The study's still chugging along: this week's topic of choice? Documenting the physical response of orgasm. Some Virginia-induced scratch marks on Bill's back (yeah...he wasn't strutting at all after that) bring them to the topic of involuntary responses. They decide that the next step in their research is to document the various involuntary muscle spasms. They convince good ol' Jane to be filmed, but she drops out at the last minute – it's just too personal. But that's where Virginia steps in – she agrees, on the terms that Masters is the one to film it (walk, don't run, please) as opposed to their delightfully awkward "cinematographer."
Meanwhile, poor Ethan's still along for the ride with Vivian "Crazy Eyes" Scully. A quick conversation with a bewildered Vivian regarding an uncircumsized penis ("It looked like an anteater!") reveals that Ethan, is in fact, Jewish. Long story short, she's Catholic (and more than a little anti-Semitic), so Ethan agrees to convert. But as his resentment grows throughout the episode, it's clear that he's rethinking things. A philosophical chat with a hospital patient gives him the push he needs to admit to himself (and a bereft Vivian) that their impending marriage is not going to work out. This little chat also reminds him of the one thing he truly went after in his life: guess who? He comforts her as she sobs in her car...can we expect them to strike something up again? Next week's preview suggests so.
Now, why was Virginia crying in her car? Let's back up. Bill's mother, Essie is back, and wreaking some serious havoc. Well, that's not quite fair; she's more the catalyst that sets the ball in motion. She susses out a lot of information that everyone else has been ignorant to (willfully or otherwise) – she's alone with Libby for less than a minute before figuring out she's pregnant. Libby goes on to tell her a heartwrenching story of how her father abandoned her and her sisters quickly preceding her mother's death; thus setting in motion her deep-seated life-or-death need to have a family – or as she puts it a "happily ever after." Our hearts – and Essie's – break a little for her.
Just as she discovered Libby's pregnancy nearly immediately, it takes Essie about an instant in a room with Bill and Virginia to realize that they're in it up to their necks already; no matter how they may deny it to themselves. She subsequently ambushes her son – first, she makes what is clearly a long-awaited apology for her silence back when Bill's father was around, for not stopping him. But that silence is exactly why she feels the need to speak up now: she warns him that he'll ruin his family like his father before him if he's not careful, and Bill takes the message hard. That, combined with a fight and concession with Libby after learning of her pregnancy, causes him to "do what's right."
It's not right; it's anything but right – in fact it's cringe-worthy to watch: he pays Virginia for her time in the study; for each time they've had sex, plus extra for the little film she's just made (which is heartbreakingly complete with a beatific smile just for Bill at the end). But his action has the desired effect: the trust, the rapport – most importantly, the feelings that they have been building together – all are shattered, just like that.
Whew. What a powerhouse episode.