Sep 122016


Masters of Sex is going for the symbolic title in its season 4 premiere. Both Virginia Johnson and Bill Masters have lives in Freefall, and the extended metaphor is used twice. Once with meaningful music.

If I sound like I didn’t like the episode, that’s not at all true. It wasn’t great. It was disjointed. But it also had real power and it laid groundwork for a potentially very good season. Season 3 was a stumble, but S4 could bring Masters of Sex back into the game. Introducing more involvement with Hugh Hefner and the Playboy enterprise could open this series up in any number of ways. Having Hef be the deus ex machina who brings Masters and Johnson back together makes a perverse kind of sense.

Masters of Sex is a little bit confined by history. Not entirely, but they are more or less obligated to keep the main characters together, and they played the emotional distance between them so hard, for so long, that it was inevitable that Bill and Ginny be torn apart, hence Hef ex machina (or deus ex mansion?).

By the way, if you’re lost or new to the show, check out my catch-up post at The Film Experience.

The episode opens with a time check. The “bra burning” (actually bra-trashing) at Miss America took place on September 7, 1968. It’s a good symbolic moment as well, about constraints and changing moors.


Then we get into parallel drinking episodes, Bill and Ginny at different bars, differently inappropriate, each telling wild fabrications about their lives. Here’s the thing, though—they land on truth very differently. Bill does land on truth—partially in AA, but more than that. He’s truly hit bottom, and he’s truthful with Betty (“I don’t know if I’m back”), he’s truthful in the bar when he talks about looking in the mirror, he’s truthful in the Salvation Army when he finds his suit. But Ginny? Her one moment of truth is when she says her husband is “protection”.

Where’s Dan Logan? The “husband” is ostentatiously absent. Did she marry him at all? (Historically, she did not, but the perfumer fiancé of real life was not named Dan Logan.) I can’t find anything about Josh Charles returning, or not, to the cast this season.

Speaking of cast, it is typical, if you enjoy a lot of drama, to recognize guest stars from shows you currently watch or recently watched. The good character actors make the rounds. So there’s Rich Sommer of Mad Men as an overwrought shoe fetishist, and there’s Alysia Reiner of Orange is the New Black leading the consciousness raising group, and there’s Niecy Nash of, well, everything, as Bill’s AA “sponsor” (quotes because real sponsors are more voluntary).

This show has a bad history with its African-American characters, using them as foils to the white leads, moving them around like pawns on a chessboard where only white kings and queens get character development. So the introduction of a Sassy Black Lady is not a welcome sight, even though Nash is, of course, very good. I hope this isn’t the shape of things to come.

All of this was kind of jumpy. Let’s do comedy with Betty answering the phone. Let’s have parallel drinking scenes. Let’s go to the Playboy Mansion. Let’s go to AA. Let’s see patients. Let’s see a divorce lawyer. To me, it was all over the place, but I think the idea was to get us started for the season, and that was surely achieved.

Did you enjoy it, Basketcases? Will you be back for more?


  One Response to “Masters of Sex: Freefall (Season 4 Premiere)”

  1. Well, I for one am totally in LOVE WITH BETTY….the best secretary in the entire world…up there with Joan Harris! I thought it was a good new episode…but yeah, where is Dan?…and did she actually marry him? Inquiring Minds Need to Know….

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>