She Knows What Feels Good
Masters Of Sex Season 1 Episode 4 recap
There’s an inclination to be whispery and respectful of certain people after their deaths, and I certainly think that’s mostly appropriate. But sometimes it precludes things that I really miss – like how funny Heath Ledger was when he asked of Bianca Stratford, “What is it with this chick? She got beer-flavoured nipples or something?” See? You just smiled.
I’m worried that Virginia Johnson may have beer-flavoured nipples. Everyone loves her. Everyone is compelled to have sex with her, and schemes and plots to try to figure out how to do so, or else laments their lost opportunities in that regard. It’s kind of enough already. Hell, even Libby loves her. She’s a friend to all, sexually magic, intelligent and compelling – and I’m starting to be a little leery of it, because perfect people are not real, as we well know.
It’s saved, of course, by the fact that Lizzy Caplan is so damn good as Virginia, and makes her seem empathetic and normal even when she’s sleeping with her slimy (but apparently good in bed) ex, even when she really should have kicked him out of the study, even when she allows Ethan to speak to her that way in front of her kids. It’s actually a remarkable performance which is simultaneously not that showy or loud. She’s doing something great, which is why it’s so heartbreaking to criticize the characterization. I have a feeling that I’m supposed to see her as maybe a little dizzy – because she made the mistake of endangering the study, or because she often asks to leave or is late (which is reprehensible -- late for work is the cardinal taboo) but it doesn’t come across as dizzy, it comes across as distracted working mother.
Which is, of course, one of the many things Bill Masters gets to have against her. This episode jumps forward in time and the point of it is to make clear to us, very clear in fact, that Bill Masters’ dad was a bad man and that he worries he’ll be bad too.
I have to remind myself that this was the 50s, a time before “get over yourself” was a thing, because I want to smack Masters for letting his past determine his future. He’s already a robot where procreation is concerned; sex notwithstanding, I’m not sure how cozy he and Libby are getting now that there’s visible evidence she’s carrying a child. But if you’re so terrified to become a parent…why do it? Why subject yourself to that? I realize we had the flashback with the proto-provost to remind us that Bill is practically contractually obligated to be a family man, but it seems a pretty terrifying prospect, doesn’t it? Not just that he’s going to be his father all over again, but that he actually might prefer not to have small people around. Even if he can scare up empathy for them once there’s evidence that they are just as downtrodden as he used to be.
Of course, Bill Masters is still a picture of healthy behavior when compared to Ethan Haas. That’s a man who is messed up about sex and what he’s entitled to, and really believes that if Virginia would just give it up to him (fine, to give him what credit he’s due, “it” also seems to mean her heart and love) he’d be able to stop being a dick, summarily. He also seems to realize he’s a dick, which is more than I expected from that scene with the candy striper. But I still don’t get what makes him tick. If it’s Virginia, well, he knew her for five minutes, especially in a nonsexual sense. If it’s just wanting to be in touch with a woman and feeling frustrated that he can’t, I can understand it, I guess, but it’s not very clear. Bill, at least has wants and needs that I can understand, whether or not I agree with them.
It’s this “whether or not I agree with it” that gives me pause where Virginia’s concerned. Because she eats an awful lot of sh*t. In theory this is worth it because she’s getting to be part of such a great study and all but I wonder whether we’re supposed to believe that all the good that comes from being in a “man’s world” in this way is undone by the fact that she’s barely allowed to be a part of it?