MASTERS OF SEX 1.11 ‘Phallic Victories’

Episode Title: “Phallic Victories”

Writer: Amy Lippman

Director: Phil Abraham

Previously on “Masters of Sex:”

Episode 1.10 “Fallout”


In “Phallic Victories,” Virginia (Lizzy Caplan) goes from being Bill’s (Michael Sheen) secretary to the voice in his head after their nasty break up. Yes, technically, Virginia quit her job as Bill’s secretary, but both she and Bill know better.

Aside from their shared passion for the study of sex, and each other (twenty-three times?! ), Bill and Virginia have something else in common; they’re both incredibly stubborn. That quality proves to be an asset for Virginia in this episode, as she refuses to let traveling seventeen-hours only to miss the conference she and Dr. DePaul (Julianne Nicholson) were set to attend stop her from making some important connections for the Pap smear program.

As for Bill, he decides to go forward with his latest study on the effect of penis size despite hearing Virginia in his head and Jane (Helene Yorke) in real life, warning him that the study’s small sample size won’t be enough to support his findings.

Without Virginia, Bill appears to be lost, knowing what his presentation needs but unable to figure out the right approach. Jane does her best, but she can’t replace Virginia, no matter how good a secretary she is. But what’s more concerning is the neither can Libby (Caitlin Fitzgerald), who is offered a job to answer phones to help Jane. While Bill is engrossed in preparing his presentation, Jane tells Libby about a couple who participated in the study twenty-three times. “Were they in love?” Libby asks Bill later that night. He tells her the study doesn’t account for such things, but Bill certainly knows the answer.

Much of this penultimate episode is about the build-up to Libby learning the truth about Bill and Virginia’s affair. The more time we spend with her, the more Libby reveals herself to be an intuitive and introspective woman, though she may have chosen to avoid certain truths relating to her marriage to protect herself. But it’s only a matter of time before she puts it all together. Perhaps she already has.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Ethan (Nicholas D’Agosto), who is convinced he’ll marry Virginia, even after getting an earful from her ex-husband, George on how she’s not the marrying type. As lousy as Ethan was to her in the beginning, he’s quickly redeeming himself, offering to support Virginia so she can pursue her dreams. Ethan wants for he and Virginia to be a team; problem is she’s already part of one with Bill.

While the men don’t fare so well in this episode, the women make some big strides as Virginia and Dr. DePaul talk up the Pap smear test to the wives of the doctors DePaul hoped to influence at the conference. On the way home, Dr. DePaul tells Virginia she has cervical cancer and not-so-subtly suggests Virginia continue the fight for Pap smear testing after she’s gone. This coupled with DePaul’s resentment of Bill for “skimming off the top” with his salary could lead to battle for the hospital’s top secretary.

It may titled “Phallic Victories” but really it’s the women who are the winners in this episode. While Ethan and George fight about facial hair in front of Virginia’s kids, she’s off attempting to make medical history with Dr. DePaul. Bill may be struggling without her, but Virginia’s doing just fine without him. Still, we see the two stealing glances at each other as they wait in a crowd for the elevator. The love is there on both sides but the need appears to be all on Bill’s end.

As we head into the season finale, Bill’s personal and professional life is unraveling while those around him are getting their respective acts together. But once the truth comes out about those two very willing study participants, everyone else will be doing a little unraveling of their own.