Three’s a Crowd. Strange, I thought Three was just Company. But with the reveal of Virginia’s pregnancy last time, she and Bill must take steps to make sure that their careers aren’t jeopardized since that’s the most important thing right now. Kids? Spouses? Not the most important details when your baby book is on the way. Perhaps Bill and Virginia are crazier than I gave them credit for, despite their intellect. This is “Three’s a Crowd.”
The episode begins immediately after the end of “Parliament of Owls,” with Bill learning about Virginia’s pregnancy, which he wants confirmed by actually hearing her say it. Bill is more concerned about the timing of this since the book will be released soon, but also the impossibility of it being his child, but it’s not. Yep, it belongs to George after a moment he and Virginia had at the lake, as they were both upset about Henry enlisting.
Virginia is pregnant, though. She didn’t say she’s having a baby. She wanted to wait until this book business was done because she didn’t want to be incapacitated for it. This sort of problem doesn’t just handle itself, and while there is an alternative, neither Bill nor Virginia can imagine that possibility. There’s only one doctor who can take care of this: a Dr. Ennis, and Virginia has already made an appointment for the day after tomorrow.
At House Masters, Bill arrives and makes himself a drink when Libby emerges, as she’s been up for some time, awaiting to hear the bad news in person since she heard a strain in Bill’s voice over the phone. Bill is just in the mood to celebrate, though Libby thinks that he can and should take this opportunity to step away from the late nights and spend more time with the kids. Johnny even made a whole three dollars helping the Edleys hang their wallpaper. Apparently, couples need help with their wallpaper.
Maybe one of them could even help with the Masters’ gutters, though Bill remembers that Libby was supposed to call a service. Libby has other plans in mind: as the Edley couple has invited them to dinner. And they’re going. Why? Because Libby wants to make friends outside of Virginia Johnson. One person isn’t enough for her. And Libby wants people to know that she’s married, as she’s been asked if she’s a single mother. People don’t even see Bill because he’s out so early and back in so late.
More family drama. Tessa needs the car so she can get tickets for a Bob Dylan concert, though Virginia has a more pressing need for her appointment with a…travel agent for book tours. Tessa points out that Mom said ‘Yes,’ but Virginia corrects her, saying that she only said ‘We’ll see.’ If Virginia was going to say no, Tessa says that she should have just said that. On that much, I agree.
Tessa offers to drive her mother, but Virginia shoots her down, since she can’t reveal where she’s actually going. So Tessa lashes out, saying that her mother ruins everything since she either changes her mind about decisions or doesn’t remember. This Bob Dylan concert is a reward for Tessa raising herself…she immediately regrets saying that, but then tells Virginia that she’s not the only one who thinks that she’s a bad mother.
Moving along, we cut to the office where Betty has had to make some schedule adjustments since Bill’s calls have slowed things for him. Bill does make one request, though: block off everything on the morning of the upcoming 12th. It will be a special occasion, so Lester needs a tie and Betty needs a dress that goes below her knees.
Elsewhere, Virginia goes under for the abortion procedure. Despite what should be obvious pain, Virginia doesn’t feel anything.
We then go back to the office. Lester arrives with a man named Mahdi, played by JB Blanc, who inspects to make sure no one enters this area for the rest of the afternoon. Oh, and he spots a dildo. That’s something you always want to see.
So Bill and Virginia meet with some prestigious guests: Mohammed, the Shah of Iran, played by Waleed Zuaiter, and his wife, the Queen of Iran, Soraya, played by Necar Zadegan. Both are in good health and Soraya’s cycle is regular, but after three years of trying to conceive, they are concerned. They’ve tried all of the best clinics available, but just know that Mohammed has a low sperm count.
It’s hard to find a doctor who shares more than just their advice since few want to risk their reputation of their work isn’t successful. The stakes are high for the royal couple, as the laws of succession require a union to produce an heir that will grow up to be the next Shah of Iran. Bill and Virginia plan to help by starting with the capping procedure.
Soraya, though, has good intuition, as she asks whether capping was necessary in Virginia’s case. Soraya hopes that Virginia’s good fortune and hope can rub off on her.
When the two have a moment alone, Bill isn’t pleased with someone learning about Virginia’s pregnancy, but then, the clues have been there: Betty saw Virginia eating for two and Lester sent back a lab coat in a size Medium. There’s a problem for the two of them, as it only takes one journalist to notice Virginia’s pregnancy. The work, not the morality of the researchers, should get attention.
As Bill reminds Virginia, a pregnant, unwed woman cannot be the standard bearer for the cause of sexual enlightenment. Bill suggests that Virginia take a leave of absence, but Virginia has another potential idea: marry George. Bill is skeptical of that, but in the meantime, he’s spoken with a well-known gynecologist named Christine Wesh, who has agreed to temporarily relocate to St. Louis.
It’s much better than Virginia’s suggestion of Betty, though I have to wonder if Betty would have had that personal touch that Bill lacks. But regardless of who it is, Bill needs a woman at his side to counter the perception that he’s a pervert. What we see here is that neither Bill nor Virginia are making these decisions together, even though they’re both affected. Bill won’t let Virginia’s impulsivity jeopardize the book.
But Virginia counters that claim, saying it wasn’t an impulsive. The conception was a mistake, but keeping the baby was deliberate. She already lost Henry and Tessa when she had to give up custody and that decision has been her biggest regret. Even now, she doesn’t understand how that happened, but she won’t lose this third child, so she’s finally putting her needs ahead of her and Bill’s needs. Virginia knew this day was coming, but she also learned from Bill that she doesn’t need to face unpleasantness today if she can put it off until tomorrow. And when does Bill intend to tell Libby?
Well, in the very next scene and probably one of my favorite moments with Libby. Bill tells her all about the pregnancy while fixing the television, but Libby Draper just smokes and listens while saying very little. Bill can’t believe that he missed the signs, though Libby suggests that maybe George isn’t the father. Bill can’t be certain that it’s not George’s since he wasn’t there. It’s not impossible that Virginia has been with other men since she’s not one to just sit home alone.
But with pregnancy, Bill just takes the woman at their word, something Libby once thought Virginia was. She’s due around the time of the book’s release. Bill tells Libby about Virginia’s planned leave of absence that will end once the baby is born.
Then we cut to House Johnson as Libby and Virginia clash about this plan that Virginia will keep a low profile for five months. Just as Bill has already said, Libby tells Virginia that it only takes one person to come to the conclusion that she’s a wayward woman. And Libby knows that Virginia isn’t the only one affected by this or that will be in judgment. There’s no ring on Virginia’s finger and no husband, except for Libby’s.
Libby thinks that people will look at and feel sorry for her and her kids, and she’s not keen to take Virginia’s suggestion of telling people to go to hell. Why not? She called that one driver who hit Henry an asshole. Virginia accepts that people will gossip, but this isn’t something she did to harm either Bill or Libby, even though it was her decision. Libby has no reason to think this implicates her, Virginia says. And Virginia knows that Libby doesn’t even want this baby that he thinks is a nuisance.
But the baby is also something that Virginia has done without Bill. With this comes an obligation that can distract Bill from the kids that he already has. What does Libby want Virginia to do? Just something.
Then, for whatever reason, we fade to black. Why? No, seriously, why? We couldn’t just cut to the next scene?
We join Virginia making breakfast, but Tessa just takes an apple and gets ready to leave, as she’s to be picked up by a girl named Carrie. Carrie, we learn, crashed her mother’s station wagon, but since her brother went to college, she’s using his car. As such, Virginia doesn’t want Tessa riding with this Carrie girl.
I get the feeling that this is going to come up again later.
Back at the office, Lester tries to make small talk with Mohammed and his crown and scepter while Bill and Dr. Christine Wesh, played by Maggie Grace from Lost, start Soraya’s capping- her third in three months. If this isn’t successful, the two will see if a low sperm count is the only factor that’s preventing the pregnancy.
This would involve a laparotomy: an incision into the abdomen to see if there’s any damage to the ovaries or uterus, such as scarring, polyps, or fibroids. Dr. Wesh also suggests that it could be endometriosis- an overgrowth in uterine lining. Bill interjects, saying if it was that, the two would have noticed a menstrual irregularity. It just depends on the severity of the disease.
Later, Wesh informs Bill that Harry Vetters has arrived, but she then asks Bill if she overstepped her boundaries, based on the look she saw Bill give her. Bill just isn’t used to having someone chime in when he’s speaking to patient. Okay, but Wesh expected to participate just like Virginia, but Bill says that Mrs. Johnson is just there to offer support, not medical information.
Wesh remembers that, during the interview, Bill mentioned the give and take between Masters and Johnson, which is true, but that’s a dynamic that has built up over years, or two seasons- whichever you prefer. The same can’t be done in one month. Fair enough, but this also means that Wesh probably doesn’t have latitude with the Times reporter waiting in the conference room.
Dr. Wesh knows this material and is ready to help as a stand-in for Mrs. Johnson, but Bill tells her that he didn’t want to give off the impression that he can’t articulate his points about his work without Mrs. Johnson.
Let’s put that to the test. We then see Bill interviewed by Mr. Harry Vetters, played by Christopher Grove. The first question is how Bill responds to the accusation that his work is encouraging female promiscuity, as in the pursuit of sexual fulfillment for its own sake and to satisfy a physical urge. Bill’s response is that we fulfill urges like hunger, sleep, and fatigue all the time, but Vetters counters that those urges don’t have the potential to be the ruination of our moral code.
So Bill poses his own question: is procreation the only acceptable goal of sexual activity? Such thinking is outdated. He and Johnson encourage sex as a means of strengthening a human connection, but they discourage the idea that sex can only occur in a traditional, singular context. In layman’s terms for the uninitiated, Bill describes a scenario where a woman serves three different men and gives it as god as she gets. She’s more honest than a faithful wife who services her husband while thinking of another man. There’s physical and mental promiscuity, and the hypocrisy of the latter presents a greater danger to society.
After that impressive display of layman’s terms, Bill assembles both Virginia and George not to discuss that one time at the lake, but an nontraditional arrangement to help give this unborn child legitimacy, but, as George notes, also legitimacy to Bill and Virginia’s partnership. George, to the point, wants to know how this sham marriage can be spun in his benefit. Well, Virginia’s legacy as a researcher is worth protecting, but that’s just going to make her look famous while George looks like a chump.
There is a third option: George and Virginia just get married for real. They were in love once and they’re smarter than they once were, but Virginia says that their life is filled with potholes and they’ve hurt each other way too much. The lake was more comfort than love, but it’s a starting point. In essence, George sees himself as good enough to fuck, but not marry…just like a mistress. George doesn’t see this as his problem, but it could harm him financially if the book fails.
Bill gets to work performing the laparotomy on Soraya. Following the procedure, he informs her that there was distal blocking on her fallopian tubes. Even if he undid the blockage and removed the adhesions, the tubes have been permanently damaged. Soraya is distraught, but more than that: she fears that her husband will take a new wife in order to produce a child. However, she feels that he will always save part of his heart for her.
She doesn’t expect an American like Bill to understand this, but he knows that there are marriages of convenience. Some work. But among three people? Soraya says that love is an upside down triangle that can topple at any moment, but it falls on the side weighted with the child. It’s a bond two people share stronger than anything. But, as Bill suggests, maybe Soraya imagines it in such a way because she’s tried hard to make it happen.
By comparison, Bill hasn’t found parenting to be the connection that trumps others. What is, then? Desire and respect- the sense that your partner is your other half. Bill has that plus three kids, but Soraya doesn’t have enough to say. She plans to leave Mohammed to see him love a child because she knows the two will never be the same again. After knowing love, she can’t settle for less than everything.
At House Masters, Libby is more excited for this legal marriage than Virginia, even going as far as suggesting that Virginia and George take photos to commemorate this day and so their baby can know. You know, because Virginia’s baby bump isn’t enough of an indication. Even if there one was a spark, Libby thinks that the two can recapture it and reclaim their happy days. After all, they should want to give their kids a real family. That would just solve everything, now wouldn’t it?
The marriage takes place, but at the same time, Herb Spleeb goes over with George and Virginia the terms and conditions of custody and how there should be no expectation of cohabitation, marital relations, and celibacy.
After the false marriage, Virginia and George talk. He and Audrey split over having kids. He doesn’t get why Virginia isn’t reciprocating his feelings. In his mind, you can’t have sex with someone and not feel anything, but Virginia disagrees, saying that you can because, sometimes, the body can take over. George feels that this work has ruined Virginia. Sure, she’s found success, but George married a romantic. That girl grew up…to plan a divorce on the morning of her wedding. George’s wedding ring once meant love, but now it just means that no one can ask questions. He believes in love, but what about Virginia?
At the book reception, Bill and Virginia address some of the concerns that their work may threaten the fabric of marriage. A successful marriage demands successful communication to ensure a relationship of honesty. Sexual inadequacy is the number one cause of divorce. Their focus is not just the physiological study of sex, but how to help couples develop a meaningful and mutual relationship, which is the basis of a happy, healthy marriage.
So Bill and Virginia toast to the two people who helped with their work: the spouses themselves, Libby Masters and George Johnson.
Later, at a hospital, Bill spots Mohammed delivering an address on television saying that he has parted with Soraya. He doesn’t have time to dwell on this because he has to help a pained, struggling Virginia get to her bed. She needs a distraction, but Bill focuses too much on the work. Instead, he starts singing Danny Boy. This is the first song, I guess, that popped into his head. Virginia’s pain immediately and conveniently stops.
Virginia plans to be awake for the birth, against Bill’s objections. She was put under for George and Tessa and feels like she missed something, then woke up with a cleaned child in her arms. It’s like a present picked when you’re not around, she says, even though she was. And yet, she feels that she hasn’t changed at all. She failed twice at being a good mother.
Bill does see success…in the book, but he does also say that success requires patience, focus, and sacrifice, all of which Virginia has exhibited for their work. She helped give birth to…well, this book. But it’s just a book. The problem is that Virginia cares about things outside of her personal life more. She’s been unable to put kids before work, but she vows to try harder by spending more time at home.
But Bill doesn’t see how and why a mother being a home will be an automatic benefit to a child’s well-being. After all, both Bill and Virginia had mothers in their lives, but did they feel loved? Or did they feel resented by mothers who wanted more in life than staying at home? Virginia needs to push ahead for this new baby in order to be able to bring them a piece of the world home every day. This book shines a light on infinite variations of a single act. In Bill’s mind, there’s more than one way to do things.
Virginia cries out in pain. It’s time for the birth.
As George arrives at the hospital, Bill leaves. The episode comes to a close as George and a tired Virginia watch their newborn baby.
If there’s one thing Bill and Virginia do well, it’s how they rationalize hurting and outright walking over the people they love for the sake of their work. For the longest time, they’ve managed to do so and there have been casualties along the way, but this week, we see it hit home with both of their spouses being hurt in a huge way.
The subplot involving the Shah and Queen of Iran felt very ‘back to basics’ for Masters of Sex, as a lot of episodes in the first season often involved Bill and Virginia’s storyline played against one of Bill’s cases of the week.
It was unfortunate that Soraya felt she had to leave her husband because she couldn’t conceive. The scene between her and Bill had the right amount of emotion to it and it felt reminiscent of the scene in “Standard Deviation” when Bill told Betty that she had chronic salpingitis and even if he tried to untie her tubes, she wouldn’t be able to conceive. Like that moment, Bill shows a more humane side when he tells Soraya the bad news and doesn’t come off as cold and clinical.
That said, I wish the conversation between the two about love triangles and marriages of convenience weren’t so telling. Masters of Sex is usually pretty good with getting across messages about love, sex, marriage and such, but this was a tad too blatant, as I can’t imagine a woman just learning that she can’t give birth suddenly talking about love being an upside down triangle. At the very least, I could see it coming from a character that Bill knew for a long time, such as Betty or even Jane, were she still around, but Soraya just met Bill, so it’s strange for the two to have this suddenly deep, yet obvious conversation regarding Bill and Virginia’s circumstances.
And their circumstances tend to be both good and bad for them, but mostly bad for everyone else. These two are ahead of their time and call themselves the sexual revolution, but they’re pulling a fast one on the world by presenting themselves as perfectly capable and competent researchers taking on a world not yet ready for their ideas and concepts. They have no problem doing what it takes to defend their work.
But that comes at the price of further damaging their home lives. Virginia and Tessa’s relationship is fractured, but I’m not as invested in this as I should because we’ve already seen Virginia deal with this from a young Henry in the first season. I get it: Tessa is a teenage girl and she’s occasionally going to act like a bratty little bitch, but like Henry’s sudden change, I’m wondering when all this started. Between the two, Tessa was more respectful towards her mother than Henry, so where does all this resentment come from?
I’m gonna guess it has to do with the custody battle and the amount of time Henry and Tessa spent separated from their mother, in addition to Virginia just putting more focus on her work and professional career instead of her kids. But to say that Tessa practically raised herself is both wrong and unfair, considering the many times Virginia has managed to be there for the kids.
George loses a lot here and it’s unfortunate because since he’s reappeared in Virginia’s life, going as far back as competing with Ethan, he’s tried to do a better job at being there for Henry and Tessa. While Virginia was off working on her career, George made himself available, and I find that to be the sign of a changed man. But now he’s being coerced into a sham marriage that he knows ultimately won’t make anyone happy.
Unlike Virginia, his focus is on now as opposed to later. He even tries to remind Virginia who she once was when he talks about the romantic who made the two of them shower in clothes to recreate their first kiss on a rainy street corner in Chicago. Virginia tells George that she grew up, and so did George, but the difference is that George isn’t willing to put himself before his family.
So of course he’d be upset that Bill and Virginia would try and force him into a marriage in name only with absolutely no promise or expectation of marital relations or cohabitation. Virginia gets the kids back in her custody, but like last season, this comes at a cost of fracturing her already tense relationship with George. There’s no way to rationalize this, in my mind, and I’m glad that George doesn’t just accept these terms without telling both Bill and Virginia that this is ludicrous.
Virginia isn’t as bad as Bill when it comes to putting work over kids and at least she acknowledges that she’s been a terrible parent. I can’t cut her that much slack on this because she should have come to this conclusion much earlier than she did. Granted, she knew back when she lost custody last season that she wasn’t the best mother, but that’s my point: she didn’t learn much in between now and then.
She’s almost at the point of not feeling, as exhibited during the abortion procedure when she says that she doesn’t feel anything.
If she’s serious about being a hard worker and responsible mother, she and George would have come to terms much earlier and in a cleaner way that would make everyone happy. As is, she’s got her kids back and wants to set things straight with a third, but she’s still wayward.
Unlike Libby, Virginia doesn’t care much what people think of her, and she doesn’t have to because there’s enough self-loathing that Virginia can weather most criticism thrown her way. She takes it out on herself because she feels responsible for the ruination of the very happy and healthy relationship that she and Bill champion through their work. It’s ludicrous, the amount of double talk these two do, but it shows how much they buy into their own bullshit and how far they’re willing to take this lie.
But Bill takes it much further because, as several characters point out, he sees children as a nuisance. He wants Virginia as far out of sight as possible not because of maternal leave, but because he doesn’t want negative attention drawn towards their baby book. Bill is as clinical and professional as he’s ever been during these scenes and we see again that family, ultimately, isn’t what makes him happy. I mean, it can be, but not the family he has with Libby.
His future is with Virginia and he won’t allow anything to jeopardize that, even if it means cutting off most emotional attachment to his own flesh and blood. So he tries to make the best out of a bad situation and still find a way to work it in his favor because, as he says, there is more than one way to do things. At one point, Libby refers to Bill as a magical thinker who can will anything into existence, and that’s very true.
He rationalizes Virginia spending more time working instead of being a mother not just so she can provide for her child later in life, but so they can put all their attention towards the future of their study. When Virginia asks Bill to distract her, all he can do is talk about work instead of just being comforting. Maybe it’s for the best that he wasn’t around when Libby gave birth to their first child. That would’ve been worse, I imagine.
Bill may be a hard worker and great doctor, but he’s a bad boss and even worse father and husband. He can read Virginia as best as he can like she’s his soul mate, but he can’t even tell that his actual wife is crumbling before his eyes.
And he’s unnecessarily cold to Dr. Wesh, who came in on his request and just wanted to help as best she could. She comes off as a very credible doctor from her knowledge of the female anatomy. Bill, though, can’t have someone like her speaking because he wants to be the one giving the diagnosis. I think Wesh could have that personal touch that Virginia has and Bill still lacks- which is why he flubs his way through that interview- but Bill doesn’t give her enough of a chance to show that because he’s too focused on his dynamic with Virginia.
However, credit where it’s due, I like an assertive Libby and Caitlin Fitzgerald brought some more of the same passion and emotion shown in “Parliament of Owls.” I’m not a smoker, but Fitzgerald makes it look so…hot. I love her cold demeanor during the conversation with Bill about Virginia’s pregnancy. She knows that Bill is having an affair, but Bill continues to act like everything between them is fine. She’s a much smarter woman than she was two seasons ago and I’m glad she’s not just turning a blind eye to the duplicity all around her.
And that extends to her lashing out at Virginia because, let’s face it, she’s part of the reason Libby is so miserable. The difference between the two is that Libby takes other people’s opinions into account much more than Virginia. Libby doesn’t want to be seen as a single mother or have others take pity on her, but she also believes that Virginia has a genuine chance to have something that Libby doesn’t have right now: a real family.
But for the sake of consistency, I do have a problem with Libby suddenly wanting Bill to be visible and show up at functions when, just one episode ago, she told Virginia that she didn’t mind if Bill wasn’t an every-man.
“Three’s a Crowd” is a good episode that set up and gave us more family drama and interpersonal conflicts between the Masters’ and Johnson families. While I enjoyed the performances, Caitlin Fitzgerald being the standout, I think this one suffered a bit from spelling out too much instead of normally giving the audience credit to arrive at certain conclusions on its own.
The stakes are much more personal for Virginia as she considers her future with a third child, Bill considers his future with his baby book, while Libby and George, the spouses who get nothing more than a toast to their honor, are left on the sidelines, neglected by their so-called loved ones. Tragic.