Monday, August 4, 2014

Masters of Sex #204 "Dirty Jobs"

Masters of Sex AnnaLeigh Ashford as Betty
AnnaLeigh Ashford as Betty
on "Masters of Sex"

by Catherine Giordano

Secrets is the theme of Showtime’s Masters of Sex, episode 204, which aired on Sunday August 3, 2014. Here's the review and recap.

Dr. Bill Masters and his former research assistant, Virginia Johnson, are trying to keep their relationship secret, even from themselves. After Dr. Austin Langham sees them together at the hotel, he sidles up to Virginia in the hospital lunchroom to ask what is going on. Virginia quickly makes up a cover story about it; she tells him they are meeting to compile a report on their research. She even smoothly makes up a story saying that she quit as Bill’s assistant over a disagreement on when he should present his findings, but is now working with Bill again because he apologized after he was fired from the hospital.   

Austin pretends to buy it, but later we discover he didn’t believe a word of it. He strikes up a conversation with Dr. Lillian DePaul, Virginia’s boss one night when she is working late at the hospital. He says, “You knew all along, didn’t you.” Lillian thinks he is talking about something else so she says she did.  Austin then elaborates and Lillian hides her shock at the news. 

Lillian wants Virginia to share this secret with her, perhaps to cement their sisterly solidarity. As they wait together for Lillian’s radiation treatment, she tells Virginia that she cheated on a calculus exam in college. It’s a secret she has never told anyone before. Then she asks Virginia to share a secret in return. Virginia claims she has no secrets. (Virginia was such a smooth liar before, why didn’t she just say she cheated on her husband years ago or something like that.) 

Lillian is offended that Virginia won’t share the secret of the affair with her. By refusing to share, Virginia has indicated that she is not really a friend. Lillian decides to hand off her Pap smear study to Dr. Papanicolaou, doctor who invented the Pap smear. By doing so, she renounces all claims to her work--no credit, no money. Virginia is aghast when she hears this news; she has been working hard to get funding for the project. It appears that this move, done in secret, was Lillian’s revenge against Virginia for not proving her friendship by confiding in Lillian about the affair.   

Austin is so pleased with his discovery of the affair that he goes to Bill’s house to speak to Bill about it. Austin says that he has always felt so guilty about his philandering, but now he realizes that since Bill is also having an affair, maybe this is just something that all men do. Bill won’t admit anything to Austin, but we can see that Bill is being forced to start to admit it to himself. 

This is turning out to be very bad day for Bill. He's fired from his new job. It seems his new boss and some of the other male doctors at the hospital think that Bill’s research is a peep show. They invade his lab one evening when a subject is behind the one-way mirror and guffaw as they enjoy their voyeurism. Bill loses it, and the boxing training that he talked about in an earlier episode stands him in good stead as he starts throwing punches. Of course, Bill is fired.  

Bill’s wife, Libby, finds out that her husband was fired when she gets a phone call from the wife of one of the doctors. She is furious when she confronts Bill. She feels that he is keeping secrets from her. “Why do I have to hear everything third-hand,” she screams at him. She’s angry that this sex study has cost him his job again. She is even angrier that the sex study apparently takes precedence over the “wife and child who depend on you.”
AnnaLeigh Ashford
AnnaLeigh Ashford
But the biggest secret of the episode concerns Betty, the former prostitute who once helped with Bill’s study, and her new rich husband, Gene. She has been keeping a secret from her husband about her former life as a prostitute, pretending to be “a good Christian girl.”  She has also been keeping her inability to conceive a secret. (Prior to her marriage, Bill had to perform a hysterectomy on her due to excessive inflammation of her internal reproductive organs.)     

Betty wanted Bill to tell her husband that his “little swimmers” were the reason he and Betty could not have a baby. Bill refused to hurt Gene in this way. (It’s the manhood thing again—not having “manly” sperm is the worst thing a man could hear. Bill knows this, because his low sperm count was the reason his own wife could not conceive without out the help of the secret fertility treatments she received from Dr. Hass.)

Betty gets Bill to say that the final test that he performed on her showed that she was infertile. After they leave Bill’s office, Gene decides that he has to go pay the hospital for the treatments right away. Another opportunity for a consummate liar to tell a lie that would save the day, but she can’t come up with one. She might have said that Bill was not charging them because Gene was funding Bill’s sex research.)

Over dinner that night, Betty tries to explain why she didn’t tell her future husband that she knew she could not have children. “You wouldn’t have married me,” she cries out. And then Gene reveals the biggest shocker, the biggest secret of all. He knew all about her past. He had once gone to a brothel because he was too shy to date girls. Betty had been so kind to him that he had fallen in love with her on that occasion. All along, Betty thought they had met for the first time at church. All along, Gene knew all about her past and it didn’t matter to him.  

All kinds of secrets unraveled in this episode.  Secrets with far-reaching consequences.
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