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Masters of Sex Review: "Manhigh" (Episode 1.12)

December 16, 2013  |  12:38pm
<i>Masters of Sex</i> Review: "Manhigh" (Episode 1.12)

Here’s the thing about leaving the atmosphere: you’ve gotta do it exactly right—with the right equipment, at the right speed—or else you’ll burn up. With the pre-NASA Project Manhigh looming in the background, last night’s season finale of Masters of Sex saw several characters reaching for uncharted territory, crossing their fingers and hoping they won’t be set ablaze.

Now aware that he’s gay, Margaret confronts Barton and demands answers, saying now that she’s discovered she’s been living with “a Martian” she deserves to know about life on Mars. He admits that although most of the men he’s been with were paid escorts, there was one he was in love with when he was 18, before he met Margaret. He insists he’s taking steps to “cure” himself of his homosexuality, and because she refuses to remain in the dark, Margaret pays a visit to the doctor Barton’s been seeing to discuss possible treatments. They’re predictably barbaric—electroshock therapy, chemical castration—and Margaret begins to realize she’s not as emotionally prepared for life on Mars as she thought she was. She doesn’t want to lose the 30 years they’ve shared together (memory loss is a major risk of electroshock therapy), and she asks him to skip the treatment. He agrees, but later in the episode he reveals to Bill he plans to go ahead with the procedure.

Speaking of Bill, he’s the one who burns up most spectacularly this week. (Anyone else notice that was a fire extinguisher he threw through his locked office window? We see you, metaphor-happy Masters of Sex writers.) He finally presents the study, and at first it seems to be going swimmingly—the doctors are sufficiently liquored up, thanks to the complimentary martinis he suggested, and they seem genuinely impressed with the findings on male sexuality, so much so that one drunk doc even gets up and makes a joke about his small penis. But when the presentation switches over to female sexuality, the mood shifts. Bill shows the footage of Jane’s vaginal canal and Virginia’s masturbation session (without asking their permission, of course), asserting that women are sexually superior to men, and the doctors are horrified. They dismiss the study as smut and storm out of the room. The 20 people Bill was expecting for a celebratory dinner at his home all fail to show up, and pretty soon there’s a petition circulating to have the study booted from the hospital. Bill learns from Barton that the chancellor’s planning to do one better by firing both of them, so he takes the fall for both of them, saving Barton’s job by insisting he went behind his back.

While (unbeknownst to him) his wife is in labor, giving birth to the child he never wanted, Bill wanders the halls of the hospital for a while, puts the aforementioned fire extinguisher through a window and winds up on Virginia’s doorstep in the rain. She’s touched that he included her name on the study, and he finally professes his love for her, saying “I have nothing to offer you except maybe the truth. There is one thing I can’t live without. It’s you.”

Masters of Sex started out rough this season, but it finished strong. The season wraps up with just the right amount of unanswered questions to keep us looking forward to next year’s batch of episodes: Will Virginia accept Ethan’s proposal and move to California? Will she and Bill start having an affair? How will his baby with Libby affect Bill’s pursuit of Virginia? What’s going to happen to the study now that Bill’s been canned? The show still hasn’t rocketed out of the atmosphere yet, but like the pre-Space Age balloon experiment it took its name from, “Manhigh” laid the foundation for Masters of Sex to reach new heights.

Stray observations:
—The Jane and Lester romance is still uninteresting to me. A little more character development with these two could go a long way.
—”I can spot a statistically average masturbator from a mile away.”
—Save for one scene where he vaguely makes a pass at Jane, Langham wasn’t in this episode at all, and I’m afraid that now that his storyline with Margaret is over, the writers don’t know what to do with him.
—What’ll happen to Ethan when Virginia rejects his proposal? (I say “when” rather than “if” because c’mon.)
—”I think your vaginal walls are beautiful.”
—Here’s hoping Lillian gets a little more screen-time next year. This week’s revelation that she only has 16 patients, due primarily to the fact that most women are uncomfortable with having a female gynecologist, was an interesting one. But so far she seems to exist mostly as an Option Two for Virginia, a non-Bill possibility that we all know will wind up being abandoned.

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