Masters of Sex Season 4, Episode 1
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.
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.
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…”
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.
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.