It's the dinner party from hell; and even more trouble is brewing at home for Bill... and Libby
Credit: Michael Desmond/Showtime

What happened to poor, distraught Bill? The man who was willing to do anything to get Virginia back? Why does he seem to have read The Pick-Up Artist and is using the Neg method to shame Virginia into choosing him? It clearly can’t work. Or can it?

The show opens with Bill and Virginia arriving at an upscale Chicago restaurant for what is supposed to be a celebratory dinner after securing a hearty advance from Little Brown for their second book. But Virginia is fuming. Not only has Bill hijacked the presentation to the publishers but he spontaneously added in a chapter about the very thing they agreed last episode would not continue: the surrogacy program. Virginia’s ire only increases when she finds out Bill has attempted to make a reservation for four — inviting Dan Logan and his wife along to celebrate their advance and what Bill hopes will be the end to the Logan/Masters & Johnson Partnership.

But things don’t go exactly as Bill has planned. First off, he has no reservation at said upscale restaurant, that is, until Dan swoops in and rescues him with his insider status and penchant for steak tartar. The two couples are escorted to their two-top for four, but not before Dan’s wife Alice, played by an always great Judy Greer, overhears Virginia in the bathroom getting upset with an inept attendant who sprays perfume on her — something she quickly wipes off because “the man she’s seeing” doesn’t like perfume. Hah, funny, Dan also doesn’t like perfume on his women and despite the couple’s unorthodox relationship, she’s not happy with him flaunting his mistress in her face. Which gives Alice every reason to go off the wagon and imbibe in the champagne Bill is generously pouring.

Things only go from bad to worse as Virginia uses the cozy soiree to express her irritation with Bill. Bill only ups the ante, proclaiming, again, without Virginia’s consent, that this advance means Masters and Johnson can terminate their relationship with Logan. That doesn’t fly with either Virginia or Dan, who calls Bill out for setting up this dinner prior to having met with the publisher — so determined he was to expose Dan’s marriage to Virginia, hoping that would end her affair with him.

The two couples go off and have their own fight, Virginia and Bill’s in the coat closet of the restaurant — an apt spot since Virginia has refused to relinquish her coat for the entirety of the evening, hoping she would make her escape early. Dan and Alice engage in the final battle of a failing marriage. It’s a heartbreaking scene, especially when Alice makes Dan tell her what he loves about Virginia and though Dan wants to continue to protect her, he’s realized the marriage has come to an end.

And if we thought things were going bad for Bill on the road, that’s nothing compared to the misery that’s about to hit him at home. And I’m not talking about Libby contemplating leaving him — though that is a comeuppance he does deserve. For a brief moment it looks like Libby is going to achieve some real happiness, something she so deserves, but as my colleague pointed out last week, it’s a shame it has to come at the hand of a man. But this is the 1960s, and gearing up to leave your husband, especially for a woman who has no discernable income of her own, is not an easy thing to do. It becomes far simpler when football coach Paul Edly promises to love her and her children, even going so far to hope that the children will one day call him “Pau.” And Johnny sure likes him. Finally a man in his life that’s willing to talk to him and spend time with him, something Bill never does.

Another sad scene comes from Libby when she practices how she’s going to let Bill know she’s leaving. It’s the moment when she admits that what will bother her most won’t be any yelling or sadness, but if he’s indifferent to the whole thing, which is what she fears the most. That he just doesn’t care one way or another.

NEXT: A not-welcome plotline emerges

And this is where things get ugly — and I’ve got to say, quite far-fetched for my tastes. This show is dramatic enough and investigating people’s sex-lives has proven to be quite fertile territory for suspense-making episodes. So why do we have to take this into the misunderstanding realm — where a kid’s playground insult turns into an accusation against Bill for acting inappropriately with the school bully Dennis? To recap (since that is what we do here) a detective shows up late at night at the Masters residence to question Johnny about what he said on the playground when he insulted Dennis, saying he had to ask his father about how to make his penis work correctly. Now we all know Dennis came to Bill with a question about his wet dreams and Bill, as an appropriate medical doctor, explained to Dennis what is happening to his body, using a medical text as a visual aid. It couldn’t have been more innocent — the only thing Bill did wrong was not actually taking the same care when it came to his own son. But now the thing has escalated into an investigation, one that could entrap Bill and even worse, elucidate where Libby’s true loyalties lie.

Paul, of course, thinks these accusations could be true and urges Libby to take the kids and leave Bill, immediately. But Libby knows that Bill is innocent, and more importantly, she is so committed to reinforcing to her children that Bill is a good father — even though he is not. Libby is really sacrificing herself here. She knows Bill treats her son the way he does because he was never shown love by his own father. And of course, she doesn’t want the cycle to repeat, for both Bill’s sake, and more importantly, for her son’s. And so, the big plans she has to marry Paul, may not just be put on hold while this all gets settled, but could, in fact, be the end of their potential future together. I predict Bill will never know of her sacrifice.

There is just one more episode left. It would be a real shame if it ends with Bill being carted off to jail. The man has so many bigger issues that need punishing more than a ridiculous pedophilia claim. I really hope the writers don’t go much further down this path. If the claims — confirmed by Dennis — only lead to Bill and Johnny finally having a truthful conversation, since it’s clear that Johnny thinks his father hates him, than this story line will have some merit. But if it goes on more than that, it will diminish what has become a very insightful season.

And speaking of insight, what will happen with Dan and Virginia? Bill sounded the warning to Dan, bringing up Virginia’s previous love Ethan — that man she was going to fly off to California with, only to bail at the last minute. That story hangs over the episode when Dan shows up to Virginia’s hotel room at the end of their miserable night. He’s left his wife, he’s professing his love, but the ambiguous expression on her face suggests that this might not be what she wants. For Virginia seemed perfectly content to eat dinner alone at the table.

Will she stay? Will this time be different? Dan seems to think she’s “a person, not a project” like all the other affairs he’s had but does Virginia? Her look seems to suggest no. My theory is she bails again for the sake of Bill. Happy endings don’t seem to be her style.

All will hopefully be revealed next week. Until then…

Episode Recaps

Masters of Sex

This Showtime drama tells the steamy story of real-life sex researchers in the 1950s.

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