Masters of Sex episode 3.06, Two Scents, is all about subliminals. This feeds into an idea that I brought up in conversation recently, that Virginia Johnson may have purred “We killed Freud” in a recent episode, but this season has been all about Freud. The through-line for the season is how the sins of the father/mother are visited upon the son/daughter, so that Bill’s sadistic father has everything to do with his relationship with Johnny, and Ginny’s demanding mother has everything to do with her relationship with Tessa, and on and on.
This week, the context is provided by research into pheromones, specifically manifested by “Holly”, the woman who reported no arousal at all while her various readings (vaginal moisture, flushed skin, erect nipples) indicated otherwise. People say they want one thing, while acting like they want another. And, more broadly, people simply have no idea why they want what they want and do what they do.
Johnny thought he didn’t want to play football, and then he did. Libby probably has no idea why she’s bathing in a brain-dead woman’s apartment, or why she’s playacting at being divorced. She’s just…doing it. Virginia does and doesn’t want Dan Logan, does and doesn’t want Bill, does and doesn’t want to please her mother.
I still pretty much hate Tessa, who sees evidence that her mother had sex and turns sour. While I get that she’s angry that Virginia lied about working late, ultimately, it comes down to a deep resentment that her mother is a sexual human being. It’s not that Virginia neglects her or lies to her, it’s that Tessa somehow feels her mother’s sexuality interferes with her own. ONLY ONE OF US CAN GET LAID BITCH. Tessa wants to brag to Betty that she gives blow jobs, and she doesn’t want her mother’s ill-buttoned blouse to overshadow that.
Bill has the most interesting and complicated story this week, trying to find himself, or something of himself, in football, and perversely allying himself with the bully he previously attacked. He wants some kind of relationship with some kind of son, so, despite himself (there’s that theme) he reaches out to Dennis when his own son rejects him. Johnny will surely not take this well.
Which shades into the other subplot meant to shed light on our characters: Movie star and football star trying to reignite their sad sex life. If you don’t connect (as Bill doesn’t connect with Johnny), you can’t fix it with mechanics (like coaching football). The love/gravity theme from last week comes back–the movie star’s “frigidity” can’t be fixed because the love isn’t there. Bill is suddenly very interested in love, now that he has a rival, and is compelled to tell Virginia that, yes, he was attracted to her from the first, it wasn’t just research. This after literally years of telling her that even their most intimate and passionate moments were “work”.
Spoiler free zone, of course, but I will tell you that next week promises the return of Sarah Silverman, and any focus on Betty’s personal life is fine by me.