So, your book is on the shelves, but what happens when the sales aren’t coming in as fast as you’d like? Is it necessary to make love face to face to prove that you care for someone? And how annoying is it when your friend keeps quoting Dale Carnegie?
As Bill and Virginia try to find new ways to market their books, they have a run-in with an old friend while Tessa continues to struggle, Libby takes a stand, and Barton grapples with his identity and honesty. Welcome to “Under Influence.”
The episode begins in a bookstore, where Bill reads Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. He spots a man idling as if he’s waiting for everyone to leave so he can pick up a copy of Human Sexual Response on a nearby shelf, but he tells the owner, Leslie, played by Christian Clemenson, that he wants something else instead.
Bill tells Leslie that Human Sexual Response was once in the front window, but now it’s behind the reference books. Leslie explains that for Bill’s book, people call ahead for it. The book is then either waiting behind the counter or shipped out.
That night, Bill arrives home and finds Johnny still awake. Libby is next door with the Edley couple. Bill plans to join soon, but he needs to watch Johnny…so he sends the boy to bed. Good parenting.
At House Johnson, Virginia searches for a letter from Henry, only to learn that Tessa had it. Henry, we learn, doesn’t sound like he’s doing all that well. There are bright spots: he found a dog, but because he chose the wrong M.O.S., he keeps pulling guard duty. Virginia hopes to get in touch with her son soon, though Tessa, for some reason, just wants to go to school.
We then go to the office, where Bill and Virginia speak with a Little, Brown representative: Bob Drag, played by Danny Jacobs. The book has sold 15,000 copies and the two hope for more sales, but chances are that anyone who wants the book already has it. There needs to be a better way to spread word of mouth. Bill senses that there’s momentum through his so-called field research, and he and Virginia are getting calls from medical schools.
The public has an appetite for sure, and Virginia thinks that it may be time to change perception by talking up the book in populist forums like women’s magazines. Bob has a different approach: get Bill and Virginia in front of the regular people. Little, Brown will only agree to a second printing if the book sells out, and one way to go about that is with more press through a Midwest book tour. Bill and Virginia need to pull their weight.
Then Allison Janney gets eaten out as we rejoin Margaret Scully being orally pleasured by Graham Pennington, played by the voice of Hercules himself, Tate Donovan. It’s fine, but Margaret wants the sex to be about just the two of them and not Jo. Who is Jo? We’ll find out later.
We then go back to the office, where Dan Logan brings in his assistants: Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup- I mean, Mary Lynn, played by Nicole Rochell, Mary Ann, Mary Lynn, and Trudy. Mary Lynn, a Virgo and fan of astrology, wants Bill to sign her copy of Human Sexual Response. But then Virginia, who wasn’t asked, signs the book as well.
Back at House Masters, Jenny asks Libby if Mrs. Edley is a turnip. Kids, those days. You see, Johnny said that Mrs. Edley is a vegetable, but vegetables don’t sit in wheelchairs. But Joy has help from both Paul and the caretaker. Jenny worries that if something is wrong Mrs. Edley’s brain, maybe it could happen to her mother as well. Libby assures her daughter that it can’t happen to her, but she doesn’t sound so confident when she says it.
Virginia’s schedule makes it hard for her to find a date she and Bill can agree on, which makes Betty’s job no fun right now. Virginia is just too busy with Tessa and can’t drop everything so she can hit the road. In addition, they still have the work and investors. Bill says that Dan Logan isn’t a priority, but he shows some concern upon learning that Henry is under the weather. He says that Henry’s sick reaction to the tropical climate is normal.
Given Virginia’s schedule, she suggests that the two divide and conquer for the tour. Not possible since this is Masters and Johnson– the two are perceived as a team. True as that is, Virginia is trying to be practical.
That night, while Libby heads to bed, Bill reads up more on Dale Carnegie’s book. Tonight’s excerpt deals with making the other person in your life feel important.
So Bill decides to buy a fur coat. The clerk, Elsa, played by Sarah Scott, calls Bill a fur virgin, meaning he’s just a man who has never bought fur before. But it’s important, Bill says, to show how much you appreciate someone.
Because Tessa has been suspended from school due to cutting class, Virginia brings her to the office and dumps her with Betty. No worry, she’ll only be helping alphabetize files and with Rolodex cards.
When Bill shows Virginia the coat, she doesn’t know what to say. So Bill decides to quote John Dewey- every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination. Virginia has been that and more- she’s tireless and brilliant. This fur coat is a token of appreciation. This moment is interrupted when Betty tells the two that their first appointment has arrived.
The appointment turns out to be Margaret and Graham. Margaret catches up with Virginia and Bill and tells them all about how Graham is teaching her to not care what people think. It’s been three years since her divorce from Barton and while she and Graham aren’t married, they are at least living together.
The two met at one of William Glasser’s reality therapy workshops. Reality therapy itself is all about personal choice and responsibility. Huh. Sounds a bit libertarian-ish, in my opinion. Margaret has been giving Graham hints about what she needs in bed. Graham’s problem is that he’s a premature ejaculator.
Bill and Virginia then talk to the two separately. Graham tells Bill that he lasts maybe a minute, sometimes before he even enters Margaret. What, does he have his cock in his hand before he goes for the plunge? He apparently doesn’t need stimulation.
Margaret, meanwhile, tells Virginia that she wants Graham to look into her eyes. It sounds a bit silly, but Virginia assures Margaret that simultaneous orgasm is a romantic notion. How’s that for some medical knowledge for your ass? The romance spark was there when Graham and Margaret first met and she wants to rekindle that fire. It’s only good when they climax together.
Graham, though, doesn’t like to look back, despite Bill advising him that the past may hold some answers. Graham has tried before, though, to make two exes and former girlfriends happy. Looking back, he doesn’t think that he ever liked them, but he likes Margaret because she looks forward.
Barton, who is supposed to be off today, shows up at the office and has that awkward run-in with Margaret and Graham. That ends fast.
Soon after, Margaret speaks with Bill alone. It’s been some time since she and Barton interacted and she realizes that this was his way of letting her have a new life. But has she? Bill tries to comfort her by saying that Graham’s premature ejaculation isn’t a sign that he’s not attracted to the opposite sex- confirming to Margaret that he knows all about Barton’s homosexuality. Despite that, Margaret still thinks that this is her fault since she’s been with now two men with sexual dysfunctions.
Bill thinks that Graham can assure Margaret that he desires women, but that would require him to know the truth about how and why her marriage ended, why she insists on face-to-face sex, and why she can’t do anything to him orally. She doesn’t see herself telling Graham in confidence. All Margaret did was tell Graham a version of what she told Vivian- that the divorce was her fault because she had other male lovers.
Since then, Vivian has wanted nothing to do with Margaret, though she’s confident that Vivian will forgive her. She thinks that if Vivian knew Barton’s secret, he would lose her forever. It haunts Margaret to hold onto a secret that doesn’t belong to her and isn’t hers to tell.
Barton meets with his patient of the day, Libby, who learns that a little breakthrough bleeding is normal with the pill. No, it’s not a sign of a blood clot. After Joy’s stroke, Libby just wanted to make sure everything was fine. Barton is surprised that Libby even takes the pill since those are normally used by single women. It just helps keep Libby’s cycle regular. As for why Libby hasn’t talked with Bill, she thinks that it’s better to maintain some mystery in that area. Well, the vagina is quite mysterious.
Now to see how Tessa and Betty pass the time. Tessa tries to bait Betty into talking about Virginia’s so-called lovers, but Betty doesn’t take the bait. So Tessa wonders why people can’t just figure out sex stuff on their own. Valid point, but if that were the case, I don’t think this show would exist, but I digress. Betty says that the study has kept people from having to learn on their own. In her day, people understanding the bathroom plumbing better than their own ducts and pipes. A funny line that I think only Betty could deliver.
Tessa just thinks people need to be careful. What she and Matt do won’t leave you with a crying baby.
Libby pops by Bill’s office to leave a note when she spots a box. Curiosity getting the better of her, she opens it and finds a fur coat.
Virginia calls Sergeant Ivey to get an update on Henry, but she doesn’t get anywhere. Dan, having overheard Virginia’s loud conversation, enters. Upon hearing Henry’s symptoms, Dan figures that Henry has either malaria or dengue- turns out that Dan served in the Pacific and came down with both. After reading Henry’s letter, he tells Virginia that if Henry’s condition is that bad, he could possibly be tossed out on a medical discharge. He offers to make some calls.
Bill asks if Betty managed to confirm a tour date, but Virginia’s schedule won’t permit her to agree to anything. Bill isn’t pleased since it’s apparently Betty’s job to get her to commit. He then quotes JP Morgan- there are two reasons people do something: one that sounds good…
…and, as Betty finishes, the real reason, as she knows that Bill has been reading Dale Carnegie. She knows the book by heart and Carnegie is a local boy who crossed paths with Betty long ago. That’s a story for another day, but as for Virginia, her real reasons are that she has an infant stuck with a babysitter that likes the liquor cabinet, Tessa’s troubles, and a son in war. It’s hard to drop all of that for a book tour. Betty then drops some more of Carnegie’s knowledge on Bill: three-fourths of the people you meet hunger and thirst for sympathy. Give it to them and they will love you.
Elsewhere in the office, Tessa cuts her finger. Upon looking for something to clean up with, she spots some aftershave in a cabinet drawer. Bill enters and hopes that drinking isn’t why she’s suspended. He cares for Tessa because Virginia is overextended, but Tessa isn’t in the mood for a lecture and leaves.
In the meantime, Betty informs Bill that she’s canceled their subscription to Doll Parade- a magazine that is the stimulation of last resort for sperm donors. The guys need a little more skin. As for why the magazine is wrapped in brown paper, Betty tells Bill that it’s good for circulation.
Libby drops by the Edleys’ disheveled home to drop off dinner and learns that Paul has fired the caretaker. He realized that Joy’s birthday is next week and, at that moment, he just wanted that nurse gone so he and Joy could be alone. However, life is a nightmare for him. He doesn’t even see why he should buy her something since she’s already gone- it’s like living with a dead person.
But Libby is insulted that Paul would refer to his wife as a corpse. Writing her off as such is criminal and Paul should honor her for who she is by treating her with dignity. Libby decides that the two will give her a bath together.
Margaret visits Barton’s apartment with a plate of beef bourguignon. The two have some small talk of wanting to be honest with one another until Margaret asks who J is. Barton tells her his friendship with Judith and how it’s not a sexual relationship. Margaret, though, feels that Judith deserves the truth, but Barton thinks that Margaret is overstepping. Plus, Margaret moved on as well, so they both had a choice.
Barton feels that how he conducts his private life is his business. Both have learned what lying does when it affects the people that care for them and Margaret can’t just tell Graham that sex is the only way to know that he loves her. But no. Barton tells Margaret that she’s asking too much.
Back at the book store, Bill has a proposition for Leslie: since controversy is a good thing, what if people thought Human Sexual Response was a dirty book, similar to Lolita or Women in Love? He wants the books wrapped in brown paper and for Leslie to make a display for them. Curiosity, Bill guesses, will get people’s attention since they want what they can’t have. And if this doesn’t lead to increased sales, Bill will buy all of the copies.
Following this, Bill reads more from Carnegie: when it comes to stopping arguments, tell the other person that you understand how they feel. He tests this when he talks to Paul, who realizes that his life is over. Well, at least Bill understands how he feels.
Bill then heads home early, to Libby’s surprise. She’s been thinking about when Bill was first named head of the department at Maternity. He wanted to celebrate with Libby since he called her instrumental in winning the position. When asked if he remembers what he did, Bill says that he took them to dinner and bought the most expensive champagne on the menu.
At a recruiting office, Dan and Virginia continue to wait. Dan realizes that Virginia reminds him of a girl he used to know, and this isn’t a pick-up line. He met her at the USO dance and almost broke her ankle while dancing, but she laughed. She liked being the center of attention. The two had their fun during the six months before Dan shipped out, but after the war, Dan returned to his wife. His wife who is still married to him but is now wiser.
Then we have a scene with Matt and Tessa because reasons. Tessa learned something bad about her mother, but she decides against talking when Matt makes one too many ridiculous assumptions. Matt is trying and wants Tessa to make up her mind. She has: Matt should undo his belt so Tessa can put her mouth on him.
Bill returns to the store and learns that his plan worked- all the books have sold out.
Back to Dan and Virginia, now at a restaurant. Turns out that Henry just had alcohol poisoning. And now he’s volunteered for a combat unit, even though he promised to not get engaged with combat. Henry was once a scared little boy, but he’s now a soldier and adult who lives his life one moment to the next. Anything else, Dan says, is speculation.
Barton tells Judith that the beef came from a girl at the office. She wants to stay the night, but he decides to come clean and admit that there have been difficulties in his past marriage…he’s on medication for high blood pressure. He’s enjoyed Judith’s company and doesn’t want to ruin that. Judith, though, isn’t one of those who men who thinks that sex is all that important.
Margaret, meanwhile, walks in on Graham, who is busy with another partner: Jo, played by Julie Ann Emery. Oh hey, it’s Ida from Fargo. Margaret just remembered the wrong night. Easy mistake.
At home, Libby digs through her closet and unearths a fur coat. How about that?
While at House Johnson, Bill arrives with good news: Little, Brown has agreed to a second book run. Bill also realized that now may not be the best time for Virginia to be on the road. Instead, he has a new marketing strategy: wrap the books in brown paper in order to elicit curiosity the public from something they see as illicit. Bill learns that Henry is well, which is good news to him.
He admits that the fur coat was an odd gesture since fur coats are typically for your wife, but he meant what he said: the success of the book isn’t possible without Virginia. Virginia, who has already been out to eat, accepts Bill’s offer for dinner as the episode comes to a close.
So the moral of the story is to never buy your significant lover and your significant other lover a fur coat.
I think the strength of “Under Influence” comes from using Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People as a backdrop against what the characters face and having it be a plot point to help Bill navigate his way through the lives of everyone around him. The line that stuck out to me the most was the one delivered by Betty: three-fourths of the people you meet hunger and thirst for sympathy. Give it to them and they will love you.
As we watch the show progress through the Sexual Revolution, several characters are still seeking sympathy and some form of acceptance from the people closest to them. When that doesn’t work, they seek their own form of acceptance through other means. This week, characters like Tessa, Bill, and even Barton and Margaret choose decisions that satisfy them. They aren’t necessarily the best options- especially in Tessa’s case- but they aren’t crumbling under the influence of what other people want. They’re sticking to their gut feelings, even when they know that it’s wrong.
Even though we’re in a period where people are becoming more accepting of people different than them, it can be hard to come clean with a repressed secret that keeps you from embracing your true self. Being open can ruin the semblance of happiness you have through the lie you’re living, but as long as you remain happy, it’s better for some to keep some things private. Just like Libby tells Barton, some areas are better if you keep them a mystery. And the mystery you find may not lead to something you even want to learn.
The title of Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, is indicative not just of what characters try this week, but of Bill and Virginia’s study in general. They’re trying to win the favor of universities, bookstore owners, and patients, but also hoping to educate them as well.
And they’ve made progress. Season One, sex was taboo. It still is, to an extent, but like Betty told Tessa, the study has made it so people don’t have to learn about sex on their own. Now people are more comfortable talking about their bodies. This isn’t always the case, since there are still some who call ahead if they want to order Human Sexual Response, but Bill and Virginia are making progress with changing the conversation about sex.
But winning friends and influence people isn’t always possible, despite your best intentions. Libby and Joy had a connection through their marriages, but now Joy is in a helpless state. Margaret wants to convince Graham to look to the past and find what made them both happy, but she herself isn’t having as much joy as she could be. The past, as Bill says, can hold some keys to present solutions, but it’s not always that easy to just take an old Band-Aid and apply it to a new wound.
This ties in with the idea that Bill can just buy presents and gifts to placate the people that he’s hurt or neglected. Try and repackage it all you like, it’s just a token gesture to mask the fact that you’ve caused another person pain. Sometimes people take the bait, but someone like Betty would be smart enough to see through a ruse. It’s one thing to lie to yourself because no one else is being harmed, but it’s another when you try to fool others. That just leads to everyone being hurt later down the line.
And this is the dilemma that the Scullys find themselves in right now. First off, it’s great to have Beau Bridges and Allison Janney sharing screen-time again, and they still do a great job playing an ever-troubled couple, despite not even being together anymore.
Through Graham, Margaret has recaptured some of the same passion she discovered with Austin, but the problem is her past with Barton haunts her to the point that she can’t fully be happy with Graham. Instead of token gestures like a fur coat, Margaret absolutely needs sex to be the one thing that Graham does to prove that he loves her because of how long she had been deceived by Barton. And she’s burdening herself by keeping Barton’s secret.
I get that she’s upset with Barton for not being true to Judith because it shows that she still cares for him, but she’s also not being completely honest with Graham. Like Libby, I find Margaret to be a very tragic character denied happiness for so long. She blames herself for being the reason why neither Graham nor Barton can fully satisfy her when there’s no need for her to be so self-defeating. This is the woman who didn’t even know what an orgasm felt like for years- she deserves to have some joy in her life.
But even her past isn’t the only thing keeping her from being happy with Graham, since it looks like he currently has more than one partner. While it’s a change of pace for Margaret, it doesn’t like one that she enjoys.
Barton is right, to an extent, about his personal life being his business, but Margaret had a point about keeping his homosexuality when it could end up hurting another woman. Right now, Barton just wants to be happy, and he’s taken a step toward that by quickly accepting Bill’s offer to work for him, but he’s still in denial to others about who he is.
He can’t bring himself to be open to Judith, who is clearly interested him, because he just enjoys her company, but nothing beyond that. And while it’s nice that he has made a nice life for himself and a job where he’s respected, he’s still setting himself up for a confrontation if or when Judith learns the truth.
On a side-note, Vivian is referenced and apparently Margaret thinks that she would hate her father if she learned the truth. Given her extreme distraught at Barton’s attempted suicide, I get the feeling that she still cares for him very much, but it remains to be seen how she’d react. And with Vivian wanting nothing to do with Margaret, I don’t know whether we’ll see her this season. Maybe Rose McIver’s a tad busy.
I can’t possibly imagine why.
While I didn’t sympathize all that much with Tessa last week, she seems resigned to continue in this downward spiral because she’s being neglected by her mother. For all of Henry’s issues overseas, Virginia can’t or won’t notice that the daughter right in front of her is being lost to the dark side of the Sexual Revolution. One of Carnegie’s lessons was about people understanding how others feel, but few of the adults around Tessa can understand how she feels because they aren’t her age and can’t relate to her on certain topics.
Sure, you’ve got the free love side of things, but Tessa is resolute in allowing herself to pleasure the same guy who abused her in the previous episode. Matt is a dick, to be sure, but he’s also one of the few, if only, people that Tessa can talk to about anything when he isn’t dicking around.
The closest I can think of would be Betty, and part of me wishes that these two had more scenes together. Like Virginia, Betty is very practical and street-smart. And as the first two seasons indicated, she knows a thing or two about how to pleasure men- this is a former brothel owner we’re talking about. So Betty has some wisdom that Tessa could use and wouldn’t try to talk down to her. Betty is at least practical enough to talk straight to people and cut through the bullshit, and Tessa doesn’t need any more shit in her life right now.
Just like Henry going off to war, Tessa being in this slump is a minor issue that I have with her ever since she was reintroduced since recasting both her and Henry as older feels like a reboot of their characteristics. As if these are the versions of Henry and Tessa that we accept moving forward and should forget everything from the first two seasons. We’ve also yet to see an older Tessa interact with George, so I’m curious to where their relationship is.
Libby is still lying to herself about whether she’s happy. She isn’t and she knows that, but she gets more confirmation that she’s being replaced upon finding the fur coat for Virginia. A tad convenient that she just decided to leave a note in Bill’s office instead of just telling Betty, but whatever.
She quizzes Bill on how they celebrated his success and he gave the wrong response, indicating that he, like Graham, isn’t overly concerned with their past. He’s moving onward to Virginia and leaving Libby in the dust.
So her one chance to be happy and influence others right now is through the Edleys. When Libby snaps at Paul for disrespecting Joy, I get the feeling that Libby is speaking for herself as well. No, Libby isn’t in a vegetative state, but she’s still being written off instead of treated with dignity. The anger she directs at Paul is the same disappointment she feels for Bill and since she’s not being treated well by him, I’m hoping she up and leaves.
That and takes the kids with her because aside from them, there’s nothing left for her. But, as previous seasons have indicated, it’s not exactly all that easy for a woman to have a job and raise a family on her own in the 1960s.
All you’d need to do is look at Virginia and see how she’s struggling. She’s trying to be practical, but her schedule won’t let her devote equal time to work and her daughters, never mind Henry being overseas and on his own. She wants to do both, and because Bill is so crafty at influencing her to focus on the work, she neglects her troubled daughter. My guess is that because of their arguments in the previous episode, Virginia may just be letting Tessa handle herself. Given how much of a prat Tessa has been, I don’t blame her, if that’s the case.
As has been the case before, Virginia is overworked and gets little room to breathe. She can’t fully commit to her family and she’s trying to compromise to make time for the work. Credit where it’s due, though, she has made a change since giving birth a third time and shows more care for her kids, as seen through her concern for Henry. And just like how Bill is putting on a front for Libby, part of me thinks that her interest and connection with Dan Logan means that she’s now putting on a front for Bill.
But as for Bill, he’s trying to take Dale Carnegie’s words to heart by sympathizing with folks like Paul and convincing people like Virginia that they’ve been a major impact in his life. A nice gesture that he’s already played with Libby, showing that he’s just resorting to an old tactic. The difference is that Bill is genuinely impressed with Virginia’s intellect. That, I think, is what impresses her and gives her a reason to accept his proposal.
Bill is awkward when he’s trying to be down-to-earth. He purchases the fur coat with the same hesitation as the man in the book store from the beginning because he’s not used to emoting. There are exceptions, such as his conversation with Margaret, but that’s due to their history as friends. He wants what’s best for both Margaret and Barton, but he also knows that this is a situation that they have to figure for themselves. Right now, Bill’s got his own battles.
However, credit where it’s due, I do like how he changes up his marketing strategy. Before, he was all for putting the book and study out in the open for everyone to see. He paid for that with his job at Washington University when he realized that shock factor wasn’t what would wow the public. The book has sold, but the idea of making something hidden or untouchable does arouse curiosity because people want what they can’t have. For all the talk about having an open conversation about sex, Bill’s tactic of hiding that conversation seems to have worked. Now to see how he and Virginia progress from here.
Oh, and for as much as Bill relied on Dale Carnegie to make a point, I loved his reaction when Betty called him out on it, as if no one else in the office had ever read the book besides Bill.
Like “Three’s a Crowd,” “Under Influence” put Bill and Virginia in difficult situations that they’re overcoming as they move forward with their book, but it comes at the expense of crumbling relationships with the people around them. Tessa is falling fast, Libby realizes that she’s no longer the most important woman to Bill, and the Scully family is still fractured as Barton and Margaret try to be honest with themselves and the new people in their new relationships. Bill and Virginia continue to rise while most of their friends and families begin to fade. And we know this won’t last for long.
But seriously, where is Vivian Scully?