Masters of Sex Season 2 Review “Mirror Mirror”

Masters of Sex Season 2 Episode 8 Mirror, Mirror-1

On the latest episode of “Masters of Sex,” it was all about the way things seem and the way things are, in “Mirror Mirror.” We started off, aptly-enough, with a discussion between Masters and a heretofore unknown man, Dr. Francis (Christian Borle), aka Dr. Frank, who Masters apparently attended college with, about the way plastic surgery had become all the rage, going far beyond helping those who had been disfigured through an accident of some kind to helping those who had some issue with the way they look and wanted to fix it accordingly.

Francis noted that many of those seemingly-perfect Hollywood stars out there had had work done, and that plastic surgery had taken off in ways many had never suspected. If then, Bill was looking to become the “master of sex,” then Francis and others of his kind were looking to become the “master of illusion,” as it were. However, as we discovered, it ran much deeper than that, as it was ultimately revealed that Frank was, in fact, Masters’ brother that we never knew he even had. Interestingly, Masters chose to keep as much distance from him as he did his mother, perhaps because he’d had a better life than Masters himself had, what with Masters having been abused by his father and so on.

Now, the time had come for his brother to seek out his help, and Masters was hellfire determined not to give it as much as possible. It seems that Frank and his wife were having trouble conceiving, and who would know more about helping them reconcile that than his brother, one of the best in his field, if not the best? But Masters did everything within his power to avoid doing just that, even though many of Frank’s problems were a reflection of his own, including his main issue with conception, which proved to be low sperm count, just like Masters.

Needless to say, Masters’ hesitance to help his own brother spoke volumes about his own issues. Not unlike an unwanted tumor or the like, Masters had cut his own brother out of his life, and had no desire to get him back into it, tact be damned. But his brother was not looking to take no for an answer, so he kept pushing every step of the way until Masters finally caved in and agreed to help him in the end. No longer would his brother be denied, and the same held true of his family in general, if you think about it, between his struggles with his mother to the ones with his wife, with whom he was barely engaging with beyond the most surface of ways, such as when we discovered last week that they hadn’t had sex in over a year, which is kind of ironic, given what Masters does for a living.

This also bled into Masters’ work itself, as Johnson decided, rather than turning their backs on those subjects that had proven unable to perform sexually because of some type of dysfunction, that they should study those people as well, and try and figure out a way to help them rectify their situation. To that end, Johnson put together a series of subcategories of various sexual dysfunctions (i.e. premature ejaculation, impotence, etc.) to be studied, and she began by talking to Barbara (Betsy Brandt), who Masters & Johnson had been unable to study because of her vaginismus, which kept her from having intercourse at all.

We found out that there was an actual reason for it, as Barbara had once engaged in sexual activity with her own brother and was caught by their mother, who never brought it up again, but made sex feel shameful to Barbara in the process, leading her to form a mental block about it ever since. Realizing that her problem was mental rather than physiological, Johnson sought to help her in the short term by posing as a patient and going to a psychiatrist to talk about it as if she were the one with Barbara’s issues. Interesting way to go about it, but as Masters pointed out, Johnson wasn’t exactly an expert in such matters- though she aimed to change that by announcing that she was going to be returning to school sooner than later to study psychology.

Not sure about Johnson’s methods, but her heart is certainly in the right place, and Lord knows, poor Barbara could use the help given all that she’s been through. Hopefully the methods to Johnson’s madness will eliminate the insanity of her approach, but we’ll have to wait and see just how that all pans out in later episodes, I guess.

Also hiding beneath the surface was Libby’s sense of right and wrong. The sort of person whose heart is also in the right place, even if her actions aren’t, Libby found her belief system challenged when she bore witness to the aftermath of a hate crime and could possibly have information that would prove it as such, but was hesitant to come forward about it because of her wariness of getting involved with African-Americans in general. But Robert, who was also there, and saw that Libby was, wasn’t about to let her slide so easily, and came to her house to confront her about it. Eventually Libby chose to do the right thing and went to Robert to try and rectify the situation- but will she actually follow through? We’ll have to wait and see on that one as well, I suppose.

That was mostly it, though there was another bit of business with Flo and Dr. Austin, who was still trying to change his ways as a lothario. However, when Flo suddenly found herself with an opening in her spokesperson department- himself someone who hid behind a powerful voice, but who was actually deceptively overweight, making him a decidedly ironic spokesperson for a diet pill company- she had the bright idea to recruit Austin, who had the looks and build to go along with the voice, making him an ideal choice of replacement for her late spokesperson. But will Austin manage to keep himself out of trouble with a mostly female clientele? Probably not.

There was some stuff involving the oddball “Veiled Prophet Ball,” which was a thing I had no idea existed, but later looked up, and is indeed a thing. I think its appearance here may have something to do with the fact that it became a source of contention during the Civil Rights Movement, with protests against its perceived elitism. It was certainly an odd thing to behold, looking on the surface like a combination of a beauty pageant and a KKK rally, with a decidedly mostly white clientele in attendance. Pretty weird stuff, but I’m intrigued to know more.

This episode was much more successful to me than the last, which was more of a transitional episode as we moved forward in time to the 60’s, as things like the Civil Rights Movement began to become more prominent in society, not unlike a similar gambit used on “Mad Men” previously. I think it was a smart move on the behalf of the show-runners here, as it raises the stakes of what Masters & Johnson are doing considerably, given the tumultuous times they’re living in. I definitely think it will reap some interesting storylines in the weeks to come.

As ever, there was some great stuff going on here, not in the least the whole gambit of things not always being what they seemed on the surface- hence the “Mirror Mirror” episode title. I thought that, like the best episodes of “Masters of Sex,” the show worked on multiple levels at once, with each of the seemingly disparate storylines complimenting each other to form an overall solid theme. I love that about this show, and I love it even more when it works without you realizing it until it all comes together in the end. This was definitely one of those cases, and it definitely worked for me.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll no doubt say it many times again in the future, but this is just plain one of the best written shows on television right now, summer or otherwise. Hopefully, it will get a little more award show love next year, what with “Breaking Bad” now in the past, if not “Mad Men” just yet. Personally, I think this show is even better than “Mad Men,” but to each their own, I guess.

What did you think of “Masters of Sex” this week? Did you appreciate the way the various stories complimented one another as well? What did you make of Masters’ brother and his iffy relationship with him? How about Johnson’s new focus on sexual dysfunction? Or Austin’s new line of work? Will he stay out of trouble or fall right back into bad habits? Will Masters be able to parlay his board of trustees idea into an actually functioning business finally? Will Libby be able to get past her prejudice? Let me know what you think down below and I’ll see you next week!