This finale episode of the first season of Masters of Sex sure packed a punch. It used a couple of framing devices, one of which was the first man in space; another heavy-handed yet ultimately effective analogy for being a pioneer. The topic is brought up multiple times; the cutting-edge nature of the study is compared both to Darwin’s theory of natural selection and Elvis’ incendiary dance moves.
Let’s check in with the Scullys; we haven’t seen them since a bomb went off in their marriage a couple of weeks ago. After quite the confrontation (Allison Janney and Beau Bridges are both wonderful), Barton reveals that he soon will be starting electroshock. As much Margaret wants a husband who can love her in all ways, she cares for his well-being too much to let him go through with it. They seem to come to a sort of peace: sexuality aside, they both love each other; the two of them touch foreheads in a manner that is more romantic than all the sex scenes in the show put together. Trying to make a point, are we?
Back at the hospital, it’s time for the big presentation and Bill has his audience in the palm of his hand. (Well, except for Dr. DePaul, who wanted credit for Virginia.) Masters just has to take it a step too far, though: he rolls footage, first of Jane’s “vaginal walls” (now imagine it in a dramatic whisper; that’s how she said it), then of nude Virginia, and he promptly loses the room. The chancellor ends the presentation on the spot.
It turns out the chancellor isn’t the only one who is angry: Virginia strides out, barely managing to blink back tears, and all of twenty doctors cancel on the celebratory after party. Everything’s a mess, and everyone wants to know who that mysterious woman in the explicit footage was. Even Libby wants to know: apparently, two doctors sitting next to her speculated that it was Virginia. When she repeats this information to Bill, he gets artfully cagey, making some roundabout argument that out of over a hundred volunteers, why would it make sense to film Virginia? Libby agrees, but she’s far from appeased by his squirelly answer.
He returns to the hospital and finds that he and Scully are to be fired. In a bit of a coup de grace, he manages to save Scully’s gig as provost by acting like he defied Scully’s orders, but Masters himself is still very, very fired. He loses everything: all of his prestige, his standing in the community, and most importantly the ability to continue researching. Oh, and by the way, it also means he doesn’t receive Libby’s phone call, and she delivers their child without him, and looks blissful with her new baby in her arms.
Virginia, on the other hand, is quite quiet this episode. After Masters showed her incredibly private footage to a forum of dozens upon dozens of people, I was expecting a huge blow up; we don’t get one. What we do get is Virginia’s incredible sense of hurt at not being credited in his study. We see this most in something she mentions to her adorable bespectacled child: “Sometimes it takes helpers to do great things.”
Oh, and let’s not forget about Ethan. He’s gone for most of the episode, but that doesn’t stop him from popping the question. Using her characteristic charm, she jokes her way out of answering right away. He acquiesces, but not before declaring, “Whatever kind of life you want for yourself … for your kids .. is yours.” Is woman-punching Ethan still in there? Or can we chalk it up to character development? Either way, we never get her answer.
As the episode draws to a close, Jane hands Virginia a copy of the study and plot twist! Masters did credit her. She’s at home reading it, when double plot twist: a bereft Masters shows up at her door. (In the rain. Just like in The Notebook!). After telling her that the study is over for good (well, we’ll see), he tells her she earned her co-authorship, and that – oh boy – “There’s one thing I can’t live without. It’s you.” Fade to black.
Now, there’s nothing to do but wait until it comes back nearly a year from now.