Masters Of Sex Recap: Only The Lonely Can Play

We open this week’s Masters of Sex with some Masters-Johnson sexytime. Masters is petulant because Johnson scratched his back up in the throes of passion. Suck it up, cheater. Masters and Johnson are doing some straight-up science, yo, trying to figure out if the back-scratching fist-clenching parts of successful sexytime are voluntary or involuntary. Masters does some thought leadering and suggests that they film all the couples having sex so that they can track those muscle movements. Johnson points out – TOTALLY REASONABLY WE MIGHT ADD – that that kinda sorta means people aren’t anonymous, which is prolly bad for any study but especially for surreptitious sexytime study.

Libby has morning sickness like the devil, but has decided not to tell Masters she’s pregnant yet, which seems like a really great idea.

Dr. Haas is at the wedding cake bakery and he is talking to a woman with the most amazing hat and outfit ever.

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EVER. He looks simultaneously bored and terrified as amazing hat woman starts down her list of flavors and tries to explain that because of what how he is a dude, cake is cake. She tells him to shut up and taste different flavors of cake so he can participate in his wedding like a grown person. You go, hat lady.

Vivian arrives late and a-flutter because she had to see a patient’s uncircumcised junk and she assumed it was deformed. Haas is left with the task of explaining that some men have foreskin and some don’t. She asks him if that is just luck of the draw and seriously the 1950s Jesus Christ. He explains circumcision and how it is a Jewish rite and oh good lord now she now realizes she didn’t know he was Jewish. Haas explains that naw mang, he doesn’t practice, so he’s not. This does not mollify Vivian in the least, because she feels like his Jew Jewy Jewness is something she should have known about.

Virginia is trying to talk Secretary Jane into letting them film her doing the sex. Jane is considering it, but would like certain of her bits off limits, and she wants it in writing. Virginia doesn’t understand the writing requirement in the least. Really?? Virginia agrees and tells Jane that they will pay her more because they’ll show Jane’s film to other study participants to induce them to allow the filming as well. Jane demands the right to see the rough cut, declares that having a contract is like being a movie star, and tells Virginia she wants to be shot from the right side only.

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Mrs. Masters is over at the Masters abode being aggressively cheerful about a card game she is going to host, and she needs a giant coffee urn. We desperately wish they’d tell us what card game. Bridge? Canasta? Whist? Haha we do not even know what those things are but they sound like 1950s card games. The coffee urn is high atop a cupboard, and Libby is not climbing on a 2-foot-high stepstool to get it oh no she is not. It takes Mama Masters about 2 seconds to figure out that means that Libby is in a family way. Libby says she’s not going to talk about it and hasn’t told Bill yet, because she’s feeling superstitious and scared, but does ask Mrs. Masters the Elder to try to talk to her son, as her son sure as hell isn’t going to make the effort.

From the Department of Best Idea or Bestest Idea, Vivian has decided she should just wander down to Ye Olde Orthodox Temple to learn more about her man’s religion, even though he is not actually that religion, a fact that escapes her entirely. She barges in on a prayer session and is told to leave and oh god she will be such a pile of confused nonsense about this now.

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Classtime with Virginia and Doctor DePaul and does Virginia have the best score on the exam. Of course she does. BOOYA.

Libby has engineered some Masters-Mama Masters time, which does not seem like a great way to deal with Bill Masters. This is not a guy that likes surprises. Mom is trying hard, but Masters is 100% clenched jaw drink slugging. Mom’s trying to ask about the study, but she thinks it’s about pregnant women. Bill disabuses her of this notion in the most clinical and aggressive way possible, explaining to his mom that he watches people fuck and takes down data, asking with a sneer if she still wants to hear about his research. Yep, pretty much still do want to hear, says Mom, because sex isn’t exactly a new thing. She tells him his father had tremendous sexual appetites and Bill is done with this conversation. Point: Mom.

Vivian has dragged Haas to a Christian church because he could go either way on the whole church wedding thing, but since she’s really into the idea, he’s going to convert to whatever flavor of believing in Jesus as Savior that she is. This should go well.

Also going well: the terrible callow men that occupy Dr. DePaul’s anatomy class along with Virginia have asked her to join their study group. They’re making her feel super welcome by first insinuating that DePaul gave her the answers as a “sisterhood thing” or that she’s taken anatomy over and over again to get a good score. She should study with these guys why? There seems to be zero upside for her, as she’s already getting the best possible exam score in the known universe, and all the downsides of spending time with these assholes.

Time for the first Masters-Johnson film production that involves the outside of a lady rather than the inside. It’s Jane doing some solo sheet-clenching and toe-curling. The camera obsessive/film auteur filming her has big ideas about how he can shoot the film like some other famous filming types but we are distracted because dude’s vest game is TIGHT.

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The 1950s. Great for clothing, terrible for women.

Lester, our film enthusiast, explains that he cannot get this footage developed at his lab because his lab knows perfectly well what pornography looks like…and it is right then that Mama Masters comes looking for Bill, giant cooler of food in tow and proceeds to have Virginia, Masters, Jane, Lester, and her own bad self sit down for dinner while she quizzes Jane about what she does in the study. Jane explains that she’s the bestest and most frequent at masturbating and we chat about how Jane is the first to get filmed.

Virginia is aggressively bantering with Masters in a way that she doesn’t with other people around, and it isn’t clear if that’s because she’s trying to make Mom feel comfortable, trying to make Mom feel uncomfortable, trying to goad Masters into finally fucking finishing her performance review, or has lost the ability to cover up the closeness of her working relationship with Masters. Turns out that Masters has done a lovely review and now everyone feels awkward because pretty much everyone feels awkward all the time in this show.

Haha Masters and Johnson have to go to the seedy smoky basement porno place with girlie shots on the wall and a sticky floor to get their film developed. They decide to watch some good old-fashioned 5-cents-a-go sepia-toned porn while they’re there and hang out all night and wait for the film to develop, which isn’t actually a euphemism.

Oh, Dr. Haas is not taking the whole converting to Christianity thing seriously AT ALL and Vivian is besaddened. He’s flippant and resentful and yelling about it while driving and manages to run someone over while backing the car up.

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And then he faints. It’s the absolute best.

Turns out Virginia skipped her study session with the bunch of charmers from her anatomy class to eat dinner with Masters’ mom, develop sex films, and generally do her job. One of these wonders of the world shows up to guilt her into how it is really hard for him because if he doesn’t get good grades daddy won’t pay tuition anymore. This does not, surprisingly, seem to impress Virginia, who is paying for everything herself while working and raising kids. Oh, for fuck’s sake. They don’t want to study with her, but they all want to copy her notes. DO NOT SAY YES GODDAMMIT DO NOT SAY YES TO THIS.

If we needed a heavy-handed reminder of how Virginia doesn’t really fit anywhere, the show cuts from her rejection by the med students to her rejection by the secretaries, who are throwing a big baby shower in the cafeteria and didn’t invite Virginia. OK, we get that you wouldn’t invite her as such, but who holds their shower in the fucking cafeteria so everyone not invited can just feel shitty? DePaul sits with her and explains that when she went to med school she was a person without a country as well, and it really hasn’t gotten any better. OK then.

Mama Masters has stopped down to talk to Bill at the office. He tries to tell her to go away, but she stands her ground. She tells him that she knows she didn’t speak up when his dad hit him, and it is the worst thing she ever did. Yes, yes it was. She also tells him that she was maybe lying a bit about the part where his dad was a super sex machine. He was, but just not with her. He was, of course, with his secretary, and yep, Mom knows full well that something is going on with Virginia. Smart mom. She also tells him he has to talk to his wife, which he really really does.

Bill follows Mom’s order and goes home to talk to his wife, who finally tells him about the impending blessed event. He explains to her that it is unpossible that she could get pregnant, and we are heading into one of those brittle 1950s fights where she goes after him teeth clenched, throwing his words back at him and you deserve it, Masters, you totally deserve it. The clinical business of sex, she tells him, is just that – clinical, and he’s gotten so clinical he’s untethered from her and from love and from the nascent baby, and she’s right.

Breakfast at the Haas household and Haas is declining a pork product for breakfast because he is having whatever the Jewish equivalent of a Come-to-Jesus moment about his religion and he is not going to convert and he knows that means they can’t get married. She’s happy to get married anywhere, but Haas is on a self-awareness tip and he is not just going to drift into marriage with her. To thine own self and all, but seriously, dude.

Jane’s watching the film of herself and does not seem pleased with this screening event at all. Virginia, who is turning into Masters, doesn’t get why Jane is having a problem. Jane explains, much as Libby tried to do with Masters, that it’s clinical, divorced from any anchor of feeling, and she doesn’t even feel like she’s watching herself. Jane nixes the film and asks that it be destroyed. Virginia does that, at least. Masters would have said he was destroying it and then kept it and showed it at a conference and failed to see why anyone was mad. Virginia volunteers to be the next film star, but only if Masters, not Lester, films her.

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It’s fitting to give Masters this aesthetic distance from Virginia, as we’re not sure he can ever close that distance even when he’s with her. Afterward. he gives her money for the film and all the sex they’ve had, just like he’d pay any other study subject, because somehow his brain thinks this is a good idea. He helpfully informs her he arrived at the sum by adding up all the times they fucked. You’re a prince, Masters. Way to completely negate that it has been her study as well, all along, and make her feel cheap and used in the process. Only after she leaves does he figure out how monstrous he’s been, so he decides to tell a random handyman about it instead.

We close with Johnson reading her performance review alone at her table, learning that Masters has told her she should detach more, and care less. Meanwhile, Masters sits alone in his office watching the film of Virginia, and it feels like no one will ever be anything but lonely ever again.

TV Show: Masters of Sex

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  • Tawdry Hepburn

    Was Virginia reading her performance review or re-writing it? I thought it was the latter.