The body says no, but the vagina says yes. This week’s “Two Scents” deals with our expectations pitted against reality as Bill and Virginia contend with a very famous couple, Libby enjoys some time to herself, Tessa almost finds common ground with her mother, and Dan Logan learns the power of Lester’s sweat. Let’s jump right in.
The episode begins with Dan and Virginia trying out a scent on their subject, Holly, played by Angela Sauer. It just reminds her of the candy apples her father would get at the Marshfield Fair. Dan is dismayed. Smells eliciting emotion as opposed to arousal aren’t getting the two of them anywhere. And if all reactions are unique, Dan worries that the two will need to customize a scent for every person.
Virginia asks Dan if he’s heard of gypsy moths. She read a piece in a nature magazine that they secrete a pheromone substance that acts as an aphrodisiac. It’s secreted by the female moths in order to attract the males from a great distance. And if the two can bottle a human equivalent, they may have a love potion on their hands, though Virginia notes that there’s no evidence that human pheromones exist.
Dan thinks they’re real and has an example: Virginia asked him for dinner, as if she’d been compelled by an unseen force. Since then, she’s wormed her way out of it. Truth be told, Virginia doesn’t know why she asked Dan, but she admits that it was wrong. She has a simpler suggestion: coffee in the lobby while they discuss a strategy for procuring pheromones. Dan believes that Virginia deserves better than coffee in a lobby. That’s not a proper courtship.
Bill, having watched this conversation play out on the other side, takes out his frustration on the track, racing way ahead of Paul. Bill’s answer for his burst of speed is that he’s been thinking of how people slip away. But when asked who, Bill tells Paul that he’s referring to Johnny. Bill asked if he wanted to attend a Cardinals/Bears game, but got nothing out of it. Well, you know how people have connections?
Paul got in touch with a former Cardinal, a friend of his named Al “The Ape” Neely, who played with Paul in Nebraska. Since then, Al married an actress named Isabella Ricci. Al and Isabella are trying to find someone to talk to about their bedroom problems, so imagine their surprise when they learned that Paul was neighbors with Bill Masters. All they need to do is put in a call.
Changing the conversation a bit, Bill asks Paul if he’s still coaching kids’ football, which he is. Bill would like to be the assistant coach. If he doesn’t try, nothing will happen or things that he won’t want to happen may occur. Hell, Johnny could try out for the team. Who wouldn’t like that idea?
Libby, for one, as Johnny could be injured by boys twice his size. Bill doesn’t falter. He needs his wife to stop mollycoddling their son and suggesting he do something else like go to the planetarium. But hey, Libby apparently did say that Bill needs to spend more time with the kids, and that’s what he’s doing. Now he needs to head off for a work dinner. What kind of work?
Dinner with Virginia’s parents. Edna has been telling her friends about the famous author she now knows. While she likes spending time with Bill, she also has crazy ideas like wanting to take Baby Lisa out for ice cream. Lisa is three months old. No, it makes no sense, but Edna thinks this will give Bill and Virginia time to talk about something other than work.
When Harry and Edna leave, Bill and Virginia both realize that Edna is trying to set them up. Virginia finds the arrangement grotesque, and since the two can’t possibly stay at Virginia’s place, they’ll have to separate for a bit.
Libby tends to Joy’s needs while giving an abridged version of her storyline from Season One: she deceived Bill about how she first became pregnant. The procedure led to attempt one, but that ended in a miscarriage. From there, Bill wanted no more tries, but Libby still got a capping procedure that involved the remainder of Bill’s sperm, which led to the birth of their first child. In Libby’s mind, any feelings Bill had for her died the night he realized that Libby lied and he would be a father.
Then, when hoping to work on Joy’s hair, Libby goes through the drawers and finds a series of keys. She pockets one just as Paul arrives.
Virginia asks Harry if he knew that Edna would try to set her up with Bill. He did, but he acknowledges that it wouldn’t have done him any good to try and challenge her. He recounts their first date: they went to the movies. Edna always imagined herself being someplace better than where she is, like going to some fancy gala. Sure, both Harry and Virginia know that Edna would be lost without him, but we all need stories to tell ourselves.
Despite working just a few hours a day, Jane is given her own office to go through letters. Betty’s instructed her to answer anything that doesn’t compare them to Satan or damn them to Hell. Easy. She spots a celebrity couple entering, but Betty tells her straight away that no one knows that they’re there, so Jane also doesn’t know.
Bill and Virginia meet with the pair: Al Neely, played by Christopher Wiehl, and Isabella Ricci, played by Kristen Hager. Both are interested in Bill and Virginia’s work and have heard positive things from the likes of Sandra Dee. Al wants to know how not touching Isabella sexually fixes things in the sex department. Bill’s response is that non-sexual touching removes the pressures associated with sex.
Isabella calls herself frigid, but Virginia advises against that, saying that ‘frigid’ makes it seems like it’s the woman’s fault. She prefers the term ‘non-orgasmic.’
At House Johnson, Tessa flips through an issue of Teen Society– she wrote an essay entitled “Life and Love” and hopes that her mother can read it. Tessa didn’t even expect to win, but there you go. Edna wants Tessa to get a hair appointment so she can look more attractive to the boys. And when Tessa turns it down, Edna advises her to not be like her mother and fight her decisions.
Tessa softens and thinks that her mother may have a good reason for fighting, which prompts Edna to think that Virginia has turned Tessa against her. Harry always said what Virginia wanted to hear, but Virginia, Edna says, should be treated as a cautionary tale. Sure, Virginia wrote a book, but her life is a mess. Right now, Tessa needs to focus on what matters.
Like football. Johnny’s not interested in playing, though. The next quarterback, Paul says, has a great arm, but a bad attitude. Who should it be but #14: Dennis Daughtry. Paul thinks that the kid needs to learn, but Bill, ready to put him in, wants there to be another kind of punishment that doesn’t embarrass the team by losing.
In the stands, Libby and another mother, Eunice, played by Samantha Klein, watch. Eunice has been around the block more than once. These games aren’t about everyone- it’s just the boys, coaches, and fathers. Eunice has a huge responsibility, though. She’s in charge of snacks. And if you’re a mother that isn’t on the snack rotation, then you’re grounded, young lady. Nah, you’re just a bad mother, even though no one cares about your presence. But the second mom steps away to do her own thing and enjoy the day, she’s negligible. The job is to be invisible.
On the field, Dennis throws a touchdown. He gets some encouraging words from Bill, who also apologizes for threatening him last time. He sees true potential in him. Much more than Johnny, who gets knocked on his ass.
Libby leaves the game not to sign up for the snack rotation, but to head to apartment 7D. She takes a nice long bath, but is interrupted by the arrival of Vincent, played by Keir O’Donnell, who has come to turn off the gas. Libby introduces herself to him as Mrs. Joy Edley.
Back at work, Bill and Virginia speak with the pairs, but one-on-one. First up, Al tells Bill that his marital problems started one year ago. He thinks that Isabella overthinks things. Dogs, though, don’t think, but using dogs as an example, Bill says, is an oversimplification. True, so let’s keep that going. Al wants to know that if Bill was in his position, would he be concerned with being asked to open a gorilla exhibit.
See, Al was asked to open one at the zoo. Featured in this exhibit would be the famous Gil the Gorilla. Not Magilla, mind you, just Gil. Al will be paid double the money if Isabella appears with him, and she agreed to go to the ape house if Al came to see Bill. Bill, like anyone else, doesn’t care about this or anything involving their personal lives outside of their marriage issues. Al says that he’s not the one with the problem.
And smash cut to Isabella, who tells Virginia that Al is indeed the problem. He’ll screw anything that walks, winks, and sits to take a leak. When Isabella was filming Johnny Reno with Jane Russell, Isabella didn’t need to buy perfume because her bedsheets reeked of whatever Jane had. Similar incidents occurred with Natalie Wood during the shooting of Penelope, and Shelley Winters on Patch of Blue. Hell, Isabella even found Al eying Virginia as well.
Virginia informs Isabella that success with struggling couples only happens when the partners commit to each other. Isabella is no stranger to commitment and love. When they first met, they made love in so many places. Hell, Al once had Isabella in a fountain in Rome at three in the morning. They felt like gods that day. Just the scent of Al would make her climax. Huh. But now they can’t go out without Al drooling over some other woman. Men would kill to have Isabella, she says, but Al makes her feel old. She asks Virginia right now, and I quote: “Who on God’s green Earth wouldn’t want to fuck this?”
And then this happens. I know this Isabella Ricci isn’t based off an actual actress, but damn it if she’s not fucking gorgeous, even before ripping open her top. If that makes me sound like a sexist asshole, so be it, but really, who wouldn’t want to have sex with her?
Okay, I’m done. And so is Virginia, who concludes that this couple is insane. Bill argues that they can’t choose cases based on degree of difficulty, but Virginia says that’s not true since they’ve turned couples away in the past. True as that is, frigidity is their expertise. Though the core problems with this couple go way beyond Bill and Virginia’s skill set, Bill doesn’t want to alienate the community by dumping patients. What community? The one that paid $3,000 for two weeks of their expert advice. Holy shit, that’s bank. Betty already cashed the damn check, too.
Dan enters, ready for his project, but Bill will be joining him and Virginia. While Dan heads over, Bill tells Virginia that it’s time for Mr. and Mrs. Holden to revisit the Chancery Park Plaza Hotel.
Dan and Virginia’s work involves Lester pedaling for his life to work up a sweat since the suspecting idea is that human pheromones are secreted through sweat glands. Bill calls this a theory, nay, a trick since a person is being manipulated into feeling sexual attraction for someone they might not be attracted to. Or, Dan says, he’s trying to develop a product customers want. Bill thinks that Dan may have some other interest, but Dan just wants to take nature’s guidelines for pointing humans to the right partner and give that guideline a little boost.
Science plus commerce equals a happy marriage. Virginia interrupts this back and forth by reminding the two that they all just want to find a link between scent and human sexual response.
That evening, at House Masters, Bill goes over football with Johnny when Libby arrives later than expected- she had to drop Jenny off at a friend’s. When Libby learns that Bill is teaching Johnny a play based on what he saw Dennis Daughtry, Bill’s defense is that he had no idea that Dennis was on the team. But hey, they’re on the same side now. Johnny heads off to read.
At the Chancery Park Plaza Hotel, Bill heads to the desk and has a short reunion with Thomas, who refers to Bill not as Dr. Holden, but Dr. Masters. Thomas thanks Bill for the book, saying that his wife purchased it, which brought some pizzazz to their home. Why’s Bill stopping by the hotel? He and Mrs. Johnson are headed to a symposium and need to pay for their drink. Not a problem, Thomas says. It’s on the house.
Since they can’t stay at the hotel, Bill and Virginia take refuge in the lab. Back to ground zero, which Bill thinks sounds grim, but Virginia doesn’t think that a relationship that began in a lab counts as a courtship. Bill disagrees. It’s unorthodox, but it was a spark. No, Virginia says, it was a negotiation that led to them hooking wires up to each other and talking through the four phases. Remember those days?
Virginia says that nature isn’t how they got together, even though Bill thinks different. Virginia wonders what if they had met under different circumstances, like being drawn toward each other at a dinner. Bill just calls that a simple schoolgirl fantasy. Plus, he thinks it’s unfair that romantic circumstances alone define a natural courtship. But Virginia knows that what they had is far from natural.
At House Johnson, Virginia sees Tessa’s new hairdo and isn’t much of a fan. She tells Edna just as much when the two argue in the kitchen. Edna says that Tessa needs this sort of relationship with an adult figure. Virginia rages, calling out her mother for always belittling and criticizing her. She also doesn’t want Tessa dragged into their affairs. All Virginia’s ever wanted is her mother’s approval with no strings attached.
It may be too late for the two of them, but Virginia will be damned if she’s going to let her mother turn Tessa into a twisted version of herself that she’ll come to loathe. Never mind that Tessa is doing that to herself, mind you. Edna counters that she can love her daughter and tell the truth.
Back at apartment 7D, Vincent fixes a leak for Libby. She’s never been good at mastering the half-pot of coffee, she says, but the highlight of her day has always been the first sip. When asked about her marital status, Libby says that she’s split from her husband, but still has her three children. Vincent regrets what happened to his kids after his divorce.
Libby assures Vincent that nothing will happen to her children, though. She’s made sure of that. Vincent informs Libby that she’s paid for up to six months, so she can enjoy her stay.
Virginia drops off Al’s forms so he can redo them by having more than one-word answers. For example, when asked about what form of contraception he uses- Al responded with ‘Television.’
Meanwhile, Isabella is all set to enjoy herself with our old friend, Ulysses. It’s warm, which is meant to make penetration easier. Plus, as Bill says, this will help them rule out if there are any physical problems that may be preventing orgasm.
Isabella strips down for her performance. Bill, though, isn’t fazed in the slightest. Of course.
She manages to climax in 54 seconds, indicating that the problems don’t come from her. Bill tells her that one variable to consider is transference. What she feels can be explained by science, though Isabella believes that what Bill calls science, most would call chemistry.
Still in the office, Virginia and Dan try out Lester’s sweat on their newest subject, Beth, played by Beth Fraser. Beth just wonders if she needs to pick up Tide on her way home. While it looks like the sweat did nothing, Virginia looks at the results and finds a few spikes. Her mouth says no, but her vagina says yes. Only on Masters of Sex. The flushes, the blotches, erect nipples, and vaginal lubrication show that the body responds to the smell, even if the patients say that they do not.
At House Masters, Libby finds Paul tending to Johnny’s strained ankle. He was on the wrong end of a pile-up. But hey, he tackled two other guys. That’s gotta count for something. Libby is pissed, to say the least, and elects to take Johnny out of football. Paul, echoing Bill’s words, tells Libby that she can’t deprive Johnny the chance of working through the pain. Don’t mollycoddle him. Paul doesn’t believe in that.
But is Paul the exception? Libby spills that Joy was drowning in an unhappy marriage and planned to leave him. Paul, suddenly shocked and dismayed by this revelation, leaves without a word.
Back at the office, Bill and Virginia speak with Al and Isabella about the impediments to treating their infidelity- the lack of commitment. Al says that as celebrities, they’re paid to be charming, but Isabella isn’t on board with that. Bill and Virginia highlight one question on the form: what attracted them to each other when they first met?
For Isabella, she liked Al’s smile and body when he came to her at the Brown Derby. Al’s response is that Isabella was 20 feet tall. It was in a dark theater. While other men watched and lusted for Isabella on the screen, Al felt that she was actually within reach. When the curtains went up, she didn’t vanish to Al. He wanted her at the derby as well. But then, Al thought of the woman he saw on the screen and wished that he had her instead of the real one next to him. Cruel as fuck, but what Al considers crueler is that he wasn’t honest with her earlier.
On the elevator ride down after, Bill and Virginia conclude that Al and Isabella were, in fact, doomed from the start. Bill stops the elevator so the two can have a quickie right there. Virginia’s parents are leaving tomorrow, so they may as well take advantage. Bill thinks to when he first spotted Virginia at Maternity. He agrees that yes, the two would have found each other at that dinner party. But, Virginia says as she restarts the elevator, now they’ll never know.
At the apartment, Vincent informs Libby that her husband is waiting for her. Upon heading upstairs and finding Paul sitting at the table, Libby leaves.
Dennis visits House Masters just as Bill is in the middle of watching a game. Dennis is just there for his football, but Bill invites him in to join him in watching. He then takes out his card set and plays a guessing game with Dennis. All while Johnny watches from afar…
Virginia finds Dan still working at the office. The two toast to their love potion. Virginia isn’t feeling anything, but then, she’s not hooked up, so she wouldn’t know. Dan has an idea for an experiment: as Dan doesn’t believe that the body can respond sexually without a person knowing. Maybe they need to be close.
So the two dance. There’s no physiological response yet, but then, you can never know what’s happening in your nether regions.
Then things get more intimate…
When Virginia finally returns home, she finds that Tessa has returned her hair to normal.
Just as Tessa is about to show her mother the article that she wrote, she sees that Virginia’s blouse is unbuttoned in the back. Tessa heads to bed instead, trashing the magazine on the way up the stairs.
Betty gives Bill the check from the celebrity couple, who also had a referral.
The episode comes to a close as Bill meets with a man at the zoo to see a gorilla that just isn’t into girls. Why? Who knows? We’ll find out next time.
If there’s a central battle seen in “Two Scents,” it’s the ongoing battle between expectations versus reality. Whether it’s our dreams, nightmares, or stories we share with others, what we conjure in our head doesn’t always translate into reality. As Masters and Johnson are discovering, the world of sex is ever-changing and unpredictable, so it would be impossible to try and predict every scenario.
Yes, some aspects can be explained through science, but others are more mysterious. That’s what I feel Isabella was getting at when she told Bill that what he calls science, others call chemistry. Some things just happen without explanation or as part of some strange phenomena. It goes back to Bill discussing how we can’t see things like gravity or love, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
At times, we try to come up with a justification for something that isn’t there because it fits our narrative. Like when Virginia thought that her mother was the one who entered her into beauty pageants. Here, we see that Edna fantasized herself in a much happier lifestyle than with Harry not because she dislikes him, but because she wanted more than the hand that life dealt her. Now there’s nothing wrong with fantasizing. It doesn’t make us ungrateful, I feel- just that we want to take ourselves out of reality for some time and live within our own bubble where we set the rules.
At the end of the day, though, unless we take the initiative to make our dreams real, they’re still just that: fantasies conjured up to distract us from the hardships of real life. Or, in some instances, a better alternative to our own state of affairs.
Another challenge characters faced in this episode is with people losing the ones closest to them. Now this has been a constant of the show. Hell, Libby has been dealing with abandonment by Bill for almost three seasons now, but now, when Bill and Virginia attempt to make connections with their respective children, they fail by connecting to someone else. It’s very easy for children to be jealous when they see their parents devote time and love to someone other than them, and we watch this through Johnny and Tessa’s eyes.
While Johnny and Bill haven’t had any semblance of a close bond, we saw shades of it when Bill got him into football and tried to teach him a few maneuvers.
The problem comes when Bill starts softening to Dennis after threatening him one episode ago. It’s clear that Bill does regret his actions, but like Paul Edley, he likes having a connection with someone that has similar interests. When Bill sees Dennis’ football prowess and interest in the cards, Bill wishes that Dennis was his son. More than that, I’m willing to bet that Bill wishes he had some of Dennis’ strength and fortitude when he was a child. The expectations Bill had for Johnny now manifest in Dennis.
And Johnny, like Libby, is left to just watch from a distance as one of the important male figures in his life bonds with his temporary replacement. We already know that these two don’t get along. A father-son relationship wouldn’t be impossible, but what little chance of it there may have been- since Johnny was getting into the game- has come to a screeching halt.
Tessa almost had a chance at a connection with her mother when she came to her defense. Tessa has few female adult figures in her life she can look to without skepticism, but the ones closest to her cause the most division. She enjoys Edna’s companionship, but not her attempts to change her into someone that she isn’t. Both Virginia and Edna note that Tessa is their chance to get it right, and that’s true, but Tessa is already screwed up as is. All Virginia and Edna are doing is making the damage worse.
Like Virginia, Tessa knows what it’s like to seek appreciation with no strings attached. She gets little appreciation as is, and when she finally gets it, Edna goes from talking about the magazine to suggesting that she change her look. Given how much of a rebel Tessa is, I’m actually surprised she even went along with the hairdo, especially after saying that maybe her mother has a reason to fight.
But just when it seems like she and her mother may have found common ground, she finds Virginia’s blouse is undone in the back. This indicates to Tessa that Virginia still isn’t willing to put family first, but fooling around with men when she can. It’s unfortunate because while I’m not a fan of this version of Tessa, it was sad to see her be so proud of her work, only to discard it after realizing her mother was out having sex with another man.
I’m gonna say this, though: Tessa is part to blame for Virginia arriving at this point. Had Tessa not planted that bow-tie, Edna wouldn’t have suspected things were going on between Bill and Virginia, thus things would have gone on as usual and Virginia probably wouldn’t have been as invested in Dan Logan as she is now. I know, that’s a stretch, but you can connect some of the dots there.
Bill, meanwhile, is losing the battle on multiple fronts. He can’t bond with his son, so he instead befriends the bully who beat him up, he and Virginia are unable to solve the couple’s troubles, and his relationship with Virginia isn’t as solid as it once was. As has been the case many times before, Bill is very clinical in how he approaches things. Instead of believing in fantasies and what-if scenarios, he believes in science.
When Virginia describes a scenario where she and Bill could have met under different circumstances, Bill writes it off as nothing more than a schoolgirl fantasy. What they had was true romance at first sight, but as often is the case, he’s in denial. If it was a real relationship, there would have been no need to pay Virginia for her services way back when during “Involuntary.”
And if he believes in there being something besides science leading to love, he wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Dan’s experiments to find the link between scent and human sexual response. But then, this was also his jealousy showing.
For all the criticism she’s received for her work, it was nice to see Virginia stand up to her mother in a desperate plea for validation. Here’s someone who believed that her mother placed certain expectations on her as a child, and some of that may be true, but Virginia also holds herself to a higher standard because she’s always pushing herself to be better. And the rage she showed at Edna was long overdue.
And unlike Bill, Virginia is willing to believe in a fantasy where the two met under different circumstances. The spark that’s lit Bill and Virginia’s relationship for so long may still be burning bright for Bill, but Virginia looks to have grown tired of some of it. Now, if history is any indication, we know these two will be together for quite some time, but as far as this episode goes, for Virginia to compare their arrangement to that of amoeba in a Petri dish demonstrates that she doesn’t share Bill’s bliss at the thought of their first encounter.
So she turns to Dan Logan, who is a refreshing change of pace, as he’s exploring an avenue that Bill and Virginia haven’t fully explored yet. It’s unfortunate that Virginia continues to slide backwards because, in the end, she is still married to George, even if just in name. Right now, she’s just doing what makes her happy, even though that means neglecting her family and ignoring Tessa’s accomplishment.
Side-note, in a nice nod to continuity, I did appreciate that Bill and Virginia encountered a familiar bellhop at the hotel as opposed to someone new. Sure, Thomas didn’t make a big deal out of the fact that Bill and Virginia had been lying to him. In fact, he was just overjoyed by the book. But I’m glad to see how difficult it is for Bill and Virginia to maintain their secrets as their reputations continue to grow.
Libby, having already been neglected for years, gets a chance at the dream life by taking on Joy’s identity. Tired of being invisible, she sheds her normal demeanor not because she has to, but simply because she can. We’ve seen Libby tell others before that she didn’t have a husband, but this is her living out that fantasy. Rather than worry about what Bill’s up to, Libby can lay her concerns aside and relax. She’s like Isabella, really: instead of Bill cozying up to an attractive woman like Libby, he goes after Virginia instead because he’s grown tired of his wife.
Like before, though, Libby is taking her ire out on the wrong man. I’ll agree with Bill and Paul that she does mollycoddle Johnny. Also, it’s just rare that I hear the word mollycoddle. Anyway, Bill is the one who deserves all of her wrath, but she takes it out on Paul when he just wants to help toughen up Johnny. It’s not a bad thing to want and I’m sure that Libby wouldn’t want Johnny to grow up as a pushover. Yeah, Paul may not be the best of husbands, but as far as I can tell, he has Johnny’s best interests at heart while Libby ops to remove Johnny from football altogether at the first sign of danger. I get that she’s concerned and overprotective- most mothers tend to be- but let the boy take a risk.
Al and Isabella’s tale, like Barton and Margaret’s, is one of tragedy. Isabella sees the lack of fire in their relationship as her fault, only to learn that Al grew bored of her. I can’t really explain this because regardless of what she looked like then, she still looks attractive as hell.
The scene with Al revealing that he wanted more of the woman on the movie screen instead of the one next to him was rough, but it felt real. Not all couples, even power couples, remain intact.
And Bill and Virginia aren’t always going to score a win with troubled romances. For all their knowledge of human sexuality, even they couldn’t save a relationship that was doomed from the start.
Again, though, as serious as this episode was, it had its lighter moments. The scene of Isabella ripping open her top was funny. It was a bit shocking because it was right in your face, but that’s par for the course on this show and it made me laugh nonetheless.
And Virginia’s blank reaction is priceless.
“Two Scents” dealt a lot with expectations pitted against reality. What we conjure in our heads, watch on television, or read in books is an escape from this world, but then we realize the world we live in isn’t as much entertaining as fiction. A great episode with some great guest appearances and an ending that leaves things up in the air as Bill heads to the zoo.