Here Is Your Masters Of Sex Recap One Day Late So Sue Us
Hello and welcome to our recap of Masters of Sex, where I get paid American dollars to tell you about the plot surrounding a show where Lizzy Caplan has sex. There is a plot, though, and so off we go into the very heart of darkness itself — St. Louis, Missouri, 1956.
There is an occasion involving Fancy White People in tuxedos and ball gowns emerging from expensive cars in order to gather inside a large, fancy setpiece. Michael Sheen, our boy Masters, looks bored at his table and traces his finger around a wine glass until his Attractive Blonde Wife stops him. Ah, marital conflict thirty seconds in. Excellent.
The university provost, a man who looks like what would happen if you smushed Richard Nixon and Ronnie Reagan together and trained him to be a character actor, dutifully delivers his exposition at the podium. Everyone is gathered to honor Masters, who is a doctor, fertility expert, and to whom Provost NixReagan himself personally owes his family. Masters ascends to the podium to accept this non-specific expository honor, gives a Merrit Wever-style “thanks and goodbye” speech, and bounces over to the next scene where he hides in a closet watching a putz named Ernie fuck a hooker.
Masters looks much more interested scribbling notes on a clipboard and timing Ernie’s orgasm than he did at the Nonspecific Ceremony, because of course he does, he’s hiding in a closet watching people have sex. For SCIENCE. Ernie climaxes, prompting Master’s hooker sidekick to say “good for you.” If you think this is delightful, carry on to the rest of the recap. If you don’t want to read words like “hooker sidekick” any more, why did you come to this website? Go read CNN or something. Geez.
Still wearing his tuxedo, Masters meets with his Hooker Friend post-Ernie to eat a sandwich and establish some character elements. While running though his clipboard notes, Masters informs Working Woman (yes, that’s her character name apparently, because even a show about being open-minded about sex can’t be arsed to humanize a prostitute with something as time consuming as a name) that her orgasm lasted nine seconds. Working Woman informs Masters she faked that orgasm. Masters is genuinely baffled as to why anyone would do such a thing, and asks if that’s common practice among prostitutes. “It’s common among anyone with a twat,” is the excellent response he receives. But one cannot linger on nameless prostitutes because we must get to the INTERIOR, HOSPITAL, DAY.
Eager beaver Dr. Haas, Master’s medical sidekick guy, is revved up telling Our Doctor Of Constant Stern Aloofness Masters about the hot new secretary who was recently hired. Naturally he is referring to Lizzy Caplan’s character Virginia, a twice-divorced ex-jazz singer, mother of two, and total freak in the sheets. But we’re not there yet. Haas says it’s “convenient” Caplan’s desk is located close to their office, and of course it is, dummy, she’s a main character. Every time Masters is in a hallway — which is a lot, because 85% of TV doctoring involves looking intently at files in the middle of a hallway — he stares longingly at Virginia, because wouldn’t you?
Master’s intent file-staring must wait, though, because he must fire his current secretary for not being kinky enough. See, he’s trying to get his closet-hiding sex-observing study approved by the university so he can watch strangers have sex in a more official capacity, which his current secretary calls “smut” because this is the fifties and what are you gonna do. This scene also introduces me to the problem I will continue to have for the rest of the episode, where every minor character’s costuming makes them appear as though they were also on Mad Men.
After a long day of being scolded by his secretary about his Devil Magic Underground Sex Study, Masters returns home to the chipper blonde Mrs. Masters, who calls him “daddy” and gives me weird Game of Thrones incest flashbacks before I realize, oh, they’re trying to have a baby together, the fertility doctor is trying to have a baby with his wife who is NOT his daughter. Cool. You worried me there for a second, Showtime. Mrs. Masters lit a trillion candles and baked a chocolate soufflé, which might be a metaphor and also might just be a soufflé, because there is baby making to be done.
There are some shots here of Masters slowly, deliberately removing his shoes and carefully folding his pants and leaving on his button-down shirt pre-Marital Intercourse, because apparently the show felt they hadn’t yet established his stodgy, perpetually-bowtied character enough yet. And in case that didn’t get you, the Ricardo-style separate-twin-beds the Masters have should be your final tipoff. Mrs. Masters also pauses to pray to god for conception before they have quiet, eye-contact-less sex together — “the most effective position” for conception, he tells her — and so begins the countdown to our protagonist having some halfway decent sex with someone who isn’t his wife. Set your watches, kids.
“First I get the ‘just friends’ speech and then she invites me in and I get a blowjob! Fellatio!” This is how Dr. Haas informs Doc Masters that he had a way better night than Masters did, and with The Only Secretary With A Name Virginia Johnson, no less. He then asks Masters what the blowjob could mean and decides he wants to marry her despite her explicit “let’s be friends who have sex” dictate, because when getting no-strings-attached blowjobs from Lizzy Caplan it’s best to fuck it up as quickly as possible.
Suddenly then one of the clinic’s patients is bleeding out during a c-section. Masters rushes into surgery and Haas grabs Virginia and also dashes into surgery, because making your not-girlfriend watch you wrist-deep in embryonic fluid and blood is a surefire way to win her heart. Right? Right. Masters saves the woman but not her baby, and he puts her up in the Nice Part Of The Hospital, despite her being black and all. This is how we know Masters is a Good Dude, because he promises he will help the woman, named Mrs. May, have another baby, and not ship her off to the Not White part of the hospital, where they apparently butcher cesarean sections for funsies.
Back in his office and sporting a polka-dot bowtie, Masters asks Virginia — who is clearly just delivering some papers meant to be examined in the middle of a hallway — if she’s there to interview to be his secretary. Sure, why not? She tells him she’s taking classes at the university to get a degree in behavioral sciences, since she didn’t finish college because of Husband Number One. She tells Masters Huband Number Two was for children — a boy and a girl — and Masters asks her why she didn’t marry for love, prompting Ginny (Virginia, Ginny, get it) to explain that she thinks many women conflate sexual desire for love, and that sex can be “perfectly good on its own.” She says she envies Masters for getting to do a job where he saves lives like Mrs. May’s, but before we can reach the inevitable hiring of Ginny as Master’s secretary we must suffer through REAGNIXON’S RETURN.
Masters and Provost Reagnnixon meet in the provost’s office so the provost can call Masters a pervert and tell him he won’t present his study because it’s smut. Masters insists it’s medicine, and nobody seems to appreciate that smut and science are two great tastes that taste great together. Masters then gets in a monologue about how there’s a ton of science about birthing babies and none about making them, and also he wants a Nobel prize. The provost tells him to stuff it, pervert, and Masters leaves in a huff.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Ginny tries to sign up for a behavioral science major at the university, since apparently she was lying to Masters about that whole “finishing her degree” thing. The university registrar woman, another Mad Men extra, tells Ginny to go home and take care of her children and forget all those foolish ideas about booklearnin’ Also, the school doesn’t offer a behavioral science major. Ginny responds by telling the woman to sign her up for a sociology major, now, and my love for Lizzy Caplan grew three sizes that day.
Masters returns home to find his wife watching Elvis on Ed Sullivan, in case you forgot what year it was, and oh also his wife got her “visitor” so she’s not pregnant and despondent about it, something about failing as a woman if you can’t provide kids for your husband, anyone detecting themes here? No? Okay.
We then arrive back in Masters’ office where he and Ginny discuss how his wife’s infertility is stressful “for her” and “annoying” for him, basically continuing their sparring match from earlier in the episode, only Ginny wins this round by answering Masters’ “Why would a woman fake an orgasm” question with “To get a man to climax quickly” so she can get on with her day. Dang.
Ginny also wins the subsequent round of Gratuitous Sex Scene With Dr. Haas, which yes, involves both Lizzy Caplan’s bare chest and her telling Haas to shut up and go down on her. Thanks, premium cable. There’s also some naked-makeout exposition where Haas tells Ginny that it’s not Mrs. Masters that can’t have kids, but that doc Masters is shooting blanks, which he knows because he read his boss’s file. Haas gets promptly butthurt when Ginny tells him he’s not sleeping over because it would be “confusing for the children” and he’s just a piece on the side. These are terrific problems to have, Haas, stop whining.
Back at the Sexy Office Masters is both setting up his wife — who keeps calling him “daddy” and just ugh — with Step 1 of fertility treatment exams while simultaneously setting up Hooker Sidekick for round 2 of Non-University Sanctioned Sex Tests. Ginny is tasked with both befriending Masters’ wife before sending her to a gyno exam room and filling out the paperwork for the Unnamed Prostitute who basically comes in with a sign around her neck that says “I Am A Sex Worker” (she also makes some scandalous abortion innuendo and tells Ginny she had her tubes tied so, you know, maybe a bit of an obvious woman not in need of fertility help.)
Masters hooks a naked Working Woman up to a bunch of wires that will measure Important Science about her body while she masturbates. Since he is woefully sans vibrator for his subject, he says he can only offer her “magazines for men” which she says are just A-plus, since she only has unpaid sex with women. THIS IS SO CLEARLY THE BEST CHARACTER ON THIS SHOW. Baffled, Masters hurries off to a supply closet apparently no one else in the hospital uses in order to retrieve some nude magazines when he runs into a somewhat peeved Ginny. She’s deduced that the good doctor is shtupping a hooker while his assistant ensures his wife is ripe for baby-making and tsk-tsks at him for it. In perhaps the best possible situation reversal, Masters busts out the “Actually I’m risking my career secretly studying what happens to people during intercourse, by the way do you want a job?” Of course she wants the job. And that, friends, was the come-to-Jesus Pilot Moment. The show can now, officially, begin. I feel refreshed. Anywho.
Ginny wastes no time recruiting more test subjects to Masters’ cause, because the guy with the strict scowl-and-bowtie-only dress code probably shouldn’t be the salesman of the group. First up is the secretary who showed Ginny the ropes in a scene I apparently incompletely recapped because I have to explain her presence here, whose name is Jane Martin. Ginny tells Jane Masters’s study could be the biggest thing for women since the right to vote, and maybe she’s not wrong? Regardless by the next scene Jane tells masters she’s “just happy you could fit me in at all, Ginny tells me you have quite a waiting list” and is suddenly naked and ready to be hooked up to the Kinky Suction Cups Of Sex Learning. Then there’s a sequence that cuts between Jane masturbating and Ginny and Masters talking about having orgasms through a decidedly un-sexy metaphor about tasting salt, which somehow winds up being about multiple orgasms?
Suddenly we’re in surgery again, with Masters narrating whatever he’s doing to some woman’s uterus loud enough for Ginny to hear and take notes in the observation deck. Haas gets mad about this because women are for blowjobs, not teaching, or something. Vote Eisenhower. And speaking of republican presidents past, it’s time for Masters and Ginny to show Provost Reagnixon the vibrating dildo-and-camera they’ve devised for the study he specifically did not commission! The camera’s name is Ulysses, and Our Hero Scientists give the provost a front row seat to Jane masturbating with the James Joyce vibrator. Cut to the university grounds, where Provost Reagnixon looks upon the world with new eyes. They try to sell him on their discoveries — multiple orgasms, man! — and when he still seems reluctant, Masters threatens to leave the university (which he’s made a bunch of money by helping women get properly knocked up) unless they support his research.
Later, while waiting for a the “yay or nay” study approval phone call in The Bowtie Lair (Masters’s office) Masters suggests Ginny stop fucking Haas because his slutty study can’t have slutty staffers, because then they definitely won’t be taken seriously. This turns into a monologue from Masters about how all the best music and art is about sex but nobody’s allowed to do sexy science because of shame and guilt. The two are about to leave and go to another Nonspecific Fancy Reception (where Haas and Mrs. Masters await) but RING RING. Yes, the golden phone call of approval. Masters smiles for maybe the first time in the entire pilot. The study is approved! Time to celebrate at a fun party, whizz bang and gee willickers, this will be great, won’t it guys?
No, it will not be great. Here are the things that happen at the un-great party.
-Ginny suggests she and Masters lock down the first male subject for their study, an Aryan doctor with a wife and a thing for nurses that aren’t his wife.
-Ginny is sucked into barside girl talk with Mrs. Masters, who thinks having a child would change Dr. Masters for the better.
-Mrs. Masters tell Ginny she thinks (a) Masters wants a kid more than she does and (b) it’s her body that’s bad at baby-making, not Masters’s, which is clearly messing with her head. Ginny spots masters talking to Slutty Blonde Male Doctor and ditches that sad conversation to:
-Try and help Masters convince the Slutty Doctor to join their subject with the promise of confidentiality and hot nurses. This just about works, but then Haas shows up and literally drags Ginny away from the party so that he can:
-Tell Ginny he loves her, tell Ginny he’s upset they haven’t had sex in a few weeks, tell Ginny he’s upset that they had sex and she’s not letting him marry her, and tell Ginny he’s upset she doesn’t love him.
-Ginny tells Haas she cares about him as a friend.
-Haas hits Ginny in the face.
-Ginny slaps Haas.
-Haas calls Ginny a whore, tells her she’s just playing doctor, and hits her several more times. This party sucks.
We return to the Bowtie Lair to find Ginny with a bruised face, looking morose over a stack of nudie magazines. But soft, what light from yonder hallway breaks? It’s Mrs. May, crossing herself and being emotional. Ginny rushes out — what’s wrong? — but nothing is wrong, because against all odds Masters has somehow helped Mrs. May be pregnant once more! (How much time has elapsed since she almost died in childbirth is unclear, but hey, gotta hop right back on the horse, amirite?) Ginny is filled with a sense of reinvigorated purpose, hooray!
Now it’s time to pair up our naked blonde secretary with our naked blonde doctor — who adorably introduce themselves to one another as “Anonymous” — hook ‘em up to a bunch of wires, and monitor what happens to their meatsacks when they bone. Ginny more or less tells them “do whatever you want to each other, just make sure you have an orgasm” and retreats to stand beside Masters in the observation room and stoically watch our pasty white Adam and Eve get it on. Masters notices the bruise on Ginny’s face but then the blondes start having sex and making smalltalk (yes, actually) and then some more sex so the abuse must wait until our heroes return to Masters’s office.
But instead of saying “hey did your jerk not-boyfriend whack you after he angrily removed you from a conversation we were having,” Masters talks about the “transference” of energy from watching people have sex while Masters and Ginny do not have sex. Somehow he fears this will interfere with their Science. His solution? Masters and Ginny should have sex. Oh. Alright, then. Ginny asks if she can “think about it,” and leaves Masters’s office looking hurt. That’s a pretty un-funny note for this recap to end on so, uh, tune in next week for more vibrator jokes, guys.