Masters of Sex Season 3, Episode 10
“Full Ten Count”
Posted by Kim
Season Three of Masters of Sex saw Bill Masters descend into what could only be called madness as he desperately tried to hold on to Virginia Johnson. Rather than just own up to his true feelings, Bill spent the season manipulating Virginia into staying with him, staying with the clinic, and staying with their work. The tighter he tried to hold on to her, the more he pushed her into the arms of Dan Logan, a man who’s everything Bill is not. (One would think that after working with Virginia for a decade that he would KNOW this approach was the exact OPPOSITE of what he should do to “keep” Virginia, but like I said, Bill went nuts.) The penultimate episode of Season Three, “Party of Four,” was quite perhaps one of the most devastating episodes of Masters of Sex as Gini FINALLY opened her eyes to Bill’s desperate machinations. He’s been on thin ice with her for a long time and the combination of steamrolling her with the surrogate program and the blatant relationship sabotage with Dan and his wife at that disastrous dinner BROKE something between them. I’m going to just quote my brilliant partner here cause she really said it better than I ever could: “All season, she’s humored Bill though she’s rapidly lost patience with him because she feared losing her place in the study. But she could care the fuck less now. His manipulations are done in the daylight now, and she finds that the life she’s too small for is the one where she’s the crutch of a broken and brilliant man. She’s reinvented herself before, and maybe it’s time for another go.” So “Full Ten Count” opens with Gini ready, ready, ready, ready to ruuuuuuuuuuuuun and Bill scrambling, once again, to keep his rapidly crumbling house of cards together.
It’s so fitting that “Full Ten Count” opens with Bill having a nightmare where he is in the boxing ring getting the shit beat out of him whilst his father and Johnny observe with disdain. Boxing has been a running theme in the series, from the MAGNIFICENT Bill and Gini bottle episode “Fight” in Season Two to Bill and his brother beating the shit out of each other in “Below the Belt”. One can easily blame this on Bill’s Daddy issues, considering boxing was one of his dad’s great loves, but it also serves as a perfect metaphor for Bill Masters just not being able to accept when he’s been beaten. Bill’s dogged determination and fierce obsession with control is what makes him so frustrating (and amazing) as a character. “You’re a bum, Masters!” Dream dad declares. “You’re beat. A man has got to know when he’s beat!” Season Three was one long exercise in CRINGING at Bill’s refusal to admit that he’s down for the count. He is the ESSENCE of the “This pigeon isn’t giving up” meme and it’s painful because you just scream from the comfort of your couch: “LET IT GO, DUDE. YOU’RE BEATEN.”
Meanwhile, in the wake of Bill’s betrayal and Dan’s confession of love in New York, Gini is ready to get the heck out of dodge and leave them both behind. “Usually when things get tough, you dig in all the more,” her father gently observes. I think that’s hilarious because in everything other than her work, I think the exact opposite is true. ESPECIALLY when it comes to her love life. Gini, bless her light, tends to think avoidance is the best policy, so she’d rather run away that actually confront her feelings for the two married men in her life. “I keep waiting for everything to click into place,” she tells her Dad. “So I can say, finally, my life is exactly as it should be.” The thing with Virginia is that she KNOWS something is missing in her life and she’s not sure what it is. And so she’s going to run until she finds it. She would have been gone too, had it not been for Libby showing up on her doorstep with the news of the accusations against Bill. “It always comes down to the two of us, doesn’t it Gin? The two who can right the ship.” Does Bill actually KNOW how lost he would be without these two women who are always willing to clean up his messes? DOES HE? I mean clearly he knows he would be lost without Virginia, hence his desperate manipulation, but Libby? LIBBY IS THE ROCK AND THE GLUE AND EVERYTHING THAT HOLDS THIS MESS TOGETHER.
At the clinic, we get an awkward as hell elevator ride with Nora and Bill as they encounter each other for the first time since their grope session. Nora tries to give the “We were both consenting adults” speech but it rings false. Something evil is a-foot. Meanwhile, Nora’s Bible Beating Boyfriend corners Gini and tells her to get out while she still can. There’s SUCH an impending sense of doom, it’s like the whole thing is one Jenga piece away from crumbling. Betty is running around like the little Dutch girl trying to keep her fingers in the damn as the press conference presenting the new book stands as an immutable deadline. Gini confronts Bill about the allegations and insists that Bill just pay off Dennis’ family so they can make the whole thing go away. Bill stubbornly refuses to do so because he’s innocent and SURELY he can talk his way out of this, right? “Libby and I are aligned on this,” Virginia grits out, with ice in her veins. “Just write the check so we can get back to work.” Of course, the subtext of the whole scene is a giant “Fuck you” for putting EVERYTHING they’ve worked for at risk. Bill is all “You’re still upset about New York” and Gini’s like “I don’t want to talk about it” but she REALLY means “Fuck yes, I’m still upset.” Bill keeps trying to push, saying they’ve come through much worse and hey guess what as a GESTURE of their equality, he’s planning on dropping the MD from his name for the next book. Gini is basically like “How magnanimous of you. Sign the check.” She’s 100% done.
Later Nora corners Bill in the Surrogacy room and gives him the whole song and dance (with bonus Disney Eyes) about how her devotion to the program has led to her being behind on her rent. Bill stammers about saying that he’ll speak to her landlord but Nora is insistent. She needs money. She hasn’t been able to get a job because she’s working at the clinic six days a week. She doesn’t have anyone else to turn to. “I know things are slightly strained with us because of our recent…intimacies. Surely you want to make things right with me.” Bill forks over $200, all the while not knowing that Nora has had the microphone button pressed, allowing her “surrogate” to hear the whole conversation. Beth Greene, why do you hurt me so?
Fresh off a quick trip to Mexico, Dan arrives at the clinic, tired of Virginia dodging his calls. Gini flounders, saying she needs time, that everything that happened in New York was a lot to take in. “I wanted you to know that I meant what I said,” Dan says. “So I am now officially divorced.” Oh. THAT was unexpected. And wonderful. Dan Logan is a man of ACTION. He’s a man that follows through and he’s a man willing to open himself up and lay himself bare to Virginia, knowing that she could still reject him. Poor bastard. Gini plays the “It’s not us, it’s everything around us” in regards to her reluctance. And this is where Dan is so amazing: he tells Virginia that he understands the hold Bill has on her. He understands how much of her life Virginia has devoted to the clinic and her work and he would never ask her to leave it. In fact, he insists that she stay. “I don’t see how you and the work go together,” Virginia confesses. “I don’t see him ever accepting us.” THEN Dan drops the ultimate truth bomb. “It’s not up to him. Bill can never make you happy, not as a man to love. You know this. I know this. Virginia, I’m here because I love you and I want you to be my wife. But I can’t run after you, trying to make you see things you already know. That, I can’t do.”
Therein is the essence of the whole thing, isn’t it? This whole time Virginia has been so concerned about how actions affect BILL that she stopped putting her own happiness first. Dan isn’t demanding that she be with him or that she leave Bill and her work. He’s simply standing in front of her offering a chance at happiness if she’s willing to take it. It’s funny because in some respect, Dan is giving her an ultimatum. He’s telling her he’s not going to keep chasing her. She needs to decide what she wants. He hopes she’ll choose him but he’s not going to manipulate her into doing so. That’s the difference between the two men in Virginia’s life and that difference is everything. He just wants Virginia to make a definitive choice. He SEES the constant state of inertia she’s in and he just wants to shake her out of it, even if it means she doesn’t pick him. “I was stuck in my marriage a long time, years longer than I ever should have been. And it was because of you, because of my love for you, that I finally got the courage to leave. Now I just want to do the same for you. Give you the strength to go. But only if you want me on the other end of it cause if not, then well. Then I will take my broken heart and go.” POOR BASTARD.
Finally, Bill’s tower of deceit crashes down. The “client” Nora was about to see was an undercover cop and the whole giving Nora money thing? That equates paying her to have sex with people. Bill and Virginia are brought into the police station where Virginia finds out EVERYTHING and her expression is nothing short of disgust and outrage. Bill is flabbergasted, being all “The work meant everything to Nora” and he desperately tries to explain himself. The police chief offers to buy them time to get it sorted out with lawyers so they don’t have to shut their doors, but as far as Virginia is concerned, it’s the last straw. This whole time she’s been staying because of the WORK and if Bill is going to show such a flagrant disregard for the delicacy of it, then why the hell is she still staying and putting HER reputation at risk?
While Bill has to wait for Libby to come bail him out, Dan posts Virginia’s bail. Dan, even in the uncertainty of their relationship, proves that he wants to be a constant for her and it’s like something finally clicks for Virginia. “Dan, when you said that you can’t keep trying, trying to make me see something that I already know I can’t. You’re right. You shouldn’t have to, because I do already know. Ever since I was a little girl, it’s like I’ve been holding my breath waiting for something, something I can’t even put a name to, to fall into place so that I could finally breathe. I know you understand this. But I want to breathe. I do. I want to breathe with you.” It’s entirely probable that this entire realization is stemming purely from her anger at Bill and that she doesn’t ACTUALLY mean it. But at the same time, I think Virginia is just tired of fiercely protecting something that her supposed partner has no real regard FOR. Bill is careless where she has only shown CARE and she’s finally like “Why the fuck am I holding on to this so hard if Bill is constantly putting it at risk?” I think she looks at Dan and sees someone who will protect and care for HER and that’s something she’s never had. Why WOULDN’T see run away with that as fast as she can? Run, girl, run.
Libby comes to pick Bill up and once again Bill in scrambling in desperation to just fix it instead of accepting what has happened. He’s SO SURE he can just talk to Nora and make everything okay. “I was good to her! I was kind to Dennis,” he insists, furiously trying to work out how he can get ahead of all this. He refuses to take any sort of responsibility for his actions, insisting the whole time he was right. And look…he never did any of this with malice. He truly believed he was always in the right. But belief only gets you so far and it doesn’t take the actions of other human beings into account. Bill’s refusal to see this is what finally breaks Libby. “This happened because of you, because you are reckless.I don’t say that to be unkind, only in the hopes that something will sink in. This charging ahead without thinking of the consequences, this spinning a million plates all the time, trying to control everyone and everything around you,Bill. Honestly, when is it gonna stop?!” YES. When IS it going to stop? Something in Libby’s words FINALLY spurs Bill to admit that he’s been having an affair with Virginia for a decade. I love how he tells this to Libby like it’s news to her and I LOVE how Libby can do nothing but laugh at him because Bill really does have his head THAT far up his ass.
The thing that is so infuriating about this scene is how Bill has the NERVE to ask Libby how she could have possibly lived with knowing that he was unfaithful. “How could you live like that?” “Not well,” Libby simply replies. “But I made the decision that our family matters and our children matter more than anything.” THIS WOMAN. She’s so fucking strong and it’s insulting that Bill is viewing her strength as a WEAKNESS. “If I had known how horribly I must have been making you feel, that you would accept so little for yourself.” Shut the fuck up, honestly. He didn’t feel bad about it until it was out in the open and quite frankly, it’s insulting that he tries to sympathize with her. It’s insulting that he tells Libby that she deserves a real marriage. It’s insulting that he’s saying all of this now out of desperation. He doesn’t truly care that he’s shat all over Libby for a decade, he cares that Virginia is slipping away. He doesn’t ACTUALLY want to know what Libby has given up for him or what her life has been like because if he DID, he wouldn’t be confused by Libby’s reaction. Caitlin Fitzgerald is magnificent in this scene (as always) as Libby goes through every emotion in the book. Her hysterical laughter is the definition of laughing instead of crying. You know that all she is thinking of in this moment is the fact that she JUST threw away the chance of happiness with Paul so she could stand by her family. “You are the biggest fool that I know. But much to my heart’s regret, I am the second biggest fool. Oh, you cannot begin to understand the things that I have given up for you! The happiness that I have turned my back on for this family!” And with that, their marriage is over. FINALLY. If Libby can’t be the one to end it outright, she can at least leave him to sit in jail a little while longer. It’s the small victories, really.
At the clinic, Virginia is packing up her things when Nora (unwisely) chooses to confront her. (I don’t know why in the Hell Nora is still allowed in the building, but the payoff in this scene is so great I can look past it.) Nora rambles on about how she was motivated by God and that God would never want something as sacred as sex to be reduced to experiments. She even has the nerve to tell Virginia that she will THANK her for trying to destroy her life’s work. Lizzy Caplan is SO good at portraying simmering rage. The whole scene you can SEE that Virginia is warring with herself in regards to holding her tongue or letting this bitch have it. Lucky for us, she chooses to let Nora have it and it’s one of the most gratifying moments of the season. “You think that you’re doing God’s work? We are the ones that are saving people, giving them hope. It’s people like you, weak and deluded, that keep people in the dark, afraid and lonely and suffering. So don’t talk to me about God because as far as I know, God doesn’t want people to suffer, and yet because of you and the havoc that you have created, they will.” I WANT THIS ON A T-SHIRT. To make things even better, Nora encroaches on Gini’s personal space and Gini clocks her over the head with a box. Did I say that Virginia’s God speech was the most gratifying moment of the season? I lied. Virginia knocking Nora out was.
With no one left to get him, Barton finally comes to bail Bill out, at Betty’s request. Virginia arrives as they are waiting for the paperwork to process because Bill used his one phone call to reach out to her. She’s not happy to be there and she tries to tell him about Dan, but he cuts her off, refusing to acknowledge all of her physical cues of discomfort. She CAME after all, so Bill seizes the opportunity. “Virginia, I love you. I always have. I’ve loved you so deeply for the longest time. I could hardly make sense of it. God, I should have said this long ago. I should have put you first. And now I can because I also believe deep down despite our struggles, despite all– all this mess, which I promise I will make right, I also believe that you love me, too.” It’s a wonderful speech. It really is. It’s the first GENUINE expression of emotion that Bill has. There are no pretenses here, no manipulation. Just him FINALLY admitting what he’s known all along. So what’s the problem? It’s too late. He takes her hand and he feels the giant diamond that Dan Logan has placed there. She’s made her choice and her choice is Dan. She’s leaving, off to get a quickie divorce from George and then straight on to Vegas to marry Dan. “Bill, you’re right about me in many ways. How I love the work and the accomplishments and the recognition. But where you’re wrong is thinking that I want those things in place of happiness. I want to be happy in a life bigger than work. I can’t be a whole person without that.” There is so much sorrow in her eyes, it’s obvious that it’s killing her to say this. Virginia has loved Bill for a decade. She’s given him everything that she has and she doesn’t have anything left. She deserves to be happy and she thinks that she can get that happiness from Dan.
What’s horrible is that you can see that Bill believed that confessing his feelings was all he needed to do to make things right and he can’t even process that she’s not falling at his feet. “I can’t let you go,” he stammers. “You have to. If you love me like you say that you do, you want to put me first. You won’t get in my way. You’ll let me go.” And she walks away. Just like that. She leaves Bill standing there wondering where the fuck he went wrong. It hurts. It hurts so much. But at the same time, it’s incredibly satisfying to see Virginia FINALLY choose herself. To borrow from my life hero Peggy Carter, Virginia knows her value. And she knows she deserves more than an eleventh hour confession of love brought about by a crisis.
After Gini leaves, Bill gets a call from a desperate Betty. While all of these shenanigans were going down, Betty has been desperately trying to hold off their publisher and she can’t do it anymore. If BOTH Bill and Virginia aren’t at the press conference, the Little Brown Publishing Rep will air out all the dirty laundry: the prostitution charges, the accusations of sexual abuse, all of it. They will be ruined. You SEE that Bill takes this as his Hail Mary moment because he KNOWS that Virginia won’t let their life’s work end up in shambles. He knows if he can just get to her that she will choose him. Cue the dramatic airport chase.
At the airport, Virginia is constantly looking over her shoulder, as if she is just waiting for Bill to appear. Dan is not a fool. “Are you afraid he’s coming? Or are you afraid he’s not?” (POOR BASTARD.) And the thing is…I’m not sure which option is the answer. There’s an obvious sadness weighing on her and you KNOW that Bill’s words are echoing in her head. But yet…she just keeps going, despite her obvious impression that Bill’s somehow going to try to stop her. But does she WANT him to? She literally just asked him to let her go. I think she just can’t believe that he listened to her for the first time ever. So she heads towards the plane, looking like Ingrid Bergman in Casa-fucking-blanca. The gateway remains empty. Bill’s not coming.
In the taxi, Bill hears his father’s voice. “A man’s got to know when he’s beat, son. Too damn stubborn or damn stupid to know when he’s beat. Stay down. You’re beat.” It’s then that Bill finally realizes that he’s done. He’s been beaten and it’s time to stay down. No more desperate swings, no more Hail Marys. Just acceptance. He tells the cab to pull over and when the cabbie says that they can still make it, Bill takes a breath and makes his choice. “Pull over anyway.” He’s going to do right by Virginia for once. Even if it’s the last thing he does for her. “I’m gonna stay down.”
“Only know you love her when you let her go. And you let her go…”
- One of my favorite arcs of the season was Barton’s gradual acceptance of himself as a gay man and his blossoming relationship with Jonathan. We get a lovely morning after scene with them as Barton says “I like you. Very much.” (Okay, Mark Darcy.) Jonathan then confesses it’s his birthday and Barton plans a quiet dinner at home for the two of them. Jonathan is SO LOVELY because even though it’s obvious he’d love to go out, he’s still letting Barton set the pace for the two of them. When Barton tells Betty about the night-in plans, she’s all “Bitch, you are taking that boy out.” “Don’t you think it looks a little…” Barton fumbles. “GAY?” Betty replies, with an eyebrow arch that would break even the strongest person. Later we see Barton and Jonathon at a romantic dinner, candles and all. Jonathan is CLEARLY delighted by the whole thing. When a waiter delivers a birthday dessert for Jonathan, he confesses to Barton that he asked for it himself, figuring Barton wouldn’t want to attract the attention. But it’s his birthday and he wants his candle, dammit. Had this happened earlier in the season, Barton would have run off. Now Barton publicly takes Jonathan’s hand and quietly sings Happy Birthday to him. The smile on Jonathan’s face is brighter than the sun. I hope to see more of these two in Season Four. It’s nice to have a somewhat functional relationship going.
- The scene where Libby tells Johnny about the divorce is devastating. Naturally, Johnny thinks that it’s all because of him and the Dennis thing and he crumples, thinking that he destroyed his family. Libby assures him it’s not, she assures him that the adult world is just messed up. She’s such a fierce mama bear. But get this kid into therapy post-haste.
- Betty’s desperation to keep everything on track with the press conference is everything. I hope they give her a massive raise for keeping the whole ship a-float.
- I love how quickly Dan got Gini’s Dad’s blessing. I also loved that her dad looked to HER before giving it. That’s how it should be.
- THANK YOU to all of you who kept bugging me for this recap. I know it took forever. BUT HEY IT IS UP BEFORE THE PREMIERE.