Masters of Sex Season 3, Episode 9
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.
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.
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.
Speaking of the program’s first surrogacy disaster: back to Nora. We love Emily Kinney here at HOF (where Beth Greene lives forever), but Nora is a tough character to watch. She’s so composed that it’s unsettling. Even as she pleads with Bill to keep her in the program after her “slip” with her first client, her outburst seems calculated. Maybe that’s unfair, and the string of bad decisions that are surely following the one to eat leftover Chinese in the dark with her in the middle of the night will mostly be Bill’s fault, but I’m still not sure what she’s doing here. Actually, no, right now I do know what she’s doing here: she’s making me squirm by cheerfully explaining Bill’s role in her sexualized daddy issues, and she’s doing it in a terrible wig.
Meanwhile, in the world of adult people who take care of their own affairs, Betty is still the most competent, self-possessed person on this show. Her responsibilities have expanded to include the emotional well-being of two grown-ass men, plus the needs of her pregnant partner (yay, Helen’s knocked up!), and running an entire business. Bill has really lost it now, and he sends a sheepish Betty in to pump Virginia for information on Dan. “I came a long way to getting to that desk chair out there,” she tells Gini, since mediating fights between “mommy and daddy” are now in her job description. But it’s also clear that she’s genuinely worried about Bill’s well-being. And Austin can attest to the fact that Betty can’t resist taking in a stray.
Back in the ‘burbs, Libby is doing her best Betty Draper impression, pinballing between acts of spontaneous cruelty and warranted wallowing. This gets Paul all hot, apparently, since he’s decided that he wants to be with her. Oh, and his wife is dead. (Poor Susan May Pratt. One episode with dialogue, two more physically and verbally incapacitated, and then gone.) Her behavior’s been similar to how it was in the lead-up to her affair with Robert; Libby is just a staler, more cynical cinnamon roll now. I don’t know if it’s Paul specifically who she wants. But she’ll have him, because she needs something that’s hers, and because she can’t abide losing out to another lonely mom on the dinner rotation. Finally, Bill and Libby are united in something again. They’re united in hating people who get in their way by living braver lives than they are. They should really drink it out more. I’d love a post-divorce Bill/Libby BrOTP.
What this season is leading up to, of course, is a big decision for Virginia. She and Dan have squeezed all they can out of their professional relationship. They can’t explain away their affair with convenience anymore; it’s become deliberate, and Dan, for one, is fine with that. “What if I just came for you?” he asks her. “What if I keep coming here because we love each other?” All we get in response is Gini’s wide-eyed reaction before the credits start rolling, but even still, I know which way those wheels are turning. Virginia knows very well that a prolonged relationship with Dan will mean the end of her and Bill, romantically, sexually, and personally, in general. That’s no small proposal, considering that it could also mean the implosion of the clinic and the work. Just the prospect of losing her has him in a shambles. Virginia knows this, since that shambles was lying atop her a few nights before. Is that what’s holding Virginia back from someone who wants to offer her more? Or is she realizing that Dan is still just a Bill placeholder until she’s finally able to forgive her partner for betraying her trust and meddling in her family? Either way, I hope she enjoys Dan Logan while she can; as Stephanie said, a man “that delicious” shouldn’t go to waste.
Odds and Ends:
- “Look at me, Ronald. Because I have been sent by god, as a warning.”
- “You might be a genius.” “Well, if you insist.”
- Fashion moments: Libby’s A-line, tomato red dress. Helen’s green, flowered maxi.
- “You’re not going to be one of those exes who shows up drunk, even though we’re not exes…”
- Johnny still hates Bill, I still give zero shits about this plot.
- Austin has become a beautiful disaster. As much as I want Helen and Betty to enjoy uninterrupted bliss with their new child, I could be on board with Austin as a guest-star dad. Despite his many, many flaws, he ultimately has his priorities in the right place and would be a good addition to this kid’s life.
- Dan helping Gini dressed? Sign me up, sign me the fuck up, that’s some good shit right there.
- “I can’t help it if Stephanie’s laugh travels like a hyena’s.”
- Did…did our Send Tessa To Boarding School campaign finally succeed?
Dan’s wife may have something to say about his continued romance with Mrs. Johnson. Kim will be here next week to guide you through Judy Greer’s first guest appearance as Mrs. Logan. Till then, talk to me about “High Anxiety” in the comments!