Warren Feldman/Showtime
July 19, 2015 at 10:36 PM EDT

Masters of Sex

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

Libby is taking charge. She is no longer willing to be the cuckolded wife. After Bill walks into the house in what should be a celebratory mood considering how well the presentation of their book went. Rather, he’s despondent over the news that Virginia is pregnant, because of course, he believes it’s his baby. But Libby is tired of his secrets, of being shut out, of living a single mother’s life when she actually has a husband. She tells Bill they will have a social life and she will solve it all with pigs in a blanket at a party with her new neighbors—the ones who really do think she is a single mom. I think Bill by this point knows what a terrible husband he’s been and he can do nothing more then go along with her plans. It’s the least he can give her. Virginia also makes concessions to her: going along with a “party” she throws for her arranged marriage to George. And thanks for George, who calls bullshit on the whole thing: “You used to be a romantic,” he says. “Now you have a lover who’s wife hosted this ceremony.”

And Bill: The Shah of Iran and his wife come to town hoping for a cure to their infertility. The moment comes as Virginia is forced on leave by Bill for fear that her “condition” would look bad on the practice and their research. Though when an opinionated female gynecologist joins him, Bill can’t re-create the rhythm he had with Virginia (obviously) and Bill finds her too intrusive to keep her involved. His attempt to go it alone is equally disastrous, particularly when he gives an interview to a news reporter and suggests that a woman with three sexual partners is morally superior to a woman with a husband who fantasizes about other sexual partners. Probably, not the exact point he was trying to make.

Bill’s one moment of honesty comes amidst his treatment of the Shah of Iran and his wife. The glamorous foreign duo show up needing help with their fertility treatment, but when it’s revealed that her tubes are permanently damaged, she tells Bill that she will be cast aside so he can marry another and produce an heir to the throne. She also gives him a moment of insight, instructing him that in a love triangle, the side with the child is where the bond is stronger. Bill doesn’t believe that’s true, spelling out his feelings for the first time: That to him, desire and respect fuel the bond (Virginia), not the woman who bore him children (Libby). But in the end Bill realizes his folly. He can be there to comfort Virginia while she is in labor, assuage all her insecurities, but when it’s time for the big moment, he realizes he no longer belongs and he walks out of the hospital as George walks in. The triangle has tilted in George’s favor.

Poor George. He is really the tragic figure in this scenario, forced into a sham marriage in order to legitimize Virginia, who won’t for a moment consider actually trying a real partnership again. (“I’m good enough to f—a but not to marry? Jesus, I sound like a mistress.”) And to have Bill sitting there during the conversation felt like he was being bullying. Couldn’t Virginia just have conveyed Bill’s willingness to pay George for his effort without him sitting there reminding him of where her interests really lie. I found it fascinating though that George and Virginia have much more honest, revealing conversations than she ever has with Bill. He speaks to her in half sentences while George can really emote.

And so the four stand there before a group of colleagues celebrating their success. They stand there as a lie, four people joined together in deception as they propel their truthful scientific findings while being bogged down with complicated emotional baggage. When the cracks begin to show in their well-constructed façade, the results are sure to be fascinating.   

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