Masters of Sex starts its second season with a bang: Suicide, mysterious bruises, and sex with a sister-in-law. We open with a numb Masters sitting in his dark living room in front of his television. The TV sounds a solitary note signaling the end of the broadcast day as a baby cries in the background. Masters ignores the child as flashbacks of frenzied sex with Virginia play before his eyes.
In the morning, Virginia is working at the hospital. She is accosted by a doctor in the women’s bathroom but, with an empowering knee to the groin, escapes. Later she laments to handsome Dr. Langham (whom I dearly hope we see more of this season) that the sex study has caused every male doctor to think she’ll sleep with them. She also confides she is barely squeaking by on her income. Austin agrees that the study has caused nothing but trouble.
In another hospital, Masters has reluctantly agreed to drive Barton home after electroshock therapy. Barton’s wife doesn’t approve of his choice in therapy to rid himself of his homosexuality and doesn’t know he’s having the treatment. In the first of many heartbreaking scenes with Barton, he looks to Masters as the electroshock is administered and his body is wracked with convulsions. Later, Barton wakes up from his treatment and vomits on Masters. Barton doesn’t know where he is and cries for his wife. Masters tries to sooth him, and with the fragility of a child, Barton lies on his bed and cries.
In a hotel lobby, Master is greeted at the front desk as Dr. Holton. A flashback from the night he showed up on Virginia’s doorstep reveals the progression from him removing his wet shirt in her bathroom to their passionate sexual encounter. As they lay in bed, the phone rings with what Virginia assumes is a call from Ethan. She admits to Masters that Ethan has asked her to marry him and would like her and the children to join him in California. She hasn’t given Ethan an answer yet. She finally answers the telephone and Masters overhears her telling Ethan things have changed. We return to the hotel room where Virginia meets Masters.
A few awkward scenes ensue, including Libby and baby Johnny at his three month checkup, and Libby speaking with Virginia in the cafeteria. How Virginia remains calm through each conversation with Masters’ wife is beyond my comprehension. Libby forces Masters to attend a charity event in hopes of getting a new job. At the event, Masters has a run-in with Betty and her new husband, Gene the Pretzel King. A meeting that will prove lucrative for his study and career.
Barton tries to make love to his wife after looking at men’s magazines. When he flips her to her stomach so he can pretend she is a man, Margaret stops him. She is hurt he is trying to mask her femininity to push through sex. Barton argues that she needs to do what it takes to save their marriage. They lay in bed with their thoughts.
Back to the hotel, Virginia checks in as Mrs. Holden. In another flashback we see Virginia’s perspective of the night Masters came to her. The scene focuses on her talking to Ethan and telling him they are over. Ethan accuses her of saying no to his proposal because of Masters, but she argues it’s because of the study, not the man who runs it.
In one humorous scene, Dr. Langham runs into Virginia and DePaul’s office and hides behind the desk. His wife, Elise, storms into the hospital looking for him. Virginia tries to calm her but Elise is having none of it. She picks up the intercom and announces to the hospital that Austin has been sleeping with his sister-in-law, Elise’s younger sister, Rosemary, “Because apparently little Rosie was the last woman in all of St. Louis that Dr. Langham hadn’t skewered like a pig.” This news stuns even Virginia.
Libby is leaving to go to a luncheon and wants Masters to watch the baby. Alone in the house with the child, Masters tries to ignore Johnny’s cries. He finally resorts to blasting music to drown out the noise. It’s times like these that make it so hard for me to like this man. The music comes to a halt and Masters looks behind him to see his mother holding the baby. He and his mother argue with Masters admitting he’s sleeping with Virginia and he’s not going to stop. As an adulterer who ignores his child, the conversation concludes with him saying he’s ended up like both his parents. When Libby comes home, he tells her his mother has gone back to Ohio and they must look for new help.
A prelude of what’s to come shows Barton crying as his wife and daughter, Vivian, leave to go shopping. When they return, Margaret hears what she thinks is the basement window slamming in the wind. When her daughter goes to check the noise she screams. Margaret rushes to the basement only to find Vivian struggling to hold up Barton as he hangs from the rafters. After hastily cutting him down with a knife, both women and Barton, once again breathing, collapse in a heap on the floor.
In a restaurant Masters and Libby have supper with Dr. Greathouse and his wife. It seems the Pretzel King agreed to donate a large sum of money to MemorialHospital. But only if Masters is given a job and allowed to continue on with his study. When the women leave to freshen up, Dr. Greathouse alludes, in a way that makes my skin crawl, to wanting to be involved with Masters work.
While at first I loathed Dr. Lillian DePaul, the small but powerful insights we are given to her life have made her one of my favorite characters. For example, earlier in the morning she came to work with a black eye, one she claims she got from the medicine cabinet. Though she doesn’t believe her, Virginia lets it go. While working late, Lillian once again surprises us as she pulls out a bottle of booze from her desk and invites Virginia for a drink. Lillian laments everyone thinks she is too careful while Virginia wistfully replies that sometimes that isn’t a bad thing.
The episode concludes by retracing Virginia and Masters’ first trip to the hotel. While Masters looks on full of hopeful emotion, Virginia tells him they are not having an affair. Their relationship is more than an affair because of their work. Crushed, Masters pushes the issue by saying there was more between them that night at her apartment. Virginia again unknowingly hurts Masters’ feelings by returning the conversation to the study. Wanting to cause pain to Virginia as she has him, Masters tells Virginia she misunderstood. He tells her he’s happily married and she shouldn’t get confused just because they’re having sex. A baffled and hurt Virginia looks on as Masters checks in as Dr. and Mrs. Holton for the first time.
A native of North Dakota, Meagan Burgad currently resides in North Carolina with her husband. When not traveling the world she is reading a book or blogging for Love Between the Sheets.