Margaret Leaves Graham On 'Masters Of Sex' & It's Inspiring To See Her Stand Up For Herself


Now in its third season, Masters Of Sexis making a run for the "Best Guest Stars On Television" award. I just made that honor up, and there's no trophy — just the satisfaction of having assembled the most legit supporting cast in recent memory. Some of these all-stars are new to the series, like The Good Wife's Josh Charles as perfume magnate Dan Logan. And some are Masters veterans, like Allison Janney. Janney returned to the show last week in her role as Margaret Scully, Bill's ex-boss's ex-wife. It's been a pleasure to catch up with Margaret and to see how she's been faring since discovering Barton's closely kept secret. And, the good news is Margaret left Graham, and stood up for herself.

The real sadness of Barton and Margaret's relationship is that there has always been real love there, if not complete honesty. They were best friends, and only want each other's happiness. Of course, both were looking for more out of marriage than just a buddy. Margaret's almost sex-less relationship with Barton left her craving a more adult type of companionship in her next life. She needed to be desired. Last week's episode showed the audience that she is desired, now by a man named Graham (Tate Donovan). Graham wants to be with Margaret in the way that Barton couldn't want to be with her. The trouble is that Graham wants to be with his travel agent Jo in that way too.

Graham and Margaret seek the help of Bill and Virginia because Graham has a premature ejaculation issue. This week, the researchers provide some exercises and techniques that help the two to connect in bed. But, as is usually the case on Masters, the physical issues are just a manifestation of the emotional. Jo, Graham's other live-in lover, takes issue with the positive outcomes of Graham and Margaret's sex therapy. She believes that she will be left out and that Graham will love Margaret more than Jo because their lovemaking will be more satisfying. Their happy home becomes a power struggle. This isn't the kind of freedom that Margaret was looking for in her love life. In fact, it's no freedom at all.

Here's what I love about Margaret Scully, aside from the fact that she's played by Allison Janney, national treasure: She isn't scandalized by this kind of polyamorous relationship. Her sensibilities haven't been offended; she's remarkably grown-up and openminded about the whole thing. But, she's also grown-up enough to realize that this situation isn't (or is no longer) providing the kind of companionship she's seeking. Margaret Scully wants to be loved completely, not to jockey for position in her own home. Wonderfully, it's her ex-husband Barton who helps her to acknowledge the progress she's made in advocating for herself by leaving Graham and Jo. "You know that there's something more. Something better," he says. "And, you know that you deserve it." To prove his faith in her, Barton gives her back a significant ally that she's lost: Their own daughter. "I think it's important that you know the truth," he tells Vivian over the phone. She previously blamed her mother for her parents' divorce, and now knows that her father's sexuality necessitated their separation.

Margaret Scully has every reason to confuse sex with love. But, in this instance, she clearly knows the difference. Her self-liberation is inspiring, as is the friendship that she and Barton maintain in spite of their rocky history. Love, as Bill says in his speech to his former Washington University colleagues, is "the curvature of our design."

Images: Michael Desmond (2), Warren Feldman/Showtime