“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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“People can’t live with a lie forever.” – Masters of Sex Recap – The Pleasure Protocol

Source: invisibleicewands

Source: invisibleicewands

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.

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Source: michaelsheen

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“Ugh, break-ups are the worst.” – Masters of Sex Recap – Freefall

Source: invisibleicewands

Source: invisibleicewands

Masters of Sex Season 4, Episode 1
“Freefall” 

Posted by Sage

Yes, Playmate of the Month for January 1971, break-ups ARE the worst.

One of Hef’s consorts says this to Virginia, who seems to be dealing with two at once. When last we left Mrs. Johnson, she was running away from Bill to become Mrs. Logan. Did she? Masters is holding that answer back from us for now, but Josh Charles is decidedly not present in this episode and is not due back at all. Instead, Virginia is taking on Vegas on her own, day-drinking and night-drinking in the same bar, telling her young and handsome hook-ups that her husband is due back any minute, and plotting her next career move. Did Dan leave her or did she give him his walking papers? (I lean toward the latter; I believe Dan really did want to start a new life with her.) I’ve never thought of Virginia as a character who cares much about saving face; her constant references to her disappeared spouse have nothing to do with shame. They are another way for Virginia to keep her distance from things that scare her. Including – as we see at the end – her former partner. “Do you know what my husband really is, Rick?” she asks the nice boy in her bed. “He’s protection.” Rick doesn’t get it. “From?” “You, for starters,” she answers.

"Rick." Source: invisibleicewands

“Rick.”
Source: invisibleicewands

At any given time, there isn’t one soul in Vegas without any regrets. Virginia carries hers around, but tries to drown them in Bloody Marys, room service, and Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man.” To a stranger, she probably looks like she’s living her best single girl life. But she sits in her hotel bed and watches through last night’s mascara as women burn their bras and live in their power on the news. She looks down at her own, thoughtful. Their revolution wouldn’t be possible without the one that she and Bill started. But she still feels separate from this second wave. And she likes her lingerie, sue her. She looks good in it.

Does Gini regret leaving Bill? If she does, it’s not high up on her list. She regrets protecting Bill’s feelings for so long. She regrets allowing their personal relationship to spiral out of control and annihilate their professional one. She regrets letting it get to the point where she HAD to leave him, for the good of both of them. (“It all became hopelessly tangled.”) Though it’s hilarious and vindicating to watch Gini completely roast a faux sex-pert in front of his potential book-buyers (“If you want to be technical about it…” “I do.”), it’s also sad that she has no other place to put her life’s work into practice but a ballroom in Nevada.

At least Gini can sleep soundly knowing she finally got through to Bill. In Season Three, Bill “You Poor Bastard” Masters could feel Gini slipping away, and it made him a) crazy and b) more of a pain in the ass than usual. Season Three Bill was reckless and petty. He was a kid asserting his dominance on the playground, and, as Kim beautifully said in her finale recap, “the ESSENCE of the ‘This pigeon isn’t giving up’ meme.” (Quite right too.) Bill finally took the loss at the conclusion of that episode. He let Ilsa Virginia fly out of his life on a private plane, knowing that the honesty and passion that he finally had the balls to show her came far too late. Don’t mourn the old Bill yet though; if experiencing that loss matured him, it was an insignificant gain. Season Four Bill Masters came here to wallow. And as the son of a miserable drunk, wallowing in his blood.

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Source: invisibleicewands

Source: invisibleicewands

Masters and Johnson encourage honesty in their patients, and the science backs them up. People like Dale Connolly have to choose between keeping their secrets and having a healthy, satisfying sex life. When Bill finally takes that consultation, he recommends that Dale stop trying to predict how his wife will take the news that he has a pretty demanding foot fetish (“It’s weird to wanna fuck shoes.”), and just leave that part up to her.  Dismantle the idea that you are somehow responsible for someone else’s reaction to you, and you dismantle repression. Maybe Mrs. Connolly will freak out and leave. Maybe she won’t. Maybe deep down, she already has some idea about his needs. “It might come as a relief,” Bill says. “Either way it’s how you feel. You don’t really have a choice, Dale.”

Yet, in this premiere, Bill and Virginia both lie their asses off to strangers in bars. As is the way of the deep drunk, “bra salesman” Bill Masters eventually dives face-first into the truth. I mean, he doesn’t have anyone else to talk to.

Donald: Sex what? *laughs* There’s no such thing as that.
Bill: Oh, yes, there is. In fact, sex therapy is the way of the future. We explored it all, experimented, made significant breakthroughs, learned every inch of each other’s bodies.
Donald: Okay, buddy, I am now cutting you off.
Bill: But, you know, being sex experts, it’s not enough. Because when you’ve tried and tried and she still leaves you anyway, then you must look at yourself in the mirror and say the words that you’ve been too afraid to say…”

Source: invisibleicewands

Source: invisibleicewands

Bill is still a small man. He’s accepted the truth of Virginia – a truth he protected himself from for years, in the interest of self preservation – but that’s about as far as he’s gotten. If she doesn’t love me, Bill says to himself, might as well flame the fuck out. He endangers himself and others, damages public property, leaves poor Betty to fend for herself at the clinic, and becomes far too familiar with the inside of the courthouse. So Bill finds himself mandated by the court to spend 30 of his evenings in the kind of 12-step meeting he walked out of when it was his brother seeking some support. His meeting leader Louise is used to dealing with men who think that they are only the sum total of their mistakes. And she’s not letting Bill off that easy.

man-of-faith

Source: invisibleicewands

Source: invisibleicewands

Bill: I ca-I can’t take steps. Why can’t you understand this? Not even a single step. There is no direction I can turn because-
Louise: Because you don’t know how. So show up where you’re needed, Dr. Masters. That’s it. Show up and see what happens.

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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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