Sunday, August 30, 2015

REVIEW: 'Masters of Sex' - Virginia Takes a Vacation While Bill Tries to Become a Better Man in 'Surrogates'

Showtime's Masters of Sex - Episode 3.08 "Surrogates"

New partnerships are forming as Virginia jets away to Las Vegas with Dan Logan while Bill uses her absence to begin his surrogacy program. Libby comes to terms with her current and past relationships as Barton considers starting one of his own.

The bar has been significantly lowered for Masters of Sex this season following last week's huge gorilla debacle. The episodes this year have had many major problems as well but things truly sunk to a new low a week ago. It was such a horrendous idea that could have pushed away even the most loyal of viewers. I certainly questioned whether or not to continue with the series. And yet, here I am ready to tackle another review for a once great show that has lost that spark unfortunately.

Perhaps it's because of those lowered expectations that "Surrogates" comes across as a solidly competent episode. There was nothing inherently grating about this hour. The kid drama was all sidelined while the adults were all given stories that didn't embellish their increasing unlikable qualities. Sure, the episode juggles a bunch of different stories - some are more developed than others. But there is still a simplicity in the way that the narrative approaches these new opportunities for all the characters as the season proceeds to its final third.

Bill has been so unlikable this season. He is a terrible father, family member and partner. It's easy to understand why Virginia turned away from him and went towards Dan Logan, who is more effortlessly charming though still has plenty of baggage. When his old neighbor, Nora (Emily Kinney), pops up and talks about how much he has changed, it seems artificial. A way to get the audience to see that he really is a different man. He is capable of doing nice and genuine things. That side of his personality really hasn't been on display this season. This story with the new surrogacy program is suppose to remind the audience that he is capable of being understanding and selfless. But it's a lot to ask and happens almost too late in the season. He allows Nora to stay at the clinic and gives her money to find a new place to live. He recognizes that Nora is committed to the program. But he also sees that she treats him much nicer than the other people in his life right now. Perhaps that's why he delivers chicken noodle soup to Virginia in the end. As a way to be that nice man. But it doesn't work. Virginia stays with Dan. Sure, she lies about who was at the door which alludes to mixed feelings on her part. But Bill put in an effort to be different.

Of course, that didn't help his treatment of Betty, Helen and Austin when they came to the clinic trying to fool him. He may not care about Betty more than just as a secretary. But he at least knows that Helen is the name of the woman she is in love with. He recognizes that everyone is trying to trick him and that angers him. He has always been prone to act irrationally at times. Betty has never been afraid to tell it to how it is. She has known about him and Virginia sleeping together for a long time. Her knowing that secret doesn't change his mind regarding Helen's fertility treatments. But Betty still has a job. Isn't that nice of him? It certainly doesn't make up for the fact that he is refusing to do this for two women who want to have a family. He has a need to preserve his own secrecy. That overrules everything else. It's suppose to be tragic that he is fighting for this secret even though he is completely in the dark about what Virginia is up to. And yet, it's not all that endearing because the show is trying too hard to make Bill function as a character again.

Meanwhile, the idea of Virginia trying to take a vacation from her work is a fascinating one. It's also extremely telling that she is willing to drop everything and head to Las Vegas with Dan - considering she wouldn't do the same with Bill earlier this season for the book tour. All of her concerns about George fly out the window just because she can spend a few days with her new lover. Sure, she never actually takes a break from work. She is constantly observing and trying to make the business better no matter what the business is. She doesn't want to cluelessly sit around and pamper herself while her "husband" goes off to do business. She wants to be at the pitches helping sell the product - not at the dinner where she's just expected to make small talk. It's because of her that Dan succeeds with his new proposition for Vegas hotel owners. And yet, her influence also keeps him from taking this lucrative deal. She certainly has made an impact on him. She has a willingness to be compassionate to other people. When the two are mugged by a hotel employee, she doesn't want to call the cops. She wants to understand his story and try to help him. That is endearing in a way that doesn't feel forced. It's also why Dan wants to keep being with her - despite the amount of business he needs to conduct elsewhere.

And then, there's Libby who has officially started having a sexual relationship with Paul. It's a twist that was expected of the story given how close they have gotten this season. And yet, it was handled in a way that was unexpected. She finally gives the audience answers to what happened to Robert in between Seasons 2 and 3. That wasn't a huge mystery and the show severely props up his importance to her here. But it's also easy to see why she was so depressed at the start of the season because of it. This year she has been trying to break free of her family mold a little bit. She has found a way to be touched again. But that's not something she is looking for. She's not looking for a love connection which is very interesting. She certainly doesn't have anything physical with Bill. In fact, they don't seem to agree on anything anymore. This new thing with Paul is her filling a need that she has. It's nothing more than that. It is empowering. Her breakdown about Robert is very cathartic for her. She is finally sharing the story about why she can't give anymore because of the heartbreak. That hopefully will be enough for her to make some definitive decisions in the upcoming episodes.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Surrogates" was written by Steven Levenson and directed by Matt Earl Beesley.
  • Barton seems to have a new office admirer in technician Jonathan. It throws him off so much to be seen as a gay man. He believes he hides it well. And he does. But he's not able to around this new guy. It's not much of a story here. It's just two scenes and neither one of them appear elsewhere. But it does hold potential.
  • When was the last time Virginia and Libby interacted? It feels like it has been an unusually long time.
  • Nora seems a little too enthusiastic about the volunteer work she is doing for the surrogate program. She wants to impress Bill. But how much of that is genuine? And how much of it is getting a place to sleep for the night?
  • Despite Bill's good gesture to Virginia in the end, he is still starting up a program behind her back. She has some serious concerns about the surrogacy program. And yet, he's using her illness to get exactly what he wants.
  • Jane and Lester are continuing to bicker - which is very amusing.