The title for this week’s Masters of Sex installment comes from a delightful song by Frank Sinatra that addresses how the matters of love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. However, despite the song’s inclusion in a scene involving Vivian Scully dancing to Ol’ Blue Eyes, the title is an ironic suggestion given the episode’s stark juxtaposition of the two. Although the show is stuck within the conservative mores of the 1950s, the notion that the covenant between man and wife signifies love does not attest to several of the characters within the show’s ensemble.
“Love and Marriage” is also an exciting and very full episode of Showtime’s drama, a rebound from the mawkish soap opera that weighed down last week’s hour. The 59-minute episode, the longest of the show’s run so far, is complete with a divorce, a marriage proposal and plenty of seismic character reveals. If anything, Masters of Sex has proven to be formidable in its extensive use of a supporting cast. As easy as it would be to keep resting the drama’s laurels on Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan’s shoulders, the writers have delivered a wide array of subplots with more minor characters that are just as compelling as the sex doctors.
The episode kicks off with some office gossip: a secretary friend of Jane’s got in the middle of her boss’s marriage by fooling around with him. Unbeknownst to Jane, her ally Virginia is up to the same ordeal with Dr. Masters. Although this opening would expect the viewer to lead into scenes where Virginia ponders her potential interference in Bill and Libby’s marriage, much of the rest of the episode jumps to another couple poorly handling their own trove of secrets: the Scullys.
Allison Janney ought to secure an Emmy nomination for Best Guest Performance for her devastating portrayal of Margaret, vulnerable, exhausted and naked (and not just in the literal sense). At a bar, she bumps, miraculously (and perhaps too conveniently) into the male prostitute that has been servicing her husband. When Barton enters and stares furtively at the two of them, Margaret understands the reason. “When the person who knows you best loses interest, that really takes something out of you,” Margaret says, shattered. “You really start to wonder if you’ll ever be whole again.”
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