While collaborating on landmark studies of human sexual response, Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) views her relationship with Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) as strictly professional.
He sees the relationship far differently, however – and blatantly lies about it – on “Parallax” (Episode 201), the Season 2 premiere of Showtime’s “Masters of Sex.”
When the period drama concluded its freshman season, Bill stood on Virginia’s doorstep confessing that he couldn’t live without her. This after being fired from Washington University in St. Louis for giving a graphic presentation widely denounced as pornographic.
Now Bill and Virginia are in a hotel lobby discussing their future. She’s all about the research. He desires a colleague with benefits – and much more.
“We could have an affair – millions of people do,” Virginia says. “But an affair is a pedestrian thing and the story always ends the same. What we have between us, it’s so much more than that. More than a simple affair, we have work.”
Claiming he’s misunderstood – and their sexual encounters are purely scientific in nature – Bill disguises his intentions with a word flurry.
“Of course we’re not having an affair, Virginia, we never were. I’m a happily married man,” says Bill, whose marriage to long-suffering Libby (Caitlin Fitzgerald) is falling apart.
“I feel there’s a whole separate line of inquiry opening up,” he adds, referring to Virginia’s theory about the psychology of sex. “I think it would be a mistake to end it now.”
That said, he books a room under an alias so they can continue their research – in bed, presumably.
As for Bill’s personal life, the strain of losing his job and caring for a screaming newborn takes its toll. Frustrated and defiant, Bill tells his mother, Estabrooks (Ann Dowd), that he’s having sex with Virginia and has no plans to stop.
“Your fears are realized. I am my father,” Bill proclaims, referring to her unfaithful spouse. Stunned into silence, his mom promptly returns to Ohio.
Bill’s professional life rebounds when he’s hired to practice obstetrics and continue his research at Gateway Memorial Hospital under the supervision of lecherous Dr. Douglas Greathouse (Danny Huston).
Warned by his wife (Rya Kihlstedt) to keep miles away from the sex study, Douglas has other plans.
“Unofficially, I am very interested in what happens behind closed doors,” he tells Bill. “Very, very interested!”
Virginia, meanwhile, works for Dr. Lillian DePaul (Julianne Nicholson) at Washington University. But Virginia’s salary doesn’t cover basic expenses for a single mom. And she constantly fends off advances from doctors who believe she was filmed during the sex study.
“Ever since the presentation, I’m propositioned a dozen times a day,” she tells Dr. Austin Langham (Teddy Sears), a philanderer who eagerly volunteered for the sex research.
Virginia could solve her financial woes by moving to California and wedding Dr. Ethan Haas (Nicholas D’Agosto). But following a romp with Bill in her apartment, Virginia tells Ethan she’s staying put. For her, work is more important than love.
Finally, Dr. Barton Scully (Beau Bridges) undergoes electroshock therapy to alter his sexual orientation and thereby revive his troubled marriage to Margaret (Allison Janney). But the risky treatment leaves him confused and sobbing.
Scanning a gay porn magazine before getting into bed with Margaret also backfires. She quickly realizes Barton is fantasizing about a male partner.
“You can’t pretend I’m someone else,” she tearfully protests.
Later, their daughter Vivian (Rose McIver) investigates a noise in the basement. Horrified to discover her father hanging from a noose, she cuts him down just in time.
Barton’s “cure” for homosexuality was an epic fail. But at least he’s alive.