“Doing it behind the glass” – Masters of Sex Recap – Topeka

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source: itsthe60sbaby.tumblr.com

Masters of Sex Season 4, Episode 8
“Topeka”
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…

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.



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Gini/Ingrid breaks into say that their sex life has always been satisfying and that they’ve always been open with each other, which surprises Harvey and Marcia, especially when they rattle off various kinks that they’ve suggested couples try. “How lucky you are to have found each other,” they marvel. Me, I’m like “LOOK HOW PREDICTABLE THEIR OWN INTAKE METHOD IS WORKING ON THEM.” I mean, let’s be real, Bill and Virginia were due for couples counseling about 5 years ago. But I’m annoyed because it’s them but it’s NOT them at the same time. This is not Bill and Virginia asking for help and because it’s not, it feels so cheap to me. Then Harvey and Marcia drop the hammer, saying that a sexual connection of this kind often springs out of something like an affair. BLAMMO. At least Bill and Virginia know their method works? “Maybe on some subconscious level, you’ve decided that you’re undeserving of pleasure, of a satisfactory resolution, of a happily ever after. Literally undeserving of finishing what you started.” OH REALLY IS THIS WHERE WE ARE GOING? That Bill’s been afraid of being happy with Virginia because he’s punishing himself? Gross. It’s gross because it’s such an over simplification of the relationship. It’s gross because it completely negates the work Bill has done as a person this season and HONESTLY it takes any of the onus off Virginia and her choices WHICH IS WRONG. WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS.



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Back at the clinic, Nancy’s true colors are finally showing. After doing the intake, Nancy gives Mr. Clavermore a tour or the clinic, answering his very specific questions about the space.  It’s clear that he’s interested in more than fixing his sex life and Nancy is picking up EXACTLY what he’s laying down. Clavermore says that if they are doing this kind of business in St. Louis, then IMAGINE what they could do in a city like New York. Nancy’s eyes LITERALLY gleam as she tells him that Bill and Virginia are investigating clinics stealing their methods. “I just I keep saying to Art, “Shouldn’t it be us opening one?” After all, we’ve been properly trained and endorsed by Masters and Johnson themselves.” Yep. Nancy is a snake and Art looks like he wants to vomit. They make dinner plans with the Clavermores where Nancy continues to sell the idea of her and Art opening a clinic in New York, much to Art’s consternation. “You have to admit that we have been treated terribly at this clinic. Our talents have been overlooked and undermined by a lounge singer with a degree in typing.” I mean…she’s not lying. Bill has made best efforts to make Art and Nancy feel welcome but Gini has been fighting and undermining Nancy from the get go. It’s no surprise that Art wants to stay…he hasn’t had the same experience as her at the clinic. He’s been included and taken seriously. Nancy has EVERY RIGHT to be unhappy professionally, so why are the writers making the undercurrent of this whole thing be reflective of Art and Nancy being at odds over their sexual relationship? Because you can’t tell me that Art’s “We’re not liars or thieves. I’m not anyway” comment didn’t have any sort of pointed meaning. It VERY much did.

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“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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“We’ve kissed each other’s bruises.” – Masters of Sex Recap – Coats or Keys

Masters of Sex Season 4, Episode 4
“Coats or Keys”
Posted by Kim

With Masters of Sex moving into the late 60s/early 70s, we all knew this one was coming. The Swingers Party. One only need to look at the contents of the fan fiction on my iPad (threesomes in the first 20 pages, y’all. That’s some good shit.) to know that I’m not prudish but I have to say that the concept of a party where everyone goes to switch up their sexual partners REALLY pushes the boundaries of my squeamishness. Maybe it’s because, like our buddy Art, I am a romantic and believe in monogamy. Maybe it’s because I have a terrible ex-boyfriend who had multiple girlfriends in addition to me, making me an unwitting and unwilling participant in a polyamorous relationship. Maybe it’s just because I’m a jealous person who doesn’t like to share. (KIMMIE DOESN’T SHARE SEX PARTNERS.) Whatever it is, I know that I wouldn’t be caught dead at a swingers party because the very concept goes against everything in my nature. I’m not making a judgement at people who participate in polyamory, if it works for them. Everyone has their own sexual boundaries and should be free to explore them, as long as you are open with your partner. To borrow a lesson from my life coach Amy Poehler: great for you, not for me.

All of that said, “Coats or Keys” was the most purely enjoyable episode of Masters of Sex in a long time. In our live tweet of the episode, Sage compared it to the fantastic Dawson’s Creek episode “Sex, She Wrote,” in which the gang has to deduce just who had sex the previous night based on a mysterious letter. “Coats or Keys” opens in a similar manner, showing us the aftermath of the party, leaving us in the dark as to how all of our characters got there. We see Lester passed out in his car, with the windows fogged up and a phone number scrawled in the condensation. We see Virginia calling for a cab and a mysterious hand sporting a wedding band dangling her keys. She later wanders through the wrecked living room and picks up an abandoned black and white coat. We see Bill in his boxers with his shirt half unbuttoned issuing an ultimatum to an unseen person. WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED LAST NIGHT?

Flashback to 24 hours before where we see Art and Nancy making final preparations for the party that night. Nancy is making a final number count and stressing about whether or not Bill is coming that night (he’s not) and whether or not Virginia knows she’s supposed to bring a date (she does). WHICH BEGS THE QUESTION: why the hell did they invite Virginia, THEIR BOSS, to a swingers party? And why the paranoia about Bill being there? That’s some shady shit, my friends. I don’t trust these two at all, even if the episode really endeared me to Art by the end.

At the office, we see HOW everyone ends up at the party. Bill has the kids that night. Gini and Libby have a movie date, only planning on making a drive-by appearance at the party. Gini invites Lester, who in turn (I assume) invites Betty. They all think it’s just going to be a normal party (because why wouldn’t you?) and it’s adorable. Libby storms into the office (wearing a familiar black and white plaid coat) to yell at Bill about the divorce guilt-gift dog that he got the kids that SHE now has to take care of. Just a typical day at the Masters and Johnson clinic, really.

At the party, no one seems to take notice of Nancy’s sudden panic that Gini’s plus one is Libby, therefore throwing off her precise numbers (nor do they notice her relief when she learns that one man came alone because he and his wife broke up). Libby goes on the prowl for single guys, chatting up said divorced guy and indulging in many cocktails and some casual pot. She’s then cockblocked by Graham, who I once had such high hopes for, but is proving to just be a sleazy douchebag. He’s incredibly smug when he realized that Libby has no idea what kind of party she’s attending and makes lewd comments about his own date’s Beaver (coat). GROSS. Lester bemoans the fact that Jane is cheating on him to every single woman he comes in contact with. And Gini’s carefully constructed lie about her marriage to Dan comes perilously close to collapsing when she encounters a couple that KNOWS him and is supposed to be having drinks with him and his wife the next week. WHOOPS. I love that, unlike in episode 2, when Betty confronts Gini about this, she doesn’t show any rage or judgement. She’s simply like “Gurl, you can’t keep this up, you have to tell people.” She warns Gini (who went straight for the whiskey after telling Betty the full truth) that it will be better that Bill finds out about it directly from her as opposed to hearing it through the grapevine. (Of course, she has no idea that Bill actually KNOWS.) Gini tells her that she’s working up to it and Betty replies that there is no time like the present, as Bill has just arrived at the party.

Do you guys think Libby intentionally shuffled the kids off on the night Bill was supposed to have them so Bill could get to the house and see the havoc the dog has wreaked? Because I sure as hell do and passive-aggressively WELL PLAYED, Libby. I live for this shit. “It must have slipped my mind, Bill,” she says, not so innocently. “I’m sorry, Bill. Did I selfishly inconvenience you? Did I thoughtlessly capitulate to the children without any concern for how it affected you?” Between Graham and Bill, Libby’s buzz is sufficiently killed, so she storms out of the party, leaving her coat behind (AHA!). Bill follows and they continue to argue as Libby drunkenly searches for her car. Bill insists that he drive her home while Libby argues that Bill doesn’t even have a license to do so. “I think the options are I risk going to jail or you risk ending up in a ditch.” “How long do you think they’d put you away for?” Me, I’m just like “GO HOME AND HAVE ANGRY AND HOT EX-SEX PLEASE.”

Back inside, the party is FINALLY getting started, as Nancy and Art bring out the pile of all the ladies’ coats for the men to choose from. Gini, Betty, and Lester’s reactions are PRICELESS. (“It’s a fucking key party with coats.” “Holy shit.” “What does that mean?” “It means, Lester, dear, your night is about to get much better.”) Art, being the host, opts to choose first. He pulls a white coat from the pile with a flourish…and it’s Virginia’s. Aw, shit. She tries to hang back, basically praying that someone else steps forward, but after a long moment comes forward and claims her coat, giving the eye roll of the century. “Enjoy him,” Nancy purrs. EW. Lester takes his turn but the woman whose coat he pulls begs off for a pass. POOR LESTER YOU GUYS. Meanwhile, Betty has somehow managed to get her coat out of the pile and she thrusts it into the hands of the obviously gay piano player. “I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but I’m not trying to get into your pants. Look, if it were up to me, I’d be out the door, but my ride has apparently up and disappeared right at the moment that everyone has lost their mind and decided to start playing sexual roulette.” Straight people, amirite?

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source: beautyandthemess.tumblr.com

Naturally, Virginia is furious and plans on leaving as soon as she finds her keys. (Would she have been had someone other than Art taken her coat? Discuss.) Art tries to throw the whole bar run-in in her face but she snaps that it is her PRIVATE life. She also brings up the fact that she is among co-workers, himself included, and it’s not appropriate. “You know, I think the damage is done whether we mess around or not. If you leave in two minutes or two hours, it’s not gonna change what people think.” And this, my friends, is why you never party with casual work acquaintances without doing though research first.

Gini’s ranting is interrupted by Nancy’s orgasmic moaning in the next room (seriously, she got there RIGHT AWAY with the sex moans, damn, slow your roll.) and Art flinches ever so slightly and something clicks in Virginia. She sees that Art is clearly trying to be okay with what’s going on in the next room, so she apologizes that he has to hear it. “That’s not my wife,” he says. “She’s someone else with him. She’s pretending.” Sounds like someone is trying to rationalize away the pain, yes? “It’s just gears and pistons. She doesn’t care about him. It’s a game.” OH, ART. It sounds like he’s given himself this kind of pep talk before and it’s heartbreaking. Gini gently asks if he pretends too and he replies that he’s pretending to enjoy it. UGH. “Is it impossible to believe that she’s into it and I’m not?” Gini wonders why he DOES it then and honestly, same. That’s why I can’t wrap my head around swinging. It’s one thing to explore kinks with your partner (and it should be done) but it’s an entirely different thing when the kinks involve other people because people and feelings can’t be boxed, no matter how much you tell yourself that it’s “just sex”.

Art tells Gini that he knew this about Nancy going in. He knew that she didn’t believe in monogamy and he knew that she wanted him to sleep with other women so she would feel less guilty about wanting other men. Sure, if he knew that from the start and thought he could handle it, that’s fine. But surely at some point he has the right to say that this isn’t working for him, right? Clearly the arrangement is hurting him and no matter how much he loves Nancy, he should take care of himself, even if that means ending the relationship. RIGHT? (I also have to take a moment to praise Jeremy Strong’s performance this entire episode. There is SO MUCH going on beneath the surface here and he expertly shows the cracks beneath Art’s confident facade. He’s so vulnerable with Gini, it physically pains me.)

Art ponders that perhaps separating sex and love is too modern of a concept, which causes Gini to scoff. That’s how Gini LIVES, after all, or at least it’s how she claims to live. (Personally, I think it’s all a defense mechanism and a way for her to feel like she’s in control of her life.) “I’m taking care of myself, partaking in pleasure when I choose to, without romantic encumbrances.” She claims that there are infinite ways to engage in sex without love and Art asks her to tell him and he’s being entirely serious. (THIS POOR GUY.) Gini’s answer is SO her too. It’s such an accurate picture of how she sees herself. “You want to test your wattage, see if you can turn a guy’s head enough so all other women recede into the background. And in bed, you want to be the best he’s ever had so no other woman can compare. Can you leave a mark that’s indelible? That’s the challenge. You dazzle them, and then you leave them ruined. Or you just want to get laid because it feels good or there’s nothing on TV.” Nancy continues to wail in the background and every moan is like a punch in Art’s gut and you see his resolve rapidly crumbling. “Just talk to me about…fuck…anything,” he begs Virginia. “Art, you’re a romantic,” she replies. “That’s…I’m so sorry.”

Meanwhile, Bill and Libby arrive home, where Bill left the mess that guilt-gift puppy Baxter made untouched. Naturally, this sets Libby off because she sees it as just another mess that Bill has left her to clean up. “You don’t get to blame me for everything. You know, not everything I do deserves to be seen as a slap in the face to you. I’m not making decisions to deliberately hurt you,” Bill fires back at her accusations. While Libby DOES have a point in regards to the dog, I love that Bill stands up for himself here. They are both doing their best here and they are getting nowhere by being angry at each other. Bill doesn’t want to live in this constant state of anger and despite her decapitation fantasies, I think Libby doesn’t want to keep this up either. So Bill offers her three wishes that he will abide by in order to make things better. The first two are easy. One, she doesn’t want to always be the bad guy with the kids AKA don’t give any more guilt gifts. Two, she doesn’t want to be treated like a piece of business. I think it’s so telling of Libby’s character that she’s perfectly willing to postpone the divorce to help Bill’s legal troubles. She just wants to be treated like a person and she wants Bill to come directly to her instead of speaking through Graham. And the third thing? “I want you to go down on me.” I LITERALLY SCREAMED. “I want to know what it feels like and I want you to do something for the sole purpose of giving me pleasure.” YAS GIRL OH MY GOD.

God Bless everything good in the world because Bill actually DOES it. And her response when he’s done? “Thanks.” I LIVE. She basically pat him on the head and told him he did a good job and then left him with blue balls. (“Is that uncomfortable?” “Just, you know, a tad.” “Good.” MY QUEEN.) Aside from the blue balls, Bill gets a little pissy at her reaction because he just gave her an orgasm and she’s still mad at him. Why? “Why? Because that was great. That was great, okay? We could’ve been doing that for the past 20 years, and we never did it once.” Bill babbles that it seemed like Libby never wanted to try things which is infuriating because it’s clear he never wanted to SHOW her things. She was a virgin when they got married, she didn’t KNOW any better. But the point is that he DID and he kept sex polite and sterile between them. (Madonna/Whore complex much?) She didn’t know what she was missing, so she didn’t know what she was missing out on until she found it with someone other than her husband. “I am actually a carnal woman, Bill. I want a man to tear my clothes off, and I want to have sex in the shower, and if I am gonna go to a five-hour charity dinner, at some point, I want to be felt up under the goddamn table.”  How endearing and infuriating was it when Bill replied that he WOULD have felt her up under the table? Bill and Libby are just a sad case of a woman not knowing she had the right to demand passion and a man too emotionally stunted to give it to her. They are both at fault for what went wrong with them and it’s so refreshing to see them realize that. “We did our best,” Bill says, kissing her hand. “We made three children. And I loved you, Libby. Maybe not in the right way, maybe not enough. But know that I loved you.” Then finally finally FINALLY these two have some hot and passionate sex. Better late than never?


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Later, Bill and Libby have some post-coital munchies (“I have never been hungrier in my entire life. Why is that?” “Well, you worked up an appetite.”) and the air between them is so much lighter and open that I barely recognize them. It’s amazing. Bill says he’s going to walk home so he can do some thinking about what happened between them. “Let’s not make too much of it,” Libby says, offering him a pickle. “Let’s not make too little,” Bill replies. Guys, I don’t know what do to with an emotionally open Bill Masters, it’s a brand new world. Bill and Libby are FLIRTING with each other, for the love of Christ. It’s so much. I know it’s not going to last, obviously, but I sure as hell am gonna revel in this world of what could have been between these two. Libby gets all in Bill’s face like she’s gonna go for round two but instead she tells Bill to take Baxter for a pee. Thus, we now know who Bill is issuing the ultimatum to in the opening of the episode: his guilt gift puppy, who really IS damn cute.

Back at the House of the Sexual Revolution, Nancy’s moans have stopped but Art and Gini continue to dissect their respective situations over whiskey. “Doesn’t a part of you think that if she truly loved you that you’d be enough for her?” It’s important to note that Gini’s question lacks any trace of malice. She just genuinely wants to know and all the barriers between them are down, so why not ask the important questions. Art tells her that he knows what he signed up for. Gini points out that deals can and should be renegotiated when they are not equally beneficial. “You tell me, Virginia, when is it ever absolutely equal between partners anyway? Huh? Where you both feel exactly the same thing for each other at the same time, in the same amount?” WELP. Gini confesses that she’s ALWAYS been the one who has been loved more and for the first time in her life I think she realizes how sad that is. In the name of dazzling all the men in her life, she’s kept them from seeing her flaws. She’s enjoyed being on the pedestal and is just now realizing what a lonely place that is. So Gini turns to Art and while she’s asking about Nancy, she’s also asking about herself. ” You think you know her, but you don’t. Not really. If you really did know her, her true self, then maybe she wouldn’t be so dazzling?”


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ART’S ANSWER THOUGH. Goddamn, this episode is poetry, I don’t care that I’m quoting it so much. “Your husband loves you, right? And what makes you worthy of his love? Is it because your respective infidelities cancel each other out? Maybe he knows who you really are not your body in bed or your mind at work, but the secret you, the person you don’t want anyone to see, much less acknowledge yourself. A woman who is fucked up, and he loves you anyway. Isn’t that true love? Someone who’ll kiss your bruises the same way he kisses your lips, who’s on your side, not when it’s easy, but when it’s damn near impossible, when you yourself don’t think you deserve it?” Holy shit if that’s not one of the best descriptions of love I’ve ever heard. Art’s words cut Virginia to her very soul and her face is like “What if I’ve been wrong this whole damn time?” Time for more whiskey.

Virginia and Art sprawl on the bed, over the covers, and Gini tries to joke that Art has gotten her into bed at last and this whole reluctant swinger thing is an act. Then Art drops the truth that we knew all along: he picked Virginia’s coat on purpose, knowing that there was no risk of them having sex. “You’re my boss, and bosses shouldn’t sleep with their employees. Not ever. Isn’t that right?” Okay that raises a SLIGHT red flag because it feels like he’s fishing for info? I want to believe that his motives are pure, after how they’ve laid their souls bare but I DON’T KNOW. Virginia clearly thinks it’s a safe space because she admits that it DOES happen. She doesn’t name names obviously, but who else would she be talking about if not Bill? Art asks her to indulge him a little roleplay so she can tell him how it happens. And that’s how we get an entire recap of Bill and Virginia’s relationship through HER eyes and it’s fucking beautiful.

 
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What’s so beautiful about this entire scene is that it is like she putting words to her feelings for the very first time. It’s all the thoughts that have been in the back of her mind but she hasn’t allowed herself to voice. She’s WAY more self-aware than she allows herself to be and the whole time I just wished that she had the courage to share all of this with Bill AGES ago. At the same time, it’s like she’s actually realizing just how much Bill loved her. Sure, she heard him say it but she never really allowed herself to process his meaning. “You see past the person that I pretend to be, that I present to the world, confident, competent in all things, to the person I am. Afraid that I’m average. The ugly parts don’t scare you away.” Art questions if this theoretical person is a saint for dealing with all of this which spurs Virginia to another realization/crystalization of her thoughts. “No. You’re broken too. You’re afraid and insecure. But I know all the broken places. You’ve shown them to me.” “So we’ve kissed each other’s bruises,” Art says gently, harkening back to their earlier conversation about true love. “We have,” she replies softly. And then Art says the thing we all know to be true. The truth that Virginia has been running from for a decade. “Maybe he’s the guy for you, Virginia.” MY HEART.


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In the harsh light of the next morning, Virginia surveys the damage of the previous night but I also like to think she has a new outlook on things. Perhaps she is ready to voice her feelings to the person who needs to hear them the most. She picks up Libby’s abandoned coat and takes it to her house to return it. Bill opens the door, in his boxers and with his sex hair, and it’s like a punch to the stomach. “Libby left her coat,” she babbles. Bill plays his cards so fucking close to the chest here because he keeps his expression completely and totally blank and pleasant. “I’ll see she gets it.” Gini starts to walk away but stops. “Dan and I aren’t married. We never got married.” Perhaps she’s bursting out with this at last because she fears that Bill isn’t waiting around for her? Perhaps the cold hard truth of him being at his ex-wife’s in his underwear makes her realize that even IF he’s the guy for her, he’s not going to know that unless she tells him. And Bill definitely doesn’t give her the reaction she was expecting. He doesn’t fall into her arms sobbing that they can finally be together. He simply tells her that he knows. That he’s known for a long time. HER FACE THOUGH. Lizzy Caplan is so subtle as just about every emotion possible flits over her face. “I’m really sorry,” she says…because what else is there to say in this moment? AND HERE’S WHERE IT HURTS. “What are you sorry for? I’ll see you at the office, Virginia.” And he shuts the door in her face as if she hasn’t (in her eyes) just dropped a bombshell. One is the loneliest number indeed.


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Case Studies

  • We got a follow-up with last week’s Dom/Sub gone wrong couple. In individual sessions with Virginia and Bill, Franny and Gary delve into the reasons why things went down the way they did. It turns out Franny had a very domineering mother who emasculated her father on a regular basis. (There’s a whole conversation about people ordering for their partners in restaurants and it’s all gross. Honestly, who finds that appealing? I can order my own damn Lo Mein, thank you very much.) In her desperation to NOT be like her mother, she wanted Gary to “act like a real man” by just taking what he wanted from her so SHE could be the weak one. Conversely, Gary wants a respectful “Honey I’m home” kind of marriage where the husband always asks for sex first because his father was abusive and he doesn’t want to become that kind of man. Yeesh. “They couldn’t be more wrong for each other,” Bill ponders in a post-mortem with Virginia. “Each one wanting something the other is constitutionally incapable of giving them.”
  • ” Well, I’m not sure that a woman who’s truly demure would insist on being dominated.” Excuse you, Virginia.
  • Virginia blatantly seeking praise in her post-session discussion with Bill made me a little sad. Even in their strained relationship, she is still seeking affirmation from him.
  • I really hope we explore more of how Betty is dealing with Helen being closeted to her family.
  • I love that Betty and Lester are so work married they finish each other’s sob stories.
  • “You’d think prim and proper, wouldn’t you, Ike, just based on outward appearances? But I am telling you, this one, inside, is a roiling cauldron of rage.” I may hate Graham, but I love this.
  • Twins Kyle and Lyle WERE GROSS. (Also how did they factor into Nancy’s numbers, considering they are a twofer?)
  • “May I be frank, Bill? I fantasize about you getting decapitated.”
  • “But first, put the dog in the bathtub.”
  • Fashion moment of the episode: Libby’s floral bra and slip ensemble.
  • Lester ended up getting some after all and it’s glorious. He sits on the curb outside the party, dejected and smoking when he’s joined by the cocktail waitress from the party. He tries to play everything off as the appetizers not sitting well with him, but she knows better. “You need to stop wallowing in it and just go punch the guy. Be better than those people and their protest against boredom.” She can stay.
  • THIS LINE THOUGH. And look at Lester’s sweet face.

  • But seriously, I love how she basically tells Lester that this is middle-aged bored upper middle class white people nonsense and he should pay no mind to it. These people aren’t radicals. They aren’t doing anything important or standing up for what’s right. They are simply fucking each other’s partners because they’re bored with their lives and who wants a part of that? AND THEN THEY DO IT IN THE BACK OF HIS CAR and I guarantee it was hotter than any of those assholes at the party. My favorite thing was when she asked him to say something sexy and he said “Civil disobedience” and she came. BLESS.
  • I love how Betty spent the rest of the party singing with Guy the Pianist. More opportunities for Tony Winner Annaleigh Ashford to sing please.
  • We also learn that Betty sleeps at the office whenever Helen’s family is in town and that she bills those hours as overtime. Guy crashes at the clinic with her and then Betty observes him answering the phone in the morning. OH MY GOD CAN SHE HIRE HIM. That woman needs an assistant like she needs air.

What did YOU think of “Coats or Keys”? Let us know in the comments!