Masters of Sex, Season 3 Episode 8
Posted by Kim
We are deep into season three and Masters of Sex has a lot of balls in the air (hey-o). I feel like episode eight served to lay a lot of groundwork as we barrel towards the finale as it featured four very separate stories with very little crossover between them. Luckily all the stories focused on the grown-ups (send Tessa to boarding school 2K15), so the episode was thoroughly engaging, despite its separateness. Let’s break them down, shall we?
Virginia and Dan
In a performance worthy of Ferris Bueller, Virginia calls in sick to work and manages to have Bill convince HER to take the rest of the week off. “It’s important for Bill to think that it was his idea,” Virginia coos to Dan, wrapped up in a fluffy bathrobe in their Vegas hotel room. That’s right, ladies and gents. Virginia Johnson is taking the day off and I fucking love it. I love it because she is doing this for herself and being selfish for once (“I’ve never done anything like this before.”). She so often does things for Bill or for Tessa or in the name of the study…it’s incredibly rare that she does something just for her. I think that’s the allure of Dan, honestly. Sage pointed out in her last recap that Dan desires her but he doesn’t NEED her and therein is the appeal for Virginia. It’s something that’s entirely hers and it’s done on her terms.
I’ve seem grumblings on Tumblr about how Dan lined up all of those appointments for her while he was off in meetings, grumblings that Dan is trying to force her into a box or that he only wants her as arm candy. I didn’t see it that way. I saw it as him trying to do something nice for her and him being a clueless dude thinking that’s what most women would want (“You’re on vacation. Try and have some fun.”). Virginia Johnson, we all know, is not all women. We especially see this in her conversation with the businessman’s wife over playing some slot machines. “Whenever he starts talking about work, I just nod my head,” she says. This is the type of woman who would have LOVED for her husband to fill her day with appointments and I loved Virginia’s barely concealed revulsion as she pondered that life and I love how quickly she extricated herself from that conversation.
Naturally, Gini spends the rest of the day observing people in the casino and making the connections to how exhilaration for winning is essentially equal to sexual response. Dan laughs that she spent her day off doing field work, telling her that she just needed to be her charming self at dinner (which yes, I did bristle towards). If you want eye candy at a business dinner, Virginia Johnson is not your girl. Gini can’t help but get involved when she sees that Dan is struggling to get his point across to the casino owner. She’s not wired to be quiet and honestly, I don’t think she would have held Dan’s interest if she was. The whole dinner becomes an extended act of foreplay as they build on each other ideas in the casino pitch. (Me texting Sage during the episode: THEY ARE SO HOT FOR EACH OTHER RIGHT NOW.)
After SLAYING with her comparison of gambling to sexual excitement, Gini smoothly transitions to “But how often does the wheel land on your number? Customers can smell loss, it kills the mood. And once the mood is killed, it’s all over.” BOOM. What I loved about this scene was not only Gini’s fervent delivery of her point, but the way that Dan watched her over the course of it. It was almost like he knew exactly what he was doing when he told her she just needed to be charming. He KNEW it would goad her…and it worked. “Your secretary makes some interesting points,” the owner says and Dan immediately corrects him (and Virginia) by saying she is his partner. The look of pride on his face is everything. I know we’re supposed to hate Dan for coming between Bill and Virginia, but I couldn’t help but love him in that moment.
Gini’s words about the mood being killed ironically come into play as they hit their hotel room, ready to have some super hot sex, and stumble upon an employee robbing their hotel room. Dan speaks to him calmly and then knocks him out (hot). Gini is about to call the police when they realize that this kid is a former soldier. That makes Gini switch automatically into mother mode, as she no longer sees a stranger, but sees Henry. They feed the kid (Dan smoldering in the corner, ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice) and listen to his (horrible) story and Gini just oozes compassion (and a bit of fear that this is what she’ll be facing when Henry returns). “Any mother would want to want to hear from her son, no matter what he’s done,” she assures him. She’s so kind it physically hurts me. Dan offers to pay for him to get into a rehab…but not until he calls his mother. “You would have been a good father,” Gini tells Dan over a cup of coffee in the wee hours of the morning. “It wasn’t my decision to make,” he replies cagily. And it’s in this moment that I remember Dan is STILL married and whaaaaaaaaaaaat is Virginia doing? To that matter, what is HE doing? While Dan is showering, Gini learns that it wasn’t the casino that turned down Dan’s offer, but the other way around. The casino wanted him to relocate to Vegas and he said no. Clearly because of Virginia. Normally, this would be something to make her go running for the hills. As they share a cab home, you see that Virginia is still processing this information. But then she leans into him and he kisses her head…and maybe. Maybe she’s fine with it. None of this is going to end well.
And THEN Bill shows up at her doorstep bearing chicken soup, looking like a freaking puppy dog. You know, since she’s supposed to be sick and all. Gini is noticeably surprised by this touching gesture and you can tell that Bill expects to be asked in (he DID almost use his own key, after all) but Gini plays up the sick angle once again. Seconds after she closes the door, Dan’s voice echoes from the kitchen. “Who was that?” “Betty,” she lies smoothly, resting her head on the door. As Sage tweeted at the end of the episode: Oh no. Two men are in love with her. Her wallet is too small for her fifties and her diamond shoes are too tight.
Bill and the Surrogacy Program
Meanwhile, with Virginia out of the office, Bill charges full steam ahead with the sexual surrogacy program because he knows she’s not in support of it and she won’t be around to stop him. I love how Betty tries to be Virginia’s stand-in here (“You’re doing an end-run around her.”) but once Bill Masters makes up his mind about something, he can’t be stopped. Plus…what WILL all these sexually dysfunctional men do without him? (I cannot WAIT for Virginia to eviscerate him in this week’s episode.)
Among the candidates for the surrogacy program is Nora Everett (hey Beth Greene, how you livin’?). Unlike all the other candidates, Nora didn’t participate in the initial study…because she was too young. Also, she used to be Bill’s next door neighbor, so that immediately ups the ick factor. Bill is puzzled as to why she wants to be a sex surrogate but it turns out that Nora is SUPER CHILL about sex, having spent a summer on a horse breeding farm and helped calm the stallions before breeding. (WHERE WERE YOU WHEN WE NEEDED YOU LAST WEEK, NORA?) “Once they could relax, everything just took care of itself,” she says serenely and suddenly there is this WEIRD sexual tension in the air as Bill studies her. Nora goes on to compare sex to a watch and really at this point she’s laying it on thick and Bill’s in completely into it. He accepts her into the program.
Later he shares this story with Libby as if it’s funny and not at all strange. Libby, of course, is horrified and demands that Bill dismiss her. “She’s volunteering to relieve the suffering of men. Human beings can’t survive without touch.” I love love love that Bill had the nerve to say this to LIBBY of ALL people. Hey Bill, remember how you never touch your wife any more? How do you think SHE is doing while you’re off with Virginia? Who touches her, you cretin? Yes, I realize Libby is getting some on the side, but that is neither here nor there when we’re talking about Bill’s sensitivity chip regarding his wife. To Libby’s credit, she doesn’t rip Bill a new one. She merely fixes a cool stare on him as she asks if a stand-in is REALLY enough. Bill obstinately ignores the underlying question in her statement and says that a stand-in may be the only option some people have.
Nora proves to be a bit of a prodigy in sex surrogate school, having done all the reading in advance and her own research. (Jane’s reaction to her his HILARIOUS.) She basks in Bill’s praise and interacts very little with her fellow students, instead choosing to continue reading up for the next class. Seriously…what are her motivations here? Hero worship? Getting in Bill’s pants? WHAT? She tells Bill about her childhood memory of him (which is basically the Rachel Green/Richard Burke bike story from Friends) and how “different” he is now. He’s nothing like what she remembered. There is something about Emily Kinney and her beatific stare and giant Disney eyes that makes everything about Nora feel OFF (that’s a compliment, btw). There is way more going on here than meets the eye and it’s NOT just the fact that Bill discovers her living in the lab because she lost her apartment. She deflects taking his money at first, but eventually does, especially once she learns Bill isn’t kicking her out of the program. It’s ALL very iffy to me and I have a bad feeling. Or maybe I’m waaaaaaaaay to cynical in all my TV watching. We’ll see. I’m super curious to see what they are going to do with her and even MORE curious to see how Virginia reacts to him.
Betty, Helen, and Austin
Betty and Helen are still on the Baby Train, having roped in Austin to be their sperm donor. Bill is still against inseminating an unmarried woman (but please, Bill, tell me more about curing male sexual dysfunction) so they concoct a plan for Helen (under the name of Celeste) and Austin to pose as a married couple struggling to conceive and in need of Bill’s capping technique. On paper, it’s a great plan. Austin has been out of Bill’s life long enough to have remarried. But really…in all these years has Bill never met Betty’s partner? Be better to Betty, Bill. Come on. It seems that everything is a go until Bill does Helen/Celeste’s pelvic exam. (On a scale of 1 to 10, how awkward is it to have the man you are dating IRL act like he’s giving you a pelvic? I’d say 100.) Bill learns that Helen/Celeste’s hymen is in tact, so NATURALLY having a baby would be problematic, since the “three years trying to conceive must have consisted of heavy petting.” Austin then lets Helen’s real name slip and everything falls into place for Bill. This leads to quite possibly my favorite scene of the entire season as Bill and Betty have it out. Bill’s anger at the falsified records is justified, to some degree, but as Betty points out…what other option did she have? The three of them are consenting adults, they have their own arrangement (they are going to pay Austin for his services so he can pursue custody of his kids), what’s WRONG with a little turkey basting between work colleagues?
Betty counters that what she did is EXACTLY what Bill is doing to Virginia regarding the surrogacy program, but Bill is hearing none of it. “We keep our personal affairs out of this office,” he insists, and I laughed just as loud as Betty did. NOTHING about Bill Masters isn’t personal, no matter what he tells himself. I love Betty so so so much for seeing right through his bullshit. If anyone knows the extent of the personal business that has made its way through that office in the past decade, it’s Betty. She’s the eyes and ears of the office. She knows ALL and she refuses to be brushed aside for making it “personal”. She’s spent the past ten years turning a blind eye to Bill and Virginia’s affair because she respects them and she respects the work they are doing. All she is asking is for Bill to show HER the same respect. “Do NOT insult my intelligence. I am a lesbian, not a moron.” Bill doesn’t really have a comeback for that one. Because she is RIGHT. And the fact that it seems like he still refuses to help her out? Why must you be a horrible human being, Bill?
Later, as they drown their sorrows at his seedy bar, Betty and Helen tell Austin they are still going to give Austin the money for his custody case. “You have to fight to keep that little bit of good in your life.” All they ask from Austin in exchange is for him to actually have sex with Helen. And so he does, with Betty holding Helen’s hand the whole time. It was heartbreaking and beautiful. Here’s hoping they get it on the first try.
Libby and Paul
As we suspected, Libby and Paul are now doing it on the regular in Joy’s secret apartment. It’s hot and it’s passionate but to Libby, it’s nothing more than that. There are no feelings involved, it’s just two adults getting their ya-yas out. There’s no cuddling, there’s no post-coital pillow talk, there’s no smoking together in bed afterwards. Naturally, this leaves Paul confused. “Are we just going to keep doing this,” he asks, puppy eyes in full effect. “Barely exchanging 10 words with each other?” Yep, that’s the plan. Paul presses the issue after their next sex session, assuming Libby’s wham-bam-thank-you-Paul attitude is wrapped up in her guilt over cheating on Bill. HA. “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she sneers. This could have easily been a moment where Libby admitted that her life with Bill is a sham, but since she still desperately clings to that facade, she doesn’t share that Bill probably hasn’t touched her in a decade.
What Libby DOES choose to do, however, is offer a rare moment of honesty, as she opened up to Paul about Robert, FINALLY revealing his fate. Robert, who she calls just a “good friend”, but in actuality was probably her soulmate. He was the man who shook Libby to her very core, physically and emotionally. Robert survived his summer fighting for civil rights only to be hit by a car when he returned to St. Louis. The sudden and violent way he was ripped from her life was too much for Libby to bear and she shut down after that. (Now it makes PERFECT sense why Libby melted down the way she did when Henry was hit by a car in the season premiere.) “I still can’t believe he’s gone,” she tearfully admits to Paul. “I can’t give you any more of myself because I have already given it all.” This monologue was SO beautifully acted by Caitlin Fitzgerald, as the slump of her shoulders showed just how big of a burden she’s been carrying all these years and just how much she still longs for Robert. But she also conveyed a sense of release and relief that she finally FINALLY was able to share her pain with someone. She may think she has nothing to give…but in that moment, she gave her pain to Paul. And he didn’t run screaming, he didn’t belittle her grief, he accepted it. They are both SO broken right now, and in offering each other solace, even if it’s just sex and then 10 words, maybe they can start to heal each other.
Odds and Ends
- Barton has a new assistant and he may be gay? Hmmmm.
- Not gonna lie, when I saw that Dan’s black jacket had a red silk lining, I squealed. Someone is ready for Doctor Who to come back and it’s me.
- Fashion envy moments: Betty brings it again with her mod minidresses, with the “Annie” dress being the standout. But let’s be real, this episode was all about Virginia’s cocktail dress. I NEED IT.
- I realize that Lester signed up for the program just because he’s pissed at Jane, but let’s give him props for speaking up for female sexual dysfunction. “Single men are not the only ones who suffer from sexual dysfunction.” Four for you, Lester.
That’s it for this week! Sage will be your guide through episode 9, where judging by the preview, Virginia gives Bill what for regarding the plight of the suffering male. I can’t wait.