Monday, July 21, 2014

Masters of Sex #202 “Kyrie Eleison”

Julianne Nicholson ad Dr. Lillian DePaul
Julianne Nicholson as
Dr. Lillian DePaul
“First Do No Harm”
 
by Catherine Giordano

Everyone seems to know what everyone else needs to do, but can’t seem to figure out what they themselves need to do in Masters of Sex, episode #202, titled “Kyrie Eleison.” (The title is the Greek name of a Roman Catholic prayer, and it means “Lord have mercy.”) 

The title may refer to the dark secrets, past and present, that are revealed in this episode. I’ll discuss that later in this review and recap of the episode. 
 
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to read "the work"
Dr. William (Bill) Masters and Mrs. Virginia Johnson want to get their sex study back on track. Circumstances keep them from working together, but they do manage to get together at the Alton Hotel quite regularly in order to continue “the work.” (Is that what the kids were calling it back then?)

There are a lot of people telling other people what they ought to do. Bill has a new job at Memorial hospital and his new boss. Doug Greathouse, wants Bill to expand his research by exploring ”new points of entry.” Meanwhile back at Memorial Hospital where Virginia still works, Dr. Ditmer wants to use Ulysses (the dildo with a camera inside used to film the interior of the vagina) in some novel ways. He’s a gastroenterologist and he apparently gets off (literally) fanaticizing about putting the dildo in the esophagus.  This is the “how kinky-can-you-get?” moment of the week.

This episode reminds us of the prevalence of ignorance about sex and the harm that this ignorance does. Bill has a new patient, a young woman, Rose, brought in by her parents after she nearly bled to death after her second abortion. Her parents and Dr. Greathouse are insisting that Bill do a hysterectomy. She is apparently a nymphomaniac (a woman with a hyper-sexuality compulsion) and everyone is convinced that this will cure her. Bill is not known for his empathy, but perhaps his experience with Dr. Scully and his electroshock cure for his “sexual deviancy” have given him he ability to emphasize. This young patient reminds him of his Hippocratic oath to do no harm, so  he gives her an IUD to prevent further pregnancies instead of rendering her sterile. 

Betty, a former prostitute who was one of Bill’s first experimental subjects, has been hanging around the hospital because she is pretending to undergo fertility treatments. (Bill had previously done a hysterectomy on her because of rampant pelvic inflammation, but Betty does not want her new husband to know she can never bear him children. Incidentally, her husband is the one who is funding Bill’s new research.)   

Betty sneaks into Rose’s room and gives her a pep talk about self-worth. “You are not your worse part,” she says. Does she mean that Rose is not just a behavior as her parents define her or does she mean that Rose is a whole person and not just a vagina. 

Betty tells Rose a story about her own mother. Betty’s mother constantly berated her and made her feel worthless until one day Betty removed her stiletto-heeled shoe and stabbed her mother in the eye. (Here’s where the “Lord have mercy” title” starts to make sense.) 

This story of Rose and her overbearing parents, the story of Betty and her mother, meld right in with the story of Bill and the mother who failed to protect him. But there is more on the “evil mother” theme, Virginia talks about how her mother always demanded excellence, and it seems like her boss, Dr. Lillian DePaul, has a cold and aloof manner due to this same type of mothering. It’s blame-the-mother time on Masters of Sex 

Virginia has become something like a domineering mother to Lillian. Perhaps Lillian, weakened physically and mentally by her terminal cancer, doesn’t have the strength to resist. Virginia makes Lillian do a film about pap smears—Lillian had wanted to do only a pamphlet because she is not comfortable being on camera. When she starts mixing up words--Has the cancer metastasized to her brain?--Virginia insists that Lillian go to her oncologist. Then Virginia insists that Lillian must fight.
 
Julianne Nicholson
Julianne Nicholson
[I’m using a picture of Dr.DePaul to illustrate this review because I don’t think Lillian will be with us much longer. And then, just for fun, because Lillian is such a “plain Jane,” I’m including a sexy picture of the actress who plays her, Julianne Nicholson.] 

Even Bill’s wife Libby is getting into the bad mother act. She is usually so saintly, so perfect, but today she is playing mind games with her new nanny, an 18 year old black woman named Coral. Libby is feeling very isolated because her husband is never home and because he refuses to love his son. (Also, he refuses to love his wife.) At first Libby is treating Coral as a friend and confident—they fold laundry together. But when Libby cannot quiet her son, and Coral is able to do so—a tight swaddle turns the trick—Libby feels humiliated in front of her husband. Later as Libby sits smoking on the couch and Coral does the ironing, Libby, ever-so-sweetly, humiliates Coral for pronouncing ‘ask” as “ax.”   

Lord have mercy! Everyone is inflicting harm on everyone else. Even Vivian gets her licks in, berating Virginia for taking Ethan from her and then dumping him  Vivian says that Virginia has callously hurt both her and Ethan. And Dr. Landman also gets a talking-to from Vivian for cheating on his wife with his sister in law. 

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for season 1 DVD
Virginia is not done hurting people. I’m sure we are going to see Libby being hurt very soon when she learns about “the work” Virginia is doing with her husband. Episode 3 is named “Fight”, and the word on the internet is that it is a not-to-be-missed episode.  
 
It is just genius about how the themes of hurt and harm are interwoven in this episode. 
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for the book

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