Masters of Sex: Monkey Business

 Posted by on August 24, 2015 at 10:21 am  Masters of Sex
Aug 242015
Josh Charles in a gorilla suit

Courtesy of Showtime

At the end of the Masters of Sex episode Monkey Business, I turned to Professor Spouse and said “What did that mean?” She didn’t know either. There were some great scenes, and I was interested in a lot of it, but nothing hung together for me, and the gorilla subplot in particular didn’t seem to me to provide the symbolism and through-line that the writers imagined. Since Gill the gorilla is not based on a real-life story, the entire thing is bizarre, and a little nauseating.

I’m guessing there’s meant to be a theme related to self-sacrifice, as Dan Logan (Josh Charles) spells out in the opening scene in bed with Virginia Johnson. Virginia gives to everyone, takes care of every need, most especially the endless demands of Bill Masters, without ever leaving anything over for herself. I’m guessing that she’s shown giving even to an animal to highlight how dehumanized she is herself. Libby’s so-far-uninteresting subplot is also about her self-sacrifice, her subsuming her own interests into some ideal of wife and mother and caregiver, and her neighbor’s ability to be a caregiver to his wife has crumbled in the face of reality. Reality makes you selfish? Fantasies maintain you (as Libby asserts)? I dunno.

The show works more and more as a wry comedy, and less and less as a drama. People’s feelings are ludicrous, their goals, and what they’d do to achieve them, are crazy. Betty and whoever Sarah Silverman plays sort of spell that out. It’s lovely that they want a child, it’s cruel that lesbian couples couldn’t adopt, but sneaking into the office in the middle of the night for do-it-yourself insemination? CRAZY! Betty gloving up? HILARIOUS!

Bill is intensely territorial, and obviously senses something between Virginia and Dan. He is, I guess, being likened to a monkey, strutting, pounding his chest, and needing Virginia near in order to feel like a man.

Dan Logan as a character is surprising. He’s saying remarkably tender things, his attitude towards Virginia is gentle and giving. This from a philandering married man. Will wonders never cease.

Speaking of philanderers, we this week are reintroduced to Teddy Sears as Austin. His career has fallen on hard times precisely because of his roving eye, and now he’s giving medical care to strippers (I guess? Or is he the club owner or something? And how did Betty know about this, now that she’s no longer in “the life”?). He may fit in better this season, which has more of a commitment to comedy.

Libby, though. Sorry, not on board. I get that Bill is a shitty husband, but her level of tragic histrionics is jarring, and one-note, and just no fun. She doesn’t bring us into Libby, we don’t know her, we just watch her perform the role of unhappy wife. I absolutely get why the writers decided to make Libby Masters an important character: Bill and Virginia had an affair for years and years, Libby’s role in all that is unknown to history and potentially fascinating, not to mention very, very human. But this season, Libby is nothing except her unhappiness. She has no internal experience that isn’t about Bill. And she complains a lot.

The title of next week’s episode is Surrogates, and I think surrogacy makes sense as a theme this week, rather than whatever Monkey Business is meant to mean. Libby substitutes that apartment for a happy marriage, Neighbor sublimates his grief and loss into feelings for Libby, Gill the gorilla substitutes something something tits for something something female gorilla, and Jane humps her buddy while Lester watches. Everyone gets sloppy seconds. Also sperm donation. It’s actually all a little gross once you spell it out. For once, Tessa is right.


  2 Responses to “Masters of Sex: Monkey Business”

  1. The word I agree with the most in the above perceptive review is “nauseating”. This episode was no doubt inspired by the recent incident in which a woman alleged that a primate institute suggested that she take off her top as a ” friendly” gesture to an ape; they denied that it ever happened.
    I sincerely doubt that anyone knew the precise degree of genetic similarity between gorillas and humans in 1965. Why don’t they have Tessa say she’s going on-line for a report on oncogenes, next?
    The shows sexism got cruder in this episode.

  2. I saw the gorilla suit, and my first thought was “L.A Law.”

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.