“To know where you really stand.” – Masters of Sex Recap – In To Me You See

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Source: invisibleicewands

Masters of Sex Season 4, Episode 7
“In to Me You See” 

Posted by Sage

“Amazing,” I thought to myself a little over three weeks ago. “Masters of Sex hasn’t fucked me over once this season.” And then it happened. The show killed off Helen and destroyed Betty’s happiness, all so Austin could come back with an admittedly splendid mustache and Bill could be inspired to give his med school girlfriend a ring. So far, there’s been nothing original or worthwhile enough in the aftermath of Helen’s death to justify the murder of another queer female character, and yes, I’m still steaming mad about this choice.

But the show goes on and so must the recaps. I wish could move on from losing Helen as quickly as Masters has. Even Betty’s mourning period is skipped. She’s back to being the lovable and unexpected source of wisdom for much less emotionally capable characters. Even if she has to about it in her bathrobe.

Barton is there in the grief weeds with Betty – they’ve always been kindred spirits – and it means very little to him that the hospital oversight committee found that Barton had acted appropriately and expertly in the delivery room. Official absolution doesn’t change the fact that his friend’s partner is dead, and that Betty is therefore doomed to lose the child that Helen died for. Bill reminds Barton of the time that Barton refused to accept his resignation after Bill tried to quit out of shame. They are men who deal with life and thus leave themselves open to seeing the other side of that coin. It’s part of the gig, no matter who is on their table. “I don’t know how to forgive myself,” Barton says. Really, he never has.

Annaleigh Ashford stuns again in this episode in her few, brief scenes. When Bill brings Betty a pizza (they travel now), she moves in the sluggish manner of someone who doesn’t have anywhere she needs to be anymore. Betty talks about her happiness with Helen like it was some cosmic error that the universe came to correct. “Helen was the one thing I got right,” she tells her boss. “We got each other right.” She doesn’t say as much, but everything about Betty in this moment conveys her belief that true happiness now lives in her past, not her future.

Her only directive now is to outsmart homophobic infrastructure yet again. Austin Langham, doctor and strip club proprietor, is her ticket to getting her daughter back. But Austin can’t simply petition to take the child from Helen’s parents and then hand her over to Betty. No: the plan is for Betty to marry Austin, adopt the baby, and then divorce him and sue for full custody. (Bet there are a couple of strippers over at the club who would be eager for an explanation for Austin’s reverse-shotgun nuptials.) Even as Betty is saying it, she knows that the hoops are too many, She appeals to Helen’s mother one more time in the hopes of walking around those hoops instead of having to jump through them. Betty pleads with the woman to understand that the daughter who loved and committed to Betty is the same daughter who loved and cared for her parents for her entire life. The rationalization that allows Edith to keep her deceased daughter in her good graces is the same one that will prevent Betty from ever getting through to her. Edith again casts Betty as the degenerate transgressor who seduced and ruined her innocent child. Ashford’s work is beautiful, and I don’t doubt that this is how the scenario would have played out in this era. But the cruelty in this storyline is bordering on sadistic. I don’t know what we’re gaining by holding Betty’s face in the dirt.

Despite those alleged casseroles, Virginia doesn’t seem to have noticed that Helen is dead. Not even an event like that can distract Gini from her goals: namely, to keep interlopers Nancy and Art in check and to force Bill to fall back in love with her. She tries to express herself to Bill in writing, but isn’t satisfied by the result. Next, she turns to manipulation; her talent for it has generated a bit of a “reputation,” according to Bill. It’s the nicest possible way to say that Gini has let life make her petty and small. Her brilliance and capability are now dimmed by her need to control people. Faced with the accusations both voiced and implied, Gini agrees to Bill’s adapted version of her proposed office shake-up. It’s cute that she actually thought – after all they’ve been through – that Bill would really believe that Virginia is concerned about Art and Nancy’s marriage and that re-pairing with Bill would be taking one for the team. Bill calls her bluff and suggests that they form a boys versus girls structure instead. Tensions between Nancy and Gini were at a fever pitch last week, so I’m suspicious that Bill is looking forward to seeing how that all plays out. The agreement is another reminder of how much Bill Masters has changed. He used to be a man who couldn’t deal with the very concept, at least personally. And even though Art calls Nancy Bill’s “shadow,” Bill is evidently not as attached to her as he was to Gini back in the day.

Nancy and Virginia’s first intake is predictably terrible, but not just because they can’t stand each other. Gini grows suspicious of the Flemings and their note-taking. She smokes them out by suggesting shock therapy treatment for their dysfunction, followed by divorce. The couple confess that they are aspiring therapists themselves, there to see how the very best do it. (The mystery shoppers of the sexual health industry.) Gini is disgusted by their deception, but even more upset that they called what they were doing “research.” The Vegas act she saw in the season premiere was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of opportunists going to school on Masters and Johnson’s throw. Some of the seminars and clinics Virginia learns about even sell their programs by using the Masters and Johnson name. Mad Men isn’t the only show capable of underlining the capitalist drive behind the touchy-feely late ’60s self-help boom.

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“Someone always ends up crying.” – Masters of Sex Recap – Family Only

Masters of Sex Season 4, Episode 6
“Family Only”
Posted by Kim

STOP KILLING LESBIAN CHARACTERS FOR DRAMATIC EFFECT 2K16.

In the moments after the final credits rolled on “Family Only,” my initial thought was the good old chestnut, “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.” But you know what? Fuck that. I AM mad and I AM disappointed. Because Betty and Helen deserved more than this. And I expected more of Masters of Sex than cheap ass storytelling.

Why was it cheap storytelling? Because it was telegraphed, down to the fucking episode title. As soon as Barton and Bill assured Betty that she shouldn’t worry that Helen’s water breaking was extra bloody and that c-sections are so routine that you could do two before lunch, you KNEW that Helen was doomed. If your audience knows how this story is going to end 21 minutes into the episode, it’s cheap and lazy storytelling.

I get that Masters of Sex is a period piece and that this is exactly how Betty’s story would have unfolded in real life. Same-sex partners had no rights in the eyes of the law in the 70s and the baby WOULD have gone to the grandparents and not Helen’s partner, who was going to raise the baby as her own flesh and blood. I get that. What I don’t get is how the creative team of Masters of Sex decided that this was the most interesting story to tell. It’s not. You know what would have been interesting? Seeing Betty and Helen trying to navigate raising a family together in the face of overwhelming bigotry. What would have been interesting is seeing them struggle but stand firm in their love for each other and for the baby they wanted to raise together. What would have been interesting is seeing the people who believed in them, like Bill and Virginia and Barton, surround them with love and understanding. Seeing Betty lose not only her partner but the child she so desperately longed for in one fell swoop? THAT’S NOT INTERESTING. And the fact that it was all crammed into the last five minutes of what was otherwise a cracking good episode of television? That, my friends, is what we call a sucker punch. And what are sucker punches? CHEAP SHOTS.

What pisses me off the most about this whole debacle is that it makes it harder for me to appreciate how GOOD the actors were in it. Annaleigh Ashford has long been the MVP of Masters of Sex and she DELIVERED in this episode. She expressed Betty’s joy and fear and grief so perfectly and she did it all with her face wiped clean of Betty’s usual mod make-up. She was a pillar of support as Helen dealt with the pain of her parents’ disownment. She was a fierce Mama Bear as she fought for Helen’s medical treatment and expressed her fears about her condition. She was incredibly selfless in calling Helen’s parents at great personal risk to herself because she knew that was what her partner wanted. She was incredibly gentle as it became clear that Helen was circling the drain and she didn’t want her to panic or be afraid. And she was beautifully numb when Helen’s parents shut her out of the nursery declaring it was for family only. (God, at LEAST have the nerve to say it to her face.) Ashford was EVERYTHING in this episode. She deserves a meaty storyline because she is capable of delivering but again I go back to “WHY THIS STORY?”. It all around sucks and I’m angry and disappointed. We all deserve better than this.

WHY

WHY

I guess other things happened in this episode too. Like I said, I’m having a hard time caring, but I’ll try.

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“I should have put you first.” – Masters of Sex Recap – Full Ten Count

Masters of Sex Season 3, Episode 10
“Full Ten Count” 

Posted by Kim

Season Three of Masters of Sex saw Bill Masters descend into what could only be called madness as he desperately tried to hold on to Virginia Johnson. Rather than just own up to his true feelings, Bill spent the season manipulating Virginia into staying with him, staying with the clinic, and staying with their work. The tighter he tried to hold on to her, the more he pushed her into the arms of Dan Logan, a man who’s everything Bill is not. (One would think that after working with Virginia for a decade that he would KNOW this approach was the exact OPPOSITE of what he should do to “keep” Virginia, but like I said, Bill went nuts.) The penultimate episode of Season Three, “Party of Four,” was quite perhaps one of the most devastating episodes of Masters of Sex as Gini FINALLY opened her eyes to Bill’s desperate machinations. He’s been on thin ice with her for a long time and the combination of steamrolling her with the surrogate program and the blatant relationship sabotage with Dan and his wife at that disastrous dinner BROKE something between them. I’m going to just quote my brilliant partner here cause she really said it better than I ever could: “All season, she’s humored Bill though she’s rapidly lost patience with him because she feared losing her place in the study. But she could care the fuck less now. His manipulations are done in the daylight now, and she finds that the life she’s too small for is the one where she’s the crutch of a broken and brilliant man. She’s reinvented herself before, and maybe it’s time for another go.” So “Full Ten Count” opens with Gini ready, ready, ready, ready to ruuuuuuuuuuuuun and Bill scrambling, once again, to keep his rapidly crumbling house of cards together.

It’s so fitting that “Full Ten Count” opens with Bill having a nightmare where he is in the boxing ring getting the shit beat out of him whilst his father and Johnny observe with disdain. Boxing has been a running theme in the series, from the MAGNIFICENT Bill and Gini bottle episode “Fight” in Season Two to Bill and his brother beating the shit out of each other in “Below the Belt”. One can easily blame this on Bill’s Daddy issues, considering boxing was one of his dad’s great loves, but it also serves as a perfect metaphor for Bill Masters just not being able to accept when he’s been beaten. Bill’s dogged determination and fierce obsession with control is what makes him so frustrating (and amazing) as a character. “You’re a bum, Masters!” Dream dad declares. “You’re beat. A man has got to know when he’s beat!” Season Three was one long exercise in CRINGING at Bill’s refusal to admit that he’s down for the count. He is the ESSENCE of the “This pigeon isn’t giving up” meme and it’s painful because you just scream from the comfort of your couch: “LET IT GO, DUDE. YOU’RE BEATEN.”

Meanwhile, in the wake of Bill’s betrayal and Dan’s confession of love in New York, Gini is ready to get the heck out of dodge and leave them both behind. “Usually when things get tough, you dig in all the more,” her father gently observes. I think that’s hilarious because in everything other than her work, I think the exact opposite is true. ESPECIALLY when it comes to her love life. Gini, bless her light, tends to think avoidance is the best policy, so she’d rather run away that actually confront her feelings for the two married men in her life. “I keep waiting for everything to click into place,” she tells her Dad. “So I can say, finally, my life is exactly as it should be.” The thing with Virginia is that she KNOWS something is missing in her life and she’s not sure what it is. And so she’s going to run until she finds it. She would have been gone too, had it not been for Libby showing up on her doorstep with the news of the accusations against Bill. “It always comes down to the two of us, doesn’t it Gin? The two who can right the ship.” Does Bill actually KNOW how lost he would be without these two women who are always willing to clean up his messes? DOES HE? I mean clearly he knows he would be lost without Virginia, hence his desperate manipulation, but Libby? LIBBY IS THE ROCK AND THE GLUE AND EVERYTHING THAT HOLDS THIS MESS TOGETHER.

At the clinic, we get an awkward as hell elevator ride with Nora and Bill as they encounter each other for the first time since their grope session. Nora tries to give the “We were both consenting adults” speech but it rings false. Something evil is a-foot. Meanwhile, Nora’s Bible Beating Boyfriend corners Gini and tells her to get out while she still can. There’s SUCH an impending sense of doom, it’s like the whole thing is one Jenga piece away from crumbling. Betty is running around like the little Dutch girl trying to keep her fingers in the damn as the press conference presenting the new book stands as an immutable deadline. Gini confronts Bill about the allegations and insists that Bill just pay off Dennis’ family so they can make the whole thing go away. Bill stubbornly refuses to do so because he’s innocent and SURELY he can talk his way out of this, right? “Libby and I are aligned on this,” Virginia grits out, with ice in her veins. “Just write the check so we can get back to work.” Of course, the subtext of the whole scene is a giant “Fuck you” for putting EVERYTHING they’ve worked for at risk. Bill is all “You’re still upset about New York” and Gini’s like “I don’t want to talk about it” but she REALLY means “Fuck yes, I’m still upset.” Bill keeps trying to push, saying they’ve come through much worse and hey guess what as a GESTURE of their equality, he’s planning on dropping the MD from his name for the next book. Gini is basically like “How magnanimous of you. Sign the check.” She’s 100% done.

Later Nora corners Bill in the Surrogacy room and gives him the whole song and dance (with bonus Disney Eyes) about how her devotion to the program has led to her being behind on her rent. Bill stammers about saying that he’ll speak to her landlord but Nora is insistent. She needs money. She hasn’t been able to get a job because she’s working at the clinic six days a week. She doesn’t have anyone else to turn to. “I know things are slightly strained with us because of our recent…intimacies. Surely you want to make things right with me.” Bill forks over $200, all the while not knowing that Nora has had the microphone button pressed, allowing her “surrogate” to hear the whole conversation. Beth Greene, why do you hurt me so?

Fresh off a quick trip to Mexico, Dan arrives at the clinic, tired of Virginia dodging his calls. Gini flounders, saying she needs time, that everything that happened in New York was a lot to take in. “I wanted you to know that I meant what I said,” Dan says. “So I am now officially divorced.” Oh. THAT was unexpected. And wonderful. Dan Logan is a man of ACTION. He’s a man that follows through and he’s a man willing to open himself up and lay himself bare to Virginia, knowing that she could still reject him. Poor bastard. Gini plays the “It’s not us, it’s everything around us” in regards to her reluctance. And this is where Dan is so amazing: he tells Virginia that he understands the hold Bill has on her. He understands how much of her life Virginia has devoted to the clinic and her work and he would never ask her to leave it. In fact, he insists that she stay. “I don’t see how you and the work go together,” Virginia confesses. “I don’t see him ever accepting us.” THEN Dan drops the ultimate truth bomb. “It’s not up to him. Bill can never make you happy, not as a man to love. You know this. I know this. Virginia, I’m here because I love you and I want you to be my wife. But I can’t run after you, trying to make you see things you already know. That, I can’t do.”

Therein is the essence of the whole thing, isn’t it? This whole time Virginia has been so concerned about how actions affect BILL that she stopped putting her own happiness first. Dan isn’t demanding that she be with him or that she leave Bill and her work. He’s simply standing in front of her offering a chance at happiness if she’s willing to take it. It’s funny because in some respect, Dan is giving her an ultimatum. He’s telling her he’s not going to keep chasing her. She needs to decide what she wants. He hopes she’ll choose him but he’s not going to manipulate her into doing so. That’s the difference between the two men in Virginia’s life and that difference is everything. He just wants Virginia to make a definitive choice. He SEES the constant state of inertia she’s in and he just wants to shake her out of it, even if it means she doesn’t pick him. “I was stuck in my marriage a long time, years longer than I ever should have been. And it was because of you, because of my love for you, that I finally got the courage to leave. Now I just want to do the same for you. Give you the strength to go. But only if you want me on the other end of it cause if not, then well. Then I will take my broken heart and go.” POOR BASTARD.

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“People are complicated.” – Masters of Sex Recap

Masters of Sex Season 3, Episode 10
“Through a Glass Darkly” 

Posted by Kim

In case you haven’t noticed (and I don’t know how this is possible, considering we’re being beaten over the head with it), Bill Masters has completely unraveled without the complete presence of Virginia Johnson.

This week’s episode literally opened with Bill hallucinating, as he saw Virginia in the parking garage.  She was wearing the red dress from the episode where he gave her the fur coat…perhaps the last time he felt she was truly his?  “If you can’t control yourself, how are you going to get control of HER?” his hallucination asks him, which is incredibly disturbing, to be honest.  Bill has always been a man who likes to be in control of everything around him and the fact that Gini falls into that category shows the extent of how truly fucked up this entire situation is.  The more Bill tries to control her, the more Virginia struggles to get away.  As Sage said last week, Bill may as well be drawing those bubble baths for Gini and Dan thanks to his pissing around her trying to mark his territory.  The only reason Gini hasn’t outright told Bill to fuck off is the fact that she’s terrified that Bill is going to shut her out of the work, which is the thing she holds dearest. She’s sneaking around with Dan, making up fake experiments just so she can explain away his presence, all because she’s afraid Bill’s going to take MORE from her and she doesn’t want to upset the delicate balance.  Tell me again why you guys think this is a healthy relationship?  Also Gini’s “He needs me, he depends on me” mentality reeks of Stockholm Syndrome, sorry not sorry.  (Dan: “He’s a child, you realize that?” Add “very observant and accurate” to the list of pros in the Dan Logan list.)

Bill’s hallucination also tells him “You set the trap, she’ll walk right into it. She always does.”  Just so we’re clear, let me reiterate that EVERYTHING Bill does in this episode is to ensnare Virginia into being with him.  Nothing about it is genuine, it’s all about “trapping” her.  (Just TALK to her, you emotionally stunted idiot.  JFC.) Thus, Bill changes his tactics this week, as he appeals to Virginia via the work.  Suddenly the surrogacy program, the very program that Bill has charged on with full steam ahead, Gini’s opinion be dammed, JUST CAN’T FUNCTION without Gini’s imput.  It’s pathetic really.  He’s not asking for her opinions because he values them.  He’s asking for them because he KNOWS that Gini will never be able to resist the work.  After observing a disastrous surrogate session with Lester, Bill gets Gini in the lab to design a solution for getting the female patients to focus on themselves rather than the person in front of them.  “I need your perspective, you can only offer that if you participate,” Bill says and I swear to GOD I can smell the desperation wafting from my television screen.  It’s all so awkward and I think it’s incredibly telling when Gini comes up with solution where the woman leans against her partner so she doesn’t have to see him.  She KNOWS what Bill’s motivations are and she can barely stand to look at him (“You think eye contact is a problem?”).  Sure, she gets off this time (unlike last week’s faked orgasm), but there is still an air of her doing this to placate him and her heart’s not in it at all.  They are doing this for science. HA.  Keep telling yourselves that, kids.

The inherent flaw in the surrogate program is the fact that no matter how much “protocol” you give, those messy little things called emotions will ALWAYS get in the way.  Gini and Bill’s solution for Lester’s sessions IS a good one but what they don’t count on is Lester balking and finally admitting he only joined to piss off Jane.  This admission is all Gini needs to rip Bill a new one regarding the program.  “You’re attempting to conduct an experiment with an infinite amount of variables and without any control. It’s chaos, Bill.” When she explodes about Bill trying to control chaos, she may as well be saying that she knows Bill is trying to control her and he needs to STOP.  And then when Bill (uncharacteristically) backs down immediately, she KNOWS he’s placating her and calls him on it.  It’s only then that Bill gets remotely close to being honest with her.  “You mean more to me than any research program, Virginia,” he says, willing her to understand his true meaning.  Sure, Virginia replies “That’s what I want too” when Bill pleads that he just wants it to be them again…but does she truly mean that?  I genuinely don’t know.

 
 
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“The curvature of our desire.” – Masters of Sex Recap

gini bill masters

Masters of Sex Season 3, Episode 5
“Matters of Gravity” 

Posted by Sage

There are forces that cannot be fought. There’s science in them, maybe, but not logic. And while some people are confused by the difference between them, Bill Masters knows that science and logic are not the same.

In “Matters of Gravity,” so many characters are pushing reasoning against what Bill and Virginia might call an emotional response. The other force wins every time. Let’s start with Margaret Scully, the forever luminous Allison Janney. We discovered last week that Maggie is in a poly-amorous situation with her lover Graham. Graham has another lover who is younger; her name is Jo. The three share the same roof, and Jo would like them to share the same sex therapists as well. This is a lot of sharing, and too much perhaps for even Maggie 2.0.

Maggie’s awakening in Season 2 was a beautiful, Pleasantville-style colorization of her life. She not only realized that she is deserving of being loved and desired, but she also came to understand that Barton’s inability to desire her was never her fault. She spent much of her life in a loving but near-platonic relationship, and then course-corrected by embarking on a new one built almost entirely on physical connection. What a difference we see in the way Margaret holds herself in the offices of Masters and Johnson now versus how broken and humiliated she looked in her early series consultations with Gini. She’s as nonplussed as the researchers as they offer exercises to aid Graham in his endurance issues. (“Just the tip.”) I would cheer for her if she didn’t still seem so unfulfilled.

Graham also seems like a real dick, no? (Or is this transference of my dark feelings about Jimmy Cooper?) He keeps reminding (read: gaslighting) Maggie that “we” agreed to invite Jo into their lives and that “we” should still be fine with it. The thing is, Jo was really only invited into his bed. And she seems just as unsatisfied as Maggie. She whines that the other woman’s efforts to manage Graham’s sexual dysfunction will put Maggie on a higher pedestal. (“If you can cure him, he’s going to love you more.”) And I’m no polyamory expert or anything, but I’m pretty sure that keeping score is death knell for that kind of relationship.

“I’m living in the truth,” Maggie tells Barton when he drops in on her at home and meets Jo. “At least I’m trying to.” But her life is still defined by the men she loves. Graham pontificates about the fallacy of “the logic of love as scarcity,” which translates roughly into “I prefer four breasts to two, thank you.” He insists that he’s done Maggie a favor by including Jo in their lives, because he “knew [he] would act on those feelings.” (Fuck you very much, Graham.) An alternative lifestyle can and does work for people who are honest with each other. But again, Maggie’s happiness is tied to a man who is living a lie. So she gets the hell out of there.

Maggie’s break-up with Graham absolutely does not mean that she is not as open-minded as she thought that she was. It means that she knows what she needs from a partner and that it’s okay to need a lot. Barton is so, so proud of her for it. “You know. That there’s something more. Something better. And you know that you deserve it.” He wants her to have everything she wants. He’s her best friend, after all. And they still get strength from each other. Who knows when and if Barton would have come clean if Maggie’s happiness didn’t count on it. But to give her back her home, he calls their daughter Vivian and tells her the real reason why their marriage ended. It’s a moment of pure selflessness. There are few of those on this show, so let’s appreciate this one.

All swaddled up like a newborn babe.

All swaddled up like a newborn babe.

“Selfless” is not a word that can be applied to Virginia’s mother Edna, who comes to visit with her husband at young Tessa’s bidding. (To echo Kim’s tweet: “Send Tessa To Boarding School 2K15.”) Their surprise entrance interrupts THE FIRST POST-SEX PILLOW TALK WE’VE HAD ALL SEASON WHY. Bill hides away in the bathroom reading up on Toxic Shock Syndrome while a freshly nailed Virginia tries to act like she isn’t. One wonders exactly what Tessa is aiming for here. She knows about the affair (thanks, Old Spice!), and enjoys torturing her mother with this knowledge. But I’m unsure what her endgame could possibly be. Her motivations are all over the place, and I wish desperately that someone somewhere knew how to write a realistic teenage girl. Edna, meanwhile, is a page straight out of Overbearing Mothers Monthly. She’s as bad as Virginia warned us that she is, wishing out loud that Virginia had a “real husband” to handle the possums (Bill) in the attic (master bathroom); harassing her daughter about her baby weight; and proudly claiming that little Lisa looks just like her. In Edna’s meager defense: Virginia is already a trailblazer in her own time; imagine what a women a generation older would think about a daughter with a personal life and a resume like hers. Also, Frances Fisher always has to play the mean mum. She’s so good at it.

titanic frances

The truth that Virginia won’t admit is that she doesn’t even want her mother’s approval. Their strained relationship is a part of her identity, so much so that she’s revised their history to suit her own narrative. She gripes to her father about Edna’s interest in thrusting her daughter into baby beauty pageants until he debunks her story. Gini entered herself and begged her mother to take her. “She didn’t want you to be disappointed,” he says, and she still doesn’t. But Gini and her mother’s versions of a proper adult, female life don’t look the same. Edna is not at all impressed that her daughter supports herself and is on her way to becoming a world-renowned researcher. Husband and security are the goal, and all’s fair in terms of getting those things. Even ruthlessly screwing over Bill’s “lovely wife.” COLD, Enda. Adopt me, please. I have no morals. I will make you proud.

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“Always make the other person feel important.” – Masters of Sex Recap

 
Masters of Sex Season 3, Episode 4
“Undue Influence” 

Posted by Kim

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.”
― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

Am I the only one who burst out laughing when Masters of Sex used Bill reading How to Win Friends and Influence People as a connecting theme of the episode? Bill is a brilliant scientist but he’s always had trouble with the human side of his business (outside of his patients, that is, because his bedside manner is killer).  It’s why he and Virginia work so well together because she humanizes him. It’s not that Bill doesn’t care…because he DOES.  Out of all the characters, I would argue that Bill actually cares the MOST, he’s just so emotionally stunted that he doesn’t know how to express himself…especially to Virginia.  He and Virginia have always connected the most through sex.  And now that sex has been taken out of the equation for the time being (WHERE IS THE SEX AND WHEN CAN IT COME BACK?), Bill’s attempts to connect with her are incredibly endearing, if a bit misguided and poorly timed. Yes, he’s trying, and it’s wonderful, but it’s not what she needs at this time. Virginia doesn’t need material gifts, she needs someone to just be there for her and to help her feel that she’s not drowning or completely failing at life. I’m getting ahead of myself.

“In a nutshell, there are six ways to make people like you.  PRINCIPLE 1: Become genuinely interested in other people. PRINCIPLE 2: Smile. PRINCIPLE 3: Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. PRINCIPLE 4: Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. PRINCIPLE 5: Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. PRINCIPLE 6: Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.”
― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

Bill wasn’t just reading How to Win Friends… for the hell of it. He was hiding in a bookstore, watching customers ponder buying Human Sexual Response. (I would totally do this too, which is why I should never publish a book because obsessing over sales would take over my life.)  The initial craze over the book has settled down and sales have slowed. The book has moved from a display in the front window to the back of the reference section.  The publisher isn’t planning to do a second printing, satisfied that the market has been saturated and there is no further interest.  Naturally, Bill panics about this because he can’t have his life’s work spent on one measly printing.  “I have a sense the book is gaining momentum,” he pleads, grasping at straws. “Many of them are simply embarrassed to be seen buying it.” (I wonder what Bill would think about e-books and Fifty Shades of Grey.) Their publisher says that the only way they can get a second edition is if they take their show on the road and do a book tour.  Bill immediately says yes, while Virginia balks. Bill, who has such a singular focus and could give a shit about his family, can’t understand WHY Virginia would say no.  He can’t see beyond his own endgame and he can’t see that Virginia is drowning trying to be everything for everyone. She has an infant.  She has Tessa, who continues to be the worst, this week getting suspended from school and rolling eyes at having to come into the office with her mother.  The straw that breaks Virginia’s back is her worry over Henry in Vietnam.  It’s not enough that her son is halfway around the globe, the fact that he is sick and she’s not there to care for him is too much.  She immediately goes to the worst possible places when he mentions his illness and she’s unable to do anything else until she knows her son is okay.  Bill TRIES to help by offering cold hard facts and dismissing her worries by saying that his symptoms could be ANYTHING.  What she really needs in the moment is for someone to HEAR her worries and offer ways to help her…which is where Dan Logan and all his dreaminess comes in.

On the surface, Dan Logan is a smarmy bastard with the depth of a thimble.  He has a harem of assistants (a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead, natch) and he carries himself with a cocksure attitude spouting innuendo after innuendo. He looks at Virginia as if he is salivating with the need to ravish her (seriously, Josh Charles, what are you doing to me?). Virginia is not unaware of this, writing off all his overtures as the “Dan Logan Charm”.  But what he does for her that Bill DOESN’T is he listens to her desperation (because certain decibel levels DO travel after all).  A former soldier himself, Dan reads Henry’s letter with the eyes of someone whose been there.  He offers Virginia platitudes of “medical discharge” and offers to use his influence to make some calls to get Virginia some answers. His motivations are completely genuine too. “I wish there had been someone to help my mother when I was overseas,” he says simply. Virginia…if you don’t want him, I’ll take him.

“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

Dan goes with Virginia to the army office as a show of support. It’s there that he reveals that Virginia reminds him of a woman he had a love affair with during the war before going home to his wife. It’s in that moment where we see Virginia hysterically laughing on the inside. “Did you love her?” she asks. “Very much.” “Then how does a man just walk away back to his fiance?” she asks incredulously. “Wife,” Dan corrects. Ladies and Gentlemen, Virginia Johnson has a type and it is unavailable men.

Also, Henry was sick from alcohol poisoning. Just in case Virginia needed something else to feel like a failure about.

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