Sunday, August 2, 2015

REVIEW: 'Masters of Sex' - Margaret Scully Re-Enters the Lives of Bill, Virginia and Barton in 'Undue Influence'

Showtime's Masters of Sex - Episode 3.04 "Undue Influence"

Sensing Virginia is pulling away from the demands of their work, Bill consults unexpected advice in convincing her to rededicate herself to the study and to him. A familiar face returns to the clinic. Virginia is distracted by news of Henry. Libby confronts the truths of hers and her neighbors' marriages.

"Undue Influence" is the first glimpse at what Margaret Scully's life has become since the second season premiere. In the time since her last appearance, the show has undergone two separate time jumps. Enough time has passed that Margaret and Barton have been divorced for three years already and she has been able to move on with her life. That's an exciting prospect - even though her return was destined to put her back in the orbit of Bill, Virginia and Barton once more. It's so nice to see her in a better place. She has found happiness. Her time away from Barton has allowed her to truly grow as a woman. And yet, the tragedy of her life is still apparent. That becomes devastatingly clear throughout this episode - from the moment she and her new lover come to the clinic to her conversation with Barton to the realization of the arrangement she is now living in.

The Margaret Scully of this episode is drastically different from the woman the audience met in the first season. There are so many strong parallels in her scene talking about simultaneously orgasming with Virginia to the one in Season 1 where she realized she didn't know what an orgasm was. This woman has come so far over the years. She has escaped the tragic circumstances of her marriage to Barton. But it's still abundantly clear that she still has love and respect for him. She and Graham were so careful to schedule their appointment around Barton's schedule. But they still ran into him at the office anyway. Even though it's awkward, she shows real concern for his well-being. The damage of her past may be causing her problems with intimacy in the present though. She has been so accommodating to Barton's secret. She understands it's not her secret to tell and is willing to take the animosity from their daughter. But it's also holding her back as well. Graham seems like a man strongly placed within the burgeoning sexual revolution. He has had several wives and girlfriends over the years. And now, Margaret is one of the women that he shares. Both of them are okay with it. But the problems still exist in the dynamic between Margaret and Graham. That does hint at the situation not being a good enough place for Margaret. And yet, it's perfectly understandable why she would end up there in the aftermath of her marriage to Barton.

It truly is great to have the Scullys back. They are just wonderful characters to watch and analysis. That largely comes from both Allison Janney and Beau Bridge's performances. There's an emotional honesty in the way that they are able to communicate once they drop the pleasantries of society. The problems the two of them had are still effecting them. Margaret is still hesitant when it comes to matters of love while Barton is still unable to see how misleading he is with woman. He loves that Judith shows a genuine interest in him. But he only wants to see her as a companion while his actions may be misleading her with the thought of a genuine romantic interest. It is devastating to see him struggle to tell her that he doesn't want to have sex. He isn't able to tell her the truth. That sets up further devastation along the road. It still feels like something he would do though. His secret is still something that he hasn't totally accepted yet. And so, he is falling into old patterns again.

Barton is able to work in a place that actually respects him though. It's funny that Bill has re-connected with his old pal at the exact same time that he is reading a book on how to actually make friends. It's rather humorous to see all of Bill's attempts to manipulate the people around him in order to get what he truly wants. It doesn't work with Virginia. It doesn't work with Libby. It doesn't work with his neighbor Paul. Bill just wants to do right by his book. That's his only priority at the moment. He wants to make sure it is a success and will be read by a vast majority of the public for years to come. He's frustrated that their publisher is hesitant on doing a second release. As progressive as things have become over the years, the book is still seen as scandalous and something that people would be ashamed to purchase in public. Bill thinks he needs to be proactive in order to solve this problem. He doesn't see his new investor, Dan Logan, as anyone who should be taken seriously at the moment. He has to come up with a way to convince Virginia to go on a book tour. He fails spectacularly at doing so because he is unable to sympathize with everything that has been going on in her life at the moment. He ultimately is successful at exciting the publisher again without having to commit to a book tour. But that also comes at a time where Bill is no longer the most important man in Virginia's life.

That's a crucial fact for many reasons. Virginia is more worried about Henry than the success of the book. Libby sees everything that Bill is doing for Virginia and feeling more neglected than ever before. And lastly, Tessa is able to connect the dots in regards to Virginia and Bill's affair. These are three very interconnected stories. But they are also impacted by different truths and moments of time. Virginia is largely focusing on the future with a new connection to Dan. She doesn't care about the state of her relationship with Bill or the success of the book. She just wants to know if her son is healthy. Dan is able to give her that clarity while Bill isn't able to give her any sense that he truly cares. Libby doesn't know about the stresses that Virginia is dealing with right now. She doesn't know that Henry may be unwell in Vietnam or that Tessa has been suspended. She just knows that Bill has bought a fur jacket for Virginia and not her. She is no longer the most instrumental thing in his life. He has changed so much since the early days of their marriage. She wants him to continue to fight for her. And yet, she has her big blowup at Paul and not Bill. She expresses her feelings but not in a way that will actually help her own marriage. Meanwhile, Tessa continues to head down a darker path. Everyone is so willing to point out the good work her mother is doing for society. And yet, the work has had a negative effect on Tessa. It's gotten to the point where it's truly damaging for her. She was so uncomfortable when it came to Matt forcing her to pleasure him last week. But the darkness that comes from knowing her mother's big secret makes her feel even more numb. She has a willingness to just use sex in order to deal with that pain with almost no care in the world for what such a decision could do to her and her life. And that's a very devastating path to be heading down.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Undue Influence" was written by Gina Fattore and directed by Chris Manley.
  • Despite how aloof and manipulative Bill was to Virginia, she still decides to go out to dinner with him in the end. She has such a strong connection to him that one conversation where he is truly open is enough for her to see him clearly as someone she actually loves.
  • It's so great seeing Betty being able to use Bill's new favorite book against him. It really isn't that surprising that Bill ultimately throws it out. He really didn't know how to implement those ideas into his life.
  • That's Tate Donovan as Margaret's new lover, Graham, and Julie Ann Emery as his other lover, Jo. They should make quite an interesting story for this season.
  • Dan Logan is openly flirtatious with other woman. And yet, he is still married to a woman who seems fully aware of what he is up to. He is so nice and genuine to Virginia in a time where she thinks he's just trying to be charming. He did open himself up to her which should complicate things for her later.
  • Margaret talks about Vivian a lot in this episode. I wonder if that means Rose McIver will pop up again - or maybe she'll be too busy with The CW's iZombie to return.