Masters of Sex Review: Men in the Shadows

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After William Masters' sex study was booted from the hospital, he was forced to move his work to a brothel.

In "Standard Deviation," we see that the study isn't working out the way Masters had hoped because he's not getting the type of subjects he planned for. In his words, his subjects must be "normal" or "average" and this, in his view, does not include homosexuals.

In a series of flashbacks between Masters and Provost Scully, we also learn just how long Masters has been interested in conducting an exploratory study on human sexuality and the lengths he has gone to get here, while delving into the close history between these men.

Continuing Research

Human sexuality and physiology are something William Masters was interested in studying before he was even finished being a student. Around the time he applied for his fellowship, he asked his friend Scully (pre-Provost) what it would take to get a study like that approved. In one word: patience. Masters had to build himself up to the stature and credibility he now has in his 40s as one of the brilliant doctors at a world famous teaching hospital. We also see that Masters used to be a bit of a romantic. He mentions how he was "waiting for the right girl" when nowadays his marriage seems entirely mechanical. 

The world isn’t kind to mavericks, Bill, you want to lead an unconventional life, you gotta learn to hide in plain sight. | permalink

If Betty's observations - and I'm sure those of viewers - stand for anything, then Masters may have found the right girl in Virginia. Betty lamented that he's clearly in love with her. Perhaps that's why he comes down so hard on her? He worked so hard to get where he is, he can't blow it all on some young woman. Especially considering he's married and they are trying to conceive a child. Speaking of, Libby is allegedly pregnant!

So do we think this is completely legitimate or that Ethan's bitterness towards Masters may have caused him to mess with the Libby's case study in some way. Theories? It seems Ethan keeps getting cut off from what he wants and it's usually Masters who is in the way. Granted, for the quadruplets it was undoubtedly a smarter move for a more advanced doctor to scrub in, but couldn't they have at least worked together?

I genuinely hope for Libby's sake that she is with child since we know how badly she wants to be. How will that affect Masters and her general attitude towards everything? Right now he's wound tight like a cord waiting to snap at any moment. He could not have looked more miserable when the newspapers were there to take picture of the quadruplets. Then, we saw Masters stoop to a level that you could tell her never wanted to go. When the young gay man he met at the brothel met him outside the hospital and mentioned that he was screwed twice by someone in the medical profession, it definitely rose some questions.

From there, when Bill went to discuss his study with Scully, you could tell he had some extra ammo up his sleeve. See, he may not personally have a problem with those considered deviants in that era - prostitutes, homosexuals, etc - but he knows that his study is already risky and he wants to get results from what is considered the most average population. I found what he said to Scully to be of particular interest:

I don’t believe in shadows. I believe in the light of scientific inquiry. | permalink

While for Bill, this is all just science and people can have whatever preferences they want, he knows that not everything would be considered the societal norm. The men who watched the gay guys fornicate weren't crazy perverts, they were just family men who were "hiding in the shadows." Perhaps a man just like the provost of a university? So did we just find out a major secret about Scully? I think so. We also should have been tipped off by Scully's earlier comment about "hiding in plain sight." I don't think Bill wanted to stoop to the level of blackmailing his longtime very loyal friend, but he's worked for 20 years to get this study off the ground. He's passionate about it and he doesn't want anything to get in his way anymore.

What did you think of this week's episode of Masters of Sex? Were you surprised by how many of the subjects faked their orgasms? Do you think Betty is making the right move in not telling Gene she can't have kids in order to get her happy ending?

Standard Deviation Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.3 / 5.0 (31 Votes)
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Masters of Sex Season 1 Episode 3 Quotes

I'm not on the menu.


You humans have taken the basic impulse for sex and turned it into some unrecognizable ordeal. Romance, chivalry, codes of etiquette.