Masters Of Sex Gets Some Parental Guidance
Tessa invites Virginia's parents for a surprise visit in the hopes of busting Virginia and Bill, while Bill is forced to pay some attention to his son.
Meet The Parents
Name: Harry and Edna. Age: Early 60s. Occupation: Virginia's parents. Goal: To pay their daughter a nice surprise visit because what new mother wouldn't like her parents' help with the baby? (They don't realize they're actually part of a pretty fiendish plan: after discovering evidence of Bill and Virginia's affair in the last episode, Tessa secretly invited them so that she could involve them in her efforts to expose and humiliate Virginia.) Sample Dialogue: "I told her, Gin, I did, I said, 'No one likes an uninvited guest.'" - Harry.
"And I told him there's no new mother who doesn't need her own mother am I right?...Is this the robe that I bought you in high school?" - Edna.
Situation: For what seems to be the first time in a long time, Virginia is entertaining her parents.
What makes it awkward? When Tessa -- on a night she's supposed to be at George's -- busted in with Harry and Edna, Bill and Virginia had just finished successfully having sex for the first time since Lisa's birth...and Bill is still upstairs, waiting for Virginia to get rid of her parents so he can sneak out. So while he hides in the bathroom, trying to pass the time by reading the insert on a box of tampons, she's broadly dropping hints that Edna and Bill should get to the guest room and go to bed.
How is order restored? Bill jumps out the bathroom window -- which everyone hears, and which Virginia blames on "possums." Tessa, knowing quite well what it actually was, is about to join Harry in investigating what it was when Virginia stops them. "If you had a real husband, that would be his job." - Edna. (Kind of a sexist way to put it, but also, she's not wrong.)
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Margaret vs. Jo & Graham, Part I
Graham enters the bedroom in the morning to wake Margaret: how sweet! Then he says, "No more nightmares, I hope," and Jo sits up next to Margaret, who somehow had no idea she'd snuck in there. (Jo's been reading In Cold Blood and instead of putting it the freezer like Joey Tribbiani, she got in bed with Mommy and Daddy.) Instead of getting into this breach of whatever agreement the three of them have worked out, Margaret reminds Graham that they need to get to their meeting with Virginia and Bill soon, which is when Jo announces that she wants to go too. "We've been through this, Jo," says Margaret wearily. "We are not in bed at the same time, so why would we go to counseling together?" "We're in bed together right now," chirps Jo. "Not in the sense I'm talking about," grits Margaret. Graham takes Jo's side, reminding Margaret that their precious Glasser would have them all deal with what's real, which this is. Margaret counters that the rest of the world isn't as open-minded about arrangements like theirs, but Graham replies -- probably not incorrectly -- that Bill and Virginia have probably heard about much weirder shit (I'm paraphrasing) than this particular throuple: "They're the world's leading experts on sex, Margaret. They, more than anybody, know, historically, monogamy is the exception, not the rule! Take a look at sub-Saharan Africa, the Islamic world! It's only our retrograde Western society that teaches us to believe the logic of love as scarcity, as a commodity that's to be stored up and hoarded." At this, Jo makes her most punchable face yet:
Finally, Margaret ends the debate by reminding Graham that she's known Bill for twenty years, that he and Virginia are her friends, and that she's not ready to go public with their situation. "We're on this path together," says Graham serenely. "We all go at our own pace." Somehow, this reassures Margaret instead of killing her lady wood forever.
Winner: Margaret...for now.
Who called the meeting? Fitzhugh.
What's it about? He wants to apologize to Bill about how things went the last time they spoke with no ulterior motive!
How'd it go? It starts out kind of weird: when Bill gets to the office whining about his back, Betty offers to fix it for him -- "Helen has sciatica and she's too vain to give up high heels" (HELEN!!!!! STILL IN THE PICTURE!!!!!!!!!) -- so when Fitzhugh walks in, it's to the sight of Betty bent at the waist with Bill on her back, her arms hooked through his, wriggling around until his back cracks and he groans in relief. Then, once he and Fitzhugh are in his office, Bill is hilariously cautious as Fitzhugh starts going on about burying the hatchet, dryly commenting on its being "quite a change of heart" in just two weeks. (Wait, it's only been two weeks? Barton sure seemed like he'd been there a while when we saw him last week. And I guess he gave Wash U zero days' notice when he quit.) And, of course, Bill is right to suspect that Fitzhugh has an agenda: his son Ronnie and his wife Leela have been trying for two years to get her pregnant, to no avail. Now he's received a letter to report to the draft board, and Fitzhugh knows he won't last five minutes in a war. Bill dismissively replies that everyone thinks that about their sons, but Fitzhugh says he wouldn't say that about either of his other two sons, so...I guess if this Ronnie is "sensitive," then (a) it might explain why Leela still isn't knocked up; (b) it's certainly suggestive of why Fitzhugh has such contempt for Barton; and (c) it might resonate with Bill, who has a "sensitive" son of his own. Anyway: if Bill can help Ronnie's wife to conceive now, Ronnie would be 3A and thus exempt from the draft. "You are the best fertility man in the midwest, Bill," says Fitzhugh. "I have never denied that." "You certainly didn't take it into account when you threw me out of Wash U after fifteen years," says Bill pissily. So while things seem to end inconclusively, I don't think even Bill is so petty as to refuse to treat someone because he has beef with his dad.
Four's Really A Crowd
Situation: Barton stops by Graham and Margaret's unannounced to continue the conversation they started in the last episode, about her disclosing the truth about his sexual orientation to Graham.
What makes it awkward? Barton's chatting amiably with Graham when Jo leaves for work, giving Graham a big kiss (no tongue, but clearly romantic) on her way out the door.
How is order restored? It's not. When Barton hopefully asks whether Jo is Graham's daughter (that would be a feat, since Julie Ann Emery is forty-three and Tate Donovan is fifty-one) and tells Margaret he saw Graham and Jo kiss "on the lips," Margaret is forced to explain their situation in sunny terms as a choice they all made together -- Jo booked a lot of Graham's research trips; Graham was attracted to Jo; he invited her to move in with him and Margaret six months ago; "Historically speaking, in most cultures in the world, monogamy happens to be the exception" -- but Barton's not buying it: "Historically speaking, I came here to give you permission to tell Graham about my...about us, because I wanted you to be honest with the man you love, and you can't even be honest with yourself! What are you doing, Margaret?" "I'm living in the truth!" she snaps, Glasserly. "At least I'm trying to, which is far more than I can say for you!" Then Graham, mercifully for everyone, comes in to say he and Margaret have to go to their appointment, so even if order isn't exactly restored, at least this conversation ends.
Settling Scores With A Bunch Of Bores
When Virginia gets to the office, Bill tries to guilt her about her parents' part in his backache, but it doesn't work since she's even more annoyed about their presence than he is (reasonable since the first real conversation Virginia and Edna have is a lot of needling about Virginia's supposed lingering baby weight and her sham marriage). When he realizes that his taciturn grumpiness isn't going to have its usual effect, Bill changes the subject to his GREAT NEWS: Fitzhugh's invited them back to speak at Wash U! Virginia does not agree that this is such an awesome invitation, reminding Bill that this is "the Chancellor who led the charge against you -- against us": "Bill, they put dildos on my desk. Mauled in the bathroom. We can't go back there." Bill DGAF about her concerns, and when she declares that nothing will make her go back there, he cheerfully says he'll just go speak for them both: "Tell them the battle is over. And they have lost." Hey, Bill? Speaking as someone who's been in a close professional partnership for about as long as you've been in yours, maybe you should be a bit more concerned about listening to Virginia and taking her feelings into account and less concerned about buying her off with furs. The face you make when you announce that you unilaterally made a decision on both your behalves and she tells you she is extremely opposed to it is...not this.
I guess I admire Michael Sheen's lack of vanity in playing all of Bill's worst qualities, but also, Bill is THE WORST.
Johnny Beat Good
Who's causing a family crisis? Johnny.
How? He got into a fight at school.
Which relatives have a problem with it? Libby, mostly, since Johnny won't tell her how it happened.
Who's an unlikely ally? Bill! When he gets Johnny alone in the bathroom to stitch up the cut over his eye, he gets the story out of him: "I started it. My friend and I, we were playing football at recess. And another boy, he-- He was trying to take the ball away. And we asked him to stop, but he wouldn't. So I made him. Trust me, I don't look half as bad as he does." Bill can't help smiling:
He quickly tries to cover by saying that Johnny should be focusing on his studies and not getting into fights, but it's pretty obvious how proud Bill is.
Spoiler: Johnny's account does not stand up to even rudimentary fact-checking.
That Quote"There's nothing more satisfying than cleaning for someone who doesn't have time."- Edna, Passive-Aggressive Ninja -
DialogueI know you feel your mother's hard on you, but it's because she worries.She doesn't worry about me. She worries about how things look -- how I look. She wants to polish everything until it shines, including me. She does it every time she visits! Just like she used to do with those beauty pageants. Do you remember the one in Topeka? Drive in the car with her for eight hours. On the way there, she made me press on my front teeth with a Popsicle stick, as if I could somehow fix my overbite before we got there.[chuckles] She knew how happy you'd be to wear that winning sash.No, she wanted to see me in the sash. What kind of mother puts an eight-year-old in a beauty pageant?But...honey, she didn't put you in the pageant. You entered yourself. You saw it in a magazine, filled out the form and sent it in! Then you begged your mother to drive to Topeka. If she pushed you too hard, it's 'cause she didn't want you to be disappointed.
It's A Date
Tipping The Light Fantastic
Who's on a date? Graham and Margaret.
Where has he taken her? To their bedroom.
Are things headed in a horizontal direction? Things start there? They're trying out the technique Bill and Virginia were in the middle of recommending when the religious wackos showed up outside the office to protest loudly: in order to prolong Graham's erection and delay ejaculation, he's supposed to lie perfectly still on his back while Margaret controls how much of his penis enters her vagina, starting with just the tip. Even though (as they told Virginia and Bill) Graham's usually very aggressive and goal-oriented and Margaret likes that, he's supposed to try being very passive and letting her take charge, and though it seems to be working, when he closes his eyes to concentrate on the...er, task at hand, she begs him not to. "I'm looking at you," he assures her after opening his eyes. "I see you." Then things get hot and she lets him start moving his legs and getting some rhythm going. Great!
Well, not great for everyone.
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Bill vs. Dennis Daughtry
Well, as anyone could have guessed, Johnny's account of the fight at school was not quite accurate: in Johnny's school bag, Libby found a letter of apology for the fight from a Dennis Daughtry, who started it, written on their teacher's orders. When Libby called the school to find out what actually happened, she learned that this Dennis has been bullying Johnny for weeks (which...I know it was the '60s, but if whoever Libby talked to knew that, maybe someone could have let Johnny's and Dennis's parents know?). The "fight" was actually Dennis and four other boys holding Johnny down on the football field, punching and kicking him until he said he's a sissy. Libby thought she and Bill should call Dennis's parents, but Bill apparently instantly formed his own plan of (literal) attack.
To wit: Bill waits in his car for the kid he somehow knows is Dennis Daughtry (what, did he do a Google Image search?), and then gets out and confronts him: "Dennis? Dennis Daughtry?" He holds up the apology letter Dennis wrote Johnny, noting that Dennis can spell his own name but had trouble with some of the bigger words. When Dennis tries to get away from the scary threatening adult stranger threatening him, Bill grabs him and gets in his face: "You swung these [fists] once in my son's face....Yes you did, I know you did, I know you did, DON'T DENY IT." Uh, can we get a Block Parent to intervene here? We can't. "I'm a doctor," hisses Bill. "I know things. For instance, I know that you're, what, thirteen? But you're in Johnny's grade! So how many times've you been held back, Dennis? Two? Three? That make you feel bad about yourself? You know why that is? Because it means you're stupid! Yeah, that's why you lash out at other boys, boys like my son -- boys who are smart, boys-- Boys who are smarter than you. Better than you. But you know what? I know that you're smart enough to know that if a doctor--" Dennis tries to get out of Bill's grip, desperately looking up and down the street for someone to come and rescue him, to no avail. Bill yanks him back into place: "IF A DOCTOR THREATENS YOU, no one can protect you. Can they. Certainly not your father, with his sad little plumbing business. No, you're alone, Dennis. And you know what? One of these days, you're going to end up just like your old man. You're going to unclog other people's shit out of their toilet. You're looking at a future where you work with your hands, Dennis, so you'd better TAKE CARE OF THEM." Is this the wrong place to note that an obstetrician also works with his hands? I'm just saying.
Bill gives Dennis's shoulders one last violent shake. Dennis winces. Bill looks down.
Winner: Can you really say Bill is the "winner" for making a terrified child wet his pants? And leaving with the football that said child dropped in terror?
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Margaret vs. Jo & Graham, Part II
Margaret, Graham, and Jo are all chatting about what to have for dinner when Jo asks how their Bill and Virginia-assigned exercises have been going. Margaret demurs, saying it's "too soon to say," but Graham tells her not to be modest: "They went well." "It certainly sounded like they went well," says Jo, quickly and defensively claiming that she was just walking down the hall when she happened to hear them going at it, and reminding them their deal was that they would share anything they learned with her so that she and Graham could also benefit from them. Margaret is practically maternal in her manner, clearly annoyed with Jo but trying to tread carefully and avoid a blow-up as she tells Jo Margaret and Graham need time to get the new technique right before they can teach it to Jo, and also, she can't listen at the door during Graham and Margaret's "private time"; Graham backs Margaret up. I have to think Julie Ann Emery is supposed to be playing Jo much younger than her aforementioned actual age as she whines that if Margaret and Graham's sex life improves, Graham's going to love Margaret more, and then Jo's going to get kicked out of the throuple. Graham gently promises, "That's not going to happen," but Jo shoots back, "But she hopes it does. Don't you. Hope it does....DON'T YOU. Don't you want him to love you more. The truth." Reluctant but pushed to an honest answer -- thanks a pantload, Glasser -- Margaret testily admits that she does. "So where does that leave me?" squeals Jo. "Well, I guess that leaves you with your ear pinned against the door, terrified about what's going on inside" snaps Margaret. Jo tries to tell Margaret she doesn't know what it's like to be on the other side of that door...
...which is when shit really starts to come out. Margaret says that, no, actually, she knows EXACTLY what it feels like, far more than either Jo or Graham does. She spent thirty years of a marriage terrified she was going to leave the man she loved because of what was happening on the other side of a door, and when she left that marriage, she had a big job scraping together the exploded pieces of her life, and then she met Graham. She fell in love with Graham on her own, and they never had any problems with sex until Jo was in the picture. At this point, stupid Graham tries to break in and tell Margaret they both agreed to add Jo to their relationship, but Margaret's not having it: "We did not invite your travel agent over for fondue and two bottles of rosé because we wanted to FUCK HER." Everyone is embarrassed by this actual honesty breaking out in the middle of their performative "honesty," and then Margaret goes on: "Jo is young and pretty. There are a million men in the world for Jo." "That's not the point," smiles Graham, condescendingly and obtusely. "IT COULDN'T BE MORE THE POINT!" sputters Margaret. "We were happy, weren't we? Before Jo?" "Yes," shrugs Graham. "Then why, Graham?" asks Margaret. "Why is she here?" "I have feelings for her," says Graham. "I wasn't going to lie to you about them. I knew I was going to act on them." Oh, Margaret. This guy is no prize.
Winner: TBD...but let's just say it's a good thing Margaret already knows what it's like to be on the outside of the door.
Trapped By The Parents
Edna has finally worn down Virginia and gotten her to agree to give Edna and a much less interested Harry a tour of the offices. Predictably, Edna is scandalized by the idea of patients having sex in the exam rooms "in the middle of the day." Virginia is over it. Betty is a good friend.I can finish showing 'em around if you want to take a break.And go where.You've always wanted to see Canada.
This Marriage Is Going Great
Bill is pacing around getting ready for his spite speech at Wash U when Libby -- dressed up all pretty to attend -- stalks in so angry she's practically vibrating. She just got off the phone with Dennis Daughtry's mother, who told her all about Bill and Dennis's little chat. At first, he tries to dodge, saying that he may not have handled it well but that he did handle it, but when Libby pushes back, he bellows, "SOMEBODY NEEDED TO TEACH HIM A LESSON....You cannot let a bully get away with it! He has to be made to see that there are consequences! Whether it's a thirteen-year-old boy or the Chancellor of a university! Did you know, after Fitzhugh fired me, they changed the locks. All my research, every single piece of data I collected over three years -- all of it taken away from me? They had some security guard pick me up by the shirt collar like I was some street vagrant. You know the only thing I regret? I regret walking out that door, giving them the satisfaction, I should've made them drag me." Libby, much more patient than I would be under the circumstances, actually lets Bill get this whole self-justification out before telling him, "This is not about you, Bill. This is about our son, and our son needs help." Bill begs off facing the bigger, actually important issue by whining about this stupid talk he's about to give, and Libby tearfully nods and turns on her heel and walks out of the room but not out of his life LIKE SHE FUCKING SHOULD, OH MY GOD, THE WORRRRRRRRST.
Love, Hate & Everything In Between
"Men, Right?" "Girl, I KNOW."
Barton's just leaving the office for the night when he runs into Margaret coming in: she says she was hoping to catch Bill, but Barton tells her about the Wash U talk. Margaret's a little surprised that Barton's not going, but he shrugs that he's happy to be done with the school: "There's nothing there for me anymore. Didn't expect it to feel so good -- walking away, making a fresh start." "Are those even possible -- fresh starts?" Margaret muses. "Well, haven't you made one?" he asks. Wellllll, that's why she's there: she wanted to tell Bill in person that she and Graham aren't returning to therapy. Sex isn't the problem, she says: "It's me. I-- I picked a situation as far away as possible from what I had with you: a man who wanted me so much, he physically couldn't wait to have me; who loved women so much he had to have two of them; who led a life without secrets so there were no devastating truths to discover because I already knew the worst; who was ready and able to fix what was broken between us. Only what's really broken, Barton, is me. I left Graham tonight; I just walked out with my coat and my car keys. You'd think that would be the beginning of a fresh start, wouldn't you? No possessions, no personal attachments, not even a wallet. And yet, I'm going to make the same mistakes all over again. How could I not? I'm the same person I've always been, looking for the same thing, I have no idea how to find it."
As Margaret sinks onto the bench outside the office, Barton asks, "You don't think you've changed?" "No!" she exclaims. "I do," he says, sitting next to her. "You left him. You didn't wait for him to leave you, like you-- like you did with me. That's the difference! That's how you've changed. You know that there's-- there's something more, something-- something better, and you know that you deserve it, or you would've stayed." Hey, could you two conference in Libby on this conversation, because she needs to hear that she could walk out on her marriage and live to tell about it.
"But I'm alone," says Margaret. "I am all alone, I don't know what to do now, I don't-- Who do I have? Where is home?" Barton says he might be able to help: "I think maybe I can give that back to you."
And then, with Margaret next to him, Barton calls Vivian, and after a little brief small talk, he tells her he has something to tell her about him and Margaret and why their marriage ended: "I think it's important that you know the truth -- the truth about me." And once again, the best scene of the episode is between Barton and Margaret. Can't they just build the whole Masters Of Sex out of the Scullys and their tentative new friendship?
Wrap It Up
Bill finishes his talk by fluffing himself and Virginia a bit, reminding everyone in attendance what pioneers they are, and then Fitzhugh comes up to open the floor for questions. A Dr. Farber gets up to complain that Human Sexual Response renders the relationship between man and woman, husband and wife, in graphs and charts, with no reference to the human psyche, or to ideas like modesty, chastity, fidelity: "Nowhere in your book does the word 'love' appear." There's a tiny smattering of applause, probably from Mrs. Farber, after which Bill stiffly asks whether Dr. Farber has a question. He does! "My question, sir, is where is the love?" Bill goes into this long analogy about gravity and how it took from Newton to Einstein to figure out that an apple doesn't fall because the Earth exerts a force: "The apple falls to the ground because it is following the lines and grooves that gravity has carved into space." Similarly, when Bill and Virginia write about sex, they don't bring love into it because love can't be measured in columns and graphs, as if it were the same as blood pressure or heart rate: "Love is that which carves the lines and the grooves, the curvature of our desire." Huge applause! Pride on the faces of both Bill's women! Some people even stand up! Fitzhugh grips Bill by the shoulder and holds out his hand to shake! Bill shakes it! After all his posturing, Bill doesn't end up telling Wash U to suck his dick after all! Living well is the best revenge! That, or he's not as tough with a room full of academics as he is with a single grade-school child!
But Libby can't miss the loving look in Virginia's eye as Bill makes his way back to their table, barely remembering not to ignore his actual wife!
Afterward, Virginia walks out with her proud parents! Edna makes a reference to her sore feet in her fancy shoes, and Harry takes the hint, offering to go bring the car around! When she and Virginia are alone, Virginia asks whether Edna enjoyed herself; Edna says, "It was very illuminating." Virginia drones that she hopes Edna can now appreciate the contribution Virginia's made to science, but that's not what Edna was talking about at all! Edna drops her voice and fixes Virginia with glittering crazy eyes! "I underestimated you....Here I thought you'd made a mess of your life, but now I see that you are this close to being able to fix things....I'm so proud of you!" She goes in for a hug, and Virginia allows herself a smile of surprise, thinking finally her mother is acknowledging her professional stature and how impressive she actually is. But, of course, she's not, as Virginia learns when Edna concludes: "All you've got to do is get him to leave his wife and marry you. You're so close. Strike while the iron is hot, and don't give him a chance to get tired of you." If only Edna knew how much Bill's wife actually hates him, she'd be even more thrilled than she already is!!!
Virginia's still in a state of horror that she's so transparent when Dan "Flavours & Fragrances" Logan emerges from the hall! Maybe he was disappointed earlier by the experiments Virginia was running on Betty and Lester to get their reactions to various scents because he still hasn't figured out the magic aroma that makes people super-horny, but he came to the talk as "a smart investor" trying to learn all he can about his investment and is leaving very satisfied: "Bill sure can work a crowd." Since he, unlike the aforementioned Bill, has a thing called "sensitivity," he can tell Virginia's upset and asks if she's okay. By way of answer, she asks, "How would you like to take me to dinner some time?" Jesus, Virginia, how many beards do you need?
In the car on the way home, Libby remarks that Bill is pretty quiet "for a man who just very publicly vanquished his enemies." Bill mutters that he didn't care what they thought of him when they were calling him a pervert, and it turns out he doesn't care now. So what was the purpose of this whole event, then? "I don't know." But it wasn't a totally wasted night, I guess: listening to the applause, Bill couldn't help thinking about his father, and a time he bought a bottle of after-shave for his father's birthday: "As I was counting out the change in the drug store, the saleslady asked me if I needed a bandage for my split lip -- it was his-- his gift to me that morning. Making that man happy was like trying to walk to the horizon: I was never going to get there." LIBBY, THERE IS A LESSON FOR YOU HERE IF YOU ARE PREPARED TO HEAR IT.
When Bill and Libby get home, they see Johnny still awake with a book on the couch. Libby goes to check on the other kids and give Bill and Johnny a moment alone together. Bill regards his son with dread, and very reluctantly moves toward him. Johnny turns a tiny bit, and when Bill sits, he straightens up, seeming like he's trying to be careful not to touch him. Bill asks how his day was. "Fine," says Johnny. Bill checks on the cut over his eye, and makes sure "that boy" hasn't hassled him further; Johnny curtly shakes his head no. Bill notices that Johnny's reading The Red Badge Of Courage, and gets enthusiastic and warm for the first time since this conversation began. He says he was Johnny's age when he first read it, and that he would climb up to the attic to read it so that his father wouldn't find him. Johnny suspiciously asks why he was hiding, and Bill lies that his father would have made him do chores if he'd known where he was. Bill talks about his favourite part of the book (not making sure Johnny's gotten to it yet -- rude), when "Henry faces the charge, and fires his gun": "I used to love that description of the gun getting hotter and hotter, and he pulls the trigger over and over again until it gets so hot that it's blistering his hands, but he just won't stop firing."
Which is when Johnny decides he's had enough of the macho bullshit Bill apparently values so much, gets up, and goes to bed. "It's still early," Bill wheedles. "How about we watch some TV?" "I'm just gonna read in my room," says Johnny. And then Bill is left alone. AS HE SHOULD BE.