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Masters of Sex recap: Two Scents

Virginia and Bill treat a celebrity couple while they all grapple with their own personal mythologies.

Posted on

Michael Desmond/SHOWTIME

Masters of Sex

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

We all create personal mythologies—stories about our lives, our choices that help rationalize our actions and get us through our days. Same goes for the characters in Masters of Sex—humans grappling with their circumstances in their quest to find contentment and peace. The one speech Virginia’s dad gives to Virginia about her behavior turns out to be the crux of the episode: “We all need stories to tell ourselves.”

Libby admits finally to herself, via her brain-damaged friend, that the moment Bill stopped loving her was the moment she deceived him and conceived a child with a doctors’ help, making him a father against his wishes. Just as Bill tries to rationalize with Virginia that their relationship is more than something that was conceived in a lab, that it would carry the same weight if it evolved through a traditional courtship of dinners and roses. Those relationship complexities are revealed through the dysfunctional celebrity couple—the fictional Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe “It” pair—that come to Masters and Johnson seeking to fix their relationship, which has fallen apart due to infidelity on his part and, therefore, frigidity on hers. Whether or not this is a new formula or not for Masters of Sex, with the couple seeking help from the doctors, being the catalyst for a theme for the show to explore, I like it. It gives the show a framework, while allowing the writers to delve deeper into these characters’ psyches. Let’s get to examining where are favorite sex researchers are going this week.

Virginia Johnson

To me Lizzy Caplan’s character remains the most inscrutable. She is clearly very challenged by the presence of her mother—a woman who can’t seem to just appreciate her daughter for who she is and is constantly trying to change her. The fact that she sets Virginia up on a “date” with Bill in her own home under the guise of taking three-month-old baby Lisa to get ice cream proves to be the last straw in this tension-filled relationship. And it’s happening as Virginia pulls further away from Bill, realizing perhaps that this very flawed man will never be able to give her what she wants and needs. Even his efforts to book a proper hotel room for the two of them go askew when the man at the front desk recognizes the increasingly famous Masters & Johnson and they can no longer continue their challenged romance under a pseudonym. Retreating to their lab is about as unromantic as it can get—a reminder to Virginia that their relationship was created by work, not by a natural attraction that was impossible to resist.

This all happens while Virginia and Josh Charles’ character, Dan Logan, continue their study of scents, this time turning to pheromones as a possible solution to finding his love potion. Lester sweats, women smell him, and their body chemistry changes are recorded. Logan clearly wants to court Virginia properly—but when she suddenly sleeps with him, it’s unclear why. Does she feels she doesn’t deserve the proper courting he wants to give her? Is she really into him? Or is she just trying on another story while she decides whether or not she wants to keep things going with Bill?

Virginia does finally call her mother out on her behavior. It’s an impassioned scene where she loses it after seeing her daughter Tessa start conforming to her grandmother’s wishes via a ridiculous beehive hairdo. Tessa feels like her mother finally has her back and won’t allow the manipulative grandma to turn Tessa into a version of herself “that she will come to loathe.” It’s a striking moment for Tessa and Virginia, only to be undone when Virginia comes home from her tryst with Logan. Tessa is about to share her published essay with her mother—an essay I sure wanted to read—when Tessa sees her mother’s mis-buttoned blouse and realizes her mother has once again put a man before her. She drops the essay, unbeknownst to Virginia, in the trash and goes upstairs, the moment of intimacy lost.

NEXT: Bill tries his hand at football coaching