Masters of Sex recap: 'Fight'

A boxing match serves as a long, recurring metaphor for Bill and Virginia's relationship and their understanding of strength and power.
Ep. 03 | Aired Jul 27, 2014

A LOT LIKE LOVE: Bill and Virginia pose as Dr. and Mrs. Holden to perform research at their Illinois hotel.

Michael Desmond/SHOWTIME

And then they're back to watching the boxing match. Virginia says she can't tell who's ahead, and Bill tells her sometimes the best fighter isn't the one who lands the hardest punch, but the one who absorbs it. (Metaphor!) Virginia says you'd have to be a masochist to enjoy that, while Bill explains that you stop feeling it after a while. When you can't control the punishment, you can at least master your response. (Metaphor!) How does he know? Because Bill's dad used to beat him senseless as a kid, and Bill refused to fight back. He could have gotten on his knees and begged for mercy, but Bill decided to "take it like a man."

Virginia doesn't buy it. You weren't a man, she says, you were a boy. And there's no shame in saying you're hurt. She says she doesn't want her son to be a boxer because, "When he's hurt, I don't want him to act like he's not—that's not a lesson he needs to learn. I don't think that's what's going to make him a man." (Metaphor!) Bill looks rattled by her words. She's destroying what he held to be true, his understanding of "manliness." And she's giving him an out. He doesn't have to think that way anymore.

Cut to the OR, where the infant is undergoing the operation… to have the male genitals removed. (Sad metaphor.)

As Virginia is preparing to leave the hotel, she phones her daughter, who's spending the night with her dad. The little girl wants a bedtime story—a fairy tale story where a handsome prince rescues the princess. During this conversation, Virginia literally tries on Bill's wedding ring. But she asks her daughter why can't the princess go on an adventure all her own? Why can't she rescue the prince? (Metaphor sandwich!)

The bellhop arrives to take the dinner trays and strikes up conversation with Virginia, asking if there was anything the couple would like the hotel to prepare for them in advance of their next stay. Flowers, champagne… Virginia says those things are nice, but not necessary. The guy doesn't believe her; perhaps she needs to drop hints to Mr. Holden, he suggests. Virginia says he does other things for her: takes her seriously, listens. Or perhaps he doesn't offer her those things because they're having an affair, and why leave evidence? Round 4 to Bill.

The bellhop leaves; Bill exits the bathroom and checks the fight one last time. "It almost looks like love, doesn't it, when they reach for each other and hold on?" Virginia asks. (She actually needed to spell out this metaphor?) They're against each other, but against the crowd, too, she says. Aw, it's just like Bill and Virginia. See how they did that?

He puts her bracelet on for her and calls it an anniversary gift. She touches his hair and pretends she was just making sure she didn't completely butcher his hair with that steak knife. She adjusts his bow tie, and he says, "This is where a married couple would kiss." She says, "Don't forget your watch; it's by your wedding band." Tell us again, Virginia, about how you don't understand masochism.

Lest we forget this is a strictly scientific interaction, Virginia tells Bill that she will write up the night's results as including two acts of sexual intercourse and one act of masturbation with role-playing throughout. Bill seems satisfied with those results.

As he leaves the hotel, a woman with a baby crosses his path, reminding him of his own patient. He phones the hospital to check on the "ambiguous" baby, and to his horror, learns that the child is undergoing the operation. He rushes to Memorial, where Bill literally begs the father to consider the ramifications of incorrectly, irreversibly assigning gender to a child. (Metaphor!) But it's too late; the surgery was a "success." "Better a tomboy than a sissy," the father says in what is hands-down the most depressing thing uttered on television tonight.

Meanwhile, Virginia is making her own exit from the hotel when she hears commotion coming from one of the rooms off the lobby. It's a group of men watching the fight. (Either this was one helluva long boxing match or Virginia and Bill are awfully speedy in going about their research.) A man walks up to the fine young woman intruding into this smoky, loud man-cave and asks what brings her here. "I want to see how it ends," says Virginia. So do we.

As of right now, it's an even match: Neither Virginia nor Bill is able to hold the upper hand for long in the ongoing bout between these two emotionally damaged heavyweights.

By the way, Moore won that fight, one of the greatest comeback stories in boxing history. (Metaphor!)

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