“Masters of Sex” recap (2.2): Miracles of Modern Medicine

Previously on Masters of Sex, William and Ginny became the first people to unblushingly insist that they were carrying on an affair “for science.” Poor Barton tried to commit suicide when he couldn’t electrocute himself into being straight. Austin got busted for sleeping with his sister-in-law (low even for you, Austin). Bill started work for Dr. Greathouse, a man living openly as a Total Perv. And Doctor Lillian is not dying. No no she is not dying and she is my girlfriend.

This week, Ginny and Bill (excuse me, Dr. and Mrs. Holden) meet up at their usual hotel for their usual shenanigans, and Ginny happens to mention that Barton is still absent from the hospital. She also asks when she’ll be able to join Bill at his new hospital to continue the sex study and he tells her he’s having trouble convincing Dr. Greathouse (I so want to make his name into a pun to indicate how awful he is but I can’t come up with anything) to justify the cost of a new secretary. Ginny says no problem: she’ll just go to his office and put the fear of god into his current secretary. And with that, they finish their martinis and go upstairs to bang for the good of all humankind.

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The next day, a new maid joins the Masters household. Her name is Coral, she is eighteen and African American (both black characters so far, by the way, have been on the staff of the Masters household). Libby immediately latches onto her as…what, exactly? A part of the household under her direct control? A friend to confide in? Like a lady in waiting, she seems expected to fulfill all roles. But when she has the temerity to correct some of Libby’s parenting techniques, Libby rather cruelly corrects her pronunciation of the word “ask.” It’s the most bitchy we’ve ever seen the angelic Libby, and while I thought that giving her some humanizing flaws would endear her to me, it has the opposite effect when it’s at someone else’s expense.

Meanwhile, the Pretzel King has taken to staking out the hospital every day until his wife gets pregnant. He has absolutely no clue that Betty’s “treatment” consists of her sitting in Bill’s waiting room, reading magazines. Bill threatens to expose her for deceiving her spouse but she threatens him right back to have the funding for his study cut. While she’s sitting in his study, she overhears the curious case of Rose the Nymphomaniac.

Rose is the daughter of a wealthy family, brought in to the hospital in critical condition after a botched abortion. Her parents ask Bill to give her a full hysterectomy to curb her licentious behavior, which he refuses to do, much to Greathouse’s displeasure.

Also this week, Ginny twists Lillian’s arm into making an instructional video about Pap smears, called “The Female Vagina: No, It Will Not Eat You.” But once she gets in front of the camera, she starts spouting nonsense words. She says she’s just nervous, but her oncologist says her cancer has progressed. And I say this must not allowed to happen, because she and Ginny haven’t even made out yet.

Meanwhile, multiple characters try to make inroads with Scully’s daughter, Vivian. First at bat: Austin, who, of course, tries to fuck her while putting a cast on her broken arm.

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He announces that his wife has left him and gone home to Alton, Illinois (the same town where Ginny and Bill have been trysting). Vivian, however, wants none of his smarm and shoves off. Next, Ginny tries her (much more substantial) charm on Vivian, but given that Ethan left Vivian for Ginny, she meets with even less success. It’s not until the end of the episode that Bill has some luck cracking her shell. She tells him about Barton’s suicide attempt and Bill feels guilty because he hasn’t devised a cure for homosexuality yet.

At the hospital, Ginny meets Bill’s new secretary, but finds herself unwilling to scare her out of a job. Whether this springs from female solidarity or a desire to return as Bill’s equal, not his secretary, we’ll just have to wait to find out. Next we have a parallel scene in which Bill meets with Dr. Greathouse and Ginny meets with the nice doctor who just wanted her advice about reoutfitting the Ulysses vibrator/camera for use on throats. But they both turn out to ulterior motives, the most common ulterior motives to all heterosexual men. Greathouse wants to know if the sex study can focus on anal sex, specifically which women are into it and where they can be found. And the throat doctor has a hands-free ejaculation in front of Ginny by just thinking about a woman deep-throating him. Which is really a shame, because he seemed like a decent enough fellow.

Back to the case of Rose the nymphomaniac, Bill tells her that her family wants her sterilized. Rose is all for this plan, since her compulsion for sex is making her miserable, but Bill promises that soon her problem will be treatable and gives her an IUD to keep her out of baby trouble in the meantime. And here we have one of the most interesting contradictions Masters of Sex has to sink its teeth into. In the case of Rose, she suffers from a sex addiction which she badly needs help to cope with. But Bill thinks that any sexual proclivities that fall outside the normfrom foot fetishes to homosexualityare merely dysfunctions and therefore treatable. In actual historical fact, Masters and Johnson devoted a great deal of time and energy to treating homosexuality. Of course they were products of their time, but even Freud refused to treat gays on the grounds that he didn’t believe they were ill. Anyhow, Betty hears Bill talking about Rose’s sickness and takes it into her head to talk to the girl herself. So she steals a bouquet of flowers (how can you not love Betty, she steals flowers) and relays the following story:

Betty: One of my earliest memories of hospitals, my mother had to go to one. She had an accident, ended up blind in one eye. It had to be removed. She had a glass eye ‘til the day she died. Actually I did it to her. See, my mother had a habit of making me feel real lousy. She would call me a tramp, she would say I was a disgrace to her and myself. And I took it, for the longest time. Her opinion of me. Until one dayI don’t even know what set it off—I took off one of my pumps and I stabbed her right in the eye with it. Not that blinding people is the best way, but there is a life lesson in there, somewhere, about standing up for yourself. A life lesson I am happy to pass on.

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I love that. I love the communities and alliances that are made when one world-battered person reaches out to another. It’s complicated here, because Rose has an actual problem and Betty only has people telling her she has a problem, but my respect for Betty isn’t complicated at all. It just grows and grows. I’ve heard folks condemn her for marrying a man; I once saw someone describe her as a lesbian in quotation marks. But what she is, is a survivor, and we learned in this episode that she wants other people to be survivors too.

Next week: Dr. and Mrs. Holden get to holdin’.

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