Photos: Michael Desmond / Showtime

Masters of Sex Gives Virginia and Libby The Chance To Escape Bill Forever

Everyone's busting out of Plato's cave/Bill's parking garage.

  • Bad Habits
    Screens: Showtime

    Screens: Showtime

    Through A Rearview Mirror, Grossly

    Bill's twitchy pining over Virginia has been in overdrive lately, making him seem even more like a Damaged Male Anti-Hero than usual. Case in point: he's dreaming about his late abusive father giving him advice on how to further draw Virginia into his dysfunctional web. When Dream Virginia gives him the cold shoulder in the parking garage, Daddy Masters (also my sex dungeon moniker) materializes to give sonny-boy some advice: "If you can’t control yourself, how are you going to get control of her?" he asks Bill before dropping his cigarette on the ground because he's a ghost and who gives a fuck, right? "Flatter her, draw her in, make her feel you're on her side. You set the trap; she'll walk right into it; she always does."

  • Travel

    Meet Me (Back) In St. Louis

    It's been a few months since Dan "Flavours & Fragrances" Logan scampered away to New York, but now he's back in St. Louis as both a tourist and a fragrance expert. DOUBLE THREAT!

    St. Louis FAQ

    Q: What does F&F want to do during his first trip back?
    A: Virginia. And to see the Climatron at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

    Q: What is Virginia going to make him do?
    A: Return to the office so they can begin the next phrase of their scent research: "scented lotion in the sensate therapy." It's a sham, but it's -- according to Virginia -- the only way to justify his presence in the city if Bill happens upon them together.

    Q: Why do they have to tiptoe around Bill?
    A: Virginia's always cautious to avoid setting off Bill's paranoia, but there's extra incentive to keep F&F separate from M&J: the presentation for their second book is just around the corner, and Virginia doesn’t want to risk upsetting Bill so much that he boxes her out of the meeting with the publishers -- a cockamamie excuse considering she's responsible for half the work and would under no circumstances allow Bill to move forward without her.

    Q: Does Virginia realize that Bill's a child who's "constantly threatening to take his toys and go home if he doesn't get what he wants?"
    A: Probably, but she's not willing to admit that to F&F yet -- or to herself. "It's more complicated than that. He needs me. He depends on me."

  • That Quote
    "I feel sorry for you, Mrs. Johnson. Dr. Masters has brainwashed you. He's warped your mind and as a result you're not the woman you once were. God knows what that man has done to you…God knows this because God sees you, Mrs. Johnson."
    - Bible-thumper Ronald -
  • Alert!

    Reverse Cowgirl Psychology

    Alert Type: Failure To Launch Alert.

    Issue: Bill's sexual surrogacy program, which he began in Virginia's absence and, despite her protests, isn't turning out how he expected. The group of trained surrogates has had limited success with touch therapy, and even those sessions that are successful -- like Nora's boner-whispering last week -- sometimes end disastrously when the surrogates themselves are unable to follow protocol (i.e. touch cranks they're supposed to leave alone). In light of his failures, Bill contemplates shutting down the whole thing, but asks Virginia to lend her feminine eye to see if anything can be done before pronouncing the whole operation dead; Virginia agrees.

    Complicating Factors: Bill's in full-on lying mode: bug-eyed, over-gesticulating, shamelessly self-deprecating. This is clearly a plot to get Virginia back on his good side by stroking her ego. If the surrogacy experiment is salvaged, that's just gravy.

    Resolution: Virginia and Bill observe Lester -- the only male surrogate -- attempt to relieve a woman suffering from dyspareunia by digitally stimulating her. It seems to work at first, but the woman is ultimately unable to relax while being fingered on an exam table by a man she hardly knows. She's distracted by everything, including Lester's scar ("Geometry class mishap"). The session ends suddenly when she invites Lester to her nephew's bar mitzvah, and, demonstrating his "complete ignorance of world religions," Lester tells her he's already scheduled to attend a different funeral that day.

    Afterward, Lester tells Virginia that the woman isn't the first to volunteer for the study with the intention of finding a mate -- just like the finches he read about in The National Mansplainer. "Women are hardwired to want a provider," he tells her. After Virginia shuts Lester down by telling him that "you can't extrapolate from the mating behaviors of finches to make wild generalizations about women and sex," Bill dismisses him from the office. Virginia is incensed, so Bill takes this opportunity to strike. He admits to Virginia that he hasn't developed a proper protocol to deal specifically with female sexual dysfunction, which doesn't surprise Virginia in the least. Now convinced this isn't just one of Bill's many Difficult Man issues (even though it is), Virginia agrees to observe more cases and compile more data. But Bill's got something else in mind: "We can do it the way we've done every other procedure," he suggests. "By testing it on ourselves." Virginia demurs at first, but ultimately agrees to put the patients' suffering before her own.

    Spoiler: Even Virginia can't save an experiment with such a flawed premise.

  • Hell No!
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  • Family Matters

    Like Absent Mother, Like Daughter

    Who's causing a family crisis? Tessa (but mostly Virginia).

    How? Tessa brings boyfriend Matt back to her perpetually parent-free home so they can pet heavily. I wasn't even sure this was the same boyfriend because a) I'm 90% face-blind, and b) Tessa appears way more into him than she was last time we saw Matt -- when he was forcing her to blow him after prom. Virginia would be home to prevent this unfortunate coupling were she not at the office "testing out" methods for the surrogacy program with Bill. Another in a long list of parenting highlights for Virginia Johnson!

    Said testing goes well enough, after some bumpy foreplay. I'm guessing Bill knows Virginia is lying when he asks her whether she's "sufficiently aroused," but that doesn’t stop him from suggesting they move on to the meat of the matter. Virginia has trouble getting into it with Bill sitting next to her, so she suggests Bill sit behind her and reach around. When that doesn't work, she takes control of his hand; that does it. Literally the only way Bill can get Virginia off is by removing himself from her field of vision and making it seem like he's not there.

    Which relatives have a problem with it? F&F isn't a relative, but he does demonstrate some innate dad skills when he walks into the house to find a shirtless Tessa on the couch with Matt. He disregards Tessa's questions about presumptuously letting himself into her house and forces Tessa and Matt to wait on the couch until Virginia shows up. "Might be a while," Tessa smarmily tells him. "She's probably working."

    Who's an unlikely ally? When Virginia finally arrive home, she's predictably incensed and delivers an off-screen lecture on the virtues and mechanics of safe sex, a subject she knows a great deal about. Virginia's anger is only slightly abated when Matt, who -- let's call a spade a spade -- raped Tessa, confesses his, seemingly, earnest love for her.

    Spoiler: If Virginia thinks an uncomfortable exchange about birth control is going to stop Tessa from disobeying her wishes and sexing up Matt, she hasn't met her own daughter.

  • Symbolism

    There Once Was A Princess Named Elizabeth…

    The Scene: After picking up Paul's wristwatch and dry-cleaning and groceries, Libby meets Paul back at his house -- where he supplies her with the real reason he busied her with wifey duties all day.

    The Symbol: The fairy tale play, complete with cardboard castle and Rapunzel wig, that Paul has Libby's children perform for her as a birthday present.

    The Meaning: Libby is trapped in a loveless marriage, but, more importantly, Paul thinks it's appropriate to have the children of the married woman he's boning act out a fairytale representation of their mom's affair. All the while looking a reeeeaal goober.

    Photo: Michael Desmond / Showtime

    Photo: Michael Desmond / Showtime

    You're fucking weird, Paul.

  • Character Study

    Fancy Friends

    Names: Cal and Arnold.
    Age: Early 30s.
    Occupation: Cal is a hospital aide and Arnold is "just the boyfriend."
    Goal: To join Barton and Jonathan, Barton's new ultrasound technician associate (and sympathetic fellow gay man), who are enjoying some post-opera drinks at the end of their first friend-date. While Barton's been enjoying his night out with the relatively low-key Jonathan, Cal and Arnold are a tad more flamboyant and make Barton uncomfortable enough that he runs off to the bar to refresh Jonathan's drink. It only takes ten seconds and one less-than-masculine laugh before the neighboring table of preppy straight dicks starts heckling Jonathan's "faggot" friends. Cal and Arnold ignore no man's bigotry, and refuse to stand down. When Arnold gets up to respond, a fight breaks out and Barton flees the scene -- and Jonathan.
    Sample Dialogue: "We're not bothering anyone. We're just trying to enjoy our drinks."
  • Hell No!
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  • Dialogue

    Fem-Shaming 1.0

    In the elevator the next day, Barton sees Jonathan with a busted lip. Without even asking whether he or his friends are all right, Barton decides the best course of action is to dive right into his justification for running away.

    It didn't have to happen. You and I were having a perfectly nice evening before your fancy friends showed up.
    My fancy friends are homosexuals, just like you.
    I'm nothing like them.
    [eye rolls forever]
    I'm not saying I don't enjoy the companionship of men --
    As long as it doesn't offend anyone.
    Your friends last night -- men like that make it hard for all of us. They've got to put on a show, with their voices, the way they move, giggling like a bunch of girls. Why can’t we present ourselves to the world as men -- like any other man? Show them that we're strong.
    Do you think that's the first time they've been kicked out of a bar by angry drunks? Beaten in the streets? They've had to claw and scrape for every shred of dignity that they have. And it's men like you -- cowering behind your closed doors and your business suits; you're the weak ones.

    Then Jonathan tells Barton he'll finish up the day, but he's finished with Barton forever.

  • J. Walter Weather­man Lesson

    Shattered Mirrors

    F&F arrives at the office so he and Virginia can discuss Tessa -- or, as Virginia loudly and obviously announces to no one, so they can begin the next phase of their "SCENT RESEARCH!" [Lucille Bluth wink] Virginia marvels that she's somehow in trouble with Tessa even though it was Tessa who was caught with her tits out, so F&F lays things out for her: "Tessa's upset because she knows why I was there last night…and she knows I'm not the only one." Virginia musters up some fake outrage at this accusation, but F&F tells her to shut her pretty, lying mouth. "Tessa was the one who first told me about you and Bill," he finally admits, leaving her speechless. At the sound of raised voices, Betty hurries into Virginia's office to inform her that an anxious Bill has just been by her desk to (spy on the couple and) have Betty tell Virginia to meet him in the exam room.

  • Fight! Fight! Fight!
    Photos: Michael Desmond / Showtime

    Photos: Michael Desmond / Showtime

    Stop Telling Me I'm Right!

    Virginia extracts herself from F&F so she and Bill can explain the new surrogate protocol to Lester, who's already mentally checked out of the study. "I only joined the program to make Jane jealous, and it worked," Lester tells them. "She won't even speak to me." Furthermore, Lester's tired of dealing with women who either swoon over him (sure, Lester) or freak over his boner or lack thereof. Hearing Lester's panicked reservations, and frustrated about being found out by F&F, Virginia lets Bill have it: "The program doesn't work! You are attempting to conduct an experiment with an infinite number of variables and without any controls; it's chaos, Bill." Bill starts to agree with Virginia, but she's finally able to see through his crap…until she can't again.

    After Virginia calls out his placating, Bill doubles down and agrees to shut down the surrogacy program indefinitely. "I just wanted to be us again, together," Bill tells her as only he can. Virginia's attempts to resist his puppy-dog act are futile.

    Winner: The surrogacy program is kaput, so Virginia should be the winner, but there's no winning for Virginia in this episode.

  • Snapshot
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  • Love, Hate & Everything In Between
    Photo: Michael Desmond / Showtime

    Photo: Michael Desmond / Showtime

    Fast Friends

    Betty stops by Barton's office before shoving off for the day to tell him Jonathan submitted his resignation. Because Betty's a preternaturally astute person (and a fellow gay), she's deduced that Barton and Jonathan are both homosexual, and that Jonathan's busted lip might have something to do with his resignation. To encourage Barton to open up to her, Betty tells him about her pregnant girlfriend Helen. She also wants Barton to be their obstetrician, and for him to allow her to stay with Helen through every procedure all the way up to the birth, but that doesn't make her wanting Barton to accept himself any less genuine. Barton agrees to help her out, and, because Betty's only the best at convincing others to do what's best for themselves, picks up the phone to call Jonathan. Have Betty and Barton even shared a line of dialogue before this? More of these two, please!

  • Wrap It Up

    Virginia apparently hasn't learned her lesson about leaving Tessa alone in the house because, while she's out with F&F, Tessa brings Matt back to the house again. Tessa's actually so confident her mom won't be home before midnight, she takes Matt to Virginia's bed so they can do away with both their pesky virginities. If Tessa's going to make her first fuck a revenge fuck against her mom, she might as well go full poetic irony and do it in the bed Virginia sleeps and makes love in. Matt is hesitant, both because he doesn't want Virginia to walk in on them, but also because he might not be ready to have sex. After all, he's not drunk on spiked punch this time. After a bit of coaxing from Tessa that mirrors Matt's language from earlier in the season ("This is what you want, right? You love me, don't you?"), Matt gets over his insecurities and the two get started. Great.

    Photo: Michael Desmond / Showtime

    Photo: Michael Desmond / Showtime

    Like Tessa, Libby knows her half of M&J won't be a home at a reasonable hour (it being a day ending in "Y" and all), so she sneaks over to Paul's again where he's waiting with another (40th) birthday present. After he hands the present over, Libby's all, "Have I ever told you about my wedding?" and Paul's like, "No, but I'm guessing you're about to." Down at the courthouse, waiting in line with Bill, Libby observed a young, blonde bride similar to herself. When Libby's marriage is at its darkest (so, like, every day), Libby conjures up this bride and imagines what life she must be leading. "If I'm lucky, really lucky, I maybe get 40 more years...I won't -- I can't keep going like this. There just has to be something better." Then Paul tells Libby that she can have something better -- with him. He asks for the present back, slips off the ribbon from around the box, and ties it around her ring finger. "There's a lot that would need to happen to make that possible," Libby tells Paul, but he doesn't care, and neither does she, really. Well, at least we can all celebrate one coupling in this episode!


    Back at the office, Bill is getting schlitzed because, when he sprinted downstairs to catch Virginia before she left for the day, he saw her driving away with F&F. Everybody's learning so many things this week! Bowtie boozily askew, Bill presses the elevator button to leave again, but then he sees Nora through the glass walking around the office (where she's still living, I guess). The elevator door is only open for a second before closing on Bill again because even inanimate mechanical objects have known for weeks that Bill would eventually fuck Nora. She sees him watching her and struts into his office.


    No words spoken, Bill and Nora begin their sweaty, elbow-y, 20-second tryst. Bill only stops when Nora begs him to tell her that he loves her. He shoves her off and confesses, "I've ruined everything. The only thing I've done right is loving someone so completely with as much as my broken soul as I can muster. I can't give up on that or I'll have nothing; I'll be nothing." Nora, disappointed, tells Bill, "I didn't know you were so devoted to your wife." Michael Sheen's acting is so over-the-top on this show sometimes, I fully expected him to respond with, "Riiiiight…my wife. That's who I meant." Instead, he simply apologizes, and Nora makes her exit.


    Back in F&F's hotel room, Virginia spills her guts: "It's not like I decided my life should be this… Here I am, married to my ex-husband, and sleeping with two married men." F&F, because he's the best, tells Virginia she owes him no explanation. It's Tessa, according to him, "who's going to need help understanding." Now that she knows Tessa has known about her and Bill for years, Virginia looks back on all the excuses she made, all the time with her daughter she missed out on because she was "conducting research" with Bill. "It's as if I'm seeing myself clearly for the very first time," Virginia says, evoking the episode's "Through a Glass, Darkly" title. F&F suggests Virginia goes home and speaks with Tessa, but Virginia doesn’t have the strength to face her just yet. F&F goes to put on a pot of coffee, and Virginia looks down to see the Bible sitting in the open hotel drawer. Hey, that's the book where the episode title comes from! Virginia apparently knows this so she flips over the Bible. Because Christ can't see you when Bibles are upside-down.


    Nora's crying in her car in the parking garage. We see the passenger door open and expect to see Bill climb in, but instead it's Ronald! Nora's not surprised to find Ronald letting himself into her car in a strange parking garage in the middle of the night. How do these two know each other?? "Do you know where the word 'holy' comes from?" Ronald asks Nora. "It comes from the Greek, meaning separate. When God tells us he wants us to be a holy people, he literally means 'at a distance.' Every time we take away that distance we put ourselves in great danger." Ronald fears that Nora has "verged from the path," but he doesn’t ask her to explain how; he just wants to know whether she's ready to rejoin it. Nora nods. WHAT IS THIS SHIT???

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