Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Masters of Sex #109, #110, #111, #112 "You Don't Know Me"

“You Don’t Know Me”

Opening Credits for Masters of Sex
Opening credits for "Masters of Sex"

by Catherine Giordano
Here is what I know for sure: Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” is the best drama series on TV.
I just re-watched the last four episodes of Season 1 to refresh my memory so I could write this review. A second viewing has made me realize that this series has the best writing, the best acting, the best social commentary, the best exploration of love and sex, the best everything. I urge you to watch all of Season 1 and then get on the bandwagon for Season 2 when it premieres Sunday, July 13 at 10 pm on Showtime.
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I recommend a marathon viewing because you pick up on the subtitles in theme and character much better when you don’t have a week-long hiatus between episodes.
If you are unable to watch the episodes, you can read all of my reviews on this blog. This review covers the last four episodes of Season 1.

Masters of Sex DVD
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#109 “Involuntary”
#110 “Fallout”
#111 “Phallic Victories”
#112 “Elvis Has Left the Building”
Spoiler Alert: Don’t read any further, if you don’t want to know to it ends.
The last minute of the last episode shows Dr. William Masters standing in the rain at Mrs. Virginia Johnson’s front door. He has just lost his job at the St. Louis hospital where they both work because everyone was shocked when he presented his findings for the sex research study. He tells her: “I can’t live without you.” 

Virginia is going to have to make a tough choice. Dr. Ethan Haas has become her steady boyfriend after he broke off his engagement to Vivian, the provost’s daughter. He broke it off with her because she wanted him to convert from Judaism to Catholicism. At first he didn’t mind, but it began to trouble him that Vivian could not accept him just as he was. He realized that although he did not practice his religion, it was part of his identity. (I think he also broke it off because she was kind of a ninny—perhaps he wanted a woman who as more his equal.) 

Ethan has just received a “game changing” job offer in California. He called Virginia from California and proposed. She must have known it was coming because just before he left, during a moment of post-coital tenderness, he told her, I’ll support you in every way. I want us to be a team. If you want to go to school, if you want to stay home, if there is something you always wanted to do, I’ll support you.”   

I’m swooning. Are these not the words every woman wants to hear? From a good looking, successful man, no less. And he loves her kids (“As if they were my own,” he said) and her kids love him.  

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But this show is based on the real life story of Masters and Johnson. So I know what will happen. She will choose the married difficult Bill over Ethan. I suspect she will choose him because of “the work.” Perhaps, the work has become part of her identity. And maybe she will stay with Bill because some women are a sucker for a guy who “needs” them. They want to heal the wounded soul.  
When Ethan says, “I want us to be a team,” This is an echo of what Virginia wants with Bill. Only she was not referring to being a “couple”, but to being part of the team on the research project. She had sex with him 23 times, but only in the lab, and only when they were wired up so their responses could be measured for the research project. She quit working for and with Bill when he tried to pay her as if she was just another research subject. She asked him if he was paying himself for being a subject. He said, “Of course not, it is my study.” Virginia had thought of it as their study. She is so insulted that she quits. Late she confronts Bill and tells him that she understands why he offered her the money. He had become attached to her—he felt as if they were having an affair, so he had to pay her in order to pretend he had no feelings for her. (Interestingly, when he writes Virginia’s performance review he faults her for being too passionate about her work—a classic case of projection?) 

When Bill’s wife, Libby, gives birth to their baby, Her husband is not there—he was not answering the phone because he was too busy moping about the bad reception he got. Bill is still furious about his wife’s pregnancy, because his low sperm count which made it next to impossible to impregnate his wife, played into his desire not to have children. Ethan lost his job at the hospital because Bill gave him a bad performance review, not because he was actually performing poorly, but because Bill was furious that Ethan gave into Libby’s appeal to secretly continue the insemination treatments against her husband’s wishes.  

An aside: Bill doesn’t want children. He has no patience with them. Ethan adores Virginia’s children. I think it is very selfish of Virginia not to consider her children’s happiness. 

At least, Jane and Lester are going to be happy. Jane has continued to be a subject in the research. Lester has been present during the sessions to create video documentation. Lester adores Jane, but is too shy to approach her. After the debacle of a presentation when Jane is upset because the video of “her tunnel” was shown, Lester tells her she is beautiful. She impulsively throws her arms around his neck and kisses him. We can see that she too has had feelings for Lester all along.  

Barton Sculley, the hospital’s provost, and his wife, Margaret, are probably not going to have a “happily ever after.” Margaret goes to the hotel bar where she had previously discovered her husband with the young man he told her was a pimp who procured women for him, but who was actually his gay lover. There she approaches a hooker and asks for advice about how to please her husband in bed. The hooker quickly realizes that her husband is “queer.” Margaret, still not getting it, says that yes, it is indeed queer for a married couple to have separate bedrooms. The hooker has to explain homosexuality to her. 

Margaret confronts Barton with her knowledge. She is deeply wounded that he has hidden this from her throughout the 30 year of their marriage. She is especially hurt that he married her knowing that he was homosexual because he deprived her of the life she might have had. During their conversations, it becomes apparent that despite their sexless marriage they love each other.  

Baton now wants to be “cured” of his homosexuality. He has decided to undergo electroshock therapy in the belief that it will cure him. Margaret tells him not to do it. Although she too believes it will cure him, she is afraid for him because of the side effects. Barton has apparently decided to do it despite his wife’s concerns.  

I believe that Margaret is content to continue the charade of their marriage. At a mahjong game with the ladies, the discussion turns to the divorce of a mutual friend. Margaret can see that a divorced middle-aged woman has a pretty lousy life.  

The life of a single woman in the 1950’s is not all that great either--especially the single working woman. After Virginia quits, Jane becomes Bill’s secretary. Bill is constantly demeaning Jane, but no one thinks anything of it—it’s the boss’s right to yell at his underlings. 

The status of a female doctor is not much better. After Virginia quits working for bill, she moves down the hall and becomes Dr. Lillian DePaul’s secretary. Lillian wants to make pap smears routine, but she is having no success in getting funding.  

Virginia suggests that Lillian try charm. So when Virginia encounters the hospital’s chancellor in the elevator, she attempts to charm him. This results in her humiliation as he misunderstands her intent and he brusquely informs her that he is “a happily married man.”  

Lillian rants about how much easier it is if you are a man. Virginia jokingly suggests that Lillian has “penis envy.” Lillian responds that success is easier if “you have a dick.” 

Speaking of penises, penises play a large role in the final episodes of Season 1. Ethan and Virginia’s ex, George, don’t literally compete on penis size, but they do get into a verbal “pissing contest” over who is more manly, discussing things like who has the thicker beard, and more.

The issue of penis size and manhood is very directly addressed with Bill. As the presentation date nears, Bill rushes to do some research on penis size and female sexual satisfaction so he can include it. He concludes that penis size makes no difference. We discover, through very subtle hints, that Dr. Bill has a small penis and perhaps has some penis envy of his own—envy of men with larger penises. This is the “Paging-Dr.-Freud” moment of the series. 

[You must watch the opening credits the best euphemistic portrayal of penises ever. It's full of visual double-entendres.] 

The most haunting moment of the season comes at the end of episode 11. Virginia, Ethan and the kids are at a fair. There is a recording booth (isolation booth?) at the fair where people can make a record. Virginia, who used to be a night club singer, is in the booth, and she is singing “You Don’t Know Me.”  

Does this hark back to the incident where Virginia’s ex taunts Ethan by saying “You didn’t know her when she was young. You will never know her the way I knew her.” Does this foreshadow that Virginia will tell Ethan that he does not really know her? Truth be told, he probably does not understand what makes Virginia tick as well as Bill does. 

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Whatever, the reason for including this moment, the music and singing are so beautiful and the message is so poignant—it is just one of the many reasons this is the best drama series on TV.

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