We reach the PENULTIMATE(!) chapter of the second season as Bill and Virginia get camera ready!
Masters of Sex: Season 2: Episode 11: One for the Money, Two for the Show: GRADE: A-
This week we deal with reality. Ah reality, what a concept! Also we deal with artifice. The artificial idea we project onto ourselves and what others project about someone. Bill and Virginia’s presentation of the study, Libby’s role in life, Virginia’s motherhood, and even Austen and Flo get in on the theme this week. Everything connect’s together this week and also obviously help set the stage for the finale next week which brings me to my only slight problem is that I worry about how all this will be wrapped up for the season next week, even though some could carry over into the third season, which hey it got renewed, yay. There’s a hefty sum of things going on for this season that its gonna have to keep its plates spinning. Also how fast and loose they seemed to have played with the historical events brought up in the episode, but more on that later.
But let’s worry more about that next week, right now let’s focus about how Bill breaks under pressure. Again. As shown last week, P.R. man Shep (Adam Arkin) wants to help present the study for television, but not the way Bill and Virginia would like it. In reality now, we’d have no problem, but we’re still in the 1960s. Most people were predisposed to just missionary back then and people were a bit uppity as it were. CBS won’t allow the use of the words “masturbation” (cause they don’t wanna imply solo acts) and of course, “orgasm”. Bill begins to feel as if this isn’t truly him. He has to promote the study without selling himself out completely but his actions this episode lead Lester to being the voice of reason this week about Bill and the access CBS is having to the study as to presenting it on television. It really makes for a great scene about the ends justifying the means. Mean while Lester and Bill come together in the problem of how much more artificial the study presentation will feel when CBS tries to hire a fake couple for an intake interview. To both of them, more so Lester, they might as well have stabbed him right in the heart. Bill still wants the main focus of the study to stay in tact: change how the world looks at sexual behavior.
Its really compelling in that way to see how much more differently people might react to the public acknowledgement of the study like when Bill presented it at the college last season. Of course the acting does help it work as Michael Sheen does am expert job of perfectly fitting into Bill outside the study and how stiff and insecure and slightly machine like Bill seems when on camera talking about the study, except when truly getting into it, then he’s a little more animated, also when butting heads with Shep and the director about what to present and say. Virginia is obviously more camera friendly. Seems the beauty and the beast assessment isn’t too far off after all.
Speaking of Virginia and the study, her artificial belief that she and Bill were off to the hotel in the name of the study wasn’t exactly the best mother to her children. She’s artificially a wonderful mother in that case, even though at times she has proven to be a great mother, but reality comes to smack her right in the face when her ex-husband gets a great offer to go on a six week tour around Europe and he and his wife want the kids to join. He does bring up how often she isn’t there. When she isn’t at the hotel with Bill, she’ll still be working non-stop on the study. The kids’ babysitter gets more attention from her as evident when they come to have dinner with her at office. The shock really hits her when asked who will giver her Christmas presents when they’re in Europe. Her own children have been neglected for the work.
Libby finally faces reality that she is the number two woman in Bill’s life whereas Virginia is number one. She’s artificially still believed to be important around people who matter but when the cameras come to the office she feels misplaced again, instead when near Robert and the CORE office. She finally strips away the last bit of artificiality to herself and let’s her walls down and realize she loves Robert. When they finally get together is shot very excellently and told even better with Michael Penn’s perfect score that is ever present in the episode. It fills the scenes where’s its most effective, here and when Virginia is still in shock of the presents question, it just makes the scene work so much more. The music becomes its own character itself there.
Austen and Flo are back and they actually do tie in well to the theme this week much better than they did last time. Flo has always been enamored with Clark Gable since he made her weak in the knees when seeing Gone With the Wind, which Austen has never seen. Having heard of the actor’s heart attack. She loved how he just took Scarlett and the fact that’s what she’s doing to Austen now clearly isn’t lost on me. That’s a weak point as to how sort of obvious that feels, but the acting from Teddy Sears and Artemis Pebdani. she has to hold his hand during their little Gone With the Wind fantasy. As she accurately points out, “Kind of ruins it when I have to tell you what to do every second.”
Though I was more engaged by the pillow talk afterwards where it showed how this detailed ordeal allowed them both to further open up to each other, like Austen nothing that Flo has this desire to defy anyone that’s ignored her. Really damn good stuff.
I think this image above best summed up how the episode went as far as its theme did.
Even when playing fast and loose with historical facts:
- Nixon and Kennedy’s debate was in September 1960
- The arrest of Martin Luther King Jr. happened on October 19 in 1961
- Clark Gable’s heart attack was on November 6
Also, I can’t come up with evidence that Bill and Virginia ever went on TV to present their evidence before their first major publication of the study in the late 60s, we’re still in 1961 here people.
But while those are little hinderances that slightly took me out of it, also admitting I’m spoiler on historical accuracy now thanks to Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, its still a strong episode and a perfect set up for the finale next week.