Masters Of Sex's Surrogacy Program Pushes Masters And Johnson Toward Their Substitutes For Each Other
In case you didn't understand the way 'Surrogates' kept coming up in all the storylines of the last episode (not to mention as its title), this week's offers much more of the same.
Eastbound & Down
Alert Type: Honeymoon's Over Alert.
Issue: Having accepted, at last, the pretty much unusable results of the pheromone sniff testing he's been conducting with Virginia (hee hee, both on volunteer female subjects and, unofficially, on Virginia herself), Dan "Flavours & Fragrances" Logan has to face the hard truth: there isn't really any reason for him to remain in St. Louis.
Complicating Factors: F&F really wants to stay, because he has grown so very fond of Virginia: "But I don't know if I can."
Resolution: Virginia, who doesn't want F&F to leave any more than he does, comes up with a slightly sketchy plan: they'll conduct another round of testing, except this time, they'll see if they can trigger a placebo-effect response from their subjects by talking up pheromones -- "raw sexual attractant," "pure animal magnetism," etc. -- and see if the results point them toward a formula they could market toward women to help them feel sexier. Since F&F agrees that this is the direction society seems to be going in terms of female sexual agency, he agrees. (Virginia doesn't mention to F&F that her pursuing this will also give her a cudgel to wield against Bill, since he's still going forward with his sexual-surrogacy program over her objections. But it will.) In between sessions with new volunteers, Virginia and F&F can get up to lots of very sexy sex, which he seems to be good at.
Spoiler: The placebo effect isn't always as effective as one might like it to be.
Love, Hate & Everything In Between
Dignity Is For Winners
Virginia walks in from her bathtub sesh with F&F to find Bill lurking in her living room like a creep. She is, naturally, startled to see that he's taken this liberty, but he bleats that he tried calling her "several times" and didn't reach her. So his solution was to drive over? she asks. "I didn't know where you were," he whines. "Dropping off my children, and dealing with George," she lies, after about a half-second's hesitation, adding that she doesn't have to explain himself to her. Bill tells her he never said she did, and sighs that he's not himself. Virginia tries to hint at Bill that he should GTFO by telling him she has to be at work for an 8 AM intake tomorrow, but he just barrels forward with his own agenda, telling her he's sorry she's still angry about the surrogacy program (not exactly an apology); he shouldn't have taken those matters into his own hands in that way -- which also goes for "any number of things." "Other things," she says. "In the past. That affect my kids." What...is she referring to? Pressuring her to marry George? She's an adult; she didn't have to do that. I seriously don't know what else she could mean: I don't think she knows about Tessa coming on to him, and he certainly hasn't given two shits about Henry, like, ever. I definitely want to stay on your side in this fight, Virginia, so stick to recent issues and quit bringing up dubious old business. But whatever: Bill seems to know what she means, and nods, going on to babble, "I'm asking you to forgive me, and, uh, to keep an open mind. Because-- because I, uh, I can't think straight when we're estranged like this, when we're not together." Virginia finally comes around, literally, to sit down next to him on the couch and point out that they're always together. No, but like, he means together, and starts putting the moves on her (which, after F&F's moves, have got to look to her even more like the fumblings of a near-virgin; I'm not even sure Bill has more than one move). Virginia kisses him back a little, but then pushes him back, and from the pitying look on her face...
...it seems clear that whatever she's doing is in the spirit of "That oughta hold the little SOB." But when she tries to open his pants and get through this transaction with as little hassle to herself as possible, Bill stops her, telling her he doesn't want her hand or mouth on him. "What man doesn't want that?" she marvels. But Bill means he wants her upstairs: "Like we've always been." God, Virginia was really just looking forward to going to sleep, you can tell. It's really a shame Bill is so inexperienced and unfriendly because I don't know how else he's going to learn how unattractive this neediness is. You know who isn't going to educate him about it? Virginia.
Situation: Paul has brought flowers to lay on Joy's grave; apparently, she died two months ago.
What makes it awkward? When he gets there, he sees that someone else has also just left flowers on Joy's grave, and glances up to see Libby standing at another stone nearby -- so it's awkward because (a) at a moment when he's supposed to be revering his late wife, he's distracted by the sight of the woman he actually loves, and (b) when he goes over to talk to her, he sees she's standing over Robert's marker.
How is order restored? Paul impresses Libby (and this viewer) by gently telling her, "I'm so sorry for your loss. I don't suppose anyone said that to you." "No one," Libby confirms. "No one knew. Except you." When he goes on to try to reignite whatever passed for a spark between them by complaining that she won't look at him since Joy's death, which he assumes is because she's "plagued by guilt" at her betrayal of her now-dead friend, but he says she needs to appreciate how lucky they are to have found each other!!! At this, Libby has to set him straight: "We didn't find each other. I was a crutch, as you were for me. But now you have that rarest of things: you have a new life ahead of you!" "And you?" he asks. "I have a lot of practice taking care of myself," Libby tells him. "I will be fine. Paul, I am making this easy for you....I want you to be happy." "I am happy with you!" Paul protests. Libby is firm: "I want you to be with someone else." This is order, true. But any idiot can tell it's not actually what she wants -- even someone as oblivious as Paul.
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Johnson vs. Masters
Virginia has just finished supervising the training of the volunteer surrogates, immediately (and astutely) developing an immediate antipathy toward Nora when Bill compliments her and Nora chirps, "I've been taught by the best!"
But while Nora might have been doing everything right, the next woman who takes her place breaks down when Lester (role-playing as a male patient) says something about being a pilot as his faked-up backstory, causing the woman to start sobbing: her brother is a pilot in Vietnam and she's very worried about him at the moment. So Virginia's pulled Bill into an office to tell him to acknowledge that this breakdown proves her objections to the surrogacy program have grounds. Bill whines that the volunteers just need more training, but Virginia says this wouldn't happen when they focus on what has been their bailiwick: "Married couples, what we should be focusing on, don't need training; they already know each other." "That's a generous assumption given some of the couples come through the door," mutters Bill, adding -- really unforgivably, in my opinion, "I don't agree that your concerns are valid." Everyone? If anyone with whom you're in any kind of partnership says something like that to you, get out, because it's over. Virginia doesn't get out, unfortunately for her, leaving Bill to frame this setback, defensively, as something that needs to be worked out with trial and error, the way they've always done in their research. "This is no different!" he yelps. "And when we know that there are single men out there suffering, and in need of our help--"
Bill is visibly rattled to hear a constituency he holds so close to his heart/peen dismissed so sarcastically, and tries to recover by scuttling over to his desk to tell her they have two more volunteers to train, which he'll leave in Virginia's capable hands. But Virginia's like
What Virginia actually says is "Train them yourself, Bill. I'm busy with our other research." "What other research?" he asks. "THE RESEARCH THAT I CARE ABOUT," Virginia snaps, not even looking back on her way out the door and slamming it behind her. YAAAAAAAS QUEEN.
[Betty Quietly Puts Gift-Wrapped "World's Greatest Boss" Mug Back In Her Purse]
Bill might not be literally sweaty when he grabs Betty and tells her he agrees with her that there are too many secrets being kept in the office -- "Secrets tear people apart" -- but everything about his manner feels sweaty. Betty's on board: "Okay! You need to modernize your wardrobe." hee! Of course, Bill doesn't mean he wants people to be honest about him: he means Virginia, and whatever she's doing with F&F! "It's blinding her, diverting her from the work we need to be focusing on. We need to find out what's really going on with Logan!" Betty doesn't exactly look thrilled to be deputized in Bill's posse -- even less so when he tries to guilt her into going along with him by framing her espionage assignment as a mission to save the institution: "It's vital to the stability of everything we've built here." Fuck off, Bill, you should be focusing on figuring out why anyone still talks to you.
And, as if all that wasn't ample proof, some more, of how terrible Bill is: he suddenly produces a box of trophies and hauls ass out of there, because on top of everything else, he's missing his team's end-of-season party. I SURE HOPE HE DOESN'T GET KILLED IN A GRUESOME CAR ACCIDENT ON HIS WAY THERE.
His Name's Paul, That's Between Y'All
Situation: Libby is interrupted in her ongoing project of making eyes with Paul over all the kids' heads at the pizza party by Stephanie, the recently divorced mother of one of Johnny's teammates: she thinks Paul's been widowered long enough, and that he should start dating -- specifically, dating her.
What makes it awkward? Libby may have said she wants Paul to be happy with someone else, but now that the time's actually come when that might happen, she doesn't like it one tiny bit.
How is order restored? Libby realizes she doesn't really have any grounds for not introducing Stephanie to Paul and strongly hinting that they should go out. This'll end well!
Situation: Long after everyone else has left after the team's party, Bill looks outside and notices Dennis sitting alone at the patio table.
What makes it awkward? Dennis asks, "You're a doctor, right? I mean, you help people." I would think that's the kind of fact you never forget about someone when it's been threateningly hissed in your face, but I guess not. Anyway, Dennis said he heard that Bill had written a book "about people's private parts," and he has questions: "I think something's wrong with me."
What makes it even more awkward? Apparently, no one's ever told this thirteen-year-old boy what a wet dream was, so Bill has to get out a textbook and gently talk Dennis through and assure him that he's perfectly normal...except while they're doing that, Johnny comes to his usual spying spot to witness this latest example of Bill's kindness to Johnny's sworn enemy. This time, Bill and Dennis both see him there, so Johnny figures he might as well just go for broke and throws something at Dennis's head, screaming, "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE! THIS IS MY HOUSE! GET OUT!"
How is order restored? Oh, it's not. Bill isn't capable, clearly, and Johnny already has a Phase II in mind.
Love, Hate & Everything In Between
Austin, Capital Of Hectic
After showing up at Betty and Helen's completely shitfaced, crying about having officially lost custody of his children, stripping down butt-ass naked and screaming to the street that he's lost everything, and then passing out...Austin wakes up in the middle of the night and begs Betty to let him sleep with her and Helen; even though he threw up and is miserable, Betty refuses, because that face and body only get you your way if you try to use them on ladies who like men.
However, Betty does get up with Austin while he drinks his ginger ale and wonders how he became such a giant fuckup. Betty tells him he was a pretty good doctor, and a really good diet pill salesman, but Austin doesn't care about that "bullshit": it's the opposite of what he's like when he's with his kids. He rhapsodizes about the good times they've had when he could really be himself with them -- playing board games, watching TV, eating grilled cheese sandwiches. (Betty: "Well, you are on their level, that is for sure.") Austin insists that being a father is really the only thing he's good at. Betty kindly disagrees, but Austin insists: "You know it's true, Betty. I know it's true. That's the problem." And then he sticks out his glass and demands more ginger ale, and because Betty is a good friend, she only glares a little before getting up to fill his order. Based on what happens later, I hope Austin can remember this nice moment and what he owes Betty before he gets any crazy ideas about replacing the kids he had with his wife with any others that may happen along because it's the '60s and he's a white man with more rights than Helen and Betty and they probably didn't make any legal agreement before he tried to inseminate Helen BUT ANYWAY.
Against her better judgment, Betty has done Bill's bidding and asked Virginia what's up with her and F&F, telling Virginia as Bill surely would not have wanted her to, "I think he's a little undone by Mr. Logan's presence." Virginia is, naturally, offended that Bill would send Betty to "pump [her] for information," and says, "Tell Bill that we spoke, and that I reassured you that everything's fine. Mr. Logan and I are simply moving on to the next phase of the scent research -- which is true, Betty." Bill comes in on the tail end of their interaction, which he sees through all the glass, but when he buttonholes Betty to debrief her, he's incapable of taking in what she's actually trying to tell him as his friend of, like, a decade. Because he sucks.
First of all, there is nothing going on between her and Logan.
She said that-- Well, of course she said that now, but what if you were to take her out for dinner, you know, maybe have a drink or two?
NO! My responsibilities here are varied and far-reaching, but reffing a fight between Mommy and Daddy is not one of them. [As he shows physical signs of unease, anxiously swiping at his mouth with his hand] Hey. Maybe I can spare you a lot of grief by sharing with you a tidbit I've picked up -- one you seem to have missed: trying to control other people doesn't work, ever. The only person you can control is yourself.
So you got no relevant information out of her about Logan?
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Masters Vs. Johnson
Betty's advice falls on completely deaf ears, as Bill goes straight from their conversation into Virginia's office to yell at her about the new round of pheromone tests: "Is there any, uh, particular reason you're insisting he stay here?" Virginia blinks, and then we see her mask descend like a curtain coming down.
"I'm making lemonade out of lemons, Bill," Virginia replies. Bill's not sure what she means, so she reminds him: "I didn't want Dan Logan to join us as our principal investor, if you'll recall. I wanted Hugh Hefner. But you ignored my request -- not for the first time -- and as a result, I have found something in his work that adds value to our work. An avenue that invites study." Bill isn't trying to hear that, sputtering, "If you want to investigate the psychosomatic effects of treatment [snapping his fingers], in five seconds I could design a study that is far more tailored to our work than some, some phony sniff test with Logan!" But Virginia stays as calm as Bill can't as she counters, "Even if he does go, you can't force me to work on your surrogacy program." "My surrogacy program," Bill repeats incredulously. "Isn't it your program?" asks Virginia smoothly. "If you're going forward with it regardless of my objections? Bill, I haven't put my foot down about something that you are interested in, and so I would expect the same consideration from you -- in fact, I insist upon it. The institute that bears both our names has enough room to accommodate us both."
Also, Bill, if I may: fucking get a grip. You are embarrassing yourself and all men.
Name: Jack Coleridge. Age: Early 40s. Occupation: Sexual dysfunction patient. Goal: To let Nora help him find out if he's ever going to be able to use his crank again. Sample Dialogue: "Nora. I don't know what I was expecting, but I wasn't expecting anyone so pretty."
Why Don't We Get Drunk And Not Screw?
Libby comes home from dropping off some passive-aggressive ballet tickets for Paul to use with Stephanie (after spying on them by Stephanie's car, so I guess that's an activity that runs in the Masters family) and is startled to find Bill there. Both of them decide to drink to forget the ways their love objects have disappointed them without actually talking about that at all, and seeing the two of them relaxed with each other for the first time maybe ever suggests that their relationship could possibly have a future if they both just accepted that they work best as totally platonic drinking buddies.
It's just completely infuriating how some people are so--
It's like one of our investors -- he's one of those people who's like a-- Like a virus. The kind that mutates and metastasizes in cancer.
[snickering] Yeah -- how do you get rid of people you want to get rid of?
You redouble your efforts. [He clinks her glass without quite making contact]
[chuckling] Why don't we ever do this?
'Cause I'm always standing here and-- and you're always in the kitchen.
No, I mean-- I don't mean like that, I mean why don't we ever talk.
Aside from every day.
[laughing] No, I mean-- I mean really talk, or make love.
...Libby. We've been married a very long time.
[laughing joylessly] Yes, we have. God knows I'm not talking about fireworks. But if you were dying, and you had one final moment to look back at your whole life, at the things that mattered the most to you, what would you say about our marriage?
We tried our best. Both of us. We gave our very best.
Spin Off Idea
Make Room For Man
When Helen finds out that one good old-fashioned p-to-v intercourse sesh with Austin really is all it takes to get her pregnant, Austin sees an opening (as it were) and mooches his way into a long-term couch-surfing situation so he can "help" after the baby comes!
Main Cast: Betty, Helen, Austin, occasional pissy guest appearances by Elise.
New Characters to be added: The baby; Martha (Jennifer Aspen), a nosy neighbour who doesn't quite believe Austin is Betty's brother; Kevin (Bruce McCulloch), Helen's gentlest and sweetest palm-reading client, who keeps stopping by to offer free "samples" from his butcher shop.
Sample episode plot:Helen tells Kevin his palm shows that he will die in a week, but it turns out he already had an appointment to dye his graying temples; when Betty forgets to restock the Frosted Flakes, Austin calls her at work twice per hour to make sure she doesn't forget to buy more, and then alarms her with a suicidal note on her pillow.
Love, Hate & Everything In Between
Fight The Real Enemy
Remember when I said Johnny had a Phase II plan to get back at Dennis for stealing Johnny's dad? Well, here it is. After glaring for a while at Dennis, who's pleasantly chatting with a couple of girls at lunch, Johnny heads over there and asks what they're all giggling about. One of the girls says they're talking about Mrs. Tate, and Johnny's like, "I thought he was asking you to explain how his penis works." You'd think that would make them giggle even more...and you'd be right! Johnny blabs all about how Dennis had to ask Bill about his wet dream problem: "Yeah, that's probably why you flunked three grades, Dennis. It's because you're stupid. You're always going to have to rely on smart people to explain things to you. Smart people like my dad. " Funny how Johnny's insults bear such a close resemblance to Bill's at his initial meeting with Dennis; guess Bill's more of a (bad) influence on his son than he might have thought. Dennis is paralyzed with horror. And Johnny maybe wishes he had stopped three sentences earlier. Finally, Johnny wanders off, while I wish both these boys would realize the dad they're fighting over is hardly worth it. They should both be cozying up to Paul! Haven't they watched Friday Night Lights???
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Bill vs. Nora
After Nora cracks and does, indeed, touch John's junk at his request/begging, Bill hauls her into his office to yell at her, which she mostly has to take because she doesn't want to get kicked out of the program...but she also explains her (bad) decisionmaking: "I felt he was distracted by his need." Bitch, even I know the point of the exercise is for him to focus on the sensations he's experiencing on every part of his body OTHER than his boner, so you're not really doing him any favours. She says she knows what the boundaries are, and hey, he felt better, right? Bill thunders that she can't say what she did is okay because it worked; Nora knows, and apologizes desperately, yipping about how badly she wants to succeed in the program. Bill: "I'm sure you do, but I really don't see how that's possible any longer." Nora squeaks that he saw one mistake, and says that she understands the work, but he doesn't understand her...
...and then Nora launches into her personal sob story: she's worked hard to become a better person, which has been hard because her childhood wasn't great. Bill doesn't know that her father left their family, and that her mother was so worried about keeping up appearances that she made Nora pretend, if anyone asked, that her father was totally coming back. And speaking of her father: he apparently thought it was okay to tell Nora he never wanted a family, when she was basically the person whose existence meant he had one; also he would hit her, a lot, which she thought was her fault, and that if she tried harder, he'd love her, and more bad stuff wouldn't happen to her. Since this strikes a chord with fellow child abuse survivor Bill, he tells her, without meeting her eye, "I do understand. And I hope you know that, whatever you did, it wouldn't have made any difference." Nora knows that now: "And I know that I have love to give, and that I have a kind heart, and I was meant to share it. And it's only sometimes, very rarely, that I go back to that old me, and I think I have to do what people say or they won't love me....Just then, I slipped -- but it was just a slip, and it's not the me I am now, if that makes any sense." She concludes by saying, once again, that she doesn't want to leave the program and is asking him for a second chance. "Well, uh, if the situation were reversed, I would hope that someone would give me that chance," says Bill. "So." With tears on her cheeks, Nora thanks him...and offers to make Bill a plate of leftover Chinese food from the fridge. Way to show what a long way you've come from trying to please withholding authority figures, Nora! A+!
Winner: Empathy! (Or, Nora's secret Christian agenda, which I still think is where her storyline is going, particularly since that one wacko is still accosting Bill in the lobby all the time. I'M JUST SAYING.)
Wrap It Up
Libby brings a casserole dish into Paul's house and is setting it on the kitchen counter when he comes out from another, less public part of the house, naked except for a towel around his waist! Tightly, he suggests that she shouldn't let herself in anymore, and she immediately offers to leave her key; she's only there because it was her day on the meal rotation that the ladies he knows have apparently organized (whereas I feel like two months is long enough for him to have quit being helpless and learned some culinary basics, there's also no indication that he asked for any of this, so I'll give him a pass)! She adds that maybe she shouldn't be so presumptuous in thinking she knows what he wants! "What do you want?" he asks. "You," she replies. Poor Paul sighs -- and at this point, who could blame him -- but she tells him he was right; she is sick of pretending all the time! Paul remains wary, but Libby is hopeful as she tells him, "This is where I want to be."
And then they're kissing! THIS JUST FEELS AND LOOKS RIGHT!
Apparently Nora has recovered her composure, and she and Bill are eating Chinese food on the stairs in the lobby! She's still talking about her bad childhood, something she's never even told her boyfriends, some of whom ended up being like her father, and though she doesn't specify exactly what she means by that, we aren't idiots and we can guess! Bill says that's common...and then Nora pushes her luck by saying, "I even felt it a bit, when you were angry with me just then...It made me...drawn to you." Bill curtly says it's good that she can catch herself now when she sees those patterns repeating, and Nora simpers, "And it's good I have someone I can talk to about it." "Yes," smiles Bill. "That's good too." OH THIS BITCH TROUBLE Y'ALL
Virginia's in bed with F&F, telling him he's always been the kind of person to slip out the back door of a party without saying "much of anything"! F&F replies that he's been accused of being "bad at endings" too! Virginia comments, "So, I don't go to New York very often, but if I do, I will certainly--" "You'll look me up," finishes F&F for her. "I will," says Virginia, without much conviction. She sits up, and F&F tells her, "You don't have to worry about New York." With the tiniest trace of regret, Virginia says, "All right. I understand." "Because I'll still be coming to St. Louis," adds F&F. Virginia reminds him that he said they'd "come to the end of the road" with their pheromone study after even the placebo effect spin returned the same (low) percentage of positive results. "I don't care about the road," says F&F. "What if I just came for you?" Virginia -- clearly weirded out by having a man put her first for the first time in her life -- stammers, "No. I mean, it doesn't work like that." "It may not," says F&F, "but the thought of not seeing you every day is not something I'm ready to accept just now. So what if I keep coming here because we love each other?"
Well, I'm not sure Virginia's Very Serious Forehead is the sign you want to see in this moment, F&F, but I'll tell you one piece of good news that might be a comfort: your romantic declaration has moved this commentator to start calling you exclusively by your actual name! Welcome DAN! I hope you haven't earned this honour just in time for stupid Virginia to bounce your ass next week!