In sharp contrast to last week’s impressive display of roleplaying house, Bill Masters finds his world crumbling around him this week, slowly at first until it all goes to hell. For being such a controlling person, Masters has others at least partially to blame for his downward spiral towards unemployment and mistress paranoia, from Dr. Langham calling him out on his “non-affair” with Virginia to Greathouse barring him from hiring her for the study to Libby finally blowing up on him.
Whereas last week’s episode made great progress in the realm of character development for Bill and Virginia, “Dirty Jobs” was an episode for the supporting cast. Their actions, however, ended up having more implications for the two leads instead of themselves. This fact makes it difficult at times to connect to the supporting cast (outside of the Scullys), and with a protagonist as unlikeable as Masters (even as an anti-hero he has work to do), it’s crucial for viewers to feel like they’re rooting for someone. If they are, it could be in a shallow sense, the way cheated-on wives always seem like a victim worth one’s support. Virginia may be the only character on Masters of Sex worth rooting for in a real way, the kind that involves looking beyond someone’s faults and the lies they tell themselves.
Because of its focus bringing about action quickly via the supporting cast, “Dirty Jobs” jumped around a lot. It wasn’t exactly an engrossing watch, save for Libby telling Bill off and him crumbling beneath her reasonable demands. Let’s focus on specific characters this week, because a lot of these folks turned the corner this week:
Bill Loses his temper with Greathouse when his boss suggests that Masters’ protestations for Virginia to join the study are personal. He doesn’t even bring it up to the almighty board, though he does infiltrate Masters’ examination room to get an eyeful of patients in NSFW positions. “I’m keeping you from being perceived as a man who thinks with his cock, not his head,” Greathouse tells Bill. Masters socks him and another doctor (with eggrolls?!), thus losing his job at Memorial Hospital in — what, three weeks? He’s no Clooney on ER, but Masters is some kind of medical bad-boy at this point. (Also, with Bill leaving Memorial, is that really all we’re going to see of Betsey Brandt in the role of his bumbling secretary?! Talk about wasting talent on all those “umms” and “but Dr. Masters…”)
Next up for Bill: a job at the black hospital in town, where more strained dialogue about the ignorant state of race relations in the late 1950s is bound to take place.
Libby “Soon there won’t be a hospital left for you to storm out of,” she tells Bill when she hears of his firing secondhand. “Why are you doing this to me?” I would not be sad if she left Bill — he frankly deserves it for his years of neglect — but instead he has what seems to be the panic attack that saves his marriage. More than assured of change, Libby seems rattled by what a good show he puts on for once.
Libby had it rough this episode. Her dominant storyline felt like a forced conversation about race. When the baby gets lice, she insinuates Coral gave it to him and asks her to use lice shampoo. Coral refuses and Libby washes the nanny’s hair herself, despite Bill claiming that black people’s hair is mostly insusceptible to lice. All the while she keeps scolding Coral for saying “ask” the “wrong” way again. Cringe. Can we not have this conversation again and again?
Dr. Langham Spots Virginia and Bill leaving their usual hotel while he’s there with his kids, immediately thinks the worst, goes to Virginia to discuss. She denies, but he thinks he knows what he saw (and is right): an affair, not an experiment. Later, in another move that’s supposed to make viewers care about this philandering scumbug (cuddling with his children was step one), Langham shows up at Masters’ house and makes a surprising plea: “Whatever you have with Virginia, weigh it against all of this. Is it worth it?”
Dr. DePaul Amidst ramped-up efforts on their pap smear campaign and her cancer treatments, DePaul finds out that Virginia is still whatevering with Bill. After Langham mentions it, DePaul seems more bothered by Virginia’s professional infidelity than her moral one. She makes arrangements for her work to be taken over by a male doctor at another research hospital, instead of Virginia. “I didn’t go into medicine to see my name on studies,” DePaul tells Virginia, who is shocked and saddened.
Virginia Even her dreams are infiltrated with mistress guilt. She flips on Bill over her lack of official employment on the study, panics over her lack of formal education, and pushes those diet pills of hers. (Why are they still bothering with that storyline — just to prove a point that it’s hard out here for a single mother without her extra money from her sex study?) DePaul all but kicks her to the curb, and it seems as though Bill might as well. I know her behavior has been questionable, but hers is the one storyline that keeps me wondering.
Betty DiMello The charade ends, her husband knows she’s infertile. There was a not-so-charming game of “Who’s On First?” between Betty, Bill, and her husband, but afterwards there was needed real talk. When she suggests to her husband that he wouldn’t have married had he known she was infertile, he reveals himself: he met her in the whorehouse, years ago when he was too nervous to talk to women. When he saw her in church years later, he knew it was a sign of soulmates. What transpired between Betty and her husband was this episode’s most poignant scene — a real feat considering the support character’s slow-moving development. The scene was a glimpse of hope for Masters of Sex‘s future, not unlike last week’s stunning episode.