OK, it’s official. “Masters”‘ best scenes this season have taken place in that hotel room, which now makes me want to rewatch “The Fight” episode and revisit my opinion on it in a whole new light. But before I embark on that existential quest, let’s focus on this episode which ended so eloquently. It was Bill revealing a deep, personal piece of damage that he’s been hiding for so long. It’s a reveal inside, yes, that hotel room that is but a mere step down from that rain-soaked season one finale cliffhanger.
In going to the psychiatrist sessions to learn about how to treat Barbara’s condition, Virginia falls into talking about herself and her own situation with Bill. She mentions a friend, Lillian, who judged her harshly for what she was doing years ago. (It’s weird to hear her say that happened YEARS ago.) As much as Virginia’s purpose of going to the psychiatrist is to help Barbara, she’s of course unveiling her own problems and quickly begins unraveling at the thought of what pain she’s been causing Libby — unbeknownst to her — all these years by sleeping with Bill.
This especially comes to light later when Libby praises and praises Virginia for how courageous and bold she is. Virginia is of course completely put off by the notion of Libby looking up to her as a role model, the woman who’s sleeping with her husband.
And Virginia brings this all up to Bill. “What do you tell yourself to make all this OK?” she implores. “It hasn’t been about the study in years.” (Again, years, weird.) And she brings up the drinking. “Does drinking help you relieve your conscious about what we are doing here together? What we are doing to Libby?” In Bill’s response about wanting to cure his impotence with Virginia, it’s a double-sided moment of him peeling back another layer of himself to her but also giving them continuing reason to stay in that hotel room.
Betsy Brandt still shines as Barbara who has started her treatments with Virginia and Bill, while Virginia tries to wade through Barbara’s emotional waters from the techniques she’s learned during the psychiatrist sessions. When Virginia tells Barbara she should think about what she would say to her brother now after all this time, she takes it literally and brings it up to her brother (who she apparently still frequently sees) at a dinner. It’s then she realizes it was her idea as a child to do that with her brother, which pains her even more. “What if I did this to myself?” she asks Virginia. She wants to see it as her fault, as this being something she brought upon herself. And in the panic in Virginia’s eyes, it’s clear she’s absorbing this heavy sense of fault back on her to own (albeit quite different) situation with Bill. Hence the Libby guilt.
Libby is finally given more to do (we can all breathe a big sigh of relief) when she tries to forge a lying confession to help Robert’s case, but he doesn’t think she’s convincing enough. Besides, he wonders how genuine Libby could even be in wanting to testify and help when she actually witnessed the accident and didn’t stop in the moment to do something. It’s a sobering moment for Libby in her realizing her own inherent racism she’s been harboring, which then leads her to offering herself up to volunteer for their cause.
This personal revolution for Libby actually begins during a conversation with Frank’s wife. In talking about her husband’s drinking, she became empowered to take action and do something. She was tired to be the go-along gal. Sound familiar, Libby? Whenever Libby tries to “take action,” it’s always toward something so awful. Excuse me while I have flashbacks to her forcing Coral to wash her hair. Maybe now she can finally right herself.
Speaking of Frank and his wife, they have a nice dinner with Bill, Libby and dearest mother Ann Dowd (I really like calling her that), with really no question as to why Frank has been absent for so long. Later, Frank asks Bill to come with him to meet some friends. Turns out these “friends” are an AA group and Frank has reached a milestone in his sobriety, so he stands at a podium to tell his life’s story and how he became an alcoholic.
Frank is clearly more in touch with his troubled childhood revolving around his abusive father than Bill is, which makes Bill wholly uncomfortable. Frank’s closing words in his speech about his father are, “He taught both his boys how to vanish, didn’t he, Bill?” And with that, Bill has already gotten up and left. Later, Bill accuses Frank of taking his life experiences and using them as his own. He claims Frank was never at the hand of their father’s abuse and that had he known, he never would’ve left him behind the way he did. Well, turns out Bill was wrong. And during this, there’s carafes of alcohol nicely framed between the brothers.
Meanwhile, Lester is dealing with his own impotence, and Bill enlists the help of an old friend of Betty’s, Kitty, to help him solve his problem. It doesn’t turn out so well for Lester, and he casually suggests maybe he should work with Barbara to solve both their problems — he doesn’t actually say Barbara’s name, but we’re meant to assume, given the way he watched her struggle through her treatment.
This leads to Bill’s own thought that in order to cure his impotence, he has to work it out with someone who is familiar with him sexually. And that someone is Virginia. Which brings us back in the hotel. “Then tell me, Bill, what sexual dysfunction are you proposing we treat?” Virginia shouts to Bill. “Mine,” he responds, with tears in his eyes. The hotel room of deep intimacies, I tell you.
Read all out “Masters of Sex” recaps here.