To truly understand this week’s episode of Masters of Sex, let’s first revisit what I like to call the 30 Rock Crevasse Theory, courtesy of Jack Donaghy:
“Sometimes the way back up is down. Let me tell you a story. It’s 1994. I went ice climbing, and I fell into a crevasse. I hurt my leg, and I couldn’t climb back up. So fighting every natural instinct, doing the thing that seemed most awful to me, I climbed down into the darkness. And that’s how I got out. When I got back to base camp, I went and found my fellow climber, the one who had cut me loose after I fell. And I said, ‘Connie Chung, you did the right thing.’‘’
With another time jump (although, mercifully, only a five-month one this time) and further complications with our main characters’ family lives, it would appear that Masters of Sex is climbing deeper into the crevasse it fell into in the season three premiere. But somehow these new wrinkles managed to bring Bill and Virginia closer together—and that’s when the show really shines.
Episode two picks up right where last week’s left off, with Bill and Virginia in the bathroom discussing the fact that she’s four months pregnant. This is a major hurdle for them, because this is still the ‘60s, and an unmarried pregnant woman talking frankly about sex is a threat to the study’s credibility. Virginia assures Bill she’s going to get an abortion and “that’ll be that.”
But, of course, that’s not that. Virginia has a fight with Tessa the morning she’s scheduled to get the abortion, and being called the worst mother in the world causes her to have a change of heart at the last second (like, “the speculum’s been inserted and she’s already numbed up” last second). She and Bill agree that when she starts showing, she’ll go on a leave of absence while Bill hires a temporary replacement (played by Maggie Grace). But Bill underestimates how much he’ll clash with anyone who’s not Virginia, and when the new girl fails to replicate their unique dynamic, he cooks up a new plan to get Virginia back: a sham marriage to George.
This is, of course, a huge wrench to throw into the Bill and Virginia machine. Sending off the woman you love to marry her ex-husband (who is also the father of her unborn baby) seems like probably not the best idea, especially when you add the fact that he wants to get back together with her for real. Things are bound to get extremely complicated for Virginia and Bill, especially because she wants to spend more time at home caring for her new baby (who, it’s important to note, is a girl named Lisa—the same as Virginia Johnson’s real-life daughter. So, for those keeping score at home, Bill and Virginia each now have two fictional kids and one real one.) But by climbing deeper into this less-than-ideal scenario, Masters of Sex seems to be at least headed towards a solution. The baby’s arrival allowed for one of the best Bill/Virginia scenes we’ve seen in a while, with Bill playing the role of desperate husband to Virginia while she’s in labor, singing to her and doing his best to offer comfort. When a hysterical Virginia (acted excellently by Lizzy Caplan) expresses her fears that she’s an unfit mother, Bill convinces her that she’s doing her children a favor by pursuing her dream by comparing her to the unfulfilled housewives of the era.
“Maybe if those women had taken off their aprons and ventured outside, held their own against men, felt their worth in the world and brought all that home to their children, maybe their kids wouldn’t have spent all their time wanting to be free of them,” he says. “You live in a constant state of apology to your children. What if you showed this baby that you were choosing to pursue your passion not over him but for him? So that every single night you could bring him home a piece of the world, a world you are working to change for the better.”
It’s an excellent point, and it seems to comfort Virginia, but what Bill fails to realize is that he hasn’t been practicing what he’s preaching. Has he made a single attempt to show his own kids that he’s pursuing his passion for them, or allowed them anywhere near his world? Has he encouraged Libby at all to venture outside of the house and become more than just a shell of a person waiting for him to put in another brief appearance after work? No, on the contrary, he freaked out when she started volunteering at the civil rights center. Bill’s motivations for this grand speech are purely selfish: he loves Virginia, and he needs her, and he can feel himself losing her.
“Three’s a Crowd” wraps with Bill exiting the hospital as George arrives. George and Virginia gaze into the nursery at their new baby, and Bill drives to a bookstore to look wistfully at their baby, the book. And so we trudge deeper into the crevasse in order to escape it.
— “I need a competent woman by my side to counteract the perception that I’m a pervert.”
—Libby totally knows what’s up with her husband and Virginia. The way she said “maybe he’s not the father” to Bill should be the only clue he needs. Even if she knows Bill is infertile and couldn’t be the father of Virginia’s baby, she also knows the idea that Virginia was sleeping with someone else is extremely hurtful to him.
—Lots of shots of Virginia drinking while pregnant. Oh, the ‘60s.
—Bill’s admission that he’d found his other half (Virginia) was pretty heartbreaking. Go get her, Bill!