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Masters of Sex Recap: Pop Goes the Weasel

Michael Sheen as Dr. William Masters and Caitlin Fitzgerald as Libby Masters in Masters of Sex

Dr. Freud’s been lurking in the shadows all season, and last night he finally got his due. Jane’s reading his essays, Masters is reading his book, and Virginia goes to a talk given by his daughter. We even get to see a black-and-white clip of the man himself, toodling around with his dog and his wife while proclaiming that there is a difference between a clitoral orgasm, a.k.a. an “immature orgasm,” and a vaginal one — in other words, the kind that can only be provided by a man. (And Ulysses, of course) “Who would believe something like that?” Virginia asks Masters. “My patients,” he says, explaining that a quarter of them believe they’re frigid. A quarter! And all because some Austrian guy with well-kept facial hair couldn’t satisfy his wife, or at least that’s Virginia’s (admittedly fairly Freudian) theory. You can’t even try to debunk the guy without being influenced by him. But as Masters acknowledges, Freud’s ideas have their limits — he stopped reading him after learning about the Oedipus Complex, after all. (HA! Sometimes this show makes me laugh out loud.)

With that, Masters is off. Armed with a boatload of reading material, he’s heading to Florida with Libby, where they’re going to “focus on the future” and forge ahead into a sad new world where “family” means just the two of them and there will never be stockings at Christmas. “Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead,” Masters tells Libby (quoting Freud, obviously) and at the Tropicale, Libby takes this very much to heart. She snags an upgrade by telling the clerk she and Masters are celebrating their ten-year anniversary. Then, once she sends Bill home (she wants to sightsee and have sex; he wants to read about colonic endometriosis and time the randy older couple next door getting it on), she claims (to said randy couple) that her husband died in a plane crash and that she has two kids, Timmy/Tommy and Susan. And Caitlin FitzGerald is so beguiling as Libby I root for her even when she’s wasted on daiquiris telling bald-faced lies about herself and singing “Pop goes the weasel” into her drink. This show continues to kill it with the guest stars, by the way. That lady who likes to listen when her husband has sex with attractive young widows? CeCe from Gossip Girl. And the guy is Big Jerry from Scandal.

So far I think the Tropicale “newlyweds” are the happiest married duo we’ve seen thus far — perhaps in the Masters of Sex world the answer to marital happiness really is swinging? Freud’s outlook on sex and monogamy (which we learn courtesy of Jane, who was seriously on top of her game this week) is certainly bleak: “Where they love, they have no desire, and where they desire they have no love.” Okay then! That is definitely the case with Masters and Libby. Masters loves her, but he sure doesn’t desire her. He does want Virginia, but honestly he seems most turned on by his research. Maybe part of Virginia’s allure is that she’s inextricably involved with his work. Or maybe once they sleep together, we’ll get to see a new passionate, down-and-dirty side of Masters? It’s a little hard to imagine, but presumably we’ll find out semi-soon, now that Virginia and Masters have gotten to second base.

Speaking of which, he gives her a promotion and suddenly she’s putting his hand onto her breast and claiming it’s all good because, “We’re scientists”? I get that she’s excited about her well-deserved new title (and the prospect of a secretary of her own). I also get that the show is setting Masters and Virginia up to publish research that does wonderful things for “frigid” women, and sexually active older people, and sexually active people in general, but damn. Inviting Masters to screw around on Libby still feels all kinds of wrong.

Margaret screwing around on Barton, on the other hand, feels very, very right. Plus, every bit of that story line was perfectly calibrated and acted, from Margaret’s fallen face when Barton finds her reading Peyton Place and still heads to bed, to the interview she gives Masters and Johnson, to the sex she finally has with Austin in the backseat of that red car. And that Scrabble mahjong scene! I don’t think any detail about it could have been better — the “bald bug doctor,” Ann Cusack pursing her lips and saying, “Okay,” when her friend in the pink turban-style hat prompts her to talk about the study, and best of all, Allison Janney looking, well, like a woman who’s never had an orgasm as she watches her friend describe walking-on-whipped-cream sex.

Are men necessary? The episode looked at that question from a few different angles. There’s Libby in Florida, telling Masters to go home as she stays behind, and there’s Jane and Virginia discovering clitoral and vaginal orgasms are not actually distinct (setting Jane up to utter the line, “My clitoris beat my vagina?!”). At the end of the day, though, men still call the shots, so when Dr. DePaul is angry that Virginia uses her “beauty and allure as a substitute for the skills I sacrificed years to acquire,” she goes to Masters about it, not Virginia.

Of course, Virginia has her own ways of pulling strings, and when she offers to help with the pap smear clinical outreach project, Dr. DePaul lays down the gauntlet, setting up a kind of lady-to-lady string-pulling challenge. Virginia looks a little daunted when Dr. DePaul tells her what she needs, but she writes it all down. I know Dr. DePaul hasn’t had it easy to get where she is, but personally I’d really love it if Virginia could show her just how far “small, brunette, ambitious” can get you and come through with that $12,000 for the first six months. At this point, I’m betting on Virginia.

Photo: Michael Desmond/Showtime