Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Touches Lizzy Caplan’s Breasts. “Monkey Business” is odd. That’s the best way I can describe this episode of a show where people have sex on camera and pleasure themselves with a device named Ulysses. No. Based on how last week ended, it’s time to see Bill and Virginia head to the zoo to help a sad sack named Gil. Let’s jump into “Monkey Business.”
The episode begins in bed, with Dan asking Virginia to rate his performance. Was he as good as when Ed Sullivan had plate spinners on his show? Nah. Virginia likens him more to The Beatles. I prefer that comparison. Virginia gets ready to leave since she needs to be home by 11 pm, which is right now. With six hours of sleep, she can be up at six in the morning. Virginia’s life is complicated like that.
And Dan sympathizes, but he also notices that Virginia has left earlier each night they’ve spent together. Though Virginia counters that the two haven’t spent enough time for Dan to consider any sort of pattern. She’s just busy. Dan then brings up Bill, who he likes for how driven he is. But he doesn’t like him for Virginia. She balks at that idea. Hey, she is a married woman! Yet, Dan says, guys like Bill are a lot of work. Maybe Virginia’s husband is similar: impressive, but combustible.
Plus, both Bill and Virginia have undertaken a huge experiment. Virginia settles it by stating that she and Bill are only involved professionally. So who takes care of Virginia? The sitter. Dan tells Virginia that he wants to see her again.
Let’s see someone else again, first: hello, Sarah Silverman. Helen awakens Betty to talk about her dream: she was in a garden when a ripe plum fell on her lap. After Helen bit into it, a rabbit jumped out and burrowed its way into her vagina. Before it got too deep, Helen pulled the rabbit out of her vagina, only it wasn’t a rabbit anymore- it was a baby.
Honestly, I think this dream could have doubled as both Helen’s dream and a routine from Sarah Silverman’s stand-up.
But the point is that Helen wants a baby, though Betty preferred the dream to Helen’s mantra. And it’s not like Helen hasn’t been trying. She’s gone to three adoption clinics, none of which let single women adopt. That’s unfair, Helen says, but hey, that’s the 1960s for you. She suggests bringing in Rufus- a man who comes in to have his palm read. Rufus isn’t the smartest knife in the drawer: he’s electrocuted himself trying to pull toaster out with a fork. Many times.
This Rufus guy is in love with Helen, but he’s also saving himself. Betty argues that Helen can’t marry someone a little, and she would know. But maybe it’s dumb to have to wait so long for a baby. Betty supports Helen, but she knows that no one is going to give a baby to a pair of middle-aged dykes. This is also true. Helen figures that she’ll do this on her own, then.
So, day finally comes and we continue with Betty at the office, where she informs Bill that Barton is still away at a symposium in Memphis, so Bill will have to deal with Mrs. Fletcher’s insemination. Dan’s booked the other exam room from noon to six, though Bill thinks that it’s time for Dan’s study to stop since it’s apparently reached a dead end. That or, as Betty suggests, just let him have the room. After all, Bill wouldn’t want to alienate the folks who paid big money. What’s that mean?
Betty shows Bill a Newsweek article that he then reads to Virginia: Isabella Ricci spoke about how Bill and Virginia rescued them. She credits it to sensate therapy, but Bill and Virginia never attempted that protocol. So why would they lie? Betty explains that a tabloid photographer saw them leaving the clinic.
Okay, wait. Bill and Virginia work in a very sterile office in an equally sterile building. How and why would a tabloid photographer be there in the first place?
Never mind. There’s an upside to this: Newsweek now wants to write a feature article on Bill and Virginia. Bill doesn’t want to talk about fabricated results or for being the cure of a bad outcome, though Virginia reminds him that this was just one failure. They’ve helped others and this is the kind of exposure that they need to draw in new clients.
Besides, there’s still the matter of confidential patient information that can’t be revealed, so Bill and Virginia aren’t at liberty to discuss the case. They can, however, talk about their success stories.
Dan, elsewhere, has a run in with Tessa, who he doesn’t know at all. Hell, she introduces herself as the Lunch Girl. Noticing the way Dan is eying Masters and Johnson, Tessa advises Dan to not try and figure them out. They’re a mystery, she says.
Just then, Jane enters the office with Keith Coleman, played by Joe Tapper, who wants to be honest about his intentions, but Jane thinks differently. She tells Bill that Keith came about through one of the letters she discovered, but Keith is straight with Bill: he is in the same theatre workshop as Jane. He is impotent and has been for about two years now. Jane told Keith that she could use her influence to get Bill to help. This sort of implies that Jane has influence.
Bill spills that there’s no preferential treatment. More than that, therapy is for couples, not individuals, and since Keith doesn’t have a wife or girlfriend, he doesn’t qualify.
Following this, Bill heads to his car in the parking garage. Guess whose parked right next to him? Yeah, it’s Keith. Strange little coincidence that turned out to be. But Keith can’t start his car, so Bill decides to give him a jump. Keith calls attention to the already obvious metaphor that neither his car battery nor actual battery work. He thinks that Bill, despite his sympathy, doesn’t get it because Bill sees this as science.
And yet, Bill retorts that being a doctor doesn’t mean he’s immune to human suffering. Keith fears that he’ll be alone for the rest of his life. He doesn’t have a girlfriend, but he needs help, which he can’t get from the study because he doesn’t have a girlfriend.
We then cut to Virginia asking zookeeper Steven, played by Frank Clem, about the first sexual experience. It happened when he was eight, which is very common. The hell?
Nah, they’re just talking about Gil the Gorilla. Puberty for gorillas is often fast when the gorillas are raised in captivity. Once captured, Gil has been spoon-fed 20 pounds of vegetables and receives a cherry pie for dessert. He used to mate, but now he’s not interested in the female ape from San Diego. Steven wasn’t present for the last successful mating, which happened before he arrived at the zoo. Such knowledge belongs to the former keeper, Loretta Gladwin. And there are rumblings regarding her dismissal.
Bill notes that Gil didn’t grunt when he came on his own, but does show a tad more interest in Virginia. She wants to help Gil. After all, human genetic alignment with apes is almost 98 percent. Humans aren’t just descendants. Yes, Bill says, but with some crucial differences- like speech. At the very least, Virginia wants to observe. There could be some positive press if they succeed. After all, Virginia understands men and she helped Bill, so now the two of them just need to help Gil mate again.
No, the conversation isn’t over just yet. Back at the office, Bill figures that if Virginia wants to take this on, then there’s no reason to let any human male suffer, single or not. Um, you’re the one who told Keith that he didn’t qualify, Bill. Bill wonders if there are any letters from dysfunctional women out there.
To help Keith, Bill suggests pairing two nonfunctional patients, similar to Lester and Barbara. But, Virginia argues, those two put themselves in that situation to the point where they fell in love.
Oh, hi, Jane. Virginia says that the list of potential female surrogate applicants should come from those who have already participated in the study. What kind of woman? One who is functional, sexual, and interested in working for free, since paying her would be akin to prostitution. Jane, not a master of subtlety, volunteers herself, but Bill doesn’t want to do that to Lester.
Across the office, Lester heads off for a break, while Dan continues to try and learn something about the mystery Lunch Girl, such as how long she’s worked at the office. Her response is that she knows it all, like the fact that Mrs. Johnson has a messy life, so someone like Dan shouldn’t get involved. Hey, this is the woman who uses her looks to get ahead and has yet to finish college. Dan wouldn’t be surprised if Bill was smitten with Virginia, but Tessa tells Dan that she knows the two are sleeping together.
Betty helps Bill prep a lab room for Mrs. Fletcher, who wants to have a cigarette before the procedure. She compliments Bill on how he’s taking care of single people. In addition, she has received calls from single women asking if they can be impregnated with sperm from the donor bank. So…can they?
Bill tells her that such a question hasn’t been asked before…but no. After all, why would a woman want single motherhood? Betty’s response is that husbands die or leave, though Bill says you can’t compare attrition to trying to make it happen. It’s hard to raise a child on your own. So, Betty says, maybe a friend could help. Bill does not think that a woman needs his help to be inseminated. A couple of drinks and the guy across the bar can accomplish that.
We then cut to Bill and Virginia speaking with Loretta Gladwin, played by the great Alex Borstein. She first met Gil when he was 12-years-old at the Cleveland Zoo. Loretta asks about Gil’s current trainer, as there’s an art to this training. More to the point, Gil must have a female attendant to stroke his ego. Gil and Elvis have the same birthday, so there was this running game of who was the bigger king.
Loretta tells Bill and Virginia how she would stroke Gil’s…ego. Yes, his ego is what she stroked. Bill finds it unbelievable that Loretta just talked to the gorilla, but when Loretta did, Gil sired 21 different offspring with seven different females from zoos across the nation. Virginia asks if there’s anything else Loretta did. Loretta, seeing the implication, tells the two that she and Gil were just friends. She can’t return to help, though, as that would be too painful. After Loretta left, her life was a mess and she’s only just now getting it in order.
At House Masters, Libby tells Johnny that she plans to head over to the Edleys.
Once Libby leaves, though, Johnny burns his father’s Ernie Nevers football card. Bill returns not long after and smells something burning. Johnny says that his mother must have been burning plastic. Libby is distracted like that.
At the Edleys, Libby tries to hand Paul a check, but he rejects it. More than that, Paul doesn’t accept her apology. Libby keeps on the offensive, saying that she knows how precious illusions are. It’s been so long since she had any about her life. Sometimes, she would sit in that apartment and hope her husband would walk through…not current Bill, but one from an earlier time. But, Paul says, for the past months, he has just wanted to see Libby. But then Libby went and took that and Paul’s illusions about Joy. He tells her to keep the apartment.
Lester and Jane watch footage of a woman masturbating, because that’s what married couples do. It’s for research purposes so they can pick a good surrogate for Keith. Lester likes subject F-34-21, who, according to Jane, is Sue the Supply Secretary from Memorial. Then Jane plays subject F-12-22, which happens to be her. I could have sworn that Jane was subject F-26-002, but hey, it’s minor. Jane stops Lester from turning off the footage of her. After all, he filmed it.
So he wants to know why Jane is doing this. She wants him to remember how this all started. Jane knew at the start that Bill and Virginia’s work was important and made her feel important. Hell, that’s why she volunteered in the first place…and subsequently dropped off, but hey, Jane’s trying to be inspirational, so I’ll let her. And now she’s volunteering to help Keith. If Lester is angry- and he is- Jane reminds him that he was once in Keith’s shoes.
Jane then asks why Lester didn’t tell her about his impotence when he experimented with Barbara. His response is that’s something you don’t say to your wife. Valid point, but Lester also admits that he was impotent because Jane dumped him and broke his heart when he ran off with that director. But, Jane says, he got help. Now Keith needs a cure.
Bill and Virginia debate whether to help Gil. Virginia wants to take this one shot at it because she knows Bill would help a suffering human male. Okay, Bill says, he’s ready to do it now and get it done.
But then Dan enters with a proposition for the two: his company has a new popcorn flavor debuting at the premiere of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken at the Hi-Pointe Theater. He invites the entire office since they deserve time to relax, but both Bill and Virginia tell him that they’ll be busy with a very challenging case.
Oh, and when Tessa enters the room, Virginia officially introduces his daughter to Dan Logan by name.
Jane and Keith get to work with the sensate training. While nude. Oh, and who’s a handsome gorilla?
No, not Keith. This is Virginia talking to an unresponsive Gil while Bill just observes. After enough attempts, Virginia calls this a mistake. She’s frustrated because she can tell when someone is interested in her. Bill suggests that she move closer.
When she does, Gil approaches and grabs the cage. And yes, the gorilla is drawn to Virginia’s bosom. Remember, Loretta was a full figured woman. Plus, Bill says, no one gives of themselves like Virginia. Virginia strips down a bit and presents herself. And after a few moments, Gil is ready to mate.
Okay, with that scene done, we cut to Libby drinking alone in the apartment. Paul soon joins her, as he had nowhere else to go.
Well, that was a scene.
Betty and Helen arrive after hours at the office so Betty can stick a catheter into Helen’s cervix. With Betty going so fast, Helen wants to slow things down since this is a much longer process. More than that, the two know next to nothing about the male donor. A frustrated Betty wishes the two of them were like regular folks.
Then they wouldn’t have the responsibility of choosing. But Helen says that this should be a big decision. They’re having a baby, after all. Luckily, Betty knows someone who may be able to help.
Virginia doesn’t want the so-called solution to Gil’s woes to be shared with Newsweek. Bill argues that their success with Gil proves that performance-based dysfunctions are so rooted in our psyche that not even the most primitive of us are immune to certain effects. Bill and Virginia can repair human screw-ups, if need be.
At a gentleman’s club, Betty introduces Helen to the man who can help them: good old Austin Langham.
Later that evening, Bill and Virginia have dinner with a Newsweek reporter, played by Bruce Nozick, about their work. The writer tries to get Virginia to talk about the case with Al Neely and Isabella Ricci, but both she and Bill agree that each case matters. If Bill had to pick one, however, he would pick the one involving Al “The Ape” Neely and Isabella Ricci. Though Bill can’t divulge specifics, he uses a real ape to exemplify his point: damage it in a way that humans can inflict damage and watch it transform. Bill and Virginia those shattered parts and bring them together. This allows, through successful coupling, wounds to heal.
Virginia heads to the office and finds yet another ape. Well, it’s Dan in a gorilla suit. I’m going to assume that Dan did not previously have one of these, meaning he had to have just bought it. At least, Virginia says, Dan wears his ape on the outside. She tells Dan of their success…and what it took to get there with some extra encouragement. Virginia doesn’t outright say what she did, but Dan is smart enough to put two and two together. The two come together as the episode comes to a close.
Well, this may be one of the strangest episodes Masters of Sex has put out, for my money. “Monkey Business” is an apt name for just how odd it is compared to past episodes. It’s not bad, in my opinion, but the episode does suffer by having its main storyline not be as compelling or interesting as the other plots, particularly compared to last week’s well done “Two Scents.”
Masters of Sex has focused on the ongoing battles between the internal and external before and that tradition continues here by bringing in a new X factor: our primal instincts. Our truer selves that, as Bill and Virginia argue, bring us much closer to apes.
In fact, for as much as sex is still considered to be taboo to many in this time period, I’d argue that Masters of Sex explores that further here with Gil touching Virginia’s breast. To Virginia, that’s crossing a line, but that’s what Bill and Virginia have been doing this entire time with their study: pushing the boundaries of what’s socially acceptable.
This is completely unknown territory for Bill and Virginia because they’ve always dealt with humans. Sure, helping Gil doesn’t mean that they’re going to make the leap from humans to animals, but here, they’re considering not just whether their treatment is good for others, but the effects it has on them as well.
Well, more specifically Virginia, who gets subjected to being groped while Bill watches. I wouldn’t say I found this uncomfortable as much as I did just strange. First off, why in the world does an ape need a female human’s body as inspiration to mate with its own kind? Where is the logic in that?
Bill and Virginia grapple with whether they should even consider this case, which I like because it creates some tension between the two, though their motives are both selfish. Virginia initially wants to do it for the publicity it will attract, while curing Gil is just secondary. And Bill flip-flops from not wanting to help Gil because he’s a gorilla to changing his mind just to keep Virginia to himself and away from Dan.
In addition, he tries to justify Virginia doing what she did by saying that she helped Bill, so it’s time that she helped another in need. The line “No one gives of themselves like you, Virginia” is off-putting to me and it makes Bill less focused in the science at the moment and more just to goad Virginia into doing what she initially wanted. Sure, neither one of them knew what Loretta did to encourage Gil, but I’m going to guess that they wouldn’t have assumed it meant a female presenting herself to an ape.
Now that I think about it, Bill comparing Gil to Al was pretty spot-on: both Al and Gil craved what they couldn’t have and preferred the unreachable female to the real female in front of them.
It’s like Libby telling Paul about illusions and wanting to imagine a fantasy much more enjoyable than your mundane life. Sticking with Libby for a moment, since I honestly don’t have much to say about her this week- she’s found companionship in Paul, who she hurt deeply, so it’s a bit quick for him to just say that he wanted to see her, especially after she wounded and berated him.
But back to Bill- his description of him and Virginia bringing shattered parts together to heal wounds was true to their work, but I don’t think it fits together with the two of them trying to successfully get a gorilla to mate. This is the show trying to be smart after giving us such a low-brow moment, and I don’t like to call anything in Masters of Sex low-brow because this is a smart show. I just wish the moments with Gil were better handled and better written. Plus, for Bill not wanting to talk about fabricated results, he didn’t look completely comfortable talking about Al and Isabella.
Similar with the other plots of the episode. So Betty and Helen are still together and they want a baby. Progressive move for a pair of middle-aged dykes, as Betty puts it, but an uphill task. I do enjoy their conflict over whether just going forward with insemination without regarding the long-term consequences of their actions. Their child would grow up not knowing much about where they came from and their parents wouldn’t have much explanation, either. Luckily, the two smarten up and decide to take this slow as opposed to just making a baby so they can beat the adoption system. And it is nice to see Sarah Silverman again.
I wasn’t a fan of Betty running circles around the adoption and insemination talk with Bill, though. Betty is one of, if not the most blunt characters on the show. She rarely minces her words, so I’m confused as to why she didn’t just come out and tell Bill about her situation. Betty isn’t afraid to use Bill’s medical expertise to get what she wants. This is the same who threatened to destroy Bill’s equipment and blackmail him if he didn’t perform an operation on her.
And it’s not like Bill doesn’t know enough intimate details about Betty as it is. Okay, sure, I doubt he knows about Helen, but Betty could still just mention that she wanted a baby instead of trying to create a hypothetical scenario.
Oh, and I guess the show really doesn’t need much of a reason to have Austin return. Between Margaret, Flo, and now Helen and Betty, Austin seems to be good for two reasons: his looks and his dick.
Jane and Lester talking about inadequacy was a nice moment between the two of them, but it’s not something we didn’t already know. We’d touched upon Jane making Lester feel inadequate last season and how it tore him apart, but it didn’t affect his performance at work. I must question how these two are still together after all this time and how they even decided to get married. Jane is a very adventurous woman. If she wanted better, she’d have gone looking for it, but she stuck with Lester, despite his issues.
It’s a sign that she does truly care for him, but I wish we’d gotten to see more of them during this rough period. I am glad that the mention of Barbara wasn’t just to drum up conflict between the two, even if it was a bit convenient that Jane happened to overhear Bill and Virginia’s conversation. I do still wonder what happened between Lester and Barbara. Despite Jane and Lester having both been around since the first season, I buy Lester’s chemistry with Barbara a bit more than I do with Jane, if I’m honest, because they were both damaged, yet found and accepted each other, regardless of their inadequacies.
I’m making a lot of assumptions here, but I’m guessing that Tessa is still on suspension if she’s still hanging around the office. But then, I don’t know how long student suspensions were in the 1960s. If she’s been at the office for at least a few days, I can’t imagine that Dan Logan hasn’t seen or acknowledged her by this point. Same with Virginia introducing the two of them.
Sure, Tessa is right that Virginia is complicated, but I think she failed in trying to make her mother look bad by mentioning that she didn’t finish college. Dan is way too smitten with Virginia to care about any of her inadequacies, and he notes that Bill is the same way, so whatever tactics Tessa tried with her grandmother aren’t going to work as well with Dan. Really, if Tessa is going to be here, just stick her with Betty. She can learn more from her.
“Monkey Business” is quite the oddball episode of Masters of Sex. Again, it’s not bad, but it doesn’t have much going for it aside from a strange sequence of a gorilla touching Lizzy Caplan’s breast, making Gil the Gorilla probably the luckiest gorilla of the 1960s, and maybe even of all time.
I think there were some missed opportunities for deeper character examination and certain characters weren’t utilized to full effect. It’s good, but nowhere near as deep or memorable as “Two Scents,” with or without Isabella Ricci’s breasts. And my hope is that the reintroduction of Helen and Austin gives them more to do this season- Austin in particular, since the show seems to just put him where he’s needed.