‘Masters of Sex’ Recap, Season 1 Episode 12: “Manhigh”


Thank God this show is over for the season. As you have perhaps gathered from my tone in these recaps, I haven’t enjoyed it much. I don’t doubt that this is a team of talented writers but please God guys make a better showing in season 2. If it hadn’t so swiftly taken a turn for “complete waste of ample talent” I might have been able to keep a better temper about it. But instead week by week this show took an interesting premise and over-literalized it and wasted all their amazing actors on a series of bad scripts. The season ended in fitting fashion, I guess you could say.

First, in subplot-land: Haas travels to Anaheim for an interview, but doing more dad/husband role playing before he goes. He’s obviously blissed out. Gini is more sanguine. He calls her from California in the middle of the crisis to inform her he has an offer from UCLA. So he decides to propose to her in a phone booth. She goes dead in the eyes when he asks. He says she can answer when he gets back.

Margaret points out a court case to Scully. It’s one in which a boy was sent to prison for life for homosexuality. She interrogates him about his dalliance with the boy at the hotel. Scully says he loved one of the men he slept with, but just the one, and it was one he slept with the summer before he went to college. Margaret points out that would have placed his awareness of his sexuality before his having met her. “You thief!” she says. Poor Allison Janney can’t quite sell it, I like to think she knows as well as I do that this is overwrought. Scully assures Margaret he intends to undergo a radical new treatment to fix the problem.

Margaret goes and interviews the doctor in question. It turns out to be mostly ECT — shock treatments. He lists some others for her, up to and including chemical castration. Shockingly, she isn’t into it. She talks to Scully about it, who reassures her that castration is off the table. But she doesn’t even like the idea of ECT. She just wants to somehow make the best of things.

Meanwhile, Masters’ medical conference happens. Masters proves a bit obsessive as party host, insists on martinis over punch and reports to be distributed after the speech. He also insists to Scully that Scully must attend. “Whatever comes from it, it will be credited to us both,” he tells Scully in a nice little dramatic wrap-up. “And that’s how it should be.” And there’s a season’s worth of conflict wrapped up in a little bow.

Gini tries to convince DePaul to start the pap smear study with the female hospital employees. DePaul, egged on by the prominence of Bill’s conference, tracks down the Chancellor to try and convince him to give her the funding she needs. The Chancellor points out that DePaul hasn’t brought in nearly the same amount of patients as Masters. DePaul counters that she’s last on the list of ob/gyns available for referrals. He says it’s because women have in fact refused to receive care from another woman.

By the way, another person Masters has neglected to invite to his party is Gini. She’s gracious enough to congratulate him on his accomplishments anyway, and to stand in the back. The conference itself is something of a sausagefest, with men clutching their martini glass stems and chuckling jovially. Thank God for DePaul, who at some point — though she doesn’t appear to be drink — yells out “Who’s we, Dr. Masters?” Around the time Masters declares that women are the real sexual athletes, the Chancellor freaks out and the lights go out. Men mutter about smut. Of course by then Bill’s already aired his film of Gini having an orgasm for everyone to see. She’s not identifiable, but it upsets her.

Masters is, naturally, incensed by everyone’s rejection of his brilliance. Scully says he’ll still support the study, an it’s clear the opposition hasn’t affected Masters in the least. Even so he and Libby are a little depressed by the catered dinner for twenty people they end up eating alone. Libby points out it was the film of Gini that really did it. She, too, was shocked by it, and wants to know who it was. She says the doctors next to her thought it was Gini. He tries to deny it, and refuses to give the filmed woman’s identity.

Masters and Scully are threatened with being fired because of the ersatz skin flick. We are granted a courtroom scene where Masters as usual justifies his runarounds and lying as in the Service of Science. The Chancellor doesn’t buy it, and instructs Scully to fire Masters. Which Scully subsequently does though his heart really isn’t in it, he’s playing for the bleachers. Masters insists he’ll go on with the study anyway, but when he gets back to the hospital the locks have been changed. So he throws a fire extinguisher through a plate glass window, you know.

And because there aren’t enough things going on in this episode Libby begins to have contractions. She ends up, for no obvious reason, in a black hospital to give birth. And then delays calling Masters to inform him of the happy event.

Gini, meanwhile, is getting all sorts of comments from the men who believe it was her in the film. She redoubles her efforts for DePaul in response. She brings up the Pill as an alternative prospect for DePaul’s work. “Why isn’t that enough for you?” DePaul asks of her modest pap smear project. Well, it isn’t enough because it isn’t the Masters project. Which, as it turns out, Bill put Virginia’s name on, and that touches her. Which a better show would have treated gently Though it doesn’t touch her quite as much as the way he appears — bone dry, for the record — on her doorstop in the rain. “If there’s one thing I can’t live without, it’s you,” he intones. A subtler, more intelligent show would have resisted the need to be so literal. But then: this is Masters of Sex first season, after all. And it wouldn’t be the show it is if it didn’t jackhammer everything into the ground.