Masters of Sex 1.08 “Love and Marriage” Recapon November 17, 2013
While walking into the hospital one morning, Jane worries that Masters doesn’t seem happy with her performance as his secretary. Virginia offers some quick tips, including never letting stray paper clips collect on the desk, never putting mayonnaise on any of his lunches, and assume that you’re staying late when he mentions something about it; the main reason that Jane was worrying is because her cousin May put all of her eggs in her boss Mr. Burwell, with whom she had an affair, before being fired. She had no severance package, no recommendation, no fall back plan – it was as if he tried to rub her out of existence.
Libby has her sewing interrupted by handyman Walter, there to do some work around the house that Bill had been neglecting for the study. He gets the shed keys and goes to clean the gutters, just as Virginia finds Dr. DePaul with several bodies that will be used for her basic anatomy course, a course that Virginia is being forced to take to complete her B.S. However, she wants to see if she can’t place out of the class due to how many hours she’s spent working on the study with Bill, the kind of firsthand experience with anatomy that would make this class redundant. DePaul won’t let her place out, nor will she let her have partial credit – instead, Virginia will be taking the class in addition to the other things she has on her plate. Meanwhile, Margaret spies Langham at the train station where they were to meet before going away for the weekend. Unfortunately, she overhears him cancelling the tickets and he tells her that he’s been having second thoughts about their affair. She acts as if she knew this was nothing more than casual and he promises to think of her with affection.
After another session together, Virginia and Bill are going over the results, which will encapsulate part of a presentation they’re going to give this coming Friday. The material, though, is decidedly stale and since Virginia doesn’t simply want to read statistics out loud for the duration of her time on the floor, she suggests that they videotape one of their study subjects as a visual aid to demonstrate the physical reactions the statistics were pointing out. He seems to agree, but when he suggests that they go again now that he’s finished the period between refractory and second arousal, she leaves, citing the fact that she’s expected home. As Langham arrives home with toys for the kids and a new vacuum for his wife, Margaret begins chatting up Dale, Barton’s prostitute, at the bar of a local hotel. The two get along well, only for Barton to come in and see them talking. He lies that Dale is a grad student he’s advising and that the board meeting he said he had that night was cancelled, while Margaret mentions that her aunt Caroline, who she said she was visiting this weekend, turned out to be too sick for her to come.
She then tearfully gives Dale advice to stay single because while you think that you’ll be the exception, that your relationship won’t turn out to be like other broken unions that you’ve seen, there are truly no exceptions. You don’t want to feel like a failure when someone you’re with for a long time loses interest, making you feel less than whole in the process. Margaret grabs her purse and leaves, with Barton following her to the ladies room. She knows that Dale’s not a graduate student, she says, and Barton lies that Dale had been procuring him female prostitutes. Instead of pressing the issue, Margaret simply tells him that she’ll get herself home and leaves her husband in the restroom. Elsewhere, Virginia arrives late to Dr. DePaul’s anatomy class and gets called out for her lack of punctuality; the doctor also won’t call on her even when she hears Virginia saying the correct answers to herself, answers that other people in the class are missing. Bill approaches Lester with the hopes of rigging up Ulysses with a camera so that he can record the vaginal contractions of one of the patient. There’s a chance of something being compatible with Ulysses, with Lester’s “Lesterscope,” something he built on his own, having recently been used to film a tumor in a man’s throat.
Ethan awakes one morning to find Vivian in his apartment, singing along to a Dinah Shore record and cleaning. Even though he looks irritated for being woken up early on a day when he doesn’t have to go in, he seems happy that there’s at least someone there with him. While Barton invites a half-naked Margaret to go with him to the drive-in that evening, shocking her with his enthusiasm, Walter finishes cleaning out the gutters and spots Libby watching Arthur Murray and practicing her dance moves by himself. He reveals himself to be an architecture buff and mentions how he used to go dancing with his wife every Saturday until she suddenly passed away; he also gives her advice for her dancing, telling her to think less and feel more, since he can see that she was counting the beats in her head. Walter demonstrates the pattern of movement involved in the tango and eventually does it along with her, though he rejects the idea of being paid to be her dance teacher.
When Vivian surprises Ethan in the cafeteria with a packed lunch, he approaches Langham for advice about wedding rings. Since he’s pushing 30 and has found someone who obviously thinks a lot of him, he’s seriously considering a future, citing that married men live longer, that married people receive tax breaks, and that by getting married, he’ll have someone in his life who won’t just leave when the going gets rough. The topic turns to Langham’s misreading of the gift situation and the two agree to go to a nearby jewelry store to look for engagement rings and an apology present for Elyse. Virginia convinces Jane that the filming is less creepy and more like the equivalent of a scientific hand model, as Jane will not have her face shown in the footage and won’t be identified by name. She does request the screen name of Beave St. Marie, although it turns out that Ulysses had to have his vibration disabled for the camera to work. Lester then gets to control the camera during the first trial run, much to his surprise.
As Virginia takes charge during a dissection in his anatomy class, where one of her colleagues fainted, Barton and Margaret arrive at the drive-in and he attempts to get romantic with her, complimenting her before scooting over and kissing her on the lips (with a closed mouth). With couples all around then passionately making out, talk turns to how they never had sex before they were married before Barton wasn’t interested and how he never looked at her half-naked body when he found her in her bedroom earlier. She used to excuse it that their marriage was strong in other ways, that only teenagers and nymphomaniacs were that handsy with each other, but him seeing prostitutes is insulting and the fact that they’re still good friends 30 years in isn’t enough anymore. To avoid being broken by her marriage, he has to let her go, even though he doesn’t want to. That night, Virginia, studying for her exam, spots Dr. DePaul, preparing for her pap smear proposal, at the library. DePaul laments at having to give a lecture on female health issues to a room full of disinterested men and rejects Virginia’s ideas of bringing a friend to clap and provide support before leaving.
Ethan and Langham make it to the jewelry store and the clerk suggests emeralds for Elyse. Langham then tells Ethan the story of how he proposed to his wife – he planned on doing it at a fancy restaurant and having the chef bake it into their food, but he got sick before they made it there and proposed when the ring fell out of his pocket in the emergency room. DePaul’s lecture goes about as well as she expected, the room not even a quarter full and several people actively bored or making their conversations no secret. She talks of a 42-year-old with no history of cancer who now has stage-4 cervical cancer that metastasized in her liver, the inspiration for the pilot program targeting the education of county doctors. She only has six months to make this happen, since the patient she mentioned in her lecture is herself, and yet, she ran up against rumblings of insufficient funding.
Once he learns from DePaul that Virginia is one of the better students in her class, Bill gives his assistant permission to pick up classes and lets her have the night off so she can study. Virginia seems to know the material when she gets home, her kids helping her study, and she tells them that they’ll both be going to college so that people will believe them and see them better. While Langham begins having an affair with the jewelry store clerk, Barton approaches Bill to inquire about the sex study’s progress (unprecedented data, the death of several sacred cows, presentation soon) and whether it would be possible for someone to change their sexual habits. He’s already read about aversion therapy and electroshock therapy and Bill mentions adaptational psychodynamics, a recently developed practice where a patient takes a drug that makes them nauseous and partakes in the activity they want to change. Through time, said activity/habit will have the negative connotation of the sickness and the patient will be turned off from partaking in it again.
When Bill tries to get DePaul to inform him when Virginia signs up for another class, she accuses him of not wanting to her to stand on her own two feet, lest she gain the confidence and upward mobility necessary to leave him. Ethan accidentally proposes early to an enthusiastic, detail obsessed Vivian, who he attempted to coyly hint around at, just as Langham corners Virginia and gets himself back in the study. Meanwhile, Barton acquires apomorphine, the drug being used in the adaptational psychodynamics, and wants to take it while simply looking at Dale. Calling their time a terrible habit and merely a business transaction not based in feeling, he offers to pay Dale double or triple the usual rate and Dale just laughs at the idea of being paid so someone can vomit by looking at him. He says that only one person gets to be sickened by him and that’s himself, telling Barton that he’ll be around once the provost changes his mind about the psychodynamics.
Libby picked up the dance moves fairly quickly from Walter and when he playfully dips her, she goes limp in his arms. He rushes her to the hospital and it turns out to be a case of hypotension brought on by the child she’s carrying. Virginia ends up with a 100% on her first anatomy exam and while watching the (shaky) footage of Jane’s masturbation with the Lesterscope, Bill becomes aroused – not at the imagery, at being one of only two people who have seen it thus far.
Additional thoughts and observations:
-”You could read it with a monkey on your hat.”
-”Dr. Masters, I thought you were Nosferatu.”
-The version of “Love and Marriage” that Vivian sang along to was by Dinah Shore. The original, released the same year, came from Frank Sinatra. The latter was used as the theme song to Married…with Children.
-I wonder, with a remark like “Vaginas don’t bite,” what Virginia would have thought about a movie like Teeth.
-Flex Alexander! He’s somebody I only know from comedic roles and it was a nice surprise to see him on here and doing as well as he did. The role of Walter could have easily felt like a cliché, a Magical Negro who solves Libby’s problems through dancing, but thanks to his performance, the chemistry he had with Caitlin Fitzgerald, and the level of writing on Masters of Sex, it was equal parts sweet and sad, all heart and tears. You had Libby finding the connection with a man that she had been so desperately longing for now that Masters is full swallowed up by the study and experiencing the happiness that has been denied her and that she can’t exactly go seek out herself, considering the time period and her fear of losing her status.
-Good episode for humanizing DePaul, who had come off very hard (and hard to read) thus far. Naming all the bodies who were donated to science was a nice touch and while you instantly knew she was talking about herself at her lecture, it was still a great reveal that told you a lot about her even though we’ve not spent much time with her. It wasn’t patronizing, it wasn’t melodramatic, it was a very matter-of-fact look at a woman who wants to leave a lasting mark on the world with the time she has left, thereby saving people from having to undergo what she’s been forced to undergo. You always had to admire her for being a woman and making it through the verbal abuse she suffered in getting her medical degree, as well as handling critics every single day who didn’t look at her like a real doctor, and to be doing all that while knowing she only has a short time left is pretty remarkable.
-It was also nice to have her call out Masters for wanting to keep Virginia under his thumb. The show has played into the romantic side of his feelings for her and that power dynamic that still exists between them, no matter what her title may be, is something that is begging to be explored.
-Another amazing episode for Allison Janney and Beau Bridges in what might be the best B-plot on television right now. It will never get a whole lot of screentime in an individual episode, but when Allison Janney gives you a tearful monologue about feeling less than whole once your partner loses interest and when Beau Bridges is desperate enough to try aversion therapy to become the man his wife wants him to be, it burns in your brain, that depth of confusion, loneliness, and pain that both of them are effortlessly able to invoke. As much as I like watching Masters and Johnson plow their way into the Sexual Revolution, the show is made in capturing that particular time period in terms of social mores: Ethan straddling the line between conservatism and sowing his coats; Libby stuck in a situation she can’t get out of, Margaret and Scully battling with who they are and what they want. That’s the show and that’s why it’s been so good thus far.
-But seriously, every Emmy ever for Margaret’s hotel monologue and the conversation at the drive-in, the latter made all the more melancholy by the two surrounded by several couples wrapped up in passion.
-Do you think that Langham had sex with the jewelry store clerk just to prove a point that he’s still a “man” and can get it up? Or is this the start of another affair, this time with someone a bit more “fun” and less serious than Margaret?
-Here’s an article about how nurses perceive aversion therapy for “sexual deviants”.
-Next week on Masters of Sex: Masters and Johnson must convince Lester and Jane that their footage would cross into pornography, while Haas reveals to Vivian that he’s Jewish, Libby keeps her pregnancy a secret, and Essie observes the intimacy of Bill’s relationship with Virginia at the hospital.