A Look at Masters of Sex- Season 3, Episode 3: “The Excitement of Release”

A bit unsettling at times, a bit exciting at times with the return of a few characters, and Hugh Hefner all rolled into one.  With the book out, Masters and Johnson are looking to expand their market.  That isn’t cheap, so they’ll need backers.  That also won’t be easy, but hopefully you can at least arouse curiosity.  Or find a better way to say that.  This is “The Excitement of Release.”

The Excitement of Release- Bill and Virginia read reviews of the book

The episode begins with Bill and Virginia reading reviews of their book about the sexual revolution. The comments are quite positive. One critic even comments that Masters and Johnson killed Freud. Now that’s quite the achievement.

When the celebration is all finished, the two try and get intimate for the first time in eight months. All traces of George are gone, Bill says, so they should be fine. He even removes Virginia’s wedding ring, a very easy process. They’ve both missed this intimacy, but Virginia notes that Bill’s body doesn’t feel like itself, while Bill calls Virginia’s body perfect. Before the two can get hot and heavy, though, they’re interrupted by baby Lisa crying. Don’t you hate when that happens?

The Excitement of Release- Bill finds Libby's friends at the house

Bill returns home and finds it filled with some of the neighbors in Libby’s book group. Libby is in the middle of a conversation with Joy, played by Susan May Pratt, who was shown three apartments today and will make her decision by week’s end. If she doesn’t act now, it will be all for talk. Their conversation stops at Bill’s arrival, but he’s informed by Libby that Joy is leaving her husband, Paul. Apparently, Libby knows Joy well enough to give her a copy of The Feminine Mystique, which was an interesting book that shouldn’t have been used as an instruction manual.

The Excitement of Release- Joy, played by Susan May Pratt, talks with Libby about apartment hunting

Libby is concerned about Joy, who won’t talk to Paul until her bags have been packed. She wants Bill to talk to Paul, though Bill has only exchanged four words with the man. But Libby has attended three dinners and one neighborhood potluck. She’d think that Bill would want to know if Libby was leaving him, though Bill thinks that’s preposterous and people fantasize on what they never do. Fair enough. Libby left a Chinese menu for Bill. They deliver until 10 pm. Boom. Score for Caitlin Fitzgerald.

The Excitement of Release- Ronald Sturgis, played by Colin Woodell, of the Committee of Decency, discusses Bill's book

The next day, Bill heads into the office building and grabs some papers before having a run-in with Ronald Sturgis, played by Colin Woodell, of the Committee of Decency. He’s read the book and tells Bill that Hell is a real place. He thanks God that Washington University fired Bill before he corrupted the students with his filth and kept him from peddling his smut.

The Excitement of Release- Bill talks about the book with Lester and Betty

Upstairs, Bill fills in Betty, who knows that this is far from the end since they’ve received angry letters from…interested individuals. Bill looks ahead to the future of the book. He asks Lester about the number of medical students in the United States. Lester, like most people, doesn’t have that information readily available, but they settle for around 30,000. That means there are 30,000 copies of the book to be sold as textbooks. Bill can begin at Washington University and branch out to the rest of the Midwest, though Lester wonders whether medical schools even have courses on sex.

If they don’t, Bill will convince them. Betty isn’t sold on selling books as a get rich scheme and would much rather the team takes on an investor. She argues that if Bill wants this research to be self-sustained, he needs a dedicated funding source. Bill says that finding the right audience is the priority and that the money will take care of itself. His plan is for him and Virginia to meet with the dean of curricular at Washington University, but Virginia isn’t in. She called out due to a problem with her daughter. No, not the baby.

The Excitement of Release- Sister Annabelle, played by Wendy Worthington, informs Virginia about Tessa's behavior

Yeah, Tessa’s having issues at school. Sister Annabelle, played by Wendy Worthington, informs Virginia that Tessa’s behavior hasn’t improved, but part of that blame, she says, is the result of divorced parents that leads to kids acting out. Tessa skipped her afternoon classes two days ago and brought in a forged note yesterday- again. Sister Annabelle is considering all kinds of disciplinary action, including banning Tessa from the upcoming homecoming dance.

Even though Virginia is busy, Sister Annabelle reminds her that children learn from example. Virginia is more concerned with Tessa spreading word about her home life because it could have a bad impression. So what, Tessa then asks, is the right impression? Virginia’s response? No one’s business. Tessa spoke with Grandma, who also would have skipped school, too. Tessa just feels isolated at school from her friends since the book’s release, and in addition, Virginia is busy on the nights she has Tessa.

The Excitement of Release- Bill and Lester speak with a panel of university officials at Washington University

At Washington University, Bill and Lester speak with a panel of university officials, led by Dean Snyder, played by Pete Gardner, who calls Bill’s work impressive, but isn’t sure if Washington University is ready for this. He promises to run it by his colleagues, though. Bill just hopes that he managed to arouse their curiosity. A smarter man would realize what he just said and never say it again.

The Excitement of Release- Virginia arrives at Washington University

Virginia soon arrives after the quick meeting. Bill is upset that she missed the meeting, but, in her defense, Virginia had her own priorities and she did race from the office. Though Bill wonders if she can commit, Virginia says that she can since she did still show up.

The Excitement of Release- Tessa and Matt, played by Kevin Fonteyne, read Human Sexual Response

Tessa and a schoolmate, Matt, played by Kevin Fonteyne, read Bill and Virginia’s book. Tessa drops some useful knowledge Matt’s way: when a girl has an orgasm, it feels really good. Did you know that? Write it down if you didn’t. Anyway, after the girl has hers, there’s a lot of bulbar vasocongestion. Matt asks Tessa if she’s read Story of O, a French story, meaning that the characters go all the way. Apparently, that’s what French people do. Andy Zeitlin’s mom has a copy because she’s a major nympho.

Maybe all girls really like sex, but neither Matt nor Tessa cop to going all the way.  And with an upcoming homecoming dance, I get the feeling that this isn’t going to end well.

The Excitement of Release- Office celebration

At the office, Virginia’s almost run-in with Ronald is followed up with a surprise celebration upstairs. The celebratory champagne is courtesy of Mr. Hugh Hefner, someone who isn’t high on Bill’s list of potential interested investors. There’s a growing list of potentials, like this millionaire from Tucson that makes electric hand massagers- they aren’t just for your hands, didn’t you know? It has to be this week since Hugh Hefner is due back in Chicago for a Playmate Pajama Party…a party I assume most men would want to attend.

Not Bill, though. He’s not interested in pajamas. He wants to focus on the text that could change the face of medical education, but Virginia, like Betty, tells him that they should pay attention to the money trail as well. They should at least listen if there are potential investors. Betty and Virginia can meet with investors while Lester and Bill work on the book. Lester is glad to rededicate to the book after long days of no sleep due to kids and his grumpy wife. Huh. I didn’t think that Barbara could be a grumpy spouse.

The Excitement of Release- Jane brings Lester a homemade turkey sandwich and a Twinkie

Oh, never mind, it’s just Jane, who managed to take a break from spit-up and diapers to bring her husband a homemade turkey sandwich and a Twinkie. The hell is this? School? Jane drops the bag.

The Excitement of Release- Libby and Joy discuss apartment hunting and their husbands

Libby and Joy meet to discuss their plan, as tonight is the only good night for the realtor. Libby is more focused on handing out leaflets before the boycott and planning the next book group meeting, though Joy reminds Libby that if she’s unhappy in her marriage, she can walk away. Libby balks at that proposition. She has kids and isn’t unhappy in her marriage. Sure, Libby.

Considering Bill’s success, Joy figures that this must be a happy period for both Bill and Libby. When Joy first fell in love with Paul, all the girls were jealous. Paul had dreams…long ago. He’s a good husband, but none of those dreams have come true. As such, Joy feels that she’s walking down a straight, flat highway into the sunset. She agrees to help pass out leaflets if Libby sees the apartment with her.

The Excitement of Release- Bill and Paul, played by Benjamin Koldyke, watch football

Bill arrives and learns, to his surprise, that Libby made a casserole for Bill and his pal for the night, Paul. The two end up watching football. Paul, played by Benjamin Koldyke, read an article about the book. In his opinion, medical schools can use the text for their curriculum- exactly what Bill’s trying to do. Paul wants to read the text, but doesn’t think that the title is something married men should have. But Bill sees this work as a way to strengthen marriage.

There’s not enough irony in the world for that. Paul doesn’t think that he and Joy have any dissatisfaction in their marriage. He then talks about his college football days as a quarterback in Nebraska- and Bill recognizes him as that Paul Edley from the 1949 Rose Bowl. During a tense run, Paul had to run the ball himself. Sometimes, that’s the only way.

The Excitement of Release- Bill shows Paul his football card collection

Realizing that he may have a connection, Bill brings out his mint condition, 1933 Football Star Card Set. It took him two years to collect. Bill is ecstatic about the story behind each card, though Paul looks to just show casual interest in this…until Bill pulls out a card on Ernie Nevers, who Bill calls the single greatest fullback in the history of football. Paul disagrees. At school, one of Bill’s mates planned to give this card to him for five dollars.

Bill got one of his friends, Willy, to go in with him and they spent a month shoveling driveways to get the money. Eventually, Willy pulled out, so Bill spent a month and a half to make up the difference.

The Excitement of Release- Virginia buys Tessa a dress for the homecoming dance

At House Johnson, Tessa’s dinner comes in the form of a big bag of potato chips. Virginia enters with a surprise she picked up after stopping by Vandervoort’s: it’s a fancy new dress that Tessa can wear to the homecoming dress. Virginia did the logical thing that every parent would do: she volunteered to chaperone. After all, she thought about what Tessa said and thinks that it’s a good idea for the two to spend time together.

Virginia, you…you don’t get to do that.

Tessa is concerned about what the other kids at school will say. She won’t go to the dance if her mother attends. Fair enough. Virginia takes back the dress.

The Excitement of Release- Virginia notices that Lester is wearing the same tie

At the office, Lester reports that he received calls from Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, all open to discussing the book as a textbook. Nothing from Washington University, though. Virginia enters and notices that Lester is wearing the same necktie as yesterday, as sleeping at the office has limited his wardrobe. I’m curious as to how Virginia noticed just when she came into the office.

Betty, meanwhile, has an investor meeting set up later. Hefner’s earliest availability is at nine. She and Virginia will handle this while Bill takes calls.

He does. He makes call after call to various doctors to discuss the book, possibly arrangements, and thanks for arousing curiosity. Again, a smarter man would realize what he’s said. Bill initially asks Betty to get Washington University on the line, but he decides against it.

The Excitement of Release- Bill visits Barton, also meets Judith, played by Eve Gordon

Instead, he pays a visit to Beau Bridges. Barton’s also in the company of a woman named Judith, played by Eve Gordon, who lives upstairs. One day, she showed up with homemade lasagna. The rest was history. Bill tells Barton about the medical school textbook offer. Barton can ask around, but he knows that Chancellor Fitzhugh has mixed feelings. We also learn that Barton gave up the provost job when he returned so he could get back to doctoring.

He’s done toadying up to authority figures and knows that Bill will do a lot of that in order to get his book in there. Bill is convinced that the book belongs at Washington University, given its reputation and since that’s where Bill started. It’s also where he was fired. Luckily, Fitzhugh is hosting a faculty cocktail party tonight. How convenient.

The Excitement of Release- Tessa learns that Virginia won't be attending the dance after all

So Tessa is going to the dance after all. I would think she’d be glad about her mother not coming, but she isn’t. She wanted her mother to not attend because she didn’t want her to, not because of work. Virginia says that Tessa is being deliberately difficult, but I disagree. Tessa is just deliberately being an asshole.

The Excitement of Release- Betty and Virginia speak with Dan Logan, played by Josh Charles

Betty and Virginia meet with various investors: Dan Logan, played by Josh Charles, who is our perfume man.

The Excitement of Release- Betty and Virginia meet with Leonard, played by Eddie Jemison, and his Electric Hand Massager 3000

We also have Leonard, played by Eddie Jemison, who has the Electric Hand Massager 3000. It relieves pelvic pressures. Hmm. But Dan is just curious as to how to bottle the smell of sex.

The Excitement of Release- Hugh Hefner, played by John Gleeson Connolly, tells Virginia and Betty that he has four million subscribers

Finally, Betty and Virginia meet with the man himself, Mr. Hugh Hefner, played by John Gleeson Connolly. Hefner senses Betty and Virginia’s skepticism, but he has something to offer. The book may have sold 4,000 copies, but Hefner sells four million copies a month. The science is expensive, but Hefner’s foundation can provide financial support. Enticing offer, but what does Hefner want in return?

The American Medical Journal posted a positive review about Bill and Virginia’s book. He’d like some of that good fortune to rub off on him, so he offers to feature Bill and Virginia in Playboy magazine and include their names on the foundation’s quarterly report. Changing the world is a lonely business. Why not do it together?

The Excitement of Release- Matt and Tessa in a car before oral sex

So Matt and Tessa sit in a car and go over the state capitals, with Matt failing and having to drink each time. Tessa picked up on this through her father’s travels. She hated never knowing where he traveled, so he put a map on her wall and stuck pins in places when he went on tour.

Matt admits that he hasn’t done a lot with girls and wants Tessa to teach him. Okay, that’s fine, but she doesn’t want to do that one thing that they shouldn’t do. It’s her time of the month. That and Matt doesn’t have a condom. They can plan ahead next time. Matt’s still hard and apparently never heard of masturbation, so he wants Tessa to take care of his erection. Not with her hand, though, but her mouth. Tessa doesn’t want to, but hey, it was in her mother’s book, so quit being a prick tease. Down you go.

When it’s all over, Tessa vomits on her dress.

She later cleans up in the bathroom, still shocked about what just happened. To be honest, I should probably feel bad for what Tessa just experienced, but I don’t and I’ll explain why later.

The Excitement of Release- Bill and Barton meet with Chancellor Fitzhugh

Barton brings Bill to Chancellor Fitzhugh’s cocktail party. Fitzhugh sends Barton to get a drink while the two talk. Though Fitzhugh calls the book an achievement, it’s still about sex. Bill also still lied, abused his authority, and embarrassed Fitzhugh. Fitzhugh believes that Barton showed poor judgment in his decisions, both with his professional and personal life, if rumors and gossip are any indication. A queer like Barton is lucky to have a position and at least Fitzhugh was able to get rid of one of them for now.

The Excitement of Release- Barton and Bill argue outside

When Barton returns, Bill knocks away the drink. Outside, Barton blasts Bill for blowing yet another chance, but Bill wants Barton to work for him by helping manage his fertility practice and bring in patients. Barton isn’t appreciated at Washington University, Bill says. Bill doesn’t need to wonder about Barton’s personal life because he already knows it, but that doesn’t matter to him. Barton should be where he’s respected.

The Excitement of Release- Tessa on the car ride back from the dance

On the car ride back from the dance, Tessa’s only comment is that she was the last one waiting. After that, she remains silent.

The Excitement of Release- Betty brings Lester an actual bag of good and bad letters

Betty brings Lester a literal sack of letters. Though much of it is hate mail, there are a few gems, such as one from a Lutheran pastor who needs advice on how to talk to his congregants about sex. Lester doesn’t want to do this because he’s busy enough with work, home, and the she-wolf.

The Excitement of Release- Betty tells Lester that Jane is bored, not a she-wolf

Okay, Betty has a few choice words about Jane: she’s not a she-wolf, she’s bored. Maybe she’s a bored she-wolf, Betty. Did you think about that? Betty knows that Jane is too smart to just be at home with the kids. She can sort the letters. Write back to the good ones. If Jane agrees, she’ll be paid five dollars a bag.

The Excitement of Release- Matt apologizes to Tessa about the Schnapps

The next day, at school, Matt apologizes to Tessa. Not for getting his rocks off, but for the vomiting. The same thing happened to him. You are really missing the point, asshole.  Anyway, Matt had a great time and wants to be with Tessa again. Tessa? She’d love to.

The Excitement of Release- Betty and Virginia tell Bill that they're leaning towards Hugh Hefner

Virginia and Betty update Bill on their meetings.  Initially, they were set on Dan Logan until they met Hugh Hefner with his built-in audience of four million subscribers. Bill wants nothing to do with Hefner, as he feels that he stands for everything Bill wants to get away from: titillation. What do you call sexual touching, then, I wonder? Bill thinks that Hefner would use the practice as a good housekeeping seal of approval. Hefner would be seen as high-minded academic through association. And yet, Virginia reminds Bill that no one comes close to Hefner.

The Excitement of Release- Dan Logan meets Bill and Virginia

Bill and Virginia meet with Dan Logan, who asks why people kiss. How does it start? It all goes to smell, which tells us what we need to know. We can smell things like fear, revulsion, and desire. What Logan wants is to create a fragrance that says ‘I Want You.’ Bill speaks for himself and Virginia when he says that they agreed on him as the right man, yet he doesn’t sound convinced with his own words.

The Excitement of Release- Jane reads Lester a letter

Jane goes over some letters, but she tells Lester that she doesn’t need a hobby. $5 isn’t a lot to her because she was once paid $35 to be in a Chiquita Banana commercial, but that was a long time ago.

Think about that. Jane was a Chiquita Banana. Lester concedes that answering hate mail isn’t fun, but staying at home isn’t fun, either. Jane did manage to find a letter from a Debbie from Des Plaines. She asks Dr. Master and Mrs. Jonathan- well done- about her yearning desire to be touched.

Lester and Jane then have their fun. She’s still angry and hasn’t forgiven Lester, but luckily, Lester didn’t ask for forgiveness.

The Excitement of Release- Libby tells Paul about the car running, Paul tells her that Joy collapsed

Back at House Masters, Libby sees a car idling in the driveway. She heads to Joy’s home and tells Paul that the car is running. He’s too concerned about Joy, who collapsed and, according to the doctors, has a brain aneurysm. She’ll be at the ICU for some time and the extent of the damage isn’t known yet. Despite the catastrophic news, the doctor assured Paul that Joy will make it.

The Excitement of Release- Bill, Virginia, and the baby

Bill asks Virginia why people go where they aren’t wanted. However, she tells him that he’s at least wanted with her. The two try and have their fun again, but they’re interrupted by the baby again. Virginia brings Lisa to join her and Bill as the episode comes to a close.

If the previous two episodes were about setting up Bill and Virginia setting up their book’s release and contending with George, then “The Excitement of Release” deals with taking their storyline forward as they continue pushing forward with the sexual revolution.  That, among everything else in their lives, is priority, which is unfortunate, because there’s disappointment all around them that takes a backseat to them focusing on finding financial and moral support for their book.

The Excitement of Release- Barton and Bill talk

Before getting to that, though, I want to address the reintroduction of two longstanding characters.  Barton’s welcome is a welcome one and it makes sense that, if Bill wants to take the book to Washington University, he’d seek out someone who works there and who has a past association with him.

The Excitement of Release- Bill tells Barton that he isn't respected at Washington University

The problem with Barton is that he’s still lying to himself and others around him.  Last season, we saw him try to convince his wife that he was straight.  When that and even electroshock therapy didn’t work, he attempted suicide.  His life is a tragic one, but he maintains this public image of being a heterosexual male so he can have some semblance of happiness.  It’s maddening to see him refuse to accept who he truly is.

The Excitement of Release- Bill calls Fitzhugh a smug, small-minded bureaucrat

But even if he did, Barton’s personal life has spilled into his professional and the rumors of his homosexual activities have become known amongst his colleagues, who may tolerate his work, but don’t respect him as an individual.  Fitzhugh is one such individual.  He says that he’s lucky to even have his position.  Bill calls Fitzhugh a smug, small-minded bureaucrat.  To Bill, Fitzhugh represents the world that hates what it doesn’t understand or can’t begin to embrace.

That’s not to say that everyone should just embrace Barton Scully’s homosexuality with open arms- we are still in the 1960s and the status quo hasn’t been upset yet.  To many, it’s preferable to keep their ideals and beliefs the way they are instead of trying to accept new lifestyles and ideals.

The Excitement of Release- Bill knows the true Barton Scully

And yet, Bill is someone who is always pushing the envelope and trying to change the medical world through his studies on sex.  He knows Barton believes in the work.  He also knows Barton well enough to not judge or think different of him because of his sexuality.  It shows that, despite spending so much time apart, Bill’s friendship with Barton has remained intact.  Rather than seeing Barton go where he’s not wanted, Bill tries to court into working where he’s respected.  Though there’s no telling what Barton will do, it would be nice to have him work alongside Bill.

The Excitement of Release- Jane returns

The same goes for Jane, who has seen happier days.  She was last seen way back in the Season Two premiere, “Parallax,” but she was referenced on occasion after that.  Last we heard about her, I believe, was on “Mirror, Mirror.”  She met a producer after spending time in Hollywood.  She then found Lester inadequate, but despite that, they’re somehow still together.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised- Barbara and Lester listen to Bill and Virginia

Based on how Season Two ended, I thought that Lester and Barbara’s bond would bloom into something more.  It felt as if Lester had put Jane behind him since she hadn’t been mentioned that much.  I was looking forward to Lester and Barbara taking that leap of faith together, so I do hope her disappearance is addressed, if she’s really gone.

The Excitement of Release- Jane reads a letter

But as far as Jane goes, we learn that she’s in an unhappy relationship that’s made her grumpy compared to the beaming personality from Season One.  Her life is at a standstill and she’s still unhappy with Lester about something, but we see, with the right trigger, she can jump back into that fun-loving Jane we remember.  Like Betty and Lester, bringing Jane back into the fold would not only be a good reunion, but for the purposes of her character, it gives her something to do and hopefully contribute to Bill and Virginia’s efforts.

The Excitement of Release- Jane and Lester talk

After all, Jane did take up the secretarial role at one point in the first season, so she has something to give.  I just hope this wasn’t a tease and that she actually does become involved with the others.  Plus, it’s great just to see Heléne Yorke again.

This episode dealt with characters trying to survive in places where they aren’t wanted.  It can be risky stepping into uncharted territory, but taking that leap of faith can prove beneficial if we’re able to stomach the dangers and come out on top.  So, at times, we have to swallow our pride and enter the lion’s den when we could be eaten at any moment.

This is the case with Barton, who works in an environment where he’s despised, Bill and Virginia with taking their study to universities, and even someone like Hugh Hefner, who only wants to contribute financially to Bill and Virginia’s work, yet isn’t desired by Bill.

The Excitement of Release- Hugh Hefner tells Virginia and Betty that he sells four million magazines a month

By the way, I do like John Gleeson Connolly’s performance as Hugh Hefner.  He comes off as a suave individual who knows that his work also isn’t won over by the morally righteous types like Ronald, but his four million subscribers stand as evidence that there is an audience for Playboy.

The Excitement of Release- Bill doesn't want to consider Hugh Hefner

Like last season, Bill has trouble marketing his work because he doesn’t know how to speak to everyday people about sex, the way that Betty and Virginia can.  If it’s not clinical, he’s stepping on his own foot by saying things like arousing curiosity.  Virginia and Betty have a point: if they want to expand, they need to follow the money, but I also understand Bill wanting to make sure the essence of the work remains untouched and not further vilified by having it associated with the likes of Hugh Hefner.  He thinks the money problems will take care of themselves, never mind his own money woes from last season.

The importance of this book cannot be underestimated.  It’s about opening up a world of sexual activity to those who haven’t experienced it or many lingering questions, as evidenced through the occasional nice letter found among the heaps of hate mail.

The Excitement of Release- Tessa vomits

However, even with a book about human sexual response out there, lessons learned still come from individual experiences and not just reading from a book.  Tessa learns this the hard way when Matt forces her to perform oral sex on him.

The Excitement of Release- Tessa realizes that her mother wants to chaperone at the dance

It’s bad enough that Tessa’s home life hasn’t gotten any better, going off of the strained relationship between her and Virginia.  She feels neglected because her mother is either too busy devoting time to work or the baby.  Not that Tessa even gets along with Virginia now that she’s a teenager, but she’s still young and doesn’t want to feel abandoned.  After all, she already claims that she raised herself.

The Excitement of Release- Matt kisses Tessa

If teenagers are meant to learn from example, Tessa isn’t far off from Virginia.  She lets on knowing way more than she actually does and ends up in a sexual situation with a man she has mixed feelings for, as of now.  I say mixed feelings because even though Tessa is clearly revolted by what she endured, she still agrees to see him again.  Whether that’s a forced response or what she really feels, I don’t know.

The Excitement of Release- Tessa and Matt in the car

Yes, seeing Tessa blow Matt was a tad uncomfortable to watch and she looked quite traumatized when she saw herself in the mirror.  Though Tessa wasn’t too enthused about this dance to begin with, she didn’t expect to be abused or for her night to end this way.

The Excitement of Release- Tessa examines herself in the mirror after being forced to perform oral sex

But, despite everything that happened, I can’t really say that I feel all that bad for Tessa.  Now, let me explain.  Was it bad that it happened?  Of course, and no one should ever have to go through that.  But Tessa did a few things to lead into this: she brought her mother’s book about sex and read it off to a boy she had to have known was interested in her, she acted as if she knew more about sex than she actually did, and she remained in the car while Matt became increasingly more intoxicated.  Something bad was bound to happen.

The Excitement of Release- Tessa's upset that her mother will NOT be attending the dance

And Tessa has been such an obnoxious little shit that it’s hard for me to have any sympathy for her.  She got drunk and hit on Bill, she chastised her mother for wanting to be at the dance, and then threw a fit when Virginia can’t attend not because of work, but because Tessa didn’t want her to.  Maybe this is just me, but I don’t have patience for petty characters like this when there’s little redeeming about them.  I’m not saying Tessa had it coming or deserved it, but I don’t feel anywhere near the amount of emotion for her as I should.  Then again, I’m a cold-hearted bastard.

The Excitement of Release- Matt is hard

Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not absolving Matt of blame at all.  He’s the abuser here by forcing Tessa to do something that she didn’t want, and then to call her a prick tease and later just talk about the alcohol is downright insulting.  And if he was so sexually frustrated right there, why not have Tessa use her hands instead of forcing her to blow him?

The Excitement of Release- Libby talks with Joy

As for the Masters’, I’m glad that we’re getting to see some of Libby’s social life and friends outside of Virginia.  More than that, she has a connection through Joy’s similar desire to leave Paul.  Libby claims that she’s happy with where she is, and that’s obviously a lie.  She’s honest enough to tell it straight to Virginia, but to her neighbors, she hides the fact that she’s unhappy.

The Excitement of Release- Libby tells Joy that she isn't unhappy

But unlike what Joy implied, Libby is missing out on everything happening with Bill.  There’s much ahead for Bill, yes, but Libby is just looming in the background and exists in Virginia’s shadow.  She can’t imagine what it’s like to share Bill’s joy because she isn’t given much of a chance.  I hope that she shows more of the assertiveness we saw last time and opens up about how unhappy she is in her marriage.  She may not need Bill to be an everyman, but she deserves some happiness.

Though I’m suspicious about whether Joy really had an aneurysm…

The Excitement of Release- Bill shows off his card collection

Bill, meanwhile, almost had a chance at genuine happiness through bonding with Paul over football.  I quite enjoyed this scene, as it was one of the few moments I saw real joy in Bill’s eyes.  He was like the kid who had a toy that he wanted to show off to his best friend that would rather just watch television.  Though this didn’t go very far, I think it was an important scene in order to illustrate that, despite how distant Bill is outside of working, he still has hobbies and passions like everyone else.  It’s just a matter of asking the right questions.

The Excitement of Release- Bill tells Paul that the book is about how to strengthen marriage

Bill is focused on maintaining the integrity of his work, despite the duplicity of his personal life.  He tells Paul that the book is about bringing people together and strengthening marriages, not realizing the extreme irony of the situation.  He’s married to the job and, by extension, Virginia, as he tries to open a world of sexual exploration, but his wife remains unsatisfied and unhappy.  Hell, Bill is much closer to to Virginia’s child than we’ve ever seen him be with his own children.

He’s so focused on making sure the work remains intact that he’s passing up opportunities like having Hugh Hefner on board.  Sure, Bill doesn’t like what Hefner stands for, but that’s no different than most of society disagreeing with what Bill stands for and what he’s trying to accomplish.

The Excitement of Release- Virginia reads Bill's body

As Hefner says to Betty and Virginia, changing the world can be a lonely business.  Why not do it together?  That’s exactly what Virginia hopes to do.  Her bond with Bill is strong to the point that she notices changes in his body after so much time spent apart.  She has an intimate connection with him that Libby can’t have at this point.

The Excitement of Release- Virginia and Tessa talk about the dance and work

The problem is that, like Bill, her personal life suffers as a result.  It’s interesting that Virginia once told George that sex is possible without love, and Tessa experienced just that.  Given the women that Virginia has worked with from Season One until now, I wonder if she picked up that something was wrong with Tessa or if she just chalked it up to Tessa being difficult again.

The Excitement of Release- Betty and Virginia with Hugh Hefner

Virginia was always the more outgoing of the two and she realizes that, despite how their work is interpreted as smut, they need to branch out besides the medical community if they’re going to make a name for themselves.  If real life history is any indication, then we know that we’ve not seen the last of Mr. Hugh Hefner.  And here’s hoping Virginia and Betty bring that personalized touch when it comes to outreach.

“The Excitement of Release” was a very good episode.  It further established the challenge Bill and Virginia face in getting out their message to a very skeptical audience, gave Libby a friend to relate to with similar issues, and brought both Barton and Jane back into the fold.  Tessa’s incident is an unfortunate one and while I’m still not a fan of her character, it’s something that no one should endure.  Again, as Hefner mentioned, changing the world is a lonely business.  And going about challenging tasks can be hard, so no need to go at it alone when you can get by with A Little Help From My Friends.

I can’t explain why I shoehorned in a Beatles reference right there, but there you go.

1 thought on “A Look at Masters of Sex- Season 3, Episode 3: “The Excitement of Release”

  1. Gah – it was not about Bill’s body being different. It was about Virginia’s being different after having a baby.

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