“One for the Money, Two for the Show” is a mixed episode for me. The concepts and ideas examined here are interesting, the actors in top form and we see how Bill and Virginia react to having their work watered down. Where it suffers is how it handles some character motivations and actions in some very forced situations.
The episode begins with makeup. Yeah, makeup. Virginia suggests that Bill put on some makeup for tomorrow’s shoot. She asks if he’s spoken to Francis since their argument, but not only have they not spoken, Francis and Pauline went back to Kansas City. Bill still wants to make amends, but then Virginia focuses on Bill’s emotional reaction and how it gave him a little push. Bill, however, doesn’t want to analyze the situation. He just wants to know how good it was for Virginia. You know, how did she feel with him inside of her? Unfortunately, this doesn’t give Bill his second wind, meaning that, at least for now, this isn’t some sort of trend.
The next day at House Masters, Bill wakes up with a case of wood and Libby applies makeup to his face. Not to his wood, though.
Over at House Johnson, George stops by to pick up Henry and Tessa. Tessa is preparing for her French presentation, which slips Virginia’s mind again, and young Henry has even been practicing driving. Not too bad for a kid who used to always have his head in his comic books. Virginia is encouraged not just by how well George still gets along with the kids, but how much his new wife, Audrey, is doing to encourage him.
At the office, the CBS crew sets up for the shoot. Bill and Virginia believed that Lester would play some role with the filming, but Tally prefers this be left in the hands of professionals. This is a problem: sure, Lester may not be as well versed as professionals, but he knows enough about the study that he should be warranted some involvement. Even though Bill is used to explaining the study to new people, most of those new folks have been in the medical field. The task here is to capture the layman’s interest and be personable to make the audience want to invite them into their home. Bill tells Virginia that he’s not a fan of this salesman approach. He doesn’t do this to sell his work- he believes in it.
Austin reports to Flo that Jefferson City was a bust- only 26 women showed up. If that wasn’t bad enough news, Clark Gable has died of a heart attack! Tragic. Flo tells Austin about the first time she saw Gone with the Wind when she was 22. She remembers it fondly for the staircase scene where Rhett carried Scarlett up to her bed against her will. Girls wanted that fantasy to carry them through many lonely nights. Good thing home video didn’t exist back then, or those women would wear out the rewind buttons. But Austin has never seen the film. He still believes that he’s a man’s man, but Flo isn’t so sure, so she has a suggestion: Austin is going to enter her home uninvited and have his way with her, against her objections.
Downstairs at the C.O.R.E. office, Libby, with a red tie in tow, stops by and also learns of the horrible news about Clark Gable-I mean, about Martin Luther King Jr. being arrested in Atlanta with 52 other people. Just bad news bears all around today, really.
We’re then introduced to Roger Corwin, played by Scott Michael Campbell, who walks Bill and Virginia through how he plans to ask them questions. Virginia tells the story of how the two met when she was a secretary at Washington University hospital- basically an abridged version of the first episode. Bill is silent until he’s asked to describe the study. When he talks about sexual behavior, Corwin stops him the second he begins to describe anything on solo behavior, so no masturbation talk. Corwin switches over to the talk about married couples and how Bill and Virginia monitor their physical behavior.
Lester speaks with Dwight, one of the CBS crew members, about work being sanitized since CBS isn’t a fan of dildos. I guess ABC and NBC have that market locked down. Lester stands by his role on filming the truth about sex. By cleaning up or editing the work, you undercut Bill and Virginia’s intention of having an honest discussion about what happens to the body during sex. Dwight does respect Lester’s involvement, but doesn’t think he’s the best person to say how this can be presented on television.
Libby presents Bill with the red tie that he doesn’t want and probably isn’t even his. Bill lets his wife know that he’s not pleased with being censored. Without the scientific terminology, Bill feels he just comes off as degenerate. Libby wonders what she’ll be asked since the crew will want to know about Bill’s life at home. Fortunately for her, she’s not nervous or uncomfortable about the idea at all. Oh, Libby and Virginia are also wearing almost the exact same outfit. Keep that in mind for later.
Back during the question and answer segment, Bill explains that the goal here is to provoke conversations not done in whispers. Sexual language should be commonplace, not hushed. Censorship perpetuates shame, which fosters ignorance, which prevents change.
George speaks with Betty about possibly seeing Virginia, but she’s still busy with the shoot. This has been going on for awhile, as George has made previous attempts to call Virginia, but she’s always been busy. It isn’t personal, as Betty points out that Virginia typically is buried in her work and isn’t able to find time to speak with others.
Corwin asks Bill and Virginia about the benefit of being a male/female team, and the two speak about the bond that they’ve forged. They often complete each other’s sentences and have something that the other lacks. They want to move past the misconception that they are married, though. They’re only married to the work, not each other.
Libby, who saw this exchange take place, gets her Betty Draper on again by smoking a cigarette. George introduces himself and Harold, who thought Libby was George’s husband, knocks her down a peg by saying that she wouldn’t finish in a race between her and Virginia when it comes to the woman behind Bill. What a dick.
With that, Libby heads downstairs to the C.O.R.E. office and learns that Atlanta law enforcement plans to drop the charges against some of those arrested, but King remains imprisoned. Now they’re just waiting on an official statement.
Upstairs, Bill and Lester talk about CBS’ handling of the shoot. Lester thinks that maybe the crew knows what they’re talking about, but that doesn’t mean Bill shouldn’t push back when necessary. Bill thinks that the ends can sometimes justify the means, but Lester knows Bill better than that and calls him out on it. Even though Bill believes Lester isn’t in a position to say anything, Lester has devoted time, energy and his body to the study, so he does have a stake in it.
George finally meets with Virginia to talk about plans. He and Audrey plan to go to Europe, but they want Henry and Tessa to come with them for six weeks. Virginia is against this idea, but she doesn’t have a good reason. After all, she barely sees the kids and they probably spend more time with Pam than their actual mother.
So Flo and Austin’s re-enactment of Gone with the Wind goes into action when Austin cautiously enters Flo’s home. She wants him to grab her by the hair and drag her up the stairs. But then Flo tells him that she plans to go upstairs and lock her door, and there’s no way that Austin will ever get in!
Tally introduces Bill and Virginia to Bernadette, played by Katie Parker, and Kyle, played by Johnathan Brugal. Bernadette and Kyle are actors who will stand in as a couple while the crew simply gets footage of Bill and Virginia talking to someone. I get the point of why the crew needs this, but for the sake of the episode, Bill doesn’t like exploiting people he’s never met.
Virginia meets with Herb, the divorce lawyer from last week- well, that was awfully convenient- about George. It appears that George has been very responsible with the kids. Virginia, however, has had a very busy schedule and could use a break, but she doesn’t want that. She has every right to say no, but Herb advises against it because this could mean revisiting a custody arrangement. The problem with that is what George and Virginia have works just fine, so pushing back against George’s harmless request could open up a new can of worms.
Bill lets Tally know that he’s not a fan of the actors because it makes the re-enactment seem fake. It is, but Tally explains that they need to sell this to audiences. Therein lays the problem: Bill is not a salesman and is not in the pleasure business. This is a study. True as that is, Tally says that Bill should at least try anyway.
Robert drives Libby home and the two have a spat with Libby thinking that Robert wants her to fail when he randomly decides to test her. He believes that she’s uninformed, but Libby still believes in the cause. Oh, as they’re talking, a police cruiser drives in the opposite direction outside the Masters’ home. Why is that important?
Because seconds later, the officer, played by Derk Cheetwood, approaches the almost universally suspicious sight of a Colored male alone with a White woman and asks to see Robert’s license and registration. But Libby insists that she invited Robert into her home.
Once the shoot has ended, Larry, played by Lance Barber, asks Bill what it’s like watching people have sex all day, especially next to a woman like Virginia. He subtly implies that a woman like Virginia is well out of Bill’s league.
Back at House Masters, Robert, whose shirt was roughed up by the officer, awaits new buttons. He won’t take his shirt off for Libby to stitch up and he definitely won’t have it fixed inside the Bill and Libby’s bedroom.
Virginia speaks with Henry and Tessa about their upcoming trip. The two speak fondly of Audrey and how she sings in the car with George.
Robert’s shirt has been fixed, but the buttons are too big. He wonders what people would think about just the sight of the two together, but Libby turns it back on him by referring to the crime he once committed. He knows better now. He was just dumb and stupid. Libby never had that chance to be stupid. She was always the goody two-shoes teacher’s pet. Soon, she grew into what people expect of a pretty girl: a woman who has a nice home, good kids and keeps her voice down. Her own husband even forgets the sound of her own voice, but then she meets someone who doesn’t like her and finds relief that someone thinks ill of her. She’s not invisible anymore.
A clearly insulted Robert fires back at Libby’s insinuation that feeling discounted makes a person feel alive. It doesn’t. Heck, some White women go to Colored men due to low self-esteem. Is Libby like that? She doesn’t know, but maybe if she kisses him, she’ll figure it out. Sorry, what?
Then miscegenation happens on the kitchen floor.
Flo and Austin’s game has ended for now, though Flo isn’t a fan of always having to give Austin instructions. Austin knows quite a few games, but none like this. Flo just wants to be, well, wanted. Emotions make us do the damndest things, don’t you know? At the very least, Austin could give a damn.
Bill is out of his sweaty shirt and has removed the stupid tie. He tells Virginia that he can’t be the savior of sexual dysfunctions without an actual patient cured first. But he refers back to what Larry said about Virginia being too good for Bill. He wants to know why Virginia would be with him of all people? After all, he doesn’t have that twinkle and he can’t even fuck! Virginia approaches and embraces him as the episode comes to a close.
This episode does a lot of good, but a fair bit of bad as well. As always, the acting is strong across the board and, like the previous two episodes, it focuses on inadequacy and how we work around our personal problems that make us doubt ourselves.
Where the episode suffers for me is in trying to do too much and make all of these separate storylines connect to one another through the overall themes and messages. Sometimes that can work, but here it felt forced and shoehorned in so the episode wraps up in a nice, sexually complicated bow.
It dealt with the desire to be wanted and loved by another person. There’s solace in solitude, but that same joy can be shared with another person. I once heard someone say that people like to be asked to do things. We do. People love to feel wanted and involved. When someone requests our assistance, it validates our existence because we know that we’re needed for a task, no matter how big or small.
The characters this week found love and happiness not with their loved ones, but with their coworkers as they crossed the lines between personal and professional. This shows the disconnect they have with their home lives and how much they miss because they’re meddling in the affairs of others just to make themselves feel good. But, as Virginia learns, at the end of the day, we really don’t feel good about neglecting our families. It may provide a temporary relief, but you’re still distancing yourself. The ends do not justify the means, just as Lester says to Bill.
While the characters often hide their true motives in order to maintain their secrets, this episode felt very honest and open, which tied in great with Bill and Virginia’s frankness about sex when answering questions during the CBS shoot. This applies to Libby and Flo as well when their true desires and passions lead to some thoughtful conversations that helped advance their characters. Now, I still have a problem with Libby in particular, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
I’m curious as to whether the show is just done with Francis and Pauline for now. Yeah, it sucks that it ended on a down note, but I hope there’s some better resolution than Bill just saying he’ll make it right and we have to contend with the Francis and Pauline leaving off-screen. At least we saw Virginia in her final moment with Lillian.
While I’ve enjoyed Masters of Sex weaving in real life events into the narrative, I have to question who did their research for this episode. We have the Kennedy/Nixon debate, Martin Luther King’s arrest in Atlanta and Clark Gable’s death all mentioned within two scenes, as if they all took place around the same time, when we know that’s not true. It’d be different if only one of these events had been mentioned, but as we get all three, the incorrect timeline just sticks out a bit more.
You know, let’s start with Flo and Austin this time. First off, credit where it’s due, I’m loving Artemis Pebdani’s performance as Flo and I’m happy to see her show more range that she probably wouldn’t get on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia since that show is primarily a comedy. Now don’t get me wrong. She’s great on there as well, but here, she has more dimension, even though that involves being into a rape fantasy, which does make me tilt my head. We know that this relationship is more about job security and Flo wanting to get her rocks off- she wants to feel wanted and adored like the pretty girl who got crowned Queen at prom. Do they still do that? I never went to prom.
I’m still not sold on this storyline, even if I like the performances and humor that come out of it. If it means slowly phasing Austin out, I’m fine with that, but he just feels stuck here. He has a job, sure, but he’s still no further along than when and Elise separated. He’s just wiser, but we knew that from his conversation with Bill about whether an affair was worth all Bill could lose. I give a sort of damn about the plot, but I want to see it tie into the storyline of the season, and not by Artemis saying things that just happen to perfectly coincide with another character’s circumstances.
And that brings me to Libby and Robert. Again, Caitlin Fitzgerald is great with what she’s given to do and Libby’s blissful reaction during sex with Robert reminded me a lot of what Margaret experienced when she first met Austin last season. Libby is a woman who has been long denied happiness. She’s blended into the background and served her role as the faithful wife, but she’s had her moments, thank God, of calling Bill out on his crap. She’s not complacent.
Her speech to Robert was very telling: in my opinion, Libby is probably the most traditional of the various women and housewives we’ve seen on Masters of Sex. She’s the complete opposite of Virginia in that she’s not too adventurous. She minds her business and, like she says, essentially becomes invisible. As the show progressed, starting, I’d say, with “Brave New World,” we’ve seen Libby grow more independent and outspoken. She wanted a family, and now she has two kids. When she gave her time and energy toward the Veiled Prophet Ball, we saw the shades of a woman who, when given the opportunity, can and will work hard for the benefit of others, and we’ve seen that continue with her work at the C.O.R.E. office. Yes, Libby has indeed made progress since the show began and I’m glad that she received the sexual satisfaction and pleasure that she doesn’t get from Bill.
But this does not absolve Libby of the horrible things she’s done this season. I honestly don’t know why the show felt the need to phase Coral out after the time skip. Just because Libby volunteers at a civil rights office and shares her feelings with Robert doesn’t mean we just ignore how much of an absolute and insufferable jerk she was to both Coral and Robert. After all, she still had a police officer dig up dirt on Robert to prove to Coral that she shouldn’t be around him. Not too long ago, she didn’t even feel safe being around Robert. Now that she opened up about her feelings, we’re just supposed to forget about her horrible behavior that took place within the same season?
If Libby had been this much of a jerk during the first season, this season could be seen as her redemption, but these are actions that took place over the same time frame. Yes, there’s been a time skip, but Robert still acknowledged Libby’s dislike of lice, so it’s clear those raw emotions are still there. Libby and Robert’s complicated relationship is symbolic of what I often don’t like about some television and film relationships in general: the love and emotional attraction do not feel genuine. I cannot buy this, considering that the two were at each other’s throats not that long ago. People can change, yes, but my biggest issue with this season is that Masters of Sex does not seem to get how to tackle race without it feeling awkward. The second that police cruiser drove past Robert and Libby, it was clear that they’d be stopped. Sure, Robert was obviously more cautious and good on him for being smart about this, but they still allowed themselves to be caught! And I can’t imagine this is going to end well for either of them.
That was more on Libby and Robert than I intended to say.
Briefly on Lester, who isn’t given much to do, but what little he has is very important. As he tells Bill, he’s devoted a lot of time to this study, so his opinion should be considered. To say otherwise would be to deny Lester’s involvement when he brings knowledge of technology, cameras and a general understanding of film that Bill and Virginia lack. And again, we see how much respect he has for Bill and Virginia’s attempt to have an honest conversation about sex. So while Lester doesn’t have much to work with, I appreciate that he had the chance to butt heads with Bill and call him out for believing that the ends justify the means.
So let’s go to Bill, who went through absolutely Hell this week. We knew last week that he wasn’t a fan of using television to reach an audience, and we see that play out as he grapples with Corwin on terminology. In front of a camera, Bill felt as stiff as we’ve known him to be throughout the series, but from things like not wearing a bow tie or being able to say the words “masturbation” and “orgasm” show how uncomfortable he was. And I liked his practical reasoning for wearing a bow tie: so it doesn’t get in the way when he’s working. So there are moments where he feels comfortable with who he is when he isn’t grappling with self doubt and inadequacy issues.
As we’ve already seen with Dr. Greathouse, Bill is not a fan of having his work dictated to him. He prefers to do things his own way, which led him and Virginia to this point in the first place. Now he grapples with sacrificing his character for the sake of reaching a wider audience or, as we see him do on television, using his knowledge of human sexuality to have a conversation and never making it seem awkward. When Bill starts talking about censorship leading to ignorance, I got the feeling that this is the point he’d like to hammer home.
Speaking of home, that’s definitely the one place Virginia would love to be more often. She’s spent so much time devoted to the study and Bill that it doesn’t hit her until her kids are nearly out of her grasp for six weeks that she’s been neglecting her home life. I’m glad this is being addressed because while we often see Bill at home, we rarely see Virginia at home or even interacting with her kids. It calls attention to the ever growing disconnect Virginia has not just with her kids or George, but everyone around her. Throughout the season, Virginia has made a habit of doing things for herself, and she’s made progress, but this comes at the expense of her happiness.
It’s really telling how much her life really does depend on Bill and their relationship, even when she insisted that it’s not an affair. And it’s no accident how similar she and Libby dressed, either. There was real sadness in Caplan’s face during the scene when Henry and Tessa spoke of Audrey with such longing and fascination that we rarely see them direct towards her. And at least George stepped up his role by being there for them. Even if Virginia doesn’t want the kids to go far, George has a point: Virginia is so focused on the study that family is almost becoming irrelevant. I think we’ve seen her spend more evenings at the Chancery Park Plaza Hotel than we have at her own home.
Oh, by the way, it is strange how Henry and Tessa don’t look any different at all since the time skip. Sure, Henry seems a bit more mature- and it’s about time is all I can say- and I’m not saying the two needed to recast by older actors, but nothing about them really changed.
As we approach the season finale, there are a lot of mixed emotions swirling all around. “One for the Money, Two for the Show” has set up what should be an explosive finish- hopefully one that doesn’t get Bill fired again. While the themes and performances were as strong as they ever have been, the haphazard handling of characters like Libby held the episode back a bit.