Masters of Sex Episode 7: All Together Now

 Posted by on November 11, 2013 at 10:51 am  Masters of Sex
Nov 112013

Masters of Sex "All Together Now" -- Margaret and Barton ScullyThis 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?


  8 Responses to “Masters of Sex Episode 7: All Together Now”

  1. Great review, Deborah. Also, thank you for clearing up Austin’s name for me—I’m sure MoS has mentioned it many times but I could never remember his name, instead choosing to think of him as “the Ken Cosgrove guy” (he reminds me of Ken/Aaron Staton physically–not totally, but enough!!!!)

    I know what you mean about thinking how far things have come for gay people. Bill’s words to Barton reminded me a lot of Don Draper/Sal Romano, and Pete Campbell/Bob Benson. In the ’50s and ’60s, being gay was a “perversion” that even the more sympathetic people were not open to it. From the shows/books/movies I’ve seen, it seems there was a lot of, “Well I guess you can’t help it but it’s a perversion and for God’s sake don’t let anyone find out!” 😮

    Of course, closeted situations do still happen, unfortunately. 🙁 I know a woman who talks about being a “straight spouse” because she was married for several years (until fairly recently) to a man who was gay and afraid to admit it. Now he’s out, and I assume happy (I don’t know him, but last I heard he was in a relationship)–but he wasted all that time when he could have been happy. And his wife wasted a lot of time being with him when *she* could have been happy, much like Margaret (although this woman is a lot younger and living in a much later time). Now she’s single, and trying to date. Her husband’s fears and doubts caused a big problem for her life, whether he meant to do that or not. 🙁

    The “Poor Ginny” moment worked effectively for me–I found it really moving actually. It must be so hard for her to have to “switch gears” with him all the time. I actually felt a bit uncomfortable watching them having sex together, because even though I knew it was coming, I’ve gotten so used to seeing them in professional mode. (Of course, all the wires & machines made the whole thing look pretty clinical—maybe if they weren’t doing research and I just saw them together as two people ‘getting it on’it would be easier to see!)

    I’d also assume that Ginny has some guilt because she’s become a friend and confidante to Libby, and yet she’s having sex with Libby’s husband. And then when the sex ends she goes back to being the supportive friend who hopes Bill will take Libby out somewhere nice (or at least she says that, whether she really hopes he does or not). I’m sure there has to be a lot of guilt running through there, and that combined with the ‘switching gears’ makes for some confusing moments.

    • From Mad Men – Sal Romano as newly minted (and hit-upon) TV commercial director:

      SR: “I didn’t do anything wrong. What if it was a girl?”)

      (not: “What if *I* were a girl?”)

      DD: “That would depend on what KIND of a girl she was….You people.”

      MoS and MM both have the kind of moralizing (and rationalizing) we expect of their respective periods. Dr. Masters “counsels” his boss over his reckless liasons (and he was warned by those who know to avoid that neighborhood) even as he rationalizes multiple evening trysts using multiple variations.

      (BTW I still think Ethan personally charged the cervical cap that inseminated his boss’s wife)

      (I suppose, too, Mrs. Johnson knows she need not duck Masters’ rubber bullets)

      Wires and machines – they definitely distracted, even as they validated/rationalized such “intra-curricular” couplings.

      There is no doubt that Ginny is conflicted with loyalties, sympathies, and desires all balled up. She has known that, however stony his “transference” excuses are, Masters relishes her company in all its manifestations.

      And Masters! What a circumstance. Ethan, if he knew, would face the green-eyed monster yet again – it would bubble up uncommanded.

      (he may yet “know” and not in the way he really wants)

  2. Is Margaret so naive that she does not get what is going on with Barton after having no sex with him in 6 years, no orgasms ever, sleeping in separate bedrooms and seeing Barton’s non-reaction after he finds out she is cheating on him? He seems sincere that he is not with another woman so I am not sure how realistic it is that his wife does not get it. My 70+ year old (gay) cousin was forced to marry 50 years ago and his wife figured it out very quickly and got divorced even quicker.

    On another note, how do you know that Ethan figured out that Ginny and Bill were participating in the study together? I did not catch that.

    • Though this wasn’t addressed to me, Ethan saw one or both of them coming out of the study room late at night.

  3. Would anyone who read the book this is based on care to comment on whether the following people were real: Barton Scully, Margaret Scully, Jane, Austin, Ethan?

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