[This is a review of Masters of Sex season 2, episode 3. There will be SPOILERS.]
Masters of Sex leaves its brilliant ensemble behind this week, focusing solely on Bill and Virginia’s love affair, set in a spacious hotel room far removed from the hustle and bustle of the hospital halls.
The episode, appropriately titled ‘Fight,’ unflinchingly asks the viewer what it means to be a man. Not just a man of the 1960s, but for all decades past and present. Dr. Masters reluctantly turns inward, looking back at his own childhood to make sense of the chaos around him. Now what does this all mean for Virginia?
Well, in terms of plot progression, Ms. Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) is vital, but ‘Fight’ is most definitely a Bill-centric episode, which finally gives us some insights into a past shrouded in obscurity. Now that Bill’s mother (Estabrooks) is back home in Ohio, Masters is our only means of uncovering what happened to him as a young boy. It’s been apparent that his father was an abusive brute, but to what extent we didn’t know. Bill’s dealings with the gender-ambiguous newborn, mixed with the televised boxing match triggered something in him that brought all of these memories to the surface.
Caplan, who gave another compelling performance was, for lack of a better word, Sheen’s “sparring partner” throughout most of the episode. Even during their sexual encounters (especially the first), she mostly just “took” the punches. Again, this is Bill’s moment, he was the initial aggressor, trying to prove himself “man enough” to conquer that “son-of-a-bitch” who called himself a father. While it was nice to see Masters finally opening up, it’s sad to think that he can’t do this with his own wife (Libby) and their newborn son.
Virginia, while taking some of Bill’s punches, also acted as his coach and mentor. Every time he would try to describe the sport of boxing as being completely masculine, she would push back, or counter those remarks by saying that’s not her idea of what a man should be. Since Bill is so reserved when it comes to emotions, it’s difficult to know if her counsel tempered his thoughts in any way, but perhaps his actions at the end of the episode were evidence enough?
For the second week in a row, Dr. Masters proved himself to be a “good man” by rushing to the hospital in an attempt to urge the father not to take the easy way out. It was heartbreaking to see the baby stuffed into a tube-like device while being examined by doctors, but this is the “real world” where not every innocent babe gets saved by superman. Masters of Sex is at times, a harsh and unforgiving setting, making us think and process through emotions that are uncomfortable, but in the end, isn’t it all worth it?
Creator/executive producer Michelle Ashford and her team continue to give her cast of characters a fertile playground to use week after week. This series once again has proven itself worthy to be called one of the best shows on television. Keep watching to see what happens next.
Masters of Sex continues with ‘Dirty Jobs’ next Sunday @10pm on Showtime.