Masters of Sex has a comes up short in its latest episode as it loses its focus and does everything a little too on the nose.
I have said before that this show is at its best when focusing on Masters, Johnson and the study and this episode did not fit that mold. Gone is the interesting setting of the whorehouse and instead we are subject to almost an entire episode devoted to Dr. Ethan Haas. I’ve voiced my displeasure with him in the past, but this week the show took him to series abandoning levels if they continue to insist on focusing on him as much as they do here. This is a chauvinistic, drunk and abusive male character that does nothing but whine and we are supposed to root/sympathize with him? Come on! We open with a long scene of him awkwardly sidestepping interacting with every girl he has slept with at the hospital only for him to whine about not being with Ginny, now months after their affair. The character is bad enough, but then the episode goes all sitcomy with Libby as she plays matchmaker to help Ethan get over his fixation with Virginia by setting him up with, you guessed it, Virginia. I hoped Libby would get something to do now that she is pregnant, but nobody wants this, right? Humor was nowhere to be found in this episode and the script has never felt this cliched and forced. But don’t worry, the show is planning on romantically entangling Ethan with the Provost’s barely legal daughter that he has known since she was a child; if that isn’t another feather in the I hate you hat for Ethan I don’t know what is? Oh yeah, he gets drunk and tells Virginia to fuck off at Bill’s dinner party this episode too. Oh, what a lovely character!
Less problematic, yet still completely unearned, is the forcing of Masters into child interaction so we can show just how potentially terrible he might be as a father. Flying off the handle and having no patience for children comes naturally to Masters it seems, but this is quickly played for sympathy when we discover Bill’s father abused him as a child and that he has some serious Mommy and Daddy issues. Masters’ Mom is in town on a visit, with plans not to leave, and not only do we get Bill’s sad story with his Dad, but Mom just lets it happen all the same. I get that we are trying to give Bill some more depth here, but he was far more interesting as awkwardly brilliant rather than the tragic abuse victim. I can’t imagine this is the last we have heard about this abuse, even if I wish it was, but the episode at least used the trauma towards one positive outcome with Bill’s patient of the week.
The patient/Masters interactions have been some of the best stuff this season and this week was no different. An unhappy mother hopes to secretly have her tubes tied so she can no longer pop out kids for her husband, and the ethics of the time put Bill in quite the moral/legal quandary. I would have loved to have seen Bill dwell on his decision a bit more than we see, like all of these patient subplots it is kept to a bare minimum, but instead we have to focus on Ethan’s love life. I hope the writers realize Bill interacting with others is the strength of this show sooner rather than later and I would be happy to trade in a bit more procedural patient stuff if they can continue to make it as good as it has been. This week’s story wraps up with a bit of a mixed bag, I am happy to see Bill illegally grant his patient’s wish, but at the same time the moment is only there to serve as a turning point for Bill and his baggage with his father.
The stuff with Bill’s father comes and goes all rather quickly, thanks Ethan, but late in the episode they introduce another interesting thread that I would have much rather been watching over all the bachelor stuff. Bill’s obsession with Virginia is always lurking in the background, but when her ex shows up at her house, and then the study, things seem like they might get interesting. Sadly, it takes almost to the end of the episode to get interesting as the tension between Ginny and her ex is rather obvious and she doesn’t reveal her secret, that her husband participated, until the final moments of the episode. Watching Masters obsess over figuring out which patient was the ex is disturbing and darkly humorous all at once, but watching him play those tapes of descriptive sex acts with Ginny is both incredibly interesting and unsettling. More of that please.
Hopefully the show’s team has put all of the set-up behind them now and we can finally just dig into the study. I know they feel like we have to service all these characters, but the further they step away from Bill and Ginny the worse the show gets. Masters of Sex has had a hard time selling its B and C stories outside the patients and if it can’t straighten that out it might be at risk of losing a viewer.
-George, Ginny’s ex, was borderline cartoonish with how over the top he was.
-A well done montage of masturbation, but it feels oddly safe.
-”That’s not really a subject now, is it?”
-”Sometimes you just have to show a man how it’s done.” Ugh.
-The Provost’s daughter is just lurking around at 11 at night?
-”Sometimes I don’t even turn the lights on.” More Ugh!
-I cannot take Nicholas D'Agosto seriously as tormented.
-”I used to think I was a pretty good guy.” Ugh, again!
-The title of the episode was even a terrible pun.