“Masters of Sex” recap (2.12): Dicker Tape Parade

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For you and I, last night’s finale signified nothing more than another episode between us and the return of the storylines we actually care about. But for Masters of Sex the episode represented the last, desperate attempt to course-correct before going on break until next summer. In this, the show was only marginally successful.

From the very start, the show determinedly pulls a straight face, even eschewing its cheeky title sequence for a stark cue card (thank God, those titles couldn’t be more self-congratulatory if they awarded themselves with a medal). Then we are (ahem) thrust into Bill and Ginny’s continued efforts to revive Bill’s boner. For science. After two whole weeks of trying everything but the thing, like a couple of high schoolers, they finally coax his erection into joyful, bounteous life. I don’t know if I’m not relating to this storyline because I don’t have a dick or what, but can we please just call him cured and move on? No? Of course not. That night, Bill dreams, I shit you not, that AMERICA THROWS HIS BONER A TICKER TAPE PARADE. HIS BONER HAS JUST BEEN ELECTED PRESIDENT. The only thing preventing his glorious inauguration is Libby, who stands in the street like, “WHY DIDN’T YOU SHARE YOUR BONER WITH ME, BILL?”

Bill wakes up and feels awfully guilty for depriving Libby of his glorious manhood, and is sure she must be feeling very blue about it. But to Bill’s enormous surprise, all she can think about is Robert and his…enormous surprise. Robert, however, is trying really hard to play it cool, considering that their relationship could quite literally be the death of him.

Man, I was so excited when I saw that the preview for this week featured more Ginny, but I was really underwhelmed by the direction they took it. It seems that ever since whisking their kids across Europe, Ginny’s ex has become a great deal more interested in being a father. So interested, in fact, that he wants nearly full-time custody, and threatens to take Ginny to court over it, which would expose not only her work but her relationship with Bill. (Oh yeah, he knows about that. Everybody knows about that.) To avoid this disaster, Ginny lets him have the kids, certain that she’ll be able to reclaim them once the CBS piece airs and makes her a Famous Lady Scientist. And Bill is like, “So, um, about that.”

Bill, of course, is very displeased with the finished product of the CBS story, which has been so heavily cloaked in innuendo that it might just as well be a giant wink at the camera.

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But no one else seems to think they have a choice but to go forward before a rival can publish a competing book, titled Sex For Men: A Guide For Men What to do, Bill? Ooh, I have an idea. How about: something awful?

Speaking of awful, remember when we were rooting for Lester? Back when he was just a nerd with a camera and a heart of gold? Well, all that is ruined now, because apparently Lester is one of those evil people who go on movie dates just to hate on the movie. Like, yes we know romantic comedy conventions are unbelievable, but we can appreciate the value in a little escapism. It doesn’t make us dumb. (I had a high school boyfriend who spent the entirety of Pirates of the Caribbean protesting about how it wasn’t historically accurate, so this is an issue close to my heart.) Anyway, for whatever reason, Barbara consents to continue dating him and being dragged along to his pretentious and depressing art house cinema, and they decide that it’s as much romance as they have been allotted in this lifetime. Enter Bill Masters: Avenger of the Peen. He informs Lester that a life without sex is no life at all (way to totally negate asexuality, btw) and he and Barbara must try the patented Masters & Johnson Boner Reviver. Obviously this is a terrible idea, since Barb and Lester are still scarred from their earlier experiments, but it looks like we’ll be dragged through it next season, all the same.

I don’t even know what is going on with the Artemis/Austin role reversal office romance, y’all. Like, Artemis’ whole family is in the CIA, maybe? And Austin mugs for the camera like “What, am I not good enough for you? Do you think I’m a dumb blonde?” And Artemis pulls him onto her lap and puffs at a cigar and is like “Come to daddy, sugar lips.” It is supposed to be funny, I think?

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OH HEY LOOK THERE’S BETTY. HI BETTY. WAIT DON’T GO, BETTY. YOU’RE THE LAST THING KEEPING US HANGING ON, BETTY. All Betty is allowed to do now is answer the phones and make one-liners. Which she’s great at, of course, it’s just I thought when she was made a series regular her role would be a little more substantial. This whole thing of pulling certain members of the ensemble in and out of the spotlight every few episodes isn’t working for anyone, but I resent Betty’s demotion the most.

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So against Bill’s advice, Ginny gives up her kids. The kids are like “Cool, fine, we haven’t been around all season anyway.” But the CBS piece never materializes to redeem her. Instead, Bill and Ginny’s rivals (including ETHAN FROM LAST SEASON) make their own news piece about their own sex study. How could such a thing happen? Who leaked the information? Who else but the architect of our misfortune: Bill Masters. He has a drink with Barton (HI BARTON, PLEASE DON’T GO AWAY AGAIN) and explains that he simply couldn’t let the CBS piece go forward, so he had to undermine it himself. And Barton is like “Yeah, that sure sounds like a Bill Masters move to me. You know, you might want to try telling the people in your life what you’re actually thinking in the future. Like, I’m a half-closeted married homosexual, and even I know that.” It really is tragic how his selfishness cost Ginny her kids, but I doubt the CBS piece would have let her keep custody anyway. As the episode concludes, Bill and Ginny agree to stay together despite the total lack of trust on Bill’s side and love on Ginny’s. Awesome. Great. Can’t wait to see more of that.

Really the only person I have hope for at this point is Libby, who is far from being done having an affair with Robert. (And yes, of course, I am concerned for Robert’s well-being, but I have to find a bright spot here somewhere.) As they lie in bed together, Robert is like “Don’t you feel bad about this?” And Libby is like “Hell no. Bill has been fucking Ginny for, like, years.” HA! CALLED IT!

I honestly can’t explain what happened with the second half of this season. I mean, we’ve all seen the wrong turns and the character deaths and disappearances, but I can’t understand why this team of writers and producers seem so determined to drive their show into the ground. All the ingredients for a great show are still there. I’ll give it one more season to see if they make something with them.

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