‘Masters of Sex’ Season 1 Episode 6 Recap: “Brave New World”


This week’s episode is a bit of a mess again, with two poles of gravity.

One is Libby, who, early in the episode, drags her husband off to Florida. But not before she’s subjected to the sound of a happy, healthy baby crying next door. The trip is meant as a kind of consolation prize for the lack of baby in the Masters household itself, but as with all such attempts to replace apples with oranges, it’s disastrous from the start. Bill doesn’t want to go, he wants to work. He can’t help observing the elderly couple whose amorous cries are leaking through those permeable hotel walls. Libby, meanwhile, wants to have a little fun, enjoy the sunshine. She’s amused by the couple next door, who are loud and have loud sex, too. He is not, and soon they fight, and he returns home. Home, where he ominously tells Gini (I have discovered that ‘Gini’ is the correct spelling) he’d like to get right back into the lab and observe more research. Libby, meanwhile, left to her own devices in the Florida hotel, has to fend off the amorous lechery of the couple next door.

The other pole is Gini. Who has been, oh, you know, just trying to overturn the foundations of Western psychoanalytic thought. She goes to a talk by Anna Freud. Anna Freud repeats a claim of her father’s, which is that the clitoral orgasm is somehow inferior to the vaginal orgasm. Not that anyone’s proved it; an emboldened Gini promptly raises her hand to ask about proof, annoying Dr. DePaul (the lady doctor), who’s in the audience. Freud admits she has n proof, but then she doesn’t know how anyone could decently come by such proof. And Gini proceeds to spend the rest of the episode trying to prove Anna Freud wrong.

By the end, this plot arc has turned into a reason for Masters to “promote” Gini to the rank of research assistant. Characteristically, she doesn’t ask if being something more than a secretary comes with an actual raise. “Keep asking questions,” Bill tells her, in the sort of weird head-pat that the show always seems to want us to believe is an actual compliment. And Gini is so flattered that she goes ahead and hops up on the examining table, takes off her blouse and bra, and essentialysays she wants to get down to it. (Specifically, she wants to prove women can be brought to orgasm just by touching their breasts, which is probably true for some women but also sounds a lot like wishful thinking, IMHO. Still, science!) It’s just so strange that after weeks of agonizing over the will-she-or-won’t-she portion of the study, Gini’s just like, all right, yup, rarin’ to go, isn’t it? She doesn’t seem to feel even the slightest soupcon of oh, your wife just lost a baby.

This is not the only moment in the episode where the anchor falls and flattens the interesting drama. Poor Margaret Scully, alerted by her friends to the delights of volunteering for sex research, goes in to try to sign up for the study and finds herself confronted with the question that, according to television, no woman in the 1950s could answer: Have You Had An Orgasm, Ever? When Johnson tells her, “You’d know,” if she’d had one, Allison Janney’s face fell so fast I wanted to run in and scoop her up and tell her it would be okay. Masters rejects her from the study. Then she had to go have a loveless dinner with the Provost, who turns out to be the kind of closeted-gay husband that won’t even take you to the movies, the cad. But when she goes Margaret runs into the young doctor whose impotence preoccupied him so a few episodes back, and he deflowers her (in the orgasmic sense) in the backseat of a car. Which is all a little convenient, but hey, this is a show that always feels a little too convenient, doesn’t it?