‘Masters of Sex’ Season 1 Episode 9 Recap: “Involuntary”


Well, that was quick. Last week Haas got engaged in the blink of an eye, after a not-too-romantic speech about how it was time for him to get married. This week, he and Vivian’s plans get swiftly sidetracked. In the middle of a terribly random conversation about circumcision and the aesthetics of the male penis that comes just as they’re about to buy a wedding cake, she discovers that in fact Haas is Jewish. “I’m not Jewish, I’m nothing!’ Haas exclaims, although. Vivian meanwhile, is Catholic and has dreamed of a church wedding. Now, I don’t know that it’s that strange that this upsets Vivian terribly, but for whatever reason the show chooses to dramatize this by sending Vivian trotting off tearfully to a synagogue. This rather, er, disturbed way of processing things ends badly. Stereotypical orthodox Jews kick her out of the men’s prayer service, not a totally unreasonable thing to do to be honest, but of course she overreacts and literally cries on a bench.

Another plotline this week revolves around — you betcha — performance reviews. It’s time for them in the Masters and Johnson offices, how scintillating! And Masters is very slow to draft Johnson’s. In the middle of this gripping piece of office drama, they’re convincing Jan to go and have an orgasm on camera. For the science, as always. Jane wants them to steer clear of her appendix scar and wants to watch the film first. Jane, in her cartoony way, demands that she be shot only from her right side.

Masters’ mom, who Libby is calling “Essie” so I will too, is hanging out with Libby one day at home when Libby’s refusal to get up on a stepstool tips her off to the impending pregnancy. Libby begs Essie not to tell her son, though she simultaneously begs Essie to ignore her other friends in favour of Masters. “I want to feel like there’s a family here,” says Libby, in a moment of the kind of way-too-literal emotional discussion that keeps dragging this show down three levels of panache from where the actors are trying to take it, oh well. And that’s not even mentioning the part where Libby thinks she’s to blame for a bird that dies after flying into her window because she did her cervical capping behind Bill’s back. And that it’s because her father abandoned her when she was a kid, mamma mia.

Essie attempts to implement this “be as literal as possible about our feelings” strategy by asking Masters to describe his work. He tells her, “I watch people fornicate and masturbate.” Well, it’s direct. This results in a field trip to the office, where she can see, plain as day, that Masters and Johnson are involved in some way. She tells Masters, eventually, what she saw by way of bringing up his own father’s infidelity, which feels like a bit of a low blow, frankly. And then tells him he should ask Libby what’s up with her. When Libby reveals she’s pregnant Masters gets kind of angry, realizing immediately she must have resumed her fertility treatments. Libby, in the first not-literal exchange of the night, basically conveys to him that her deception was at worst equivalent to his insisting that she was the one with the fertility problem.

Johnson is doing the best in her class with Dr. DePaul, marks-wise. The other boys — there are nothing but other boys in this class — ask her to form a study group with them. Johnson goes and works her super-organized Gini magic on them. They profess amazement that she’s so diligent and also a LADY.

Jane, in the plot development you always saw coming, ultimately refuses to let them use the film they’ve made of her orgasm. So Libby conveniently has to sub in, and she insists that Masters film her alone. He does it, but gets aroused. And then for some reason decides to offer Gini cold hard cash for all the times she’s “participated” in the study. She’s suddenly terribly offended, an odd reaction since the whole thing was done under the aegis of employment in the first place. I mean, that’s what makes Masters offering her the extra money weird. She asks him if he pays himself; he says no, because it was “my” study. And Gini finishes out the episode crying in her car and — horrors — writing her own damn performance review.

I think there are only three episodes left, folks.