This entire season of MASTERS OF SEX has been building to this: the wedding of Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson. Which happened symbolically by the end of last night’s episode, but will likely happen legally next week. It’s what so much of this series has been building to, but now it’s unclear if the series has a roadmap beyond this. With the shaky legs Masters has been standing on since last season, and likely with the best this show will ever be behind it, there’s a chance this show might not continue past four seasons and maybe that’s for the best. Not that I wouldn’t continue to watch if a Season 5 happened, or that I wouldn’t miss these characters, even with all their missteps, because I would, but the future of this show — both in terms of storytelling and merely existing — is murky at best right now.
If you think Bill and Virginia getting married so soon after Bill and Libby split, consider this: In real life, Bill and Libby divorced the same year Bill and Virginia legally married, so this is all based on facts. (Well, more or less.) It’s also worth remembering that Bill and Virginia’s relationship, both professionally and personally, has now spanned over the course of a decade in the show so it’s not as though they need to “get to know each other.” But it will be difficult for them to navigate, for once, a public and honest relationship with one another, which is something Bill struggles with in this episode.
Waking up after spending the night with Virginia, Bill shows up late to a meeting with his new-ish paramour and Art and Nancy to go over legal actions against clinics stealing their work. Virginia presents NDAs for everyone to sign (provided by Mr. Lawyer Man, off gallivanting with Libby, so we only really remember he’s still the clinic’s lawyer through scenes like this), which understandably freaks Nancy and Art out. But we’ll get to them later.
Even as Bill and Virginia make out behind closed curtains at the office, Bill begins to doubt himself going back to Virginia, his addiction. So he winds up at the AA meeting, which he’s still been regularly attending. There’s a new moderator since Louise has taken a leave of absence having gone back to alcohol, and this new moderator isn’t going to stand for Bill taking the safe space of alcoholics to talk about his relationship with Virginia, as Louise presumably let him. Then Bill has one of his less than shining moments, calling out members of the group by name to try and make his point that his addiction is no different than theirs at the core. We’ve seen Bill do horrible things before — this is not necessarily out of character for him, but it felt more like a scene constructed for dramatic purposes rather than a cohesive and logical character moment. And really, Bill, as a doctor, should know better than this.
After his cringe-worthy tirade at AA, Bill seeks out Louise, first going to her home where her husband in no uncertain terms blames Bill for what’s happened and ultimately finding Louise drinking at a bar. The two characters share a sweet scene where they end up dancing and discussing life woes and while it’s a sort of half-hearted continuation of one of the many plots this series has introduced (as most of their plots go), it’s a nice scene in and of itself. It also proves, yet again, that Niecy Nash is an incredibly compelling performer.
Meanwhile, Virginia has her own problems outside of Bill to deal with this week. Namely, that her father shows up to her clinic seeking treatment for him and her mother (though her mother is not privy to this yet). Bravo to Virginia, who has made her fair share of mistakes, for keeping cool in this incredibly awkward moment. Later in the episode, Virginia broaches the topic of treatment with her mother and in yet another wonderful turn by Frances Fisher as the elder female Jonhnson, Virginia finds out her father has been having a long-term affair. It’s a bit hypocritical when Virginia later chews her father out for this, given the numerous relationships she’s conducted, but it speaks to something about the idolization of parents and it’s hard to blame Virginia for the reaction she has.
As I teased last week, Libby ends up at Woodstock. Unintentionally. She’s traveling with Mr. Lawyer Man to Albany for a court case he’s working on and they wind up in the standstill traffic of Woodstock. Frankly, thank goodness for how charismatic and wonderful Caitlin Fitzgerald because she has sold Libby on the bizarre journey these writers have taken her on this season. It’s great seeing Libby explore her independence, but at what cost to a deep and meaningful character arc? While in the traffic of Woodstock, she ends up talking a hippie down from an existential crisis and then leaves Mr. Lawyer Man (although maybe he’ll follow her, who knows) to walk the 35 miles to the concert, saying: “I have everything I need.” But do you, Libby?
And once again, in this series’ terrible habit of underserving great characters (like Libby), there is no Betty this week. Her whole arc has been the biggest stain on the season and one of the main reasons I’d want to see a Season 5 is for her to get the justice she deserves. Because she definitely isn’t getting it this season.
New this week in Nancy Continues to Be a Horrible Person, she gets even worse, if you can believe it. But I have to admit: I have really gotten sucked into Art and Nancy’s plot, partially from a Protect Art standpoint (yes, still), but also because it is one of the season’s most compelling arcs. This time around, Nancy continues to put pressure on Art for starting their own clinic in New York, which he is on board with, but with plenty of (logical) hesitation because newsflash Nancy, you haven’t put in your ten years time of original research yet. Art lets slip to the Little Brown publisher, who he and Nancy are still working with at the clinic, that they’re planning to start their own clinic in New York and the publisher seems confident in time Nancy and Art could put out their own bestseller without needing the attached names of Masters and Johnson to sell it.
And then it all goes downhill. Nancy reveals to Art she’s pregnant, but she doesn’t know who the father is (way to twist that knife, Nancy). Art claims he doesn’t care, but she insists he will if the child has someone’s else chin or dimples, and so she gets an abortion. Later, Art listens to a tape of Nancy’s meeting with Barton, where it’s revealed she knows the child is Art’s. There is a lot to unpack here. It is Nancy’s decision to make, that’s undisputable. Hearing how she’s never quite wanted the same things as Art, including marrying him in the first place, is hard to hear, knowing what it was like for women at the time, especially ambitious women. Still, simply understanding her position doesn’t excuse her manipulation or how she’s raked Art over the coals. And it’s heart-wrenching the way Art has clung so hard to the thought of making things work with Nancy, despite everything she’s put him through. It looks like next week Art will finally make his decision regarding his relationship with Nancy and I’m excited for it. If the show does get another season, I hope at the very least he sticks around.
Whether it will get another season or not remains to be seen, but Bill and Virginia have their next step planned. The episode ended with Virginia finding Bill post-AA meeting as they sit solemnly beside each other. It is in this very un-romantic and cold environment, neither facing one another, that they decide to start building a real life together. Literally saying the wedding vows, “For better or for worse. In good times or in bad. In sickness or health. For richer or poorer,” Bill holds his hand out to Virginia and she takes it. Hopefully next week’s finale will be satisfying, especially if it ends up being the series finale.
Season 4, Episode 9 (S04E09)
Masters of Sex airs Sundays at 10PM on Showtime
Anya is a journalist with a passion for the following things, in no particular order: movies, history, dogs, musicals, and Disney parks. She lives her life attempting to embody Amy Poehler or Lauren Bacall on any given day.
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Anya Crittenton | Associate Editor