Turns out Bill's marriage and home life are a sort of Don Draper-style long con, based on the fact that his mentor (the Beau Bridges guy, Scully) told him years ago that in order to realize his dream -- studying sex, all the time, as his job -- he needed to appear as completely normal as possible. Knowing Dr. Masters, we know what a high bar that is to set, but the flashbacks to a younger, more emotional Bill -- and the admiration and frankly adoration he's felt for Scully since like 1945 -- help offset the creepiness of what he seems to be becoming a great deal. Man he is just a fucking mess this poor guy.
Once Libby finds out the truth, from an exhausted Ginny, she's set to go completely nuts on her husband and on Dr. Haas as well... Until she learns that she's pregnant, at which point she just gives up on being mad at them for lying to her and exposing her to all these bullshit tortures. The irony, of course, being the percentage to which we now wonder whether Bill enjoyed the idea of never having children with her.
This overall theme -- the invisibility and liminality of sexual outliers, the necessity of a social performance, the fight to exist, even at the ends of the bell curve -- pervades every storyline: Bill finally confirms the existence of Betty DiMello's Pretzel King (a dear, sweet, gigantic Greg Grunberg), but only after learning during her surgery that she can't have kids with him. A quadruplets case is taken away from Ethan and given to the celebrated Masters, in order to drive up PR for the hospital. Masters is on pins and needles as to whether the study even "counts," given where it's currently taking place. Ginny comes up against brick walls with both Masters and a visiting female doctor, who seem to barely register her as a human being (even though the former, according to Betty, has already fallen in love with her).
Most intriguingly, we get an angle on just how alien Masters's approach to other people really is when Betty scares up some male masturbation subjects, and Masters notices the existence of both male prostitutes and homosexuality. He's fascinated enough to watch a couple of 'em get after it, and forms something of a bond with the most eloquent of the gorgeous trio. Once he realizes that their male subjects are three standard deviations out, demographically speaking, and thus not scientifically relevant -- and tries (meaning fails) to explain this to his young hustler friend in a way that is not completely repellent -- we learn how close to home it really hits: One of the kid's usual clients is none other than Barton Scully himself, the only man Bill Masters ever loved.
What follows is the kindest and most horrifying blackmail of the series's constant blackmails to date, as he describes (presciently) the way his work of demystifying sexuality will actually help save men like Scully in the long run: Both their lives, and from their double lives, just like the one he taught Bill Masters to live. It's super sad, Masters is capable of being grossed by himself it turns out, and worst of all it's contrasted with a heartbreaking and tender reveal of how Bill's emotional dependence on Scully -- and Scully's dependence on that, in turn -- brought Bill to Washington U in the first place.
Next Week: Back recruiting on campus, Ginny has to deal not only with her dumb ex-husband crashing on the couch (and wanting to earn some scientific jack-off money), but Libby trying to serve her up to the face-punching Ethan as some kind of thank-you gift for knocking her up. Meanwhile, Bill's own mother comes to visit, which based on what we know at this point all I can picture is those scary robot terrycloth and wire mothers Harry Harlow used to give monkeys autism, or whatever he was trying to do. The shit Betty Draper has nightmares about, that's what I'm picturing.
Bill was unreasonable about Gini dating Ethan, and also about his wife's uterus, and also about his hooker friend Betty's tied tubes. By the end of things the study had found a new temporary home at Betty's bordello, thanks to Gini's fast-talkin' ways, but Bill still couldn't manage to be cool about it. Gini tried to get him to open up about that time he asked to have sex with her for science, but it was too late and too weird. Bill has some problems.
Young Baby Bill: "Let's watch rabbits hump, here at the University of Rochester."
Barton Scully: "This kind of thing is why you're my favorite student."
Bill: "It is the postwar and my hair is very fluffy. One thing about rabbits doing it is, they are not remotely kidding around."
Scully: "It is pretty rapey."
Bill: "Since they are animals, it is fine."
Scully: "Is it like this with monkeys? I couldn't watch this with monkeys."
Bill: "That makes me give a speech."
"Humans have taken the basic impulse for sex and turned it into some ... unrecognizable ordeal! Romance, chivalry, codes of etiquette! Which necktie should I be wearing? Should I say goodnight at the curb, or walk her to the door?"
Well, but the reason for that is that it keeps everybody honest, or else it would be like the rabbits: A violently necessary imperative, performed efficiently. The rabbit may not be wondering what necktie to wear to dinner, that's true. He also slaps her around first, and grips her while he's doing it so she can't get away. We treat sexual etiquette like a cage that keeps women oppressed, and that is true; it's also a cage that keeps us all safe. You do not want to return to a state of nature.
And you couldn't, even if you wanted to: The economy between men and women, developed and refined over thousands and thousands of years, and mostly shameful for all of that time, is the foundation of all other aspects of civilization. It's only robots like Bill -- or college kids behind computer screens -- who think bodies, and fucking, and gender, are a gross injustice at worst and at best, merely helpful suggestions. The rest of us actually have to live here.
Bill: "What if we could just cut through the maze to the essentials? What if we could understand the basic physiology underneath all that nonsense?"
Scully: "So I take it things are going poorly with Caroline?"