Photo: Michael Desmond / Showtime

Masters Of Sex Brings Back One Of Its Masters Of Acting

Allison Janney returns to break our hearts again, while elsewhere, Bill tries something new: getting his way by being nice.

  • Fight! Fight! Fight!
    Screen: Showtime

    Screen: Showtime

    Bill vs. Leslie The Bookseller

    Bill is lurking in a bookstore pretending to read Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends And Influence People but actually watching patrons creep toward a tiny stack of Human Sexual Response and then slinking off before actually daring to touch it. When Leslie, the bookseller, comments that Bill has been "browsing" for quite a while -- hours, probably, since it's not like Bill has children he feels he needs to pay attention to -- Bill decides that's his opening to confront Leslie about the shitty placement Leslie's given the book. Leslie shoots back that there was a display but that copies weren't moving; in fact, people who want to buy HSR "tend to call ahead" instead of putting their hands (or other parts) directly on it in public -- and, indeed, he stands aside to show Bill all the reserved copies on the bottom shelf behind the counter with all the other smut like The Grass Is Singing, probably. Bill doesn't really have any response to that, so Leslie gets the last word, telling Bill he should fuck off unless he's actually going to buy a book: "In fact, Dale Carnegie would be an excellent choice, since I'm inclined to believe that winning friends is not your strong suit." EXTREMELY ACCURATE BURN! That's like a burn with a laser!

    Winner: Leslie...for now.

  • Snapshot
    Screens: Showtime

    Screens: Showtime

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  • Alert!
    Photo: Warren Feldman / Showtime

    Photo: Warren Feldman / Showtime

    Hitting The Books

    Alert Type: Literary Desperation Alert.

    Issue: It's just about time to talk about doing a second printing of HSR.

    Complicating Factors: Little, Brown doesn't want to because the first printing has sold poorly, and Bill's claims that he has a "sense" that it's gaining momentum are not backed up with "evidence."

    Resolution: Bill and Virginia's publisher, Bob, tells them that the only way they're going to get to a second printing is if they start really pushing it -- doing more interviews, going on a book tour. Good news: Bill's all about it!

    Spoiler: Virginia may be less about it than Bill is.

  • Symbolism

    Fur Sure

    The Scene: Bill, having actually paid attention when Virginia tried to get out of committing to a hard push (heh) for the book, very meaningfully sits her down and smiles at her. IT IS CREEPY.

    Screens: Showtime

    Screens: Showtime

    Even Virginia thinks so!

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    The Symbol: A fur stole, which he tells her he's giving her "as a token of [his] appreciation of [her]."

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    The Meaning: Bill wants so much for Virginia to know he appreciates her -- one of the lessons he's learned from his Dale Carnegie, which he did end up buying, so good job, Leslie -- that he's making absolutely sure she cannot miss it.

  • Character Study
    Screen: Showtime

    Screen: Showtime

    Will Graham (Be Able To Bone His Lady)?

    Name: Graham Pennington.
    Age: Early 50s.
    Occupation: Margaret Scully's new boyfriend (not her husband, she is careful to tell Virginia and Bill); William Glasser acolyte.
    Goal: To cure his problem with premature ejaculation.
    Sample Dialogue: "She's certainly not the woman I met a year ago. You've blossomed, like a flower, Magpie. I'd like to think it's because of me, but really, it's that she's met herself."
  • Meeting Time
    Screens: Showtime

    Screens: Showtime

    Shoot First, Ask Questions Now

    Who called the meeting? Margaret and Graham, but mostly Margaret.

    What's it about? Though Graham is okay achieving and/or effectuating orgasm by non-penetrative means, Margaret is adamant about having regular p-to-v sex while she and Graham look in each other's eyes.

    How'd it go? Graham talks to Bill alone and is pretty genial about the whole thing, cheerfully admitting that sometimes he ejaculates before he even "enter[s] her"; when Bill tries to get more information about Graham's past sexual experiences, he says he doesn't like rehashing the past, which is what he likes about Margaret too. That meeting goes pretty smoothly, but MEANWHILE, Margaret is telling Virginia nothing is more important than having vaginal sex to simultaneous orgasm. Virginia manages not to laugh in her face, understating, "Simultaneous orgasm is a romantic notion, but it's not the norm." Margaret says they've had it in the past, so they should be able to again. When Virginia tries to get Margaret to scale back her expectations, Margaret pretty much refuses: "It's only good when it's us together," adding, "In the beginning, our bodies fit together. We were attuned to each other so acutely. The pleasure was more than physical, it was-- You'll laugh, but: spiritual. I'd never had that before. I don't want to give up on having it again!" Oof, good luck, Virginia.

  • Awkward
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    Wife Unexpected

    Situation: Even though Margaret specifically scheduled her appointment for a day when Barton wasn't working -- because apparently he did take that job Bill offered him in the last episode -- he's come in anyway, just in time for her and Graham also to be in the lobby on their way out.

    What makes it awkward? Barton and Margaret haven't had any contact since they signed their divorce papers three years ago. And Margaret introduces Barton to Graham as "my husband, Barton Scully." "Oh, your ex-husband," says Graham smoothly, which flusters both Barton (who admits that he still says it sometimes too -- "my wiiiiiiife" -- with a Borat-ian twist I have to think Beau Bridges did on purpose) and, of course, Margaret. After Barton sidles off, Margaret subjects Bill to her understandably emotional reaction: she's concerned that Barton's pants are "hanging off him" and that if he keeps going around hatless he's going to catch colds, and oh yeah, what does it mean that she's fallen in love with another man who has issues with his sexual function? Bill says that Graham's premature ejaculation is not an indication of...[twenty-minute pause] "lack of attraction to the opposite sex." Margaret: "So you know." "I've known for some time," he tells her. Margaret's sure she's the problem, but in order to explain to Graham why it's so important to her that he see her (and why she is suspicious of any kind of sex that doesn't involve them facing each other with their genitals interlocking in the traditional way), she'd have to tell him the real reason her marriage to Barton ended. She told Graham some version of what she told Vivian -- that she'd cheated on Barton and that the divorce is her fault, which has had the consequence that Vivian refuses to speak to her (and moved to Seattle, and started eating brains) but preserved Vivian's relationship with Barton: "If she knows her father sleeps with men, Barton will lose her forever. But it haunts me -- carrying around a secret that doesn't belong to me, and isn't mine to tell."

    How is order restored? It's not, but not for lack of trying on Margaret's part, as we will see.

  • Health
    From the desk of

    Doctor Barton Scully

    Patient

    Libby Masters

    Diagnosis

    Patient is paranoid that being on The Pill is going to give her blood clots like the one that caused her next-door neighbour catastrophic brain damage -- and let's be real: it's the mid-'60s, and it very well could.

    Prescription

    A metaphorical pat on the head, plus some concern-trolling about why a nice married lady like her needs to be on the Pill anyway

  • Love, Hate & Everything In Between
    Screens: Showtime

    Screens: Showtime

    Sex And The Single Girls

    Tessa having been suspended from school for chronic truancy, Virginia's brought her to the office to do menial tasks, which is where we find her having the most pleasant conversation with an adult we've seen since she became a teenager: congratulations, Betty! Tessa bitches that Virginia is like "a prison guard," while Betty frankly tells her that she's lucky to have a mother like Virginia who cares what she does, unlike Betty's own mother. Tessa tries to entrap Betty into giving her information about Virginia's love life, commenting that, of her boyfriends, "the latest one" is probably not a keeper. Betty's obviously too street-smart for that weak shit, and soon enough the subject changes to the business names on the Rolodex cards Tessa's helping her organize: "'International Lubricants.' See, this is why I can't bring Matt anywhere near this place." Tessa, there are lots of reasons you shouldn't bring Matt ANYWHERE except possibly an early grave and none of them have anything to do with your mother or her work. She adds that these people should be able to "figure out the sex stuff on their own," at which Betty speaks up for Virginia: "Thanks to your mom, they don't have to, which is a big plus, trust me. In my day, people understood the plumbing in their bathrooms better than their own ducts and pipes." "What do you really need to know, long as you're being careful?" mutters Tessa, trying to sound like she's not actually seeking Betty's wisdom. "You know all about that, huh?" asks Betty. "You and Matt?" "Better than my mom," says Tessa briskly. "What Matt and I do won't leave you with crying baby Lisa that keeps you up all night long." Betty:

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    So Tessa has learned the second-most important lesson girls need to know about sex, right after "Don't date dickbags." Of course, that one takes time. Some might argue even Virginia hasn't fully taken that one to heart! The point is: it's nice to see that Tessa's talking to someone about this stuff, even if she's still being a pouty jerk about it.

  • Snapshot
    Screens: Showtime

    Screens: Showtime

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  • J. Walter Weather­man Lesson

    Smells Like Deception

    Tessa's in Bill's office Rolodexing when she gets a paper cut from one of the cards and starts rifling through his drawers looking for a Band-Aid, and almost immediately finds something a lot more depressing.

    Screen: Showtime

    Screen: Showtime

    Screen: Showtime

    Screen: Showtime

    Bill wanders in at exactly the wrong time.

    Screen: Showtime

    Screen: Showtime

    Since he doesn't have teenaged children of his own, Bill doesn't appreciate that he has zero authority with Tessa right now, and tries to press the case for Virginia blowing off her children to tour the book by lecturing Tessa about her underage drinking. Tessa is having none of it, and is surely just sitting on this information to bust out the next time Virginia or Bill tries to make her do something she doesn't want to.

    Photo: Fox

    Photo: Fox

  • Fight! Fight! Fight!
    Screens: Showtime

    Screens: Showtime

    Libby vs. Paul

    Libby comes by the Edleys' with some dinner, only to find the kitchen and living room a complete sty...

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    ...and Joy still sitting there in her nightgown and robe. Libby starts to say she wasn't sure if Joy's caretaker may have made them dinner already, but Paul says he fired her. She had been there earlier when he remembered that it's nearly Joy's birthday, and he was thinking about whether he should even bother to get Joy a gift when he realized he just wanted the nurse gone, so he canned her. WAIT, HE MADE THAT MUCH MESS, BY HIMSELF, IN ONE DAY?! Don't piss off any caretaker who's willing to put up with your stank ass, Paul. He rants on for a while about how his life is a nightmare and "she's already gone" and he's sitting there all day with "a corpse" until Libby can't take it anymore: "'A corpse'? What a terrible thing to say! Joy is sitting right here -- you have no idea what she knows, or what she feels, or cares, or-- Or hears! For you to just write her off like that is criminal! Joy is the woman that you married all these years ago and you have to remember and honour who she is. Still. Treat her with the same dignity and respect that you always did." And then she announces that they're going to give Joy a bath.

    Winner: Libby, sort of? She definitely shames Paul, but having this discussion has undoubtedly also made her realize that, were she in Joy's position, Bill would pack her off to a residential hospital and never see her again, considering that he treats her about the same as Paul treats Joy and Libby's (still) conscious.

  • Meeting Time
    Photo: Michael Desmond / Showtime

    Photo: Michael Desmond / Showtime

    Let's Go Out

    Who called the meeting? Margaret.

    What's it about? Barton's continuing residence in the closet.

    How'd it go? It starts out very friendly: Margaret brings by a beef bourguignon she made for him and tells him she'll put it in the fridge while he makes them drinks. When she apologizes for the circumstances of their meeting at Bill's office, he dares to throw shade at her and Graham for needing Bill and Virginia's help so early in their relationship. "And how long should Graham and I wait to address our sexual issues, Barton -- thirty years?" asks Margaret, reasonably. "No, of course not," sighs Barton, handing her a drink. "I just want you to be happy, Margaret." She says she thinks she will be if she can just be honest about her life, and smoothly segues: "Who's J?" Barton's fridge is apparently full of casseroles with little notes signed "J," and hopefully asks, "Is it a man?" Barton gets flustered and explains that Judith is a nice neighbour lady he's friends with who felt bad for him because he can't cook. Margaret comments that Judith's left him notes, "with hearts," which makes her suspect that Barton may mean more to Judith than she does to him: "Does she know? About you?" "You mean what kind of man I am?" says Barton pissily, and tries again to frame his relationship with Judith as a platonic friendship with no expectations on her side: "We're not having a sexual relationship." "Well, neither were you and I," Margaret reminds him, saying that Judith deserves to know the truth before wasting her time pining for him: "Why are you the only one who gets a choice in this?" She finally gets to the point: she doesn't think she can have a true and honest relationship with Graham unless she can tell him the truth about why her marriage ended, to which Barton flatly refuses: "How I choose to conduct my private life is my business, and mine only." "Barton," says Margaret, tearing up, "what have you and I learned through all of our pain if you're lying to a woman who cares about you, and I can't tell Graham why sex is the only way I know that he loves me? Tell Judith, and let me tell Graham." "You're asking too much, Margaret," says Barton. "I'm sorry." It's a frustrating scene because Margaret isn't asking anything unreasonable and it's clear she still has so much fondness for him and for the happy times they had in their marriage when she wasn't sad about its sexlessness -- and, uh, clearly not a very successful meeting, either -- but both Beau Bridges and Allison Janney are so heartbreaking and real that it's as exhilarating to watch from a performance perspective as it is depressing for their characters. This show should be about these two.

  • Meeting Time
    Photo: Warren Feldman / Showtime

    Photo: Warren Feldman / Showtime

    Paper Tugger

    Who called the meeting? Bill.

    What's it about? Betty's announcement that they have to cancel their subscription to Doll Parade at the office because it's not dirty enough to be used for male subjects' jerkoff purposes -- it just comes wrapped in brown paper to make it seem more scandalous than it actually is -- has given him an idea he wants to offer Leslie the bookseller: what if he wrapped the store's whole stock of HSR in brown paper? "Curiosity will get the better of people!"

    How'd it go? Leslie's not sure -- "You're a scientist, not a salesman" -- but when Bill says that if it doesn't work, Bill himself will buy the store's entire stock, he's intrigued!

  • Hell No!
    Photo: Michael Desmond / Showtime

    Photo: Michael Desmond / Showtime

    Didn't We One Time Have It All?

    Bill's just had an upsetting encounter with Paul outside -- telling Paul, as Dale Carnegie would have him do, that he understands how Paul feels, only to end up with Paul draped over him sobbing that his life is "just fucking over" -- and thrown his copy of Carnegie's book in the kitchen garbage, when Libby comes out to greet him. After Bill indicates the empty table, she distractedly says she'll get to dinner "shortly," and then says she's just been remembering when he was named head at Maternity: he wanted to celebrate with her because, he said, she had been "instrumental in helping [him] win the job." Bill remembers that he took her out for dinner and ordered the most expensive champagne at the restaurant. As she regards him appraisingly, he takes her hand, kisses it, and (for the first time this week, probably) looks in her eyes. Libby:

    Screen: Showtime

    Screen: Showtime

    So she's known this whole time that she's not getting a fur stole for her patience while he (a) worked on the book and (b) fucked around on her with Virginia. Libby: you need to LEAVE THIS MAN. He has no interest in making you happy, and no idea where to start if he did.

  • Love, Hate & Everything In Between
    Screens: Showtime

    Screens: Showtime

    Army Buddies

    Flavors & Fragrances having overheard Virginia yelling down the phone at Sgt. Ivey about this week's crisis -- she got a letter from Henry in which he outlined a vague collection of symptoms she seems to think add up to his needing a medical evacuation yesterday -- he's called in a favour with someone he knows at the Army and is waiting with her for her to go in and talk to whomever -- something he's apparently been doing for two hours now. Virginia apologizes for "dragging" him there, and he says she didn't: "I volunteered." She makes a snotty remark about the three cute female assistants he's brought with him for these meetings, which apparently reminds him of a girl he used to know. She guesses this other girl fell for "the old [F&F] charm," and immediately apologizes for her snark, so he tells her the story of falling in love with this girl he met at a USO dance and yada yada yada he was married. She cynically says he probably didn't stay with this "dazzling girl" because he was afraid his charm would eventually wear thin. "If that's how you want your story to end," he sighs. Oh -- and he's still married to the same woman. "And still none the wiser," sneers Virginia. "No -- much wiser," says F&F. It's not exactly a story that covers him with glory, but it's honest, and Virginia seems to appreciate his treating her with enough respect not to bullshit her.

  • Dialogue

    A Sucky Story

    Tessa, dejected, finds herself in Matt's car wanting nothing but to have a conversation with a human being about her shitty day. Wrong human being!

    I didn't know who else to call.

    I'm glad you called. [goes in for a kiss]

    [she turns her cheek] Matt?

    [he settles back, sighing pissily] Okay? So what happened today?

    It was awful.

    So are you suspended again?

    I found out something really bad about my mother.

    Did you find one of those dildos in her bedroom? Did you walk in on her with some guy? Please tell me that you read some weird fantasy in her diary.

    You know what, Matt? I'm really not in the mood to talk about it after all.

    Geez. Tessa. You want to talk, you don't want to talk. I mean, I'm trying here, but make up your mind.

    [flatly] My mind's already made up. So why don't you undo your belt, and I'll put my mouth on you.

    ...Yeah?!

    Why not.

  • Wrap It Up
    Screen: Showtime

    Screen: Showtime

    Bill stops by the bookstore to check on his great business idea and storms in, furious, that there isn't a window display like he and Leslie had discussed! But there was! "We've sold out, every last copy!" Brown Paper: is there anything it can't do?!

    Screen: Showtime

    Screen: Showtime

    Virginia and F&F are out having a drink after her meeting with the Army guy: turns out Henry had alcohol poisoning! HOW EMBARRASSING! And someone so dumb he can't even drink without making himself actually ill has just volunteered for a combat unit, in violation of the promise he'd made to her. She basically sells out Henry to F&F like a giant crybaby, but F&F explains that Henry's a soldier now, and that he's just getting through each day: "One second after another. That's how I got through the war. That's how your son's getting through the war. And that's how you'll get through this war -- 'cause it's the only way." Good advice and probably quite fragrant!

    Screen: Showtime

    Screen: Showtime

    Tessa rinses with mouthwash, spits, and shakes her head in her mirror reflection. Back the bottle goes, right on top of Bill's telltale dopp kit! I don't like empathizing with a dumb teenage brat but they're really giving me no choice!

    Photo: Warren Feldman / Showtime

    Photo: Warren Feldman / Showtime

    Barton and Judith are watching an old movie on his TV when she suggests that her cat won't miss her if she stays the night! Barton kind of settles back in the couch in a way that makes her apologize for having shocked him! He says he doesn't know how to say what he's about to say but that he owes her the truth...and just when you think he's actually going to get it out, he uses a million euphemisms to claim he has a medical condition that has made him impotent, and he didn't want to say anything to her because women seem to think sex is so important nowadays. "Not all women," says Judith, or should I say Margaret II?

    Screen: Showtime

    Screen: Showtime

    Margaret comes into a bedroom to see Graham canoodling with another woman...and apologizes for having the wrong night! OMG NOT ONLY AREN'T THEY MARRIED, BUT THEY THEY'RE POLYAMOROUS OR ELSE SWING IF THAT'S WHAT THIS WAS CALLED THEN!!! And Graham's sidepiece, Jo, even compliments Margaret on her nightgown! Margaret turns the lights off, at their request, and off she goes to her own room, I guess! What would Vivian say about any of THIS?!

    Screen: Showtime

    Screen: Showtime

    Libby's getting ready for bed and hanging something up in her closet when her attention is drawn to a fur wrap that Bill presumably gave her in happier days, a.k.a. when he was aware that she exists! Way to mix up your moves, Bill!

    Photo: Warren Feldman / Showtime

    Photo: Warren Feldman / Showtime

    And then Virginia's on her couch when Bill lets himself in! She immediately tells him it's not a good night since Tessa's there, but he doesn't want to bone, for once: he wants to celebrate! Little, Brown's agreed to a second printing! He came up with the brown paper idea so she wouldn't have to go on the road and be away from her kids, since unlike him and his, she actually cares about them! Also, he wants to talk about that Henry thing she brought up earlier and he totally dismissed -- maybe they could call someone? Without mentioning F&F, she says she looked into it and it's not what she thought it was. Bill over-enthusiastically says that if Henry's not sick, "that's good news," because not even Dale Carnegie could teach him to READ a ROOM! He then brings up the fur that she very nicely refused to take since it was too extravagant! He realizes it's an odd gesture for him, and also the kind of gift a man gives his wife! But he meant what he said: none of their success could have happened without her contributions, so why shouldn't she just take it and wear something that makes her feel good? She can't deny that it is gorgeous, and Bill barrels into the opening (figuratively) (for once) to invite her out to a celebratory dinner! But there's a chill in the air: "If only you had a coat!"

    Screen: Showtime

    Screen: Showtime

    Bill might not have sewn an image of Libby into the lining, but I'm pretty sure Virginia sees it anyway!

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