It’s a show that spends so much time focused on the act itself, but this week Masters of Sex made some strides when it devoted the majority of “All Together Now” to what happens after we have sex.
After weeks of tossing as many disparate storylines at us as possible, it seems the writers have finally found their groove. Characters are a little more fleshed-out. Their stories are becoming more and more interwoven. And this week, there was an obvious attempt at a theme, as we saw three different couples confronting the afterglow. We open on Bill and Virginia mid-coitus, and after a few seconds of watching them awkwardly go at it while hooked up to a bunch of wires (not to mention with Bill announcing which stage of arousal he’s entering—”plateau!” “orgasm!” ”…resolution”—as they proceed), we watch as they analyze the data and grapple with this new phase of their relationship. When Bill notes that Virginia didn’t orgasm, she reminds him (maybe for science, maybe for his ego, maybe for both) that the missionary position isn’t ideal for clitoral stimulation. That’s just the excuse Bill needs to continue having sex with Virginia in every position imaginable, so he schedules another session for them.
Meanwhile, Ethan leaves Vivian naked in his bed to go car-shopping with Virginia. They seem to be getting along these days, and when they’ve decided on a car, she reveals she’ll need to get Bill’s approval because he’s cosigning on her loan. Ethan’s a little taken aback by this—he didn’t realize the two were so close, presumably—and he insists on cosigning with Virginia in Bill’s place. Later, after seeing Bill and Virginia leaving the study room alone late at night, he appears to put two and two together and … buys new sheets to please Vivian? I guess this was supposed to be some sort of grand gesture on Ethan’s part, an invitation to stay over whenever she wants and thus a big sign that Ethan has given up on Virginia and settled for Vivian. But something tells me things won’t be that simple.
The big wrinkle in these new fancy sheets is Libby. She’s convinced Ethan to keep trying to get her pregnant with Bill’s leftover sperm from the sperm bank, on the condition that she make it look natural by having regular sex with her husband. At first, Bill’s not having it, but when Libby swings by the office and asks Virginia to adjust Bill’s schedule for the health of their marriage, it wrecks his sweet “having regular sex with the woman he’s secretly in love with in the name of science” set-up. The second time we see Bill and Virginia after a session, Bill’s happy as a clam, humming and teasing Virginia about how many times she orgasmed (twice). He even suggests they go grab a bite to eat (which, presumably, would not be for science). But Virginia’s not dumb, and she sees what’s happening. She halts the pair’s participation in the study until Bill resolves his marital problems, so Bill promptly goes home, has sex with Libby, then reports back to Virginia that they can proceed with the study. Done and done.
Except, of course, it’s not—not really. The final sex scene between Bill and Virginia this week hints at the (rather obvious) fact that Bill’s not the only one getting emotionally attached. They chat beforehand, then finally achieve a simultaneous orgasm (which Bill confirms with a cry of “ORGASM”). This time, afterwards, it’s Virginia who suggests they go grab some food. She’s shot down, however, as Bill has plans with Libby. Oh, you mean when you reject someone and tell them to spend more time with their wife, that’s what they’ll do? Hmm. We close the episode with her gazing longingly at the bed they just slept together in, so it’s obvious there are a lot of unresolved feelings that will come into play throughout the remainder of the season.
Dr. Langum has also got a lot of unresolved feelings—and his appear to run pretty deep into his psyche. His post-sex scene with Margaret was extremely awkward, with him acting essentially like a kid living out some weird Mom fantasy. He sits in Provost Scully’s chair, even tries on his glasses, and then Margaret makes him a sandwich and pours him a glass of milk. (That “last time someone poured me milk, I was 10” line should have sent up a bunch of red flags.) They’re caught when Scully returns home unexpectedly after being jumped while waiting for his gay escort, but Scully doesn’t seem to upset, which bothers Margaret all the more. Allison Janney is terrific as she demands to know what’s wrong with her husband, but all he can do is sit in silence. She and Langum continue to carry on, but he grows distant after she tells him their affair has changed her life. Later, when discussing it with his shrink (Alan Ruck, who appears to be a recurring character now!), he insists he doesn’t have a thing for older women, citing all the times he’s been with young “hellcats.” “All the women in your life have been a type,” the psychologist explains. “The bell you’re trying to ring becomes a person.”
And, just like that, we’ve got the overlying message of this week’s episode. That’s what happens when you have sex with someone—it can start off as casually as you’d like, but do it more than once and they become a person. Attachments form, feelings develop, and relationships move from that initial excitement into their own plateau stage. We’re getting into the juicy stuff now on Masters of Sex, and it is, in fact, all starting to come together.
—Even Scully is now a person to the prostitute he’s been seeing, after he saves him from being beaten. As Scully points out later in the hotel room, he was under no obligation to step in and save him. But now that he has, there’s something between the two of them—he’s no longer an anonymous customer.
—The scene with Bill and Virginia interviewing each other about their sexual histories was pretty great. We learn Bill lost his virginity when he was 20, and he and Libby waited until they were married to consummate their relationship.
—”Bill is not going to run off with Virginia.” Haha! It’s funny because he is.
—That raises an interesting question, though. We’re still in the late ‘50s here, and the real Bill Masters didn’t leave his wife for Virginia Johnson until 1971. Are we going to jump ahead in time here, or does the show plan on dragging this out for seasons?