Showtime's "Masters of Sex" keeps getting better and better, even when it distances itself from the broad humor of the first few episodes. Tonight's (Oct. 20) Episode 4, "Thank You For Coming," didn't feature one of our favorite new characters on TV, lesbian prostitute Betty (Annaleigh Ashford), but it delved deeper into the personal lives of Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan), Dr. Bill Masters (Michael Sheen), and Dr. Ethan Haas (Nicholas D'Agosto).
Despite the cheeky title, "Thank You For Coming" was at time painfully serious, and awkward for all of the characters. Here are five wince-worthy moments.
Virginia having to watch her ex-husband masturbate during the study. The only thing that could've made it more awkward was if Bill knew at the time that he was her ex-husband. He figured that out later and now he has that secret - and all the secrets to her sex life, as spilled by the ex.
The attempt to set up Ethan and Virginia. If only anyone ever told Libby Masters (Caitlin Fitzgerald) anything they'd realize Ethan and Virginia already tried to "date" and it felt apart right around the time when he called her a "wh-re" and slapped her. But that wasn't even the most awkward part of the Masters' family's dinner party.
Watching Bill Masters with children. He's terrible. Bill is expecting his first child soon, but he definitely does not have a way with kids. When Virginia's son Henry is asked for his favorite subject in school, he answers, "P.E." The deadpan Masters replies, "That's not really a subject, now is it." Awkward silence. He also freaks out on Virginia's kids when they flood the bathroom. But later we understand more about why he has issues.
Bill's relationship with his mom ... and dad. At that dinner party, Bill's mom tells a story about Bill as a child, hemming his knickers himself. She makes it sound lighthearted and cute, even when she adds that Bill's father wasn't fond of the idea. Bill cuts the mood with "I was made to wear those knickers until I was 14." A flashback later shows us how Bill's father was severely abusive, and his mother wouldn't intervene, she'd just turn the radio up to drown out the shouts. This also ties into Bill's sleepwalking, which was shown earlier in the episode. The man has demons. Speaking, though, of abusive fathers...
An abusive dad now has another child to abuse. One of Bill's patients wants to stop having kids, but her husband isn't willing to take any action on the contraception front. We soon learn that she's in an abusive relationship. Her poor son is terrified, but he also parrots some of the cruel things his father says. The cycle of abuse. The wife/mother doesn't want to keep bringing kids into the world, but she brings in another son. The father ends up saying he hopes the next one is a girl, but we know that won't happen since Masters takes things into his own hands in the delivery room, under the guise of a "bleed."
Masters may not be the ultimate good guy, but he does have a heart. Still, this show has so many awful male characters. Yes, it's set in 1956, not today, and the background is the real-life sex research of Masters and Johnson and all the realities of that time period. But there's also the fictional element, and what we've seen so far is abusive husbands, slapping boyfriends, a deadbeat ex-husband, and that uncle last week who raped his niece - who later became a prostitute. The show is a great showcase for most of the women, but is it anti-male?