‘Masters of Sex’ Season 1 Episode 8 Recap: “Love and Marriage”

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My main problem with Masters of Sex, so far, has been that at least two to three times an episode, and usually more, some kind of anvil falls. It’s usually the script that’s the culprit; I do feel that all the actors are doing their very best to carry this show along in spite of its somewhat faulty engine. People are either capital-L Liberated or capital-R Repressed; there is none of the ambiguity that characterizes the most ordinary human relationships built into the writing, and the actors can’t be expected to do everything.

And though I’d like to tell you this episode was different, well, it wasn’t. We simply got a new kind of anvil this week in the form of a Magical Negro character.

We start off with the older kinds, though, with Jane reminding Johnson, through the lens of a friend’s marriage, that women who sleep with married men usually end up getting the short end of the stick. Johnson takes this as a signal that she really needs to get on that whole finishing-your-undergraduate-degree thing. But to do so she has to go through Julianne Nicholson’s Dr. DePaul, who is back to drop a few anvils of her own about how much she resents that Johnson is such a protégé of Masters without having those credentials. DePaul references Johnson’s “other talents,” just in case we didn’t get it. But as she has to admit by the end of the episode, Johnson is one of DePaul’s best students.

But just when it seems like they might make the cartoonish Dr. DePaul seem a bit more sympathetic, she goes back to cardboard evil. For my money, a more careful screenwriter would recognize that in some sense DePaul is not wrong; it must have been somewhat infuriating to go through all that medical training and then find that someone without even an undergraduate degree could gain the favor of the hospital’s most respected daughters by mere charm. Not that Johnson is wrong either; she got where she was by competence. The tension in their relationship would be a lot more interesting if the show understood the conflict there. Instead, Masters, upon learning of Johnson’s new commitment to scholarship, he pretends to be encouraging. There’s a boring infotainment subplot here about how he and Johnson are trying to get to work filming the interior of the vagina. But then he asks DePaul to let him know if Johnson signs up for too many more classes; he’s concerned she’ll get “distracted” from her “true work.” God, I hate this guy. DePaul calls him out on that little bit of bullshit, but since she’s in the market for funding herself, she agrees to keep an eye on Johnson.

Margaret Scully, meanwhile, breaks things off with the generic blond doctor early in the episode. Beau Bridges is back to trying to romance her, but she’s having none of it and asks for a divorce. Nonetheless he can’t shake the idea that what he needs is to flip his sexuality. So he quizzes Masters on treatment methods, and learns of a behavioral technique that involves the patient being made ill with a drug every time he, you know, gets aroused. Sounds delightful. Beau Bridges decides to enlist the prostitute he’s been using to help him, and the prostitute is understandably reluctant. He makes a speech about how if he wanted to hate himself he’d go back to his parents. An anvil clunks in the background. Or maybe it’s the foreground.

Though that big weight falling isn’t half as loud as the one which drops in the Masters house itself, where a bored and frustrated Libby is visited by a black handyman who has no personality beyond that typically granted to the magical Negro. He is good-natured, and all good at dancing! But while Libby dances with him, she faints. Turns out she’s pregnant again.

Oh, right, and Haas proposes to Margaret Scully, after making a terrible speech about how he just thinks he’ll be happier if he has a wife, though he makes it sound like just any old wife will do. Behind all great men are great wives, he says.