'Masters of Sex' recap: Frustrations mount for Bill and Virginia

'Masters of Sex' recap: Frustrations mount for Bill and Virginia
Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) urges his teenage patient Rose Palmateer (Ana Walczak) to forgo a sterilization procedure on "Masters of Sex." (Michael Desmond / Showtime)

Fired from Washington University for his controversial study of human sexual response, Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) starts work at a new institution with its own set of challenges on Showtime’s “Masters of Sex.”

“Kyrie Eleison” (Episode 202), Greek for “Lord, have mercy,” sounds like a cry of exasperation from Bill and his research partner, Virginia Johnson (

Lizzy Caplan

). Much of their frustration involves Bill’s new boss, Dr. Douglas Greathouse (

Danny Huston

), a sleazy administrator at Gateway Memorial Hospital.

Bill wants to resume the sex study with Virginia as his secretary, but Douglas filled that position with incompetent Barbara Sanderson (

Betsy Brandt


Also troubling are the extortion-like demands of Betty Moretti (Annaleigh Ashford), whose wealthy husband Gene (

Greg Grunberg

) funds Bill’s research. Betty can’t have children but doesn’t want Gene to know. So she visits Bill’s office for “fertility treatments.”

“Did it ever occur to you that I have patients in actual need? People that are sick,” Bill testily says. Then he threatens to tell Gene about the charade.

“No, no you won’t,” Betty insists, “because you care too much about your dopey sex study.”

Most troubling of all for Bill is an order from Douglas to sterilize a promiscuous teenager, Rose Palmateer (Ana Walczak). This unethical directive is at the behest of Rose’s well-heeled parents, who contribute generously to the hospital.

Bill performs emergency surgery on Rose to save her from a botched abortion. He refuses to remove her uterus, however, as an irreversible form of birth control.

“She has her entire life ahead of her,” Bill defiantly states. “That decision is hers!”

“Maybe in this particular situation, the family truthfully knows what is best,” counters Douglas, obviously more concerned with the hospital’s bottom line than a young patient’s future.

As for Rose, uncontrollable sexual urges have destroyed her self-esteem. She begs Bill to go ahead with the hysterectomy.

“What kind of mother would I be, anyway?” she tearfully asks. “Do it. Cut it out!”

Fortunately, Bill has a much better plan. He recommends use of an intrauterine device, both for pregnancy prevention and as the first step in treating her nymphomania.

“How’s that supposed to stop me from acting like a whore?” she angrily asks.

“Don’t say that ever again, Rose,” Bill cautions. “There is such promise of hope ahead. You’re not going to have to suffer like this forever.”

Virginia, meanwhile, confronts obstacles of her own at Washington University. She lacks academic credentials, she’s branded with a “scarlet letter” for collaborating on the sex research, and her meager salary doesn’t cover expenses for a single mom with two kids.

Thinking she’s found respect at last, Virginia is eager to assist Dr. Ditmer (Evan Arnold) with an esophageal surgery study. But instead of appreciating her technical expertise, Ditmer is obsessed with one of Virginia’s scientific instruments.

That would be “Ulysses,” a stunningly large phallus/camera that records physiological changes during sexual stimulation.

So it’s back to low-wage work for Virginia as she helps Dr. Lillian DePaul (

Julianne Nicholson

) promote the use of Pap smears for early cancer detection. This vital project is especially meaningful for Lillian as she battles cervical cancer.

While trying to make an instructional film for physicians, Lillian mangles the script, then stomps off the set. Worried about this bizarre behavior, Virginia books an appointment for Lillian with an oncologist. The prognosis is devastating.

“I don’t want anyone to know about this,” Lillian says after learning her cancer metastasized.

“You are a fighter, Lillian. So am I,” Virginia says with conviction. “And so that is what we are going to do.

“We are going to fight!”