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 I 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.