Previously on Masters of Sex, Ginny, growing tired of society being so slow to catch on to her doctrine of sexual liberation, took out her Time-Turner, wrapped it around the entire show, and took everyone ahead to 1962. Having lost Lillian, Margaret, and Barton, she was determined that no past storyline, however insignificant, should be left behind. Betty, of course, was given pride of place and became the new office manager for the Sex Institute. Lester was dragged back from California so he could catch the whole thing on film. The Cal-O-Metric lady joined the team, for some reason. That lady Dr. Greathouse used to do butt stuff to? She’s here too! THE GODDAMN BELLBOY AT THE SEX HOTEL? MAJOR FUCKING PLAYER NOW. I was worried that Coral and Robert had been left behind, but nope, at least Robert comes back for this episode. I hope they stick around through the seventies, too, because I feel like Coral with an afro would be something to live for. Oh and Bill was there too, I guess, whining because he couldn’t get an erection.
This episode begins with Bill sharing breakfast with a man who introduces himself as Dr. Frank Mason, apparently an old school buddy of Bill’s. Right away, there’s a weirdly intense energy between them, so I was assuming they were secret boyfriends in college.
Frankly, at this point a gay storyline is one of the few things that could make Bill sympathetic or even interesting to me. Bill is all set to give Frank the patented Masters brushoff, but then Frank says that he just got married and wants the fertility help of his old school chum. Bill seems oddly reluctant to help out Frank, which confirms that Feelings are indeed involved.
Meanwhile, we witness the unlikely partnership of Austin and Artemis the Cal-O-Metric lady (she will always be Artemis to me since that is her real name and the name of her character on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). Artemis seeks Austin’s help with her collapsed arches, and casually tries to seduce him as well. Austin declines, which I believe is the first time we have ever seen him turn down sex, and announces that he has turned over a new leaf. It turns out his profligate behavior has cost him personally and professionally, and all he wants now is to keep his head down. I cannot wait to see late-sixties Austin, who will for sure start hanging out with Timothy Leary and join some adorably dysfunctional commune.
Speaking of dysfunction, Ginny finally suggest that rather than simply observing people have sex, the study should endeavor to treat sexual ailments. Bill is like, “Great idea! And let’s start with men who can’t get boners, no matter how hard the back-alley hooker tries.” And Ginny is like, “Why that particular problem?”
And Bill is like “BECAUSE OF REASONS, GINNY.”
Ginny is interested in exploring the psychological roots of impotence, while Bill insists that there are no such things as psychological roots, because Feelings are for weak people. To settle the question, they bring in Betty, who attests that in her years as a lady of the night, she observed that most penis problems originate in the brain. It’s probably terribly un-PC of me to say this, but every time the show brings up one of these issues, I direct a silent prayer of gratitude to the almighty for making me a homosexual, and removing penis issues from my sphere of concern.
In further study business, Betty the real estate agent/CPA/secretary/hooker/exiled former Queen of the Pretzel Kingdom, informs Bill that the study is being audited because he has neglected to form a board of trustees to authorize them for tax exempt status. He promises to remedy that by getting the Chief of Police on the board. Betty—whose hair is on fucking point this week—advises Bill to bring along Virginia, since his own charms might not be sufficient to persuade the Chief. Ginny’s strategy is convince the chief that bad sex leads to divorce, and divorce leads to crime, so we should all be fucking for law and order. The Chief is a little bewildered by this line of reasoning, so Libby, who is also there for dinner, tries a different tack: quid pro quo. She offers to raise money for the Veiled Prophet Ball, the Chief’s pet cause.
Also, poor Lester’s dad died and he can’t get an erection and no one cares including me. Sorry, Lester.
Back to Bill’s mysterious college friend, Bill sneaks in Frank and his wife for a secret 5 a.m. appointment. Frank is worried that his struggle with alcoholism might have reduced his fertility, which Bill assures him is not the case. OK, so Frank used to get drunk and he and Bill would do it but now Bill is the only one who remembers? Whatever their history, Bill is anxious to ship Frank back to Kansas City and out of his life.
While Bill tries to shoo away his history, Ginny tries to dig up someone else’s. She tracks down Barbara, Doug Greathouse’s former mistress with the closed-up vagina. She inquires about Barb’s sexual history, and discovers that Barb can’t actually remember the name of her first partner. That in itself is not strange—I think we’ve all got a random or two in there somewhere—but Ginny seems strangely caught up in it. (Sidenote: I just started watching Party Down and perfectly coiffed Lizzy Caplan < messy ponytail and bowtie Lizzy Caplan.) Anyway, Barbara shows up at Ginny’s house that night and relays a very sad story. Apparently, as a child, she and her brother developed a sexual relationship, and were caught by their mother. As a result, she has developed monstrous feelings of religious guilt, and feels that her closed vagina is punishment for her sin. So, yikes. Ginny feels understandably shitty for dredging up these suppressed memories, but she doesn’t possess the therapeutic tools to help Barbara. She broaches the subject of getting her degree in psychology to Bill, who is like “Ginny, you know I’ve always supported the idea of your education, and made sure to criticize your lack of it, but you mustn’t be so hasty as to actually go to school. My penis is sad enough without us being educational equals.” Ginny’s solution to this problem is to go to therapy, pretend that Barbara’s story is actually her story, and pass whatever good advice she receives back to Barbara. And I think that is the sweetest bad idea I’ve ever heard of that wasn’t one of my own attempts to make wildly elaborate dinners for girls.
Yet again, Libby’s story this week is the one that intersects least with the rest of the cast. I am glad, however, that it has resumed, because I was afraid her whole racial awakening would be lost when she fired Coral. However, when she goes by the Institute to visit Bill, she witnesses a black man lying bloody in the street while two white men in a truck speed away. (God, that image on the streets of St. Louis would be crazy eerie timing if that kind of shit didn’t happen all the fucking time.) She also sees Robert, Coral’s brother, and shoots him a looks that tells us that he has been a major player in her fantasy life since she and Bill hit their sex drought. It turns out that the beaten man was the secretary for the Coalition for Racial Equality (CORE), but the police are trying to make it looks like a drug deal gone wrong. Robert shows up at Libby’s to ask her to act as a witness to contradict the police’s version of events, but she refuses.
That night at the hotel, Bill is trying to cover up for him impotence by claiming a permanent case of whiskey dick, and is well on his way to becoming a drunk. Ginny is starting to get irritated at shaving her legs and hiring a sitter for nothing, but Bill gets saved by the bell. By the Elliot. He gets saved by the Belliot. Apparently, Elliot gave “Dr. Holden” the job of house doctor after all, and they go to the room of a man who literally ate so much room service that he died. Bill is like “Welp, looks like this guy had some pretty serious problems, so it’s a good thing he died.”
As it turns out, the poor dead fellow was supposed to be the spokesman for Cal-O-Metric (no wonder he was feeling insecure!). Betty is on her way to work when she sees the Cal-O-Metric convention about to take place. Actually, what she sees in a roomful of career-minded women, and her feet just kind of lead the way inside.
Artemis has decided to make Austin Langham the new face of body insecurity. Truly, it is a role he was born to play, and those two together are going to be comic gold.
That night it’s time for the Veiled Prophet Ball, an event just as creepy and surreal as it sounds. It’s actually not that dissimilar from Mardi Gras, what with the masks and the King and Queen, but it has a peculiar effect on Libby. She looks around at the white man in the white mask, and all the black people serving drinks, and something clicks. “IT’S ALL PART OF THE SAME SYSTEM OF OPPRESSION. THE WHITE MALE HEGEMONY CRUSHES THE WORLD.” And with that realization, she marches straight to Robert’s house, where she is like, “Hello, I would like to testify against the white men in the truck, and join your movement, and also have sex with you, please.”
Finally, they mystery of Bill and Frank is solved. As it turns out, they are brothers. So, first of all, EWWWWWW IT’S LUKE AND LEIA ALL OVER AGAIN. FORGET I SAID ANYTHING ABOUT THEM MAKING OUT. And, second of all, unless Frank is a magical key to another dimension put into human form by some monks, this show has got some ‘splaining to do.
OK, so this episode was a bit of a snoozer, but next week it looks like Ginny finally confronts the moral repercussions of what she and Bill are doing to Libby, and I’ve been waiting for that showdown for a long time. I have my fingers crossed that the last two episodes were flukes, and the show finds its way again. Please tell me in the comments that I wasn’t alone in thinking that Bill and Frank had a gay past. Please.