In its second season, Masters of Sex has shoe-horned in issues of morality previously unconsidered. This week’s episode, “Giants,” tackles a few more in big ways, with a little help from guest star Sarah Silverman: Is it OK for a woman to hide her lesbian past from her husband? Are threats acceptable if fully warranted? Is using someone as leverage wrong if it benefits an admirable cause?
These questions and their answers prove to be more interesting than the same old moral dilemma Masters of Sex revisits each week: Is an affair acceptable if it’s for research purposes? By now we know that what is going on between Virginia and Bill is in fact an affair, and it’s not just for research. Those with lingering doubts saw this confirmed when Virginia, upon being hired back onto the study full-time, carefully asks Dr. Masters: Is my personal participation in the study a stipulation of my employment? He says no. She says, I’d like to stop having sex with you. He says, yes, it is mandatory. She says, touch yourself for me then because I am not taking off my clothes. He says, I think of you when I touch myself. She says, take my clothes off and eat me out. Will-they-or-won’t-they has never looked so much like sexual harassment.
While these two crazy kids work out their issues by working up a sweat together, let’s focus on these other moral questions. Their existence is key to the show’s longevity. An investment in supporting cast that viewers connect with emotionally will help distract from the fact that Bill Masters is a monster you don’t want to root for. (That is, so long as the supporting cast are not later revealed to simply be there to teach Masters and Johnson lessons, like DePaul, who likely won’t make it through the season before dying. Sigh.)
Is It OK for a woman to Hide Her Lesbian Past from Her Husband?
Betty’s storyline turned a big corner last week, but just as she’s making up with Gene over lying about her fertility, her former lesbian partner, a psychic named Helen (played by Sarah Silverman), stops by the house unexpectedly. The two bumble through a semi-coherent story about how they know each other, and Gene suggests setting Helen up with his friend for a double date. Anxious to dig her claws into a man with deep pockets and hunker down with societal pressures, Helen jumps at the opportunity, at which point Betty loses her shit in a number of ways.
The facade of Betty’s sweet union with Gene comes crumbling down with one single, tearful kiss from Helen. The smooch takes place in a ladies room, something I see becoming a pattern until Gene eventually finds out and is less forgiving than the other aspects of Betty’s former life. Considering how understanding he was about her prostitute past, I think Gene would have eventually understood if Betty had told him outright when Helen showed up. But watching Betty destroy her life via an affair with her ex-lesbian lover should be fun and steamy, at least.
Are Threats Acceptable if Fully Warranted?
Coral’s boyfriend, Robert, pays Libby Masters an ominous visit to discuss Licegate 1958. He threatens her so gently, you don’t even realize it’s a threat at first. Of course Libby acts as if it’s completely unwarranted, and Coral straight-up trolls her when confronted about Robert. Playing dumb at first, Coral tears into a monologue about how Robert loses his temper sometimes, but she can’t leave him when the night comes and he softens up. The tantalizing things Coral says about Robert’s soft hands and whispers between the sheets are enough to inspire Libby to initiate sex — unfulfilling, missionary-style sex — with Bill. Her claim of silent orgasm in that position was the comic highlight of “Giants.”
Libby eventually tells Bill about Robert’s visit, but he sides with Coral — Libby should never have forced her head under the faucet. Frustratingly, Libby turns it into a “you never take my side” fight, instead of merely addressing her racism. When she eventually apologizes to Robert, he tells her it should be directed at Coral. For some reason, Libby blows up, screaming about how Coral disobeyed her. Robert’s response is, essentially, “white people don’t fucking get it.” And Libby’s reaction? To scream at his taillights, “My husband works at the negro hospital.” Robert’s initial low-key warning did not seem like the out of line move here, and I’m sick of Libby trying and failing to understand why she’s racist.
Is Using Someone as Leverage Wrong if It Benefits an Admirable Cause?
Buell Green boss Dr. Andrews launches into a speech that starts with a MLK quote and ends with him demanding that Bill’s patients be integrated as aggressively as possible, despite a dust-up between black and white patients in the waiting room. Virginia smiles and agrees that she has her work cut out for her, later ribbing Bill about attending the next MLK rally in St. Louis. His response is that of a man so selfish, he couldn’t dedicate his time to another’s cause if he wanted: “That isn’t our fight, but if we can help Dr. Andrews’ cause too, all the better.”
In the episode’s closing shot, Andrews is shown tearing down fliers for Masters’ sex study. His motivations for bringing him to Buell Green are political, and while his cause is a necessary one, why must he destroy the study? Andrews talks a big game about being progressive, but could he find the study disgusting? Or is he merely trying to keep Bill focused on his goal of integration? Whatever the case, let’s hope this doesn’t mean another hospital move for Bill.