Masters Of Sex Season 3 Episode 1 recap

It may be because Lainey and I were embroiled last night in a discussion about a writer who didn’t bother to hide his condescension for women, but this episode of Masters of Sex, set in 1965, has firmly moved into what amounts to a family drama that documents how Bill Masters is frustrated by women being women.

I’m not complaining about any of that, by the way. I found this episode really compelling, and it did a good job reminding us where everyone is. Tessa and Henry are causing Virginia all kinds of problems (and both of them now look older than Lizzy Caplan does); Libby and Virginia are conducting some sort of weird and amazing sister-wife phenomenon, and everyone is trying their best to stick to their guns about all of this being okay.

But it’s not okay. Virginia doesn’t have a degree. Libby doesn’t have a husband, not really. Tessa and Henry don’t have a mother they can talk to, Bill doesn’t have the solitude he wants given that he’s got the burden of trying to have a family that looks normal. Virginia doesn’t have anyone she can really talk to, except, again, for Libby.  Incidentally, this may be the season that finally does Libby’s composure in – but doesn’t Caitlin Fitzgerald look stunning for the trip?

Basically what this episode adds up to is a reminder that the success of Masters and Johnson has been a very long, very hard road, and they’ve been unacknowledged for a long time. Not only is there a lot riding on the publication of this book, but if it doesn’t turn out to have been worth it, basically the last decade or more, and all of the sacrifices their children have made on their behalf, will be a waste.

Which is an especially big deal given that Virginia’s children sneer at her and Bill’s are afraid of him. In fact, he’s turning into the same kind of ragey monster he so hated his father for being, and he knows it. Virginia is deathly afraid of being a fraud, a brainless girl who came along for the sex on the ride, and she knows she’s in danger of being seen that way. So they’re both, to say the least, tense.

But most magically, most importantly, the show is showing that Libby and Virginia are all too aware of the fact that they’re different sides of the same coin, different halves of the construct that keeps the maddening Bill Masters going. 

And this is where the show gets interesting! Sex is great but … all the things that Masters and Johnson are talking about have to do with the relationships in and around sex. The complications and fears and emotions that make it interesting or possible or frustrating or scandalous.

So this season wastes no time getting to a very stereotypical complication. Let’s see how it rolls out – especially since there was a ‘no children were harmed’ disclaimer  right at the end of the episode, reminding you that this is fiction and Bill and ‘Gin’ didn’t neglect their children that badly. For what it’s worth, I think the era matters less than ever, so the period costumes are fun but I don’t think it’s so pinned to a historical time, ironic given that the research they did was in direct response to the restrictions and mores of the day.

If you haven’t watched this series yet, it’s so easy to catch up and so fun to do so. Get on board for the rest of the summer!