Masters of Sex Season 1 Review “Standard Deviation”

On the latest episode of “Masters of Sex,” we got a glimpse at just how long Masters had been contemplating his study- and how far he was willing to go to further it. In “Standard Deviation,” we got several looks at Masters over the years, as he rose up through the ranks, despite the fact that he left many cold, in terms of his bedside manner, often to his own detriment. Indeed, had it not been for the unflagging support of his mentor Provost Scully, he might not have risen as far as he did- and yet, when push came to shove, Masters was willing to throw even his greatest ally under the bus to further his study. Now, that’s dedication!

As nasty as his actions were in this episode, at the same time, there’s no denying his heart was in the right place. Like he said at a pivotal moment, he wants to help those who stick to the shadows find their way into the light by showing that they’re not alone in the world, and that there are many like them out there, and that it’s really just a matter of getting the information out there. In doing so, Masters hopes to make even the “deviants” feel acceptance. That’s pretty impressive and forward thinking, especially given the times.

Of course, on the other hand, Masters remains stubborn as a mule when it comes to how effective and necessary the help of others in his life is, in particular that of Johnson, but also that of his wife, who finally discovered what her husband had been hiding from her all this time. Although he should probably count his lucky stars that she got pregnant when she did, or else things might have gone an entirely different way altogether. We know from history that they are going to anyway, eventually, but for now, Masters is in the clear, despite that whopper of a lie he told her.

He likewise owes his understudy Dr. Haas a debt of gratitude for making that happen, despite his stealing the guy’s thunder with that whole quadruplets thing. I mean, I’d have to agree that if I were the mother there, I’d want the best person for the job involved, and that was Masters. But clearly, Masters is not comfortable with the spotlight, as evidenced by his behavior after the birth when he and Scully met the press. Just as Johnson is a necessary buffer with his sex study, so is Dr. Haas one for his livelihood, like it or not. Masters had best learn to respect that, or lose one of his greatest potential allies- or two of them, as the case may be.

Less successful was Masters’ efforts regarding Betty. After a typically “bull in the china shop” type approach on her part, Masters finally caved and performed the tube reversal surgery she so desperately wanted, to no avail. You had to feel terrible for her, and it was actually a nice moment for Masters as well, as you saw that, just as he learned to accept the “deviancy” of homosexuality, so did he feel heartbroken to have to deliver the news that his other big operation of the week was unsuccessful.

As much as he likes to talk big, and as much as he clearly resented being blackmailed into doing it himself, it was clear that he was crestfallen he wasn’t successful in his efforts there. Not too fun when the shoe is on the other foot, right, Masters? I also liked how protective he was of Betty when those gossip queens spoke disparagingly of her on the operating table. I think he’s learning to have a grudging respect for Betty in spite of himself.

As ever, the lighter moments came via the brothel, such as when Masters asked the ladies if they were sexually active. You think? I loved that one girl’s answer to the age question: “I don’t know. 35? Maybe you can count the rings on my hoo-ha.” LOL. Ditto Masters’ assessment of his subjects thus far in the study, one of the funniest psychology-related jokes I’ve ever heard: “We’re so far from the Bell Curve, we can’t even hear it ringing.” I also got a kick out of the opening scene with the bunnies: “The buck stops here,” indeed. I love that Scully thought the male rabbit died after he passed out after copulation. Animals, they’re so much like us!

On the other end of the spectrum, it was fascinating to see how most of the women bristled at the thought of a female doctor at the time- and intriguing to see how cold Dr. De Paul was with Johnson, who was perhaps a little too bright and shiny with her enthusiasm towards the new recruit. Clearly, it wasn’t easy rising up through the ranks for a woman in medicine at the time. And how horrific was that “anchor” story the one prostitute told Masters and Johnson? Eek.

On the bright side, it looks like the study will be resuming back at the hospital. As nasty as what Masters had to do was, it worked, and in the long run, it’s for the best. Masters was right in that the study would have been hopelessly compromised if they had continued to work out of a brothel. It will be interesting to see how successful they are in getting “normal” people to participate in the future, though. I suspect they have a long road ahead of them in that regard.

So, another solid episode all around. A bit heavier than the previous ones, but nonetheless effective. Given the social mores of the time, I suppose one had to play a little hard ball when it came to getting things done, like it or not. I just hope Masters still has some allies on down the line, given his actions thus far, because so far, he is burning bridges left and right. From history, we know that he eventually got somewhere with his study, but from the looks of things, things are going to get worse before they get better.

What did you think of the episode overall? Do you like the direction “Master of Sex” is headed in? Would you prefer it if it were more light-hearted, or do you like the mix of humor and seriousness just fine the way it is? Sound off on these things and whatever else strikes your fancy below, and I’ll see you next week!