MASTERS OF SEX 1.09 ‘Involuntary’

Episode Title: “Involuntary”

Writer: Noelle Valdivia

Director: Jennifer Getzinger

Previously on “Masters of Sex:”

Episode 1.08 “Love and Marriage”


Everyone stops “floating” along this week to take a look at what’s really going on. And naturally, there’s going to be some hurt feelings.

Bill (Michael Sheen) and Virginia (Lizzy Caplan) might be in denial about the true nature of their “work” relationship, but it doesn’t get past Bill’s mother, Estabrooks (Ann Dowd). After learning that Libby is pregnant, she visits Bill in his office and advices him to figure out what he’s doing and talk to his wife, lest he end up like his father.

We know the tension between Bill and his mother has something to do with childhood trauma, but here we finally get a sense of what went on as Estabrooks recounts her husband’s philandering. She may not have spoken up then, but in an effort to make it up to her son, Estabrooks warns him about going down the same path. And as much as he resents the woman he claims he never called “Ma,” Bill knows she’s right.

Libby (Caitlin Fitzgerald) also comes to terms with the truth about her relationship with Bill and her pregnancy. She’s willing to forgive his lies about her fertility in order to “move forward.” She also has some thoughts on his study, which she believes takes a purely physiological approach to something with much more meaning, as the purpose of sex is to create life, something they’ve now done, again.

Jane (Helene Yorke) unknowingly backs up Libby’s point of view when she has second thoughts about agreeing to let Virginia and Bill film her masturbating. The duo hopes to catch some “involuntary” reactions on film but after watching the footage, Jane realizes the film reveals more than just that and insists Virginia destroy it, despite some “promising stomach muscle spasms.”

Indeed, the message in this episode seems to be that there’s more to sex than the physical act, itself. And unbeknownst to them, that immeasurable factor has crept into Bill and Virginia’s relationship. Knowing he’s got to address the issue, Bill handles it by telling Virginia he’s “taken advantage” of her. He slides an envelope stuffed with cash across the table as payment for her services. “You don’t mean this,” she says as she realizes what the gesture exposes about their relationship. He may not mean it, but it’s time Bill and Virginia acknowledge their affair.

Virginia refuses the money and walks out. Moments later, Ethan (Nicholas D’Agosto) comes across her crying in her car. What happens from there with these two, we’ll have to wait until next week to find out but considering Ethan just broke up with Vivian and Bill treated Virginia like a prostitute, one thing comes to mind.

And as for Ethan, he learns to embrace his Jewish heritage when Vivian (Rose McIver) asks him to convert before their wedding. “The man you are going to marry is nothing,” he reassures her when she learns his parents are Jewish. Ethan may not consider himself Jewish but after talking with an older patient in the hospital, he realizes he should care about something as his entire life has been dictated by other people. He decides to give up eating pork again and breaks it off with Vivian.

Though there’s some heartache for a few characters in this episode, everyone’s better off by the end of the hour. That said, what you need and what you want are often two different things. And for Bill, it’s how to reconcile the latter with the former that continues to elude even his brilliant mind.