TVLine's Performers of the Week: Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan

Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen Masters of Sex Fight

A weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen

THE SHOW | Masters of Sex

THE EPISODE | “Fight”

THE AIRDATE | July 26, 2014

THE PERFORMANCE | Put up your dukes, Masters of Sex aficionados: In this week’s episode, Caplan and Sheen gave knockout performances.

Yvon Durelle and Archie Moore’s late 1950s boxing match fight framed an episode that found Bill and Virginia — via some tryst-time role-playing — revealing deep, hurtful secrets about their pasts. With the researchers holed up in their hotel room, the boxers’ historic bout unspooled in the background while Masters and Johnson expressed their feelings between the sheets (and up against the wall… and with their robes pooled around their feet…).

Sheen’s portrayal of his repressed character — a pressure-cooker of a man under normal circumstances — was a study in how to communicate the unsaid. It began at the hospital, when the birth of a child with ambiguous genitalia got Bill ruminating on the concept of manhood and his own troubled upbringing. Then, as he passionately conquered Virginia in the bathroom and later evaded her questions about his interest in boxing, Sheen showed just how much his alter ego likes (and is accustomed to) being in control. And when Virginia finally pried open Bill’s white-knuckled grip on his memories, Sheen’s account of his character’s childhood under an abusive father seethed with resentment. Bill was snide, curt, surly. Sheen was amazing.

Caplan was equally fascinating throughout the hour, particularly when Virginia’s airy take on role-play turned real as she told Bill about her first real love — and subsequent heartbreak. But the actress also sparkled as she teased him about his lack of imagination, bristled as she questioned his motives for skipping the sexual niceties and entranced as she showed him exactly how she was able to make herself “feel good.”

By the end of the episode, Durelle and Moore had duked it out, Virginia and Bill had reached new (if uncertain) ground and Caplan and Sheen had us basking in the afterglow. TVLiners, was it good for you, too?

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What performances rocked your TV set this week? Sound off below and let us know!