I've written before about my intense love of Showtime's Masters of Sex before, both when the show premiered last fall and again when it began its second season a couple of weeks ago. It's a unique series that approaches the typically salacious sexual content that premium cable series contain with a refreshingly intellectual and compassionate attitude. And so, given the tremendous amount of affection that I have for the show, it's not terribly shocking that it's produced one of the best hours of television I've seen this year (give me some more time to digest and watch it a few more times and the time frame may expand).
In "The Fight," which airs this evening at 9pm CST, Masters of Sex eschews its talented ensemble cast to focus exclusively on the percolating sexual relationship of its co-leads in an hour of television that takes place almost exclusively in a single hotel room. It's a credit to both the writing of the series and the skills of its lead actors Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan that stripping away the talents of fabulous performers like Beau Bridges, Allison Janney and Julianne Nicholson and abandoning the ongoing serialized plot lines like Bill Master's new job and Virginia Johnson's relationship with her new boss, does nothing to eliminate the tension and storytelling in this episode. By shutting out the rest of the world, we get to experience what it's like for both Bill and Virginia to engage in their current affair, the reprieve they're allowed from the other stresses in their lives.
The only semblance of a plot that exists outside of Bill and Virginia's hotel room relates to infant with ambiguous genitalia that Dr. Masters delivered earlier that day. As a bookend to the meat of the episode, which includes Bill and Virginia unpacking lessons they've over the years learned about being a strong man and a vulnerable woman, it serves as an intriguing commentary about the sticky nature of gender roles in society. As with many of the difficult cases that Masters confronts as a forward-thinking OB-GYN, his battles against the sexual puritanism of the 1950s feel incredibly familiar.
If you haven't yet begun Masters of Sex, I would surely encourage you to catch up from the beginning, as it's one of the best shows on TV right now, but the sheltered nature of "The Fight" means that it's a great opportunity for newbies to get a taste of what the series does best, without needing to be concerned with continuity. It's a taste that will surely leave you wanting more.