It’s Like Firing God
Masters Of Sex Season 1 Episode 12 recap
Ha! Okay, this show doesn’t go for the cheap laugh or any laugh, per se, but I didn’t mind that line from Lester. It was a much needed moment of levity in an episode that seemed like it was going to break under the weight of its own revelations. I could handle someone other than Lester being the comic relief, since the job seems to be split evenly between him and Jane – but seeing as the hospital is basically a grown-up high school hallway, even the “Do I masturbate too much” schtick was kind of entertaining. What? I have a cold, I’m a little gentler on things than I would otherwise be.
Bill and Virginia’s coldness has been played out over an appropriate number of episodes, especially given that the season is a short one. I really believed in their estrangement, and that Dr. DePaul would become a true confidante for Virginia. The fact that Virginia makes friends with prickly people the rest of the hospital has trouble with is no accident. She gets what she wants and needs by making herself indispensible to people who can’t navigate the waters of other human beings quite as well. Dr. De Paul and Dr. Masters like Virginia partly because she can provide them entry to the world of “normal” people and get them to do what her doctor friends need. It seems so very long since Bill and Virginia were pressuring prostitutes into participating in the medical research, but it’s no secret that everything up to this point has been due to her.
Including, of course, the explicit filmstrip heard ‘round the hospital. I’m inclined to cut Bill more slack than I would anyone else. This is wrong, of course, but hear me out. While I think he lost all perspective on the video that he showed of Virginia-no-it’s-not-Virginia-dude-that-is-totally-Johnson masturbating, it’s not only because he desires her and therefore made a porn video, but because in spite of the envelope of cash heard around the world, he respects her, doesn’t see how showing her body to a roomful of doctors is anything other than celebratory. Bill might not be smart.
But this goes to my same point, because I truly believe he doesn’t realize what love feelings feel like, and so has had to teach himself, like a loveable robot, what to do with these feelings for Virginia. “Ohhh. This is…caring? Ohhh.” His saving grace is that he knows it, knows enough to investigate new feelings, like the compassion he’s starting to grow for Provost Scully, instead of dismissing them with a “cannot compute”.
All this would be terrible news for Libby, except that she A: has a brand-new son and B: is basically stealing this show out from under everyone else (well, she and Allison Janney). She’s just so watchable. I’m not really sure what the point of giving birth at the “other” hospital was beyond isolating her but Libby is revealing herself to be so consistently awesome that I almost don’t care. Also, who thinks they’re going to come up with an interesting name for her son? They won’t really, it’ll be Billy, but wouldn’t it be great if his nickname was Flip or Zap or something? No?
Libby will be fine, and Bill will be oblivious to the fact that he has a son, as he so often is (though I guess it happened a lot back then, telephones being all…stationary and whatnot), but the Scullys are still the pairing that is trying to break my heart. Electroshock therapy! And she’s starting to think about the marriage they had instead of the sex they didn’t! It’s either the saddest or the healthiest marriage ever. It’s definitely the happiest marriage we’ve seen on the show, which is, in itself, sad.
I don’t think it’s accidental that the first time we met them it was a celebration of their marriage. I don’t think Provost Scully’s sexual predilections negate their happy years together. He does, though, and that’s what matters – but he’s almost innovative for thinking that a marriage is worth saving, changing for. Working for. It’s the kind of idealism that’s actually kind of practical. It makes me think about Ethan and his weird happy-ever-after-ism.
That’s really what the show is about, of course. It’s not the advent of sex as something we can talk about in mixed company but the equality, and the quality, of romantic relationships. Whether they can also be partnerships. Whether they are necessary for long term happiness. Whether it’s important that you be attracted to the person you’re having sex with for maximum satisfaction (something I still can’t believe they aren’t addressing in the study).
And even though the show is called Masters of Sex, all the decisions lie with Johnson as we head to season 2. Does she choose Ethan? Does she go back to work with Bill? Does she have the strength to pursue the birth control pill and other women’s health initiatives on behalf of Dr. DePaul? Is she going to recover from the masturbation film (I’ve written and deleted “video” six times)?
This is what makes the show amazing. She holds all the cards. All of them! Everything rests on her decisions and everyone has put it right out there that they’ll wait on Virginia. It does, as I’ve mentioned before in this space, make her a bit of a Mary Sue who can do no wrong, and I need another flaw from her sooner than later, to make her real. But it’s an amazing, fascinating look at what it would be like to be an outlier of a woman in the 1950s. It does, however, make it even more stark that Lizzy Caplan was neglected by the HPFA – when a character makes a show go round like this one does, the actor deserves some acknowledgement.
Can’t wait to see you next season. Keep your pants off until then.