Sunday, July 20, 2014

REVIEW: 'Masters of Sex' - Bill Begins His New Job & Virginia Helps Lillian as Her Cancer Spreads in 'Kyrie Eleison'

Showtime's Masters of Sex - Episode 2.02 "Kyrie Eleison"

Masters begins his new job at Memorial Hospital under Betty's extortion terms only to find his boss insisting he leave Virginia behind in favor of a handpicked secretary. Johnson, meanwhile, still alienated at Maternity, is torn between pressing Masters to rehire her and staying by DePaul's side as her condition worsens.

The lives of William Masters and Virginia Johnson are in flux now. Bill has been able to secure a new position at another hospital and will restart the study shortly. And yet, he dreads being at home and around Libby and his newborn son. Plus, he's forced to navigate new dynamics at work with a new secretary and how the head of the hospital conducts business. Virginia cares about working with Lillian and getting people aware of her pap smear initiative. And yet, she's still being alienated and harassed at work. Even when a fellow doctor is interested in the study and her work on it, he largely just uses it as an excuse to get off and embarrass her even further. On top of that, Lillian's cancer has metastasized. Virginia is willing to fight. That friendship has grown so strong and vital to the show. But Lillian only has a little bit of time left.

Amongst all of that upheaval, the two have each other. They are comforting and supportive in the way that only they can be. They understand the other. She assumes she'll go to work for him again because her name was on the study. It's not that easy but it does seem like what the show is working towards eventually. But right now, the focus isn't on the sex study. It's about the lives of these two people. As Austin would say, they are both lone wolves who don't just conform to the period's society. They are willing to break down the walls of thinking. But they still are trapped in the world that they live in.

That world includes Virginia largely being helpless when it comes to helping Lillian battle or even fully understand her cancer and Bill simultaneously fighting with conviction for a patient and not willing to play along with Betty's facade. "Kyrie Eleison" parallels both of their struggles nicely - especially in the sequence in the hour's midpoint where they both are explaining points of their study to new people.

But the series is also keenly aware of how Bill and Virginia can sometimes come across. In separate times, Betty and Vivian call them out on being cold and horrible. For good reasons too. Vivian truly believes that Ethan broke off their engagement last season in order to be with Virginia for life. And then, Virginia is just comfortable approaching her at the hospital and asking all of these personal questions in the aftermath of her dad's tragic suicide attempt. That's more than enough for Vivian to burst. Similarly, Betty has dreamed about a much better and more fulling life than being a simple prostitute. She got that when she married Gene, the pretzel king. He could provide for her and all she had to do was give him the hope of one day having children. It is a facade but it's a trap she has found herself in. And yet, Betty gets a brief moment when she tries to butt into a situation with the other patient when she realizes just how good and caring Bill can be. Similarly, Vivian gets to let go of the weight on her shoulders with seeing her father dangling by a cord in the family basement. She finds comfort talking with Bill. And that is the grand meaning of this episode. These people are complex but they still have their moments of really surprising each other.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Kyrie Eleison" was written by David Flebotte and directed by Michael Apted.
  • Betsy Brandt and Keke Palmer join the recurring cast this week as Bill's new secretary and the Masters' new nanny respectively.
  • I appreciated that even though Alison Janney and Beau Bridges are busy with their CBS sitcoms the aftermath of last week's premiere is still deeply felt by several characters.
  • Libby's relationship with the new nanny is very interesting because in one scene she's talking to her like an old friend opening up about her husband and in the next she's talking down to her about how she talks.