A Look at Masters of Sex- Season 1, Episode 7: “All Together Now”

We ended last week with William Masters’ hands on Virginia Johnson’s breasts, and
we start this week’s episode with the two taking part in the study themselves, in the name of science.  Not quite as awkward as Dr. Haas having sex with a girl who turned out to be a virgin, but it’s pretty bloody close.  Minus the blood.

All Together Now- Bill and Virginia after taking part in the study themselves

The episode begins as subject M-42-156, Dr. William Masters, participates in the sexual study with his temporary companion, Virginia Johnson.  Still seeing this primarily as research, they talk themselves through the phases- plateau, orgasm, resolution and the like- until completion.  After they’ve finished, they speak of themselves as subjects and which position is best for clitoral stimulation.  There’s a hint of awkwardness during all of this and Virginia suggests bringing in more subjects for a broader sampling.  Bill agrees, but also believes that he and Virginia should continue participating as well.

All Together Now- Langham with Margaret Scully at tennis club bar

Dr. Austin Langham heads for the bar at a tennis club when he runs into Margaret Scully.  Barton?  He’s off playing poker, so she’s by herself.  As is Langham, as his wife is at home with their son, who has an earache.  That awkwardness presents itself here as well until Margaret asks Austin what he thinks about New York.  The reason is because Barton will be heading there for a three day conference, so she could use some recommendations on kinds of restaurants she thinks Barton would like.

All Together Now- Ethan Haas meets Virginia at car dealership

Dr. Haas is preparing for work, while a still naked Vivian relaxes between his sheets.  Though he’s not concerned about her presence while he’s gone, even telling her about his spare key.  Vivian makes the surprising offer to stop by after class in order to help prepare for dinner with Haas’ brother.  Haas is fine with it, though he didn’t expect Vivian to even be interested.  Following this, Haas makes his way to a car dealership where two men put the moves on Virginia, one of them saying that she looks like Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief.  However, Haas slips an arm around her, warding them off, and they begin looking for Virginia’s dream car.

All Together Now- Dr. Masters meets with Jake and JoBeth Prescott, played by Brian R. Norris and Shanna Collins

Back at the hospital, Dr. Masters interviews the Prescotts: Jake, played by Brian R. Norris, and JoBeth, played by Shanna Collins.  The two have been trying to have a baby, but to no avail.  After learning that her sister bopped out five babies in four years, JoBeth figures she can give it a go as well.  But after a year, there’s no luck, even during frequent nighttime intercourse.  Masters inquires into their positions, at which point they mention ones such as the Reclining Lotus- from the Kama Sutra- which intrigues Masters.  He’ll help them, but he requires their assistance in return with the study.  However, he decides to let Johnson do the explaining later, as she’s much better than explaining these things than he is.

All Together Now- Adelaide, temporary secretary, played by Pepper Binkley

Following this, we’re introduced to the new secretary, Adelaide, played by Pepper Binkley.  Masters, who seems to have initially forgotten that he replaced Virginia, yells out for her until he remembers that Virginia has been bumped up to research assistant.  Well, we’re actually introduced to Adelaide as the second replacement, as the previous one, Ruth-Ann, just didn’t work out.  Adelaide comes off as very enthusiastic, but Masters just wants her to fetch Virginia.

All Together Now- Virginia and Ethan have girl talk about cosigning for a car

But Virginia is too busy having girl talk with Dr. Haas in the back of one of the cars.  Haas, being a guy who still can’t manage to get over how he feels about one particular woman, asks why Virginia didn’t pursue her first boyfriend.  As her boyfriend became a farmer later on in life, Virginia felt she was destined for more, including this very nice car, which she’s all ready to purchase.  Trouble is she needs Bill to cosign for it, as the hospital does not provide loans for single women.  Haas, at the ready, offers to sign it in Bill’s place since he’s already there.  Also, if Virginia takes more time, the car may end up going to the curious couple observing the vehicle.

When Virginia arrives at the hospital, she runs into a tearful Adelaide, who tells her that Masters has let her go due to her filing documents alphabetically.  Oh, and she also couldn’t spell anesthesia.  What a terrible candidate, indeed.  When Virginia confronts Bill about this, his focus is on the Prescotts.  When he does get to the secretarial position topic, he orders that the candidates be screened more thoroughly.  In the meantime, he wants Virginia to resume that duty, but after receiving her new title last week as a research assistant, Virginia won’t be relegated back to a secretary.

All Together Now- Libby tells Ethan that she wants to continue the cervical capping

Outside, Libby meets up with Dr. Haas about wanting to continue the cervical capping, something Haas is very much against, as it’s a violation of medical protocol.  Libby insists that Bill cannot handle stress due to the miscarriage and doesn’t know what’s best for him.  She wants them both to love something together, but Bill is far too distant.  Without a child, Libby cannot compete with any other people in Bill’s life, most of all Virginia.  Haas immediately states that Bill is not going to leave with Virginia, but Libby is not sure.  Either way, the cervical capping will continue, but Bill and Libby do need to have sex.  After all, as Libby states, they’re owed a miracle.

All Together Now- Ethan, brother David and Vivian

Keeping with Haas, we then cut to him eating dinner with his brother, David, played by John Pollono, and Vivian.  David inquires about Vivian’s children, only for Haas to catch and remind him that he’s thinking about someone else.  Huh.

All Together Now- Barton in seedy alley, about to be attacked

Dr. Langham arrives at the Scully home, complete with cashews and loving, ready for Margaret Scully.  Barton, not understanding the meaning of subtlety, drives to a seedy alley.  A man approaches him, claiming that he’d like to get in and get out of the cold, but Barton refuses.  The man says he can keep Barton company until the man he’s waiting for arrives.  When Barton asks why the man thinks he’s waiting for another man, the man responds that this neighborhood is “where faggots come to get fucked.”  Before Barton can respond, he’s grabbed by two other men and he’s both beaten and stabbed.  Just before the men can steal his money, Barton’s gentleman caller, Dale, played by Dale Wittrock, arrives and the men flee.  Barton, bleeding like a hog, refuses to go a hospital, but the man chastises him for not meeting at either a train station or New York.

All Together Now- Bill and Virginia ask each other their questionnaires

Back at the hospital, Masters and Johnson ask each other their questionnaires: Masters’ first time took place in a cabin on Rainbow Lake, Johnson in the back of a Plymouth.  Neither is actively engaging in coitus, though Johnson, again, is able to separate sex from love, while Masters sees some overlap.  They take part in the study again and post-coitus, Masters appears to be in such a jolly mood that he finds himself humming a catchy tune.  The data is better: Johnson came twice in an hour during positions three and four, and came first.  Could have just been sexual etiquette, Masters implies, since ladies are first, right?  Right?

Libby calls the hospital to remind Bill of their evening to themselves, so Bill will have to cancel his sudden offer to Virginia to have dinner.  However, before he can get far, he hears some sounds further down the hall and finds Barton trying to stitch himself up.  Barton’s cover story about his attack doesn’t fool Bill, who reminds him that this secret could ruin his reputation, his relationship with Margaret and Vivian and all he’s attained, all just to meet some boy in an alley.

All Together Now- Margaret finds that Barton has come home early after she slept with Austin

Of course, due to this sudden change of plans, Barton heads home just as Margaret and Austin have just finished having sex.  Noticing the change in Margaret’s mood and hearing the sounds coming from upstairs when Margaret is speaking to him on the stairs, Barton says nothing as Margaret flat out orders him to go to his bedroom and stay there.

Back at House Masters, Betty Drape-I mean, Libby Masters, has taken pleasure in a cigarette and a drink of Lord Henry.  When Bill arrives, they recall the story of how Bill bought her first martini.  Though Libby is a bit tipsy, she very much wishes to spend time with her husband, but Bill insists on drawing a bath for her and only her. Oh, and he knows they both won’t fit in it.  What a shock.

Back with the Scully family, Barton eats in silence until Margaret rages at him.  Why won’t he ask questions?  Why won’t he throw a fit or get angry?  Show some anger, she practically says to him.  Barton does not explain why Margaret’s infidelity doesn’t bother him and he won’t yell at her.  Margaret counters that Barton’s late nights are all because he doesn’t want to make love to her, but other women.  Barton assures her that is most certainly not the case.

All Together Now- Jane takes over as secretary

Some new developments take place at the hospital the next day: Masters arrives to find that Virginia has found him a new secretary and it’s none other than Jane herself!  She’s already on top of business with Bill’s scheduling and can spell anesthesia.  Elsewhere, Langham encounters Barton on an elevator, but they don’t exchange many words.  Libby comes in for her appointment with Dr. Haas, but she also needs to speak with Virginia about Bill coming home late and not making time for her.  Virginia says she’ll speak to Bill about it, but when she does, Bill tells her to butt out and that he’ll take care of the matter himself.  He knows the study is important, but he acknowledges that he will work less since the study does still interfere with his marriage.  In fact, he begins that very night.

All Together Now- Margaret and Austin happy together

Austin and Margaret go for a drive, not to a hotel- as Margaret imagined- but to get dinner.  Margaret opens up to the man who reinvigorated her sex life: she wants Langham all to herself, yet she feels she has to tell people about him.  The happiness she’s experienced is like a nurse hands you your child or when your father walks you down the aisle.  In effect, Langham has saved Margaret’s life.

All Together Now- Langham talks with his psychiatrist about Margaret

So yeah, Austin heads back to the psychiatrist and insists he does not have a thing for older women.  Though Allison Janney is quite a stunning woman, but I digress.  This isn’t what Austin wanted when he first met up with Mrs. Scully. He’s beginning to see her as a human being, rather than his past flings that he identifies by type: Jane is adventurous, Tracy was a sex kitten, and Diane was an unapproachable ice queen.  Now there’s a possibility of emotional attachment and it doesn’t appear that Austin is in any mood for that.  Not now, at least.

All Together Now Haas meets Libby in pediatric ward

Libby meets up with Dr. Haas in the pediatric ward, an area she says no one ever would have expected to see her in.  He’s held up his bargain, so now he needs Libby’s help with an important matter: picking sheets from a catalog that a girl would like.  When Libby does, Haas takes the choice- honey linen- to Vivian and admits that he likes having her over.  He also goes almost full disclosure by admitting that his last girlfriend wasn’t completely compatible with him, so that’s in the past.  He and Vivian are the future.

In a mirror of the episode’s opening, we return to Masters and Johnson having sex for the study.  They go through various positions: both sitting up, female superior, partially reclined, any angles that are optimal for clitoral stimulation, and even the rocking horse!  They make small talk in between, almost like a married couple, and when they’re both dressed, it’s now Virginia who makes the offer that she and Bill have dinner.  Bill has no time for that, though.  He has a wife and a very late dinner to get to as we close out the episode.

“All Together Now” is definitely a more serious episode with more emphasis placed on the drama of the moments rather than the show balancing between comedy and drama.  Like last week, a lot of secondary character plots are advanced and this feels like more setup not just for Bill and Libby, but others like Barton, Margaret and now Austin.  Love triangles are out in full force here, but we’re allowed to see them all play out from each perspective.

I can’t imagine having sex with your boss, multiple times, in the name of science, can be a pleasant experience, yet Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan play it well with all the awkwardness and poker faces you’d expect one to have when having sex with a colleague for a reason other than passion.  Masters narrating the phases is very similar to him monitoring the older couple’s sexual activities in “Brave New World,” so even though he’s having sex with someone he’s clearly interested in, he can and will revert back to clinical doctor mode for the sake of data purposes.

Given the frantic and complicated lives of both Masters and Johnson, coupled with this study, it’s clear from the start that they can only keep sex and emotions separated for so long.  Masters has been established as a man who likes to be in control, but what if Virginia, the independent woman that knows herself better than anyone else, began to show interest?  It only complicates an already tricky situation.  And given how it was Virginia who suggested dinner to a man she previously told to go home and be with his wife, it’s only a matter of time before all of these emotions come out, and probably not in the best way possible.

All Together Now- Margaret and Barton the morning after she cheated on him

But let’s save Bill and Virginia for later and focus on the Scully family.  Barton Scully is, as we know, a gay man living a lie.  He’s neglected his wife’s sexual needs for years and done things that could jeopardize both his personal and professional career.  This is the first sign that the perfect family image he has is beginning to crack.  After all, recall that in a flashback in “Standard Deviation,” Scully told Masters that one of the qualifications for studying human sexuality was having a perfect family.  To lead an unconventional life, you have to know how to hide in plain sight.  But Scully’s assault and subsequent operation with Bill just hints that the unconventional life is heading to the surface.  Margaret’s frustration is understandable: she’s been sexually repressed by a husband whose refused to lay a hand on her for years, and when she receives that pleasure through infidelity, he doesn’t so much as raise his voice.

All Together Now- Bill stitches up Barton after being attacked

And what’s worse, at least for Margaret, is that Barton’s assault doesn’t seem to make him want to be a better family man.  Rather, he tells Dale that he loves his wife, but he loves Dale as well.  He wants to be incognito instead of just stopping altogether.  I can’t fault Scully for wanting to be what he really is, but what I will fault him for is not being faithful or passionate about a woman he clearly cares about.  The same can obviously said for Margaret, but the difference is that Margaret was caught in the act.  No, Barton never saw Austin, but Margaret copped to having an affair with another man and Barton was not fazed in the slightest.  Margaret asks if Barton would ever fight for her and if she matters to him and he says that she does, but that response doesn’t satisfy her desire to know why their relationship is so fragmented.  Now she’s blaming herself.  It just further shows the growing disconnect between the two and Allison Janney is, again, great here as a woman who, after years of sexual repression, shows emotions that had long been buried.

All Together Now- Margaret Scully and Langham admire each other

That said, I do like seeing Mrs. Scully happy.  Her telling Austin that he needs milk to keep up his strength, her brief look in the mirror when she’s on top of Austin during sex and their moment in the car show the excitement she’s experiencing for the first time in years.  My problem with it all, again, is that it feels too soon.  After all, we only just met Mrs. Scully two episodes ago, had her backstory condensed into a few moments during “Brave New World,” and already she’s admitting to Austin that he saved her life.

This relationship moves too quickly for my liking. In my opinion, this could have worked better if Margaret Scully, like Austin and Jane, had been introduced in the series early on as a secondary character, but as the series progressed, we learn more about her and she becomes integral to the overall plot.  As is, what we know is that she’s a woman long deprived of sex and the first man who reignites that spark has saved her life and has him fearing emotional attachment.

All Together Now- Margaret tells Langham that he saved her life through happiness

The episode doesn’t give us much new information regarding Austin either, given that we know already that he’s not one to get emotionally invested in women.  After all, he admitted that Jane would only sleep with him for the good of science and he wanted to be warned about his partners, so he’s not interested in merging sex and emotions.  It doesn’t help that he considers Margaret someone who could be his mother.  I do hope that Austin comes around because both he and Margaret do appear to have genuine- albeit, rushed- feelings for one another.  From the loving glances they give each other, Margaret feeding Austin a meatloaf sandwich and their warm dynamic make them fit well together.  If Austin were just less awkward around her.  And there are better ways to learn about and examine a character than having a psychiatrist do it.

Also, not really a fan of the scene where Barton is assaulted, if only because of how over the top and cheesy it felt.  “Where faggots come to get fucked?”  Really?  In the 1950s, I’d expect the terms ‘nancy boy’ or ‘pansy’ or ‘queer’ or just ‘homosexual,’ but taking it to faggot just feels like an attempt by the writers to make Barton sympathetic.  We know his situation already, and given how Dale stated that Barton had other places to meet him, Barton is just putting himself in situations where he knows he can and will be hurt.  It’s hard to fully empathize with a character who we know is very intelligent, but is also very stupid at the same time.

All Together Now Haas and Vivian together

Keeping with the Scullys, Vivian has a bit more to do here than last week, but she’s mostly around so Dr. Haas can truly confess his true feelings for her after he’s made it clear that he and Virginia are not even friends anymore.  Huge departure from declaring Vivian as the woman who forced herself onto you, Dr. Haas.  It’s strange that Haas would cast Virginia aside so quickly after a quick glance at her and Bill coming out of the room where the study takes place.  It could just be more resentment and it’s unclear whether he truly wants to devote time to Vivian or if he’s still secretly pining for Virginia.  After all, not too long ago, Haas offered to take Henry and Tessa off of Virginia’s hands to free up her schedule.  Here, he offers to co-sign the documents necessary for Virginia to purchase a car.  Now, all of a sudden, he says they’re no longer friends.  Haas is very wishy-washy when it comes to women.

Though if Haas is still integral to anyone’s life, it’s Libby’s, as her desire to continue the cervical capping is quite telling.  It appears as though the reason she wants to have a baby is to keep Bill around so he doesn’t become emotionally invested in another person.  These moments are not as strong as they could have been because they don’t have the same emotional weight as Libby seeing Nancy Lawson’s newborn or talking with the older couple in Miami about her pretend life with two children and a dead husband.  Libby says that she and Bill are owed a miracle, but it doesn’t seem to be a genuine miracle when it’s done just to hold onto your husband that’s interested in his research assistant.  She wants something they can both be passionate about, yet Bill already has that in Virginia  How these two originally came together baffles me, yet Caitlin Fitzgerald, again, does a good job as the ever concerned wife trying to maintain her marriage.

All Together Now- Libby turned down by Bill, again

And it’s nice that Caitlin Fitzgerald gets to double as Betty Draper through her drinking and smoking, just showing her disillusionment with her marriage.  Libby is caught between both Masters and Johnson because while Bill wants to please his wife, he also wants Virginia, who considers Libby a close friend, to stay out of it.  Never mind that Bill and Virginia already asked each other the questionnaire, not to mention Bill asking Virginia’s ex-husband questions about her.  The more time Masters and Johnson spend in this study, the more they’re going to start sounding like a husband and wife rather than a doctor and research assistant.  At some point, Libby is going to be pushed out of the equation.  Dr. Haas, the one man she seems to be able to have a long conversation with, now appears to do a better job of connecting with her instead of Bill.

All Together Now- Virginia in awkward position with Bill and Libby

And that’s unfortunate, because all Libby desires is happiness.  That won’t come if her husband is too interested in his research assistant.  And this puts Virginia in a difficult position when Libby comes by and practically pleads that Virginia help Bill come home more often.  Virginia does care about Libby as a friend, but she also cares about proving herself in this study, even more so now that her title has been changed.  It seems to help, since Bill does head home and shower Libby with the passion he seems to have reserved for Virginia during the study.  It’s just a shame that this more passionate side of Bill only comes out through Virginia’s insistence.  Also, what does it say about Bill when his sex drive and ability to perform with his wife is only due to Virginia?

All Together Now- Bill and Libby have a warm moment

Bill and Virginia are in a sexual game of tug of war.  Masters is the first to initiate dinner plans, but Johnson turns him down.  Once Bill, through Virginia’s urging, is driven back into the arms of his wife, there’s a hint of disappointment when Bill is the one who turns Virginia down so he can spend time with his wife.  Again, we’ve seen little to no evidence that Virginia has any physical attraction to Bill, so it will be interesting to see how her feelings for him develop.  Side-note, we don’t learn much about temporary secretary Adelaide and she’s tossed aside so quickly that she seemed expendable.  I get that Bill is a very by the book person, despite his growing feelings for Virginia, but I thought he came off as a bit harsh to just get rid of her so soon, especially if it was just for organizing things alphabetically.

“All Together Now” has some good moments of internal and external conflict with the characters.  While I do wish we got to see the effect Bill and Libby’s relationship has on Virginia, she’s still used effectively to help bring them together, something Libby has desperately wanted.  Jane as the secretary is a nice addition and I wonder if this will affect her and Austin’s involvement in the study.  Seeds of development are slowly being planted for bigger payoffs as the season continues.  There are some dull, clunky moments that are more apparent this week, but they don’t detract from what’s an otherwise good episode.

Also, Libby, stop calling your husband “Daddy.”  It’s just creepy.

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