The latest Masters of Sex episode, Coats or Keys, is the best single episode this show has given us in ages, probably since season 1’s knock-it-out-of-the-park stunner Catherine., or season 2’s Fight. Coats or Keys may also be the first truly great Masters of Sex episode that is as funny as it is dramatically rich.
Nothing radical’s ever been catered.
“Key parties” have certainly been fodder for fiction before. I’m especially reminded of the film The Ice Storm. Ang Lee’s film and his all-star cast (Sigourney Weaver, Elijah Wood, Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Christina Ricci, Tobey Maguire) mined many of the same veins: Hypocrisy, fear, using swinging to prop up an unhappy marriage. In some ways, though, Coats or Keys is better than the rather sloggy movie. For one, it’s funny. For another, it steps back and comments from the outside, by showing us “homos” and caterers and people who have no idea why they’re there.
I’m looking for a little moral support from the only other homo at this party.
Libby is funny instead of histrionic. Lester is funny instead of pathetic. Betty is always funny. And Virginia Johnson, who has been on a mean girl rampage this entire season, is gently sympathetic, while still as tightly wound as ever.
Bill Masters hitting bottom has apparently been healing for him. He is connected to his feelings and to personal honesty in a new way. Perhaps AA is really working. Bill understands his patients, and he understands feelings, and he understands that he’s not the only person in the world. And notice what they’re doing with costume and makeup: He’s a little rumply, and his hair is soft—a little long, and without any greasy product. Everyone else, even the “hip” people, are lacquered and polished. Bill is himself, at long last. Maybe that’s a place Ginny can get to. At least with Art, she seemed to find some truth about herself.
The question isn’t, ‘do they love each other enough?’ It’s ‘are they willing to truly engage in the work of intimacy? To stand naked in front of each other outside the bedroom?’
Sometimes the way that the patients are meant to reflect the undercurrents between Bill and Ginny work, and sometimes they don’t. With the tragic BDSM couple, it absolutely works. It’s not too perfectly on the nose—yes, Bill’s father was violent, but these aren’t complete parallels. It’s also not too baffling, as Rich Sommer’s foot fetishist was. Bill can sit and talk about forgiveness, which is “about” the patients, and Bill and Ginny can both look at each other, and understand it’s much more than that.
Everything is hard to begin with, but gets easier.
Art’s forlorn understanding of love is surprisingly beautiful, and an appropriate, and earned, awakening for Ginny, who has nothing but her ability to leave “an indelible mark” on men—not love them, just mark them. This, at last, explains her cruel behavior towards the psychiatrist.
But we end in Ross and Rachel territory, with Virginia finally understanding that she loves the man who pines for her, just in the moment that he has moved on. I hope that doesn’t last, because it’s unworthy of the writing this season.
- Libby’s gradual sexual awakening is awesome, especially, I think, because she maintains her own boundaries. Libby having “coat” sex with someone from the party would have felt violating.
- The Love Bug was in limited release at Christmas 1968, and opened wide in March 1969. The episode shouldn’t be taking place far from March, since everyone is wearing a coat.
- Yan and Rafael Feldman, who played the creepy swinger twins, portrayed the twins Mingo and Fanty in the movie Serenity. I had two cats named Mingo and Fanty after these guys.
- The credits list Lester’s paramour as Cleo, played by Enuka Okuma. Lester is upset that the number is gone from his window—if he gets the car steamed up again, won’t the marks still be there? Barring that, I’m sure Art and Nancy have the name of the catering company.
- “Civil disobedience” is the line of the night, no contest.
- Sorry if you’ve been kept waiting. The blog was not letting me post. Mean blog.