Masters Of Sex Season 2 Episode 9 recap

It’s just because of Christian Borle.

It’s just because of Christian Borle.

I’m not starting to think about Smash, and how characters on that show used to tell each other great revelations about things instead of showing them,  and how the main characters only looked at problems instead of actually having them, because of Christian Borle. Isn’t that true?

Mostly. It’s mostly true. And yet … I just can’t shake this feeling.  Can’t we see Bill watch Francis and learn something about himself? Can’t we see Virginia lose face, for once in her life? That is, as she listens to Barbara and realizes that she confronted her brother she’s shocked,  and didn’t expect this type of reaction, but…that’s the sum total of it. She doesn’t actually get caught out. She doesn’t actually have someone throwing hot coffee in her face because they’re so enraged.  
Even when lying to her sort-of psychiatrist, she manages a cover story that is passable, and never lets anyone see her sweat. 

It’s a funny thing about this show, actually. The people who are most consistently caught on their back feet are the “weak” ones. Lester. Barbara. Libby Masters.    Anyone we think is weak usually…is. Dr. Masters and Virginia seem impenetrable.  Nothing ever phases them publicly, even though we know they’re wrecks inside.   Both of them would appear, to the cast of characters who knows them, to be utterly calm – if irritating, in Bill’s case. One of the things about the show that kills me is okay, so we know Betty and Dr. Langham and the Cal-O-Metric lady, and all of them know Bill and Virginia, but do any of them actually know them? That is, what’s the ever-loving point of all these people in Bill & Ginny’s lives if none of them actually give us any insight into Bill and Ginny – and the ones who do (Lillian, Barton) are killed off?

I like the Francis storyline. I like that things are not the way Bill thinks they are. But basically what happened here was that Francis told him how things were, and Bill said “noooooo”. Then Francis told him again, and Bill said “noooo”. It’s basically the same interaction I had with my dad when I told him everyone else got a larger allowance. He doesn’t really believe him. He doesn’t believe he’s like his father. It’s kind of endlessly frustrating to see a man who’s basically a brick wall allow other people to tell him he’s a brick wall.

Speaking of – the fact that Libby gave up on him long ago rings true to me. The fact that she’s settled more securely in her role as wife and mother, and has her little fiefdom, rings true to me. And while the whole civil rights plot makes me exhausted and is so coincidental, here’s the one part about it I do like. I like that Libby, who obviously doesn’t need to concern herself with silly things like childcare, is just going to start volunteering without telling Bill word one about it. She’s just going to have this whole other life, satisfying herself without bothering him about it.  Because they have entirely separate lives, and because whatever Libby doesn’t know, she knows Bill does not care at all what she does. At all.  “I’m trying to remember the last time anything I said mattered this much.”  She can be a liar or an upstanding woman, she can be a dupe or a sage woman of the world. Bill doesn’t care and he doesn’t notice. He only has eyes for Virginia.

So now Virginia has told Bill to get a clue: their relationship isn’t about the work and hasn’t been for years. And Bill is dragging his feet, tooth and nail at the preposterous – preposterous! - idea that emotional problems or insights or entanglements might have an effect on sex. He forced Lester to have the world’s least sexy call girl experience, but he can’t believe it might be related. He and Virginia both Cyrano other people’s experiences all over the place trying to feel something – but feelings aren’t important.

I said at the beginning of this review that we never truly see Bill or Virginia upended in front of everyone, but given that she put the ball squarely in his court, he’s about to be upended in front of us. Onward?

Also given the way people appear and disappear in this show I hold no hope of Borle continuing on, but in spite of giving things a bit of theatricality, he’s kind of a welcome addition to making Bill human in a different way than Virginia does. He also allows an outlet for Bill’s natural dickishness that at least feels appropriate, when aimed at a little brother, instead of just endlessly abrasive. So.

Attached – Lizzy Caplan at the US Open this weekend.