Everybody lies sometimes. Some people are bad at it. Some people think they’re better at it than they really are. And some people tell their biggest lies to themselves. In this week’s episode of Masters of Sex, we get to see that whole range of possibilities.
Virginia Johnson is frighteningly good at lying. As the show opens, we watch her deftly manipulate Bill Masters into agreeing that she should stay home for the next two days to nurse her flu. Even more importantly, she convinces him to stay away while she recovers. Of course she’s not really at home — she’s jetted off to Las Vegas with Dan Logan. I’m not sure how long Gini thinks she can keep up this balancing act between her two lovers, but with an angry Tessa in full snark mode at home, I’m not going to be taking bets on its long-term success.
Johnson isn’t just lying to herself about her ability to juggle two men. She’s also deluded herself into believing she can take a vacation. But left alone in the hotel with the promise of a massage and a beauty parlor appointment, she cancels every appointment and heads down to the casino for a spot of field research. The next 48 hours are a whirl of Virginia Johnson as super-heroine, as she discovers that people’s response to gambling has similarities to sexual arousal, uses that information to captivate the casino owner during Logan’s sales dinner, and talks the 19-year-old junkie who’s robbing their room into a treatment program. It’s definitely an action-packed weekend, and if nothing else it lets Logan know that she’s a woman who simply can’t turn herself off.
Back in St. Louis, Bill is taking advantage of Virginia’s absence to get the sexual surrogate program off the ground. If she’s not there, she can’t object, right? Cue Bill Masters’ own superhuman ability: the power to push a group of people through an interview and training process in Just Two Days.
We’ve seen Bill cut corners when he goes after an idea before: it never ends well – he simply doesn’t have enough emotional awareness to predict how people are going to react. He can’t even figure out that Lester joined the program to make Jane mad. But he’s uncharacteristically compassionate when he discovers one of his volunteers has been evicted from her apartment and is camping out in the clinic’s bedroom, and gives her some money to help her find a place to stay. You can’t get away from the feeling that he’s moved to do it because her interest in sexual dysfunction and spotty educational background reminds him of Virginia, but unlike Johnson, Clara’s never seen Masters at his worst. Still, dude, she was your 10-year-old neighbor not so long ago. The stuff she’s saying? That’s hero-worship. Back off and stop being creepy!
Interviews and training aside, Masters still has a fertility clinic to run, and a new pair of patients desperate for a baby. The male half of the couple he knows–Austin Langham, the randy, charming-but-amoral orthopedist he last saw selling diet pills several years ago–but he’s not yet met Austin’s new wife. The audience knows that she’s really Betty’s lover Helen, and that this is the plan they’ve cooked up to get Helen artificially inseminated with Austin’s sperm.
It’s a pretty hare-brained plan, not just because Austin and Helen are probably the worst liars on the planet, but because it’s really unnecessarily complicated. Helen would have just as good a chance of a pregnancy with some fresh sperm from Austin and a syringe lifted from the clinic. Why turn to Masters for help? Of course they get caught in their lie, although the reason is scientifically dubious–Masters, of all people, should know that you can’t tell whether a woman’s a virgin by the state of her hymen.
But when he confronts Betty about the deception, calling it unprofessional, she throws it right back at him. Bill may think he’s been careful about keeping his affair with Gini under wraps all these years, but Betty lets him know that he’s not actually a good liar. He’s just been taking advantage of everyone’s willingness to look the other way for years.
That includes Libby, who’s now enthusiastically rutting with Paul. But she’s not nearly as into the idea of engaging with him afterwards. Libby’s been looking the other way for so long, I’m almost surprised she didn’t laugh in Paul’s face when he wanted to know whether she’s running out the door afterwards out of guilt over what she’s doing to Bill. No, Paul, you’re a surrogate for tragically-dead-Robert-from-last-season. Sorry about your emotional needs, but this relationship is strictly physical.
And in the end, we learn that Virginia may not be quite as good of a liar as she thinks she is. When Bill shows up at her door with a canister of chicken noodle soup, he could use his key to barge right in, but decides to ring the bell instead. I think he suspects that something is going on. But by maintaining his ignorance, he protects his spot inside Gini’s ever more complicated life.
Sooner or later everyone is going to have to come clean about their tangled relationships. But so far, the only characters who know exactly where they stand are Austin, Betty, and Helen, who are left making a baby the old fashioned way, but with each of them knowing exactly how the others feel.
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