Masters of Sex recap: 'Asterion'

The new Masters and Johnson Clinic struggles while Bill has difficulty accepting that Virginia wants to continue seeing other men.
Ep. 07 | Aired Aug 24, 2014

MASTER OF HIS DOMAIN Bill grapples with running his own practice—and Virginia's personal choices.

Michael Desmond/SHOWTIME

Time shifts again as Betty walks through the office lobby with prospective new tenants, finally renting their extra space to Flo, the Cal-O-Metric saleswoman who previously tortured Virginia. (My, how time does change.) It's Oct. 11, 1960 as Lester films Betty and Bill talking about financials (he's quickly asked to shut off the camera). Betty says their fertility patient numbers are up, she raised their rates, and they're looking at a 20 percent increase in profit over the last month. Bill is skeptical.

Meanwhile, Virginia runs into her old boyfriend Shelly—whom she pretty much remembers nothing about, kind of confirming Bill's idea that the guy was a stranger in her life. When she watches Lester catalog old footage from the study's first days back at Maternity—including footage of her tenderly fixing Bill's bow tie—she gets nostalgic and once again decides to patch things up with her boss-lover. In Bill's office, she hands him a hotel key and tells him that, aside from her children, everything she has is tied to her work—to him. It's risky, being that honest, but she knows in her heart what he thinks of her. "Whatever this is between us can't be undone," she says, adding that they'll go through much worse hell then the "undeclared war" they're currently waging before all is said and done. "Just because you go home to someone doesn’t mean you're not alone," he tells her. She asks that he allow her someone to hold onto while he holds onto Libby.

The conversation seems to have struck a chord with Bill, because he and Virginia are later sitting in the hotel room. Virginia asks if she should take off her clothes, if he will take off his clothes. Tonight, he says, he needs to reacquaint himself with her body, describing how he will make her climax with his hands, his mouth. She's fully naked; he's fully clothed when she asks if this means they're resuming their work. "What do you think?" he asks her, again summarizing the complexities of their relationship in one little line. "What do you think" is what they are constantly asking themselves about each other because they're both too damn stubborn and afraid to admit their true feelings in a transparent way.

In another room at the same hotel, Langham is helping a friend celebrate his bachelor party as Lester films the revelry. Things get awkward when Lester turns on a stag film, which appears to feature Langham's hand model-turned-lingerie model-turned burlesque dancer-turned-porn star girlfriend. Time progresses, indeed. That realization on top of the "hollowness" of the bachelor party sends him to the house of his estranged wife, where he asks her to take him back. He swears he'll be faithful, but she says she's moved on. "Some things cannot be undone," she tells him, echoing Virginia's statement to Bill. Where one couple reconciles, another breaks for good…

Later, Bill attempts to sell his services as an on-call doctor to the hotel in exchange for free boarding for himself and Mrs. Holden. (The bell hop-now-night-manager is happy to see they've patched things up.) Unfortunately, guests might not feel comfortable being seen for illness by a radiologist. A guy like Dr. Masters, who delivered the manager's sister's baby, now he would be a doctor they would hire. And so Bill's lies bite him in the ass. The fantasy life he has built for himself at the hotel cannot keep up with reality. Will he tell the truth, or will he find another, more affordable place to shack up with Virginia?

The past also returns in the form of Bill's old secretary at Memorial—the one who was doing Greathouse—who now wants to participate in their study. But she has a "closed" vagina and because of her sexual dysfunction is not qualified for the study, even though she and Greathouse had plenty of "other" sexual relations. "Don't feel bad about rejecting me," she tells Virginia. "Sometimes in life, the answer is, 'no.'" Does everyone have an overly obvious metaphor to spout in this episode?

Virginia discusses the secretary's case with Bill at another birthday party. (That's two b-days for his kids in this episode, another clear marker of time.) Virginia is disappointed that they won't be learning more about the woman's sexual history. Libby walks in and sends Bill out to the grill. She and Virginia share more girl time—now Libby is smoking and Virginia has quit. Libby invites Virginia to their lake house, saying Bill's always more pleasant when she's around. (Ha!)

Bill, for his part, is trying to do right by his family, or as best as he can while still sleeping with his research partner. He invited his mother to the party, to the pleasure of Libby. But Bill knows she has gone behind his back and is funding his clinic—that's where that extra 20 percent income came from. His mother said she had to help him; she couldn't not help him, not again (see: her standing idly by while his dad beat the crap out of him as a kid). Repeatedly, she tried to hit home one point: "I am so very proud of my son."

And the episode ends with Bill and his mother, viewed not in "real time," but through the film footage that Lester is shooting of the party. The home video feel—used throughout the episode whenever Lester was filming—added that extra layer of commentary about how memory plays into our actions. Nostalgia is a powerful thing—for better or worse.

Episode high:
That bedroom fight. Bill takes it just as good as he gives it. Same with Libby. Their innate ability to tear each other down with pointy, pointy words is a glimpse into how, maybe once upon a time, in tune with each other they once were—even if it's ugly and mean and spiteful.

Episode low:
Not once is Dr. DePaul mentioned, which is a shame—she had a profound effect on Virginia, both as a friend and mentor, and surely her death has had a major impact on Ms. Johnson, even as time goes by. Their final scenes together were raw and intimate and real, and to not even acknowledge that in the follow-up episode seems odd. Virginia is someone who is attuned to emotions, so she wouldn't easily "forget" about Lillian. Perhaps the choice to not reflect on her death was meant to show that Virginia has "moved on," but Lillian was not one of her "beaus" whose names she so easily forgets. And because of that, it seems like an oversight in this hour.

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