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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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-
-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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.