Masters of Sex
Well, that seemed like a series finale. Didn’t it?
Also: Where the hell was Betty? Seriously, what a betrayal. Not only does “The Eyes of God” leave her story line completely unresolved — despite the fact that showrunner Michelle Ashford called Helen’s death “the beginning of a long story” — but it lets her go completely unmentioned. I’m still mad about Helen. I will be for a long time.
When the episode begins, Bill and Gini are the very picture of domestic bliss. Bill is singing — actually singing, out loud, with his voice — selections from the Oklahoma! soundtrack as he shaves, and Gini’s idly daydreaming about a wedding in the grotto at the Playboy mansion. Bill’s mood is punctured pretty quickly when Gini reminds him that he has an early intake appointment at the clinic that morning … with her parents, his future in-laws. (This is a bit slapstick-y, as premises go, but Michael Sheen singing Rodgers and Hammerstein makes up for it.) Before he leaves, Bill tells Gini, “I’m happy,” and I’m pretty sure that’s the first time we’ve ever heard Bill say those words in that order.
When Gini leaves Bill’s house first to avoid startling the children, she comes across Libby and her brand-new VW van, covered in flower decals. Libby herself stumbles out of it, wearing sandals and a caftan-y dress, and so cements Libby’s season-long arc as less of a person and more of a sentient, walking coffee-table book about the 1960s. Gini, perhaps assuming that Libby is high and will therefore take the news well, announces that she and Bill are getting married, and that Libby is the first to know. She takes it in stride, remarking that the world is a strange place. Indeed, Libby.
Barton’s the next to know. He seems properly delighted, but not as thrilled as Guy, who immediately gushes, “It’s like a fairy tale come true!” The mood drops precipitously when Gini’s parents arrive for their intake and her mother promptly announces, “My current sexual difficulties are called ‘marriage.’” It’s hard to say which is more awkward: the disdain with which Gini’s mother reads the intake form, or the fact that Gini is spying from a closet nearby. Still, props to the writer who gave us the joy of hearing Frances Fisher say the phrase “masturbatory release.” Ultimately, Gini’s mother storms out, and her father announces he’s finished with the marriage.
Meanwhile, Art exposes Nancy’s plans to steal Bill and Gini’s work and open her own clinic. He goes on to say that their marriage is ending, which is an impressive two divorces in less than three minutes of screen time. Bram shows up and an “Avengers assemble!”–style montage of protecting the clinic’s intellectual property begins. Somehow, this all ends with Lester telling Bill and Gini, “I hope you won’t find marriage as the soul-crushing, testicle-shrinking, never-ending abyss of misery that I have.” I think I love Lester best of all.
Back in the glossy pages of her Time-Life pictorial on the decade, Libby is sleeping with Bram in the back of her van, then informing Bill she’s moving to Berkeley (!) to become a lawyer (!!). Bill is furious, as he always is when things happen beyond the scope of his control. It sounds unbelievable, but I think this is the first time we’ve seen them have a real, honest-to-goodness fight. It wakes up John, who then takes Bill’s keys and starts DRIVING AWAY IN HIS CAR. (It is not an episode marked by subtlety, but then, the rest of the season hasn’t been either.) John tells Bill that he wants to stay in St. Louis with him because it’s “the right thing to do” — without him, Bill will have no one. They have a fairly typical father-son conversation in which Bill reveals he’s marrying Gini, John tries to grapple with it, and Bill tries to create space for John to be a kid rather than take responsibility for adults’ problems. It’s a nice idea, but it’s something Bill should’ve done a decade ago.
Gini shows up at Nancy’s house with a sheriff and a search warrant, and it’s clear that she’s enjoying this slightly more than she should. They snipe at each other for a while, and Nancy tells Gini that she’s made her peace with winding up alone at the end of all of this, and that Gini needs to realize she’s going to, too. Gini then has an even less satisfying conversation with her mother, who tells her, “The one thing your father and I are united in is our bafflement over why you’re so determined to keep us together.” When Gini explains it’s in part because she and Bill are getting married, her mother replies, “That’s a mistake, honey.” Gini points out that her mother told her to “nail Bill down” years ago, and her mother responds, “I was speaking from fear which I no longer have.” She goes on to ask whether Gini really needs another failed marriage on her ledger. Lovely.
Bill uses this as evidence that they should just elope, which is … unsurprising. Gini wants a marker and a celebration, but Bill argues, “We are getting married. Bill and Virginia. Not Masters and Johnson.” That might be technically true, but that line got muddied up too long ago to make clear now. He somehow talks Gini into it, though, and agrees to a private ceremony with only Barton as witness.
Back at Nancy’s house, Art shows up to do a monologue about how empowered he is now that he’s leaving Nancy. She acts … weirdly high? Throughout the entire thing, although it’s not clear whether that’s just an odd acting choice by Betty Gilpin. Nancy sort of apologizes, but Art points out that she confessed the one thing she knew would end their marriage in a room in which she was being taped. “Sometimes what we want can surprise even us,” he says. Like most of the season, it is exceptionally heavy-handed, very well-performed, and gorgeously shot.
After Bill and Gini confront Bob about publishing the homosexuality study with Art and Nancy, Bob gets a little sloshed and tries to kiss Art in a men’s restroom. Art calls Gini to tell her, and to say that it’s his opinion as a doctor that Bob is a homosexual. This basically negates their next book, which is predicated on Bob as a success story of homosexual conversion. Reeling from the news, Gini heads for the elevator … and bumps into Dody on her way out.
Despite the fact that he is supposed to be getting ready for his wedding to Gini, Bill takes Dody to a diner, where she says her marriage is ending and that she’s moved to a town near St. Louis. Bill breaks the news of his wedding to Gini, and Dody asks to meet her someday, saying it would settle things to finally see him happy with someone else. It’s a sad, sweet moment, but it’s not the last bump in the pre-wedding road. Nancy all but accosts Barton in the clinic’s parking lot, babbling to try to get him on her side, and finally letting the fact that Bill and Gini are working on gay conversion therapy spill. She hands over a tape as evidence. Barton waits in Bill’s office, then confronts him.
What Barton says next is heartbreaking: “After everything I suffered? The years of self-doubt and self-loathing … I damn near killed myself trying to extinguish the very essence of who I am.” Bill says that his conversion therapy would be “nothing like the torture that you were subjected to.” Barton says he knows Gini is the one pushing them toward doing conversion work because he’s watched her fight so hard over the years to advance the work, “maybe because she’s not credentialed.” He goes on to say that he loves Bill like a son, and that they’ve worked together for 30 years, but he’ll do everything he can to discredit him if Bill moves forward with this work.
Then Libby and the children happily pile into the VW bus, and she says to John, “The future is happy and bright, my sweet boy.” He says, “We’ll see.” Again, it’s a bit much, but earlier in the episode, Libby makes a speech that includes the sentence, “The days of me organizing my life around a man are over!” so we knew Libby wasn’t going to go out with much subtext.
Bill keeps Gini waiting for 55 minutes, then finally turns up with Guy instead of Barton for a brief, charming civil ceremony. But it’s clear that what Barton said about Gini’s ambition has gotten under Bill’s skin. When they leave the courthouse, a few reporters have gathered, and Gini says it’s fine to let them take a few photos. Bill looks at her as though she’d vomited down the front of her dress. He has that same gobsmacked look on his face throughout, and it’s the image the episode closes on. That’s unfortunately indicative of the way Masters of Sex mishandled Gini this season (and for much of season three, as well). I loved Gini as a character, but as the show has worn on, she’s become more of an abstraction. With the future of the series in question, we’re left with this closing message: Bill sees Gini as little more than an addiction to succumb to, rather than a person to choose. And that’s a shame.