Masters of Sex recap: Mirror, Mirror

Bill and Virginia take a new interest in their patients' sexual dysfunction. Bill becomes secretive while treating a couple for infertility.
Ep. 08 | Aired Aug 31, 2014

LEADING LADIES Virginia and Libby team up to convince the chief of police to join the office's new board of trustees.

Michael Desmond/SHOWTIME

So when Virginia asks Bill which dysfunction they should delve into first, naturally he says impotence. Well, it's the biggest file, which means by looking into it they have the potential to do the most good, he says. And how will they learn more about impotence? Luckily, they've got an expert on staff.

Betty once again shines with her irreverent street smarts, detailing how she and the other prostitutes would deal with a limp John. Hands, mouth, or sometimes the 'ol "punch for suckers"—an "Indian tonic" that could make an erection permanent. In reality, it was rum and cayenne—a placebo. But if she got the brain to believe, the guy downstairs would believe, too. Most of the time, she says, it was a mental block. Bill raises his eyebrows at this.

So when Lester admits he's having trouble in bed too, we catch a rare glimpse of Bill's tender side. Yes, it's selfishly motivated—if he can find out what's causing Lester's problem, maybe he can diagnose his own—but there's something sweet about the doctor sitting down with his cameraman and asking him about his past relationships. He also asks Lester about his role in the study, why he has taken on the work. Lester says everything they do, every day, is new. Bill tells him that even that is changing—no longer will they only be studying human sexuality, they will begin to explore the idea of intervention. Their new mission: Not simply to observe, but also to heal. (Like he's also "healing" the relationships with his family, perhaps?)

Bill's other mission for the practice is to find some decent funding. He's being audited by the IRS for filing as tax exempt when he actually needed a board of trustees to do so. (Betty really knows her tax law, right?) Bill and Betty cook up a plan to enlist the chief of police as one of their board members, knowing more St. Louis power-players will follow suit if he's on board. They set up a dinner with the chief and his wife and Bill and Libby, and Betty insists Virginia attend to really seal the deal. Bill may be good at getting his way, but everyone knows Virginia is the charmer in that partnership.

Bill and Virginia sell the study as a means to prevent divorce—the main cause of which is sexual dissatisfaction—which in turns leads to bad kids and a rise in crime. Libby sweetens the deal by suggesting they all attend the famous Veiled Prophet Ball, a St. Louis tradition promoting philanthropy among the city's elite. She'll even volunteer to raise funds before the event.

Turns out, Libby is a pretty natural saleswoman. She even convinces the shrewd Cal-O-Metric lady Flo to purchase an ad in the VP Ball program to appeal to all of those "rich, unhappy woman" who will be attending. (She's speaking from personal experience, of course.) But while walking out of the office, building she's nearly run over by a pickup truck… out of which a number of white men throw the body of a black activist/history teacher on the sidewalk just down the street. Libby eyes the scene, horrified, then drives away.

The police/newspaper report the incident as a drug deal gone awry, which is a coverup. Robert—yes, Coral's brother Robert—who was on the scene, saw Libby drive by and stops by the Masters house, asking her to report any details she may have seen. The cops aren't going to do anything about it if there are only black witnesses, he tells her. She lies and says she saw nothing. It isn't until she attends the VP Ball and sees the Veiled Prophet wearing a white "hood" and notices that all of the waitstaff are black that Robert's words—and his comparison of the ball to the KKK—resonates with her.

Libby tells Bill the truth about the incident, and he falls back on one of his favorite lines: It's not our issue. That sets Libby off. Everything in their lives has been about Bill's study. "I don't know where I fit in with it all," she says. "With me," Bill replies. But that's not enough, and soon we see her at Robert's apartment, telling him she wants to talk about what she saw.

These are positive turns for Libby: displaying her strengths outside of the home and standing up for something as important as civil rights. But everything we've seen about her relationship with "negroes" so far has been so negative, it's hard to believe her decision to do the right thing here is anything other than an impulse to spite her husband by doing the opposite of what he told her to do. And that, unfortunately, makes her even more unlikable.

On a lighter note, this episode may have had the best moments of comic relief of the season, such as:

Lester asking if it's okay to take some time off to attend his father's funeral… while he, Bill and Virginia are observing two study subjects having sex. The best part: He tries out his eulogy on Virginia while the study couple begin to climax.

The intercutting of scenes between Lester discussing his sexual woes with Bill and Barbara talking with Virginia about her first sexual encounter was nicely done. It echoed the scenes from episode 2 when Greathouse revealed his kinky side to Bill and Virginia discovered the real reason that gastroenterologist was interested in working with her. It's a trick that could come across as cheesy, but instead added levity to the scenes.

Any scene with Flo. Artemis Pebdani is just too fun to watch—especially when she's trading witty barbs with Betty (Annaleigh Ashford). These women are the refreshing antithesis of the '50s housewife stereotype (ahem, Libby… still wishing she wasn't so thinly written) and seem to revel in their roles. How great was it to see her take down Langham in one scene and giving him his chance at "starting over" by naming him the new Cal-O-Metric spokesman in another? Definite highlights of the season.

Speaking of Cal-O-Metric spokesmen, the old one—an obese radio star—croaked by "eating himself to death." Bill pronounced him dead, either because his stomach burst or of cardiac arrest, at the hotel where he now serves as an on-call doctor. He tells the night manager Elliot he needs a coroner, not an obstetrician—so does this mean he told the kid the truth after all? That he is the "legendary" Bill Masters?

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