Thursday, August 21, 2014

Masters of Sex #206 “Blackbird”

Masters of Sex Bill and Virginia
Bill and Virginia share a tender moment.
Sex, Lies, and Friendship

by Catherine Giordano

There were so many shockers on Masters of Sex #206, “Blackbird” which aired on Showtime on Sunday, August 17, 2014 that I must post a Spoiler Alert. If you haven’t seen the episode yet, but plan to watch it, maybe you shouldn’t read this review and recap until after you watch the episode.


Let’s start with friendship. The friendship between Lillian and Virginia is real despite the fact that neither of them makes friends very easily. The episode opens with Virginia and Bill in their hotel room and Virginia is so upset about the fact that Lillian will most likely die from her cancer very soon that she starts to cry.  

Virginia has been taking the time to take Lillian to each of her radiation treatments. She continues to fight for Lillian and to urge Lillian to fight. Lillian is very fatigued from her treatments, and Virginia feels a morning appointment would better. She tries to arrange it with the staff and is told that there are no morning appointments available.  Virginia won’t give up and she finally succeeds. She won’t let Lillian give up either. Lillian has had a frank discussion with her doctor and she knows that she is sliding to a painful end. Virginia insists that if there is even a 1% chance of recovery, Lillian must not give up. 
Masters of Sex Virginia with Lillian
Virginia and Lillian share a tender moment
before Lillian's "final exit."
Virginia meets Lillian at her home later that night. Lillian has written a letter to her family telling them she wants to donate her body to a medical school. She asks Virginia to give it to her family. They drink wine, listen to music, and talk about love and life just as good friends do. Virginia helps Lillian go to bed. She treats her very tenderly like a child.  

Virginia leaves Lillian, but returns a little latter because she has forgotten to take the envelope. She discovers that Virginia has taken an overdose of sleeping pills. She starts to call for an ambulance (no 911 in those days), but thinks better of it and hangs up. Earlier Lillian had told Virginia. ”You never take no for an answer, do you?”  Now Virginia is taking “no” for an answer. She is letting Lillian die the way she wants to die. Virginia lies down in the bed next to Lillian and holds her in an embrace until Lillian stops breathing.   

The doctor had told Lillian that her likely prognosis was to become weaker and weaker; she would eventually have no ability to function at all, not even to think. The doctor kept stressing, “Your loved ones will make you as comfortable as possible.” Lillian knows she has no loved ones! 
Masters of Sex Coral
The tender moments between
Coral and Robert are revealed to be lies
There is no friendship between Libby and her maid, Coral. Libby is determined to separate Coral from her young man, Robert. She tells Coral that she had a friend on the police force check his record and he has been arrested several times. She tells Coral that she cannot have Robert come to pick her up after work anymore because he is a criminal and it is not safe for her and her baby to have him around. Coral says her auntie will pick her up. When Coral leaves, Libby follows her and sees that Robert has been waiting for her around the corner. Libby takes the baby and follows them with her car.   

When she leaves the car, it is dark, she is carrying the bulky baby carrier, and she cuts her leg on the bumper of another car. She goes into the vestibule of their apartment building, and is looking through some mail to try to figure out which apartment Coral lives in. Just then Robert enters the vestibule. He is shocked to learn that Libby thinks that he and Coral are lovers—he is her brother. (He has a different name because they had different fathers.)  Robert notices that Libby’s leg is bleeding, and he tries to staunch the blood with his handkerchief.  Libby is feeling totally humiliated as she comes to understand why Coral has been lying about her relationship with Robert—Coral was taunting Libby about the lack of passion in her marriage. Libby grabs some money from her purse, thrusts it towards Robert, and tells him that Coral is fired.  

Libby has discovered Coral’s lie, but more lies are still left to be exposed .Betty and Helen have resumed their sexual relationship. Betty wants to get an apartment for Betty so they can continue to meet for afternoon delight. Helen balks at being a “mistress.”  She proposes to Al, the friend of Betty’s husband, Gene, and Al is happy to accept. Helen has been dating Al as a way to get close to Helen. Now Helen wants what Betty has—a wealthy husband and respectability. This will make her Betty’s equal and not regulate her to the status of a kept woman. 
Masters of Sex Gene and Betty
There will be no more
tender moments for Gene and Betty
When Al and Helen visit Gene and Betty in their home and announce the engagement, Helen seals the deal by kissing Al. Betty calls is “a shocking display.” She says she doesn’t want to socialize with the couple anymore because she has always disliked Al. Gene ells Al that Betty is mad at Helen and so they can’t socialize as a foursome anymore. Al is perplexed. He saw Betty and Helen kiss at the restaurant during one of their double dates. Al didn’t make the lesbian connection, but Gene does. Gene confronts Betty with the truth and tells her their marriage is over—he forgave her for being a prostitute, he forgave her for lying about her inability to have children, but he won’t forgive this. He won’t “self himself so cheaply.”   

Why was Betty so infuriated when Helen announced she was going to marry Al and then kissed him. Helen as only doing what Betty herself had done. Betty’s reaction was more than mere jealousy. Helen’s actions were showing Betty up for what she was—a woman who was living a lie. Betty was trying to fool herself into believing she really was a loving wife in a happy marriage. Betty protests to Gene, “I care for you,” but Gene wants more. He wants love.  

Bill Masters is prepared to do some lying of his own. Bill’s boss at Buell Green, the black hospital where he now works, has forbidden Bill to use black subjects for the sex research. He cites the horrible ways that blacks were experimented upon in the past and the misconceptions about blacks being oversexed. Hoping to get some good publicity for the research, Bill agrees to be interviewed for an article by a black female journalist who writes for a Negro publication.   

To Bill’s horror, the journalist wants to write about his childhood and the recent incidents related to his leaving his two previous employers. Bill wants to kill the story so he goes to the journalist’s publisher. He threatens to publish a report confirming the prejudices about Negro sexuality-- Negro men have larger penises and more testosterone than white men. Bill is lying and the publisher knows it, and soon Hendricks knows it also. Hendricks tells him that he can no longer work at the hospital. Bill realizes he can only do his work if he goes out on his own.  

The final lie of the evening is revealed at the conclusion of the episode. Bill has softened a little concerning his feelings for Virginia.  When they did “the work,” they had a no- kissing rule. But when Virginia started to cry as she told Bill that she was going to lose Lillian, her only friend, Bill tenderly kissed her. Was he just soothing a friend or was he admitting to love?  “I care for you,” was the most he could say. 

After Bill is fired from the hospital, he rushes to Virginia’s house to tell her the news. Is it because she is his partner in the research or because when one has made a momentous change in one’s life, one naturally wants to share that news with the person who is most important in one’s life.   

When Bill arrives at Virginia’s house, the door is opened by a man. The man introduces himself as Virginia’s “beau.” (Virginia is not home because she is with Lillian, holding her friend as she dies.) The man mentions that he and Virginia met, the night of the boxing match (see episode 203).. When Bill hears that Virginia not only has a lover he knew another about, but also she met this man right after what was the most intimate session Bill and Virginia had ever had, he is shattered.

Masters of Sex dvd
Sex, lies, and friendship deliver one shocker after another as the show continues to reveal how these three, and love too, are all interconnected.
So many shockers--it feels like a season finale, but it is only mid-season.

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Masters of Sex book
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Human Sexual Response Masters and Johnson's book
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