Masters of Sex Season 4, Episode 8
Posted by Kim
Okay, I have a serious question for the Bill and Virginia shippers. Are you satisfied with how Bill and Virginia ended up back in bed together? If you are, PLEASE, I beg you, tell me why you are because I feel like I’m watching a completely different show and the show I am watching makes me feel gross.
I realize I’m jumping to the end of the episode at the top of this recap but I can’t NOT talk about this. I know Masters of Sex isn’t a show where grand romantic gestures happen and Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson are certainly not the type of couple to have a fairy tale ending. Lest we forget, in actuality, their marriage ended in divorce. (Let me go back to the grand gesture thing for a moment because I surely can’t be the only one who remembers a rain-soaked Bill showing up on Virginia’s doorstep declaring that he can’t be without her, can I?) Because this show is based on real people, we have always known that Bill and Virginia would fall back together eventually. We just didn’t know HOW. I am not sure what I expected in regards to how the first post-Dan, post-Libby, Jesus they are both single now and it’s not illicit sexual encounter between Bill and Virginia to play out but it certainly wasn’t a “roleplaying in a rival clinic” scenario that tiptoed RIGHT up to the line of being a consent issue. Yep. I said it. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
At the end of the last episode, Bill and Gini picked out a few clinics that were stealing their methods that they would investigate separately. Road block/easy plot device alert: Guy discovers that these clinics will only admit married couples, forcing Bill and Gini to either send Art and Nancy to do it or they have to pretend they are a married couple and do it themselves. (Ordinarily, this would be the beginning of my FAVORITE fan fic trope but alas this just caused me to roll my eyes.) Bill, knowing that Dody is there, oh so casually says they should just go to Topeka together and leave Art and Nancy in charge while they are gone. Bill and Gini tell their partners to take care of the Clavermore case (and Gini makes a way too late apology to Nancy regarding spilling the beans about Art’s unhappiness) and it’s off to Topeka they go. As soon as they are out the door, Nancy turns to Art and Guy with a look of triumph on her face. “Put on some music. Let’s dance.” While the cat’s away…
— Masters of Sex (@SHO_Masters) October 31, 2016
In the car, Gini and Bill banter about their assumed identities (“I’ve always liked the name Earl. Earls are good guys.”) and what their fake sexual crisis should be (“I think you should be frigid.” BILL.) Eventually, they decide to just follow the Clavermore case file because who cares about Doctor/Patient confidentiality when there are phony clinics to catch?
The Topeka clinic is just as I expected it to be: a real pseudo-homey joint run by Harvey and Marcia, who come off as your cool hippie aunt and uncle who teach you about sex when you are too afraid to ask your parents about it. They have
Bill and Virginia Earl and Ingrid sit low to the ground on cushiony stools and they all do the intake session around a coffee table. To the surprise of no one, the intake session is a near word-perfect replica of the Masters and Johnson technique. Also to the surprise of no one, the intake session starts to hit a little too close to home as Harvey and Marcia prove they are not exactly the quacks they appeared to be and the lines between Earl and Ingrid and Bill and Virginia begin to blur. Harvey links Earl’s sexual issues with shame, saying “Shame’s a powerful inhibitor not just to sexual health, but to true intimacy.” At first, Earl/Bill scoffs at ever having felt shame in the marriage before but Marcia pushes, asking if he’s ever felt shame in being unable to please Ingrid, if he’s ever come too fast or had trouble getting hard. WELP. Suddenly season 2’s struggle with impotence comes roaring back and things get VERY awkward because the shame and anger Bill felt back then was very real.
But of course after I go defending Nancy’s right to professional happiness, she turns around and uses her knowledge of Art’s discontent to get exactly what she wants. She tells him that she understands that he’s fulfilled at the clinic but she can’t pass up the opportunity that Clavermore is offering. She then plays Art like a fiddle saying she isn’t happy, not at the clinic and not with their “arrangement”. ” I know that before we got married, I was the one who insisted on this setup, but I didn’t know that when you wake up with someone every morning, pour each other coffee, split the-the newspaper, that you want to go to bed with that person every night too.” Art looks at her like he’s hearing the words come directly from God. Honestly, I’m surprised rainbows didn’t come shooting out of his eyes. Nancy’s all “I know you love swinging, I’m so sorry” and Art is SO quick to be like “NOPE” because it’s all he’s wanted for a very long time. “Then this offer from Mr. Clavermore is like Kismet. It could not be more perfectly timed. Don’t you see that? We have the chance to go someplace where nobody knows us, where we don’t have friends or colleagues who think of us as-as swingers. We can make a fresh start, the two of us together at our own clinic. In New York.” I would say WELL PLAYED if she wasn’t being such a vile and manipulative human being. That evening, Art stays late at the office and Nancy goes home and fucks the next door neighbor again. So yeah, the whole monogamy thing is gonna last a really long time. #FreeArt
Meanwhile, Dody speaks in an incredibly similar manner regarding her marriage, telling Bill that her husband just doesn’t see her anymore. Then she asks Bill if he’s had a happy life and we go right back to the same story. “I’m not sure I know how to be happy. I’m trying. Trying to learn. One thing’s clear: I need to stop falling in love with women who don’t love me.” EYEROLL. That wasn’t true with Dody (as she reminds him) and it’s not true with Virginia. I seem to remember a time when Virginia made it VERY clear that she loved Bill…he was just too fucked up to see it or do anything about it. YOU CAN’T REWRITE HISTORY AND CLAIM SHE’S NEVER LOVED YOU. She may have been horrible to him recently, but that claim isn’t fair. Bill does know that on some level as he goes on to explain to Dody. “Well, I thought she didn’t love me.
Maybe the problem was I was thinking, ‘How could she possibly love me?'” Dody, POOR LAMB, thinks that Bill’s self-worth issues are rooted in their failed relationship (HA) and offers to try to make it up to him by offering herself to him. Bill immediately shuts that down (as kindly as possible). He came here to get closure and answers, not to start a torrid affair. Dody is understandably embarrassed and with good reason. I mean…what else would you think when the former love of your life calls you up out of the blue and wants to meet? Dody manages to leave with SOME dignity though, even if she’s humiliated. “I’m just a silly woman who’s read too many romance novels. Good luck to you, Bill. Maybe the next woman who wants to love you you’ll be brave enough to let her.” (As much as I loved that line, I’m a little like are we pretending the past season and a half never happened? This is a line that I would have CHEERED over mid-season 2.)
And the thing is, as they prove in the exam room, it’s NOT just sex, no matter how much Virginia claimed it would be. It’s not just sex when it’s with someone you claim to love. It’s not. Sorry. When you factor in love, you factor in feelings and connections and it will NEVER be just sex.
- Betty Gilpin’s Lizzy Caplan impression = A+
- Gini may THINK she’s being subtle about her intentions with Bill but LITERALLY EVERYONE KNOWS. “She’s too busy plotting to make Bill hers,” Art observes.
- “It’s unbelievable the contortions some women will go through to bend a man to their will.”
“She’s a world-class gymnast.” I mean really, Nancy, after your actions in this episode, you’re one to talk.
- What exactly of the point of Libby’s storyline? It felt completely shoe-horned in. This week on Masters of Sex…Libby wants to go to school and be a lawyer! Next week on Masters of Sex…Libby goes to Woodstock! (I’m not joking that is ACTUALLY the preview.) This season started so promising for Libby and now it just feels like they are spinning the wheels. Figure out what you’re doing with this character or write her off the show, Caitlin Fitzgerald deserves better than this.
- Michael Sheen’s hillbilly accent though.
- “It’s like how everyone thinks they have good taste. That can’t be true. How would that explain lava lamps?”
- Bless your light, Guy.
- Austin DID marry Betty and they have filed for custody of the baby. That’s all very good but I have a lot of fear over the way this is progressing. Me: I realize that Annaleigh Ashford needed some time off so she could film Rocky Horror and that’s why she’s not in this episode. Me, an intellectual: BETTY’S WHOLE STORY BEST NOT BE PLAYING OUT OFF SCREEN YOU BITCHES.
- Austin shows up at the clinic to peddle his latest get rich quick scheme: The Virility Vacuum aka a regular ole penis pump. Lester is understandably enraged by this because if there is one thing he believes in, it’s the science behind the work they do. A penis pump isn’t going to fix anyone’s problems. Austin leaves behind a bunch of pamphlets which Lester promptly throws away. GOOD FOR YOU BOO.
- Guy is thinking about applying for the homosexual study, which Austin encourages. He waxes poetic about being the first volunteer for the original study, declaring that it was the best sex of his life, taking no notice of Lester fuming in the background. THEN Austin starts in about Jane, calling her a bombshell and talking about how “ready to go” she was and that’s it for Lester. He punches Austin in the jaw (“THAT’S MY WIFE.”), packing in a decade’s worth of rage and resentment for what Jane’s participation in the study has done to their relationship.
- Later, Lester discourages Guy from applying to the study, warning that he’ll never be the same if he does. Then Lester delivers one of the most profound statements in the history of the show and I wanted to reach into my television and HUG HIM because he gets it SO MUCH.
Lester: Ever since Jane was in the study, she treats sex like it’s a performance. The curtain goes up, and she’s on stage in a starring role. Why else would she marry the man on the other side of the glass?
Guy: Because she loves you.
Lester: No. Because I’m her audience. I have front row seats, a lifetime booking to her drama: crushes, affairs, breakups.
Guy: I’m sorry. But you’ve been doing this work for years. You’re telling me you don’t believe in the work?
Lester: I do. I believe in the science. Just like I’m glad there’s a polio vaccine. But I wouldn’t want to be the rat that tried it first. Listen to me. Throw that away. You don’t know what’s real and what’s a performance when there’s someone watching. Doing it behind the glass it changes you.
What are your thoughts on “Topeka”? Were you left wanting more for Bill and Virginia’s reunion or did you appreciate the parallel to their first time? Let us know in the comments.