There was a lot of life saving going on in this episode of Masters of Sex, whether the characters were privy to it or not. In “All Together Now,” we see some storylines finally come to fruition, and I find I am having mixed feelings about the consummation of Ginny and Bill’s relationship because of the implications it will inevitably have on their dynamic. This week’s show juxtaposes their professional courtship against Margaret and Austin, and Ethan and Vivian, revealing the continuum upon which relationships slide, and offering widely varying perspectives on what intimacy looks like.
Bill and Ginny’s relationship is a strange hybrid of clinical instructions and realized intimacy and it makes for a weird simulation of a courtship ritual. The awkward (although very revealing) interview they conduct on each other reads like a bizzaro first date, which follows a very uncomfortable and silent love scene between the two. I hardly recognized Ginny in this scene. What I saw there is so contrary to the sexually liberated, independent spirit we know she is, that I am troubled over what this new relationship is going to mean for them. In a sense, this is the culmination of the desires Bill has been harboring for her all season long, so his motivation and subsequent satisfaction (if you’ll pardon the phrase) are not out of sync with what I know about him. However, if Ginny’s motivation to sleep with him is merely to please him, or prove herself worthy of the promotion, then I’m worried; especially as we see her disappointment when he rushes off to be with his wife, even though we know she has facilitated that as well. This really ups the gross-out factor as well; that Bill is only sleeping with his wife so that he can sleep with Ginny. This has the makings of an odd love triangle that could taint my feelings for them. I don’t mind if they sneak around behind Libby’s back, but it just seems all too incestuous when Ginny is offering advice and playing middle man. How will this play out once Libby gets pregnant and how are we supposed to root against that plan since she admits it will save her life.
As complicated as the situation is between these three, there is the simplistic and highly Oedipal relationship between Margaret and Austin. I really wanted to see him woo her, to sweep her off her feet and show her what it means to fully realize herself as a sexual being, but then he had to ruin it when he reveals himself as a sex addict to his therapist. Once Margaret admits he saved her life, proving herself more than just an object, Austin is less interested, and I am back hating him for being an insensitive lout. Once we realize the extent of Margaret’s loneliness – Barton didn’t even raise his voice when he discovered another man in her room – Austin’s immaturity is that much more of an insult. I guess she knew what she was doing when she acted like a mother—he needs one. Barton on the other hand is grappling with his own sexuality and it’s hard for me to blame him for what’s happened. Working inside my twenty-first century sensibility, I can’t imagine what kind of prison in which he dwells. His young lover did more than literally save his life when he interrupted Barton getting beaten by the homophobes on the street. He did for Barton what Austin did for Margaret.
While these characters sit in such stark contrast, Ethan is in murky waters. Ethan is a very complex character because he vacillates so wildly between being an advocate for the female characters on the show and treating them like crap. He has settled into the role of boyfriend to Vivian and offers to cosign a loan for Ginny. This is the same man that slapped Ginny in the first episode and called her a whore: two very archetypical gestures of a misogynist. However, the scenes between he and Libby are so tender and intimate that it seems like he might be the only one who understands her; especially since her only discernible friend is now sleeping with her husband. The look of disdain that crosses his face when it occurs to him that Ginny and Bill might be sleeping together illustrates his feelings for Ginny, which is no surprise, but her dismay at his realization is a bit of a shock. This works toward my concern about the changing dynamics the new sexual relationship brings. It is already rippling outward to other characters, which makes me wonder how much time the writers will have to spend grappling with it.
“All Together Now” seems like it is giving us what we want, but it is a left-handed gift indeed. The second half of the season will inevitably be about resolving the tension the last two episodes have wrought, but let’s just hope that itinvolves a lot more of drunk Libby and Jane the new secretary.