TVLine's Performer of the Week: Lizzy Caplan

MASTERS OF SEX (Pilot)A weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER Lizzy Caplan

THE SHOW | Masters of Sex

THE EPISODE | “Pilot”

THE AIRDATE | Sept. 29, 2013

THE PERFORMANCE | If an actress is very, very lucky, once in her career, she’ll get the part — the one that finally shows all the world just how brilliantly she sparkles. For Sarah Michelle Gellar, for instance, that role was Buffy. For Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars. And now, for Lizzy Caplan, at last there is Virginia Johnson.

We’ve loved her for years, in everything from The Class to New Girl. But not until we saw her in the pilot for Masters of Sex did we realize that she wasn’t merely as good as we thought, she was even better.

Over the course of the series’ promising first hour, singer-turned-secretary Virginia allowed her portrayer to charm the pants off obsessed doc Ethan Haas (“Well, friends can kiss”), talk herself into a job with renegade sex researcher William Masters (by explaining without embarrassment why a woman might fake an orgasm) and reel from the disappointment of her new boss’ indecent proposal (“Can I take the weekend to think about this?”).

But the best part of all? As engaging as Caplan was every step of the way — depicting hope, chutzpah and hurt with admirable subtlety — we have a feeling that the best is yet to come. Or, to put it in terms that Virginia might, that was only foreplay.

HONORABLE MENTION | Here and there throughout Season 2, Scandal‘s Joe Morton had the occasional park bench scene, whispering oblique orders to Jake or making veiled threats to Cyrus. But in the Season 3 premiere, the veteran actor was afforded opportunity to show off his true chops, going toe-to-toe with no less than Olivia Pope – aka Rowan’s daughter. Venting his disappointment in her First Mistress status, he roared, “Did I not raise you for better? How many times have I told you? … You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have.” Then when he got pushback on his fix-it plan: “You’re getting on that plane come hell or high water. And make no mistake, I’m the hell and the high water!” And you believed him.

What performance knocked your socks off this week?