This episode of “Masters” felt a whole lot like last week’s episode of “Masters.” The only real new information and revelation here is that Bill has hired a PR guy who — instead of getting Virginia and Bill more exposure in a scientific journal, thrusting Bill toward his desired Nobel Prize) — wants to get them on TV. “You two could teach America how to have sex,” he tells them. Imagine these two on TV as, to the common eye, a married couple working on a sex study together, the very thing they in reality end up becoming. Just imagine the shit that would hit the fan and imagine all the things that have been lurking in the shadows this season that would finally be forced to come to light. Now THAT I would love to see. Everything else? It really feels like we’re treading water at this point.
We have more of Libby volunteering for the Core office and helping Robert. She even has Virginia lie and goes behind Bill’s back to help rally the black community into a rent strike. Libby’s motivation still remains unclear because she doesn’t at all seem genuine about wanting to help the community. But actually, let’s be honest: Libby most likely wants to sleep with Robert. And can you blame her? Her marriage with Bill has been over for years, and good for her for finally going after something for herself.
Virginia comes clean to the psychiatrist about using Barbara’s issues as her own, but he remains very interested in the affair she’s gotten herself into. Virginia is, again, lying to herself saying her relationship with Bill has a higher purpose. They’re out to cure impotence now. The psychiatrist stands in as the audience when he claims she’s deceiving herself completely.
Meanwhile, now it appears mother Ann Dowd also has a drinking problem now that she’s gone and got herself into a car accident after one Tom Collins. Frank stitches up her forehead while Bill swoops in to continue being a total asshole to his brother. In the darkness of the practice’s lobby, Bill starts shouting at his brother, calling him a coward. He’s resistant to believe their father not only beat him but Frank, as well. His refusal to believe this absolutely must come from not wanting to deal with the weight of the guilt of leaving his brother behind. Things escalate, and Frank lands multiple punches on Bill’s face.
He retreats, bloodied and battered, to the hotel room with Virginia where that weight of guilt comes crushing down on him. “What is wrong with me?” he asks Virginia. And after numerous failed attempts to cure Bill’s impotence through this episode, we cut away just as it seems his equipment down there is working again. Who knew such a moment of remorse and defeat could lead to curing impotence?
And that’s basically the bulk of “Below the Belt” minus a few odds and ends. Betty remains busy trying to get renters into the first floor space to keep the bills paid on time and keep the lights from going out, while Lester and Barbara bond over their sexual dysfunctions, which I must admit was a very sweet scene. I do really like them together and hope to see more of them (hopefully under the covers, too). Oh, and Langham is being blackmailed into having sex with Flo in order to keep his job as the Cal-O-Metric spokesman. All together now: huh?
I love “Masters.” I really do. But I’m struggling here and have been for several episodes now. There’s just SOMETHING missing, an absence of thematic oomph that’s been taking this entire season down a notch. Here’s to hoping the final two episodes bring things back to the level of excellence where “Masters” belongs.