“Masters of Sex” recap (2.11): Pride and Prejudice


OK, raise your hand if you’re only still watching for Libby, Robert, and the promise of Betty next season. Now keep your hand up if you care less about this show being historically accurate and more about it being a good television experience. And finally, keep those hands up if you…JUST KIDDING THIS WAS ALL A TRICK AND NOW I’M TICKLING YOU.

So previously on Masters of Sex, Flo coerced Austin into giving her his body, The Institute hired a PR guy who was delusional enough to think that showing Bill on television wouldn’t cause a War of The Worlds-type panic, Libby and Robert really needed to kiss, and Bill discovered he could only get hard after being beaten to a pulp by his brother and uncovering new depths of childhood trauma. Which, everyone has their kink.

This week, Bill and Ginny try to recreate the passion of their previous tryst, but Bill goes flaccid again. Ginny tries to console him, like “Shhhhh, don’t worry. I’ll punch you and tell you you’re a rage-filled alcoholic just like your father.” But Bill is inconsolable. The next day they’re shooting their big piece for CBS, so Bill has to apply makeup to his poor, wounded face. Which: cry me a fucking river in Egypt, Bill. Oh you want to use applying concealer as a metaphor for covering your emotional trauma? Women do that EVERY DAY. Women are not permitted to be charmless boors; they must be bright, colorful, polished.

Speaking of the woman who manages to be all these things, we next visit Ginny’s house, where her ex-husband has apparently because a much more active parent. Their kids, meanwhile, are apparently immune to the time jumps that have affected the rest of the show. (Kids! They grow up so never!) The ex wants to take the kids with him to Europe for six weeks. Ginny is initially reluctant to relent, but everyone reminds her that she never sees her kids anyway, since all her time is taken up with working and screwing Bill. It’s a trifling little storyline, but I am anxious to reexamine the sacrifices Ginny makes to pursue her career.

Most of the episode is taken up with the CBS shoot, in which Bill is predictably awkward in front of the camera.


They are forbidden from using the language of their research; “orgasm” is taboo, “climax” is rique, and “vagina” causes the cameraman to faint with shock. But the best parts are when Bill is humiliated for his dumb bow tie and his laughable concern that people think he and Ginny are a couple. Like literally, a sound guy hears this and is like “Haha I wouldn’t worry about that; have you looked in a mirror lately?” In the end, Bill and Ginny bend their ethics for the sake of showmanship, which apparently will have disastrous implications in next week’s season finale.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m feeling really uncomfortable with the sexual relationship between Flo and Austin. And maybe my discomfort is the point, but it’s still a very unpleasant feeling. First, Flo mourns they dying Clark Gable, and confesses of an adolescent obsession with his role in Gone With the Wind. Specifically, she was entranced by the screen where Rhett rapes Scarlett, which is one of the most problematic scenes in all of cinema. It is certainly shot to be provocative, and the next day Scarlett is to be seen humming happily, as if a good ravishing were all she ever needed. She asks Austin to reenact this fantasy with her which: in a safe sexual relationship, you should be able to explore these things with your partner, but Austin is a) a very unwilling partner (in many ways, he is the one being ravished here) and b) an idiot.


Don’t worry, I saved the best for last. Libby and Robert’s romance is the only storyline that retains any of the subtlety or joy of season one. At CORE, everyone is gathered around their radios, desperate for news on Dr. King, who has just been arrested. Libby would love to share in their esprit de corps, but dutifully goes upstairs to wait on Bill. While there, she is treated by everyone, Bill especially, as set decoration. Finally she’s like, “Fuck this. I am a beautiful woman, and if none of your morons will notice it, then I will take my talents elsewhere.


She finagles her way into getting a ride home with Robert, who keeps trying his damnedest to avoid kissing her. While parked outside her house, Libby is like “you have got to stop treating me like a cardboard cutout of the white establishment and more like a person who is legitimately trying to be better.” Unfortunately, their dialogue is interrupted by a cop banging on the window, highly suspicious of a white woman and a black man in the same car. Libby assures the officer that they are merely work colleagues, and invites Robert to come inside and out of harm’s way. The cop tries to provoke a fight anyway, and rips off one of Robert’s shirt buttons in the process. Libby is simultaneously horrified by the threat of violence, and thrilled to get Robert out of his clothes. Poor Robert insists on her repairing his button with the shirt still on, which she uses as the perfect opportunity to cop a feel. When Robert tries to leave, Libby gives a fantastic speech about how trying to be a good little girl had only made her invisible, and Robert was the first person who noticed her in years. And then she finally kisses him and they get down to business right there on the linoleum. It’s a gorgeous scene, partly because they are both beautiful human beings, but partly out of the fragility of their situation. Robert is trying so hard to protect himself from violence, and in a way, Libby seducing him is deeply selfish for putting him in danger. But on the other hand, what she’s offering him is pure and lovely and the only way she knows how to save herself.


The preview for next week shows the two of them together again (PLEASE DON’T HURT ROBERT, SHOW. YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO LOSE ANY MORE GOOD CHARACTERS) as well as Ginny crying. Anything that can provoke that kind of reaction from Ginny is a plot twist I’m certainly interested to see.

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