Sunday, October 13, 2013

REVIEW: 'Masters of Sex's Study is on the Move Yet Again as Libby Learns Some Shocking News in 'Standard Deviation'

Showtime's Masters of Sex - Episode 1.03 Standard Deviation

Research continues in the brothel but skewed data convinces Masters to get the study back into the hospital. Meanwhile, Johnson meets a new female doctor; Libby struggles to conceive; and Dr. Haas gets the case of a lifetime: a woman pregnant with quadruplets.

"Standard Deviation" did not have quite as strong a thematic through-line as the two hours preceding it but it was still quite an enjoyable hour. It was a strong showcase of how everything in William Masters' career has been building to this study. Even back when he was a naive fellow, he dreamed of study the physiology of sex. Asking the always-skeptical Barton Scully what he needed to do in order to make the study a reality.

Masters has been crafting his entire life to be the picture perfect face of this study. He has the beautiful wife by his side and is one of the most prolific doctors at one of the most esteemed teaching hospitals in the country. He has built a respectable practice and a name for himself in the field of obstetrics. He is the person the hospital calls in whenever a tricky case comes in. Quadruplets were a rarity back in the 1950s and the statistical odds of all four and the mother emerging healthy were minuscule. Bill Masters is the guy who can pull off that surgery. And yet, he's also very adept at small everyday stuff - like teaching Mae Whitman's innocent woman about contraception. This is the practice he has spent ten years of his life building up. He has a respectable lifestyle and would be perfectly fine doing what he has been doing for the rest of his life.

But Bill Masters is a revolutionary. His ideas are so abstract and ahead of his time that the community around him simply doesn't understand what he is trying to do. And Masters himself realizes just how off-track this study has gone from what he envisioned. He is finally researching what he has wanted to for a long time and yet his only test subjects are outliers of the subject. He was forced out of the hospital and to take on prostitutes as subjects because that was the best he could do. He had this idea of what conducting this study would be like but the actuality of the situation was vastly different. He went in with a questionnaire that seemed silly to ask of these women and men. Johnson could adapt to the situation and keep things moving but it's not what Masters wanted. He wanted the study in the hospital and with the most ideal of subjects to work with.

The prestige of the quadruplets surgery gave him leverage but the great Barton Scully to contend with. Those two have been partnered together for a long time now - with Scully telling the hospital board back when he first took the provost job that he was a packaged deal with Masters. They have great admiration for one another. But Scully is also very cautious and doesn't want to see Masters throw away his thriving practice and career.

Virginia Johnson is very different from Masters - for better and for worse. Her ingenuity has kept the study alive this long. That has given her confidence. Confidence to effectively handle the subjects of the study but conceitedness at her job as Masters' secretary at the hospital. She believes that because she puts in just as much work into this study that she should be seen as an equal to Masters. But she doesn't have the prestige and hasn't exactly earned her way to being a respected name in this field. She thinks getting lab coats for the new physicians is beneath her but as Masters is quick to condemn her she hasn't earned anything in this environment.

But Virginia has gotten very close to Masters' wife Libby. Her heart broke for her every time she saw Libby at the hospital undergoing another procedure in an attempt to get pregnant. She could sit quietly by but the knowledge that it was largely Bill's fault that they couldn't reproduce was slowly gnawing at her. Until she couldn't hold it in any longer and just blurted it out. That news devastated Libby. She strove to act out against her husband - choosing to sit up and defile the orders to just lay around and rest and refusing to make him supper. She wants to confront Ethan for keeping this a secret from her - but then learns that she is in fact pregnant. That news overwhelms her and she is the happiest she has ever been. But does - and should - that happiness automatically make her more forgiving of Ethan and her husband for what they did?

Some more thoughts:
  • Probably more than I ever wanted to know about rabbit sex.
  • Betty can't have any children and I'm sad about that. She was a delight in these first three episodes and I hope she doesn't journey off to greener pastures with Greg Grunberg for the rest of the season.
  • Julianne Nicholson debuted as Dr. Lillian DePaul and was fine. The character was an idea rather than a human though. She's a doctor in this male-dominated field and that elicited respect (from Virginia) and disdain (from the other assistants/nurses). It also spoke of the only way a woman could be in this field was if she was man-ish.
  • No Jane or Dr. Langham in this episode. But with the study back at the hospital, I'm looking forward to their return.
  • I really was unsure about the flashbacks at first. They seemed to only be outlining the depth of the friendship of Masters and Scully. And then, the scene where Scully noted what Masters needed to have in order for the study to seem viable happened. That made me appreciate those sequences more.