this incredible character away from us. It’s all about being careful and not reckless, a position that sends Virginia down Bill Masters memory lane for the final time in “Parallax” (this title also sounds like a diet pill to be honest) as their guarded nature could be seen as being careful, but it is probably going to be far more detrimental in the long run. Lillian as ever is buttoned up and muted in her costuming. Masters of Sex 2.01 Jane yellowYellow bag, coat, dress and jewelry is what I wanted from Jane’s brief appearance this season (Heléne Yorke is switching with Annaleigh Ashford as the actress with Broadway commitments this year) and I’m really going to miss this character’s ability to be honest without being hurtful. Jane wants Virginia to move to California as she thinks Virginia is deluding herself with the study and Bill. It’s colorful versus muted tones once again (Virginia’s collar is making me think of vicars and how she is trying to reject the sexual image people associate with her after the presentation) and Virginia also uses this opportunity to convince her friend that maybe she isn’t making the right choice either. Jane is following her dream and in a way Virginia is doing the same by putting her faith in Bill and their work. Masters of Sex 2.01 BettyBetty is back! Welcome to another installment of denial as she still hasn’t told her husband that a) she is gay and b) she can’t have kids. Masters knows about both of these things and is pissed that he has been drawn into this mess again, but hey he also gets to restart the study and get a new job out of this association so let’s play nice Bill. Betty is also not thrilled to see Bill and the Pretzel King is oblivious to all of this. Oh, Greg Grunberg (and another Felicity alum getting discussed on both his former and current show). Betty wears red, which was a staple color during her brief, but memorable stint last season and her relationship with Bill is one of the many conflicts I am looking forward to them exploring this year. An excellent first episode back propelling the story forward while characters try to adjust to big changes while denying that anything is different despite the obvious shifts and upheavals. Incredible work from Ane Crabtree and her costume design team as they add another layer to the text through what the characters wear and how they wear it.

Masters of Sex 1.12 “Manhigh” Costume Review: Reaching for the Stars

16 Dec

The first season of Masters of Sex uses space exploration as mirror to the pioneering research occurring in exam room 5; Bill and Virginia want to know everything about the act that can create life, whereas the notion of space travel is looking at life beyond Earth. Both include scary prospects and the potential to reveal things that could change the way we live, but only one of these is on prime time while the grand unveiling of the other is met with horror and aversion.

Ane Crabtree’s costume design for the whole of the first season has been tremendous and adds another layer to the storytelling as well as influencing my own sweater purchases. Each character has their own signature style and this reflects not only their attitudes towards sex, but also shows there is a lot more to this era than being buttoned up.

Masters of Sex 1.12 BillThe look of Bill Masters has been consistent throughout and there have only been a few occasions where he hasn’t been in his standard bow tie, suspenders and jacket attire. This is Bill’s uniform and it gives the impression of tradition, but the small polka dot detail on his bow tie hints at something slightly less repressed. Over the season we have seen Bill loosen up in private; his public demeanor is still pretty much the uptight dude that we met in the pilot. In the final scene Bill doesn’t cover Virginia’s eyes as he did last time he choked up and he openly admits that he needs her; I don’t think Bill has ever admitted that he needs someone other than himself. Bill is making that all important grand gesture.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Incredulous BillA slightly different bow tie/shirt combo (polka dots and check) and he’s pulling his best incredulous face. Bill throws himself under the bus to protect Barton’s job and says “Fuck them” in the process. The one thing he remains blind to is Libby, despite her attempts to be part of the project he is so passionate about.

Masters of Sex 1.12 dinner no showThe Masters home has never looked more lonely and cramped all at once as not a single person turns up to the post lecture dinner party celebration. Libby asks Bill who the woman in the video is and tells him other people think it is Virginia. Bill denies this without ever saying that it isn’t Virginia, he simply leads Libby’s questioning to get her to come to that conclusion.

Masters of sex 1.12 Virginia and JaneIn an ugly exchange one of the male doctors (the same doctor who raised his Martini glass to the notion that size doesn’t matter) tells Virginia that it was more of her than he needed to see in the presentation.  Both Jane and Virginia are appalled at this accusation and it doesn’t matter that we know it was Virginia, what matters is that as soon as it turned to female sexuality the attitude changed from frat house to nunnery. Jane is in the bold yellow we have come to associate her with and despite the reception to the study, she isn’t going to change who she is nor fade into the background in muted tones. Virginia has favored dark colors throughout the season, but color has all but disappeared since the time she started sleeping with Bill (except in his fantasy version of her last week).

Masters of Sex 1.12 Virginia close upThis close up comes after the presentation has been shut down during the provocative Virginia film. Virginia marches to the elevator and as with The Good WifeMasters of Sex has used this space for moments of escape (as with Margaret Scully in “Brave New World“), to show the disconnect between Bill and Virginia last week and as a place where Lillian attempted to get more money for her study. Here it looks like Virginia has been punched in the stomach or as if she’s going to throw up.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Virginia collarHere’s another shot from the same scene as I want to highlight the collar detail and the bold white lapels of this dress as they cross over each other on the back. Pretty much all of Virginia’s work clothes are smart and chic; embellished collars are incredibly popular during this time period and Virginia always appears to be one step ahead of the other ladies who work at the hospital. Virginia’s time working as a singer in a variety of music halls definitely impacts her costuming choices.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Lester and JaneI’ve already mentioned the yellow of Jane’s post presentation outfit and even though she isn’t going to lose her golden glow because of the reaction to the study she’s still embarrassed by how much of her has been aired in public, particularly as everyone is calling it dirty. Jane has been instrumental throughout the study and she thinks that her vaginal walls have brought down the whole kingdom. Lester does a good job of reassuring this isn’t the case and she should also remember her words to Bill earlier “It was just the insecure men who didn’t want to hear about how women are you know, sexually superior.” This statement really gets the heart and hypocrisy of the matter and it looks likes the Chancellor et al are similar to the MPAA.

Masters of Sex 1.12 LesterThe Lester/Jane relationship is very sweet and Lester’s earthy tones compliment the sunny disposition of Jane’s predominantly yellow wardrobe. Lester’s concern for how much masturbation is too much leads to one of the funniest lines of the season with Bill telling him “I can spot a statistically average masturbator from a mile away.” That’s a special skill to put on your resume now you’re out of a job Bill.

Masters of Sex 1.12 AustinAustin propositions Jane as they discuss how the study started with them. Austin comes across as confident (even though we know he has had performance issues in the past) and he’s suave whereas Lester is awkward. Costume wise they are incredibly different with Lester’s sweater vests and glasses and Austin’s well tailored expensive suits. Lester is the one who ends up getting a smooch and he’s definitely more relationship material as I can see Austin coasting from woman to woman without ever being truly satisfied.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Libby and JaneThe Libby/Jane working partnership continues as they sort out handouts, Martinis and canapés. Libby is dressed predominantly in baby blue this week and this is yet another beautiful maternity dress. As I have previously mentioned, Libby’s character progression from housewife to now has been exciting to watch as she has become so much more than the lazy option of the nagging housewife.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Libby baby blueIn an even lighter baby blue ensemble Libby is boxing up supplies for the Urban League and this points again to Libby as non-prejudicial. Libby goes into labor in this scene, as they can’t get hold of Bill and the baby is coming fast there’s no option but to take Libby to a different and predominantly African American hospital. This the second time this season in which Libby has gone to a different hospital accompanied by an African American and the main thing this is suggesting is that Libby is not a racist; the pilot episode touched on racial prejudice in Bill’s hospital and I wonder if season 2 is going to deal more with Civil Rights beyond this surface level next year. The giant white lapels on this woman’s dress mirror Virginia’s, showing that it’s a popular style, just not necessarily one that Virginia’s co-workers share.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Libby babyLibby is perfectly content after giving birth to a baby boy (as the blue blanket suggests) and she turns down the offer to call Bill right away; the conception was a solo effort (with the aid of Ethan) and the birth mirrors Bill’s absent role so far. The writers have altered the timeline of the Masters’ children for dramatic purposes and as we go forward the relationship between Bill and Libby is going to shift; will Libby fight for their marriage or is this child enough for her?

Masters of Sex 1.12 Lillian lunchWhat is enough for Lillian with her research? She attempts a different strategy to try and get more funding; this time there’s no awkward flirty banter and instead Lillian goes in hard. The result is still the same and she comes away empty handed. Lillian’s clothes are still rigid and functional and most women don’t want to be seen by a female OB/GYN despite Lillian’s attempts to keep her gender out of her performance as a doctor.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Dr DePaulOn two separate occasions we see Lillian taking off her lab coat – the first is prior to the lunch where she gets no funding and the second comes as Virginia suggests a different approach. Virginia thinks that Lillian needs to look beyond Pap smears; she needs to aim big to get the money she requires. At first Virginia suggests breast cancer, followed by the contraceptive pill. Virginia does her homework (it’s how she knew about the Pap smear when she first met Lillian) and the contraceptive pill is going to revolutionize medicine for women. Spoiler alert it doesn’t go on the market until 1960 and yet I can see this linking into Lillian’s work next season. This is if Lillian is still around and I really hope she is as Julianne Nicholson has brought something special to this season.

Masters of Sex 1.12 MargaretAllison Janney is another Masters of Sex MVP and in the season finale she confronts Barton regarding his sexuality and later visits the doctor who is going to ‘cure’ him. There are similarities between Margaret Scully and Libby Masters in their marital situations –  Bill isn’t gay, but he doesn’t love his wife in a sexual way – and this is reflected in their costuming as Margaret also wears baby blue this week. This is yet another beautiful and ornate broach in the Margaret Scully collection, rivaling The Good Wife’s Diane Lockhart.

Masters of Sex 1.12 closetBarton essentially steps out of his closet when Margaret confronts him about his sexual preference by using a headline in the paper as a segue. It’s a frank and honest chat; this surprised me considering how long Barton has been keeping it a secret (around 40 years) and it’s pretty calm and collected at first. Margaret explodes due to how long Barton has known he has feelings for men and she accuses him of stealing time from her. It’s an incredibly complex and heartbreaking scenario, even more so when Margaret hears what options are available to stop Barton feeling this way towards men.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Barton and MagaretThe shot above comes from the moment where Margaret tells Barton to not have electro shock therapy as the risks far outweigh what it might do. The memories that she mentions are not grand life altering ones, but small moments that add to their 30 years together and she doesn’t want to lose that. Barton tells her he won’t go through with it and this is yet another lie. It’s a stunning composition as Margaret is in the light of the bedside lamp and Baton is in darkness as they embrace on the bed they haven’t shared for years.

Masters of Sex 1.12 Bill prepThis is another moment that uses a bold light to enhance the framing of a character; this time from a natural source as Bill prepares to go out and make his presentation. In this moment he is still in darkness and he’s about to unleash his work on the world.

Masters of Sex 1.12 EthanEthan spends most of the episode away in California where he is having a job interview. It’s all going well between Virginia and Ethan and he even proposes to her in this scene while he is staring at the ocean in sun kissed California. This is in contrast to the rain soaked St. Louis, Missouri and the declaration that Bill makes in person. Ethan has definitely changed from the jerk we met in the pilot and he is great with Virginia’s kids and yet he can’t offer the stars in the same way Bill can.

Masters of Sex 1.12 the studyLike the heroes of Project Manhigh who have reached new heights, so have Bill and Virginia and they have done so together. The envelope full of money was Bill’s ill judged reaction to his guilt induced by Libby’s pregnancy and in this final scene of season 1, Bill emotionally undresses and lays out the truth. It’s not the work Bill can’t live without, it’s Virginia. So that’s not one but two propositions for Virginia as we end season 1 and while it’s easy to guess which way she will lean, the episode overall is a very satisfactory resolution to an excellent first season.

Masters of Sex 1.11 “Phallic Victories” Costume Review: Are You Good Enough?

9 Dec

Virginia Johnson pulls many people into her orbit; some describe her as being like “Technicolor” and with others there is a rapport through a conflicting personality type. Bill Masters and Lillian DePaul are part of the latter group and Virginia enhances their work by focusing on personal aspects beyond just science. It’s perhaps fitting then, that the episode closes with Virginia singing you “Don’t Know Me” (and yes that is Lizzy Caplan singing) as we still have barely scratched the surface with who Virginia really is, while closed off characters have revealed their innermost secrets and fears. We know what other people think of her and yet the inner life of Virginia Johnson is still a mystery.

Masters of Sex 1.11 Masters' version of VirginiaBill has his own fantasy version of Virginia in this episode, as he no longer has the real one to talk to after she quit last week and Bill is not the kind of person who will make the first move towards a reconciliation. Instead he has these imaginary chats where ‘Virginia’ points out the missteps that he is taking with this new presentation idea. She also reminds him that she was more than just a secretary; this is his projection of guilt. The lighting is dimmer in these moments and in the scene above her posture is emphasizing her chest and there’s a sultry, but disdainful quality to this look.

Masters of Sex 1.11 VirginiaIn reality this is how Virginia looks in the same attire, in Lillian’s office instead and it’s a lot less pouty and perky. There’s a relaxed quality to the Johnson/DePaul relationship even if Lillian is just as prickly as Bill ever was; it helps that there is no sexual tension.

Masters of Sex 1.11 fantasy VirginiaBill’s version of Virginia works on several levels; she acts as the voice of reason and she imparts a much needed confidence boost. ‘Virginia’ challenges his new presentation idea as he’s going to make a bold statement that he can’t back up with sufficient evidence and it’s a big claim; he’s going to state that size doesn’t matter. Bill’s reasoning is that he needs to keep people in the room so they hear the actual discoveries they have made and he’s afraid that if the work isn’t a success then he will have lost everything. ‘Virginia’ tells him that he is a “bigger man” than all of this and the real fear isn’t to do with size, “the fear is are you good enough?” Bill doesn’t think he is a bigger man and this loops back to his earlier comment to Libby that there is always something to prove.

Fantasy Virginia wears a variety of outfits including the grey that matches what the actual Virginia is wearing, the blue bathrobe of their most intimate moments and the green that Virginia wore a lot at the start of the season and then stopped doing so once they started sleeping together. The green sweater in the scene above was last worn in episode 3 “Standard Deviation,” the first episode Virginia wore a lab coat in. This was also the first time Virginia met Lillian and Lillian essentially gave her the brush off.

Masters of Sex 1.11 Bill and VirginiaThe only shared scene between the real Virginia and Bill happens in the last sequence of the episode as Virginia is singing “You Don’t Know Me” and the pair share an elevator ride as if they are strangers. Both make sly glances at the other while waiting in a big crowd, but other than that there is nothing.

Masters of Sex 1.11 together but separateBill is isolated in all aspects of his life and this is no more apparent than at home. The shot prior to this one made it seem like Libby and Bill are in the same bed together as Libby asks questions about the mystery 23 times couple, a couple who we know to be Bill and Virginia. As with Margaret and Barton’s secret all the clues are there for Libby to work out who this really is and yet she seems blissfully unaware at this point as she poses the question of whether this couple fell in love. Bill’s only response is that this is outside the area of inquiry. We don’t do emotions here, even though we do really. Bill and Libby are worlds apart despite their close-ish proximity and Libby is trying to do everything in her power to make herself a valued part of Bill’s life.

Masters of Sex 1.11 LibbyThis includes an offer of help at work and she can be his new “Virginia.” There is so much awkwardness in this episode between Libby and Bill as Libby tries everything to reach out to him. Libby tells him that he takes care of me followed by the super cringe line of “you feel good inside me.” Yep, that happens and I really feel for her. As with Margaret there’s only so much she can do for her husband as he’s thinking about someone else. The whole pregnancy is still not sitting well between them and they trade passive aggressive statements back and forth.

Libby’s character trajectory has been impressive; at first it seemed like she was going to be a simpering housewife who called her husband ‘Daddy’ and instead she has become so much more than that. Ultimately is it a fool’s errand that she keeps attempting to crack Bill? Possibly, but at least she isn’t passive. This episode also produced yet another female friendship to warm my heart with Jane and Libby hitting it off instantly.

Masters of Sex 1.11 secretary LibbyThe maternity wear is beautiful once again and while the peach attire is new, the outfit above is a repeat costume. Libby is luminescent in these scenes and it might be a kiss ass comment from the new wannabe Ethan, but she does have a smile in her voice. If I was Tyra I would call this ‘smalking.’

Masters of Sex 1.11 Libby at workMore maternity wear and as with a lot of the late 50s/early 60s women’s clothes a detailed collar is everything. Libby’s choice of office wear is less colorful than what we usually see her in (the peach was intended for a lunch date, not work) as if she is trying to tone down her look and not stand out.

Masters of Sex 1.11 Jane in yellowJane or VirJane as she is now known whenever Bill yells for her (and it’s a lot) is still rocking her ever present sunny shade of yellow.

Masters of Sex 1.11 Jane at workAnd more yellow. Jane’s disposition is still upbeat despite Bill’s constant yelling and put downs because she doesn’t have every single one of his medical filing terms remembered. Jane is still seeking out Virginia’s advice in secret and while she’s not Virginia, Bill has lucked out getting Jane as his secretary and she has also been so vital to his study. Bill wants to show some of the film they shot, a factor that Jane isn’t all that comfortable with and she refers to as the “mine shaft footage.” The other film has of course been destroyed so there is no way Bill could use that.

Masters of Sex 1.11 JaneThis is the first episode in which Libby and Jane have shared a scene and I hope we will get to see this friendship blossom; both Caitlin Fitzgerald and Helén Yorke have been standouts this season so I’m glad to see them together. The pair go through the files to find viable candidates and it’s here they unknowingly stumble upon the Bill and Virginia’s data – it’s lucky that no names are included, but personal details like how many children they have and marital status could hint at who it was if they dug deep enough. Jane’s not all about yellow, her other color is blue and she tends to wear something with a darker hue when the stakes are higher and Bill’s presentation is incredibly important. It’s a dress with little to distract except for the collar detail and Jane’s costuming tends to have a feminine flourish even when it’s a slightly more reserved outfit.

Masters of Sex 1.11 Lillian“Well, having a dick doesn’t hurt.” Lillian utters this declaration after a disastrous 17-hour trip and a conference that is over by the time she arrives with Virginia. Lillian rails against the system and the Bill Masters of the world and believes she would be in a much better position if she had the right anatomy. Virginia argues that Bill only has the “rainmaker prerogative” not because he is a man, but because he is excellent at his job and has learned how to work the system. I mean it’s hard to argue that his gender hasn’t opened doors for him, and yet what I think Virginia is trying to tell Lillian is she has to work the angles and not look at the things that are holding her research back. Lillian has softened her appearance for the conference with her hair down, but her suit is still the stiff grey and it’s important on occasions like this to be comfortable in personal presentation.

Masters of Sex 1.11 sororitySo while they can’t schmooze out on the golf course there is an entirely different set of influential ears they can bend. Virginia knows how to work a room, she’s been in plenty of different social situations and her time on stage gives her confidence and presence. Virginia is essentially Lillian’s hype man, she does the intro and knows which buttons to press in terms of ego stroking and lets Lillian do the science part. This is Virginia’s “size doesn’t matter” speech, but instead of using false data she uses life experience. White gloves, pretty dresses and pearls give off an air of ‘ladies who lunch’ and yet their influence gives Lillian six advocates in six states, probably more than her presentation would have garnered. Especially if she opened with her gags.

Masters of Sex 1.11 something of your ownUnlike the instant friendships between any of the Libby/Jane/Virginia combinations, the road to Virginia and Lillian has almost been as long as their 17-hour trip. It’s now hit a point where Lillian shares her deepest, darkest secret – she has cancer. Julianne Nicholson is devastating in her performance as she tells Virginia in a rather matter of fact way about her cancer history and the end that is closer than it should be at this age. Virginia at first mistakes Lillian’s wonder at the doctor’s wives as sadness that she hasn’t her own family; it’s quite the opposite as she ponders what could be achieved if all of those women pursued careers instead. Lillian is desperate for someone to continue her work and while this work is just hers, she needs someone who can take the reins from her when she falls. Lillian has been going at it alone and now she has a partner of sorts, Virginia has already been part of a team but her name will no longer be on that work. I wonder if this is sly nod to the title of this show which thanks to the pun only references one half of the partnership, but it is Virginia who is on everyone’s mind.

Masters of Sex 1.11 EthanThis includes the metaphorical dick measuring contest between Virginia’s current beau Ethan and her former husband George, who shows up just when it’s only Ethan looking after the kids. Like Libby, Ethan is a character that I dismissed in the first episode and his violent actions and jealous streak made him incredibly unappealing and he felt like another version of Joan’s husband Greg in Mad Men. I’m still wary of him and even though Virginia is making a go of it this time, I’m worried that if/when it goes sour he will lash out again. Ethan does handle himself with George though, he plays the doctor card and yes he does shave. We measure ourselves in a variety of ways and this competitive banter between George and Ethan is just another version of that. It’s not just the ladies that get fancy neck details and Ethan’s casual wear features a rather bold red, white and blue collar.

Masters of Sex 1.11 singingAll George has is this past version of Virginia that he can brag about knowing and yet he has no access to her, yes he has memories but how much can memories get you? He brags about her singing and how she never does it anymore, as the last sequence proves this isn’t the case. It’s just a singing booth at the fair, but to Ethan and her kids it’s the world. This is a different version of Virginia and once again it does feel like we don’t know her. Lizzy Caplan is excellent in this role but it still feels like we are getting Virginia through the eyes of everyone else. Virginia is essentially the Masters of Sex hype man, she gets us in the tent and we get to learn about the inner lives of everyone else. What happens when we get to see who Virginia really is?

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