Emmy Episode Analysis: Lizzy Caplan (‘Masters of Sex’) brings sexy back to Drama Actress

Will Lizzy Caplan (“Masters of Sex“) win an Emmy on her very first nomination? The only fresh face in the Best Drama Actress race, she submitted the well-received pilot to Emmy judges. In this kickoff to the Showtime period piece, her character, Virginia Johnson, joins William Masters (Michael Sheen) to work on his groundbreaking study of sexuality.

Watch: Sheen and Caplan on blurring lines with ‘Masters of Sex

SYNOPSIS: In “Pilot,” Virginia signs on as Dr. Masters’ assistant for the university’s controversial new sex study. She fits in right away because, unlike his former secretary (Margo Martindale), Virginia is anything but a prude. Throughout the episode, Virginia shows a passionate drive to learn more about the subject and even helps Masters advance his study from single patients to couples.

See full list of Emmy episode submissions here

Meanwhile, Dr. Haas (Nicholas D’Agosto) becomes infatuated with Virginia after their first date and comes on too strongly for her liking. After a party, he gets drunk and punches her in the face, and Virginia responds by socking him right back. The episode ends with Masters suggesting that for the study to properly work, he and Virginia will need to have sex with each other. She asks if she can take the weekend to think about his request.

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Can Caplan take home her first Emmy for this role for “Pilot”? Let’s consider the pros and cons:


Caplan’s screen time is among the most impressive in this category. Despite Sheen being the first-billed star, Caplan appears in almost every scene and takes on storylines of her own. Even though co-nominee Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey“) submitted a two-hour episode, Caplan is the driving force of her submission and may stick in voters’ minds more.

There’s an enormous rooting factor with Caplan’s character, particularly in the scene where D’Agosto punches her… and she punches him back. In 1956, it was nearly unheard of for a woman to stand up for herself like that, but Caplan sells Virginia’s strength effortlessly.

Emmy voters love fresh blood in this category, which bodes well for Caplan as the race’s only newcomer. Over the past ten years, many dramatic actresses have prevailed for their shows’ first seasons, including Claire Danes (“Homeland“), Glenn Close (“Damages“), Sally Field (“Brothers & Sisters”) and Patricia Arquette (“Medium”).


There’s no single impact scene that will stand out to voters as being a classic “Emmy bait” scene, i.e. no throwing things across the room, no passionate speeches, no emotional tears.

Is “Masters of Sex” too racy for some of the older, conservative Emmy voters? There’s one scene in Caplan’s episode where she appears completely nude and another where she watches a couple having sex in front of her.

Caplan may not have much industry support. Don’t forget, her Emmy nomination was considered a major shocker as she came in ninth place for a nod according to Gold Derby’s combined racetrack odds prior to the nominations being announced. Can she overcome such a lack of name recognition?

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Caplan is currently in fifth place in our predictions with 50/1 odds. Do you agree with those odds, or might this Emmy newbie surprise us all? Make your own predictions below.

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