Masters of Sex 1.10 “Fallout” Recap

by Shilo Adams / December 1, 2013

masters of sexBill and Virginia have had a hard time seeing eye to eye since they ended their participation in the study and their passive aggression toward one another has spilled into their sessions with other subjects. Masters breaks his own protocol by telling them that they can take their questionnaires home to fill out and changes the focus of the research on Virginia; instead of looking at male respiration rates, they’re now studying a woman who can have multiple orgasms, even though they still have other couples to get through and they only allotted 30 minutes for this particular couple.

When Virginia gets home, she finds Ethan has sent the babysitter away. With the children fast asleep, he inquires about sleepover privileges, as long as he’s out before they wake up, and the two commiserate about the bad days they had. Ethan’s woe? He’s effectively been fired from the hospital, his fellowship officially not turning into a job offer and Scully seemingly to blame. The following day, the hospital watches a video for a civil defense drill, as they’re a part of the largest drill in the nation’s history. Half a million federal and state employees will be preparing for a radiological attack that day in two stages – the first air siren, find a secure room and stay there, with the second focusing on intake and triage. Meanwhile, Margaret and her friends play mahjong and gossip about the Lippincotts, friends of theirs who are getting divorced after being together for decades. It’s especially disheartening for Margaret to hear that the wife in the relationship lost the house, is combing through the paper for rental opportunities, and doesn’t have all of her friends there for support, since they picked sides in the divorce.

Bill gets approached by a candy striper who tells him that she’s three months pregnant after participating in his study – three months ago. She doesn’t have a boyfriend or a husband, so she’s certain that the man she was paired with in the study is the child’s father. But Bill refuses to give her his name or any contact information, citing that he’s ethically bound to safe guard the privacy of those who enter into his study. Virginia is aghast at Bill being so callous in dismissing the young girl’s situation, talking the 6% fail rate for diaphragms and the legal waiver absolving them from culpability, yet she backs down for now. Elsewhere in the hospital, Ethan confronts Scully about losing the job at the hospital and finds out that while Scully hates him for what he did to Vivian, devastated following the breakup, he was ready to sign off on Ethan getting a position. What killed Dr. Haas was his failing performance recommendation, which mentioned concerns over his professionalism and the character he brings to the hospital. The person responsible for filling that out? Bill.

Virginia decides to buck against Bill and retrieves the name of the father of the girl’s baby – Langham. After pulling him into a nearby empty exam room, she lays the situation out, that this girl (named Flora Banks) only did one trial in the study and had no boyfriend or husband at the time of conception. He claims to only be the equivalent of an organ donor, but she informs him that the diaphragm broke, that Flora doesn’t want any money, and that she thought he deserved to know. Though Bill makes Jane go back to her desk and pulls her away from her duties as fourth floor Hall Marshall, the first drill goes on as planned, the siren blaring and the lights going off. Virginia gets scooted into the secretary quarters and ends up ducking under Dr. DePaul’s table. DePaul’s pap smear proposal actually got approved by the board, but she only received $600 for her three months of effort, not enough to make even the slightest dent in the startup costs needed for the program. Virginia tells her that since the rules of life are different for women, she’s got to eschew politeness for pleasantry and charm, suggesting that she target the Chancellor with questions about his golf game.

Langham roams the halls looking for Bill and eventually finds him as he’s about to head into surgery. Bill assures Langham that he’s all clear as far as being protected, just as Lester tries to film the civil defense drill and gets publicly masters of sexembarrassed by Jane, who coldly insults him when he mentions that they’ve done filming together. Over at the Chadwick Hotel, Margaret sits at the bar and approaches a working girl, looking for tips on how to win her husband back. Since Barton’s been seeing prostitutes for years, they must know what he likes or, at the very least, can give Margaret tips on how to make their bedroom more exciting. However, the prostitute reaches a different conclusion that Margaret expected once she learns about the clean cut, handsome “pimp” that introduces Barton to the working girls, the fact that the two sleep in separate bedrooms, the lack of intimacy in their sex life when they actually had sex, and Barton not looking at other women at any time during their marriage. She tells Margaret that Barton’s gay and though at first Margaret laughs at the silliness of that suggestion, she realizes that it’s more accurate than she would like to admit.

After Ethan gets called in to help Bill in surgery, he spends their time washing up trying to feed his accomplishments to his mentor, only to find out that Bill doesn’t respect him as a doctor. But it’s not over the relationship with Virginia as Ethan expected; it has to do with Libby’s pregnancy and the boundaries that Ethan overstepped in the process of getting her pregnant. Bill punches him in the face and calls Ethan willful, stupid, and childish for what he did, while Ethan says that he did what Bill was too selfish to do and that Libby deserves to be a mother. Regardless of the fact that he lost his job over it, Ethan claims that he would do what he did again. While Margaret goes into Barton’s bedroom and lays down on his bed, Dr. DePaul finds herself in the elevator with Chancellor Fitzhugh and begins trying to charm him into reconsidering her proposal. Her compliments of his neck tie, questions about his golf game, and invitation for a meeting over drinks only make him think she’s hitting on him, though, and she’s arguably in a worse position after the encounter than she was before.

Bill calls Virginia into his office and lays into her about going to Langham, claiming that she trapped him by telling him of the pregnancy and that he can never unknow what she told him. Just then, the second air raid siren goes off and Virginia leaves the office, finding Ethan getting the cut on his forehead attended to. She learns about what happened with Libby and finds Flora outside the hospital. Rather than give her the name of the father, she gives the girl some money that she says is from the father and acknowledges how hard raising a child as a single parent can be. Meanwhile, Langham goes to the pool and finds Margaret swimming. He joins her and as the two float side by side, they talk about artificial satellites and how Langham misses not having a tether or any responsibilities. Margaret then corrects him that satellites don’t float – as the Earth curves away underneath them, the objects endlessly fall.

Jane apologizes to Lester for what she did in front of the other secretaries and he kisses her, claiming that that’s what he would do if the world was ending right now. Virginia goes into Bill’s office to remind him to congratulate Libby for the pregnancy and confront him about how she never felt smaller than she did when he gave her money for her participation in the study. She was made to feel like merely a random volunteer as opposed to a valued member of the team and she realizes that he gave her the money due to forming an attachment with her. After lecturing her on not letting emotion cloud her judgment, he did just that and she concludes that their participation in the study was never about research. It was an affair. She informs him that she gave Flora a $2,000 check from the discretionary fund, something she’s legally able to do, before quitting her job and going to work as DePaul’s secretary instead.

Additional thoughts and observations:
-The song that played during the final credits was “A Mushroom Cloud” by Sammy Salvo:

Are Multiple Orgasms a Myth?; When was the first civil defense drill held in the United States?; Just how effective is a diaphragm?; What is a uterine myoma?.
-In another case of Name That Former Sitcom Star, Flora was played by Ashley Johnson, who you may know from Growing Pains, All-American Girl, and Maybe This Time. Earlier this season, The Nanny‘s Nichole Tom appeared as one of the prostitutes at the cathouse Betty worked at.
-Allison Janney managed to make my cry by walking into a room and laying on a bed. Such a brief, simple scene but that was quite powerful, seeing her so vulnerable and so lost.
-For some reason, I think I like Masters of Sex more when Virginia and Bill are at odds than when they’re in a good place in their relationship. Episodes like this definitely bring out the worst in Bill’s personality, with the displaced anger, the disconnection from humanity, and the inability to separate his personal life/feelings from his professional world, but it was more compelling to see Virginia get the slap in the face needed to wake her up than to watch her fall for a man she couldn’t have and somewhat lose herself in the process. Plus, it allows her to get closer with Dr. DePaul, a relationship that I think could be beneficial to her as a person and a character.
-Jane didn’t exactly pull away when Lester kissed her. Could she have some sort of feelings for him? Or was that willingness to let him kiss her a result of her guilt over being awful to him earlier? Or, third option, did she find herself taken off guard by how good the kiss was?
-Langham tried to understand women, man. He read Jane Eyre. Also, Langham is a tool who I still feel bad for? That being said, him finding Margaret at the pool and joining her for a swim was sweet.
-Even though I understood where Bill was coming from with Virginia and Ethan, the way he went about each conversation wasn’t exactly begging for sympathy for his position. His inherent coldness, combined with the condescending way he speaks to anyone at the hospital with a lower position than himself, made me side with both Virginia and Ethan, especially after he cornered Virginia in the office and punched Ethan. Obviously, that’s what the show is going for and Michael Sheen played the heck out of both storylines, letting Bill’s emotions more outwardly guide his actions, but still, Bill’s someone I’ve been able to read fairly well and can’t really get behind.
-Next week on Masters of Sex: Masters compiles information for an upcoming presentation, DePaul fills Virginia in on why her work on the pap smear is so important, and George returns to find Ethan playing father to his children.

Shilo Adams is a contributing editor for ScreenFad whose work has appeared on TVOvermind, TVHackr, and KSiteTV. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @shilo_adams.