Here are the top moments from an amazing bottle episode of Masters of Sex:
Most of “Fight” takes place on a single night, in a single hotel room, during one of Virginia and Bill’s session. The first two episodes of the season demonstrated that work-only affair between the two colleagues had been taking place in a hotel, under the assumed name of Dr. Francis Holden, but left much to the imagination. In “Fight” we not only get to see the contents of a night between these two, but also feel the atmosphere.
Besides a few short scenes, the episode is solely shot within the hotel room, with barely any interruptions. Elliot, the hotel waiter, comes in every once in a while, bringing in the suspense of having to keep up the charade of their fake personas to this outsider. The legendary 11 round boxing match between Archie Moore and Yvon Durelle plays on the TV in the background throughout the episode, perfectly capturing the episode’s theme of having to fight to prove yourself. “Fight” manages to make a bottle episode feel like it contains a fully formed world between two characters.
When Virginia and Bill enter the hotel, they discard their identities in favor of the Holdens, a married couple who have been together for 14 years and are using their hotel rendezvous as an opportunity to liven up their marriage. The backstory that Bill has come up with is so perfectly William Masters. It’s unimaginative, like he filled in the mad libs of secret identities. Virginia is almost insulted by her hum-drum backstory, so she comes up with her own, more exciting version of their lives together. She comes up with Lydia, a woman who visits her mother in prison to read her scripture, while her secret government scientist husband is figuring out how to make a radioactive pen. It’s a cute moment between the two of them, as they create the people they want to be, at least for a few hours.
It’s telling that in her fantasy, Virginia erases the existence of their respective children. “It wouldn’t be fair,” she says. “Not with the lives we lead.” Bill has never so much as held his son and Virginia has rarely felt like the traditional maternal type. In their perfect world, it’s just the two of them.
The Real World Seeps Through
Even though Bill and Virginia hold up the illusion of Lydia and Francis Holden through most of the night, parts of the real world trickles in through the stories they tell. It’s almost as if they feel more emotionally honest when they’re lying about their identities. Virginia tells the story of her first love. He was an older man who taught her most of what she knew about sex but left her to get married after a year together. After that experience, she decided that she’d never be that open in a relationship ever again. “Keep your heart out of it. Locked away safe.” It explains why she kept Ethan at a distance throughout the first season and why she never even entertained the idea that Bill came to here in an act of love, not work-related respect.
Bill, meanwhile, slowly allows Virginia to know what he could never even tell his wife: the truth about his father and the reason why he can’t hold his son. When Bill was 14, his father took him to boarding school and essentially told him that he was on his own from now on. He never returned home after that. It explains his emotional distance from his own son and why he was so angry with his mother.
Virginia Tries to Teach Her Daughter Feminism
In two short scenes, Virginia tries to subtly give her daughter a lesson in what she can expect from herself. Her daughter is obsessed with the idea of fairy princesses and the handsome princes that are supposed to rescue them. Virginia tells her that the princess can have her own adventures without needing a prince, but the roles are already so ingrained into her mind that she doesn’t want to hear it. It’s nice to see Virginia try to teach her daughter that she can expect more from her life. She may not get it now, when put in the context of princes and princesses, but with her mother as an example, she’s sure to want more in the future.