Feb 2, 2021
Masters Of Sex Season Finale Recap: New Beginnings Mean New Endings
Masters of Sex season finale. Let’s do this.
Haas-Virigina-children domestic scene. Haas is interviewing out West and in Oklahoma and in lots of places that aren’t Saint Louis, which just seems like a looming happiness-killing tragedy. Also, too, it may be creating a season finale cliffhanger sort of thing. Will he get a job? Will he stay? Will she go?
Master’s big presentation is today. You remember, right? The one where he was just pretty much going to make stuff up about how dick size doesn’t matter because that’s what men like to hear and then those men will give him money. Libby is helping hostess the whole shebang, and apparently she is making martinis. Wait. There were martinis DURING business presentations? What a goddamn lovely time to be alive. There are also canapes. We asked the Editrix if she would provide martinis and canapes during the work day and she laughed at us.
Margaret is still trying to get the provost to talk about who he is. She’s being as gentle and nonjudgmental about it as 1950s lady can be, until Barton tells her that there have been many young men — not just the one she found out about, and not all of them were hired hands. She asks him if he ever loved any of them, and his face crumples in a small sad way.
Only one. And so very long ago, when he was 18, and long before he met Margaret, which means he knew before they ever married that he didn’t like women and couldn’t love her. That’s when she lashes out. He’s still hoping he can fix himself and the marriage somehow, mostly by going to horrible aversive therapy. God we hope we don’t have to watch that next season.
Masters is still trying to make nice with Barton and just pretend that the whole blackmailing him with being gay thing never happened. Masters calls it a “rough patch” and if this were a modern show the provost would tell him to pound sand or fuck off but this is the 1950s so he just declines Masters’ dinner invitation and laughs in his face, but Masters keeps pressing onward, telling him how the study will now take center stage and they need a united front and Masters has no soul.
Margaret has gone to visit the doc that is going to do Barton’s therapy. Oh, Jesus. It’s going to be electroshock. Fuck. The alternatives, the doctor explains, are neat things like chemical castration, psychotropic drugs, and applying electricity directly to the genitals. We don’t even have a snappy quip about this because it is just too awful.
Is Virginia going to come to Masters’ presentation or isn’t she? There’s an awkward moment where he almost asks and she almost answers, but Libby comes along full of brittle good cheer and the moment is gone.
DePaul is on a mission to get the same freedom and monies as Masters, and has asked the chancellor to lunch to discuss. He is less than enthused and more than dickish. He explains to her that women just don’t like having another woman looking up their skirt and oh by the way everybody loves Masters’ presentation and why doesn’t DePaul invent something that everyone would love, hmmmmm? Oh, maybe because Masters already has the market cornered on lying to dudes about their dick size, and DePaul’s goal of decreasing cervical cancer rates for women just doesn’t have enough zing or pizzazz or another of those old-fashioned zippy-sounding words.
Showtime. The audience is a veritable sea of hale hearty white guys.
The chancellor is there, pouring martinis down his gullet. We hate him so much.
Virginia slips in the back door of the presentation. Good for her. Masters starts by saying that if the audience wants to know “what we’ve learned” and a voice — DePaul, god love her — interrupts him and asks “who’s ‘we,’ Doctor Masters?” Masters looks right at Virginia and says it is the royal we. You’re a terrible person.
Masters is chock full of hearty dude anecdotes for hearty dudes about how their dicks are great no matter what the size. For the ladies, he’s got the film of Jane’s interior and oh you’ve got to be fucking kidding me he’s also got the film, albeit without a head shot, of Virginia masturbating. Fuck you, Masters.
It looks like even the great Bill Masters has gone a bit too far with this. The Chancellor gets up and leaves and shuts the presentation down. Looking at ladies is smut, talking about dick size is just good old information. Got it.
Masters is convinced that the only reason people had a sad about his presentation is that they’re jealous. It couldn’t possibly have been that you just showed a roomful of doctors a lady masturbating without giving them any context or warning. Somehow, though, this boorish divorced-from-reality behavior only serves to bring Barton back on board as his chief defender. What??
Jane and Libby and Lester the camera guy crowd Masters to offer their support, which we could get behind except for the whole part where he completely cut Virginia out of the credit for the study and turned around and used a film of her without telling her. Other than that, great job.
The post-presentation dinner was supposed to be a smashing celebration of all things Masters, but after the surprise softcore porn, there’s no one there but Masters and Libby.
Libby tells him that had she known about the film, she would have advised him against it. Also, too, she would like to know who was in the film, because some folks thought it was Virginia. Masters lies smoothly and snottily and explains that he would never be so dumb as to use Virginia, even if she were a person he had filmed, because he has binders full of women in the study. Jerk.
Margaret is trying to talk to Barton about what she learned on the visit to the doctor and that the techniques sound positively medieval. Barton blithely explains that electroshock has been around forever, but Margaret is genuinely deeply and completely rightly distressed about the possibility of memory loss. What choice does he have, he asks? Margaret decides the possibility of more loss piled on the loss that is already there is too much, and she asks him not to go through with it. Thank god.
At the hospital next day, the creepiest doctor who offered a toast when Masters talked of dick size snuffles and huffles his way up to Virginia to say that he saw rather more of her yesterday than he wished. She tells him that it wasn’t her, but that he clearly wished it was. Point, Virginia.
Virginia sublimates this anger and goes off to pressure DePaul to work on bringing the nascent birth control pill to the masses, but DePaul has her hands full with her pap smear study. Virginia knows this, of course, given that DePaul has a limited time to complete the study thanks to her cancer diagnosis, so it’s an odd point to press.
Boom. Barton comes to tell Masters that both of them are being called down to the chancellor’s office and they’re both getting fired. We feel sorry for Barton. Really really sorry, as he backed the wrong horse. A blackmailing conniving horse. And Barton is likely too old to land anywhere else.
Masters, we waste no sorrow over.
Dr. Haas! We’d forgotten all about his jetting to sunny California for a job interview.
It’s insanely gorgeous and perfect and he calls Virginia while looking at the ocean and oh please just move there with him. He got a job offer from UCLA and though it isn’t how he planned, while he is on the phone he asks her to marry him. She doesn’t say yes, but she doesn’t say no either.
The chancellor has hauled Barton and Masters in to yell at them and fire them — Masters for doing the study, and Barton for letting him. Masters, scaring up some tiny shred of decency left somewhere in his soul, joins the chancellor in yelling at Barton to ensure that the chancellor believes that Barton had no knowledge of the study. The chancellor, who is basically one of those bullies with no follow-through, makes Barton fire Masters. Barton does. Good.
Oh, not good. Looks like Libby has gone into labor and is calling Masters, but the phone rings unattended as Masters day drinks with Barton and Jane worriedly heaves file folders around and talks to Lester about Masters getting fired which leads to a kiss and then leads to Virginia dropping by and oh good lord this is a collision of too many things.
Since no one answers, the African-American woman who was at Libby’s house packing up some donated goods has to rush her to the hospital, but things are happening much too quickly, and she takes her to her hospital — the African-American hospital — because the alternative is delivering in a car. Meanwhile Barton tells Bill that he’s going to do to the electroshock therapy anyway even though he told Margaret he wouldn’t.
Masters finally makes his way back to the hospital during the night, and the locks on his office have already been changed. Not really sure what he thought would happen.
Back at home, Virginia finally has a chance to look at the copy of the study that was supposed to be handed out to the attendees before Masters decided to show a film of her masturbating instead. In a sad little twist, the study actually does have both their names.
Meanwhile, Libby has given birth, but still hasn’t called Masters, which is good because Masters, in stead of checking up on his wife, has come to Virginia’s door. He’s got the hollow eyes of a wounded child.
No one believes in his work, he says. Only him. Only her. He has nothing to offer her any more, except the truth, which is that he can’t live without her.
Unsurprisingly the show, and the season, ends here. Everyone is broken in some way, everyone is hiding something. And now broken Bill Masters has come, standing on the doorstep in the pouring rain, to declare his love, but he doesn’t deserve Virginia. He doesn’t deserve Libby. He deserves his ceaseless thoughtless headstrong life of the mind, his work. His Say Anything moment seems too little too late, except that we know in real life he and Virginia go on together for many years. How do you root for Virginia’s happiness while at the same time believing Masters doesn’t deserve whatever thing his heart has capriciously settled on at that moment? We’ll have next season to find out.