“Uncharted waters” – Masters of Sex Recap – Outliers

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Source: invisibleicewands

Masters of Sex Season 4, Episode 5
“Outliers” 

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.

Source: invisibleicewands

Source: invisibleicewands

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.

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“When the train is pulling out of the station…” – Masters Of Sex Recap

coat coat 2
Masters of Sex Season 3, Episode 11
“Party Of Four” 

Posted by Sage

Plotting every move, anticipating every counter move…there’s a far easier way to get what you want.

Dan Logan has always had Bill Masters’ number. Virginia thinks she know Bill better than anyone, but she fails to realize that – excepting Johnny perhaps – she is the person who Bill most fears seeing his true self. Every machination – every move in the chess game – is designed to prevent her from knowing the weakness that he finds so disgusting. He masks his real weakness (his love for her, and his helplessness in the face of it) with a false one, to tug at her sympathies. Bill exerts so much energy to keep Virginia in the dark that he has none left to hold the curtain closed to everyone else. Dan gets Bill – REALLY gets him – simply because Bill isn’t trying to sleep with him.

This was a devastating episode of Masters for every single character (besides Tessa, who’s having great fun at boarding school thanks to#SendTessaToBoardingSchool2K15), and that just feels right for the eve of a dramatic finale. We catch up with Bill and Virginia after their pitch meeting with their publisher for their second book. (“To Human Sexual Inadequacy!”) And though we didn’t see Bill “hijack” the meeting like Virginia says he did, we know how this refrain goes. The last episode went black on the most desperate version of Bill that we’ve seen. He’s truly lost it now; and anyone who’s spent three seasons with Bill Masters had to know that those unanswered phone calls to Gini’s home would lead to the kind of Hail Mary play that he thinks are an even swap for years of honesty and human decency. His master plan this time is to confront Virginia with Dan’s wife at an 8-course “celebratory” dinner in New York. Lord knows what exactly Bill thought this would accomplish. Did he think she’d come running into his arms at the sight of her? Virginia knows very well that Dan has a wife, as she tells her partner after they both stop pretending that her and Dan’s affair is anything but an open secret. If any moral oppositions she had to sleeping with married men outweighed desire and connection, then she wouldn’t have been with Bill for nigh ten years. Strategy and cluelessness meet in that man; and his attempts to play dumb for all but that 2-minute stand-off with Dan at the end of the episode made me want to punch him in his smug little face. (ILU Michael Sheen!)

judy greer

Judy Greer made her Masters debut this week as Alice Logan, and sister-girl is a broken spirit. Dan told Virginia earlier this season that he and his wife have “an understanding.” That’s an overstatement; he has affairs and does not deny them. Alice has no choice but to accept having a husband that cheats on her; she drinks, a lot, and if a strong, perceptive woman like Libby Masters has trouble walking away from her distracted and philandering husband, then poor drunk Alice doesn’t have a prayer. She’s become a bit of a monster in the process of watching her husband fall out of love with her. ( “You always like the ones that need fixing. Tell me, how is this one broken?”) But it offended me that Bill tries to align himself with her at the dinner table, as if he has the same right to indignation and bad behavior as the wronged woman. (“I’d like a glass of white wine, Dan. Do you have an objection to that?”) GINI IS NOT YOUR WIFE, BILL. She doesn’t owe him anything, but the whole dinner feels like he’s come to collect.

who you know 2 who you know
Back in St. Louis, Paul and Libby are trying to dial down the shine of their honeymoon phase, at least in front of the kids. The purpose of the “Johnny hates his dad” storyline – you know, the one that we write off in a bullet point at the end of every recap – finally made itself known this week. A detective shows up the Masters home while Bill is away and Paul is fixing the pipes (ALL the pipes. Heyooooo.) and he’s not there to discuss Bill’s slip with the double agent Bible thumping surrogate. (That’s going to come down hard on him in the finale, isn’t it?) Instead, the detective wants to talk with Johnny and he forces Libby to pull her child out of bed. Turns out that one of the girls who was at the lunch table when Johnny embarrassed Dennis with lies about his “broken penis” told her parents about the outburst, and now the entire school district wants to know what Bill is telling their children about their private parts and why. The interview scene was beautifully written; the bit where Johnny mirrored his mother’s words and speech pattern after the detective warned her to keep quiet spoke to how alien and uncomfortable conversations like this are for kids, how they intuitively seek direction from adults on how to behave, and how easily a poorly chosen word or an awkward speech pattern can be interpreted as something much larger and more devious. (Also, I die at the proud look Libby bestows on her son when he gives the cop the kid-friendly answer to the “what does your father do?” question, something that was obviously discussed and practiced.)

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“When are we not together?” – Masters of Sex Recap

suffering male masters suffering male 2 masters
 

Masters of Sex Season 3, Episode 9
“High Anxiety”

Posted by Sage

Trying to control other people doesn’t work ever. The only person you can control is yourself.

The party line during this episode of Masters is that Bill “is not himself.” Dan Logan’s continued presence in his life is unraveling the other man, and everyone around him (except Libby, for once) is paying the price. But, if I may: this is exactly how Bill is all the time, always. Wild-eyed attempts to reestablish his preferred set of circumstances? Check. Tantrums when he can’t steer the actions and emotions of other people to his liking? Check, double check. It’s kind of his thing. But this is the worst we’ve ever seen him.

IRL, it was Virginia Johnson’s escalating relationship with a perfume magnate named Hank Walter that finally spurred Bill Masters into leaving his wife and making an offer to his partner. According to the biography that the series is loosely based on, this decision of Bill’s had more to do with his need to retain Virginia professionally, and to ensure that the work would continue without interruption. But the show is a different animal. We want the romance, and it’s telling the story of a man who’s desperate in more ways than one. Without a doubt, Bill loves Virginia. And it’s killing both me and long suffering Ship Captain Betty DiMello to watch him totally disregard Of Mice And Men as a cautionary tale. The harder he grips Virginia, the more suffocated she feels. He may as well be running those baths for Dan and Virginia for the way his infantile behavior is driving her straight into his rival’s arms.

masters of sex stay here masters of sex stay here
masters of sex stay here masters of sex stay here
 

Michael Sheen, man. Even at Bill’s most despicable and selfish, he still makes my heart ache for him. (“You bastard,” I whisper, tears in my eyes. “You fucking bastard, I love you so much.”) And I’ve never seen Bill as wretched as he is when he shows up to Virginia’s house to lobby for some pity sex.

Bill: I’m asking you to forgive me and to keep an open mind. Please. Because I…I can’t think straight when we’re estranged like this. When we’re not together.
Virginia: We are together, Bill of course. When are we not together? (Ouch.)
Bill: In that way.

Sex is usually Bill and Virginia at their best. It’s how they work things out. It’s all their playacting stripped away. So it’s especially telling that Gini actually fakes it with Bill this time, and that he won’t allow himself to notice. He’s such a mess that she’s willing to go upstairs with him and be “how they’ve always been” even after we get unimpeachable confirmation that Virginia knows that Bill is responsible for her losing custody of her kids. Unlike the last time we saw Bill appeal to Gini in that living room, this conversation is all about what she can do for him. “Forgive me.” “I can’t think straight.”  “I’m not myself.” No wonder Virginia is barely present once they’re in bed.

bill virginia please

It doesn’t help matters that Bill is steaming ahead with the sex surrogacy program without Virginia’s full support. As thrilling as it must be for her to experience Lester’s impersonations of the major movie stars of the 1940s, Gini purses her lips skeptically throughout the training session. Part of her reticence may have to do with Nora Everett, unendurable know-it-all and the hot-for-teacher teacher’s pet. But mostly she holds back approval because she believes (correctly) that this therapy comes with heavy risk. Normally, Bill might agree with her, and act with more caution. But since he can’t sway Virginia’s mind in terms of cutting off Dan Logan’s research project, he’s going to blindly chase success in some other area of his life.

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

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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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