Masters of Sex Season 4, Episode 3
“The Pleasure Protocol”
Posted by Sage
A traveling businessman sits at a bar and tells a beautiful woman about the last girl to break his heart. He’s looking for some recognition, maybe a little sympathy, definitely to be asked to go home with her.
Virginia: Please allow me to apologize on behalf of all brunettes.
Lee: Yeah, well, she was one of those people who leaves a trail of wreckage in her wake and never looks back.
Virginia isn’t one of those people. She looks back. Maybe Evil Brunette #1 has the right idea, because this fixation on the past is rotting Virginia from the inside out. Until now, Bill has always seemed the lonelier of the pair, shutting people out as he does. But Gini has raced ahead of her partner in that department. She is well and truly alone at this moment, and, despite the dick moves she’s been making because of that, it’s actually quite sad. Virginia keeps adding bricks to this wall of lies she’s built to protect herself. And we’re rapidly approaching the moment when it’ll all come crumbling down. Will it crush her, or will she sidestep the destruction like she tends to do?
At last, “The Pleasure Protocol” answered the Dan question. As I thought, it was Gini who did the breaking of the heart. She confesses to another businessman – as unimportant as the rest – that she purposely sabotaged the relationship on the very day that she was meant to become Mrs. Logan. Virginia picked up a man at the tables, brought him up to the Vegas hotel room she shared with her fiance, and let him find them there. Why? “I realized if I didn’t do something drastic, then in four hours I would marry a man who didn’t know me,” she reasons. Seems to me that sitting him down and saying “I don’t want to get married yet, Dan,” would have served the same purpose without the side effect of sticking a knife right in the heart of a man who’s always been supportive and loving to her. BUT THAT’S JUST ME.
The irony of her distancing is that Virginia so wants to be known. Think back to that beautiful scene from season 2 where Gini leans on Bill and cries to him over the loss of Lillian.
Virginia: Sometimes I would look across our office and think, “Mm, my God. She is so ferocious.” But she’s alone. And she’s my friend. And I don’t have a lot of those. And somehow Lillian snuck around the wall. And now she won’t even listen to me. Lillian, who, she – she knows me.
Bill: I know you.
Until Lillian (and Bill, for that matter), I don’t think Virginia realized how thrilling and comforting it is to have someone in your life who really knows the ins and outs of you. She’s powered through her life and taken out barriers because – for as long as the audience has known her – she’s been stubborn and independent as hell. That strategy has served her professional needs better than it has the personal, which is why her relationship with Bill is so intense and consuming. She let herself be known, and it was addictive.
Virginia never let Dan in, and now she blames him for it. Somewhere underneath that rationalizing, she knows the disintegration of their relationship is ultimately her fault. It’s why she calls him in the middle of the night and the middle of a bottle of chardonnay. (“You’re probably wondering why not speak to a girlfriend or an analyst, instead of burdening your home phone answering machine,” she jokes. A. She doesn’t have any of the first thing, and B. She seduced and blackmailed the second one. 0 for 2.) Gini calls to ask for the absolution that she craves while trying to frame it as closure that will benefit Dan. She’s just trying to help! But Dan’s already decided what’ll be good for him, and that’s never speaking to Virginia again. She can’t accept the rejection that only answered her own. But Gini’s forced to face her own neurosis when Dan’s wife Alice shows up at the clinic. SHE’S been listening to the messages at least, because Alice and Dan reconciled.
Is she there to gloat? A little. But I also believe that Alice does feel sympathy for Virginia in spite of their competitive dynamic. (“If anyone knows the sound of a lonely woman, it’s me.”) Gini only wants sympathy from certain people, however, and it infuriates her to be getting it from a woman who she has always condescended to and pitied.
Knocked down several pegs, Gini has to get her Alpha-Female-ing in elsewhere. Her coping mechanism is anonymous sex (well, the men would prefer it if she’d remember their names, but…), and just like in Vegas, it’s like she’s TRYING to get caught. She goes to the same bar every night, her pattern so apparent that one man insists that it’s his “turn.” The meaning of the sex is twofold, as it helps lonely Virginia manufacture a brief connection with another human AND it forwards the work. A year previous, if she and Bill had been faced with a task like developing a protocol to help women achieve multiple orgasms, they would have done some active research themselves. Basically, Gini is picking up flesh-and-blood versions of Ulysses. It doesn’t go so great. Turns out, not everyone counts scientific jargon as dirty talk. That’s a Masters and Johnson thing. (And a Mulder and Scully thing, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Two storylines collide in a fantastically unethical conclusion, when it comes to light that Bill and Virginia’s new partners – the ones selected to diffuse some of the personal tensions in the office – are secretly married. Like Janet Jackson and Jermaine Dupri. Lester discovers it while taking pictures with his fancy new camera, which he bought to gather proof that Jane is cheating on him. (Say it ain’t so, and where IS Jane?) Bill and Virginia are forced to address the problem together. Bill wants them both gone immediately. He spends half of his time with Nancy telling her he wants her involved in everything that he does and the other half warning her to keep her distance, so he’s obviously weird about this stuff. But Bill also hates not knowing things, and I think he feels embarrassed that these two were able to pull a fast one on him. He’s also clearly attracted to Nancy, and doesn’t know, like Virginia does, that theirs is an open marriage. Anyway, Virginia wants to keep the new partners on. Well, she HAS to keep the new partners on, now that Art is also aware of her nighttime pick-up spot. “I’m sure they had their reasons,” Virginia argues. “Everyone who lies has reasons,” Bill counters. When Art finds Virginia at the bar and witnesses the scene with a rather aggressive man, his response doesn’t indicate any desire to turn Virginia in (to WHO, anyway?). “Are you okay?” is all he wants to know. They work rather well together. Art isn’t involved in Virginia’s marriage. He doesn’t know Dan. But when an opportunity for leverage appears, Gini gets worried that this person is as calculating as she is. And what worries her the most is that somehow Bill will find out that she isn’t as happily married as she claims to be.
Gini can thank Alcoholics Anonymous for blowing up her spot in that area. Poor Drunk Alice is no longer a drunk. She’s a month sober, she announces at Bill’s meeting, and she wants to stay that way for her husband. (Bill: :-o) Bill and Alice go out for coffee after the meaning and he gets one side of Virginia’s sad story. “We predicted it and we were right,” Alice says of the implosion of Virginia and Dan. “We know our people.” Bill asks her if she hates herself for enabling a person who hurt her so many times and for protecting him even now. “Sometimes I do…and sometimes, I don’t.” And here’s our turning point. For so long, Bill has been the devious one in the great Bill/Virginia romance. He’s had control and he’s manipulated when he felt he had to. Now, he’s at Virginia’s mercy and somehow can’t believe she has no qualms about lying to him about something so vital. “That’s not love,” he tells Alice. “That’s torture.”
— Masters of Sex (@SHO_Masters) September 26, 2016
And this week’s patient couple prove that it’s easy to get the two confused. Franny and Gary Bucksey look like they stepped out of a commercial for something very wholesome. A sugar-free breakfast cereal, maybe. But their sexual dysfunction is the result of Franny desiring something that Gary is unwilling to give her. They tell Nancy and Bill that Franny suggested they see a movie together and let it inspire their uninspiring sex life. Gary was offended by the film and left, shaken. (“Jesus. There is something wrong with my wife.) The researchers find out why it evoked such a visceral reaction when they go see it together. (“On a WORK day?” Bless.) The Defilers is an exploitation film that came out in 1965; the plot (as it were) revolves around two men who kidnap a woman and lock her up as a sex slave. Bill can’t handle the scenes of sexual violence any better than Gary could; he assumes also that Franny’s titillation means there’s something wrong with her, though he approaches it in a more clinical way than her husband. Nancy is like, hey man, sometimes girls want some excitement. Despite what this dude’s mother told him about treating ladies like ladies, it’s perfectly normal for a lady to want to be treated like something else sometimes. The fact that Franny wants their sex life to be a little messier doesn’t mean she deep down wants to be raped or that she is a survivor of some trauma, as Bill assumes. The three of them manage to get Gary to agree to try some stuff in the exam room. And I swear to god, they lifted exact dialogue from the hay loft scene in Spring Awakening. Gary is hesitant; Franny prods him to let go of his inhibition and to stop asking permission. Gary spanks her harder and harder still, and then he completely loses it. (“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT FROM ME?”) Bill pulls Gary off of his wife and Gary starts to cry. Later, Bill tells Virginia that he “misjudged the situation” and the trauma clearly occurred in the husband’s past, not his wife’s. Virginia anticipates Bills question. Of course it would be difficult for one victim of childhood abuse to treat another. She’ll help. Will Franny and Gary make it? I hope we get another episode with them to see how it goes. Because that was ROUGH.
Meanwhile, Libby is now a walking, talking copy of Sex and the Single Girl. She even meets a dishy new man on the very same day she starts her job with her divorce lawyer. David Walton from About a Boy is Graham Heller, and YES, Libby, PLEASE go for it. They have a flirty exchange over coffee and he even invites her to his hotel, blissfully unaware that they’re only working across the hall from each other. Mr. Heller is one of the lawyers working on the Masters and Johnson pandering case, and I was forced to pull back on my attraction to him for a minute when he dared ask VIRGINIA to gather the files that his team would need to review. (“Actually, my name is on the door as partner, Mr. Heller, not secretary.”) Later that night, Libby rings Graham’s room while he’s reviewing some paperwork. Shirtless, as you do. “I’m in this consciousness-raising group, and, um, we decided that for a woman to call a man she doesn’t know is an act of rebellion. Against the patriarchy.” He’s charmed. I’m so proud of her, I could cry. Not that Libby hasn’t had excitement or pleasure in the past, as she informed Bill in graphic detail. But now there’s no shame; she’s not breaking any rules. She is a nearly single woman who can have relationships in the daylight. She can be thrilled by a simple act of bravery without experiencing any shred of guilt. (P.S. Phone sex was had, yes? Yes.)
But the universe is a cruel mistress. Libby and Graham discover each other’s affiliations when Graham comes to her workplace to ask the former Mrs. Masters to hold on her divorce until after the trial is over. Not only that, but they’d also like her to be a character witness for her former husband. Her laugh, you guys. She’s so not interested in going out of her way for this man. Not anymore. She throws those four magic divorce words back at Graham. (“Indignities, cruelties, desertion, and everyone’s favorite: infidelity.” “I can remember those.”) Still, this clueless and stupidly brave man asks her to “mull it over.” Okay, dude.
— Masters of Sex (@SHO_Masters) September 26, 2016
Graham gets the picture. “May I just say?” he says on his way out. “You would make an excellent lawyer.” Please tell me that’s where we’re going with this.
Closure does arrive for several characters in this episode, though it might be in a different form than they’d prefer. Virginia finds out that Dan is done; he’s never going to return those calls. And Bill and Virginia are forced by the criminal case to erase the last physical evidence of their affair. “Good,” Bill says, when Virginia tells him she’s destroyed everything. “Good.” He looks like he wants to die. Virginia isn’t coping much better. We see it in her face as she watches two strangers connect immediately in the exam room. Art goes on and on about how incredible it is that these sexual fireworks have nothing to do with intimacy or emotion. It depresses Virginia that that’s possible. She thought that what she and Bill accomplished had to do with them – specifically them, and what they shared. Suddenly her opposition to the surrogacy program makes much more sense. Virginia has anonymous sex, but she wants to believe that the non-anonymous kind is always better. If it’s not, then what’s the point? If it’s not, then she and Bill aren’t special.
Bill finally trashes the last piece of film he’s kept: one of Virginia, alone. Maybe what he said to Alice Logan was wrong. Maybe love and torture are actually the same.
- There was a lot in that Playboy cold open. Hef ships it so fucking much. Andre Royo as Sammy Davis Jr. Gini’s long-sleeved black cocktail dress and that ring. “I suppose you could call Dr. Masters my work husband.” And so on.
- I like Art, but I don’t trust Nancy. Discuss.
- “Just answer the phone, keep my Cheez-its bowl full, and make sure no one kills each other in the waiting room.”
- Scopes trial reference, everybody drink!
- I’m surprised this hasn’t happened before, but finally someone in the clinic recognized Betty from her “old life.” And you know what? Best case scenario. The lawyer on Graham’s team who once visited Betty is indiscreet, but he’s also respectful. He remembers himself as being inexperienced and embarrassed and Betty as being patient and kind. He’s says surrogacy is “God’s work.”) (“You’re obviously very accomplished and successful now. Not that you weren’t before!”) That’s an epic eye roll Annaleigh Ashford delivers when he offers to show her what he’s learned since they last met. And at least he got to prove his prowess with multiple orgasm lady, Betty reluctantly cheering him on from the observation room.
— Masters of Sex (@SHO_Masters) September 26, 2016
- “Haven’t you ever gone after something you knew would hurt you because it felt good?”
What did you think of the return of Alice Logan and Gini’s continued downward spiral? Let us know in the comments!