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Masters of Sex recap: Story of My Life

Scars from their childhoods affect Bill and Barbara, who are unwilling to emotionally confront their pasts. Meanwhile, Virginia’s sessions with the psychologist suddenly become personal, leading her to a realization she didn’t expect, and Libby takes a stand.

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Michael Desmond/Showtime

Masters of Sex

TV Show
Current Status:
On Hiatus
run date:
Lizzy Caplan, Michael Sheen
Showtime Networks Inc.

Not every problem can be solved scientifically—much to the chagrin of Bill Masters. Repeated trial and error isn’t foolproof; neither is evidence in some cases. And experience—especially what is gone through during one’s formative years—isn’t always the best teacher.

Take, for instance, Bill’s fragile relationship with his brother. Frank’s alcoholism nearly destroyed his marriage, but he and his wife seem stronger and happier now that he is sober (they’re even trying to have a kid now, with Bill’s help). The younger Masters brother hopes what he learned in Alcoholics Anonymous can help repair his relationship with big bro, too—and so he stealthily takes Bill to an AA meeting, under the guise of introducing him to some of his friends.

Bill, of course, views this stunt as a “bait and switch” maneuver. He’s not moved by Frank’s tale of being a magician, one whose specialty is “the disappearing act.” He makes his sobriety chip “disappear,” then launches into his backstory: He would disappear down the street to a neighbor’s house when he sensed trouble with their father; he would mentally “disappear” in the middle of his father’s criticisms about tap dancing lessons or getting a B in biology. But the act got tougher, and soon he needed fearless assistants: brandy, sherry. All along, Frank says, he realized he had the best teacher of all in this vanishing act: their dad. At this remark, stone-faced Bill gets up and leaves the meeting, right when Frank aims the spotlight at him. Ta-da: another Masters disappearance.

Bill is livid (it’s hard to keep count of how many times that’s been written in this season’s recaps) when Frank stops by the office the next day for an explanation on why he stranded him at the meeting. Bill is flabbergasted that Frank might be looking for an apology; Frank says he wanted to use the experience to reintroduce himself to his brother because he needs his support. It’s in rooms like that I’ve found the courage to tell the truth, Frank says.

But Bill is dismissive: That tale of the sadistic father teaching him humiliation until he left home to become a doctor? That’s Bill’s story, not Frank’s. Did AA allow him to appropriate his brother’s story? Was it Frank’s justification for his indulgence? Or maybe he’s just delusional? Frank wonders why Bill can’t believe he may have experienced the same crappy childhood once Bill left the house. Bill says that’s because he was the apple of their father’s eye, but Frank clarifies: He was a son of a bitch to both of his sons, yet in the end, they both escaped. Who did Bill think he was in Frank’s story, Frank or their dad? “He left you and you left me,” Frank says. I don’t blame you for it, he adds. I did, but I understand now and forgive you.

Frank says the truth healed him. “You just have to share it,” he says. And Bill actually takes that advice to heart, because he finds himself in need of a little sexual healing. But he’s not willing to admit it quite yet.

Instead, he uses poor Lester as his guinea pig. They’re both currently impotent, a dysfunction that is proving particularly difficult to hide when he continues to meet Virginia for their illicit sexual rendezvous. He plays off not wanting to have sex as “having had too much too drink” (last week) or wanting to “take care of her” (this week). He tries to solve this impotence problem through the study, enlisting a “professional”—that’s a prostitute friend of Betty’s, Miss Kitty—to “cure” Lester.

Lester’s responsible for the comic relief this episode, first misunderstanding Bill’s offer of a prostitute as a bonus, then fumbling terribly once he’s actually in bed with Kitty. He was reluctant to participate in this for the study/for his own benefit, even when Bill tries to sell the opportunity as Lester’s chance to be a “pioneer” in helping to understand and cure impotence.

But not even a pro like Miss Kitty (who gets an awkward Gunsmoke joke) can ease Lester’s mind enough to help Lester get it up—not even when she plays sexy doctor to help him relax when he’s concerned their encounter might give him a heart attack.

Bill is exasperated by Lester’s reluctance to continue being an active participant in the study, realizing it’s not something that he can “fix” in a clinical setting. The way Lester sees it, he’ll get over this dysfunction not with an expert but with a woman he views as an equal match. In other words, with someone who takes the time to learn his body (and vice-versa) and for whom he has feelings. He’ll get over this with a woman as a couple. “Don’t you know a couple like that?” he asks. Ding-ding-ding: The light bulb goes off in Bill’s head. But can he admit his deficiency to Virginia, even if she is the cure?

NEXT: Sexual healing?