Rather than just study human sexual response, researchers at the Masters and Johnson Clinic enter the realm of treatment on “Mirror, Mirror,” Episode 208 of Showtime’s “Masters of Sex.”
“We’re beginning to explore the idea of intervention, working directly with patients,” Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) points out. “Our new mission here is not simply to observe. It’s also to heal.”
Not surprisingly, an area of particular interest for Bill is impotence. It’s a condition he developed and keeps hidden after discovering his research partner/lover Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) is sexually active with other men.
Fortunately for Bill, sassy office manager Betty DiMello (Annaleigh Ashford) – a former prostitute – knows a variety of practical solutions for this common disorder.
“Most of the time it’s a mental block,” explains Betty, who sometimes gave clients a “special tonic from India.” This concoction of rum and cayenne pepper was only a placebo. But usually it worked.
Afflicted with a far more worrisome ailment is Barbara Sanderson (Betsy Brandt), Bill’s secretary during his brief tenure at Gateway Memorial Hospital. Barbara suffers from vaginismus, an involuntary clinching of her pelvic muscles that prevents intercourse.
Virginia tries to provide assistance but soon realizes she’s out of her depth. Barbara’s condition stems from an incestuous relationship with her brother during childhood. When mom caught them in the act, Barbara was emotionally devastated.
“She just stood there and she stared at us with this look on her face,” Barbara tearfully recalls. “Not angry, just sickened.” Barbara became overwhelmed with guilt.
“God knew what we had done,” she tells Virginia. “And that is why he did this to me. He closed me up because of what we did – because we sickened him!”
Bill and Virginia agree to treat Barbara at their clinic. The researchers readily admit, however, that they’re not equipped to deal with deep psychological trauma.
“I would like to become equipped,” Virginia suddenly announces. “You know that I’ve wanted to go back to school.” Thus begins a long journey for Virginia, who has yet to earn an undergraduate degree.
In other developments, Bill’s wife Libby (Caitlin Fitzgerald) questions the justice system when she observes a hate crime that’s brushed aside by St. Louis cops.
The black victim, an official with the Congress of Racial Equality, is beaten and thrown from a truck by white supremacists. Police dismiss the assault as a drug deal gone wrong.
“This is not our issue, Lib,” Bill cautions his wife when she tells him what happened.
Robert (Jocko Sims), the brother of Libby’s former nanny Coral (Keke Palmer), emphasizes that law enforcement will only launch an investigation if white witnesses come forward.
At first Libby is reluctant to get involved. Then she summons her courage and knocks on Robert’s door.
“I’d like to speak to you about what I saw last night,” she says with newfound conviction.
Finally, Bill has a reconciliation of sorts with his estranged brother Frank (Christian Borle) when he and his wife Pauline (Marin Ireland) seek treatment for infertility. Bill conceals the couple’s identity, thereby arousing Virginia and Betty’s suspicion.
“Things didn’t end well between us,” Bill says, pretending that Frank was just a friend from medical school. “We drifted apart.”
But Frank, a plastic surgeon battling alcoholism, wants to reestablish a sibling bond. That’s why he intends to relocate from Kansas City to St. Louis, despite Bill’s objections.
“I spent most of my life pretending you didn’t exist,” Frank tells Bill. “People would ask me, I’d tell then I’m an only child.” Then he reaches out and touches Bill’s hand.
“I want my brother back,” Frank says tenderly.