A Look at Masters of Sex- Season 4, Episode 5: “Outliers”

What is it that people say?  Honesty is the best policy?  Well, not all of the time, but even when it may get you into trouble, whether at work, at home, or with your partner, does it help to be honest?  Let’s find out in “Outliers.”

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The episode begins with Virginia listening to recorded footage of Art and Nancy talking about her, with Nancy wanting to learn a thing or two.  She heads right to Art’s office and, without mentioning the recording equipment, asks why Nancy thinks that Virginia is an attentive lover, based on Nancy seeing Virginia and Art go into a room together.  Nancy just assumed, but apparently Art confirmed it, though Nancy would think no less of her.

So Virginia tells Art to deal with this problem, but then Art turns it and asks if this has anything to do with Bill, based on the intimate truths Virginia shared.  Something happened with Bill and Virginia.  But Virginia just calls them assumptions, and she doesn’t want to tell the facts that she does know about Art to Nancy.  Virginia, could you be any more of an asshole right now?  Anyway, Virginia goes back to her office and cuts the footage.

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We revisit Alcoholics Anonymous, where Jerry finishes sharing.  Louise then announces that tonight is Bill’s final meeting, as he’s completed 90 meetings in 90 days- no small feat.  Traditionally, before someone leaves, a person shares something that they’ve learned or would like to share.  Bill merely bids the group good luck.  Beautifully said, Bill.

After the meeting, Bill tells Louise that he never really belonged in the group anyway.  He has bigger problems, like his trial that starts tomorrow.  He’s fighting to preserve his reputation and clinic, that way he can start fresh with his life.  Louise gets to signing his form.

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Next day at the trial, Bram Keller asks a potential juror if she and her husband ever received any sort of counseling.  All the juror knows is that Bill and Virginia have written a smutty book.  In fact, both the prosecution and defense burn through jurors, but most settle on a hypothetical guilty verdict.

Following this, Virginia asks Bram why they aren’t talking about settling, since that makes the most sense, but that would mean pleading guilty to sexual deviance.  The prosecution will stop nothing short of that, and this could scare away potential clients.  A loss would only be a temporary setback, followed by an appeal to a higher court, even to the national stage where the team could defend the cause of scientific inquiry.

This isn’t about some indiscretion, but the right of scientists to pursue knowledge.  Bill wants to review Bram’s opening statement to at least get the precise nature of Bill and Virginia’s work.  He then heads off to speak with Libby.  Virginia learns from Bram that apparently Bill and Libby have put their divorce on hold, as there’s been a thaw.

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Art tells Nancy that he feels someone is listening in on their conversations, since some things Art said behind closed doors have been repeated by Virginia.  They should be aware of what’s going on, but Nancy wants to get to the bottom of this.

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A very pregnant Helen hurries her parents along and out of the home, but then Betty arrives at an all-too convenient moment.  Helen tells her folks that Betty lives down the hall.  This awkward encounter ends when Betty excuses herself out.  Can’t Helen just have Austin pretend that he’s her husband?

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Back at the clinic, apparently Guy got a new job, as he’s answering Betty’s calls.  He hands Virginia some massages and files, but then tells her that, based on his experience reading Bill and Virginia’s book, there’s a revolution afoot.  The problems that Bill and Virginia treat without mocking or judgment is admirable.  Guy could not be prouder to work here, even though he just got there, but whatever.  He’s good at his job.

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Virginia asks Betty if she’s done a background check on Guy, even though all of his references gave good remarks on him.  She wants Betty to do more digging.  In the meantime, Betty gives Virginia an update from Little Brown: they’ve passed on publishing.  Virginia wants an appointment made for her, Bill, and Bob Drag in New York today.

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She then updates Bill on Little Brown passing on the book, though Bill doesn’t seem too worried.  Virginia is more interested in recapturing their interest before waiting for the trial verdict, especially if it’s unfavorable.  Bill agrees, though he’s thrown when Virginia mentions that she wants both of them to make a case to Bob Drag.

Bill can’t go, though- he has to review this statement.  A win will mean a fresh start, though Virginia feels that Bill is backsliding.  Bill goes a step further and confirms that he and Libby are considering reconciling.

Virginia wants to know why, but Bill just says that they’re going to work to make things different.  In a callback to her attempt at getting back together with George, Virginia asks why anyone would want to make the same mistake twice.

She then cautions Bill against falling into old patterns and insists that he come to New York, where they can reinvest in what’s given them the most satisfaction: the work.  Instead, Bill puts his focus on the court case, but he does agree that they should also put their efforts in the book as well.  And he’s confident that Virginia can handle that without him.

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Over food, Libby tells Bram Keller that she won’t testify or say anything that would put Bill in jail and jeopardize the reconciliation.  The press may accost Libby on the courthouse steps, but Libby has no intention of running.

Fine, so hypothetical scenario: let’s say a reporter asks Libby about the pandering and prostitution charges.  What does Libby say?  Libby will respond that the charge was trumped up by an overzealous prosecution bent on destroying Bill’s years of work.  Libby shoots down Bram’s offer for drinks.

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Back upstairs, Nancy tells Art that she suspects Lester of being the spy, given that he took the photo of them kissing, but Lester isn’t in his office.  And then the two stumble upon the recording room, where they hear Guy speaking on the phone to a client, even though they’re nowhere near him.  Nancy is beyond livid and wants to leave, but Art wonders how it will look if they jump ship not only two months into the job.

Art, trying to imagine things from Bill and Virginia’s point of view, wants to play this out, but if things don’t get better, they will leave.

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In New York, Virginia meets with Bob Drag, who maintains that he had no intention of meeting with her.  Drag tries every way to get out of this impromptu meeting, but Virginia will not let him leave without getting in her say.

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At House Masters, Bill finds Libby smoking a joint, which a woman in her group gives away in exchange for frozen casseroles.  Okay, this is officially the coolest women’s group ever.  Bill also learns that Libby has been doing some housework around the home- she’s not as helpless as one would think.

As for the two of them, Bill asks if there are any more wishes Libby has.  Neither of them knows how a separation works- they’re just in uncharted waters.

Bill asks if what happened the other night could happen again, but Libby would prefer to experiment.  She figures there’s a way the two of them could do that to each other at the same time.  Libby believes that there’s even a number for it.  I have the giddiest smile on my face right now.

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So Bob takes Virginia as his guest to a party, with Virginia telling him about the trial’s progress.  Bob introduces Virginia to Arnold Ketterman- the man who runs things around these parts.  As Bob gets handy with Virginia, he tells Arnold that he goes way back with Virginia.

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We then cut to the aftermath of the 69-ing, with an exhausted and satisfied Bill and Libby turning the conversation to the trial.  Libby begins reciting legal code while getting high, which is just astounding.  Libby asks Bill to stop being a narc and take a hit.  He does, and like any rookie, he messes up, but he is a fan of the new bed that Libby bought.  It’s bouncy.

Libby then tells Bill that she wishes the two of them had friends, dinner parties, and maybe even played charades.  So Bill then gives her three words: he hates charades.  He does admit that he should have tried harder to meet new people.  He’s always afraid that people won’t like him because people don’t like men.

Libby just wanted more fun and travel.  Maybe even take the kids to Disneyland.  The two settle under the covers when Howie, now played by Caiden Milick, interrupts the fun.

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Back at the party, Virginia tells Bob that she won’t sleep with him the book published, but he has no intention of sleeping with her.  Virginia wanted to talk about sexual inadequacies, but Bob tells her that Arnold doesn’t think a man like Bob can pass muster.

He’s been demoted.  It’s no coincidence that this happened after his fiancé called off their wedding.  Bob knows what the others think of him, but it’s not true.  Virginia just doesn’t want Bob groping him.  Quid pro quo.  Virginia needs to take this book deal back to Bill, and a lot depends on it.  That’s the quid, so what’s the quo?

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Helen watches Betty eat, as she’s having contractions and doesn’t want to have any food.  This worries Betty, but Helen got confirmation from both her mother and Barton that this is nothing to worry about.  Helen would’ve told Betty, but she’s never around.  Helen’s parents have helped out around the house, but Helen hasn’t found the way to ask them to leave before the baby arrives.  Helen just wants them to stay until the baby comes home.

She wants Betty to understand, but Betty will not allow herself to be shuffled on the sidelines.  But Helen can’t tell her parents that she’s in love with a woman.  Betty doesn’t get why, since Helen’s parents seem like nice people, but Helen knows how this story ends: with her never seeing her parents anymore, and Betty can’t ask Helen to never see her parents again.

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Virginia speaks with Arnold about her situation with Bob Drag and how Hugh Hefner has come on board, but this isn’t a sales pitch.  Virginia feels that Bob may have poisoned the well, but Arnold thinks that Bill and Virginia did that to themselves due to the lawsuit.  Virginia counters that the suit will have no negative impact on the suit, and with Bram Keller’s help, this case could go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Arnold tells Virginia that Bob is barely hanging on and wouldn’t tank a potential winner on purpose, but Virginia thinks otherwise.  She tells Arnold that Bob participated in the first round of sexual research- a huge conflict of interest, but Bob was eager and couldn’t say no.  His data couldn’t be included because his sexual stamina is off the charts.  Bob Drag has a long, large erection.  Libby’s words.

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Over at House Masters, it doesn’t look like Howie saw Bill, who thinks that the kids will be happy if Bill and Libby are back together.  Back to uncharted waters, Libby for years has been afraid to tell Bill about the thinks that she’s known because she feared Bill leaving her.  But she’s not afraid anymore.  Bill has left and she’s fine on her own.

While Bill is glad that Libby has made it on her own, she doesn’t necessarily have to be on her own.  True, but there are other reasons why they shouldn’t be together- reasons Libby isn’t afraid to say anymore.

Libby goes back to the first spring when Bill was in medical school.  Libby made flash cards for his exam, something a wife would do.  Bill apparently asked Libby’s roommate for her ring size, but then Bill left for the summer to be with another girl.

And Libby has seen the photographs of Bill with that woman, who later broke his heart.  Bill came back because, in Libby’s mind, Libby wouldn’t hurt him like that.  Bill maintains that he loved Libby, but not in the way that makes you want to take off on a plan with that person.  Not in the same way that Bill loved Virginia.  Bill and Virginia hurt each other, but they also made each other happy.

Libby asks why she and Bill have endured this pain if not for the two of them to end up together.  She feels that Bill belong with Virginia and Libby belongs with someone who makes her feel that way.

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Next day at the clinic, Bill finds Guy making the bed, as he’s been living at the clinic for awhile.  Bill reminds Guy that the clinic is a place of business and he can’t stay there, as they’ve had this problem in the past.  So Bill fires him, just like that.  Guy won’t find this kind of work anywhere else.  Guy asks if this is about the background check, but Bill is unfamiliar with that.  So Guy figured that Bill knew what happened in Vietnam.

After four months of great service, Guy was dishonorably discharged six weeks ago for giving another private a blowjob, but Bill tells Guy that homosexuality is not a dysfunction.  Guy’s father isn’t on board with Guy being gay.  Bill changes his mind: he won’t let Guy live at the clinic, but instead ask Betty to advance some money from his first paycheck so he can find a place to live.

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Later, Bill runs into Bram Keller to tell him that the prosecution has found a surprise witness in Elliot Laskin, who works at the Shawnee Country Club.  Nothing relevant, except that he used to be a bellhop at the Chancery Park Plaza Hotel.  Yup, that Elliot.  And this gets Bill’s attention, but he says that Elliot has nothing to do with the case.  He thinks the prosecution is attacking Bill’s personal life and credibility.

Bill then admits to Bram that he and Virginia had been meeting at the Park Plaza Hotel.  Adultery is on the law, but who would prosecute for that?  This will be worse for Virginia, as adultery sticks more to a woman than a man.  No one would blame him, but this could taint the name Masters and Johnson.  They’ll be seen as cheaters and could tarnish their reputations.

While Bill can’t to distance himself from Virginia on a professional level, the partnership has yielded good work, but the affair was a mistake.  He can’t allow that evidence to surface and follow him the rest of the life.  As such, Bill wants to take the plea, but Bram reminds Bill that a plea leads to certain defeat.  Even if Bram did do this, he doesn’t think Virginia would be on board, given how she’s now for staying the course.

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Nancy overhears Guy speaking with the Clavermore couple, played by Lisa Barnes and Charles Shaughnessy.  Mr. Clavermore runs the largest asbestos manufacturing plant in North America.  Luckily, Nancy can take the couple’s intake.

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Betty arrives at home to find Helen in tears.  She told her parents the truth, and the parents said nothing in response.  They just packed their things and left.  Helen has been calling since, but got no response.  Helen’s been thinking about a dollhouse that her father made for her when she was 10.

She knew she would never live in a home like this one with a mother, father, and child.  Now, Helen has no family except for Betty and this baby.  But Betty promises that she’ll care for Helen.

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Time for the trial.  Virginia arrives and tells Bill that Bob Drag is back on board with the book, but Bill has no time for that.  He tells the judge that he’s willing to discuss a plea if the prosecution is willing to drop the charges against Virginia.

Outside, Bill tells Virginia about Elliot is going to testify, which could have damaging effects for Virginia.  Does Virginia want her work to be thrown into question?  After all, the surrogacy program was Bill’s idea, and now he will make it right.

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In the judge’s chambers, the prosecution agrees to dismiss Virginia’s charges if Bill pleads guilty to sexual deviance and pay a $500 fine.  The judge points out that if Bill accepts this plea, he will have to admit to the court and public that he’s a sexual deviant.  Bill counters that he’s a scientist.  How can something deviate when there is no norm?  No two humans do the same thing, so why should two humans express their sexuality in the same way?

There’s no shape for sexual response.  It’s as particular as a kiss.  Far too much variety.  Bill will plead guilty to sexual deviance because he and everyone around him is a sexual deviant.  Bram tells Bill that if he says that, they can still win in the court of public opinion.

However, before Bill can make his case to the court, the judge cuts off his oration.  After a long pause, Bill pleads guilty to sexual deviance.

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After the trial, Bram tells Libby that the plea was Bill’s idea, which goes against Bill’s nature to fight.  True, but Bram reveals that a witness would have revealed damaging things that would have been embarrassing for Libby.  Well, Libby does want to put this behind her, so does Bill, Libby’s now ex-husband.

Then Libby switches gears and asks Bram his position on marijuana.  He’s all for legalization of the plant.  Same for oral sex.  As for marriage, after three attempts, Bram has no intention of standing at the altar again.  As for dinner?  Yes, Bram agrees to that.

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Virginia thanks Bill for his sacrifice, but Bill didn’t do this for her, Libby, or anyone else except himself.  He does apologize if this hurts the book, and while Virginia cares about the book, she cares about Bill more.  After all, Bill has sacrificed his reputation so Virginia wouldn’t get any of the blame.  They’ve been through a lot, but now, finally, they are back where they belong- together.

She takes Bill’s hand and says that she wants to be with him.  The two head out to speak with the press.

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Bill then returns to Alcoholics Anonymous and admits that while he’s not an alcoholic, he is an addict of sorts.  For him, it’s not a neon sign for cocktails that gets his attention, but something like an odor or perfume, Virginia’s hand in his, or a passing glance.  After that, he’s willing to give up everything, including his self-respect.  He’s here to ask for the group’s help.

Pretty sure that’s not why you go to Alcoholics Anonymous, but sure.  That’s an ending.

“Outliers” is another good episode full of good, dramatic moments and revelations with our characters, while still advancing them to a promising place by episode’s end.  The road to get there, though, proved tricky, as the characters dealt with being honest to themselves and each other.

I think about what Betty has been saying to Virginia all this time about being honest.  It can make things better, but it has the potential to damage a relationship as well, based on the reveal.  Is honesty always the best policy?  I would think so, and as this show has proven, massaging or bending the truth can lead to a problem down the line when the two parties aren’t honest with one another.

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And sticking with Betty, I get why she wants Helen to be honest about them being in a relationship.  For as long as Helen’s parents are in town, Betty is just on the sidelines, watching from a distance while Helen lives out a lie  Not the best option, given where Helen is by episode’s end, but it helped her maintain the image of having a perfect family.

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But, of course, no family is perfect, and while Betty and Helen may not what someone in the 1960s thinks of when they imagine a couple, they both know that they’re all each other needs in order to raise a child.  And it sucks that Helen’s parents leave her, but at least she’s not hiding from the truth anymore.

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Same with Libby, who I can’t love enough this season.  I appreciate that, unlike Bill, Libby is looking at the big picture and knows that she and Bill can never get back together.  It would be unhealthy for both of them and Virginia is still what keeps Bill from fully loving Libby, based on Bill’s history with other women who later left him.

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At the very least, I do hope that Bill and Libby remain friends or casual acquaintances, because their scenes together are warm, feel earned, and represent just how far they’ve come since the start.  Back in Season One, they were just the typical, dull husband and wife.  Now, while they’re separated, they’re enjoying each other’s company, having casual sex, and even smoking marijuana together.

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This is the sort of free, unburdened life that Libby has wanted all along.  Now that she’s on her own, she can do things like have friends, host parties, or find a man who loves her the way that Bill loves Virginia.  And I like that unlike Bill, Libby isn’t trying to force a full reconciliation.  The two still have still hurt each other and shouldn’t endure any more pain from another attempt.

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And even if Libby wants to reconcile, she’s found a new potential partner in Bram, and I like how this friendship has changed as well.  While starting off as antagonistic, given Bram’s role in Bill’s case, the two developed good chemistry and it’s clear by episode’s end that Bram can fill that void in Libby’s left by Bill.

Not that Libby needs that void filled because, as she said, she can handle herself, but if she had to pursue another man, I think Bram is a good choice and can’t wait to see how this relationship develops.

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Bill goes through an interesting arc this episode.  He starts off by telling Louise that he’s not like the people at Alcoholics Anonymous.  But by episode’s end, after Libby turns him down and he learns of Elliot’s potential involvement, Bill accepts his addiction to Virginia.

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Sure, it’s a selfless move on his part to sacrifice his integrity and reputation to save Virginia’s and I liked his speech to the judge, but would he have done this if Elliot wasn’t going to testify?  This move looks to have driven Virginia back into Bill’s arms, so Bill does end up with the partner he’s truly desired.  But I don’t know if Bill would have done this, had both his and Virginia’s secret affair not almost been exposed.

After all, Bill was ready to fight this and Virginia accepted the idea of this battle going to the Supreme Court, so while selfless, I see a bit of self-preservation as well, because why have both himself and the woman he loves go down?  Bill has already been ostracized by society since the first season.  He can take a bit of criticism.  I’m sure Virginia could as well, but right now, he wants to shield her from that.

So while Bill isn’t tempted by alcohol, he admits that he’s powerless when it comes to Virginia.  It’s an interesting way to try and rid himself of his addiction by going to an A.A. meeting, so I’m curious to see what becomes of this.

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And, on a side-note, I do appreciate that Bill decides against firing Guy.  Both know what it’s like to be an outlier, and I’m glad that Bill sympathizes with Guy, rather than throw him out to prevent another scandal involving someone sleeping at the clinic.

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Meanwhile, Virginia’s actions are a bit iffy this time around.  She’s moved by the ambition of the case going all the way to the Supreme Court, even if it could open up her private and professional life to other people.  She focuses her efforts on getting Little Brown back behind the book, which she does by fabricating a tale about Bob Drag’s sexual prowess.

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I get it- it’s for the good of the study, but some of Virginia’s decisions make me question her motivation.  If she saw that Bill and Libby were reconciling their differences, would Bill sacrificing himself be enough to win her heart?  After all, she’s been down this path before and even brings up a past instance of Bill making a bold move on her behalf.  Why should this be any different?

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After all, she reminded Bill about the dangers of making the same mistake.  Isn’t getting back together the same thing?  Virginia seems confident that she’s making the right move this time, and even though she and Bill are embracing their love for another, things won’t just be business as usual for them.

“Outliers” showed the ugly side of telling the truth, but helped advance the characters and bring them to relatively good places by the end.  Libby may find happiness with Bram, Betty and Helen will do their best with their relationship, and Bill and Virginia have found each other again, but now that Art and Nancy have learned about the recordings, life at the clinic isn’t going to get easier anytime soon.  The trials and tribulations are far from over.

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