Masters of Sex recap: 'Dirty Jobs'

Bill and Virginia's secret is out, leading to trouble at work.
Ep. 04 | Aired Aug 3, 2014

A HEAVY LUNCH Dr. Langham tells Virginia he saw her and Bill at the hotel and knows about the affair.

Michael Desmond/Showtime

The secret: Lillian cheated, too
What we learned: Lillian has trust issues… and her condition is not improving

Lillian and Virginia are eager to present their pap smear campaign to Dr. Papanikolaou, the (real-life) inventor of the test and (fictional) former professor of Dr. DePaul; if they receive his backing, their crusade could go national. But during their presentation at Maternity Hospital, Lillian—who is now undergoing radiation therapy for her terminal cancer—flubs her words, which seems to concern Papanikolaou. (The treatment, it seems, is not slowing the cancer's effect on her body.) Later, Virginia smooths things over with the doctor—as she always does—by championing Lillian's work as remarkable. Papanikolaou agrees that it is; Virginia hopes he will consider Dr. DePaul for the Williams Prize.

Too bad Langham—in another misguided, lonely Lothario moment—causes Lillian to lose faith in her secretary. Late at night, Langham wanders into Lillian's office seeking companionship; what he finds is whiskey. As they become tipsier, Lillian admits she had initially pegged Virginia as just another secretary hoping to bag a doctor. Well, Langham says, you had her nailed down right from the start. Thinking Lillian meant she knew of the Virginia-Bill affair from the get-go, he goes on and on about finding the pair in the hotel, the silly excuse Virginia tried to tell him, how he's surprised he didn't see it sooner. Lillian is heartbroken. She meant the complete opposite.

Still, she gives Virginia a chance to set the record straight. While sitting in the oncology waiting room, Lillian admits she cheated in calculus in college in order to keep her perfect GPA. But, she says, that doesn't take away from all of the hard work she's done since. Did Virginia have any secrets? she wondered. "Honestly, I'm not that interesting," Virginia says, severely disappointing her boss/friend.

You have to wonder: Why didn't Lillian give Virginia the benefit of the doubt? Why didn't she confront her directly about the cheating? Because Lillian has never trusted or opened herself up to anyone like she has with Virginia, and she has no idea how to handle this kind of deceit. And so she goes back to Papanikolaou and offers him her pap smear program—all of it, which means her name will never be associated with it when it finally becomes a success. Her university doesn't have the proper personal to oversee the project, she says (sad face for Virginia and Lillian's broken trust), and once he takes it, her role in the work is finished.

And because she's hurt by Virginia's perceived betrayal, Lillian informs her secretary that the program is going to Papanikolaou in a rather backhanded way: She simply instructs Virginia to send all of the paperwork to his office. When Virginia asks why she wasn't told sooner, Lillian says she doesn't need to consult her secretary on matters regarding her research. Our research, Virginia says, and it becomes even clearer that this "secretary" isn't concerned about overstepping her bounds. When she works hard on something, she takes (at least partial) ownership of it. That doesn't fly with everyone, and certainly not Lillian. The conversation ends bitterly, and Virginia realizes that she will be losing yet another job.

Secret: Libby is a maybe-racist control freak
What we learned: In what seems to be an increasing effort to paint Libby as some kind of villain, she's becoming more and more cartoonishly written

Stress can bring out the worst in everyone, and having a child has brought all of Libby's insecurities to the forefront: She blames the baby for Bill distancing himself, and she blames herself for being a bad mother when she sees the nanny, Coral, so at ease with the babe. On top of that she's a control freak, falling to pieces when things aren't as perfect as a spread in her Ladies' Day magazine.

Ladies' Day, of course, is where she learns that new babies are "traumatic" for men because their peaceful domiciles are suddenly taken over by screaming, pooping attention grabbers. She explains this to Coral while insisting everything must go perfectly during her luncheon, which will be attended by the wives of Bill's new colleagues.

Libby, of course, is in her element during the lunch. She's dressed well and serving the right food on the proper plates and having very important conversations about supporting your hardworking man. The ladies want to know more about Bill's "experiments"; Libby, flustered by such an improper topic, says it's nothing but charts and paperwork, which bores/disappoints her guests. Enter Coral with the baby, who makes the women melt. One woman asks how Coral became so good with children, and Libby scolds the young nanny for an answer that apparently went on a little too long. To make matters worse, Coral mispronounces ask as "ax" once again, which nearly makes Libby's head explode in front of the present company. And then one of the women notices bugs crawling in the baby's hair…

Yes, he has lice. And yes, Libby assumes they came from the black, lower class help: Coral. She's freaking out over the bugs, trying to launder everything when Bill comes home. He says they're just a few harmless insects that can be cured with shampoo. She's happy to solve problems like this with his help. He takes the diaper pail out—because just like her magazine says, that poopy baby smell is just too much for husbands.

The next day, Libby hands the lice shampoo to Coral and tells her to use it when she gets home. Coral tries to defend herself, saying she didn't bring the bugs into the house, but stoically takes the medication anyway. Next time Coral arrives to work, Libby notes that her hair is the same as the day before. So… she didn't use the shampoo? Libby views this as an affront to her position as Coral's boss—scratch that, as Coral's superior in every way. Coral tries to appeal to Bill, who sides with the girl: It's difficult for "negroes" to get lice due to the texture of their hair, he says (which, upon viewing in 2014, makes the conversation that much more awkward and uncomfortable). The racist/classist overtones are palpable when Libby later calls Coral into the bathroom and demands that she wash her hair with the lice shampoo, right there, right now, or never be allowed back in the house.

Libby says Coral has given her no choice; she no longer trusts the girl. "We need to be on the same side," Libby says. "Mr. Masters is not a part of this. You and I need to stick together." It's a cry for help as she further alienates the one girl who is willing and very able to provide that aid. And she douses the girl with lice shampoo. Coral sits up from the sink, hair sopping wet, distraught. As some sort of consolation, Libby hands the girl money to get her hair redone.

The problem with Libby right now is she's very one note. In a show that is very capable of showing the complexities and contradictions of its characters, Libby is flat. She's boring. She's the bad guy. Worst of all, she's a stereotype: the frustrated housewife desperately trying to keep the cracks in her June Cleaver facade from showing. Give her a gun and some pigeon-targets and maybe we'll reconsider.

Secret: Betty is sterile, but she's going to Bill for "fertility treatments" to hide the truth from her husband
What we learned: Betty's lies about her fertility issues can't hide her past

When Betty's husband, the Pretzel King, decides to join her during one of her (fake) fertility treatment appointments, Bill insists she finally tell him the truth. When he returns from the bathroom with his "sample," Betty breaks the news: The doc just got the results, and she's unable to have children.

The Pretzel King is devastated, and Betty puts on a good front trying to console him and show disappointment herself. (In truth, she does wish she could have kids, but found out in season 1 that she is sterile.)

At home during dinner, Betty is being her usual sarcastic, chatty self, making conversation about Betty Crocker and how she's not a real person, but a marketing ploy. "You would be an expert on phony Betties," the Pretzel King says. Why didn't she tell him she couldn't have kids? he asks. She knew before they were even married.

Betty says she was afraid he wouldn't marry her if she told him the truth. But the Pretzel King knows more about Betty than she expected. Their first meeting wasn't at the church; it was in a brothel, where Betty worked, where her now-husband had paid her for sex. He had always been shy around girls, PK says, and he never thought he'd find a girl that nice again. So when he saw her in the church, he knew that they were meant to be together. He didn't think she was a good Christian girl, just the love of his life.

Betty cries, silent, realizing they're broken, kindred spirits in more ways than one.

Secret: Greathouse is even more of a chauvinistic ass than we expected
What we learned: He's a man of his era? Whatever. Let's consider some of the comments he made tonight:

"Thar she blows!" — said when a study patient he refers to as "old and fat" begins to climax

"What's on the menu tonight?" — asking Bill what kind of patients he'll be seeing that evening.

Telling Bill "this is how it works": Secretaries don't get promotions or titles.

Not to mention the fact that he hired his incompetent mistress to work as Bill's secretary, but refuses to bring Virginia on board as an "overpriced secretary."

So. The negative effects of Bill and Virginia's affair are beginning to take hold, with both researchers losing their jobs because of their dedication to each other—ahem, to their "work." Lillian has given up on her one friend and her work, which are the only things she has. With her cancer not improving, things look bleak for Dr. DePaul as we move further into the season. Libby is becoming a monster, if only to serve as a villain standing in opposition of Bill and Virginia's success as a couple. Though that final scene between Betty and the Pretzel King felt like it was wrapped up with a nice little bow, hopefully this isn't the last we see of the reformed prostitute. She brings so much fun, comic relief to a show that needs an occasional jolt of humor. As for Greathouse, well, sorry Danny Huston, but we're not sad to see what appears to be the end of that jerk in this story.

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