MASTERS OF SEX 1.12 ‘Manhigh’

Episode Title: “Manhigh”

Writer: Michelle Ashford

Director: Michael Dinner

Previously on “Masters of Sex:”

Episode 1.11 “Phallic Victories”


It’s an exciting time for science in the season finale of “Masters of Sex” as Project Manhigh sends Major David Simons into space and Dr. Bill Masters (Michael Sheen) informs a packed house full of doctors that penis size doesn’t matter.

While the Major’s achievement is celebrated, Bill’s costs him his job. According to Virginia (Lizzy Caplan), Bill can’t live without his work. But as the finale comes to a close, he shows up at her doorstep to let Virginia know it’s her he can’t live without.

Bill’s admission closes out a season that is as much a love story as it is a history lesson on the scientific study of sex. The two overlap, as Bill and Virginia love the work as much as they love each other. And now without it, all they’ve got is each other.

As Bill prepares to present his (and Virginia’s) findings, Virginia pressures Dr. DePaul (Julianne Nicholson) to think bigger regarding women’s health issues. Dr. DePaul would rather stay focused on her Pap smear program, which she considers an “honest goal” she prefers to take “one small step at a time.” Unfortunately for DePaul, those “small steps” aren’t enough to impresses the Chancellor when she demands the same deal Bill’s got. The chancellor suggests DePaul come up with something to grab people’s attention the way Bill has. He’ll later regret those words after storming out of Bill’s presentation.

The presentation does, indeed, get everyone’s attention and the staff appears to be receptive at first (serving Martinis at the door certainly helps), especially to the part about penis size. But once Lester (Kevin Christy) rolls the film of Jane’s vaginal walls and Virginia’s orgasm, the word “smut” starts getting thrown around and the presentation is cut short. The doctors circulate a petition to stop the study and the chancellor fires Bill, who lies about Scully’s (Beau Bridges) involvement in the study to save him from suffering the same fate.

The staff reactions to the study mirror several subplots threaded throughout the finale. They may not like the work or the way it’s done, but there’s no denying Bill and Virginia have broken major ground in the study of sex. At the same time, Margaret (Allison Janney) might not like the fact that her husband is gay. but she’s willing to live with it, rather watch him subject himself to electro-shock therapy. And Dr. DePaul might not like the way she’s treated by the chancellor, but unless she’s willing to think bigger, it’s unlikely to change.

Amidst the drama of Bill’s firing there are some happy moments in the finale. Lester gets a kiss from Jane (Helene Yorke) after he says her vaginal walls are beautiful. Unfortunately for Austin (Teddy Sears), Jane may not be up for continuing the study on their own as he suggests. Out in California, Ethan (Nicholas D’Agosto) fields an offer from UCLA and calls Virginia with the good news and a marriage proposal. Ethan’s gone from being a total jerk to a decent, likable guy. But once he finds out it’s Bill whom Virginia loves we’ll see how long that lasts. As for Libby (Caitlin Fitzgerald), she gives birth while Bill is drowning his sorrows in a bar with Scully. When the nurse asks if she wants to call her husband, Libby opts to spend a little more time alone with her baby. Perhaps she knows her husband better than he thinks she does.

Though the study may be through, it’s left a legacy for Virginia, who everyone believes is the naked woman in Bill’s film. When Libby asks, Bill mocks the idea of using Virginia when he had over a hundred subjects to choose from. But it wasn’t just a study that was going in Exam Room Five but an affair. Bill finally realizes it when he shows up at Virginia’s door. Libby may realize it as well, but that will have to wait until next season.

What’s amazing about “Masters of Sex” is that after a full season it feels like things are just getting started for Bill and Virginia. At the same time, some things are certain to end, like Bill and Libby’s marriage, Ethan’s relationship with Virginia and possibly Scully and Margaret’s marriage.

As for the study, Bill likens it to the work of Charles Darwin, while Lester compares Bill to Elvis, once panned and now a huge star. Both are fitting comparisons when you consider Bill’s chosen field of study. But as for the man himself, we’re only just beginning to find out who he is and judging by the end of this finale, so is he.