This is the kind of quiet episode where, while a lot happened, it felt like nothing happened. All Together Now was an “in-between” Masters of Sex episode if you will, advancing the soap opera and the scientific study, without any true “wow” moments.
And yet, that seems unfair. A lot happened: Margaret and Austin continued their affair, Barton got stabbed, Virginia and Bill had a lot of sex in a variety of positions, having discovered the Kama Sutra and maximum clitoral stimulation, Libby got drunk and got laid, Ginny bought a car, and Ethan picked out linens. An eventful episode by any calculation, yet it all felt very understated.
Two different people said “you saved my life” in All Together Now (Margaret to Austin, and Libby actually said “you’re saving my life” to Ethan), and various characters talked about what they must have, and what’s “worth it.” Libby risks deceiving Bill and all that getting caught would imply for the baby she wants and needs. Barton quite literally risks his life, as well as the litany of things that Bill names: Family, marriage, career, freedom; for the sexual and affectional encounters he cannot do without. Margaret risks her marriage for a stab at sexual pleasure, only to discover, to her sorrow, that it’s no risk at all.
I cannot disregard the fact that I sat comfortably on my couch, watching Barton get stitched up, with my spouse, Melissa, whom I legally married in New York, in a marriage recognized by the federal government. How far we’ve come. Not that people no longer get stabbed, or worse, for being gay, but we watched that feeling really, really grateful. It is so easy for Bill to say, How can you do this? How can you risk this? Is it worth it? When the answer for Barton is, I must. This is what Masters and Johnson were truly studying, because sexuality is so deep within that it is what saves our lives, what we must have, what we risk all for. Human beings are rational, yes, but we are driven by pleasure, by a sense of fulfillment that transcends rationality.
Also on the table in All Together Now is the connection of sex to emotional intimacy. Austin just wants to ring a bell and is dismayed to have awakened deep feelings in Margaret. Ginny claims to separate sex from feeling entirely, a typically “male” point of view, but she’s left wistful at the end of the episode. I wish she weren’t–it felt so forced to have a Poor Ginny Moment at the end, like the Poor Ginny Working Mother Moment I complained about previously. It does feel sometimes like the writers don’t know what to do with Virginia Johnson. She’s a compelling character, and this episode was weak in part because she had little to do. Instead of keeping the writing focused on who she is, Masters of Sex seems sometimes content to throw “working woman” cliches at her and see if they’ll stick. First the Sex Goddess trope, then The Life of a Working Mother is Hard, and now I Claim to Have No Feelings But Really I Do. Enough! Give us this complicated and fascinating woman without resorting to cliche! After all, you give us complicated and difficult Bill Masters without resorting to cliches about the buttoned-up scientist. He continually has depths that are surprising and authentic (such as the genuine passion for his wife he evinced this week).
Allison Janey, I love you. Girlish and womanly, serious and playful, you are a joy. I hope Austin doesn’t run entirely away from your sexual awakening.
Ethan’s motivations remain petty. He was pretty clear two weeks ago that he felt stuck with Vivian, yet was happy to be more committed once he realized that Bill and Ginny were doing the scientific deed. He’s a jerk.
So, what did you all think?