Sunday, July 26, 2015

REVIEW: 'Masters of Sex' - The World Changes After Bill and Virginia's Book Hits the Shelves in 'The Excitement of Release'

Showtime's Masters of Sex - Episode 3.03 "The Excitement of Release"

The book has been released and Bill and Virginia are both subjected to large-scale scrutiny. While reviews are positive, the public's response causes unease around the office. The new spotlight on her mother starts to affect Tessa at school. Libby does her best to maintain her social life. Bill and Virginia look to old and new places to capitalize on their burgeoning fame.

Bill and Virginia's lives are about to change substantially because their book has finally been released. It is having a huge impact on the world. There's an equal amount of applause and hate for it. For every investor that they hear from, there's a letter of hate mail or people showing up at their practice to say they are going to hell. The world is not the same as it was in the months and years leading up to this point. There is no turning back now. Everyone's lives are rapidly changing and that brings about several interesting complications in a very overall consistent episode.

The big question of "What's next?" is lingering in the minds of Bill, Virginia and the rest of the staff at the practice. The book is the culmination of their work so far. They accumulated all of this data and have been able to publish their findings. They have found some great critical acclaim amongst their peers. The hour begins with Bill and Virginia enjoying all the rave reviews that have been published in the various newspapers. That's a huge win for them. Even though their personal lives are getting more chaotic, they are happy because there are people out there who respect the work that they've done. They are still very controversial though which means they have to start planning the next step to ensure that they help change the sexual conversation of the entire country.

The episode takes two different approaches in this matter - one presented by Bill and the other by Virginia. Once again, Bill wants to take the academic approach. He suggests that their book can be used as a textbook throughout the medical schools in the country. That's certainly a viable option that makes sense coming from Bill. He was the one who wanted the book to be for the people of the medical community. He wanted them to understand sex in order to have that knowledge as medical professions. The book has such a wider application though. The people of the medical community aren't the only people reading the book. Sure, Bill may not realize the impact it's having on suburban America. The friends at Libby's little get together didn't even know he had written and published a book - let alone one about sex. And yet, the book is also capable of getting into the hands of Virginia's daughter and her fellow classmates. People from decency advocacy groups can read it as well as religious leaders. So many people have access to the book. It already has had more of an impact than just in the learning community. Thusly, Virginia and Betty's approach to seek out investors to help give the study and book more credibility in the public's eye always seemed like the much stronger direction for the narrative to go in.

It's a very scary proposition no matter which way Bill and Virginia chose to go. The montage of Bill calling the various universities to get the book into their classrooms was a comedic delight. That character is never deliberately funny a lot of the time. But he had such a strong humorous moment throughout that scene. But it's also a story where Bill is the person reaching out on the book's behalf. That makes it very uncertain because he doesn't know how the people on the other end of the call will react. With the investors, Virginia and Betty know that the people are interested in their research. That's a certainty. They just have to figure out which ones are genuine and which would only diminish the quality of the work. That gives them the power in the situation. The fact that Josh Charles happened to be one of the potential investors sorta took the surprise out of which one they would choice. He's obviously an actor who only gets cast in a role if it will have a substantial presence. Sure, his competition was Hugh Hefner. But it still seemed pretty clear. Meanwhile, Bill had to reach out to Barton Scully once again. The audience gets their first glimpse of him after all of these years. It seems that things have continued to be tragic for him even though he isn't as fully aware as he once was. It should make for an interesting dynamic should he decide to accept Bill's job offer. Barton no longer has any respect at work. He's forced himself to accept that his current living arrangement with a new woman is what makes him happy - even though it never worked with Margaret. Bill may not be able to understand what's going on in Barton's mind. But he at least still respects the man. A decision that should provide interesting complications moving forward.

And lastly, the book's release has had a huge impact on Tessa and her school. Tessa has somewhat been a very annoying character this season. All the other children have largely disappeared since the premiere. But she has stayed and has been making a lot of noise. Some of that is just annoyance. A teenager acting in such a way that is hard to understand what she's trying to say. She's trying to guilt her mother into thinking she's a horrible person for focusing more on her job than her children. That's a lifestyle that Tessa has grown up in. And now, she's not afraid to point it out to her mother. However, some interesting things do happen with Tessa when she is away from her mother. Those two characters are largely stuck in a dynamic where neither understands the other and they don't know how to properly communicate their concerns in a genuine way. But each of them do have their tragic struggles. Sure, Tessa's high school life is nothing compared to the global stage Virginia is about to step onto. But it also keeps things very personally devastating for the young daughter. She's able to use the book against her mother in order to explain her horrible behavior. But she's also able to use the book to help with her flirtation of a cute boy. Of course, things take a tragically sexual turn during the homecoming dance where Tessa is forced into a blow job because of her insistence that she knows what she is doing. That confidence comes from her mother. That makes it something even more awkward later on. This is a devastating moment for her. She can blame her mother for making sex a part of her life. But again, she wasn't being honest with the guy she was with. She was doing what she thought she needed to do. She is servicing his needs and not her own. She shouldn't make plans to see him again. And yet, that's exactly what she does because she doesn't have the knowledge about sex to actually make that informed decision on whether or not this is a good situation. That is an interesting story. But it's going to have to find a way to make the Tessa-Virginia dynamic more engaging to watch.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Excitement of Release" was written by Steven Levenson and directed by Miguel Sapochnik.
  • Are Betty and Lester the only two employees who work at the practice besides Bill and Virginia? That seems weird. It's important when someone new is hired like Maggie Grace's doctor last week or Barton's job offer this week. But shouldn't there just be more people in those offices to help with the overall atmosphere? It's a business that has been running successfully for at least five years now.
  • It's also revealed that Lester's wife and mother of his children happens to be Jane. That only further makes his story from the second season seem pointless. Though Jane was great in Season 1 and I'm glad to have her back. Plus, it seems she'll be an important part of the team again.
  • Libby wants to meddle in her neighbors' marriage because she can't believe Joy wants to leave her husband, Paul. Again, she's denying anything being wrong in her own marriage. But this subplot was really weak. Is the show trying to tell a story about domestic abuse? Because that final scene reveal of Joy in the hospital really came out of nowhere. It's too sketchy for that not to be the actual story.
  • Plus, the scene between Bill and Paul was just really uncomfortable. It wasn't all that clear what its purpose to the story was - except that Bill is capable of over-sharing too quickly because he misjudged a moment.
  • However, it's always hilariously ironic when someone named Joy is unhappy.
  • As soon as it was revealed that Barton was living with another woman, I just felt so sorry for her. Things are only going to end badly for her. Plus, I just want to hear what has happened with Margaret in the years since the audience last saw her.
  • Hey kid, you may not know a lot about sex but if someone throws up right after, you should know enough to think that it wasn't a comfortable enough experience for her! Not smugly ask to do it again!