“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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“Uncharted waters” – Masters of Sex Recap – Outliers

Source: invisibleicewands

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 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.

nora virginianora virginia
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“Is that really enough? A stand-in?” – Masters of Sex Recap

Masters of Sex, Season 3 Episode 8
“Surrogates”
Posted by Kim

We are deep into season three and Masters of Sex has a lot of balls in the air (hey-o).  I feel like episode eight served to lay a lot of groundwork as we barrel towards the finale as it featured four very separate stories with very little crossover between them.  Luckily all the stories focused on the grown-ups (send Tessa to boarding school 2K15), so the episode was thoroughly engaging, despite its separateness.  Let’s break them down, shall we?

Virginia and Dan

 

In a performance worthy of Ferris Bueller, Virginia calls in sick to work and manages to have Bill convince HER to take the rest of the week off.  “It’s important for Bill to think that it was his idea,” Virginia coos to Dan, wrapped up in a fluffy bathrobe in their Vegas hotel room.  That’s right, ladies and gents.  Virginia Johnson is taking the day off and I fucking love it.  I love it because she is doing this for herself and being selfish for once (“I’ve never done anything like this before.”).  She so often does things for Bill or for Tessa or in the name of the study…it’s incredibly rare that she does something just for her.  I think that’s the allure of Dan, honestly.  Sage pointed out in her last recap that Dan desires her but he doesn’t NEED her and therein is the appeal for Virginia.  It’s something that’s entirely hers and it’s done on her terms.

I’ve seem grumblings on Tumblr about how Dan lined up all of those appointments for her while he was off in meetings, grumblings that Dan is trying to force her into a box or that he only wants her as arm candy.  I didn’t see it that way.  I saw it as him trying to do something nice for her and him being a clueless dude thinking that’s what most women would want (“You’re on vacation. Try and have some fun.”).  Virginia Johnson, we all know, is not all women.  We especially see this in her conversation with the businessman’s wife over playing some slot machines.  “Whenever he starts talking about work, I just nod my head,” she says.  This is the type of woman who would have LOVED for her husband to fill her day with appointments and I loved Virginia’s barely concealed revulsion as she pondered that life and I love how quickly she extricated herself from that conversation.

Naturally, Gini spends the rest of the day observing people in the casino and making the connections to how exhilaration for winning is essentially equal to sexual response. Dan laughs that she spent her day off doing field work, telling her that she just needed to be her charming self at dinner (which yes, I did bristle towards).  If you want eye candy at a business dinner, Virginia Johnson is not your girl.  Gini can’t help but get involved when she sees that Dan is struggling to get his point across to the casino owner.  She’s not wired to be quiet and honestly, I don’t think she would have held Dan’s interest if she was.  The whole dinner becomes an extended act of foreplay as they build on each other ideas in the casino pitch.  (Me texting Sage during the episode: THEY ARE SO HOT FOR EACH OTHER RIGHT NOW.)

 
 

After SLAYING with her comparison of gambling to sexual excitement, Gini smoothly transitions to “But how often does the wheel land on your number? Customers can smell loss, it kills the mood.  And once the mood is killed, it’s all over.” BOOM.  What I loved about this scene was not only Gini’s fervent delivery of her point, but the way that Dan watched her over the course of it.  It was almost like he knew exactly what he was doing when he told her she just needed to be charming.  He KNEW it would goad her…and it worked.  “Your secretary makes some interesting points,” the owner says and Dan immediately corrects him (and Virginia) by saying she is his partner.  The look of pride on his face is everything.  I know we’re supposed to hate Dan for coming between Bill and Virginia, but I couldn’t help but love him in that moment.

Gini’s words about the mood being killed ironically come into play as they hit their hotel room, ready to have some super hot sex, and stumble upon an employee robbing their hotel room.  Dan speaks to him calmly and then knocks him out (hot).  Gini is about to call the police when they realize that this kid is a former soldier.  That makes Gini switch automatically into mother mode, as she no longer sees a stranger, but sees Henry.  They feed the kid (Dan smoldering in the corner, ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice) and listen to his (horrible) story and Gini just oozes compassion (and a bit of fear that this is what she’ll be facing when Henry returns).  “Any mother would want to want to hear from her son, no matter what he’s done,” she assures him.  She’s so kind it physically hurts me.  Dan offers to pay for him to get into a rehab…but not until he calls his mother. “You would have been a good father,” Gini tells Dan over a cup of coffee in the wee hours of the morning.  “It wasn’t my decision to make,” he replies cagily.  And it’s in this moment that I remember Dan is STILL married and whaaaaaaaaaaaat is Virginia doing?  To that matter, what is HE doing?  While Dan is showering, Gini learns that it wasn’t the casino that turned down Dan’s offer, but the other way around.  The casino wanted him to relocate to Vegas and he said no.  Clearly because of Virginia.  Normally, this would be something to make her go running for the hills.  As they share a cab home, you see that Virginia is still processing this information.  But then she leans into him and he kisses her head…and maybe. Maybe she’s fine with it.  None of this is going to end well.

 

And THEN Bill shows up at her doorstep bearing chicken soup, looking like a freaking puppy dog.  You know, since she’s supposed to be sick and all.  Gini is noticeably surprised by this touching gesture and you can tell that Bill expects to be asked in (he DID almost use his own key, after all) but Gini plays up the sick angle once again.  Seconds after she closes the door, Dan’s voice echoes from the kitchen.  “Who was that?” “Betty,” she lies smoothly, resting her head on the door.  As Sage tweeted at the end of the episode: Oh no. Two men are in love with her.  Her wallet is too small for her fifties and her diamond shoes are too tight.

Basically.

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“The Hindenburg had a happier outcome.” – Masters Of Sex Recap

how they tickhow they tick 2
 

Masters of Sex Season 3, Episode 7
“Monkey Business”

Posted by Sage

About 30 seconds after this week’s episode of Masters of Sex came to a close, I was already furiously googling “masters johnson gorilla impotence,” hoping against hope that I’d find some real life precedent for an otherwise inexplicable storyline. Unfortunately, my search did not unearth any instance where the flesh and blood Bill and Virginia treated a flesh and blood ape’s sexual dysfunction, and this blunder is entirely on the writers.

Let me lay out an important statistic of this season so far:

Times we’ve seen Bill touch Gini’s breasts: 0

Times we’ve seen Gil the gorilla touch Gini’s breasts: 1

What is wrong with this picture? I don’t want to allege that Masters has lost the plot at this point, because it hasn’t. But the show sure has made some bizarre choices as far as the plot vehicles it’s been using lately are concerned, and the case of the frigid ape is by far the worst. And then they actually had the nerve to call the episode “Monkey Business.” Am I being trolled?

I’m getting heated. Let’s shift our attentions to storylines that make Sage less rage-y.

Betty’s partner Helen (Sarah Silverman) is back in this episode, and she’s consumed with baby fever. While Betty huffs in bed next to her, Helen interprets all her dreams as signs of her fated motherhood and cooks up wild schemes to get herself impregnated. (Unfortunately, Rufus the toaster guy is “saving himself for marriage.”) There weren’t many avenues by which same-sex couples could expand their families back in the ’60s. As Betty succinctly puts it: “No one’s gonna hand over a baby to a couple of middle-aged dykes.” You’d think that Betty would have a leg up on her fellow child-seeking lesbians (and every woman without a man in general) since she works in the country’s most famous sex clinic and for the state’s premiere expert on fertility. But you’d think wrong, because that expert on fertility has decided to be a raging asshole about it. When Betty plies him with vague questions about inseminating single women, Bill lectures his secretary about the hardships of single motherhood. HEY BILL: did you forget that your own father was a withholding monster and that your brilliant partner is raising three children almost entirely on her own? Betty counters Bill’s condescending arguments by reminding him that men can also leave. Or die. Or be shit parents. But the fact of the matter is that Bill is never concerned with what goes on with his patients after his role in their cases is over. He changes the subject to side-step her rationality, before he can remember the existence of women who are gay. 

betty helen

Anyway, the selective misogyny of Bill Masters means nothing to Betty. She sneaks into the clinic with Helen after-hours (and this is a dangerous office to sneak into if one prefers to maintain one’s virgin eyes) to peruse sperm donor files. Helen is more sentimental than her partner, and is crestfallen when faced with the cold and lifeless lists of facts. (“Helen, it’s sperm. WE add the character.”) It’s back to the idea of selecting someone they know, and Betty’s got the perfect candidate. (Sorry, Rufus.) He’s tall, handsome, brilliant, and could not give less of a shit what sexual taboos he’s breaking. In fact, he couldn’t look more flattered. Nice to see you, Austin.

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