A Look at Masters of Sex- Season 2, Episode 4: “Dirty Jobs”

Just consequences all around this week. Secrets spill out and we get one uncomfortable moment after another. “Dirty Jobs” is another strong installment with good performances throughout. Unlike “Fight,” where Bill and Virginia battled each other, here, they battle everyone around them. The results are not in their favor.

Dirty Jobs- Virginia in dream sequence

The episode begins with Bill and Virginia discussing Freud’s theories on sexual desires. Virginia is impressed with the amount of people Bill has covered so far in his study, but he’s still done it without her help. The board, Bill says, just was not impressed with her application. From their point of view, Virginia has limited experience and no higher education. Virginia claims she stopped taking courses because of the study, but Bill knows better than that. Virginia only has herself to blame. After all, on the application, she did write “Mistress” under her current occupation.

Wake up, Virginia! Turns out that she’s been asleep for an hour. Bill figured she needed it, so he didn’t bother to wake her. Virginia was supposed to be at home by 10, but it’s only 9:15, so she has plenty of time.

Dirty Jobs- Austin Langham spots Bill and Virginia leaving hotel

Elsewhere, Austin Langham watches television with his kids. Well, he’s watching, anyway. They’re fast asleep. But the doctor pops out of his room just in time to see Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson entering an elevator. The plot, she does thicken.

Virginia’s car is already overflowing with files. She asks Bill about when she can come to Gateway, but Greathouse can’t authorize Bill to hire Virginia until the board signs off on her. In the meantime, he’d like Virginia to put the files into order since Barbara can’t even alphabetize. Somehow, she’s a secretary, though.

Dirty Jobs- Betty tells Bill her story

The next day, Betty shares with Bill a story about a parking attendant who referred to her as Mrs. Moretti instead of Mrs. DiMello. She feels like she’s pretending to be someone she’s not. I wonder if that’ll come up later.

Dirty Jobs- Libby tries on dresses while Coral changes the baby

At House Masters, Libby tells Coral about an article she read about how a new baby can be traumatic for a man, as if his entire life is now transformed. Libby is also focusing less on her baby and more on what dress to wear to her luncheon with the wives of Bill’s colleagues. She figures that she could do some good that way. Oh, and Coral places a Dixie cup on little Johnny’s weenie while changing his diaper so she doesn’t get a certain shower.   I have to wonder who first came up with that idea.

Dirty Jobs- Virginia and Lillian wait

Dr. DePaul and Virginia discuss how many sample pap smear kits should be ready for one Dr. Georgois Papanikolaou to take with him to Florida. The doctor is in St. Louis once a year for the Thalberg Conference. DePaul is nervous, but she’s not trying to impress the doctor. He’s a respected figure in the field and his support would be very useful. As the two talk, DePaul’s name is called.

When the doctor leaves, Virginia talks to the secretary, Mariel, played by Maitely Weissmann. Mariel’s been there for three years, but isn’t in love with the job since she’s around so much suffering. But you know what gets Virginia through the day? The Cal-o-metric diet.

At Gateway, Bill has no luck with a potential study subject named Angie. Even though it’s the same study that she once took part in at Washington University, Angie’s husband allowed her to take part back then because there were two doctors: a man and a woman. But just a man? No dice.

Dirty Jobs- Doug comes to talk with Bill

As she leaves, Doug enters, with Bill taking another chance to push Virginia’s name since she helps put people at ease. The board still sees Virginia as just a press secretary, but someone like Barbara is at least essential…to Doug. He promises to bring it up at tomorrow’s board meeting.

Dirty Jobs- Langham eats with Virginia

At Washington University cafeteria, Langham sits down with Virginia and talks about his situation: since Elise moved to Alton, he has to pick up his kids and take them to a hotel. As luck would have it, one night, he happened to spot Virginia and Bill. What’s all that about? Virginia, unfazed, tells Langham that she and Bill have decided to go ahead and publish the study, but they are still in the early stages. Obviously, Bill’s not welcome at the hospital, Virginia isn’t clear to work at Gateway yet, and neither of their homes are suited for this, so they go to a hotel instead. But as to why she stopped officially working for Bill, Virginia warned Bill that the faculty wasn’t prepared to see the study, but Bill disagreed. This led to her quitting. Bill later apologized and asked Virginia to work with him again.

Dirty Jobs- Libby's luncheon with wives

Libby’s luncheon is attended by Tatti and two other women, Bee and Serena Buckley, played by Brianne Davis. The women ask Libby for the inside scoop on the sex study, but she calls her brief role in it boring. Coral comes out with the baby and the women, minus Libby, are impressed with how well she takes care of the child. When Coral leaves, Bee can’t help but notice something crawling in John’s hair.

Dirty Jobs- Virginia presents sales figures to Flo Winters

Virginia presents her sales reports to Artemis-I mean, to Flo Winters. The numbers are good, but Flo’s not overly impressed, more so when she learns that Virginia did not go by the script. Virginia doesn’t like that the script deliberately makes women feel bad about their bodies, but women who look great don’t buy diet products. Virginia also doesn’t want to get good at this selling gig- she already has a job and just needs the extra money. So Flo asks if Virginia knows William Elvis Sloan. This is the man who came up with how to make a toilet flush. Very important, you know. Anyway, that may not have been his calling in life, but he still died a rich man. But, Flo sarcastically concedes, maybe Virginia is special.

Bill is all ready to collect the check when Virginia arrives at the hospital and mentions that Langham spotted them, meaning that if he saw them, anyone can.

Dirty Jobs- Libby in cleaning mode

When Bill arrives home, he finds a stressed-out Libby in the middle of a cleaning spree. Baby John has lice, so she’s cleaning as much as possible. Without any evidence, she blames Coral for bringing the lice, even though there’s no indication that anyone brought it into the house. Plus, all Libby needs to do is clean the baby’s items and get him some medicated shampoo.

Dirty Jobs- Lillian and Virginia talk with Dr. Papanikolaou, played by René Auberjonois, about the pap smear kit

Lillian and Virginia speak with Dr. Papanikolaou, played by René Auberjonois, about wanting to expand access to early screening through an outreach effort to physicians and hospitals. They’d also like to establish a research facility at Washington University for new detection methods and treatments of cervical cancer. The doctor himself is already in the process of making a research center at the University of Miami. He’s shown a prototype of a kit, which includes a skort frim slip. It also includes, as Virginia says, a short film strip. That sounds about right.

Bill finally asks Betty whether she times it to enter around the same time that he does, but she and Gene just wait until they see his car. Speaking of Gene, Gene’s there to give a generous donation of the swimmer variety. He also wants to know when Bill and Betty will move forward with their testing.

Dirty Jobs- Bill tells Barbara that tonight's study will be about old men masturbating

The three rush past Barbara, who informs Bill that Greathouse would like to know the start time of tonight’s session. It begins at seven, but Bill wants Barbara to make sure Doug knows the focus will be on elderly men with enlarged prostates that engage in auto-manipulation. In other words, old men masturbating. Well, that’s one way to try and ward off your boss.

Dirty Jobs- Libby gives Coral shampoo for lice

Libby presents Coral with the medicated shampoo meant for the baby, but gives it to the help instead, even though Coral doesn’t have lice.

Dirty Jobs- Test results

While Gene rubs one out, Betty wants Bill to tell Gene that he has bum sperm, which Bill can’t just say after looking at a cup for a few seconds. Bill won’t lie to Gene and tell him that he’s sterile just because of his wife’s tubal ligation. When Gene eventually finishes, we hear that Bill received test results from Betty’s very last test, which shows that Betty is unable to conceive.

As the couple leave, Betty is just ready to go home, but Gene wants to pay for the fertility treatments now and get it over with.

Dirty Jobs- Virginia speaks with Dr. Papanikolaou about the Williams Prize

Virginia speaks with Dr. Papanikolaou about his position on the committee that awards the Williams Prize. She says what she feels Dr. DePaul won’t: that Papanikolaou’s endorsement would be invaluable to the program. She talks up how DePaul has done this on her own steam and the university had to have its arm twisted just to provide minimal support. Papanikolaou did not expect to be impressed. Regardless, Virginia hopes that he considers it.

Dirty Jobs- Bill with Joanne, played by Donna Pieroni

Bill’s at work with another study subject named Joanne, played by Donna Pieroni, who doesn’t like the cold feeling of Ulysses. Virginia used to warm it up with a hot towel, but Bill just forgot.  But maybe the friction will increase the temperature.

Doug shows up despite the warning of old men masturbating. He spoke at length to the board about Virginia and even though they’re open to it, they haven’t made a decision yet. Bill offers to talk to them himself, but Doug assures him that they’ll get there eventually.

Dirty Jobs- Lillian and Austin drink

As DePaul works into the night, she gets a surprise visit from Austin so she can get an earful about his woes. The worst part about being the divorce isn’t the lawyers. It’s not about driving to see his kids. It’s that he’s reduced to having potato chips for dinner. Most people would probably let Austin go on about his troubles, but DePaul shuts him down in favor of having a drink, even though she should be grading papers. The two toast to Virginia and DePaul realizes that her initial impression of Virginia was completely wrong.

Even though Virginia is closer to DePaul than anyone else, DePaul doesn’t know just everything about her. Austin mentions the hotel encounter and laments how, after all this time, he didn’t pick up on the fact that Bill and Virginia had been sleeping together along.

Dirty Jobs- Libby asks Coral about the shampoo

As Bill informs Libby that he’ll be late coming home, Coral enters with her hair unchanged. No, she didn’t use the shampoo, much to Libby’s anger. It costs Libby four dollars to get her hair done and she doesn’t want to mess it up. Besides, according to Coral’s brother, Negroes can’t get lice. Bill concurs- Negroes have tightly coiled, low-density hair, which makes it inhospitable for lice, something he read in the Wellford Journal of Medicine. I’ve never heard this before, but now I at least know I have little chance of getting lice. Regardless, Libby feels that this conversation should only be between her and Coral.

Dirty Jobs- Lillian tells Virginia about the time she cheated during calculus

In the waiting room, a suddenly open Lillian tells Virginia that she once cheated in calculus. She could never crack a B+. Oh, you poor thing, having to settle for a B+! Anyway, she figured medical schools wouldn’t turn away a straight-A student. She purchased the final exam from the previous year from a graduate student for only $10. After all, it’s just taking a shortcut and that shouldn’t diminish all the work that came after. So, now that Lillian’s told one of her secrets, she opens the floor for Virginia to share one of hers. After all, Virginia has seen DePaul at her worst, from being naked on a hospital sheet to limping out after radiation. Virginia, however, says that her life isn’t that interesting. How disappointing.

Dirty Jobs- Libby tells Coral to sit so she can wash her hair

Libby calls Coral to the bathroom and says that their relationship is about trust. Libby leaves her baby with Coral every day and can’t be sure that Coral will be completely honest if something happened to John. She tells Coral to take a seat so she can administer the shampoo, and if she doesn’t, she’s not welcome in their home anymore. A reluctant Coral takes her position while Libby tells her that if she ever has any problems, she should come to her about it, not Dr. Masters. They need to stick together. When the work is ‘finished,’ Libby gives Coral some money to get her hair redone.

Very uncomfortable moment. You know, Libby, there are certain four and five letter words that perfectly describe you right now.

Dirty Jobs- Lillian tells Dr. Papanikolaou that she wants him to take her study with him

Back at Washington University, Lillian tells Papanikolaou that she’d like him to take her program with him to Miami. Papanikolaou thinks Lillian wants a job, but no. She says that Washington University doesn’t have the proper personnel to fully realize the program. Papanikolaou promises that if he oversaw the program, he’d inform her of any major decisions. That’s perfectly fine. Once DePaul hands over the work, her role is done.

Bill apologizes to Doug about the previous night, but also forgot to warn him about the transference effect- which doesn’t completely involve attractive women. You see, watching sexual activity can produce tension in the observers. From this, they may discover uninvited erotic sensations, even between two men. Bill is immune because he’s been doing this for so long, but for other men, the danger is high. They’ll be drawn in and come out different the way that they came in, sort of like wrestling. That’s right. An erotic sensation is exactly like wrestling.

Dirty Jobs- Bill with Leslie, played by Mariel Neto

Anyway, Bill gets to work with another subject: Leslie, played by Mariel Neto. Leslie is nervous, but Bill is livid when he goes to the other side and sees that Doug has brought four doctors with him. Bill and Doug go into the hallway, with Bill declaring that his work is not like some stag film played in a frat house. His work will not be mocked. He wants the exam room cleared, demands that Doug stay away from it and that Virginia be authorized to work, starting tomorrow.

Doug doesn’t back down. He tells Bill how secretaries work: they don’t get promoted to cushy positions above their pay grade or titles like research assistant. Doug never brought up Virginia to the board at all. This way, Bill won’t be perceived as a man who thinks with his cock instead of his head. Despite this, Bill heads back in and puts his boxing abilities to good use. As this happens, Leslie’s pleasure intensifies, but Bill shuts down the session.

Dirty Jobs- Lillian tells Virginia to mimeograph files that are to be sent to Dr. Papanikolaou’s office at Cornell

Lillian hands Virginia a stack of files that are to be mimeographed and sent to Dr. Papanikolaou’s office at Cornell, since he’ll be taking it with him to his research center. Virginia’s offended that Lillian would give the program away without consulting her, but hey, not like she needed permission. Virginia tries to get DePaul to look at the bigger picture: she wouldn’t have been a footnote in this work. Lillian tells Virginia that she didn’t enter the world of medicine just to see her name on a study.

Dirty Jobs- Virginia talks to neighbor Loraine, played by Rebekah Ward

That evening, Virginia talks to neighbor Loraine, played by Rebekah Ward. Loraine is wise to the diet plan schemes, but with enough prodding, the neighborhood’s ambassador of Cal-o-Metric manages to hold Loraine’s attention.

Bill arrives at home, but before he can talk to Libby about his day, Austin Langham is already there and making friends with Baby John. Whoops.

Dirty Jobs- Gene and Betty at dinner

Betty and Gene eat dinner, though Betty talks about how Betty Crocker was a fake, just made up by men. Gene, though, calls Betty the expert on phony Bettys. Despite what has happened today, Betty tells Gene that she’s not going anywhere. However, that’s not the issue. The issue is that she knew before their marriage that she couldn’t have kids. Betty believes that Gene wouldn’t have married her, but Gene says otherwise. Dating back to their first encounter- at a brothel, not church, as Betty believed- Gene had always been shy around girls, but Betty was so nice to him. When he saw her the next day at church, he knew they were meant to be. He married her because he thought she was the love of his life.

Dirty Jobs- Langham talks to Bill about infidelity

Back at House Masters, Langham again talks about his failed marriage. He thought marrying Elise would cure him of his philandering and constant need to chase ass, but it didn’t. The bachelor life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Not all the time, anyway. As Langham thought poorly of himself, he wondered why he couldn’t be more like Bill. Now, however, after the hotel encounter, Langham is convinced that the two are the same. Though Bill denies everything, Langham advises Bill not to do what he did, or at least keep it under wraps. With all that Bill has earned, is Virginia worth losing all of that?

The next morning, Libby channels her inner Betty Draper as she tells Bill about the most absurd phone call she received from Tatti. When Bill confirms that he lost his temper, Libby lashes out at him, but also for learning about him from other people. This is the second job he’s had in two months and soon, no hospital will want him. How’s he supposed to provide if all he does is find reasons that something isn’t good enough for him? Bill tries to assure Libby that all will be well, but after squandering so many opportunities, she’s not so sure. Bill has to think about how to do right by Libby and the baby.

Dirty Jobs- Virginia tells Tessa to stop asking Henry for help on her math

At House Johnson, Tessa works through her math homework with Henry’s help. Actually, she’s just asking him for the answers. Virginia tells Tessa to stop since Henry won’t be around forever. She needs to rely on herself since you can’t count on others for everything. Sure, Virginia did once, but no longer.

Dirty Jobs- Bill takes his business to Buell Green Hospital, a Negro Hospital

Bill takes his business to Buell Green Hospital: a Negro Hospital.

All right, if “Fight” was about proving your worth in battle, then “Dirty Jobs” is about proving your trust. The episode continued some of the themes and messages of “Fight,” such as standing on your own feet and doing things without help. This week, though, we see the positives and negatives of doing that. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be independent, but we’re all fallible and subject to disappointment. If we trump up some fantasy where we believe we can be fine on our own, then the reality is all the more shocking when we realize we’re not as powerful as we believed.

Trust was another central message this week. Yes, trust is important when you want to strengthen a bond, but if come across as too forceful or give away too much, then it’s a bigger letdown when you aren’t met on the same level as the person you’re trying so hard to please. There’s a serious danger that comes with letting people too close into your personal life because you expect them to do the same. When you don’t get it, it feels like a betrayal, even though no one is obligated to provide the same level of trust that you gave them. We can’t always live up to other people’s expectations. If we do, we end up being someone that we’re not. And we end up hurting the people we care about because we kept secrets from them.

We saw the crumbling of several relationships this week, all centered around the danger of keeping secrets and betraying trust. Can we always remain faithful or stick to our principles while deceiving our loved ones? No.

Dirty Jobs- Libby and Bill after argument

I did enjoy the direction of this episode. Not as much as the previous three episodes, but I enjoyed the way the conversations were framed in close-up, similar to Bill and Virginia’s talks during “Fight.”

Dirty Jobs- Betty and Gene talk about Betty's past

Betty’s relationship with Gene has been based on keeping secrets. She would prefer not to mention her past, despite constant reminders, and wants to look forward. And as a result of trying to mask her own problems, she hurt the man who cared for her regardless of her past. It crushed Gene even more because Betty has lied about why she couldn’t have kids and spent her time in Bill’s office, accomplishing nothing.

Dirty Jobs- Lillian asks Virginia to tell her a secret

Lillian has come quite a long way since her introduction, where she wrote Virginia off as a woman who would use her wiles just to get ahead. She began as frigid and unapproachable, but at this point, she’s warmed up to others to the point where she stops doing paperwork just to have a drink with Austin Langham of all people. She bares her soul to people she would have otherwise ignored and has established a level of trust with her coworkers.

Dirty Jobs- Lillian's radiation

For all of her progression, though, she slides backward because of her health. As she tells Virginia, the radiation takes its toll on her. But not just physically, Lillian is emotionally hurt by Virginia’s betrayal. Here’s a woman she initially dismissed because of her looks, but slowly learned to trust. She saw Virginia less as a colleague or coworker and more as a friend. For Lillian to not only learn that Virginia has been sleeping with Bill, but that she kept this from her at every conceivable point, is a huge betrayal of trust, though that could be Lillian learning the danger of getting too close. In the end, it not only hampers their bond, but it also confirms exactly what Lillian thought of Virginia when they first met. It should be expected that Virginia admit some secret after Lillian did, right? Wrong, as nothing compelled Virginia to do so. What she did do, however, was fail Lillian’s test.

Much like Bill and Virginia, at the end of the day, Lillian is all about the work. Despite her condition, she has never lost of who she is as a person and the importance of making sure that her work perseveres. As she told Virginia before, it may not be done at rapid fire pace, but it will be done at her speed and it will be honest work. The keyword being honest, which Virginia, in Lillian’s eyes, is not. It was a crushing blow not just to hear about what Virginia had done, but that she refused to own up to it.

Dirty Jobs- Austin knows about the affair

Lucky that Langham was there to reveal that to her. I’m mixed on Langham. Sure, it’s wise of him to speak of how his philandering ruined his marriage, even though he seemed to embrace his lone wolf status earlier on. Austin has been down this road and doesn’t want to see Bill and Virginia, two colleagues who have worked hard to get where they are, throw away all they’ve worked before in the name of infidelity. Screwing around behind your family’s back isn’t worth it and I like how Langham isn’t doing this out of ill will. He doesn’t come off like the type to try and sabotage Bill and Virginia’s affair just to be a prick. That said, I do have a problem when he says that he’s essentially the same as Bill. The circumstances are very different: Bill is cheating on Libby with one woman. Austin cheated on Elise with many, including his own damn sister-in-law! Very different things, Langham!

Dirty Jobs- Libby the asshole

And what the hell is up with Libby? She’s trying to be the every woman, but she’s alienating the closest thing she’s had to a connection with the way she treats Coral. She tries meeting with the wives of Bill’s colleagues, but that doesn’t amount to anything. In effect, she has little lasting impact on Bill’s life right now. The house is her domain, but that’s all she has right now. Is Coral supposed to be her competition? I don’t understand where all this restrained anger comes from. She says that her partnership with Coral is based on trust, but it’s not genuine. She takes every opportunity to shut Coral down, even telling her that the wives at the luncheon aren’t interested in her family history, even though they just asked about her hair.

Dirty Jobs- Libby washes Coral's hair

That scene where she works on Coral’s hair was just awkward to watch, the way she’s forcing herself to say that she and Coral are partners who don’t need Bill to help them solve a problem. I get the sense that Libby knows her family is falling apart and home is the one place where she feels she can be herself. But honestly, does she have to be such an asshole?

Side-note, I’m no expert on lice, but if Bill, Libby and Coral didn’t have it before, where did it come from?

Dirty Jobs- Bill won't own up to affair

Bill still has problems letting people in. For example, he’s fine with watching Virginia sleep when it’s just him, but when it comes to the study, no one such as the likes of Greathouse should be permitted to watch. He shows a great deal of aggression, both apparent and restrained. When he punches Doug, it feels like something that he’s wanted to do for a long time. When Libby argues about his job status, he begins hyperventilating. Credit goes to Sheen’s performance and the writers for being able to make such a tightly wound character seem more interesting and compelling than he was in the earlier parts of the first season.

Dirty Jobs- Bill calms Libby down

By closing people out of his life, he does more harm to the relationships he’s formed, personal and professional. What Bill needs to do is evaluate whether such harm is worth it if he can still be with Virginia. He’s looking at things from an odd angle. He keeps telling Virginia that he’s a happily married man, but his home life is anything but happy. Whenever Bill comes home, he’s focused on being within himself and seeing that the baby doesn’t keep him awake. He had a brief, genuine moment when he calmed Libby down after learning that the baby had lice. Too bad that warmer side of Bill doesn’t appear more often.

Dirty Jobs- Virginia has no secrets

And Virginia. The woman is showing two different personalities: like Dr. DePaul, she wants to do everything on her own steam and keep her integrity, but she’s also lowering her standards by taking part in this affair and going by the diet pills script, when she was so confident that she wouldn’t need them. Like she tells Henry and Tessa, you can’t count on others for everything. And yet, when Dr. DePaul didn’t count on her and gave away the study of her own accord, she became offended by that.

She’s being very naïve. When Langham confronts her on the affair, she deflects it with such confidence that it’s as if she prepared to be asked about it. She thinks she’s played so much of a part with DePaul’s work that she talks to Papanikolaou on her own, assuming that DePaul would be grateful. And she thinks that she has nothing to hide, so she continues to lie to Lillian about any secrets she may have. Like Bill, Virginia’s judgment has been clouded by this affair and if she’s been caught once, it will happen again.

Overall, “Dirty Jobs” was a good follow-up to “Fight.” While the direction and performances weren’t as strong, it created more dilemmas for the characters and posed an important question: if you’ve built up a comfortable life for yourself, is it worth throwing away for your own selfish affairs? As Austin Langham tells us, the answer is no.

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