‘Masters of Sex’ Season 1, Episode 4 Recap: “Thank You For Coming”

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Welcome back to Masters of Sex, where most weeks the contrived conflict concerns whether or not our sex study will remain in the hospital. This week, instead, the contrived conflict comes from the conveniently simultaneous appearance of two characters: George Johnson, Ginny’s ex-husband, and William Masters’ mother.

George manages to make his way into Ginny’s bed, though it’s less a matter of lust or love than because he is broker than broke. When Ginny asks him to go before the kids wake up, he doesn’t. He suggests instead that he stay with Ginny awhile, even doing some babysitting so he can make some dough. She righteously rejects the suggestion that George earn wages for caring for his own offspring. But George finds an ad for the study, and comes in to do a stimulation experiment under an assumed name. In a manner that seems totally outside her actual character, Ginny goes along, and doesn’t alert Masters, at least not at first. Even when she confesses at the end of the episode, she doesn’t want to out her husband under the name he’s given. But Masters, evidently obsessed with Ginny, can’t help but look it up anyway and bring George in for a further interrogation. Is this supposed to be attractive in Masters, I wonder, this obsessive invasion of Ginny’s privacy? Time will tell, I guess.

Meanwhile, Masters mère has come with the plan every adult child dreads; now that Libby is pregnant, she’s hoping to move nearby. As would be the case for anyone, Masters has a lot of feelings about this proposal he needs to work through. Most of them are resentment that his mother did not protect him from a physically abusive father, one whose tempers he seems to have inherited, if at least he’s less violent. It certainly explains why Masters relates to children about as well as I relate to sexist old men. It also explains why Masters feels sorry for this week’s patient, whose husband is beating her in a way-too-on-the-nose subplot. Libby’s worried about Masters’ attitude towards kids and interrogates Masters mère about it. She gets a more or less honest answer.

Haas, meanwhile, is getting to be an even-more-drunk-mess of a person. He operates on a woman under the influence, and is kind of a jerk to the Provost’s daughter, who tracks him down after remembering a dance she shared with him at a Sweet Sixteen party. He’s still way too obsessed with Ginny to notice what a wonderful thing has fallen in his lap. He does, eventually, apologize, but not after having a fair amount of hysteria beforehand.

This all comes to a head when the Masters host a dinner party where all of these people are brought together so that they can have a fight and give the episode its climax. Masters, as is his wont, is a jerk to everyone. It runs the gamut from Ginny’s very cute son all the way up to his mother, and everyone there excuses it as more or less a matter of “Just Bill.” Haas has been studying at the altar of jerkdom and makes a terrible scene when Ginny doesn’t want her to drunkenly, angrily, drive her and the kids home. (Masters steps up and does it himself.)

In short, the episode suffered from all the usual Masters of Sex problems; contrived plotlines, flat characterization, and throughout it all Lizzy Caplan kept hoisting the thing up over her slim shoulder and pulling it up the mountain. Here’s hoping we get a slightly less filler-feel of an episode next week.