Masters of Sex Season 4, Episode 5
Posted by Sage
It’s a brave new world since the last coat was left on the pile at Art and Nancy’s swingers party. The brief new normal includes Bill and Libby vacationing in a healthier relationship than they shared during their courtship or marriage and Virginia finally being honest with herself about what it is that she wants. The truth-bug hasn’t bitten Art yet. Despite reaching new levels of clarity about his own marriage in an all-night hot-goss-athon with Virginia, he hasn’t come clean to his wife that the benefits of their swinging are all one-sided. Virginia, straight outta fucks to give, confronts Art about this, even though she got her information from surveilling her own employees. Art assesses that Gini doesn’t care so much about his marriage; she’s concerned that Art’s posturing over his faux night of passion with Virginia will reach Bill’s ears. Of course Art is right – hence Gini’s fifth blackmail scheme in as many weeks – but he’s not right about what she fears. Since a domestic, sex-rumpled Bill opened his ex-wife’s door and politely blew her off, what scares the daylights out of Virginia is that Bill will hear from someone that Virginia had crazy swinger sex with Art and that he won’t care at all.
And really, all appearances indicate that Virginia’s spell on Bill has been broken. Kim wrote gorgeously last week about the Libby and Bill’s come-to-Jesus sleepover. And I’m with her in that I’m thrown by this generous, vulnerable Bill Masters. He and his ex-wife (well, if proceedings DO start up again after the trial) are free from the years and years of lies that mucked up the works of their connection. With all that gone, there’s still SOMETHING there. But I’d argue that it can only exist in the here and now, in this clarity, after their attempt at a perfect life blew up in both of their faces. It’s a moment in time and one that’s going a long way towards healing their rift and making them able to stay friends and raise their children together. But this isn’t a second chance at love. Libby has no illusions about that; but desperate, romantic Bill thinks he might have found his lifeline.
Which is one of the reasons that Bill is happy to get his 90th AA attendance certificate signed and walk out of that church basement, never to return. Louise obliges, with “you’ll be back” written all over her face. (Da da da DA da…) Besides, what will listening to dozens of drunks’ sob stories do to help him and Virginia beat this sexual deviancy rap. Bill has better things to do with his time, including triple-checking the work of his own lawyer. (Bill WOULD be the kind of defendant to weaken his own case by failing at not looking superior to his legal team.) Again, Masters and Johnson are at odds in how to proceed. Virginia wants to settle and spare everyone the ordeal of a court case. Bram Keller has a very clear vision of his future self arguing in front of the Supreme Court. If they win, they win. If they lose, they’ll exhaust the appeals process. He’ll be a legend and Masters and Johnson will be the scientific pioneers who defended their research process to the highest court in the land. Virginia is overruled, and to make matters worse, Keller drops it in her lap that Bill and Libby are considering reconciling. If looks could kill, no one but Virginia would be walking out of that courthouse alive.
In every setback, crafty-ass Virginia sees an opportunity. Betty hands Gini a package. Little Brown has passed on publishing the next Masters and Johnson tome, partially because they stood them up for that very important press conference last season. The prostitution scandal is also a factor. “THE WORK IS IN TROUBLE” flashes on a neon sign in Virginia’s brain and she quickly concocts an excuse to whisk Bill away from his formerly square, pot-smoking, feminist wife. She tells Betty to book two plane tickets to New York right away and then informs Bill of their plans. Guys…he barely looks up when she comes into the room. The more frantic Virginia gets, the more transparent her plans. Little Brown isn’t the only publisher in the world. They can worry about the book when the trial is over. Bill reminds Virginia that his reputation is on the line, and he has no intention of leaving Bram Keller to his own devices. Gini doesn’t like this reality where Bill won’t jump at the chance to be alone with her, even though she had a hand in shaping it. Hurt, she lashes out about what she deems to be the real obstacle keeping Bill from her: Libby, who’s looking very serene in the framed black-and-white portrait on Bill’s desk. Bill muses that a win in this case would be a “fresh start,” and Gini JUST stops sort of scoffing. “Seems to me that you’ve been backsliding, more than anything,” she says, and refers to the morning she dropped off Libby’s cape. BACKSLIDING. Bill doesn’t even satisfy Virginia by taking the bait. He impassively tells her that he and his ex are looking at all the options. He just says it, conversationally – it’s not a confession and it’s not a ploy to see how Virginia will react to hearing it. “You want a fresh start? Then come to New York,” she purrs. “We can both reinvest in what has always given us the most satisfaction…the work.” He remains unmoved. Gini thought she had Bill in her pocket for so long and now he’s barely affected by her. And a rejected Virginia is a dangerous Virginia. Old patterns, you know.
Gini decides to go to New York on her own. If she can’t tempt Bill with a night in a Manhattan hotel room, she can bring him back a publishing deal as an offering. I love when Virginia refuses to hear accusations that she’s inconveniencing people. She barges into Bob Drag’s tiny office, chirping about how wonderful it is to see him and pretending as if she hasn’t just been dropped like a hot potato. But sad sack Bob has no use for Virginia except the one. He realizes it’ll be a better look to show up to that evening’s fancy book launch with an attractive, accomplished date, and Virginia doesn’t mind being used so long as it’s mutual. They roll into the cocktail party where some guy is talking up some satirical novel called Slaughter-house Five. Bob drains a few glasses of wine before he finds the courage to wrap an arm around Virginia’s waist. He’s posturing for his boss, a virile-looking guy (sort of J. Peterman-esque) who looks down at Bob literally and figuratively. Tired of being pawed, Virginia yanks Bob into a corner and sets him straight: she will by no means sleep with him in exchange for a book deal. Bob is like, listen, you disgust me and I find you tremendously unlikable, DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT. His problem is that Virile Boss is the kind of guy who thinks a man’s sexual prowess has an effect on his ability to do his job. Drag was demoted after his fiance left him and hasn’t been able to present a macho enough front to get back into Little Brown’s inner circle. Virginia has a plan that will change Virile Boss’s mind about Drag AND keep her person un-molested. The pro quo of course, is Drag going to bat for the book. Satisfied with their terms, Virginia approaches Virile Boss and tells him that Drag killed the book in retaliation for his own participation in the study being cut from the text. “His sexual stamina is off the charts. Refractory period non-existent. Including him would’ve completely skewed our data,” Gini recounts, doing her best Elle Woods. “No wonder his fiance left him. Poor girl couldn’t keep up.” And maybe she takes the sales pitch a step too far for believability, but it’s worth it for this line: “Bob Drag is one long and large erection.” WHY DOES THIS MATTER, HE PUBLISHES BOOKS. Men are ridiculous.
Bill Masters is kind of ridiculously smitten with his ex wife. He’s back at the house and not even PLAYING good dad, just being one. He tucks the kids, leaving Libby to rolls her joint in peace. Bill looks around the house for chores to do, and there’s not a hint of guilt anywhere. He’s suddenly realized that being responsible in some way for the happiness and quality of life of his family isn’t the prison he always thought it was. Libby’s become quite handy herself though (“I’m not helpless.”), so the next task can take place in their old bedroom. Libby’s got a list and she’s down to check another box. “What we did the other night. I gather that there’s a way that we can do it to each other at the same time,” she explains. “I believe there’s even a number for it.” Time to chart some waters.