Ah, here we are at that aforementioned time lapse, at episode seven of the season. And hey, where did the title sequence go? I actually can’t help but wonder if it’s gone for good, or if that was special for this episode because there was so much time jumping and logistical rigamarole to get through.
In any case, we begin 15 months later with the Masters and Johnson clinic existing in full form inside the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation. It’s the return of Lester the videographer, as well, and it’s nice to see subjects back participating in the study. You know how I’ve been craving that light at the end of the tunnel? It appears we’ve reached it. The bounce in its step this show used to have is back.
Betty is divorced from Gene and takes a job as a receptionist at the new clinic, and you can’t help but think Betty seems a whole lot happier. Maybe Sarah Silverman — I mean Helen — will return to her life, and then everything will be perfect.
Bill makes a (solo) return visit to the infamous hotel, lamenting to the bellhop over the loss of his “wife,” Mrs. Holden. The way he talks about Virginia truly knowing and accepting him for who he is, flaws and all, it’s obvious how hurt he was, and still is, by the discovery of Virginia’s boyfriend, who is apparently some guy named Shelley selling girdles.
Austin Langham has found himself a new girl, and upon his introduction to Virginia’s new man, he asks what became of Bill. Virginia acts like those two thing shouldn’t be related, but Austin sees right through the bullshit. As much as Austin sees it as out with the old, in with the new, as it is in his case trying to forget his wife, this certainly isn’t the case for Virginia. She goes to Bill and brings up the hotel, how she has to resist the urge not to grab a drink there. She misses that hotel as much as he does.
Bill lets this roll right over him, claiming he’s not heartbroken by the discovery of her boyfriend but rather feels bad for her children who will have to go through seeing a parade of men in their lives. “We’re work colleagues. Nothing else,” he tells her. Really, Bill? Back to that?
Meanwhile, he remains so sexually unsatisfied with Libby that he has resorted to getting anonymous blow jobs from women in alleys. And yet Libby, seeing Bill has finally “made it” wits his new clinic, she wants more from life and that more is more kids.
We then flash forward a year in a weird and startling transition. I actually had to go back and re-watch to make sure I was seeing correctly that, yes, Libby was carrying her baby son who then became a toddler and that a baby girl was added. After what we must assume were a ton of fertility treatments, Libby got her wish of another child.
In a phenomenal scene between Bill and Libby, she discovers that Bill has taken out a loan to keep his clinic afloat but has used the house as collateral. The return of Bill’s mother (the lovely Ann Dowd makes her return to premium cable after her character on The Leftovers offed herself) doesn’t make matters any better when she and Libby have been meeting in secret on a weekly basis the past year, and not only THAT, she’s now offering money to help them out. Bill explodes, ripping into Libby how he’s the one who puts the roof over their heads. Libby retorts with a comment on Bill’s suffering, how there isn’t a person in the world who’s not suffering and yet Bill manages to make his suffering everyone else’s problem, too. Standing ovation for Libby.
So yes, here we are a year later, and Virginia is indeed with another man, just as Bill predicted. At an occasion for Austin, Bill gets drunk and starts spouting off inappropriate things about Virginia participating in the study, claiming how she not only participates but how she does it quite well.
When Virginia later demands an apology up in the balcony, Bill starts feeling her up and whispering the apology into her ear, but speaking as if he’s the one who deserves an apology from her. Virginia storms off. Cut to another alleyway blow job for Bill.
After another year-forward jump in time (are you keeping up?), Betty is a certified accountant and is in charge of renting out the spaces on the first floor of the building where the clinic is. Among the tenants? The one and only diet pill Cal-O-Metric, who’s not paying rent on time.
It’s now been over two years since Bill and Virginia have visited their hotel room. And yet with just one solicitation of a room key from Virginia, they’re back at the Chancery Park Hotel just like old times. And all of Virginia’s points to get them there are so very valid and true. She tells Bill it’s hard to tell where he stops and she begins, that everything she does is tied to the work and therefore him and that whatever it is they have, it can’t be undone. As she says, it’s an undeclared war they have between themselves. After two years of trying to focus on only the work and living their separate personal lives, they’re back at it.
Other odds and ends include: Austin discovers his new girlfriend does skin flicks, which sends him crawling back to his wife and begging for her to take him back; Betsy Brandt the receptionist comes to Virginia wanting to participate in the study, but she can’t do to a medical condition; and the hotel has become a too expensive rendezvous point for Bill and Virginia, and when Bill discovers he could perhaps get a free room by being the hotel’s on-call doctor, the bellhop-turned-night manager doesn’t think Dr. Holden’s credentials are good enough. Whose credentials would be? Bill Masters.
And last but certainly not least, Libby tells Virginia she and Bill are going away on a trip to a lake house and that she should certainly join them. “It’s much more pleasant to be around Bill when you’re around,” Libby tells her. Ain’t that the truth.
This episode is arguably the season’s best yet (maybe second best according to those who fell in love with “The Fight”), full of heavy, tender and well-acted moments and — most importantly — a return to the frothy fun of season one that has felt absent so far this season.