TVLine's Performer of the Week: Allison Janney

Allison janney Masters of SexA weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Allison Janney

THE SHOW | Masters of Sex

THE EPISODE | “Brave New World”

THE AIRDATE | November 3, 2013

THE PERFORMANCE | When we think of the erstwhile C.J. Cregg, we think strong, right? Formidable. Damn near indomitable. And that right there makes Janney’s performance in “Brave New World” all the more revelatory. As Margaret came to suspect just how much she was missing out on in her annual lovemaking sessions with her secretly gay husband, the actress dropped the practiced poise that her character wears like hairspray to give us a glimpse of the naïve and vulnerable woman who hides just behind it.

Take, for instance, the scene in which Margaret mustered up the courage to approach Virginia about participating in her and Bill’s sex study. Janney – her statuesque frame slouching, as if a part of her wanted to retreat into itself – smiled as she said that insecurity might be the one thing daughter Vivian got from her. It was a throwaway line, but a telling one: Her self-recrimination was so painfully evident that we knew it was no joke. Later, determined as she was to find out if there was more to sex than the nose kisses Barton offered, Margaret still looked away from Bill and Virginia and squirmed as she described intercourse as “you know… not really painful, exactly.”

RELATED | Masters of Sex Hunk Breaks Down His ‘Butt-Centric’ Love Scene

Janney made Margaret’s desire to understand… well, desire so palpable that we were as crushed as she was when she learned that, because she had never experienced an orgasm, she was ineligible to enroll in the study. “I’m a fast learner,” she offered. “I taught myself Italian.”

After that, we were crying before the elevator doors closed and Margaret finally crumbled. But at least the episode had a happy ending – literally. A chance encounter with Austin following a showing of Peyton Place led to small talk, then a kiss and then an altogether unexpected tryst in the backseat of Margaret’s car. Janney didn’t come out and yell, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” during its climax, but watching a real master at work, we sure wanted to. Somebody light us a cigarette, and while you’re at it, start polishing her fifth Emmy statuette.

HONORABLE MENTION | With her time-transplanted partner missing, Nicole Beharie‘s Abbie was a woman on a mission in this week’s Sleepy Hollow. The actress’ intensity built as she searched for a way to find – then save — her fellow Witness, but the way she quietly fell apart upon realizing Ichabod planned to commit suicide was what nearly wrecked us. Beharie’s barely contained tears, as well as the desperate way she clutched co-star Tom Mison’s hand, gave us a glimpse of flinty Abbie’s not-often-seen vulnerability. With performances like this one, is it any wonder that Beharie is one of our breakout stars of the new TV season?

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Austin says:

    Fully agreed with both choices this week. :)

  2. Stefan says:

    Masters of Sex is beyond awesome.. Too bad it’s ratings suck

    • d4h8a15r16m23a42 says:

      Considering it was renewed Showtime must not think they sick.

    • ... says:

      Its live ratings aren’t great, but Showtime doesn’t base its renewal decisions on that. MoS has great critical buzz and does well in time-shifted viewing, so it’s very healthy.

      • Meg says:

        “Its live ratings aren’t great, but Showtime doesn’t base its renewal decisions on that. MoS has great critical buzz and does well in time-shifted viewing, so it’s very healthy.”

        You just made that up. Showtime doesn’t base its programming around advertising.

  3. Padraig Tipton says:

    Allison Janney was also really, really funny on “Mom” this week. The lady can do it all!

  4. Patrick says:

    Allison Janney is amazing. All the awards.
    A shoutout to Molly Quinn, who carried this week’s Castle episode alongside Nathan Fillion and was so fantastic and believable as the defrosting-daughter-reconnecting-with-father I didn’t even miss Beckett much.
    And if this column ever dips into comedies, Andre Braugher’s Ray Holt continues to be amazingly hilarious in his deadpan manner on Brooklyn 99.

  5. Jenna says:

    Agree wholeheartedly with both!
    Allison Janney’s performance was masterful. MoS, and its awesome cast, continues to impress. I hope it does well in the Emmys so it may get more viewers to give it a chance.
    And Sleepy Hollow continues to entertain. Love both shows!

  6. Jess says:

    Agree about Alison Janney.
    But my Honorable Mention would go to Jessica Lange. What an amazing episode of AHS, thanks in a large part to her Fiona.

  7. Paul says:

    I think Masters of Sex will be nominated for best drama this year for the Emmys and will probably continue to grow in viewership. It might even win for Best drama.

    • Superhero says:

      If Breaking Bad was able to win it for the first half of season 5, then I don’t see it losing for the second half. But I do think Masters of Sex will be nominated, and it’ll also probably get plenty of acting nominations, and maybe even a win or two. Janney will definitely be nominated (at the very least) for her performance in this episode.

  8. bonesfan says:

    James Spader should at least be honerable mention every week..haha..he is so good on The Blacklist that I find myself counting down the days until the next episode..and it’s because of how good Spader is as Red.

  9. missvci says:

    i loved her performance and yes I hope MoS gets tons of globe and emmy nominations. However I think it’s too edgy to win best drama, we Americans are too prude. Interesting though how we have a such an uptight prude attitude when it comes to tv and movie ratings and viewings, but then one of the highest rates of STDS and teen pregnancies. Maybe if we all were more pragmatic about sex, and educated ourselves like Masters is trying to do, those rates would be lower

  10. I think you mean figuratively.

  11. When she walked into the lift.. I could barely handle it..

  12. Riana says:

    What about Paul Blackthorne who had to deal with seeing his daughter who he thought was dead and lose her again?

  13. Reblogged this on Thoughts on Pop and commented:
    YES, she was fantastic on this week’s episode. If you haven’t been watching Masters of Sex, you should change that behavior.

  14. Titoveli says:

    she been awesome on Mom to
    CBS Mom

  15. Edward says:

    i think Fitz from SHIELD should get a mention. The thought of her dying got me choked up.

  16. tr3vors says:

    what about Ron Perlman? He was amazing this week…

  17. erin says:

    YES TO BOTH. They were amazing.

  18. Britta Unfiltered says:

    She probably will get a guest actress nomination out of this, huh. I died laughing at her line when they asked her if sex gave her a sense of relief, and she was like, “Oh, yes, I feel a huge relief when it’s over.” It’s one of those things where it’s funny cuz it’s sad. I did feel really bad for her character though. Thank goodness the hot doc came along. I never would have pictured those two together. He seemed so into Jane.

    • Anne says:

      They didn’t ask if she had a sense of relief, they asked if she had a sense of release (as in orgasm). And she mistook as relief.

  19. Superhero says:

    I don’t think I could watch that scene with Margaret explaining her sex life again, which is a fine indicator of how damn good it was. The show as a whole has been absolutely outstanding thus far.

  20. Alichat says:

    I have to agree on both of these choices. That whole scene with Margaret answering the preliminary questions was just heartbreaking. I love how this show doesn’t just explore the relationship between Johnson and Masters, but explores the social mores of that time period and the sexual ignorance of alot of people. And I loved that scene in Sleepy Hollow between Abbie and Ichabod. I was surprised that they rushed into such an emotional moment between the two, but it was so superbly done that it was completely worth it.

  21. Casey says:

    My pick is Michael Shannon. He’s brilliant, and this past week’s episode of Boardwalk Empire was yet another shining moment for him. Where is his Emmy?