Masters of Sex Season 1 Review “Catherine”

On a heartbreaking episode of “Masters of Sex,” we finally saw Masters lose that tightly-wound veneer of control he so desperately clings to more often than not, and with good reason. I’ve been wondering for some time how the show would get from one point to another, in particular how they would get Masters & Johnson together not only as co-workers, but as the couple we know they eventually became in reality. In “Catherine,” we saw how that might come to pass, and it was not an easy path.

As we know, Masters’ wife Libby, after expending a considerable amount of energy and time trying to conceive a child, finally got her wish and got pregnant at long last. I wondered how having a child might change things, but it never quite occurred to me how not having one might. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what came to pass, and it was a pretty sad affair all around. As distressing as it was to see poor Libby come to terms with the loss of her baby, it was arguably even worse seeing Masters lose it at the end, after being so composed…well, pretty much the entire of the run of the show thus far.

I mean, sure, he’s gotten emotional, but that emotion tends to be either frustration or anger, not grief on the level we saw here. For a show that leans towards the more amusing sides of things much of the time, it was a bit jarring to see it take a hard left into tragedy, but I thought they pulled it off swimmingly. After all, it’s not as if the show hasn’t had its fair share of drama throughout, but this was next level stuff. We’re used to seeing Dr. Haas get his panties in a bunch over most everything, and Johnson stress over her job and mothering skills, but seeing Masters lose it was truly devastating- in a good way. When guys like that break, they break hard, and they don’t break easy, that’s for sure.

It’s hard to imagine that Michael Sheen won’t at least get a nomination of some kind for his work here, which is consistently stellar. He certainly took it to the next level on this episode. Indeed, so did Lizzy Caplan, who also had her own quiet breakdown as her son Henry turned against her and went so far as to try and run away. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, she can’t tell him what a deadbeat his father is (or she could, but there would be considerable fallout), but on the other, she has to work her butt off because she’s got two kids to support.

Who’d have thought the self-involved and egotistical Dr. Haas would turn out to be such a decent guy in the crunch? I mean, don’t get me wrong. He’s still the guy that hit Johnson in a previous episode, and earlier in this episode referred to a Vivian’s virginity in terms of a thrift store accident: “You break it, you buy it,” lamenting that he’d be stuck with her now. But there’s no denying that he’s great with Henry, and he actually managed to take the high road with Johnson by offering his friendship, having finally seemingly come to terms with the fact that they were never going to happen. That’s certainly a step in the right direction. Maybe there’s hope for him yet.

There was an interesting dichotomy going on between of men being men in this episode, all bluster and thunder, and men being humbled by things not going their way, i.e. Austin’s failures in the sex department, as well as Ethan’s; and, of course, Masters’ finally coming up against something he couldn’t do anything about, save taking care of his wife’s surgery after it was all too late. The men in this show all dealt with scenarios they couldn’t control, and they all reacted poorly to them, as men who are used to being in control are wont to do when things go awry.

I loved the little details in this episode: the bits about the meanings behind different configurations of flowers (is that really a thing?); the various types of anniversary gifts (Masters’ comment on that was priceless: “I suppose 70 is granite. Matching headstones: his and hers.”); Scully’s well-rehearsed speech about how he and his wife supposedly met, and her subsequent derailing of the same; the pseudo-reconciliation of Scully and Masters (“I would give you a hug, but I wouldn’t want it to be misconstrued.”), and that sad moment after Libby lost her child when Masters was met in the hallway by Johnson’s daughter.

That last scene said it all, and not just because of Masters’ inevitable breakdown, but his assessment of what was wrong with their approach to couples. He thought they should be put together by age and anonymity, while Johnson quite correctly felt that chemistry was essential, and therefore, actual couples were a must. Masters counted that real-life couples are too complicated- which is, of course, exactly why they should be studying them. I love how this show reflects what’s going on with the characters in the various storylines without hitting you over the head with the symbolism of it all. It’s just exceptionally well-done.

So, yet another great episode of “Masters of Sex,” arguably one of the best, if not the best to date. Can’t wait to see how the show handles the fallout of the events of tonight’s episode. What did you think of it? Like the way the show is handling the subject matter? Did Masters’ breakdown hit you where you lived? How about Johnson’s? Is there hope for Dr. Haas yet? How about the relationship between Scully and Masters? Let me know what you think in the comments section!