The “Masters” we know and love is back. The wonderfully crafted penultimate episode to the season finale cut away the fat, broke some ground and (finally) gave Libby the moment she deserves. I’m overjoyed for her and wanted to give her speech a standing ovation. Let’s just dive right in starting with this great moment because I’m just itching to write something where I’m not whining about her.
The episode follows the course of one day, the first day of shooting Bill and Virginia for their CBS special. Libby waits in reception (wearing the same colored dress as Virginia no less) for her on-camera interview, but not before catching a peek of Bill and Virginia speaking to why it’s beneficial for them to be a man-woman team. The way they play off each other, we get a real sense of the connection between them; the problem is that so does Libby. The heartbreak that falls across her face is instant, and it drives her away from the interview and back to the CORE office. Back to Robert.
Later that night, Robert offers her a ride home and while idling outside her house, a cop rolls up and starts insinuating something is wrong, that Robert is in the wrong neighborhood. Libby stands up for him, shoving off the cop who starts roughing him up. Libby invites Robert inside and delivers that speech I wanted to give a standing ovation to. As insufferable as Libby has been all season long, this episode plays out like her redemption and makes me want to forgive all of her previous shortcomings. They really did have a plan for this character — it just was a little unclear getting here — and Caitlin FitzGerald is giving a truly phenomenal scene. OK, I’m getting ahead of myself.
She tells Robert what it’s been like for her living under the pressure of what she thinks society expects from her: to be pretty, get married and have kids. And not only that, but to also stay quiet. So quiet, she says, that she forgets the sound of her own voice. Libby has completely lost herself, and she’s thankful to Robert for calling her out on her ignorance in issues of race relations. To her, that means she’s no longer invisible, that someone is actually noticing her, paying attention to her, and it attracts her to Robert. She asks him to kiss her, and then skips that and goes in for it. Next thing we know, they’re on the floor having rapturous sex(!), as she’s experiencing actual pleasure for the first time in probably a long, long time. Slow clap for Libby.
Back to the interview, the entire essence of Bill and Virginia’s work gets neutered by censorship, as they’re unable to even vocalize the four stages they’ve uncovered because one of the words is “orgasm.” None of Lester’s footage is usable because it’s all too graphic, meanwhile Bill is forced to wear a necktie instead of a bow tie and is all sweaty and won’t smile. They even bring in actors to fake interview as test subjects, which is appalling to Bill. He’s also worried they’re focusing too much on promoting them curing sexual dysfunction when they haven’t had one case of success yet — most notably any success with Bill’s own dysfunction.
Lester is also infuriated by the notion of creating fake footage, and yet Bill knocks him down by suggesting he shouldn’t have any stake in what the final product turns out to be. Slow clap for Lester, too, who defends himself and stands up to Bill, explaining to him all he has contributed to the study.
Is it cheesy to say I got chills watching the black and white footage of Bill and Virginia? It makes me want to go back and watch old footage of the real Bill and Virginia, and it also makes me wonder why I haven’t done that already.
While brother Frank has left town, ridding Bill (and us) of that storyline, now some Virginia baggage has blown into town: her ex-husband George. We discover he’s now remarried and is taking a larger investment in their kids. George stalks Virginia all day during the CBS shoot to tell her he wants to take their kids on a trip to Europe for six weeks. Virginia of course refuses, but she then seeks out the advice of the divorce attorney who has conveniently taken up residence in their building. He tells her it’s not a battle worth fighting, and can we blame him? It’s hard not to feel bad for Virginia who has been slowly losing her grip as a good mother. We haven’t seen much of her interacting with her kids this season, and it’s because there’s been a babysitter who knows more about her kids’ habits and behavior than she does.
The kids get brought to the office by the babysitter to have dinner with Virginia, and they’re elated at the news of the Europe trip. When asked by Henry who’s going to bring mom presents for Christmas while they’re away, there’s a sadness that creeps across her expression as she says all the postcards she’ll be receiving from them will be her gifts.
The fact is, Virginia has been taking care of man-child Bill. That final visual of Bill slumping into Virginia’s lap as she swaddles him like a baby is very telling. But we see that, even with all of Bill’s flaws (which have really bubbled to the surface these past few episodes), he and Virginia have a bond that is inescapable.
Even the Flo sex charades with Langham can be forgiven this episode because it touched on issues of desire and wanting to feel wanted by others. As random as this subplot still feels, it tied together nicely with Bill going on to Virginia how he is not desirable. And, most of all, it ties in with Libby finally getting the desire she has been craving for basically this entire show. You go, girl.