“Masters of Sex” recap (1.2): Cathouse Blues


Well, it is a great relief for me to inform you that Masters of Sex brought its B plus game this week. Still no A, as long as characters are declaiming their emotions all over the place, but certainly a step up from last week, partly for the increase in comedy (thanks Betty),  and partly for the simple reason that it took place over three days, not an unknowable number of weeks/months/fortnights.

When last we saw Masters and Johnson, Bill was propositioning Ginny in the name of science, and Ginny asked for the weekend to think it over.  When we catch up to her, she’s trying out different speeches, in search of a way to reject him that will protect his pride and her job.

Episode 102

She’s also trying to juggle the raising of her two children, Silent Girl and Comics Boy, so named for their sole identifying attributes. Every time she tries out a speech (brusque and offended, flattered and on the fence about it) it’s presented as an actual scene in which she gives the speech to Bill, only to be revealed as another rehearsal. The tactic she eventually decides on is “I will if I have to, but only so I can keep my job, and with no pleasure or enthusiasm.” But she never gets the chance to try this one out, because Bill informs her that the study has been shut down and she is fired. His theory is that she blabbed all about the anonymous sex to Dr. Ethan in the throes of the lust that he SPECIFICALLY told her not to have. Poor Ginny barely has time to be outraged before getting the news that her son, Comics Boy, has been suspended from school for Comics Reasons.

Elsewhere in the hospital, Bill has decided to take over his Robowife’s infertility treatments, an odious task to be sure, but the only way he has at present to punish Ethan.

Ethan: Why won’t you let me look up your wife’s cooter any more, bro?

Bill:  Because you can’t keep your mouth shut, you nitwit.

Ethan: Are you talking about how your sperm can’t swim? Because I never told your wife about that, although you should. I mean, my moral compass is jacked as shit, but even I know that’s wrong.

Bill: That’s ridiculous; my wife is just a pawn. I’m mad because you ruined my Ginny. I mean my study. And now you are even ruining my revenge by forcing me to explain it to you.

He huffs away, bound for a more pleasant destination: Betty’s Cathouse.

Episode 102

She treats him to a cup of coffee, while a grown man in a diaper and a fez (?) is exploring infantilism mere feet away. He introduces her to his plan to move the study to the cathouse, in exchange for a free medical exam (Obamacare!). She agrees, but only if he sweetens the deal to include a job for her at the hospital. Everyone should have a gig lined up for when they’re ready to get out of prostitution, so this seems like a pretty reasonable request. That night, he’s in the middle of a dildo demonstration when the joint gets busted and everyone, including Bill, is hauled to jail. This has no permanent consequences except that Robowife has to bail him out, which forces him to disclose the true nature of his work to her.  She is horrified that the man who can’t even look at her during sex is now in the business of watching complete strangers.

Let’s get all Doctor Ethan’s shit out of the way in one paragraph, shall we? Or better yet, one sentence. Ginny refuses to forgive him for his douchebaggery even though he sent her flowers, which always works in the movies, so he then tries to put his penis different places to feel better, but he’s like Goldilocks and one girl’s vagina is too hot and one is too cold and only Ginny’s is just right, poor baby.

Okay, back to people with actual problems. Ginny explains to Bill that she had nothing to do with the study being shuttered, but he ignores her, leading her to believe that being fired has less to do with the study, and more to do with her reluctance to sleep with him.

Also not getting any are the sex study volunteers, Austin and Jane. When Betty (who is awesomely April Ludgate-ing her way through her new secretary job) tells them that science no longer needs them to bone, Jane is devastated. The study meant everything to her, filled her with purpose and fueled the fires of her nascent feminism. Austin is devastated because he can only get an erection if he’s cheating on his wife.

Austin proposes they continue “the study” themselves, in private and without all the wires and the science, and then Ethan bops up and asks who the sluttiest slut in the hospital is, and Jane tells them to both fuck off please so she can get back to reading her book, which is how I feel about 90% of my life.

At the cathouse, Dr. Masters is having some trouble getting the ladies to….um….open up to him, but still refuses to ask Virginia for her help. Luckily, Betty gives her the location and Ginny shows up without an invite, and saves the day once again by talking to people in small words they’ll be sure to understand. But Bill makes himself useful, saving one of the prostitutes by hooking her up with a pair of eyeglasses. That’s the second time in two weeks that the show has tried to humanize Masters by having him reach out to some hapless woman, but I’m pretty sure that realizing that someone who can’t tell how many fingers you’re holding up needs glasses qualifies neither as heroism nor brilliance. Also he denies Betty’s request to have her tubes untied, because he believes Betty would be an unfit mother. And I think Betty would be a fantastic mother, but I’m wondering where Helen fits into this equation.

That night, Robowife tries to ignite Bill’s ardor by offering to let him watch her activate her pleasure sensors, but he declines, unwilling to destroy the image of her as perfectly pure. Robowife goes to bed sorely disappointed at missing out on the first opportunity for an orgasm in ages.

The next day, Masters is brooding in his office (he could go head-to-head with Don Draper for the impenetrability and frequency of his broods) when Ginny comes in and offers her body for his work and pleasure. Except, just kidding, it’s another fake out. But it actually provides one of the clearest insights we’ve gotten into Masters. In his fantasy, even though the sex relies on his position of power, it still occurs with Ginny’s desire and consent. In real life, though, he just orders Ginny to talk Helen out of motherhood.

So Ginny goes to Betty to gently break the news that, in spite of centuries of spirited effort, two lesbians have yet to impregnate one another. And Betty replies with the two most shocking phrases in history.

1. I met a guy

2. in church.

This man, as it turns out, is a King. A Pretzel King, in fact, who wants nothing more than to whisk Betty away to his castle and impregnate her with his sourdough offspring. But seriously, he’s a nice guy, and he can offer something that no lesbian in 1956 Ohio had: a shot. Sure, there were women on the coasts living the gay lifestyle, going to the bars, and being fabulous, but if kids and a house was part of your idea of happiness, there wasn’t a place for you. When Ginny asks the question on every lesbian’s mind: “but what about Helen?” Betty replies, “she understands.”  And so do I, but this is doubly tragic since Betty is hilarious, a perfect foil to Masters, and writing her off the show seems like a huge mistake. It does, however, make the point so well articulated in the earlier extended quote from The Second Sex, that women could not even love each other from a position of strength, safety, and hope.

Ginny gets it, and tries to explain to Bill why Betty should be free to have pretzel children. She also wonders if she could be officially un-fired, since she is clearly so crucial to the work.  He agrees to the first proposition and takes the emotionally abusive “we’ll see” route with the second. They part ways and Ginny goes home to read her son’s comics, watched the entire time by Ethan, who has moved from gross fantasizing to gross stalking.  Ugh, get out of my recap, Ethan.  You had your sentence.

What did you think of Betty’s decision? And would you use a camera-equipped dildo in exchange for free healthcare?

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