“Party Of Four”
Posted by Sage
Plotting every move, anticipating every counter move…there’s a far easier way to get what you want.
Dan Logan has always had Bill Masters’ number. Virginia thinks she know Bill better than anyone, but she fails to realize that – excepting Johnny perhaps – she is the person who Bill most fears seeing his true self. Every machination – every move in the chess game – is designed to prevent her from knowing the weakness that he finds so disgusting. He masks his real weakness (his love for her, and his helplessness in the face of it) with a false one, to tug at her sympathies. Bill exerts so much energy to keep Virginia in the dark that he has none left to hold the curtain closed to everyone else. Dan gets Bill – REALLY gets him – simply because Bill isn’t trying to sleep with him.
This was a devastating episode of Masters for every single character (besides Tessa, who’s having great fun at boarding school thanks to#SendTessaToBoardingSchool2K15), and that just feels right for the eve of a dramatic finale. We catch up with Bill and Virginia after their pitch meeting with their publisher for their second book. (“To Human Sexual Inadequacy!”) And though we didn’t see Bill “hijack” the meeting like Virginia says he did, we know how this refrain goes. The last episode went black on the most desperate version of Bill that we’ve seen. He’s truly lost it now; and anyone who’s spent three seasons with Bill Masters had to know that those unanswered phone calls to Gini’s home would lead to the kind of Hail Mary play that he thinks are an even swap for years of honesty and human decency. His master plan this time is to confront Virginia with Dan’s wife at an 8-course “celebratory” dinner in New York. Lord knows what exactly Bill thought this would accomplish. Did he think she’d come running into his arms at the sight of her? Virginia knows very well that Dan has a wife, as she tells her partner after they both stop pretending that her and Dan’s affair is anything but an open secret. If any moral oppositions she had to sleeping with married men outweighed desire and connection, then she wouldn’t have been with Bill for nigh ten years. Strategy and cluelessness meet in that man; and his attempts to play dumb for all but that 2-minute stand-off with Dan at the end of the episode made me want to punch him in his smug little face. (ILU Michael Sheen!)
Judy Greer made her Masters debut this week as Alice Logan, and sister-girl is a broken spirit. Dan told Virginia earlier this season that he and his wife have “an understanding.” That’s an overstatement; he has affairs and does not deny them. Alice has no choice but to accept having a husband that cheats on her; she drinks, a lot, and if a strong, perceptive woman like Libby Masters has trouble walking away from her distracted and philandering husband, then poor drunk Alice doesn’t have a prayer. She’s become a bit of a monster in the process of watching her husband fall out of love with her. ( “You always like the ones that need fixing. Tell me, how is this one broken?”) But it offended me that Bill tries to align himself with her at the dinner table, as if he has the same right to indignation and bad behavior as the wronged woman. (“I’d like a glass of white wine, Dan. Do you have an objection to that?”) GINI IS NOT YOUR WIFE, BILL. She doesn’t owe him anything, but the whole dinner feels like he’s come to collect.
Was it wrong, what Bill did? I don’t know. The intent was to be helpful; if it hadn’t been, Johnny wouldn’t have been so hurt by it. But Bill is used to speaking so frankly in the walls of his clinic, in the world of academia, and in his publications, that he takes it for granted that his credentials will always keep him safe. Paul has heard the worst of Bill from Libby as they plan her extrication from the marriage; her “what if he doesn’t care?” fear is shattering. But she knows him, and please note that she’s started to call him “my husband” again, instead of just “Bill.” She is steadfast in her belief that he would never hurt a child. And I’ll take it to a darker place, because hey, everyone’s lives are falling apart anyway: Libby knows that the kind of abuse that the families of Johnny’s classmates are accusing Bill of requires the abuser to establish trust, fear, and twisted loyalty; Bill could never get close enough to a child to do that.
In her recap last week, Kim hoped that it would be Libby to end the Masters marriage, because she’s certainly earned the right to do so. Instead Bill’s actions have trapped her again; she feels solely responsible for keeping her family from imploding. Caitlin Fitzgerald is always magnificent, but especially in the scene where she explains his father’s distance to Johnny. (“I was hoping it would be better between dad and me someday.”) She does know the man she married, and part of her still feels protective of him. She’s sacrificing her own happiness to end the cycle of emotionally stunted and destructive Masters men. Paul would be lovely second act for her children, but he can’t erase the memory of Bill and he can’t undo a broken relationship. (“You know what I’m afraid of Johnny? Letting people see that I’m afraid.”) Maybe for Libby, but not for her babies. (“He is the father that they have. He is the father that Johnny needs to know loves him.”) Hopefully Pa/Paul didn’t lose Stephanie’s number.
Back at the dinner that good sense and human kindness forgot, Alice is drinking to forget that Dan used to be enchanted by her. After overhearing Virginia telling the worst bathroom attendant of the 1960s a tidbit about “the gentleman [she’s] seeing” that’s easily traceable back to Dan (“…an aversion to me wearing fragrances of kind.”), Alice adjusts her settings from “dutifully ignorant wife” to “disenchanted former romantic object.” There’s no happiness left to preserve for her and Dan, so she’ll take the satisfaction of sabotaging his most recent – and most significant affair. She goes to great lengths to sell Dan as a fraud to Virginia knowing very well that he’s absolutely serious about her. (“I’m in love with her, Alice. Now you’ve never heard me say that before.”) Yet again, a Bill Masters plan backfires. Forcing Virginia to face Alice means that Dan is forced to face her also. (“Do you want me to make a scene?” No power like the power of exploiting the fear of the “crazy bitch.”) His dirty work is done for him, and he’s forced to make a play to hold on to the woman he loves. Alice sneers to Virginia that Dan is “a true gentlemen,” like it’s an accusation. But if we had any doubts about Dan’s intentions as he’s wined and dined Virginia or even as he’s defended his affair to his wife by legitimizing those emotions, that conversation with Bill should erase them. It’s always been a pissing contest between those two, but the difference is that Dan doesn’t get down in the muck on his own initiative. But if Bill forcibly pulls him into it, he can damn sure give as good as he gets. For as brilliant as Bill is and as well as he thinks he’s played this game, he’s missing the trick. Dan isn’t. “Tell her how you feel about her…but I bet that never occurred to you, Bill. But guess what? It occurred to me…so I guess that’s checkmate.”
Odds & Ends:
- Fashion moments: THE coat, Virginia’s blue and black ensemble, such a contrast to Alice’s false and floaty spring dress; and that’s basically it. I miss Betty.
- “However you want me to be, I’ll be.”
- The sassy maitre’d is all of us. We are all the sassy maitre’d.
- “It’s not on the menu but they make it when I ask.” Someone fetch the measuring stick, please.
- “I love your sense of humor, Virginia. It’s very New York. Are you Jewish?”
- “DO NOT THREATEN ME, SIR.” You woke the Mama Bear, Detective Asher.
- I thought we all agreed never to speak of Ethan Haas again. Way to break the pinky swear code, Bill.
Kim will be your recapper for the season finale this week, and I predict she’s going to have a TIME of it. Wish her luck and leave your feelings in the comments.