A Look at Masters of Sex- Season 1 Finale: “Manhigh”

“I have seen more of you down there than anybody and I think your vaginal walls are beautiful.”

1950s pick-up lines, folks.  Take note.

And so we’ve arrived at the season one finale of “Masters of Sex” with “Manhigh.”  After months of work, Dr. William Masters is ready to give his presentation on his study.  We get a glimpse into the life Ethan Haas would like to have, provided Virginia Johnson is at his side, and the Scully couple come to terms with what everyone besides Margaret knew all this time.

Manhigh- Ethan with Henry and Tessa

The episode begins at House Johnson with Ethan telling Virginia and the kids that he’s considering job options in Los Angeles, where he plans to travel.  That means he gets to visit Disneyland, where Pinocchio lives.  At least, that’s how the kids see it.

Manhigh- George and Virginia watch Major Simons

Next morning, Virginia awakens to find Ethan already long gone, but she does manage to find Henry engrossed in the adventures of Major David Simons, who is taking part in Project Manheim, which will send him into space.  Henry watches with intense fascination, which makes sense.  It was established early on that Henry was fascinated with comics, exploration and using things like zap guns, so real life space travel would capture his attention.

Manhigh- Bill prepping for presentation

At the hospital, Jane and Libby go over seat arrangements for Bill’s presentation.  In the hospital auditorium, Bill goes over his speech while Lester works on the camera.  He manages to get Lester’s attention when he talks about males finding a link between excessive masturbation and mental illness, which says even more about Lester than we’ve learned before.  When Jane and Libby come on with questions, Bill requests that copies of his study be handed out after the presentation and that martinis as opposed to punch be served.  Maybe to make the participants a little tipsy and, as a result, more receptive, but as long as it works.

Manhigh- Margaret and Barton discuss homosexuality

Meanwhile, Barton gets into a nice suit for the presentation when Margaret comes in with a newspaper- something she hasn’t done since the attack on Pearl Harbor.  She read about a court case involving an office clerk in Vernon.  The Missouri Supreme Court unanimously sentenced him to life imprisonment due to his ‘detestable and abominable perversions with a male teenager.’  Relevance?  Well, Margaret just wonders if that could have been her husband.  When Margaret brings up Dale, Barton just won’t talk about it, but he doesn’t have a choice now.  No, Barton concedes, he and Dale did not sleep together that night.  He just paid him is all.

Margaret asks if Barton ever had feelings for Dale.  Barton admits his shame that he never stopped.  He’s unable to give a total number, but they weren’t always for hire.  The only one he ever loved was James Davenport, back during the summer before he went to college.  It never changed how he felt about Margaret, but Margaret disagrees.  After all, she was only 10 when he was 18.  All those years she’s spent with him when she could have been with someone else are now gone.  No problem, though.  Barton’s been seeing a Dr. Ellenburg, who will help him solve the problem for good.

Manhigh- Dr. DePaul with Virginia on women's health

Dr. DePaul thanks Virginia for her outreach efforts in Tennessee, but Virginia’s looking further down the line.  The two of them could start a forum on women’s health with the female employees.  DePaul doesn’t see the need since maternity already agreed to institute pap smears.  However, Virginia has stumbled upon another breakthrough: a doctor in Houston has a film about breast cancer.  This ‘breakthrough,’ as DePaul already knows, is the work of Robert Egan.  Egan did manage to locate cancer, but only after a mastectomy, not when the breast was still attached to a woman.  Virginia presses on the Doctor to pursue it, but DePaul has her sights set on the Chancellor.

Bill meets up with Barton, who informs him that the Provost of Webster University will be attending the presentation.  Good news, as outside interest will help the cause.  Bill wants both Barton and Margaret to join him tomorrow night for dinner.  Barton, given how Bill blackmailed him into continuing the study at the hospital, is hesitant, but Bill just wants to present a united front, so he needs Barton’s support.  They will both be credited with the results of the study, so all the more reason for Barton to show up.

Manhigh- Dr. Ellenburg and Margaret discuss homosexuality cures

Elsewhere, Margaret meets up with Dr. Ellenburg, played by Robert Joy, to learn more about Barton’s plans.  After being in the dark for so long, she wants to know about this so-called cure for Barton’s homosexuality.  Dr. Ellenburg explains that Barton will undergo electroshock therapy, which Margaret is already familiar with.  Though it could be painful, Barton could still receive anesthesia.  The potential consequence is temporary or even permanent memory loss, but luckily, only four out of 100,000 have died.

To ease Margaret’s apparent tension, Ellenburg mentions other advances like shock aversion to the genitals, psychotropic drugs and, best of all, chemical castration!  What fun, indeed.  It’s all about what works best.

As Bill goes over his notes, in comes Jane to let him know that neither of them invited Virginia.  Bill reminds Jane that Virginia quit, so whether she comes is not their concern, but Jane doesn’t accept that.  Though Bill resents the implication, Jane is forceful and tells Bill that she put in a lot of work and probably won’t come unless he asks her.  Despite Bill pushing back, Jane remains firm and just hands it off as a suggestion.

Bill, now distracted, leaves his office and runs into Virginia.  An awkward moment ensues until Libby shows up and insists that Virginia come to the presentation.  Virginia just gives them both her congratulations and walks off.

Manhigh- Dr. DePaul and Chancellor Fitzhugh

Dr. DePaul meets with Chancellor Fitzhugh and demands that she be given the same deal as Bill- she wants to be paid directly.  Fitzhugh tells her that Masters has worked at the hospital for years and contributed much to the institution.  Additionally, he’s seen the weekly reports that show the number of patients each doctor has, and DePaul only has 16.  The Doctor responds with the claim that she’s last on a referral list for an OB-GYN, but Fitzhugh corrects her: she’s 12th on the list.  Why?  She’s not sellable to women.  Fitzhugh brought in Dr. DePaul for her credentials and he assumed obstetrics would be receptive to the idea of female physicians.  Quite the opposite, since women just don’t want another women looking up her skirt, save for DePaul’s patients.  Fitzhugh has no doubt that DePaul provides her patients with the best care, but numbers don’t lie.  If she wants more recognition, she should come up with something to grab attention.

Presentation time arrives and we get a brief run-in with Austin and Jane, who reflect on the fact that they were the first to take part in the study.  They also ponder whether the two of them can continue once this is all done, but more on that later.

Bill scans the crowd from behind the curtain.  Nervousness is etched all over his face as he watches people file in, but it’s time.

Manhigh- Bill presenting study on human sexual response

Today, Bill tells the crowd, is the culmination of a study 20 years in the making.  And this will answer the questions of the curious folk who have had their stethoscopes pressed against the wall of exam room five.  It’s time to share the groundbreaking discovery, but the audience doesn’t have to take Bill’s word for it.

186 volunteers, 458 acts of sex, all for the purpose of studying human sexuality.  Sex has a pattern when stimulated.  Bill walks the crowd through the four stages and disproves some myths: uncircumcised men do not have more control over their ejaculation and circumcision has no effect on an orgasm.  It also doesn’t affect physical strength, so feel free to have a stroke before having a stroke on the green tomorrow.  As for women, they can accommodate for smaller penises.

And for the most part, the crowd seems receptive to Bill’s presentation-

-until he presents the internal footage of Jane’s vagina.  Now, no one knows it’s Jane, but this is the point where the audience begins to get uncomfortable.  People shift in their seats, faces contort and it’s as if the oxygen is being sucked out of the room.

Bill said he planned to throw in everything, and he follows up on this promise with the external footage of another woman that Virginia, but not Jane, can identify.  Bill focuses on the hand and feet contractions, the skin flush, erect nipples…

Yeah, that’s quite enough of that.  Chancellor Fitzhugh shuts off the film and reprimands Bill for showing such smut to the hospital.  After all, women are present!  Slowly, the now repulsed attendants begin to empty and Bill is left with his work.

Manhigh- Barton and Bill after the presentation

As Bill leaves, Barton tells him to give the people time to cool off, but Bill is too into his feelings.  He lashes out at everyone, saying their negative reaction is a result of their resentment on his stature and position.  Showing the footage didn’t exactly help Bill’s case, but Bill plans to just publish his study in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Journal.  Better to pursue the work through established channels.  Barton counters that the channels were inside during the presentation, causing Bill to lash out at him.  He says once trouble is afoot, Barton is out the door.

But Barton doesn’t take that and he reminds Bill that, despite his doubts, he backed Bill because he believes the work is good.

Libby, meanwhile, is flooded with phone calls from folks who have choice words about the presentation.   The mystery of the day is who filmed the naked woman, since it couldn’t have been Lester.  It’s not his style, he says.  He’s also concerned about his job, but Jane promises to back him for the good of science and the work they’ve all put into the study.   Bill comes in and lets everyone know that he needs to make some phone calls.  Libby lets Bill know that there’s been a cancellation for the dinner, but Bill is not concerned.  After all, he says, no one wanted to hear about the theory of natural selection, either.  Darwin was attacked by the church and science, but he persevered.  So did Elvis, according to Lester, since he was accused of obscenity and now women can see his pelvis on Jailhouse Rock.  So there’s that.  Anyway, Bill needs some privacy, so he gives Jane and Libby the rest of the day off.

Manhigh- Libby and Bill at dinner

That evening, no one has shown up for the dinner.  Libby tries to calm Bill and wishes that she had seen the film first.  She would have advised against it since, let’s face it, the sight of a naked woman masturbating will shock people.  Doctors see naked people all the time, yes, but they don’t see them having sex.

Libby then asks about the identity of the naked woman, since two doctors next to her thought it was Virginia.  Bill laughs.  Those doctors were probably just like the naughty schoolboys trying to catch a peek at the naked neighbor lady.  Out of all the women Bill had for his study, Bill would choose Virginia?  Makes no sense.

Libby agrees, since that would be a huge compromise of Virginia’s character.  So while Libby may have answered her own question, Bill still hasn’t answered hers.  His response is that she knows he can’t reveal such confidential information.

Of course, he could have just said that from the start.

Manhigh- Barton and Margaret discuss Dr. Ellenburg's methods

Margaret and Barton discuss Dr. Ellenburg’s methods.  Margaret found them primitive, but Barton is no fool: he won’t go for the chemical castration.  He’s convinced that this is the right thing to do.  But Margaret is concerned: what if he forgets things like how he never beat her in tennis or what Vivian’s singing voice?  Even though Margaret has lost years by marrying a homosexual, those were still years spent with someone she loves.  She doesn’t want him to go through with the procedure.

Manhigh- Virginia and Jane in hospital cafeteria

At the hospital, a petition is being circled to remove Bill from his position.  As Jane and Virginia grab some food, a man next to them notes that yesterday’s film was more of Virginia than he needed to see.  Jane, of course, lashes at the man for being so wrong, and Virginia is the same.  He only wishes it was her.

Manhigh- Dr. DePaul on honest work

Virginia then meets with Dr. DePaul.  Virginia has been unable to sleep, so she read in Gynecology Journal about a man who worked on a pill for irregular menstrual cycles.  Dr. DePaul is again two steps ahead of Virginia and confirms that it is the work of Gregory Pincus, who received funding by Margaret Sanger.  In essence, it works as birth control, but the FDA only uses it for severe menstrual cycles.  Many women claim they have such severe issues in order to get it despite the severe side effects.

But Virginia is just drawn to the idea of a contraceptive pill.  It sounds revolutionary, but Dr. DePaul isn’t following.  Virginia brings up the women’s forum again, but DePaul is focused on the now.  After all, she’s operating on a clock and can’t concern herself with the future because she won’t be around for very long.  What she does may be slow, but it’s honest work.  She’s not interested in being a pioneer or doing something thrilling, which is something Virginia can’t entirely understand.

As rain falls, Barton informs Bill about the petition, which has signatures from board members, administrators and even people who didn’t see the presentation.  They all want the study shut down.  Bill has no intention of moving his study a second time, but Barton explains: the Chancellor and everyone there felt blindsided, humiliated and scared of all things.  People just aren’t ready for naked bodies, especially the board.  Heads must roll, so Fitzhugh is willing to dump Barton and Bill in order to save his own hide, regardless of how much money Bill has brought the hospital.

Meanwhile, Ethan has arrived in California and calls Virginia.  He got an offer from UCLA, which changes everything.  With optimism on his side, he decides to stop waiting: he declares his love for Virginia since day one and wants both her and the kids for good.  When he drops the question, Virginia doesn’t have an answer.

Manhigh- Chancellor Fitzhugh grills Barton and Bill

Barton and Bill get grilled by Chancellor Fitzhugh, who rakes the study over the coals by calling it smut.  He berates Bill for violating hospital standards for over a year, but Bill isn’t just sitting down and taking this.  He points out that Fitzhugh was perfectly fine with the study when Bill helped bring in revenue and bolstered Fitzhugh’s position with the board.  Not to mention Bill did give the hospital its obstetrics department, so he’s not just going to keep quiet.  Fitzhugh concedes that he was wrong about Bill all this time.  After all, Bill has been given too much rope to hang himself with due to Barton, who was too weak to stop him.

But then Bill shifts gears and tells Barton that if he had supported him from the start, none of this would have happened.  Bill came to Barton years ago with a plan to crack human sexuality, but Barton said no.  He just couldn’t see in the future and the accolades they would have received, so Bill went behind his back and used exam rooms and money not for fertility research, but sex.

Fitzhugh seems to buy it and believes that Barton has been hoodwinked, swindled, bamboozled and so on.  So he leaves the decision in Barton’s hand, and that decision is to fire Bill.

Manhigh- Libby goes into labor

At House Masters, Libby gives a woman some food that she’s donating to the Urban League, but when the woman starts to leave, Libby goes into labor.  Libby immediately decides to call Bill’s office…

Manhigh- Jane leaving the office as Libby calls

…oh, come on, Jane!  The phone rings just as Jane leaves the office, so the woman decides to take Jane to the Negro hospital.

Manhigh- Barton and Bill at bar

Barton and Bill drink their sorrows at a bar.  At least Barton gets to keep his job, which Bill says was the only thing to do so they both wouldn’t be thrown to the wolves.

Back at the hospital, Jane ponders her future and tells Lester how embarrassed she feels for showing herself.  She then wonders if that was the reason for the negative response to the study.  Lester now comes to her defense, stating that he loved the inside of her body.  Everything about her is just perfect.

Manhigh- Jane and Virginia in office after Lester leaves

So yeah, they share a quick kiss just before Virginia enters.  And Lester insists he has to leave.  Virginia and Jane discuss Bill’s firing, Virginia noting that there are many things Bill can live without, but the study is not one of them.  Before Virginia leaves, Jane gives her a copy of the study.

Continuing with the bar misadventures of Barton and Bill, Barton lets Bill know that he still plans to go through with the electroshock therapy and is hiding that from Margaret.  He’s convinced he did two things right: Bill and his family.  Bill, like Margaret, warns Barton about the apparent risks, but Barton knows the reward can make him a new man.  He’s admitting himself tomorrow and will exit as a man ready to seek his future with his loving wife.  He tells Bill to go home.

But before Bill can do so, he makes a quick stop back to his office, only to find the locks have already been changed.  A nearby security guard, played by Blake Robbins, tells Bill that he doesn’t want to have him escorted out, so Bill exits in his own way: smashing one of the windows with a fire extinguisher.

Elsewhere, Libby has given birth and produced a child, but she holds off on calling Bill.

Back at House Johnson, Virginia sits down to read the study.  And, in a move that everyone should have seen coming, Virginia sees that Bill did indeed put her name on the study.  A knock on the door gets her attention and she opens it to find Bill.

He tells her point blank that she earned her name on the study.  He then says that aside from Barton, no one believes in the work.  Virginia admits that she does, but wonders if Bill does.

Bill, however, looks resigned to the fact that the study is over.  He has nothing to offer Virginia except the truth.  There’s one thing he can’t live without, and it’s Virginia Johnson.

Well, that was a season.

Like “Fallout,” “Manhigh” is about consequences.  As Ms. Frizzle says on The Magic School Bus, it was about taking chances, making mistakes and getting messy.  In fact, the last few episodes have dealt with consequences, but this had the task of leaving enough room open for those issues to be resolved by the second season, but keep viewers wanting more.

Much of what happens this week is a result of characters taking a leap of faith and hoping they’ll land on their feet.  Whether it’s Dr. DePaul trying to assert herself and work to the Chancellor, Barton going through with the therapy behind Margaret’s back, or Bill, having reached his highest point so far, crashing down to Earth in light of his presentation, this episode dealt with people, and society in general, not being ready for radical changes.

Some people are comfortable and complacent moving at a steady pace.  They don’t like things to change so suddenly because, to them, change isn’t always a good thing.  But William Masters and Virginia Johnson are anomalies in a sea of normalcy.  “Brave New World” touched on the fact that they were never fine with being in one place, but wanted to push the envelope.  That idea clashes with the complacency that so many folks here exhibit, but I’ll touch upon that later.

Manhigh- Henry and Tessa with Ethan

Let’s start with Ethan, who certainly got a fast response on employment, given how he was still in-between jobs last week.  This week he seems to exist for the purpose of setup for next season when the door is left open in regards to his relationship with Virginia.

I’ll say this about Ethan: he appears to be more comfortable expressing his feelings for Virginia than he was with Vivian, with whom he seemed to stumble his way around that short lived relationship.  When he proposes, it’s on his own terms instead of it being dragged out.

I know I won’t shut up about Vivian, but I really feel like that entire arc, and her character, was wasted since Ethan’s reasons for breaking up with her, so he could consider his faith and have something of his own, have never been addressed.  It makes me wonder what the point of the religious angle even was if it’s not even going to be brought up.  It felt like just a forced way to get Ethan back on Virginia’s radar and I don’t like that because all Vivian wanted was to be happy, and she was willing to do whatever it took.  You could say she was being a people pleaser, but her feelings for Ethan felt genuine.

All right, whatever, so we’re to accept that Ethan has loved Virginia since day one.  Apparent contradictions and declaring just the opposite aside, I find it funny how Ethan has flip-flopped when it comes to relationships.  At first, he was with Virginia, but then that ended.  Then when he was with Vivian, he said he and Virginia were done as far as their friendship goes.  Now they’re back together and it’s as if the fallout from their brief relationship never existed.  You’d think Ethan had always been there to help out Virginia with the kids.

So naturally, Ethan would want Virginia and the kids to accompany him.  After all, like he told Langham, a wife stays with a man despite his shortcomings.  A wife, which Virginia is not.  She’s a free spirit and does what she wants.  Despite the hardship of having two kids, a job and taking classes, she’s managed to weather her situation and come out on top.  It’s been challenging, but she never succumbed to pressure.  She can handle herself, but Ethan told Virginia that whatever life she wanted to have was hers.  Like Bill and Virginia, Ethan is looking to the future, but his seems to be hinged on what Virginia will do.

It’s like Ethan paid no attention to what George told him about Virginia.  Virginia is ambitions.  If she wants something, she’ll go after it, regardless of what some man wants.  She’s not shackled down by anything or anyone- she knows that she can get what she wants to attain.  But Ethan seems to be of the mindset that she needs his help.  Hey, at least he’s more assertive than he was with Vivian.  Like last week, I do like Ethan’s relationship with Henry and Tessa.  Even though it’s clear that they both do still care for George, they’ve grown fond of Ethan and treat him as a member of the family.  Not too shabby when you consider Tessa at first didn’t like Ethan since he was a doctor that could give shots.

Manhigh- Lester with Bill during prep for presentation

Let’s move to Lester and Jane now, who I put together for a particular reason that I’ll get into in a moment.  Lester has slowly become one of my favorite characters for the simple reason that he’s not here as the prerequisite techie.  He doesn’t exist solely to talk about technology, but given a personality.  Between his constant talk of the auteur theory, Elvis and masturbation, Lester is quirky and awkward, but charming.  Also, his knowledge of film and camerawork has made him an integral part of the study because he’s helping bring the visual world of human sexual response to the public.

And I like that he shows concern for both Bill and the study that he now has a hand in.  It shows that this is now more than just extracurricular filming for him.  He seems to respect Bill not just for his work, but for wanting to explore the mysterious and interesting.

Side-note, given how quickly he admitted to Mama Masters that he masturbated, how he insisted that he had to leave the office after kissing Jane and the concern plastered on his face when Bill mentions a link between excessive masturbation and mental illness, you have to wonder just how much Lester likes to pound one out.  Not judging, though.

Manhigh- Jane and Bill face off

Maybe Jane rubbed off on him in more ways than one.  Jane, whose had just as much of a personal experience in this study as Virginia has, came far from the woman who was at first hesitant about the study.  I’m impressed by how quickly she’s settled into the secretary role in Virginia’s absence.  Her banter with Libby makes it feel as if they’ve been working together for the entire year.  More than that, she’s more willing to challenge Bill when it comes to Virginia.  Despite Bill resenting the implication that he needs to invite Virginia to his presentation, Jane stands firm and doesn’t falter.  Like Virginia, she’s not just a ‘Yes’ person and won’t roll over just to end a conversation.

Jane has a stake in this study due to her own involvement.  Her body has been on display for the entire hospital to see.  The revelation in “Brave New World” that she could climax when someone touched her breast kicked off even more discoveries for not just her, but Bill and Virginia.  She knows what type of sex she wants to have and why.  I could see Jane staying on in the secretarial position for awhile not just because Bill needs a secretary, but she has a lot of experience to offer.  And the fact that she’s willing to defend the study to anyone who questions it shows she doesn’t see it as smut.

Manhigh- Lester and Jane in Bill's office about to kiss

Now as far as Jane and Lester together goes, I suppose this sort of makes sense.  Lester isn’t kidding when he says he’s seen more of Jane below the waist than most people in the hospital.  Because of Lester, Beav St. Marie got to meet the camera for its close-up.  That, the kiss they shared on “Fallout” shows the slow development of an office romance.  Lester is like the lab geek who would never in his life get laid, while Jane is the blonde that every man wants.  Sounds stereotypical because it sort of is, but my issue is that this bond is only a result of the study, not any sort of outside forces.  We haven’t seen them interact outside of the hospital or during work.

With something like Austin and Margaret, we witnessed their initial connection and followed them through several moments where they bonded and grew closer.  Here, you get the impression that Lester is smitten with Jane, but Jane seems to like Lester for his honesty and because he’s nice.  But then, how often do nice guys get the girl?  I don’t have a major issue with this, if it does develop, but it looks like a way to keep Lester involved.

Manhigh- Langham and Jane

Briefly on Austin Langham, who isn’t given much to do this week.  With Jane and Lester supposedly a thing, it doesn’t look like there’s a chance that Austin will rekindle his fling with Jane.  During “Fallout,” it looked like Austin and Margaret would give their fling a second chance, but it’s not brought up at all this week.  So now we’re left wondering what Austin will do, if at all, come Season 2.

Manhigh- Dr. DePaul with Virginia

Dr. DePaul seems to think a lot of the world is against her, but as we learn this week, that is just not the case.  First off, I appreciate that how knowledgeable DePaul is of the medical world around her.  For each time Virginia brings up some new medical revelation, Dr. DePaul already knows the procedure, who’s responsible and the effects the revelations have had on women.  This is a woman who worked hard to climb the medical ladder and it shows that once she made it, she didn’t stop learning.

However, Dr. DePaul did slow down as far as her work goes, and she’s perfectly fine with that, but not Virginia. DePaul can’t understand why Virginia is so eager to push the envelope or discover something new.  As DePaul reminds us, her life is on a clock.  She won’t be around to see the fruits of her labor, so it’s understandable why she would want to focus on one thing and do that to the best of her ability.  Even if it means missing the chance to pioneer a revolution in the oncoming sexual revolution, Dr. DePaul chooses to stick to honest, methodical work because that’s where her passion lies.

Dr. DePaul is looking at this from a technical standpoint, not practical.  Like Bill, she prefers to work by the book.  If she knows she won’t be alive for a long time, better to master one objective instead of devoting her time to several.  When she speaks to the Chancellor about wanting Bill’s deal, it still feels as if the Doctor has a chip on her shoulders toward men.  She claims that she’s last on a referral list for an OB-GYN, but she’s not.  She wants the deal Bill has without putting the years into the hospital that he has.  And she thinks that outside forces are the reason for women not coming to her, when she is the very reason women won’t take her.  It’s not sexism, but results: women don’t want other women looking up their skirts.

Dr. DePaul sort of boxes herself in.  Her serious tone turns people off and makes her unmarketable.  You have to consider the mindset of women in the 1950s: they’re not going to a doctor to have another woman examine them- they want a man to do it.  But hey, at least Dr. DePaul is persistent in her efforts.  Chancellor Fitzhugh may regret his words when he told DePaul he needed something exciting to gain people’s attention.

Like Jane, I do like how assertive Dr. DePaul was this week.  Rather than just accept the Chancellor’s words about her, she challenges him, though she learns the uncomfortable truth that women just aren’t into her.

Manhigh- Margaret discusses concerns with Barton

And on that note of not being into women, let’s move to the Scullys.  Beau Bridges and Allison Janney are, again, excellent in their portrayal of a couple wracked with secrets and letdowns.  The shock on Margaret’s face when Dr. Ellenburg describes the procedures show that while she’s not a fan of Barton’s homosexuality, she does care for his life.  After all, she may have lost 30 years being married to a queer, as she puts it, but Barton still cares for Margaret.  She is willing to accept who he is if it means he keeps his life and memories intact.  The pain of loss is apparent in her voice when she’s incensed about the time she could have spent with a man who wanted to make love to her.  Again, Margaret is assertive not just through her decision to visit Dr. Ellenburg on her own, but when she presses Barton to discuss his homosexuality when he does not want to.

Love and Marriage 28

I think back to what Margaret told Dale in “Love and Marriage:” you can and will feel like a failure when the person you thought you loved begins to lose interest.  You don’t feel whole anymore, like going through surgery.  And now here we are with Barton contemplating surgery that has the potential of killing him.

Another brief aside, what happened to the idea of divorce?  I mean, Margaret seemed confident when she told Barton they had to divorce.  Maybe the small talk Margaret had with her girlfriends during “Fallout” changed her mind?  I dunno.  Something that was bugging me.

Oh, and Vivian is relegated to a simple mention in the episode.  What a shock.  At least Margaret acknowledged her.

Manhigh- Barton with Bill

I like to think that Barton’s journey to this point is the culmination of the life he spoke of to Bill during the flashbacks in “Standard Deviation.”  Back then, he told Bill that to be a successful doctor, he needs a perfect family image, but to lead an unconventional life, you have to hide in plain sight.

Many years later, Barton’s homosexuality is now in plain sight, yet he still believes the two best things he did in his life are Bill and his family.  I like the mentor-student bond between Barton and Bill.  The look on Barton’s face when Bill falls on the sword for him is telling, that Bill would do anything to protect his mentor.  After all, when Barton was attacked in “All Together Now,” Bill stitched him up and warned him about continuing his unconventional life when it could harm both him and his family.

Throughout the season, Barton has taken many risks.  Of course we know he risked his life through being a gay man in the 1950s, he risked his reputation when he allowed Bill to conduct the study at the hospital, and he risked being outed earlier than expected when Bill threatened to blackmail him if the study was not allowed to continue.  Here he’s taking his life into his own hands, pretty much saying “Screw the consequences.”  I get the feeling that Barton really does want to be a loving, devoted husband.  Barton told Dale point blank that their relationship was nothing more than a business transaction and it’s clear that he isn’t proud of who he is, but instead of giving the finger to society, he’s giving the finger to safety.  We can only hope he’s careful about this.

Barton is great here as support for Bill when the presentation backfires.  He fights back when Bill accuses him of backing down at the first sign of trouble.  He also knocks Bill down a peg when Bill accuses his colleagues of being jealous of his reputation.  Normally, Virginia would be the one to bring Bill down to Earth, but from the start, we’ve seen Barton as a mentor to Bill, so it makes sense that he would be there to help Bill up when he’s fallen.

And that brings us to Bill and Virginia.  You know, let’s start with Bill, and by extension, Libby.

Manhigh- Bill's bruised ego

First off, Michael Sheen still commands this role and is excellent as a doctor who, at times, has his head in the clouds.  There’s plenty to dislike about William Masters, but I admire his tenacity.  The presentation is the result of a year’s work filled with ups and downs, having the study moved to a brothel, Libby’s miscarriage, Virginia quitting, Flora becoming pregnant through Austin, and now being fired.

Think back to the end of “Catherine.”  Virginia told Bill that he’s fallible and cannot foresee everything.  Here, he’s taken all of the precautions necessary to see that the presentation goes smoothly.  He overestimates his audience and thinks that they’re as forward thinking as he and Virginia are.  He may be able to predict how his subjects will react, but not people who a naked masturbating woman as smut instead of science.  Not sure why the audience was fine talking about penis size, but not talking about girls.  I don’t know.  Maybe if Bill had shown a man masturbating on film, the presentation would have ended sooner, but let me get back on topic.  The people just aren’t ready to handle breasts!  Bill wanted a hook to grab the public’s attention and he certainly got it.

And to go back to Sheen’s performance, he goes from making Bill looking completely unlikable to very sympathetic when he’s hit a low point.  Bill doesn’t intend to offend, he wants to educate.  He wants to push the envelope.  He and Virginia were so enthralled about the footage of the inside of Jane’s vagina since they were the first to see it, but they’re doctors.  Naked bodies, even the interior, aren’t shocking to them in particular, but then, the entire study has been about sex.  The rest of the world doesn’t share Bill’s enthusiasm and he, at first, blames everyone else for being jealous of his stature.  He’s living in his own world and can’t see things the way they are.

Those ego issues from earlier in the season are still prevalent when he can’t accept people not being ready to take sex head on.  Heck, even his own wife saw that.  Bill told Libby that there’s always something to prove, but there’s also always something to lose, too.  And Bill has lost the study and credibility among his colleagues.  The brand new world he sought is now weighing down upon him.

Manhigh- Libby asks Bill about the woman masturbating

Even more so, his home life isn’t exactly shaping up for the best.  It really is odd how Bill wouldn’t just tell Libby from the start that he can’t reveal the identity of the masturbating woman.  Instead, he dances around the question and tries to turn it back on Libby, all without actually answering the question.

Manhigh- Libby with her newborn

Again, Bill’s intelligence doesn’t make up for his naïveté and he’s slowly distancing Libby away from him.  It all began when she stayed in Miami and imagined a life without him and now we have her giving birth to a child and holding off on giving Bill the good news.

Manhigh- Bill at Virginia's door

Now that Bill is without his study, he’s broken and takes solace in the one woman who seems to know and understand his feelings more than everyone else.  Bill does need Virginia, but in order for it to come from his own mouth instead of Essie or Virginia, he had to be brought to his knees on his lowest moment so far.  There’s no separating emotion and sex, Bill now knows, so no point in trying to pretend.  He’s lost the study and there’s nothing he can offer Virginia, so he may as well be honest with her.

Then, of course, we have Virginia.

Manhigh- Virginia and Henry watch Project Manheim

You know, let’s start with Project Manheim since Virginia and Henry were so engrossed with it.  Virginia tells Henry that, like the people who helped David Simmons into space, helpers are needed for great things.  No longer just a woman trying to complete her education, Virginia has earned the right to have her name printed on the study alongside Bill’s.  So many times she compromised her position for the good of science or the study.  She shares Bill’s ambition for pushing the envelope, which is something she won’t get if she continues working under Dr. DePaul, and has established both a professional and personal relationship with him that other men just cannot reach.

For example, early on in the episode, after Virginia and Ethan have sex, they just go straight to bed.  With Bill, however, we’ve seen the two of them engage in playful banter or make observations about their performance.  Ethan may be a decent stand-in for George Johnson, but he doesn’t have the passion or flair that Bill does.  That passion is like gravity, give it a little push and things will start to happen.  And whether it was Bill’s initial proposal that he and Virginia take part in the study with each other, much has happened over the course of the season.  Virginia has an awakened sense of adventure and pioneering, which is evident through her enthusiasm about the possibility of a birth control pill.  It’s a novel concept she wants to follow and I’d argue that characters like Bill and Jane helped steer her in that direction.  Virginia has slowly become Bill’s echo more than his own wife and baby have.

Manhigh- Virginia sees her name included on the study

Also, considering how Virginia began as just a secretary and worked her way up to research assistant, it’s a huge deal to have her name printed on something that has the potential to be groundbreaking.  The move helps reestablish the trust that Bill shattered by giving Virginia money for her participation, but it also shows her importance to the work.  It may also wash away any anger Virginia had toward Bill for showing the film of her that they shot at the end of “Involuntary.”  After Dr. DePaul constantly saying that Virginia managed to get by on other assets, her name on the study validates her intellect and puts her and Bill on equal footing.  Also, given the fallout Bill suffered during the presentation, it may have helped that Bill didn’t mention Virginia unless he wanted to drag her down with him.

What Virginia will do next is uncertain.  While life with Ethan may provide stability, it doesn’t offer the adventure or discovery that comes through Bill and his work.  Or she could take her time and take Dr. DePaul’s slow, but methodical approach that will benefit many.  Whatever she chooses, she’ll tough it out with the same determination that’s brought her from a single mom trying to raise two kids to a research assistant with her name attached to a study about human sexual response.

In my opinion, “Manhigh” was a strong end to the season.  It showed William Masters at his lowest moment, but events like Ethan’s new job, Libby’s baby, Lester and Jane’s kiss or Henry’s excitement about space travel showed the positive side on an episode that brought Bill to the stratosphere and plummeting down to Earth like a fireball.  Writing-wise, the blend of drama and humor was well executed with memorable lines such as Bill being able to spot a statistically average masturbator from a mile away.  In a season that had some missteps, contrivances and plot points that went nowhere- Libby and Lester’s tango sessions, Vivian’s subplot- the main storylines were well developed and helped bring this study of sexual response from behind the walls of exam room five and into a world that better prepare itself as William Masters and Virginia Johnson no doubt plan to continue making their mark.

A Look at Enough Said

Nice to know Tony Soprano has a soft side.

Enough Said Poster

“Enough Said” is not your typical romantic comedy.  This isn’t a film that relies on tired clichés or tropes that the viewer can anticipate, neither the female nor male leads are detestable , the dialogue feels natural as opposed to forced, and as opposed to the love interests focusing on trying to gain a connection, their focus is maintaining one in the wake of losses.

The film takes place in sunny California where we meet masseuse Eva, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and get a look at her day to day life with clients.  While Eva tends and massages, her clients go on about the multitude of problems in their lives.  It’s as if Eva is just there as a healer.

For a change of pace, Eva decides to attend a party with her friend, Sarah, played by Toni Collette, and Sarah’s husband, Will, played by Ben Falcone.

Enough Said- Dreyfus, Keener Watkins

At the dinner party, Eva mingles and mixes with the host, Hillary, played by Michaela Watkins, and is introduced to Marianne, played by Catherine Keener.  Marianne is a poet, and apparently well known, but the two hit it off once Marianne learns that Eva is a maseusse.  In need of a good rubdown, Marianne takes up Eva’s offer and becomes a client.  From the start, Marianne comes off as a bit odd.  Not in a bad way at all, just a bit out there and almost hippy-like with her poetry.  Again, nothing bad, but it does paint her as a memorable way and there’s something to latch onto with her as soon as we meet her rather than just being a stock female character for the protagonist.

We’re then introduced to Albert, played by James Gandolfini, who hits it off with Eva in no time at all.  They both have quick comebacks and while they’re quick to point out others’ flaws, they’re not above admitting their own quirks and ticks.  This leads to them going on a dinner date.  Albert works at the American Library of Cultural History and specializes in television.  The two continue their playful banter, with both noting that they hate fake boobs, but luckily, Eva’s are 100 percent real.  Albert’s flaws?  He’s a slob and doesn’t like onions in his guacamole.  Eva?  She thinks hands are like paddles and can be a bit needy.

Enough Said- Girls

Keeping with the break of tradition, there is no first date kiss, but there’s some good chemistry between Eva and Albert, with Dreyfus and Gandolfini having genuine rapport with each exchange they have.  At Eva’s home, we’re introduced to Eva’s daughter, Ellen, played by Tracey Fairaway, and her friend, Chloe, played by Tavi Gevenson, as she continues to help Ellen pack.  Ellen will soon be leaving California to attend Sarah Lawrence in New York.

The next day, Eva meets Albert at his house for brunch.  Last I checked, there’s no written rule on what you wear to brunch in your home, but seeing Albert in his pajamas was not what Eva had in mind.  Nonetheless, they still maintain their connection from dinner and have even more in common, for Albert also has a daughter who is about to go away to college.  We also learn some more about the past relationships between the two: Albert’s ex-wife thought he was sweet, but had no sense of humor, and they never had sex.  Eva just felt that she and her ex-husband were out of sync.  When Eva offers Albert a massage, he declines, stating that he would probably just hit on her and she would have to endure his comments and teeth.

When Eva and Albert go out to lunch, we’re introduced to Albert’s daughter, Tess, played by Eve Hewson, and we learn she’s about as trendy and fashionable as your average adolescent female.  But it at least gives Eva something to compare to Ellen.

Enough Said- Dreyfus and Keener

Eva continues to service Marianne as we learn more about Marianne’s ex-husband.  Though the theme of middle age being comforting and sexy, that passion was not there in Marianne’s marriage.  In addition to her ex had no sense of humor, he also attempted dieting many times, but cheated.  More than that, they both devolved into a pair of people who bitched at each other.  Also very limited in the area of cooking, as he makes an excellent plate of eggplant with mozzarella, but that’s about it.

Can you see where this is going?

Yup.  Turns out that Marianne and Albert were once married.  However, Eva, for the moment, does not see any of the traits in Albert that Marianne saw, until one day, Eva looks in Albert’s bathroom and finds tons and tons of unused mouthwash and toothbrushes.  Why?  Because he planned to get to it eventually.  All right, not a giant deal, but still something that catches Eva’s eye.

Eva later goes to a dinner with Sarah and Will, but we’re also introduced to Eva’s ex-husband, Peter, played by Toby Huss, and Peter’s new wife, Fran, played by Kathleen Rose Perkins.  Unlike what most would expect, Eva’s ex-husband is no slime ball, scum, or miserable, hateful man that you instantly dislike because he’s no longer married to the protagonist.  In fact, there’s nothing to dislike about him, from what I saw.  He’s actually moved on and is happy with Fran, and again, unlike the typical romantic comedy, Eva doesn’t harbor any resentment or hatred toward her ex.  Sure, she’s commented on him when talking with Albert, but you get the feeling that, despite the divorce, the two are still able to remain friends.  Such is the subject of conversation that evening: second marriages.  Can people remain friends after a divorce or are those bonds shattered forever?  There’s also the question of what draws people to one another.  From looking at Eva and Peter, that connection can remain, but with folks like Marianne and Albert, some just struggle to hold onto those bonds.

The day following this dinner, we continue searching for what draws people together and apart when Eva and Albert go to Sarah and Will’s home for dinner.  Man, the people in this movie really like eating together.  Well, Eva tries to test Marianne’s theory about Albert when talks about his inability to whisper quietly and how she wants to get him a calorie book.  Sure, Eva does it all in good fun, but, as Sarah points out, it leans more toward picking on Albert and there’s an uncomfortable tension in the room.  Heck, Albert even tells Eva on the ride back to her home that he felt like he was with his ex-wife.  Oh, and he won’t be coming into her home to stay the night.

Now how often do you get that in romantic comedies?  The man is refusing to spend the night at the woman’s house because he’s pissed at her?  Something you don’t see a lot, that’s for sure.

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As Eva returns home alone, she finds Chloe alone since Ellen stepped out.  When Eva shares her woes, Chloe comes across as more of a daughter than a friend, as Eva offers to let Chloe move in when Ellen goes away to college.

Later, Eva works on Maureen again when suddenly, Tess arrives with her father.  Naturally, Eva tries to hide, but it’s no use and, as you’d expect, an awkward moment approaches.

I’ll leave the plot there since, really, I’m going on long enough without talking about my opinion of the film.

“Enough Said” offers a different look at relationships.  It asks the question of what people will tolerate in relationships.  As flawed as we all are, the film examines flawed romances, but how individuals can either accept or reject them in favor of something better.  This was not made with the young, idealistic folks of my age range who know little to nothing about true love or long lasting bonds.  It was made with a lot of heart and respect for those who have endured years of hardships in their love lives, but it goes beyond just two people who fall in love.  The film looks at the baggage people carry, both physically and metaphorically, as can be said with Eva constantly dragging around her massage table like it’s a burden.  It also shows how much control people think they have in their lives and what they’ll do to maintain that control.

Director Nicole Holofcener found a way to craft characters who are flawed, but, unlike a lot of movie relationships, accept their problems as part of who they are as opposed to a hindrance.  These aren’t naïve 20-somethings who look forward to the future filled with kids, long-lasting jobs and an unbreakable bond.  It’s about two people who know they’re past their prime, but still want a slice of happiness.

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Eva’s life is routine and mundane.  Her clients talk too much about themselves, her daughter is going away to college and she’s about to be left by her lonesome.  Heck, when Eva is massaging her clients, we often don’t see their entire body and face, as if these customers only exist as just that: customers and not someone with whom Eva can form a connection.  Normalcy has dulled her, but she’s not overly dependent on other people to keep her company.  When you offer your daughter’s friend space in your home because your little girl is going away to college, you really want company.  But it’s not unreasonable and Eva isn’t forceful when trying to talk Chloe into moving in.

At the same time, though, Eva likes to connect people to create a bond, as she does with both Marianne and Chloe.  Also, as the film points out, Eva is quick to ask for another person’s opinion not just to help her come to a conclusion, but validate her own choices.  Sarah, for example, is not just one of Eva’s best friends, but her go-to person.  More often than not, Sarah knows exactly what Eva’s thinking and will do.  Eva may be uncertain about her future, but she’s not ignorant of relationship woes.  She doesn’t need to overanalyze a situation and she’s not one to impress or entertain- she’s just looking for a genuine friendship.  If a relationship blossoms out of that, it will be through honest effort.  The only issue is that Eva is too accepting of other opinions instead of going with her gut.  For example, when she learns that Marianne and Albert used to be married, rather than just continuing with her romantic interest, she lets Marianne’s comments about Albert get to her and, as Albert says, poisons her perception of him.

Though Eva may be indecisive at times, her humor helps get her through awkward situations.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus is great as the woman bogged down by age and feeling out of touch with her daughter, but she is no sad sack.  Whether telling Albert that his hands are like paddles or having girl talk with her daughter’s friends, Eva has some charm to her.  When you see Louis-Dreyfus on screen, you do not think of Elaine from Seinfeld.  You do not think of Selina Meyer on Veep.  You see a woman who is awkward and insecure, yet warm at the same time.

Enough Said- Gandolfini

Equally warm in his role is James Gandolfini as Albert, who is very open and upfront about his shortcomings.  He’s self-deprecating, but not a degenerate.  Not that he’s refusing to change, but that he’s comfortable where he is, refusing to buckle when someone tries to alter his fundamental character.  After Eva’s uninteresting escapades, Al turned out to be a change of pace, and for the better.  If accepting flaws is one of the movie’s central messages, Al is the epitome of that.  He doesn’t like to be bossed around and has no problem with how people perceive him so long as it’s their perception.

While it may be strange for a man to eat brunch with a woman while wearing pajamas or picking onions out of guacamole, that’s putting things into our perfect worldview where people are without flaw or blemish.  Al may be flawed, but we all are.  And unlike a lot of people, he accepts it without question.  In fact, his self-deprecation is part of what makes him so appealing as a character.  Rather than shrink within his insecurities and issues, he embraces them, and that has an effect on Eva, who concedes that she is just as middle-aged and flabby as Al.  They’re imperfect, which makes them perfect.  As is often said, sometimes a significant other can be so insignificant that the only thing they can offer is their unrequited love.  That can be said for both Eva and Al, but more so Al because he’s fine just where he is.

Enough Said- Albert Daughter

One difference between the two is that Albert isn’t constantly grasping at something in order to maintain a connection.  Neither of them likes kids, but Albert just wants to enjoy the time he has left with his daughter before she goes to college.  He’s not interested in a substitute because he knows it’s inevitable.  Raising children is difficult, as both Eva and Albert know, but Albert is more willing than Eva to let go.  Maybe even more so since Tess is more like your typical adolescent female who’s into fashion and what’s trendy.

Enough Said- Two Again

Both Eva and Al have been hurt before and are knowledgeable about the ins and outs of relationships.  Al doesn’t have a support group of friends he can go to for advice, but Eva does, and as a result, his reactions feel more genuine than Eva because he’s going with his own instinct, not what someone else suggested.  That’s not to say the supporting characters are pointless.  In fact, their subplots are quite entertaining.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Catherine Keener as Marianne is very chill and laid back as a poet who enjoys life.  She’s not spiteful or filled with hatred for Al- she just never felt understood.  Her desire to change him clashed with his desire to stay who he was.  In a way, she represents who look at society and say ‘This isn’t right,’ while Eva may agree that what she sees isn’t great, but she’s in no position to complain when she’s no well figured woman herself.  There was no spark in their marriage and they just weren’t compatible.  We aren’t given much of a look into Marianne’s life and her flaws other than that she complained about Albert, so all we can grasp that Albert didn’t like about Marianne was that she tried to change him.  She wants to better herself and hoped the same thing for her husband, but they had conflicting views.  That doesn’t make them bad people, just that she was never going to be able to change him.

As far as the other failed marriage goes, I was surprised to see that Eva’s ex-husband, Peter, isn’t harboring some grudge or out to flaunt around his new wife.  Often when the protagonist is divorced, their ex will be seen as evil, someone we hate and want to see meet their downfall.  Not so here.  Peter is charming, funny, and he still has a friendship with Eva.  That, above all, is very important.  Too often friendships end because relationships ended.  It’s as if people don’t realize that just because they aren’t sleeping with each other doesn’t mean they can’t still have a connection.  After all, even though you’ve broken up with someone, I think it better to end on a good note and realize that the bond you had was well worth it and worth savoring.  My point is that, based on Albert and Marianne’s experience, Peter could have been someone we as audience would hate by default, but he and Eva still get along and have a tender moment when they say their goodbyes Ellen.  Just goes to show that relationships don’t always have to end on a downer.

Enough Said- Toni Collette

And Toni Collette, who I always love, is great as the voice of reason, though maybe she should spend less time talking to Eva and more time on her patients.  Sarah clashes with her maid, Cathy, played by Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, and how she tends to misplace items.  Or, at least, someone else misplaces them and the maid is blamed.  It doesn’t add anything to the overall film, but it was a fun addition.

The film seems to be a bit self aware, as if it knows that the romantic comedy formula has been played to death.  Albert even admits to Eva how corny it is when he says she broke his heart.  Very little here feels forced or cliché.  There’s no giant argument or massive confrontation and I found the breakup moments genuine as opposed to sappy or melodramatic.  The film knows what it wants to be and both Holofcener and her cast carry the film confidently.  These people feel real.

“Enough Said” is a film made for people who want a good laugh.  It’s about people trying to find something or someone to cling to when they face the world by themselves.  In the case of sending children to college, it’s about losing something you’ve guarded all your life.  The need to fill the void comes in response to both a need and desire.  It makes you think about what you’ll do when the best days of your life are behind you.  Will you be satisfied or still seeking companionship?  And even more than that, will you like what you get, or will you try to change it?  No one wants to grow old, and the journey can be lonely at times, but Eva and Albert are examples of people who can still find love and walk that journey together, even if only for a moment.  That journey can be scary, but less scary when you’re with someone.  The film is about coming to terms with and being comfortable with you are and not looking back when someone cannot accept your flaws.  Rather, we embrace those flaws in our never-ending quest to find happiness.

People in my age range may not gravitate toward this film the way they would a mainstream romantic comedy or just a romance because the protagonists aren’t young, dashing and filled with optimism.  The film is about dealing with ordinary life and facing your anxieties head on instead of burying them.

Though not James Gandolfini’s final film- that would be The Drop– he turns in a great performance that shows his tender side.  We lost one of our best actors, but it’s good to see him in a softer role that does warm you.

“Enough Said” will make you examine relationships, take a look at your flaws and ponder your love life when you’ve past your prime.  Again, it makes you consider how much you’re willing to endure in a relationship.  And when faced with loneliness, do you wear a mask when seeking friendship or put your flaws out on display?  If you’re still looking for love and haven’t found it yet, do you even need to wear the mask?  One of the best things about “Enough Said” is how stark it is: this isn’t filled with love letters, romantic montages or happiness from scene to scene.  And for this guy, who’s never experienced an actual relationship but has heard plenty of good and bad from his friends, it gives me even more to think about.

A Look at Masters of Sex- Season 1, Episode 11: “Phallic Victories”

I assume “Phallic Victories” is what the first man called his orgasm.

This episode deals with the fallout of the crumbling relationship between Bill and Virginia.  I think that, despite not having as many characters around as we’ve had the past two weeks, this episode gave us a deeper look into the lives and minds of Bill and Virginia, harkening back to the development we saw in both “Standard Deviation” and “Thank You for Coming.”

“Phallic Victories” is about characters trying to make up for lost ground and fill the apparent gap in their lives.  It isn’t filled with melodrama or scenes with Bill and Virginia always looking longingly into the distance, thinking about one another.  It pushes them forward and advances their storyline, but also lets the audience see how these two characters, who had grown closer as the series progressed, work separately.

Phallic Victories- Bill calls Virginia's name, remembers she doesn't work for him, and Jane enters

The episode begins with Bill going through some paperwork and calling out for Virginia until he remembers, right, she doesn’t work here anymore.  But Jane does, so Bill wants her to gather paperwork on women in the study who have given birth.  He also demands that Jane not go to Virginia with that since she’s not an employee in this office anymore.

Phallic Victories- Virginia, hard at work for Dr. DePaul

No.  Virginia is off working for Dr. DePaul now, and she looks to be enjoying herself.  She informs the Doctor that she just finished a phone call with Hal Fortner, a pharmaceutical representative whose company is sponsoring a two-day OB-GYN conference at a golf resort in Knoxville.  Virginia managed to secure Dr. DePaul the final fifteen minute slot due to the comedian dropping out at the last second.  Therefore, she’ll be able to make her case about pap smears before 100 doctors.  Virginia tells Dr. DePaul that a little humor should help, so the good Doctor lets loose a great one out of the gate:

How does a man save a woman from drowning?  He takes his foot off of her head.

No.  In fact, Dr. DePaul should never go into stand-up comedy again.  Virginia is reluctant to come since someone has to take care of Henry and Tessa, but Angela, another woman in the office, has cocker spaniels that are still alive, so she must be doing something right.

Phallic Victories- Jane talks to Virginia in secret

At this point, Jane enters Dr. DePaul’s quarters and motions for Virginia.  The two talk in what looks like a supply closet as Virginia fills Jane in on what Bill needs.  When Virginia asks why such information is needed, Jane explains that Bill plans to use it in his presentation on a broad range of study subjects.  Just to be safe, Virginia warns Jane to not let Bill get bogged down by statistics and keep him calm before he becomes his own worst enemy.

From this and Bill’s scene with Jane, we can see that, although Bill and Virginia are still trying to adjust to not working with each other.  Though Virginia seems to have adjusted quicker, from her advice to Jane about helping keep Bill calm, it’s clear that she still wants his study to proceed.

Phallic Victories- Dr. Ethan Haas' final day at the hospital

In the cafeteria, some of the hospital staff sings their farewell to Dr. Ethan Haas on his final day.  He thanks them for helping make him a better man, he’ll push forward, the usual.  Conspicuously absent from this staff and mention of being a better man is Vivian, but fine.  Ethan wants to move forward.  Libby is also at the hospital and while she apologizes for being responsible for Ethan losing his job, Ethan is adamant that he will find work elsewhere.  He wants to be liked for his work, not being William Masters’ protégé.  Plus, as Libby now learns, Ethan has Virginia, so he’s more than happy.

Libby then pays Bill a visit just as he’s still mispronouncing “Jane” as “Virginia.”  Libby offers to help out with telephone calls, but Bill, less as a doctor and more as a concerned husband, is against the idea due to Libby’s pregnancy.  But hey, Libby isn’t doing much at home anyway and since Bill doesn’t normally get home before midnight, this gives them a chance to see each other more often.  She can be the new/old Virginia and answer the phones, but then, Virginia didn’t just answer phones.  Libby also informs Bill about Ethan’s farewell, but Bill is adamant that Ethan’s leaving is his own doing.  Libby disagrees, stating that Ethan’s relationship with Virginia has made all the difference.

Phallic Victories- Libby asks Bill what he will do once he presents his study

We stay with the Masters’ at home when Libby has to pry Bill away from his work so he can eat.  She then asks a question that appears to have been on her mind for awhile: what happens on the other side when the study is presented?  Bill responds that, if accepted, the university would give it an official stamp of approval, legitimizing the work so it’s not just seen as some seedy operation done in hospitals and brothels.  From there, Bill could have greater access to resources, samplings, as well as headlines and awards, as Libby finishes.  But does it end with the awards?  Will Bill stop feeling like he has something to prove?  Not anytime soon.

At House Johnson, Virginia brings up Dr. DePaul’s trip to Ethan, Henry and Tessa.  To lessen the burden and spend more time with them, Ethan offers to take care of the kids while Virginia goes on the trip.  Hey, if the kids are all for it, so should their mother, right?

Phallic Victories- Bill attends a lecture on diverticulitis by Dr. Frank Ditmer

Back at the hospital, Bill attends a lecture on diverticulitis by Dr. Frank Ditmer, played by Evan Arnold, but Ditmer is just not the captivating speaker.  The audience slowly but surely thins out, but it does give Bill something to think about-

-Which he then brings back to his office with a new sense of vigor and energy.  Libby lets Bill know that Lester needs to know what information to put on the slide, but Bill is interested in the spectacle.  His presentation has too many numbers and methodology.  What he needs is a hook, something to grab them in two minutes and then hold their attention for the next 38.  How?  With penises, that’s how!

Phallic Victories- Bill tells Jane that he wants all of the information on penis size

Yes, Bill wants to present information on penis size, since some smaller ones expand more than larger ones.  It wasn’t in the presentation already since he thought it would be too distracting, but now it’s time to throw in everything but the kitchen sink!  This also includes the footage of Jane, but, to Jane’s relief, it’s the interior footage, or, as she puts it, the footage that looks down a mine shaft.

All right, can I marry Jane if she can just spout off funny lines like that?

Bill also requests the identities of women who had strong orgasmic responses with Ulysses so they can be brought in for two more sessions, some where they’ll use a different sized phallus.  It’s time to see if size does matter.

Ethan, true to his word, helps Henry and Tessa with their homework when there’s a knock on the door.

Phallic Victories- George Johnson returns and meets Ethan

Mather Zickel returns as George Johnson, while Ethan, of course, is lost at what to do.  For all of Virginia’s rules, how to deal with the ex-husband was not one of them.  As this is George’s first time meeting Ethan, he’s a bit confrontational, but he respects the home.  Ethan counters that he’s there to take care of the kids and can do so with his medical expertise, but George is quick to point out that doctors normally aren’t free in the middle of the day.  So an ex-husband comes home to find his kids in the hands of an unemployed man while his ex-wife is out on a trip.  What does George do?

He reconnects with his two kids, who are just as glad to see him as he is to see them.

Phallic Victories- Dr. DePaul and Virginia on bus ride to Knoxville

On the bus ride to Knoxville, Dr. DePaul attempts to get work done by the bus’ reading light.  Why a bus?  Because a train ride would have been seven dollars more.  Heck, you could get three pap smears with seven dollars, but a man behind DePaul asks if she can turn off the light.  She refuses, but Virginia turns it off anyway and reminds the Doctor about being kind.  And the Doctor seems to grasp this when she says ‘Thank you’ after saying no to the woman across the aisle who offers her ham sandwich.

Back in St. Louis, Jane reviews Bill’s calendar with him.  It’s possible that they could maybe get three to four subjects in such short notice, but given how Bill then wants to come back to use a different size, maybe a fourth of them could return.  At most, 12, but it’s still not enough.  He asks Jane and Libby to leave the room so he can contact the women since he knows their identities, which leaves Libby and Jane to read the files on some of the subjects.  One in particular stands out: a woman came in 23 times and each session was intercourse.  She also had the same partner each time.  Huh.

Ethan and George get into another measuring contest while watching television with the kids.  Henry asks how Indians shaved, which leads to the two men offering their variation until Tessa hushes them so they can keep watching TV.

At House Masters, neither Bill nor Libby can sleep.  Libby inquires about the frequent couple from the study.  They weren’t married and the woman had gotten a divorce, so what drew them together so much.  Libby asks if Bill knew them beforehand, but, through his hushed tone and short responses, he tells her that he did not.  Libby concludes that they must have fallen in love, but Bill says such a question is outside the area of inquiry.

Back with DePaul and Johnson, the two have found themselves in a hotel, and for some reason, they’re joined by the woman from the bus.  They won’t be able to get another bus until 8 a.m., so they’ll be cutting it very close.  The woman, who seems to dig the vibrating bed, offers to do Dr. DePaul’s hair for a reasonable price.  The woman, who seems to dig the vibrating bed, offers to do Dr. DePaul’s hair for a reasonable price.  In her work, she worked out a deal with her employer to keep all of the profits because of the good work she did.

This is referred to as the rainmaker’s prerogative, Virginia notes.  It’s also a prerogative that Dr. Masters uses.  Bill has so many patients that he collects directly, sort of like an independent contractor, so he doesn’t get a salary.  Dr. DePaul, however, believes he’s misusing funds, while those who have to scrape and claw can’t even get sufficient funding.

Phallic Victories- Bill meets Dr. Malcolm Toll, played by Michael Cassidy

We return to Dr. Masters’ office and are introduced to Dr. Malcolm Toll, played by Michael Cassidy, who just completed his residency at Ann Arbor.  He’s eager to learn and will fill in Dr. Haas’ shoes.  But no worry.  He wears a size 13 ½, so he’s prepared.

In Knoxville, Lillian and Virginia have, of course, arrived when the conference has ended.  Just great!  They ended up in a fleabag motel because they couldn’t afford a train due to lousy funding.  And who’s at fault?  Men like Bill.  However, Virginia leaps to Bill’s defense and notes that not only did he beat the system, but he’s a good doctor.  He excels not because of his gender, but because he believes in his research.

But having a dick doesn’t hurt, Dr. DePaul concedes.  Sounds like a case of penis envy, but DePaul goes further than that- do women ever wish they were men so they wouldn’t feel betrayed by their anatomy?  Virginia says no, and then makes the trip worthwhile by inquiring to the cleaning men about where the doctors’ wives would be.

Phallic Victories- Dr. DePaul and Virginia meet with the doctors' wives

The two manage to find some and, after Virginia bums a cigarette from them that she doesn’t smoke, they talk.  Turns out most of the women were in office romances with their now-husbands.  They all agree that men need a woman around to give them that human touch.  This opens the door for DePaul to talk about her study.

Phallic Victories- George and Ethan talk about Virginia

That evening, George comes to Virginia’s home too late, as Henry and Tessa are already asleep.  He warns Ethan that Tessa will need her turtle to sleep with, but it’s now a Raggedy Ann doll, so she evolved.  Ethan comes clean and admits he plans to marry Virginia and knows that she’ll say yes, but George is not so sure of that.  After all, Virginia isn’t like most women.  Regardless of George being the actual father, Ethan just wants the job.

On the bus ride back, Virginia notes that talking to the women proved successful.  They now have six advocates in six cities in six states.  Dr. DePaul is fixed on how the women there met their husbands at work.  What if those women pursued their own careers?  Made it on their own steam instead of hitching their wagon to a man?  Would it have helped?

After all, Virginia left Bill’s study for her own reasons, so it must anger her that, as Dr. DePaul believes, only his name will be on the study.  She finds it ironic that a man is telling women that they can get satisfaction without his help.  But Virginia states that no one has anything that’s just theirs.

Phallic Victories- Dr. DePaul tells Virginia that she has cervical cancer

But Dr. Lillian DePaul has something that’s just hers: cervical cancer.  Advanced and past the point of treatment.  First discovered in her mid 20s.  She’d already wanted to be a doctor, but this led her to specialize in gynecology.  She’s gone through radiation and had a hysterectomy, but then the cancer came back 18 months ago, it’s now in her liver at Stage 4.  Dr. DePaul knows she’s on a clock and won’t see her testing redeemed.  She needs to give it to someone who talks small, but thinks big.  She leaves Virginia with that thought while she gets some much needed sleep.

Phallic Victories- George tells Ethan that he still cares for Vivian and the kids

In St. Louis, Ethan accompanies Henry and Tessa to the school bus.  Once it pulls off, there’s George, leaning on a car and smoking a cigarette.  He tells Ethan that he never wanted children and that Virginia is still his, but the kids would pull her away from him.  He let them go.  Just because he didn’t want them to turn out the way he did doesn’t mean he doesn’t love them.  George and Virginia used to be very close when they sang.  They were a real team, but then Virginia got ambitious and pursued a career.  George’s point is that what he and Virginia had, Ethan can never have, and that’s his consolation prize.

When Virginia finally returns, she and Ethan rendezvous, with Ethan pretty much devoting himself to making her happy, the same way that Vivian did with him.

Ethan, have you learned anything?

At House Masters, Bill is unable to get to sleep.  He tells Libby, in a tender moment, that he should be taking care of her, but she argues that he does.  He may be clinical and distant, but he still cares for her.  He feels right inside of her.  Once she met him, there was no other man.

We end with a montage as Bill and Virginia find themselves, among others, sharing an elevator, while Ethan and the kids, later, get to listen to the magic that is Lizzy Caplan’s singing.

After many episodes devoted not just to Masters and Johnson, but the people around them, this episode focused mostly on Bill and Virginia. “Phallic Victories” was about change and acceptance: in some cases, it was the changing of the guard, the passing of the torch, if you will.  For some, it was a change of pace from what they had grown accustomed to.  It touched upon how people try to refuse change, but must accept that it’s time to move on.  It leaves the door open for fences to be mended, but also to build new ones.

Throughout the episode, Ethan talks a lot about the future: he’s in-between jobs, but he’s still looking.  He knows that Virginia will say yes when he asks her to marry him.  He’s confident that she and the kids will follow him out of state once he finds work, but above everything else, he feels that his job at the hospital, the friends he’s made, the relationships he’s formed- and in the case of Vivian, ruined- have all made him a better man.  His line to George about wanting the job of father instead of the title is very telling: he wants to play an active role in Virginia’s life and make sure that she’s happy.

Phallic Victories- Virginia returns from trip, reunites with Ethan, Tessa and Henry

His motivation is to make something not just out of himself, but the people he’s grown attached to.  We saw in “Catherine” that Ethan can connect with Henry and Tessa by relating to them.  That relationship has grown to the point where they’ve accepted him as a father figure, but it does call into question just how they actually view him.  Keep in mind that Henry and Tessa were just as excited when their actual father showed up as they were when Ethan is around.  For all Ethan knows, he could just be a temporary stand-in.  His never-ending talk of Virginia during his relationship with Vivian shows that he’s been unable to fully let her go, even when he says he has.  Now that he has a chance, his goal is to solidify the bonds he’s managed to forge.

The problem is that Ethan is too idealistic.  He’s seeing things the way he’d like them to play out, not how he thinks they will.  After all, he told Langham back in “Love and Marriage” that a woman stands by her husband’s side no matter what.  We saw that Ethan was not willing to stand by Vivian, so he’s trying to make up ground by sticking to Virginia no matter what.  At least now he is.  He’s focused on the later as opposed to the now, which is a problem given that he is out of work.  Ethan has good intentions, but he’s not thinking straight because his blind devotion to Virginia makes him ignorant of the fact that she’s not a woman who will be bogged down by marriage.  Despite having two children, Virginia has managed to weather the storm and make it on her own.  Even if Ethan wants to spend the rest of his life with Virginia, he knows that she’s ambitious and will keep moving forward.  After all, part of the reason Virginia’s marriage with George didn’t work out was because she kept moving ahead with her career aspirations.  Ethan seems to think that a similar outcome won’t come his way.

But unlike Vivian, Virginia isn’t as easy to use.  As much as I love Vivian, she was very willing to compromise with Ethan a lot of the time.  Virginia isn’t that way.  She has her own rules and Ethan will have to play on her terms, particularly if he’s going to play the substitute father to Henry and Tessa. He expects Virginia to come with him out of state and while he’s more certain about his future with Virginia as opposed to Vivian, he can’t tell now whether Virginia will comply with his requests like Vivian did.

On a brief aside, one thing that’s impressed me with Masters of Sex is its slow introduction of secondary characters.  With the exception of the rapid-fire speed in which we learned about Margaret Scully, many of the side characters, whether Mama Masters, Austin and Jane, Lester and George Johnson, they were established early on, which expands this universe and fits them into the world early.  That way, when they show up, it doesn’t come out of nowhere or feel forced.

Phallic Victories- George Johnson returns

Granted, it’s convenient that George Johnson returns the second Virginia takes a trip out of town, but if this had been his introduction, rather than the second time we’ve seen him, it would have been too coincidental.  While before, we just learned from George what made Virginia so interesting, here he’s set up as almost the polar opposite of Ethan: he never wanted kids, he’s not around and he’s not ambitious like Virginia is.  But at the same time, he’s not a deadbeat man who hates children and his ex-wife.  From Henry and Tessa’s reactions upon seeing him, it’s clear that George is still someone that they want in their lives.  He’s still their actual father and has good intentions.  He’s not out to swoop the children away and fly to Tijuana- he just wants an actual relationship with them.  And it seems that Henry and Tessa want that, as well.

We know that George still loves Virginia and respects her ambition to pursue a career.  He doesn’t seem like a man with a chip on his shoulders, at least, based on the final scene between him and Ethan.  Little things like knowing which doll Tessa slept with and telling Ethan that just because he’s not around doesn’t mean he doesn’t love his children show that George has a good heart and, at the very least, accepts Ethan for being there for the kids when he isn’t.  It would have been cliché for these two to come to blows and talk about who loves Virginia and the kids more.  Kudos on the writers for not falling back on that.  And I do like George’s trump card about knowing Virginia when she was free-spirited compared to now- it gives him an edge on Ethan.

Phallic Victories- Man asks Dr. DePaul to turn out the reading light

If we want to talk characters with chips on their shoulders, we can move on to Dr. DePaul, who seems to dislike a lot of things.  With Virginia working for and helping give her a personal touch, Dr. DePaul definitely felt a bit more personable this week.  A bit, I say, because she’s still a doctor and proud of her work.  If she’d done a complete 180 on her character, it would be too sudden.  So any attempts to get Dr. DePaul to unwind or relax are blocked when she continues to put the work first.  Not out of character, as the lack of passion in DePaul’s tone does not equate to a lack of interest for her work.  I think having Virginia accompany Dr. DePaul was a good idea for two reasons: it lets them get out of the hospital and forces DePaul to interact outside of her element.  And at least this scenario is more plausible than the two of them conveniently ending up under the same table during the drill in “Fallout.”

We know Dr. DePaul takes her work very seriously and that’s put on full display here through her admission to Virginia that she has cervical cancer.  It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off of the Doctor’s shoulders when she reveals this information and it’s telling that the Doctor, whose first order to Virginia was to get her coffee, has now gained an appreciation for Virginia not just as a woman, but for her intelligence and ability to relate to people.  While she still may not accept how Virginia used tactics outside of an education to be considered a doctor, she at least respects that she does know more than the average woman at the hospital.

To me, Dr. DePaul comes off as a woman whose hit roadblock after roadblock all her life.  She contracted cancer in her 20s, dealt with torments and rejection from nurses and fellow medical school students, her study struggles to get off of the ground and she now feels that the boss of the woman now working for her has an unfair advantage due to his gender.  Through all of this, she’s persevered.  It’s the very reason Virginia admired Dr. DePaul in the first place: making it on her own steam despite the disadvantages.  There’s a real sense of camaraderie and trust during the moment where DePaul admits that she has cancer which, despite us already knowing this, is still a great, sad scene.  And I like that DePaul gets an opportunity to expand her networking by discussing the study with the people who would be most receptive to it: women.

Phallic Victories- Dr. DePaul after telling Virginia that she has cervical cancer

I haven’t talked a lot about the performance itself, but Julianne Nicholson does a good job as the serious, yet tender Dr. DePaul.  And if you’ve ever watched Law and Order: Criminal Intent, you know that Nicholson is capable of playing it serious.  I’m interested in what they’ll have next in store for the Doctor.

I’ll get to Virginia in a minute, but for now, Jane and Libby, who I put together since there’s not a lot they get to do individually.  Credit where credit is due, Jane has managed to stick it out despite Bill getting her name wrong and barking orders that he assumes she’ll always understand.  Much like early introduction of characters for later use, it makes sense that Jane is used to Bill’s demands by now.  It would be different if this was the first time she had to take Virginia’s place, but given how she became the permanent new secretary back in “All Together Now,” she’s seen Bill and Virginia work long enough to understand how things operate.

Phallic Victories- Jane suggesting that Virginia attend Bill's presentation

Despite Bill being overly difficult, Jane has shown him nothing but patience.  She has a softer touch that Virginia, but is more useful than Adelaide was, even if Bill was unnecessarily mean to her.  Her going to Virginia for help against Bill’s wishes shows that she still wants them to maintain a connection.

Phallic Victories- Libby working in Bill's office

After weeks of Libby demanding that Bill be more involved in her life, particularly with this second pregnancy, she’s taken a big step by inserting herself into his job.  Libby took the initiative because she knew Bill would never ask her, and I can’t help but smile at the moment where she and Jane go through the records like a couple of schoolgirls.  It does bring up an interesting point- before, she told Bill that this study was nothing but numbers and things that could not be quantified.  With such a take on it, it surprised me that she’d want to get involved with the work.  But, as she said, she wasn’t doing anything at home, so it won’t kill her to help out.  She’s getting dangerously close to learning about the repetitive couple, so you know that won’t end well.  Though I like her line near the end of the episode where she states that Bill felt just right with her and how she wanted no other man once she met him.

Phallic Victories- Virginia at home

“Everybody loves Virginia” would have been a good episode title.  This episode showed just how much she’s needed by others because of her range of usefulness.  She can be sexual, practical and analytical, but never lose her fundamental character.  And those characteristics are just what someone like Dr. DePaul can benefit from.  Going up to a random group of women and bumming one of them for a cigarette just to get the conversation started shows how sociable Virginia is, but how smart she is as a research assistant.  Mentioning pap smears right off the bat would just alienate her and Dr. DePaul even more and kill any attempt they had at establishing any connections.

Virginia has not come off as one to complain about her lot in life, the way Dr. DePaul often does.  Sure, her children stress her out to the point of questioning her ability as a mother, as she did in “Catherine,” but, again, like Dr. DePaul, she persevered and became a stronger person because of it.

Having Virginia learn about Dr. DePaul’s cancer gives her a chance to grow as a research assistant.  Dr. DePaul may not like everything about Virginia’s personality, but she respects that she knows more about sex than the average woman.  Hence, Virginia would naturally be seen as the one who could continue Dr. DePaul’s work.  Like George mentioned, Virginia is ambitious and when she sets her sights on something, she’ll go after it.  The same applies to the cervical cancer study and even more so now that she’s learned one of her mentors has it.

One difference, though, is that Virginia, unlike Dr. DePaul, cannot fully devote herself to the work.  At least not yet, she can’t.  Virginia still has a family and she’s driven by them to pursue something to better herself, but it also divides her time.  Similar to when Virginia couldn’t devote time to the study group because she had to focus on her family and the study, her home life splits her focus.  It remains to be seen whether she can maintain a balance.  But if she’s able to, it begs the question of whether she would even need or want to return to Bill’s side.  Remember, Dr. DePaul warned Bill that if Virginia stood up on her own two feet, she could just walk away.  And she still can.

Phallic Victories- Virginia and Dr. DePaul talk about men

That said, her defense of Bill acknowledges that she respects him as a doctor and his ability to beat the system.  She could have just agreed with Dr. DePaul that Bill’s gender gives him an advantage, but she defended him.  Despite the fallout from last week, she still cares for him.

Whereas Bill may care a bit too much.  We have Bill adjusting to life without Virginia to the point that Jane’s name may as well have been Vir-Jane.  He’s disorganized, he’s more apologetic to Jane and Libby than he has been to Virginia, his thoughts are scattered and he’s unfocused.  More than that, he lacks the personal approach that Virginia has when it comes to study subjects, which may be why we never actually saw any subjects this week.

Bill’s all about numbers and data, which Virginia warned Jane about, since it distracts him.  Without Virginia around, Bill is less quick to think about the theatrics of sex.  The line about Bill being bogged down by statistics could have been just a throwaway, but it serves a greater purpose when Bill returns from Dr. Ditmer’s lecture and realizes that a bunch of data won’t hold an audience’s attention.  He needs a hook, something to captivate or at least interest the audience, so why not go with penis size and footage showing the inside of a woman’s vagina?

To go back to another episode for a moment, “Brave New World” opened the world of sexual exploration for both Bill and Virginia.  It showed what they could explore besides couples having sex or a person masturbating, but things such as multiple orgasms and recording self-pleasure.  It’s opened the study up beyond the doors of the hospital, or, for a brief moment, the brothel, and puts it on full display.  I feel that’s part of what Bill got at when he told Libby that there’s always something to prove.  Having a stamp of approval makes the work feel credible as opposed to seedy.

Phallic Victories- Bill talks with Ghost Virginia

The problem with this exploration of new ideas, such as enthralling a crowd with penis sizes, is that Bill compromises his integrity in the name of having something to show.  Ghost Virginia had him pegged when she said that he cut corners just to have something to present, when they both know that he’s a smarter and better man than that.  Only having twelve subjects on penis size is nowhere near conclusive, and Bill knows that, but he’s willing to make that sacrifice just to have a presentation.  Even when Virginia isn’t around, she’s still keeping him in check.

Phallic Victories- Bill and Libby sleep in separate beds

I’m glad to see Bill being a bit warmer with Libby than he has been when she’s at the hospital.  There’s genuine concern in his voice when she offers her services and you get the feeling he does want her to take it easy.  It didn’t feel like he refused her help because he doubted her ability.  And yet Libby looks just as deep into Bill’s soul as Virginia and Essie have.  When Libby mentions that the repeating couple fell in love, it shines a spotlight on Bill who, in a nice touch, has his back facing Libby during this scene.  Libby is now the third woman to spell out the guilt etched onto Bill’s face and it’s proving Essie right: the affair will come back to harm him and those he loves.

“Phallic Victories” put the focus square on the lives of William Masters and Virginia Johnson: what they’ve learned from each other, how they’ve influenced each other’s lives and how integral they’ve been to the people around them.  In the case of Virginia, she’s learned Bill’s method about how the system works, while Bill is trying to utilize Virginia’s taste for the fantastic in his presentation.  The episode also worked to the benefit of other characters, such as Dr. DePaul, as her study is now gaining legs and bringing her cancer into the open gives Virginia a greater incentive to help.  Bill and Virginia have impacted not just themselves, but their friends and family and this episode was a good way to show their usefulness to them.  The episode has its slow moments, as the Ethan and George stand-off isn’t all that interesting, but I had a good time.

A Look at Masters of Sex- Season 1, Episode 10: “Fallout”

So, you’ve paid your research assistant for each time you had sex with her in the name of science, as well as other reasons, your second has broken up with his girlfriend, who just happens to be the Provost’s daughter, your wife is pregnant without your help, and your mother has compared you to your sleazy father.  How’s your week been?

Last week’s “Involuntary” left us on an uncertain note about a few plot points that took a turn for the worst.  It was hard to watch Haas break up with Vivian, who wanted nothing but to be happy with him, but he did it for himself.  Masters paid Virginia to sever the bond and trust they’ve had, so one can only guess about how their relationship has changed since then.

Fallout- Bill and Virginia are snappy with each other

Or we can just dive right in.  The episode begins an undisclosed amount of time following the events of “Involuntary.”  Bill and Virginia still seem to work together just fine, but they’re a bit snappy with each other.  Where we began last week post-coitus, here, we begin with less pillow talk and more of a couple that argues like they’re on the verge of divorce.  Not good for the two subjects who watch the doctors argue like children.

Virginia notes that the individuals are screened individually, as per protocol, but Bill says nuts to that and skip the questionnaire.  They can take it home.  He wants the woman to remove the pins her hair since they’ll cause interference, but Virginia’s against it, noting that they’re only looking at male respiration during climax.  However, the woman, subject F-26-184, played by Anne Dudek, is multi-orgasmic and Bill discussed her sexual history while Virginia was off getting the questionnaires.  It would mean the group behind the current one is late, but they can wait a while.

Right from the start, we see that Bill and Virginia, despite being able to still work together, are at each other’s throats, challenging each other’s approach to the study they’ve invested so much time into and spending less focus on the actual patients.  It feels fresh, as if this happened the next day or a few days after “Involuntary,” as Virginia would naturally harbor that resentment and anger toward Bill, and Bill, unable to show a softer side most of the time, would respond with the same hostility.

Fallout- Ethan Haas tells Virginia about his future job prospects

We follow Virginia home when we find none other than Dr. Ethan Haas waiting on her bed.  He sent the babysitter home, while Henry and Tessa are fast asleep.  Virginia unloads about her day: turns out the female patient passed out during orgasm.  Surprise, surprise.  Haas shares a note he received about a position: he didn’t get it due to too many applicants.  Because Haas is only a fellow, once that ends, he’s out of a job, so he applied for a permanent staff position.  He’s liked by the patients and some of the staff, but maybe less so by Barton Scully due to, you know, breaking up with his daughter after getting engaged to her.  Though there’s no apparent connection between the two, Haas knows he needs to confront Barton about this.  Heck, turns out he may need to ask Bill, too.

Fallout- Hospital staff watches instructional film on atomic warfare

The next day, the hospital staff watches an instructional film about what to do if an atomic bomb drops, though Jane, for some reason, is the only one in the room taking notes.  A civil defense drill will take place tomorrow at 9 a.m.  Turns out President Eisenhower has declared a state of national emergency and threat of invasion.  Soviet airships have invaded United States’ airspace with many U.S. cities targeted.  As such, to prepare for a catastrophe, a series of simulated drills will take place.

Fallout- Margaret Scully and friends talk about the state of emergency

We return to Margaret Scully, whose spending an afternoon playing games with her girlfriends.  The state of emergency is fresh on their minds, but even scarier is what will happen if Eisenhower dies?  That means Richard Nixon would become President of the United States?  Perish the thought.  One woman who would be fine throughout all this emergency mess, they talk, is a woman named Peggy.  She and her husband, Donald, have everything they need, except for trust.  Donald had an affair with his dental hygienist.  Margaret believes that the divorce could be a blessing, but let’s not forget that Peggy is a 53-year-old woman in the 1950s.  She’ll lose the home while her friends are forced to take sides.

Fallout- Flora Banks tells Dr. Masters that she is three months pregnant

Back at the hospital, an unnamed woman enters Dr. Masters in hope of finding him.  She has a name, but more on that in a second.  Going by the advice of her sister, the woman tells William that she is three months pregnant.  There’s no husband, though, as it turns out that she was a participant in the study.

We don’t hear the rest of their conversation, though the woman does rush past Virginia, who has arrived with checks in tow.  Bill, with a bit of venom still in his tone, reminds her that she has the authority to sign the checks.  Virginia snaps back, telling Bill to not take out his anger and poor bedside manners on her because he lost a patient.  But Bill corrects her, noting that the woman was not a patient, but a participant in the study. The two then face off again, as Bill tells Virginia that they cannot release the name of the man responsible for getting her pregnant.  Anonymity is the bedrock of their work, he says, and they are ethically bound to safeguard identities.  Accidents are inevitable, but Virginia takes offense at the idea of a baby being an accident.  She deserves a right, but all of the participants signed a waiver.  As such, Bill and Virginia are not liable.

Fallout- Barton reveals that Haas failed his performance review

Barton Scully’s attempt at eating in the midst of this drill preparation is ruined by Haas’ arrival.  Barton lets Ethan know that Vivian is devastated, wondering what it is that she did wrong.  Haas asks that Barton separate the professional feelings from the personal, but Barton is bearing no such grudge.  He would have taken the board’s recommendation, but Haas failed the performance review because he lacked the character and professionalism to represent the institution.  Again, Haas thinks of Bill, but Barton walks off, telling Haas that Vivian dodged a bullet.

When Bill leaves his office, Virginia sneaks in, opens a safe and gets the name of the pregnant woman, who it turns out is named Flora Banks, played by Ashley Johnson.

Fallout- Austin Langham learns that Flora Banks is pregnant

We then cut to Austin Langham, who is unsuccessfully trying to hit on a female casualty- just go along with it- during more drill preparation.  He’s intercepted by Virginia, who lets him know that he is the father.  For all his philandering, Langham is legitimately surprised by this news.  After all, what if she had more than one partner?  But no, she only had one partner and there’s no husband or boyfriend.  Her diaphragm failed and in six minutes, 18 seconds, Langham helped put a child into Ms. Banks.  Also, Bill will have no involvement with this- Virginia plans to help any way that she can.

Fallout- Jane instructs hospital staff while wearing a helmet

Jane, meanwhile, instructs some of the women on what to do during an air raid siren if the bomb goes off.  Unfortunately, this is all taking place in Bill’s office, so he promises to give her a day off only if Khrushchev presses the button.  Oh, and everyone else get out.

Luckily, it’s drill time!  Everyone prepares for battle stations, hides under desks and so on.  Virginia just breezes through the hospital halls like it’s another day at work until a nurse urges her to get under a desk.  Seeing as Virginia has to find the nearest open spot, it’s unlikely she’d end up next to someone she knows, but some random orderly or-

Fallout- Dr. DePaul and Virginia end up under same table

-yeah, she ends up next to Dr. DePaul.  Conveniences aside, it gives the two a chance.  DePaul would like a bomb to actually hit the hospital, but she puts aside her humor to pass on to Virginia a letter she found waiting on her desk.  The pap smear proposal has been approved.  The higher-ups even gave Dr. DePaul a check, but it’s only for $600, which is not enough for medical equipment or a staff.  It’s enough for maybe a secretary and a few other things, but she needs more.  Virginia points out that, hey, it’s a start, and Rome wasn’t built in a day, but DePaul insists that it’s not enough.  She’s spent three months sucking up to the board, so Virginia suggests maybe DePaul could be pleasant.

Again, Virginia seems to not get why Dr. DePaul doesn’t like her.  Cervical cancer is not pleasant, DePaul notes, but Virginia counters that a little charm could go a long way.  An uphill climb shows that the work is important, and if anyone has the backbone to suck up to the Chancellor, it’s Dr. DePaul.

Fallout- Bill tells Langham that his anonymity is safe

Langham searches for Bill, whose been called away for an operation.  Unfortunately, the doctors with Bill are too into the drill and remain on the floor when he enters the operating room.  But Mrs. Gallagher’s fibroids, unlike the simulation, are very real, so he orders them up.  When Langham arrives, Bill, already on a short fuse, assures him that his anonymity is protected through an ironclad agreement, and sends him on his way.  When the drill ends, the doctor needed to aid with the procedure is in the ‘victims’ ward, so Bill will need a second.  One of the other doctors says that Dr. Haas is on his way, but Bill responds that Haas is not qualified to do a myomectomy.  That sort of goes against the other doctor who notes that Haas just performed that very same procedure two days ago, but either way, Dr. Haas will be there soon.

Fallout- Lester left hanging

And poor Lester just can’t catch a break with the women.  He’s recording footage for documentary purposes in case records are needed, like the relics at Pompeii.  When he asks the women to get under their desks, they assume it’s so he can film under their skirts, despite the awkward position he’d have to get the camera in to do that.  Anyway, he asks Jane to vouch for his recording prowess, but she shoots him down.  Sorry, Lester.  Maybe stick to the auteur theory.

Fallout- Margaret Scully meets with prostitute, played by Kristina Zbinden

Margaret observes a man talking to a prostitute at a hotel bar and, when the man leaves, tries to strike up a conversation.  The prostitute, played by Kristina Zbinden, eventually does hear out Margaret’s desire for advice on how to get Barton to love her.  After all, if Barton needs another man to help him get prostitutes, surely Margaret can learn a thing or two about their ways.  No jokes.  Men, the prostitute notes, are like cars: some you have to jiggle the key around, some ride hot, others need a jump start, they all have wheels, but you have to know what paddle to push.

So what did Barton like to do when he and Margaret did have sex during the Paleozoic Era?  Well, they never faced each other.  In fact, she faced the wall, as if he didn’t want to look at her.  Heck, when the two went on vacation, they were on a beach filled with topless women, but he never looked at any of them.

The prostitute immediately and correctly notes what almost everyone except Margaret has known all this time: Barton’s a homosexual.

Fallout- Bill and Ethan's confrontation

Mrs. Gallagher’s procedure is over, with the doctors complimenting Haas on his medical knowhow, which Haas accentuates in a successful attempt to goad Dr. Masters into talking to him.  When Masters orders the room clear, he and Haas talk.  Haas once respected Masters, but turns out the feeling wasn’t mutual.  Also, Bill sets the record straight: he doesn’t believe in miracles.  After 16 years of medical school and having her at his side all this time, did Haas expect him to never find out?

Haas thinks that Masters is talking about Virginia, but after Masters gives him a quick sucker punch to the face and a brief scuffle on the ground, Bill reveals he’s talking about Libby.  Haas does not falter, stating that not only would he cap her again, but he likes Libby and believes that she deserves to be a mother.

Fallout- Dr. DePaul tries being pleasant with Chancellor Fitzhugh

Later on, Dr. DePaul tries to put into action Virginia’s plan of being pleasant.  She shares the elevator with Chancellor Fitzhugh, played by Garrett M. Brown, and her hair is down.  Dr. DePaul’s hair is down.  All right, image change aside, she tries complimenting him on his red tie, which goes as far as you’d expect.  Next?

Golf!  She asks if he’s a member at Norwood Hills, which he is, but he can’t find the time to play.  When the conversation shifts to the study, DePaul notes that her work needs the support of a man of his stature and unique vision.  Yes, keep stroking the ego.  She offers to walk him through it, but it seems Dr. DePaul may be laying it on a bit too thick compared to her normal demeanor, as the Chancellor reminds her that he is a married man.

Well, that worked.

Bill gets yet another face off when he urges Virginia into his office to discuss Langham.  In short, keep him out of the pregnancy matter!  As Virginia is raising two kids on her own, whereas Bill is not, she feels he has no position to offer advice on the subject.  She says she offered Langham a choice, but to Bill, he trapped him.

But let’s have another drill!  Virginia goes off and runs into Haas, while Langham walks around the hospital, surveying all of the phony injuries, and appears to be losing it.  He spots Flora sitting on a bench outside, but that’s too much for him right now.

Fallout- Langham finds Margaret at the pool

So he heads to the hospital pool where Margaret is having a swim.  Good thing he remembered that she liked to swim.  Neither of them enjoys the end of the world talk and there’s a nice sense of ease between the two, almost as if they never ended their fling.  And even though the fling didn’t end on a good note, Langham joins Margaret in the water.

Fallout- Virginia meets with Flora Banks

Flora meets Virginia and insists that she’s not fishing for a husband, but as the baby is half his, she wants to know.  Virginia hands her an envelope, which does not have a name or information, but an undisclosed amount of money from the man who’s responsible.

Lester, meanwhile, continues filming until Jane walks into his shot.  Small talk leads to Jane apologizing for leaving him to dry earlier.  After all, if you’re facing global annihilation, the only person you can be held accountable for is yourself.  If it was the end, Lester would kiss Jane, which he does.  So there’s that little moment.

Fallout- Virginia confronts Bill about him paying her

As the drill winds down, Virginia needs to talk with Bill.  She knows about Libby’s second pregnancy and gives her congratulations, but she’s more there to talk about the money Bill gave her.  She says she never felt smaller than when he paid her and she has spent weeks trying to figure out why Bill would treat her like that.

Let me say that again: Bill made Virginia feel smaller than she ever has before due to him paying her, but she has spent weeks trying to understand why.  Remember that, because we’ll be coming back to that line.

Virginia spells it out clear that Bill gave her the money because he felt guilty.  He had formed an attachment to her.  Emotions clouded his judgment and this was never about the science.  They were having an affair, plain and simple.

So what’s Virginia’s trump card?  Subject F-26-132, Flora Banks.  She gave her a check of $2000 from the discretionary fund, which she has the authority to do.  And even though this could Virginia fired, there’s no need for Bill to do so: she quits.

Fallout- Virginia moves into Dr. DePaul's office

As Virginia moves her boxes, she enters Dr. DePaul’s office and notes the change in appearance.  Charming the Chancellor backfired, but maybe it’s time to charm the trustees.  Looks like the beginning of a strange, yet complicated relationship between Dr. Lillian DePaul and Virginia Johnson.

Back in Bill’s office, he packs up and leaves.  As he does, he overhears the radio news of the death and destruction caused by the bomb.  All is not well in America tonight, but the sole consolation is that it was only a test.

Subtle.

For me, much like “Involuntary,” “Fallout” is a mixed bag.  Like last week’s episode, there’s a lot to like and equally a lot to dislike.  We see the deterioration of several relationships play out and characters paying for their actions.  The revelations that characters discover advance their individual storylines, while also making room for them to advance.

Fallout- Ethan consoles Virginia

Oh, Dr. Ethan Haas, you continue to make my head hurt.  Last week, Ethan went in a positive direction to maintain his faith in order to have something to hold onto, but he’s still coming to terms with how he hurt Vivian, who is not seen at all in this episode.  It’s interesting how Ethan tries to explain to Barton that he still loves Vivian, but he never tries to explain why he ended the engagement.  Sure, saying he rediscovered religion won’t fly over well with the Provost, but it’s better than stepping on your toes while trying to explain why you dumped the Provost’s daughter.  Haas’ faith is never touched upon and it’s a shame because it was such a character building moment for him, now it’s like Barton thinks that Ethan dumped Vivian because things just didn’t work out.

As for his, yet again, friendship and relationship with Virginia, I don’t see anything coming of it.  Ethan and Virginia together just seem convenient.  They’ve both been damaged by important people in their lives and they find solace together.  The fact that weeks have passed since “Involuntary” makes it seem natural that Haas can just come into Virginia’s house, send home the babysitter and have Henry and Tessa in bed before their mother arrives.  And yet, it seems like they’re only together because that’s how this show started out with them.  Either Virginia has forgiven Ethan for hitting her in the very first episode or she’s just looking for some form of companionship and, given how she already has a connection with Haas, it makes sense that they reconnect.

Though, given Ethan’s attitude toward Libby, I’d want to see more of that friendship develop.  From their conversations, Ethan and Libby’s relationship feels very genuine: Ethan sees Libby as someone who just wants to be happy, and Libby gets from Ethan what she does not get from Bill: a doctor who treats her like a human instead of a patient.  It was a strong moment when he pointed out that he would have capped Libby again because he likes her and she deserves to be happy.  I could believe that he cares for Libby, but not in the same way he cares for Virginia or Vivian.  Granted, as both he and Bill have pointed out, it’s a violation of medical protocol, but good on him for taking a stand in an area that Bill would not dare approach.

Fallout- Ethan after scuffle with Bill

Haas’ ego and pride do irk me at times.  As evidenced with the woman with quadruplets during “Standard Deviation,” we know that Haas is someone who sees himself in competition with Bill, even though he once looked up to him as a mentor.  He’s made the best of his situation, even though he knew that his fellowship came with a time limit, and many people in the hospital appreciate his work.  There was no need for him to be smug and point out to Bill how much people like him, but I get that it’s there for him to get Bill to talk to him.

Also, Haas is some guy to tell Barton to separate his professional feelings from the personal.  Haas, the guy who dated and deflowered the Provost’s daughter and then claimed that she forced herself onto him, hit Virginia and is now trying to reestablish a relationship after claiming, multiple times, that their friendship was over, and violated medical protocol by impregnating his mentor’s wife just to make her happy, is talking about separating the professional from the personal?  Give me a break!  Though, given how he did not get the job due to his work ethic and not due to Vivian, I am curious as to how his relationship with Bill will develop.  Or crumble.

Fallout- Margaret at home

Separated from the rest of the cast and off in her world is Margaret Scully, who, last we saw her, wanted a divorce from her husband.  Well, Margaret seems to be in a much happier place among her girlfriends and I do like their banter.  It’s not as scandalous as Harriette talking about the study, but their interaction gives off the vibe that, no matter the circumstances, these women will remain friends for a long time.  Their chatter is very telling, not just of Margaret and Peggy’s situations, but even a callback to Betty during “Standard Deviation.”  When a divorce takes place, the woman loses everything.  Even though Margaret has a lot to gain through independence, she has much more to lose on a practical level if she tries to get through life without a husband.

I can understand why Margaret would speak so openly about divorce, given the lack of love in her own marriage, but she’s a smart woman and ought to know the implications divorce has on women in the 1950s.

Fallout- Margaret learns that Barton is a homosexual

That said, her reaction to the prostitute tells her that Barton is queer is mixed: it’s as if a giant burden has been lifted off of her shoulders, but it almost seems unbelievable at the same time.  Again, Barton has shown that he does care for Margaret and their marriage, he just does not make love to her.  However, it is good for Margaret to learn that her crumbling marriage had nothing to do with her.  Yes, her husband, like most men, is a car, but his key fits in the trunk as opposed to the ignition.

I am not sorry for typing that.

That said, her swim with Langham at the end is a bit too obvious with her pointing out that satellites don’t really flat, but are pulled down by gravity.

Before moving onto Langham, I think it’s worth pointing out that Margaret does not seem fazed at all by the end of her daughter’s relationship.  Any information regarding Vivian came from either Ethan or Barton, but not Margaret.  It’s an odd omission, to say the least.  In fact, as far as I know, aside from Margaret’s introduction and the Barton family dinner scene in “Brand New World,” there’s never been a moment where either parent has appeared with Vivian.

Fallout- Langham reacts to pregnancy news

Langham, you dog, you can’t seem to catch a break either, can you?  Well, Langham is Langham here, hitting on women when he can.  His fallout comes in the form of Flora’s pregnancy, but rather than accept responsibility and confront the woman, he runs to his second to last fling, assuming he didn’t hook up with another woman after the jeweler from “Love and Marriage.”  It’s not out of character, but it doesn’t make him likable, despite having some of the better lines of the episode.

Austin is a cheat, plain and simple.  If he and his wife were to ever get a divorce, he’d get through it no problem, so why another child in his life is an issue bothers me, mostly because we’ve seen that Austin is not faithful and can’t stick to one woman for long.  It’s funny how Virginia, who we know is a smart woman, is willing to help Austin, when she knows he’s a philanderer.  It makes me wonder why Masters and Johnson even considered bringing in Austin for the study in the first place, knowing he got around.  But hey, purity was never a qualification for participation.

Within the context of the episode, we see how the threat of nuclear war strikes fear in the hearts of the hospital staff.  Now a smaller bomb is set to go off in Langham’s life and he can’t bear it.  His walk through the hospital during the second drill is funny just for how lost he looks while wandering.  Another mouth to feed?  What do women want from him, anyway?  Won’t he be protected from this child he played a part in producing?

Fallout- Dr. DePaul in elevator with Chancellor Fitzhugh

Dr. DePaul gets a little more to do in that she’s not restricted to the classroom this week.  By the end of the episode, her acquaintance, let’s call it, with Virginia, has grown beyond that of disliking Virginia for using her looks to get ahead.  And while DePaul still does not respect Virginia for that very reason, it was a nice change of pace to see her try and warm up to the Chancellor.  Again, we’ve seen that her life is on the clock and she’s even more determined to achieve her goal, but she’s not willing to sacrifice her integrity.  That makes me happy that she stopped trying to pursue the Chancellor when she did, because it would have felt even more out of character than it already was for DePaul to compliment the Chancellor on his apparent red tie.

That said, her attempts to charm the Chancellor, changing her hair, letting Virginia work for her and admitting that she spent three months sucking up to the board help flesh out Dr. DePaul’s character and make her more than this frigid doctor who seems to have it out for any and every man in her profession.  I say that knowing that she’s done much to get to this point and faced a heck of a lot of adversity, so her frustration at blatant sexism is understandable.  I do wonder if Dr. DePaul still wants Virginia to fetch her coffee.

Fallout- Virginia quits

So Virginia quits.  Well, good on her for spelling out what’s written on Bill’s face, but what he won’t say: he used her for an affair.  I do wonder how long the show will allow Virginia to remain away from the study, given how integral she is.  Virginia is practical and down to earth.  She can speak in plain language to the subjects and help them feel at ease when Bill comes after them with medical jargon.  It’s what made her and Bill such a good match: each of them has something that the other needs.  Virginia needs a bit more rigidity and stability in her life, while Bill needs a bit of adventure and pathos to shake him from being this emotionless robot.

Virginia brings some normalcy to both the study and Bill’s life.  It’s when she gets into the study that she begins to emulate him, but she was the same independent woman we first met in the pilot.  Just when they began to grow close, the line between personal and professional blurred until their participation in the study became more about his interest in her.  It was an affair, plain and simple, not just for varied results, and a bold move on Virginia to call him out on that.  Like the events following Libby’s miscarriage, she’s one of the few people at the hospital who tell him what he needs to hear.

Her decision to help out Flora is mixed to me: Virginia is a single mother, raising two kids.  She understands the difficulty, not burden, of raising a child by yourself, but she’s still obligated to maintain the code she and Bill agreed to.  It’s this human side that Masters currently lacks and it shows why Virginia is so integral to the study, not just because she can relate to the women, but because she’s more approachable.  It’s probably a good thing that Austin decided not to sue the two of them, though.

Fallout- Bill called out by Virginia about payment

Bill, you’ve been caught.  Last week, Essie told him to lay off the affair because it would hurt the people around him, and that’s very clear here.  From his snapping at Virginia, willingness to go against his own protocol by skipping the questionnaire, sucker punching Ethan, Bill is self destructing as the fallout from last week plays out in force.  While it’s nice that he always knew that Libby, who is absent in this episode, was pregnant, I’m still unsure why he’s so afraid of parenthood, given the emotional state he was in at the end of “Catherine.”  Whether this has more to do with his past is unknown to me, but Masters’ actions have come back to haunt him.

Also, Masters had to have known that ‘complications’ like pregnancies were inevitable in a study where participants have sex.  Of all the possible angles he’d considered, this had to be one of them.  No way would Masters overlook that, given how calculating he is.  His flashes of anger are balanced out when he reverts back to clinical, doctor mode when he tells Flora that he has an obligation to maintain the confidentiality of his clients.  Also, not liable for any unintended consequences.  What a shock.  At least he’s able to reassure Langham that, even though he impregnated a woman that’s not his wife, he’s got nothing to worry about.

Bill finds himself at odds and even direct competition with Haas, not just for Virginia, but also his wife.  Again, Ethan provides Libby with that balance of being both a doctor and loving man in her life at the same time, but Bill could only be both when prodded by Virginia.   Bill does understand Libby and others around him.  It’s part of the reason he undertook the study in the first place: to understand people around him even more, but he has to start looking at them as more than numbers or anything that can be quantified.  It’s exactly what Libby told him last week when he learned about the pregnancy.  All the advice and words from Libby and Essie, the two closest women in his life, came back on him in the worst way possible and it shattered one of the closest connections he had formed.

Fallout- Jane apologizes to Lester

Jane gets to have some fun as hospital hall monitor, giving out advice on how to deal with an air raid strike, but it’s mostly to have her wear a helmet that does not go well with her.  She also gets a brief moment with Lester in the form of a kiss. It adds nothing to the overall plot, but I suppose it’s a cute moment.

There’s more to be said about all of this, but I’m rambling again, so I’ll just focus on my major gripe of the episode.

All right, so Virginia said that she’d spent weeks trying to figure out why Bill made her feel the way he did with the money.  Weeks, not hours or days.  So this episode takes place weeks after the events of “Involuntary” and they are still having issues?  Even more so than that, this is the first time they’ve had a conversation about what happened between the two of them?  Are we to believe that for weeks, Bill and Virginia have been snapping at each other without fitting in time to discuss their feelings?

Fallout- Bill and Virginia are short with each other

I’m supposed to believe that William Masters and Virginia Johnson are so petty that they’ve been at each other’s necks, breaking protocol and such, for weeks?  That’s a huge problem for me because these two have been willing to discuss other matters before.  After the events of the miscarriage, Virginia told him that he hadn’t discussed it and needed to take a vacation to get away from the hospital.  They sorted out the matter without hesitation, and though Virginia had to initiate the conversation, it didn’t feel like much time had passed since the miscarriage.  So what’s this episode’s excuse?  Lazy writing?  I hope not because I find it to be a huge plot hole that these two characters have been harboring these emotions for weeks without discussing them, yet have been more than willing to do so with other matters.  It’s too convenient for Virginia and Bill to suddenly decide now is the time to talk about it when they’ve had weeks to do so.

Same goes for Ethan.  If he knows that his future profession could be in jeopardy, why wait until now to talk to Barton regarding Vivian?  Wait, maybe he spent those weeks studying Judaism. I get it.

“Fallout” is an aptly named episode.  We see the consequences of character actions play out in the middle of an ongoing threat of Soviet invasion.  You know, for those real life connections.  Masters and Johnson are in a difficult place now with Johnson now working for Dr. DePaul and Masters without his research assistant.  Also, no telling whether Margaret and Austin are about to relight the fire under their fling, or when Margaret will confront Barton.  Again, it’s that one line about this taking place weeks after “Involuntary” that bugs me, but all in all, a decent showing for Masters of Sex.

A Look at Masters of Sex- Season 1, Episode 9: “Involuntary”

“Involuntary” is a deceptive episode.  The production is much brighter and cheerier than the past few episodes.  Last week, we got to see Dr. Haas and Vivian somewhat take the first step toward matrimony, Margaret Scully took a step toward independence and Libby got to enjoy the fact that she is pregnant again.

While some of those happier moments continue along this week, “Involuntary,” through some bumps and stumbles, has characters making big decisions that test those around them and, like last week, show how walking the fine line between work and love can be treacherous.

Involuntary- Bill and Virginia, post-coitus

The episode begins post-coitus, as Bill and Virginia have their version of pillow talk: discussing moments of numbness, Virginia cutting her nails, and, oh, the scar on Bill’s back that came from Virginia scratching him.  On top of this, performance evaluations are soon due.

Busy as Bill is, he doesn’t have time to relax at home because Libby rushes into the bathroom to vomit.  In a rare show of concern, Bill asks whether Libby has a bug or flu, but Libby changes the subject to Bill’s mother.  She wants the two of them to reconnect.  Bill writes it off, saying he’ll do it eventually, but Libby insists.

Involuntary- Jane is super enthusiastic due to performance evaluations

Back at the hospital, Bill and Virginia go over physical responses from patients.  The question is now whether such reactions are just assumed to be passion or part of an involuntary pattern.  Before the two can discuss this any further, in comes Jane with an unannounced pot of coffee and apricot danish.  Of course, Bill has to write up an evaluation on Jane as well, so she’s being super enthusiastic.  Seeing that Bill is not enthused about writing yet another evaluation, Virginia offers to write Jane’s, leaving Bill to write one for her.  Going back to the study, Bill proposes bringing in Lester to film the participants to see their reactions.  Also, it never hurts to have a visual record of their work.  Problem is, as Virginia points out, that this has been all anonymous up until this point.  So who would agree to being filmed?

Involuntary- Ethan and Vivian at cake store

Meanwhile, Ethan Haas awaits Vivian’s arrival at a cake store.  One of the attendants goes through some cake types until Haas insists that cake is cake.  Clearly Haas has never been married.  Or a woman.  For, as the woman notes, he’s getting ready for the biggest day of his life.  You can never prepare too much for that.  When Vivian finally arrives, she explains that she’d been held up by a patient due to his anteater looking penis. Haas explains that it’s foreskin, meaning he’s uncircumcised.  So yeah, turns out Haas’ parents were Jewish, but he himself never observed the faith.  He doesn’t see it as a big deal or reason to ruin Vivian’s dream of being married in a church.

Involuntary- Virginia proposes filming idea to Jane

Virginia brings the film idea to Jane and explains that the purpose of filming is to capture neuromuscular responses, such as hands, feet and stomach contractions. Jane, however, has a few ground rules: shooting from the right and no showing her rump or her appendix scar.  Oh, and she wants it in writing, like a movie star would.  She’s still hesitant since, compared to seeing her tunnel, there’s the possibility that someone will recognize her body, even though Virginia promises that Lester will avoid those things.

Involuntary- Essie invites Libby to play cards with her girlfriends

Ann Dowd is back as Mama Masters as Essie invites Libby to a game of cards with some of her girlfriends.  Widows, to be specific, since couples don’t want you anymore when you’re not part of a set.  When Essie asks Libby to fetch an urn at the top of a shelf using a step ladder, Libby refuses and it doesn’t take long for Essie to put two and two together.  Libby still hasn’t told Bill, but insists that he and Essie try to make up.

Involuntary- Students in Dr. DePaul's class want Virginia to lead their study group

Dr. DePaul hands out the scores for the exam and, as expected, most of them are abysmal except for Virginia, who scored a 99 percent, which goes against DePaul writing a 100 percent on her test at the end of last week’s episode, but whatever.  One student is not pleased with his score or the fact that DePaul would read scores aloud, but she does offer an alternative method she herself experienced: write the scores out in blood on their lockers.  And then, in a very sitcom-like moment, two students offer Virginia a chance to not just join their study group, but lead it.  Right.

Involuntary- Bill deflects Essie when she tries to talk to him

Back at House Masters, Essie and Bill talk, though Bill tries, to no avail, to deflect Essie from engaging him in conversation.  When trying to get Bill to open up fails, Essie goes as far as asking him why he spends so many late nights at work.  Bill does tell her about the sex study, but while Essie seems perplexed, she isn’t shocked or turned off by it.  In fact, she wants to learn more.

This kind of setup in television or film usually leads to awkward confrontations.

Vivian and Ethan meet with a priest in order for Vivian to gain some clarity on Judaism.  Her brief visit to an Orthodox Temple- an unnecessary scene, I might add- got her nowhere, so she wants to learn more before Ethan converts.  Ethan, however, has no issue with it.  He just needs a sponsor who will help him foster his spiritual connection.  After studying the Bible, he’ll receive the Holy Sacrament and accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  Seems easy enough, right?

Involuntary- Vivian with study group

With the study group, the boys learn that Virginia got such a high percentage through the magic of studying.  She’s gone as far as prepping notes for them, but that’s as far as their similarities go, as it becomes clear here just how different Virginia is from her colleagues.  Not only is this her first time going through the course for her undergraduate degree, but she’s also got a full time job, pays for tuition out of pocket and has kids.  Not the typical student the others expected in the anatomy course.

Involuntary- Essie and Libby talk of birds and happy endings

Essie and Libby deal with the body of a bird that ran into the window.  Libby then springs a surprising question to Essie: what’s the worst thing she ever did?  Before Essie can explain, Libby says that she has done a bad thing, but it was to stay alive, so the ends must have justified the means.  When Libby’s mother died, her father vanished.  Just up and left Libby and her sister, their dad did.  Sometime later, a neighbor found out that he had moved to Virginia.  Having been denied a family then, Libby concedes that she still wants to have that family now, to have that happy ending.  Essie agrees, stating that it’s time for Libby’s happy ending.

Involuntary- Lester films Jane pleasuring herself, will have problems having film developed

And while it’s not exactly another end that we cut to, we do end up on Jane’s naked body as she pleasures herself, Lester filming the process at her side while Bill and Virginia look on.  The two note the amount of responses Jane had and look forward to Lester having the film developed.  Problem is that Lester could get away with having the footage of the inside of Jane’s vagina processed because it was inside.  He could get away with fooling the tech crew into thinking it was a laryngoscopy.  This, however, could be interpreted as smut or porn.  No, it’s not the first sex act on film, but Lester does offer Bill and Virginia an alternative for having the film processed.

Involuntary- Essie dines at Bill's job

But before anyone can make another move, Mama Masters arrives and, true to her word, wants to learn more about the study.  Luckily she brought dinner, so there won’t be an awkward silence when she asks Jane and Lester if they masturbate.  Well, Lester at least waits until he’s at home.  Bill, again, is not for opening up, so Virginia expounds on the nature of the study.  Actions like grabbing and scratching aren’t signs of desire, they’re involuntary.  Essie notes that Bill is avoiding the black olives in his food, something he never did before, but Virginia seems to have known that detail about Bill like she was his mother.  In fact, why stop with how much Virginia knows about her boss?  Time to dig into the evaluation, which Virginia reads aloud and is surprised to find Bill gave her a healthy amount of praise.

Involuntary- Adult film store owner hits on Virginia

Bill won’t be the only man of the evening to compliment Virginia. The two of them head to a seedy adult film store in order to have the film developed.  The clerk explains that it will take a few days, but they need it now.  Not to mention Jane was very protective of having footage of her seen.  It will cost extra, but Bill and Virginia insist.  When the clerk implies the footage is of Virginia, Bill, in another rare flash of anger, seizes the man and orders him to get the film developed.  Now.

Involuntary- Vivian and Ethan continue to talk religion before Ethan backs the car into a man

Vivian appears to be the only one between herself and Ethan taking the religion work necessary.  Ethan is very nonchalant about it to the point where Vivian wonders if it’s indifference.  But then, Vivian wants to get married in a church and go to Heaven, so he’ll do it.  He begins there in the car by constantly proclaiming that the Lord Jesus Christ is his savior.  Luckily, Thou Shalt Not Strike Another Human Being with Your Automobile is not a Commandment, so Haas doesn’t feel too bad when he realizes he’s backed into a man behind him.  No.  He just faints, but he’s a doctor, so he’ll be okay.

Virginia’s isolation woes become more apparent when one of the guys from the study group is awaiting her.  Turns out she missed a study session due to work and she can’t fit into their schedule because she works at night and they have class during the day.  Quick solution?  Let them copy her notes.

Involuntary- Women at baby shower don't allow Virginia into their circle

But Virginia’s not out of the woods yet.  In the cafeteria, the women are holding a baby shower for one of the secretaries.  Jane offers to open up a spot, but the others are hesitant about letting Virginia into their circle, so she ends up eating by herself.

Until Dr. DePaul joins her and the two connect.  Well, as much as DePaul can connect with anyone.  She knows the feeling.  During her first year of medical school, she didn’t sit with her male students or the nurses.  So instead she focuses on the work because that’s what endures.

To Bill’s irritation, Essie has once again come to his place of work, but this time she’s got something on her mind that cannot be shared at home.  The worst thing she did was not speak up about what happened to Bill as a child.  Her husband was sexual, but not with her.  He had a secretary that he fooled around with but Bill cuts her off before she can fully make the connection between him and Virginia.  Of course, she, again, has already put two and two together and reminds Bill that his father was what he wanted to be, but Bill still has a chance to talk to Libby and fix this mess.

Elsewhere in the hospital, a doctor explains to Ethan that his vitals are fine.  When Vivian leaves, the patient next to Ethan shows him two cards: one with St. Jude and the other of St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things.  Ethan says he’s not into religion, but the man counters that being a doctor is a sort of religion.  He asks Ethan what he wanted to be when he was a child.  Turns out Ethan had a thing for baseball, but his parents wanted him to be a doctor.  He ended up floating that way and the one time he tried to go on a gut reaction for something, he got shot down.  Only the young think that floating is an option, but, as the man explains, floating is just for boats.

Involuntary- Libby tells Bill that she and the baby are his echo, also attacks Bill's study on the grounds that it's sex, not humanity

At House Masters, Bill and Libby face off.  Bill doesn’t go into detail about Essie’s visit, but they both acknowledge that they have secrets.  Bill, without Libby saying a word, figures that Libby is pregnant again.  He’s baffled as to why and even doubts it, but Libby goes on the offensive, throwing back everything Bill said about her uterus being incompatible with conception, yet it happened.  The fact that there is a child inside her is what matters.  But Libby’s not done yet: she attacks his study, claiming that it’s sex, but no humanity.  Sex is life, not physiology or an orgasm.  It can’t be measured.  Without that work, he’s lost.  But Libby, the baby inside her, they’re the echo.

Involuntary- Ethan unsure about his future with Vivian

Back with Ethan and Vivian, Ethan turns down ham for breakfast.  He reflects on his father and grandparents.  His father never ate bacon, but Ethan did and he never understood why it bothered his father because he never asked.  Vivian grows nervous, but Ethan admits that he has no plan to convert.  He’s doing it for her because, up until this point, religion never factored into why Vivian loved him.  After all, she picked him.  She still does care for him and says that they’ll raise their kids together, as any parent would, but Ethan wants to care about something.  The Ethan who earlier said that the man Vivian would marry is nothing now wants something to hold onto.  And while Vivian may have been the woman Ethan wanted when he was 20, now he’s not so sure.

Involuntary- Virginia and a nervous Jane watch the footage of Jane masturbating

Jane tries to watch the footage of herself while nervously taking drags on a cigarette.  Unable to even look the footage for long, she abruptly turns it off, and while Virginia is more fascinated by the discoveries and reactions within the video, Jane is not so enthusiastic.  Yes, it’s her in that video, but she can’t tell that it’s her.  Those are her spasms, but something is just…off.  Jane admits that she’s no saint: she likes having sex with men and feeling the weight of a man on her body, as if she’s just millions of nerve endings.  That feeling is how she knows what sex is.  The footage, however, is far from sex.  She doesn’t call it smut or porn or tasteless, but the implication is there.  She doesn’t want the film out there and asks that Virginia destroy it.

So, of course, Virginia consults with Bill and explains that not only does Jane not want others to see the footage, she returned the extra money she’d been paid for the extra work.  In the name of science, Virginia volunteers to do the work herself.  Just one condition: Bill is the only one in the room.

Involuntary- Virginia dresses and Bill about to pay her for participation

When the work is done, Bill, guilt displayed on his face, sits in silence until Virginia enters his office.  He hands her an envelope of money, more money than Bill usually pays her.  He explains that it’s for her participation in the filming tonight and for each time the two of them have participated in the study together, including the money that would have gone to Jane.  Virginia laughs it off, thinking it’s a joke, but Bill is dead serious.  No way will he have her do for free what others paid to do.  After all, it is his study.  Virginia, of course, counters that it’s their study and proclaims that she will not sell herself.  She leaves, not taking the money with her.

And winds up crying in her car.  And who should find her crying but Dr. Haas?

We end with Virginia writing her own performance review while Bill, at home, watches the footage of Virginia pleasuring herself.

Oh, “Involuntary” is an interesting episode.  There’s a lot I liked about it, things I did not like about it and parts that frustrated me.  The dramatic, confrontational moments were the highlights and, like last week, characters made big decisions that progress their storylines and allow them to stand on two feet, rather than let their actions be dictated by others.

The idea of desire versus involuntary responses is prevalent throughout.  We want characters to make choices on their own that they’re comfortable with as opposed to just being reactionary, and that’s what we got with Dr. Haas and Vivian this week.

Now, to be clear, I’m still ever perplexed by Haas and even more so with Vivian this week as I’ve ever been.  After Vivian singing “Love and Marriage” in the kitchen, her overjoyed reaction at Ethan’s engagement, her complete dedication to him a few episodes ago, her being comfortable with Ethan taking her virginity, none of that seems to have mattered this week when it came to Haas’ religion.  I’m not assuming that Vivian is, in any way, anti-Semitic, but her strong reaction to Ethan telling her that he is Jewish strikes me as odd.  There’s nothing that ever indicated that Vivian, or even Barton and Margaret, have issues with other religions.  Religion, like race, is a prevalent topic matter in society around the time this show is based, but it has not been touched upon until now.  And what I don’t get is why Vivian, for all her declaration of love and devotion to Ethan, would suddenly take issue with a faith he never considered himself a part of.  Granted, Ethan’s Judaism was not a deal breaker, as he himself seemed more than willing to convert for her sake, but it feels overdramatized.

This is made very clear through Vivian’s visit to the Orthodox Temple, a scene that I feel could have just been relegated to a mention.  There’s nothing to the scene other than Vivian being kicked out of a temple, which leads to her sitting on a bench, crying.  Other than, I guess, showing that Judaism can, at times, be exclusive, there’s nothing to it.  Also, if Vivian has issues with Haas’ religion, I have to ask why she’s so quick to wanting to convert him to Catholicism.  She’s not trying to save his soul from damnation, so why the rush?

And then there’s Ethan himself, who baffles me from week to week.  Sometimes he’ll make good decisions and say the right thing, but then he’ll put his foot in his mouth.  For all of Ethan’s talk with Langham last week about a woman standing by a man no matter what, he seems unwilling to do the same for Vivian despite how nonchalant he is about conversion.

Involuntary- Ethan learns his vitals are fine, roommate talks of religion

Though I’m not a fan of his flip-flopping, Haas strikes me as an interesting character because, unlike Bill, he’s more often willing to call out and accept his flaws, as seen when he tells Vivian that “The man you are going to marry is nothing.”  While I’m glad he made the decision to stick with Judaism for the sake of giving something in his life a purpose, I’m not a fan in the way it’s executed.  By this, I mean the conversation Ethan has in the hospital with the patient next to him.  The conversation serves a purpose, but, like Langham’s psychiatrist, it’s another example of a character telling someone something about their life that they could have figured out by themselves.

Involuntary- Vivian learns that Ethan is breaking up with her

Ethan comes off as very odd to me.  One day, he’s out to prove himself to Vivian, and now that he’s proven himself in another way, it’s led to the end of their relationship and the beginning of his growth as a man coming to terms with his faith.  Yes, it’s a sad way to just drop Vivian after all of the build-up and her excitement about the engagement, so if you want to knock off sympathetic points toward Ethan on that regard, I’ll give you that one.  But, again, I like that he’s making a choice that will help define his character and make him go beyond the coasting young man that the hospital patient saw him as.  As opposed to floating through life and letting others dictate his actions for him, Ethan has taken it upon himself to make this decision.  There are still areas where he needs work, but more on that in a second.

Involuntary- Jane wants Virginia to destroy footage of her masturbating

I was surprised to see Jane come to terms with her decision regarding the study and being recorded.  As much praise as I give Allison Janney for her performance as Margaret Scully, Helene York deserves just as much for her work as Jane.  She’s fun to watch on screen and unpredictable with what she’ll say or do.  We know she’s self conscious, proving that with the ground rules in which she wants to be filmed.  And we know not only is she smarter than some would give her credit for, but her assisting Virginia during “Brave New World” showed that she has much to contribute to the sex study.

But as eager as Jane has been throughout the show’s run, this was one of the few moments where we saw her hesitate.  Her reluctance to being seen masturbating on film, even though her face is not shown, shows that she’s still self-conscious about her image.  After all, she has that great moment near the end of the episode where she tells Virginia that she’s not perfect and just likes the sensation of sex.  Having it on film for the world to see almost makes it seem like smut.  In a way, Jane would be no different from the adult film actress that Bill and Virginia watched at the adult film store.

Though she’s interested in helping out for the good of science, Jane strikes me as a person who would rather do first and ask questions later.  Last week, it wasn’t until Virginia compared having the inside of her vagina filmed to hand models on commercials that Jane was on board with the filming.  Let’s not forget that she gave her vagina the nickname “Beav St. Marie.”  But now that she’s seen it, and that more of her body is shown, it looks and feels dirty.  Jane’s been willing to do very compromising things that many women would turn down, but she does it for the good of the study and believes she has something to contribute.  Yet all that confidence seems to have washed away once she sees herself, almost as if shame has gotten rid of her eagerness to participate.  For each time Jane has anticipated something for Bill and Virginia before they even request it, that desire to be ready for anything could not have prepared her for watching and almost being disgusted by watching herself masturbate.

Involuntary- Jane openly discusses masturbation

Virginia’s husband referred to her as a liberated sexual goddess.  In a way, I sort of see Jane embodying that same personality, but without the added baggage of an ex-husband, kids or trying to find the balance between undergraduate studies and a full time job.  Jane knows her body and what she likes.  And, like with Langham, she’s not afraid to call people out on their problems.  I’m glad that she’s not one hundred percent on board with everything Bill and Virginia propose, as that goes against their expectations and shows that she isn’t just a people pleaser.

And I suppose that’s where we transition to Virginia, whose now just trying to find somewhere to fit.  Within the study itself, she’s beginning to show the early levels of fascination and wonder for the study that Bill first had during a flashback in “Standard Deviation.”  She’s truly devoted herself to the study and has adapted to the research assistant title, but it’s the one place where she feels comfortable.

Of course, Virginia is doing just fine in Dr. DePaul’s class, but again, I’m not a fan in the way this is all executed.  When it’s revealed that Virginia has the highest score, some of the boys want to for a study group.  This is something I’d expect from a normal sitcom, where all the students try to offer favors, friendship or any other type of treat to the smartest kid in class in exchange for their smarts.  And I don’t like that because Masters of Sex has been able to avoid using any sort of sitcom tropes.  Side-note, given the test scores in the class, I have to wonder how the students in Dr. DePaul’s class have progressed to this point with those marks.

Involuntary- Virginia eats with Dr. DePaul

This episode showed that Virginia, like Dr. DePaul, does not comfortably fall into any sector outside of her job.  Aside from Jane, none of the secretaries seem fond of her, which is odd, considering how Virginia was just one of them and, to my knowledge, has done nothing to earn their spite.  So now she’s been isolated and buries herself within the work.  She’s going down the path we already see Dr. DePaul on now, though DePaul seems to have at least garnered some appreciation for Virginia, despite seeing her as unworthy of being called a Doctor.  We understand that Virginia is an anomaly amongst the other women, but it’s that unique identity of hers that gives her confidence and the ability to look past people criticizing her.  Not so much this week.

The study group is an example of that: Virginia could not possibly believe she related to any of her classmates when she’s only in this for her undergraduate degree and is raising two kids by herself, but it shows how impossible it is for her to make acquaintances.  Her friendships with Jane and Libby, as well as her respect for Dr. DePaul, give us snippets into the woman Virginia could be if she always displayed the wit, intelligence and care for others that she shows these three women.  Virginia has no reason to be apologetic about not always being available for the study group.  As much as she wants to complete her undergrad, she knew what she was getting into with a demanding course that could conflict with the study.  And now that she’s written in her performance evaluation that she becomes too emotionally invested, I have to wonder if she’ll start distancing herself.

Involuntary- Essie calls out Bill's apparent infidelity

Now I’ll get to the relationship between Bill and Virginia in a minute, but for now, let’s return to Essie Masters.  Despite how frigid Bill has been toward her, I’m glad Essie is making an effort to connect with him, even if she’s not being met halfway.  Is it too convenient that, after a few seconds, she’s able to figure out both that Libby is pregnant again and that Bill is interested in Virginia?  Yes, but her interactions with them kick off the confrontation between them later on in the episode.

Essie’s presence is key this week because, by having her around, we’re allowed to see Libby open up about her desire for a happy ending.  Essie displays the warmth and affection that Bill only shows Libby in flashes.

While her apology about not speaking out when Bill was a child felt a bit heavy-handed, it does serve a purpose by allowing her to shine a spotlight in Bill’s apparent infidelity.  The look of silent shock and anger on Bill’s face as Essie compares him to his father is a great moment and I like how Essie never backs down, despite Bill’s cold demeanor.  Between this and not budging when Bill admits that the study is about sex, Essie shows that she wants to form a genuine relationship and won’t allow any thrown up barriers to stand in her way.

I’m assuming Libby no longer has need for Walter’s presence and she’s given up dancing since that subplot is not brought up this week.  As happy as I was to see Libby enjoying herself, this week we dig more into her background through her story of being abandoned by her father.  We see Libby’s desire to maintain a family and have a happy ending, but the writing came off as clumsy.  I mean, really.  Her father moved to Virginia, the state, of all places?  Come on, writers, you’re smarter than that.  Don’t spoon feed me a metaphor or foreshadowing.  There are better ways to write that a character has daddy issues.

Involuntary- Libby about to argue with Bill

That said, the face-off between Bill and Libby is one of my favorites of the episode.  Libby, again, is standing up for herself and rebutting Bill’s cold, clinical attitude through her emotion.  It harkens back to the moment during “Brave New World” when she sent him back to St. Louis while she remained in Miami because she wanted to relax, but he just wanted to work.  She goes for the jugular by attacking his work, calling sex something that can’t be measured or quantified.  Though Bill takes great pride in his work, Libby reminds him that, at the end of the day, she and the baby are his echo.  They’re extensions of him, and while he may be lost without his work, he still has them.

Caitlin Fitzgerald is great in this moment and the frustration heard in Libby’s voice hints, again, at something bubbling underneath the surface.  You get the feeling that, while Libby is lashing out at Bill, she’s still holding back and I like how the writers are allowing her to become more combative with Bill.  Sure, it may have been wrong for her to continue the cervical capping behind Bill’s back, at least from her point of view, but it’s no different than Bill blaming just her for their inability to produce a child.

Oh, Bill.  You do one thing right one week, then you flub it.  Go back to softer, warmer husband we saw during “All Together Now.”

I’ve read many reviews with people saying they don’t like Bill because of his cold, clinical personality.  And yes, that characteristic is accurate, what I like about him is that he’s so complex.  Despite being a man of science, he doesn’t always know what to do next.

Since the show began, we’ve seen Bill as a man who treats his wife like a patient or test as opposed to his wife.  Rarely do we see the two of them attempt to have sex and only through prodding by Virginia, who he can now have sex with in the name of science, does he display some warmth, but he still has barriers thrown up.  “Catherine” was an example of those emotional barriers being broken down, but here it’s about the ever deteriorating relationship between himself and his wife, and even Essie, to an extent.

Bill prides himself on his work to the point of elitism and it’s when someone doesn’t just roll over and accept his ego without question that he hesitates.  For example, he didn’t expect Essie to ask about the study or even be fine with it after he explained it.  He didn’t even think Essie would be interested, as far as I can tell.  The relationship between Bill and Essie weighs a lot on their past, which is expounded upon here.  I don’t like the fact that Bill tries to shut Essie down when she compares him to his father when he has to know that his infidelity will end up hurting him, Libby and Virginia.  Like the tightrope Bill and Virginia walk when separating work from emotion, Bill has to juggle two women and he’s unable to fully devote to them both.  This creates a clear conflict of interest due to his feelings for Virginia.

Involuntary- Bill's anger as adult film store owner hits on Virginia

Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan are still great together and their characters have developed a friendship beyond employer and employee.  The scene where Bill shows a flash of anger at the clerk when he makes a remark about Virginia is very telling: he’s protective of Virginia, but at the same time, he doesn’t fully see her as an assistant so much as he sees her as part of the study, not contributing to it.  When he says to Virginia that it’s his study, she has to correct him, a reminder that pretty much says ‘Hey, Bill, you moved me from secretary to research assistant for a reason, now start treating me like one.’

Involuntary- Bill watches footage of Virginia

Bill is at odds with the three immediate important women in his life and it reaches a breaking point by episode’s end when he pays Virginia not just for her work that evening, but each time they’ve had sex.  Virginia ends up feeling the way that Jane felt when she watched herself masturbate and it make sense that she would think it was a joke at first.  There’s no way that Bill would willingly cooperate and have sex with her all this time in the name of science, but then give her an envelope of money for her work.  On a brief aside, if Virginia didn’t want the money for her work, chances are she could have used it to pay tuition for Dr. DePaul’s class, but I digress.

Bill and Virginia participating in the study themselves from the beginning was destined to cause problems and we see those issues head on this week.  As emotionally distant as Bill can be, he can’t be doing that good of a job if Essie found out in just one scene that he had an interest in Virginia.  He can’t be doing that good of a job at most things, really: as a doctor, he couldn’t tell from Libby vomiting that she may be showing signs of pregnancy and just passed it off as a bug.  Granted, Libby’s not showing yet, but if she’s never had any type of bug before, as far as we’ve seen, you’d think Bill would at least guess at her being pregnant.

Involuntary- Virginia volunteers herself for the study while Bill films her

Also, Bill is again using Virginia or some aspect in her life for his own satisfaction.  First, he interviewed her husband after hours during “Thank You For Coming” in order to learn more about her take on sex, and now he’s at home, watching the footage of her masturbating like some kind of voyeur.  It’s maddening, but it just makes Bill so complicated, yet interesting to watch.  There’s clear guilt in his voice when he hands Virginia the money, not unlike telling Betty about the bad news about her procedure, and it hurts him, but he succeeds in shattering some of the bonds they’ve forged.  Will it drive him to devote more time and love to Libby?  No way of knowing that.

Involuntary- Ethan finds Virginia crying in her car

But will this drive Virginia back to Dr. Haas?  It seems possible, given how he found her crying in her car.  Side-note, what in the world was Ethan still doing at the hospital, anyway?  Is he going to try and rekindle whatever fire they had after proclaiming to Vivian that things were over between them?

“Involuntary” was a mixed bag for me.  The character development, as always, is very strong and the actors still bring their A-game, but the writing felt uneven and too heavy handed, as if the writers need to spell things out for the audience when they should give us more credit, given what we’ve seen from this show so far.  Still had its funny moments, but some of the writing did hurt an otherwise good episode.