A Look at “Masters of Sex” Season 3, Episode 7: “Monkey Business”

Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Touches Lizzy Caplan’s Breasts.  “Monkey Business” is odd.  That’s the best way I can describe this episode of a show where people have sex on camera and pleasure themselves with a device named Ulysses.  No.  Based on how last week ended, it’s time to see Bill and Virginia head to the zoo to help a sad sack named Gil.  Let’s jump into “Monkey Business.”

Monkey Business- Dan and Virginia in bed

The episode begins in bed, with Dan asking Virginia to rate his performance.  Was he as good as when Ed Sullivan had plate spinners on his show?  Nah.  Virginia likens him more to The Beatles.  I prefer that comparison.  Virginia gets ready to leave since she needs to be home by 11 pm, which is right now.  With six hours of sleep, she can be up at six in the morning.  Virginia’s life is complicated like that.

 

And Dan sympathizes, but he also notices that Virginia has left earlier each night they’ve spent together.  Though Virginia counters that the two haven’t spent enough time for Dan to consider any sort of pattern.  She’s just busy.  Dan then brings up Bill, who he likes for how driven he is.  But he doesn’t like him for Virginia.  She balks at that idea.  Hey, she is a married woman!  Yet, Dan says, guys like Bill are a lot of work.  Maybe Virginia’s husband is similar: impressive, but combustible.

Plus, both Bill and Virginia have undertaken a huge experiment.  Virginia settles it by stating that she and Bill are only involved professionally.  So who takes care of Virginia?  The sitter.  Dan tells Virginia that he wants to see her again.

Monkey Business- Helen tells Betty about wanting to have a baby

Let’s see someone else again, first: hello, Sarah Silverman.  Helen awakens Betty to talk about her dream: she was in a garden when a ripe plum fell on her lap.  After Helen bit into it, a rabbit jumped out and burrowed its way into her vagina.  Before it got too deep, Helen pulled the rabbit out of her vagina, only it wasn’t a rabbit anymore- it was a baby.

Honestly, I think this dream could have doubled as both Helen’s dream and a routine from Sarah Silverman’s stand-up.

But the point is that Helen wants a baby, though Betty preferred the dream to Helen’s mantra.  And it’s not like Helen hasn’t been trying.  She’s gone to three adoption clinics, none of which let single women adopt.  That’s unfair, Helen says, but hey, that’s the 1960s for you.  She suggests bringing in Rufus- a man who comes in to have his palm read.  Rufus isn’t the smartest knife in the drawer: he’s electrocuted himself trying to pull toaster out with a fork.  Many times.

This Rufus guy is in love with Helen, but he’s also saving himself.  Betty argues that Helen can’t marry someone a little, and she would know.  But maybe it’s dumb to have to wait so long for a baby.  Betty supports Helen, but she knows that no one is going to give a baby to a pair of middle-aged dykes.  This is also true.  Helen figures that she’ll do this on her own, then.

Monkey Business- Betty tells Bill that he will have to deal with Mrs. Fletcher’s insemination

So, day finally comes and we continue with Betty at the office, where she informs Bill that Barton is still away at a symposium in Memphis, so Bill will have to deal with Mrs. Fletcher’s insemination.  Dan’s booked the other exam room from noon to six, though Bill thinks that it’s time for Dan’s study to stop since it’s apparently reached a dead end.  That or, as Betty suggests, just let him have the room.  After all, Bill wouldn’t want to alienate the folks who paid big money.  What’s that mean?

Monkey Business- Bill shows Virgnia the Newsweek article

Betty shows Bill a Newsweek article that he then reads to Virginia: Isabella Ricci spoke about how Bill and Virginia rescued them.  She credits it to sensate therapy, but Bill and Virginia never attempted that protocol.  So why would they lie?  Betty explains that a tabloid photographer saw them leaving the clinic.

Okay, wait.  Bill and Virginia work in a very sterile office in an equally sterile building.  How and why would a tabloid photographer be there in the first place?

Never mind.  There’s an upside to this: Newsweek now wants to write a feature article on Bill and Virginia.  Bill doesn’t want to talk about fabricated results or for being the cure of a bad outcome, though Virginia reminds him that this was just one failure.  They’ve helped others and this is the kind of exposure that they need to draw in new clients.

Besides, there’s still the matter of confidential patient information that can’t be revealed, so Bill and Virginia aren’t at liberty to discuss the case.  They can, however, talk about their success stories.

Monkey Business- Dan talks with Tessa the Lunch Girl

Dan, elsewhere, has a run in with Tessa, who he doesn’t know at all.  Hell, she introduces herself as the Lunch Girl.  Noticing the way Dan is eying Masters and Johnson, Tessa advises Dan to not try and figure them out.  They’re a mystery, she says.

Monkey Business- Jane introduces Bill to an impotent man named Keith Coleman, played by Joe Tapper

Just then, Jane enters the office with Keith Coleman, played by Joe Tapper, who wants to be honest about his intentions, but Jane thinks differently.  She tells Bill that Keith came about through one of the letters she discovered, but Keith is straight with Bill: he is in the same theatre workshop as Jane.  He is impotent and has been for about two years now.  Jane told Keith that she could use her influence to get Bill to help.  This sort of implies that Jane has influence.

Bill spills that there’s no preferential treatment.  More than that, therapy is for couples, not individuals, and since Keith doesn’t have a wife or girlfriend, he doesn’t qualify.

Monkey Business- Bill gives Keith a jump

Following this, Bill heads to his car in the parking garage.  Guess whose parked right next to him?  Yeah, it’s Keith.  Strange little coincidence that turned out to be.  But Keith can’t start his car, so Bill decides to give him a jump.  Keith calls attention to the already obvious metaphor that neither his car battery nor actual battery work.  He thinks that Bill, despite his sympathy, doesn’t get it because Bill sees this as science.

And yet, Bill retorts that being a doctor doesn’t mean he’s immune to human suffering.  Keith fears that he’ll be alone for the rest of his life.  He doesn’t have a girlfriend, but he needs help, which he can’t get from the study because he doesn’t have a girlfriend.

Monkey Business- Virginia asks zookeeper Steven, played by Frank Clem, about the first sexual experience

We then cut to Virginia asking zookeeper Steven, played by Frank Clem, about the first sexual experience.  It happened when he was eight, which is very common.  The hell?

Monkey Business- Gil the Gorilla

Nah, they’re just talking about Gil the Gorilla.  Puberty for gorillas is often fast when the gorillas are raised in captivity.  Once captured, Gil has been spoon-fed 20 pounds of vegetables and receives a cherry pie for dessert.  He used to mate, but now he’s not interested in the female ape from San Diego.  Steven wasn’t present for the last successful mating, which happened before he arrived at the zoo.  Such knowledge belongs to the former keeper, Loretta Gladwin.  And there are rumblings regarding her dismissal.

Bill notes that Gil didn’t grunt when he came on his own, but does show a tad more interest in Virginia.  She wants to help Gil.  After all, human genetic alignment with apes is almost 98 percent.  Humans aren’t just descendants.  Yes, Bill says, but with some crucial differences- like speech.  At the very least, Virginia wants to observe.  There could be some positive press if they succeed.  After all, Virginia understands men and she helped Bill, so now the two of them just need to help Gil mate again.

Monkey Business- Bill and Virginia still talking about Gil

No, the conversation isn’t over just yet.  Back at the office, Bill figures that if Virginia wants to take this on, then there’s no reason to let any human male suffer, single or not.  Um, you’re the one who told Keith that he didn’t qualify, Bill.  Bill wonders if there are any letters from dysfunctional women out there.

To help Keith, Bill suggests pairing two nonfunctional patients, similar to Lester and Barbara.  But, Virginia argues, those two put themselves in that situation to the point where they fell in love.

Monkey Business- Jane volunteers to help Keith

Oh, hi, Jane.  Virginia says that the list of potential female surrogate applicants should come from those who have already participated in the study.  What kind of woman?  One who is functional, sexual, and interested in working for free, since paying her would be akin to prostitution.  Jane, not a master of subtlety, volunteers herself, but Bill doesn’t want to do that to Lester.

Monkey Business- Tessa talks to Dan about her mother

Across the office, Lester heads off for a break, while Dan continues to try and learn something about the mystery Lunch Girl, such as how long she’s worked at the office.  Her response is that she knows it all, like the fact that Mrs. Johnson has a messy life, so someone like Dan shouldn’t get involved.  Hey, this is the woman who uses her looks to get ahead and has yet to finish college.  Dan wouldn’t be surprised if Bill was smitten with Virginia, but Tessa tells Dan that she knows the two are sleeping together.

Monkey Business- Betty helps Bill prep an operatng room and asks him about sperm donations for single women

Betty helps Bill prep a lab room for Mrs. Fletcher, who wants to have a cigarette before the procedure.  She compliments Bill on how he’s taking care of single people.  In addition, she has received calls from single women asking if they can be impregnated with sperm from the donor bank.  So…can they?

Bill tells her that such a question hasn’t been asked before…but no.  After all, why would a woman want single motherhood?  Betty’s response is that husbands die or leave, though Bill says you can’t compare attrition to trying to make it happen.  It’s hard to raise a child on your own.  So, Betty says, maybe a friend could help.  Bill does not think that a woman needs his help to be inseminated.  A couple of drinks and the guy across the bar can accomplish that.

Monkey Business- Loretta Gladwin, played by Alex Borstein, talks to Bill and Virginia about working with Gil

We then cut to Bill and Virginia speaking with Loretta Gladwin, played by the great Alex Borstein.  She first met Gil when he was 12-years-old at the Cleveland Zoo.  Loretta asks about Gil’s current trainer, as there’s an art to this training.  More to the point, Gil must have a female attendant to stroke his ego.  Gil and Elvis have the same birthday, so there was this running game of who was the bigger king.

Loretta tells Bill and Virginia how she would stroke Gil’s…ego.  Yes, his ego is what she stroked.  Bill finds it unbelievable that Loretta just talked to the gorilla, but when Loretta did, Gil sired 21 different offspring with seven different females from zoos across the nation.  Virginia asks if there’s anything else Loretta did.  Loretta, seeing the implication, tells the two that she and Gil were just friends.  She can’t return to help, though, as that would be too painful.  After Loretta left, her life was a mess and she’s only just now getting it in order.

Monkey Business- Libby speaks with Johnny before heading to the Edleys

At House Masters, Libby tells Johnny that she plans to head over to the Edleys.

Monkey Business- Johnny burns Ernie Nevers

Once Libby leaves, though, Johnny burns his father’s Ernie Nevers football card.  Bill returns not long after and smells something burning.  Johnny says that his mother must have been burning plastic.  Libby is distracted like that.

Monkey Business- Libby tries to give Paul a check, he refuses it

At the Edleys, Libby tries to hand Paul a check, but he rejects it.  More than that, Paul doesn’t accept her apology.  Libby keeps on the offensive, saying that she knows how precious illusions are.  It’s been so long since she had any about her life.  Sometimes, she would sit in that apartment and hope her husband would walk through…not current Bill, but one from an earlier time.  But, Paul says, for the past months, he has just wanted to see Libby.  But then Libby went and took that and Paul’s illusions about Joy.  He tells her to keep the apartment.

Monkey Business- Lester and Jane watch a woman masturbating

Lester and Jane watch footage of a woman masturbating, because that’s what married couples do.  It’s for research purposes so they can pick a good surrogate for Keith.  Lester likes subject F-34-21, who, according to Jane, is Sue the Supply Secretary from Memorial.  Then Jane plays subject F-12-22, which happens to be her.  I could have sworn that Jane was subject F-26-002, but hey, it’s minor.  Jane stops Lester from turning off the footage of her.  After all, he filmed it.

So he wants to know why Jane is doing this.  She wants him to remember how this all started.  Jane knew at the start that Bill and Virginia’s work was important and made her feel important.  Hell, that’s why she volunteered in the first place…and subsequently dropped off, but hey, Jane’s trying to be inspirational, so I’ll let her.  And now she’s volunteering to help Keith.  If Lester is angry- and he is- Jane reminds him that he was once in Keith’s shoes.

Jane then asks why Lester didn’t tell her about his impotence when he experimented with Barbara.  His response is that’s something you don’t say to your wife.  Valid point, but Lester also admits that he was impotent because Jane dumped him and broke his heart when he ran off with that director.  But, Jane says, he got help.  Now Keith needs a cure.

Monkey Business- Virginia and Bill discuss when to help Gil

Bill and Virginia debate whether to help Gil.  Virginia wants to take this one shot at it because she knows Bill would help a suffering human male.  Okay, Bill says, he’s ready to do it now and get it done.

Monkey Business- Dan proposes taking out the office for tonight

But then Dan enters with a proposition for the two: his company has a new popcorn flavor debuting at the premiere of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken at the Hi-Pointe Theater.  He invites the entire office since they deserve time to relax, but both Bill and Virginia tell him that they’ll be busy with a very challenging case.

Monkey Business- Dan officially meets Tessa and learns her name

Oh, and when Tessa enters the room, Virginia officially introduces his daughter to Dan Logan by name.

Monkey Business- Jane and Keith have sensate training

Jane and Keith get to work with the sensate training.  While nude.  Oh, and who’s a handsome gorilla?

Monkey Business- Virginia tries to encourage Gil

No, not Keith.  This is Virginia talking to an unresponsive Gil while Bill just observes.  After enough attempts, Virginia calls this a mistake.  She’s frustrated because she can tell when someone is interested in her.  Bill suggests that she move closer.

Monkey Business- Gil touches Virginia's breasts

When she does, Gil approaches and grabs the cage.  And yes, the gorilla is drawn to Virginia’s bosom.  Remember, Loretta was a full figured woman.  Plus, Bill says, no one gives of themselves like Virginia.  Virginia strips down a bit and presents herself.  And after a few moments, Gil is ready to mate.

Okay, with that scene done, we cut to Libby drinking alone in the apartment.  Paul soon joins her, as he had nowhere else to go.

Well, that was a scene.

Monkey Business- Betty and Helen discuss pregnancy and sticking a catheter into Helen's cervix

Betty and Helen arrive after hours at the office so Betty can stick a catheter into Helen’s cervix.  With Betty going so fast, Helen wants to slow things down since this is a much longer process.  More than that, the two know next to nothing about the male donor.  A frustrated Betty wishes the two of them were like regular folks.

Then they wouldn’t have the responsibility of choosing.  But Helen says that this should be a big decision.  They’re having a baby, after all.  Luckily, Betty knows someone who may be able to help.

Monkey Business- Virginia does not want to tell Newsweek about Bill

Virginia doesn’t want the so-called solution to Gil’s woes to be shared with Newsweek.  Bill argues that their success with Gil proves that performance-based dysfunctions are so rooted in our psyche that not even the most primitive of us are immune to certain effects.  Bill and Virginia can repair human screw-ups, if need be.

Monkey Business- Betty introduces Helen to Austin (2)

At a gentleman’s club, Betty introduces Helen to the man who can help them: good old Austin Langham.

Monkey Business- Bill and Virginia talk to a Newsweek reporter, played by Bruce Nozick

Later that evening, Bill and Virginia have dinner with a Newsweek reporter, played by Bruce Nozick, about their work.  The writer tries to get Virginia to talk about the case with Al Neely and Isabella Ricci, but both she and Bill agree that each case matters.  If Bill had to pick one, however, he would pick the one involving Al “The Ape” Neely and Isabella Ricci.  Though Bill can’t divulge specifics, he uses a real ape to exemplify his point: damage it in a way that humans can inflict damage and watch it transform.  Bill and Virginia those shattered parts and bring them together.  This allows, through successful coupling, wounds to heal.

Monkey Business- Virginia finds Dan Logan in a gorilla suit

Virginia heads to the office and finds yet another ape.  Well, it’s Dan in a gorilla suit.  I’m going to assume that Dan did not previously have one of these, meaning he had to have just bought it.  At least, Virginia says, Dan wears his ape on the outside.  She tells Dan of their success…and what it took to get there with some extra encouragement.  Virginia doesn’t outright say what she did, but Dan is smart enough to put two and two together.  The two come together as the episode comes to a close.

Well, this may be one of the strangest episodes Masters of Sex has put out, for my money.  “Monkey Business” is an apt name for just how odd it is compared to past episodes.  It’s not bad, in my opinion, but the episode does suffer by having its main storyline not be as compelling or interesting as the other plots, particularly compared to last week’s well done “Two Scents.”

Monkey Business- Virginia and Bill observe Gil

Masters of Sex has focused on the ongoing battles between the internal and external before and that tradition continues here by bringing in a new X factor: our primal instincts.  Our truer selves that, as Bill and Virginia argue, bring us much closer to apes.

Monkey Business- Gil wants to touch Virginia

In fact, for as much as sex is still considered to be taboo to many in this time period, I’d argue that Masters of Sex explores that further here with Gil touching Virginia’s breast.  To Virginia, that’s crossing a line, but that’s what Bill and Virginia have been doing this entire time with their study: pushing the boundaries of what’s socially acceptable.

This is completely unknown territory for Bill and Virginia because they’ve always dealt with humans.  Sure, helping Gil doesn’t mean that they’re going to make the leap from humans to animals, but here, they’re considering not just whether their treatment is good for others, but the effects it has on them as well.

Monkey Business- Virginia can't believe Gil wants to touch her

Well, more specifically Virginia, who gets subjected to being groped while Bill watches.  I wouldn’t say I found this uncomfortable as much as I did just strange.  First off, why in the world does an ape need a female human’s body as inspiration to mate with its own kind?  Where is the logic in that?

Bill and Virginia grapple with whether they should even consider this case, which I like because it creates some tension between the two, though their motives are both selfish.  Virginia initially wants to do it for the publicity it will attract, while curing Gil is just secondary.  And Bill flip-flops from not wanting to help Gil because he’s a gorilla to changing his mind just to keep Virginia to himself and away from Dan.

Monkey Business- Bill remarks that it's Gil's turn to be saved

In addition, he tries to justify Virginia doing what she did by saying that she helped Bill, so it’s time that she helped another in need.  The line “No one gives of themselves like you, Virginia” is off-putting to me and it makes Bill less focused in the science at the moment and more just to goad Virginia into doing what she initially wanted.  Sure, neither one of them knew what Loretta did to encourage Gil, but I’m going to guess that they wouldn’t have assumed it meant a female presenting herself to an ape.

Monkey Business- Bill talks about Al the Ape

Now that I think about it, Bill comparing Gil to Al was pretty spot-on: both Al and Gil craved what they couldn’t have and preferred the unreachable female to the real female in front of them.

Monkey Business- Libby talks to Paul about illusions

It’s like Libby telling Paul about illusions and wanting to imagine a fantasy much more enjoyable than your mundane life.  Sticking with Libby for a moment, since I honestly don’t have much to say about her this week- she’s found companionship in Paul, who she hurt deeply, so it’s a bit quick for him to just say that he wanted to see her, especially after she wounded and berated him.

Monkey Business- Bill talks about healing wounds

But back to Bill- his description of him and Virginia bringing shattered parts together to heal wounds was true to their work, but I don’t think it fits together with the two of them trying to successfully get a gorilla to mate.  This is the show trying to be smart after giving us such a low-brow moment, and I don’t like to call anything in Masters of Sex low-brow because this is a smart show.  I just wish the moments with Gil were better handled and better written.  Plus, for Bill not wanting to talk about fabricated results, he didn’t look completely comfortable talking about Al and Isabella.

Monkey Business- Helen and Betty talk about their future with a baby

Similar with the other plots of the episode.  So Betty and Helen are still together and they want a baby.  Progressive move for a pair of middle-aged dykes, as Betty puts it, but an uphill task.  I do enjoy their conflict over whether just going forward with insemination without regarding the long-term consequences of their actions.  Their child would grow up not knowing much about where they came from and their parents wouldn’t have much explanation, either.  Luckily, the two smarten up and decide to take this slow as opposed to just making a baby so they can beat the adoption system.  And it is nice to see Sarah Silverman again.

Monkey Business- Betty asks Bill about sperm donations for single women

I wasn’t a fan of Betty running circles around the adoption and insemination talk with Bill, though.  Betty is one of, if not the most blunt characters on the show.  She rarely minces her words, so I’m confused as to why she didn’t just come out and tell Bill about her situation.  Betty isn’t afraid to use Bill’s medical expertise to get what she wants.  This is the same who threatened to destroy Bill’s equipment and blackmail him if he didn’t perform an operation on her.

And it’s not like Bill doesn’t know enough intimate details about Betty as it is.  Okay, sure, I doubt he knows about Helen, but Betty could still just mention that she wanted a baby instead of trying to create a hypothetical scenario.

Monkey Business- Austin returns

Oh, and I guess the show really doesn’t need much of a reason to have Austin return.  Between Margaret, Flo, and now Helen and Betty, Austin seems to be good for two reasons: his looks and his dick.

Monkey Business- Jane plays the footage of her masturbating

Jane and Lester talking about inadequacy was a nice moment between the two of them, but it’s not something we didn’t already know.  We’d touched upon Jane making Lester feel inadequate last season and how it tore him apart, but it didn’t affect his performance at work.  I must question how these two are still together after all this time and how they even decided to get married.  Jane is a very adventurous woman.  If she wanted better, she’d have gone looking for it, but she stuck with Lester, despite his issues.

Monkey Business- Jane learns why Lester didn't talk about his inadequacy

It’s a sign that she does truly care for him, but I wish we’d gotten to see more of them during this rough period.  I am glad that the mention of Barbara wasn’t just to drum up conflict between the two, even if it was a bit convenient that Jane happened to overhear Bill and Virginia’s conversation.  I do still wonder what happened between Lester and Barbara.  Despite Jane and Lester having both been around since the first season, I buy Lester’s chemistry with Barbara a bit more than I do with Jane, if I’m honest, because they were both damaged, yet found and accepted each other, regardless of their inadequacies.

Monkey Business- Tessa tells Dan about why she's working at the office

I’m making a lot of assumptions here, but I’m guessing that Tessa is still on suspension if she’s still hanging around the office.  But then, I don’t know how long student suspensions were in the 1960s.  If she’s been at the office for at least a few days, I can’t imagine that Dan Logan hasn’t seen or acknowledged her by this point.  Same with Virginia introducing the two of them.

Monkey Business- Tessa admits that Virginia is complicated

Sure, Tessa is right that Virginia is complicated, but I think she failed in trying to make her mother look bad by mentioning that she didn’t finish college.  Dan is way too smitten with Virginia to care about any of her inadequacies, and he notes that Bill is the same way, so whatever tactics Tessa tried with her grandmother aren’t going to work as well with Dan.  Really, if Tessa is going to be here, just stick her with Betty.  She can learn more from her.

“Monkey Business” is quite the oddball episode of Masters of Sex.  Again, it’s not bad, but it doesn’t have much going for it aside from a strange sequence of a gorilla touching Lizzy Caplan’s breast, making Gil the Gorilla probably the luckiest gorilla of the 1960s, and maybe even of all time.

I think there were some missed opportunities for deeper character examination and certain characters weren’t utilized to full effect.  It’s good, but nowhere near as deep or memorable as “Two Scents,” with or without Isabella Ricci’s breasts.  And my hope is that the reintroduction of Helen and Austin gives them more to do this season- Austin in particular, since the show seems to just put him where he’s needed.

A Look at “Masters of Sex” Season 3, Episode 6: “Two Scents”

The body says no, but the vagina says yes.  This week’s “Two Scents” deals with our expectations pitted against reality as Bill and Virginia contend with a very famous couple, Libby enjoys some time to herself, Tessa almost finds common ground with her mother, and Dan Logan learns the power of Lester’s sweat.  Let’s jump right in.

Two Scents- Dan and Virginia test a scent on Holly, played by Angela Sauer

The episode begins with Dan and Virginia trying out a scent on their subject, Holly, played by Angela Sauer. It just reminds her of the candy apples her father would get at the Marshfield Fair.  Dan is dismayed.  Smells eliciting emotion as opposed to arousal aren’t getting the two of them anywhere.  And if all reactions are unique, Dan worries that the two will need to customize a scent for every person.

Virginia asks Dan if he’s heard of gypsy moths.  She read a piece in a nature magazine that they secrete a pheromone substance that acts as an aphrodisiac.  It’s secreted by the female moths in order to attract the males from a great distance.  And if the two can bottle a human equivalent, they may have a love potion on their hands, though Virginia notes that there’s no evidence that human pheromones exist.

Dan thinks they’re real and has an example: Virginia asked him for dinner, as if she’d been compelled by an unseen force.  Since then, she’s wormed her way out of it.  Truth be told, Virginia doesn’t know why she asked Dan, but she admits that it was wrong.  She has a simpler suggestion: coffee in the lobby while they discuss a strategy for procuring pheromones.  Dan believes that Virginia deserves better than coffee in a lobby.  That’s not a proper courtship.

Two Scents- Bill and Paul talk about people slipping away, talk football, and marriage troubles

Bill, having watched this conversation play out on the other side, takes out his frustration on the track, racing way ahead of Paul.  Bill’s answer for his burst of speed is that he’s been thinking of how people slip away.  But when asked who, Bill tells Paul that he’s referring to Johnny.  Bill asked if he wanted to attend a Cardinals/Bears game, but got nothing out of it.  Well, you know how people have connections?

Paul got in touch with a former Cardinal, a friend of his named Al “The Ape” Neely, who played with Paul in Nebraska.  Since then, Al married an actress named Isabella Ricci.  Al and Isabella are trying to find someone to talk to about their bedroom problems, so imagine their surprise when they learned that Paul was neighbors with Bill Masters.  All they need to do is put in a call.

Changing the conversation a bit, Bill asks Paul if he’s still coaching kids’ football, which he is.  Bill would like to be the assistant coach.  If he doesn’t try, nothing will happen or things that he won’t want to happen may occur.  Hell, Johnny could try out for the team.  Who wouldn’t like that idea?

Two Scents- Libby doesn't want Johnny to play football

Libby, for one, as Johnny could be injured by boys twice his size.  Bill doesn’t falter.  He needs his wife to stop mollycoddling their son and suggesting he do something else like go to the planetarium.  But hey, Libby apparently did say that Bill needs to spend more time with the kids, and that’s what he’s doing.  Now he needs to head off for a work dinner.  What kind of work?

Two Scents- Bill has dinner with Virginia's parents

Dinner with Virginia’s parents.  Edna has been telling her friends about the famous author she now knows.  While she likes spending time with Bill, she also has crazy ideas like wanting to take Baby Lisa out for ice cream.  Lisa is three months old.  No, it makes no sense, but Edna thinks this will give Bill and Virginia time to talk about something other than work.

When Harry and Edna leave, Bill and Virginia both realize that Edna is trying to set them up.  Virginia finds the arrangement grotesque, and since the two can’t possibly stay at Virginia’s place, they’ll have to separate for a bit.

Two Scents- Libby tells Joy how she became pregnant

Libby tends to Joy’s needs while giving an abridged version of her storyline from Season One: she deceived Bill about how she first became pregnant.  The procedure led to attempt one, but that ended in a miscarriage.  From there, Bill wanted no more tries, but Libby still got a capping procedure that involved the remainder of Bill’s sperm, which led to the birth of their first child.  In Libby’s mind, any feelings Bill had for her died the night he realized that Libby lied and he would be a father.

Two Scents- Libby finds an apartment key

Then, when hoping to work on Joy’s hair, Libby goes through the drawers and finds a series of keys.  She pockets one just as Paul arrives.

Two Scents- Virginia asks Harry if he knew that Edna would try to set them up

Virginia asks Harry if he knew that Edna would try to set her up with Bill.  He did, but he acknowledges that it wouldn’t have done him any good to try and challenge her.  He recounts their first date: they went to the movies.  Edna always imagined herself being someplace better than where she is, like going to some fancy gala.  Sure, both Harry and Virginia know that Edna would be lost without him, but we all need stories to tell ourselves.

Two Scents- Betty instructs Jane how to respond to letters

Despite working just a few hours a day, Jane is given her own office to go through letters.  Betty’s instructed her to answer anything that doesn’t compare them to Satan or damn them to Hell.  Easy.  She spots a celebrity couple entering, but Betty tells her straight away that no one knows that they’re there, so Jane also doesn’t know.

Two Scents- Bill and Virginia speak with Al Neely, played by Christopher Wiehl, and Isabella Ricci, played by Kristen Hager

Bill and Virginia meet with the pair: Al Neely, played by Christopher Wiehl, and Isabella Ricci, played by Kristen Hager.  Both are interested in Bill and Virginia’s work and have heard positive things from the likes of Sandra Dee.  Al wants to know how not touching Isabella sexually fixes things in the sex department.  Bill’s response is that non-sexual touching removes the pressures associated with sex.

Isabella calls herself frigid, but Virginia advises against that, saying that ‘frigid’ makes it seems like it’s the woman’s fault.  She prefers the term ‘non-orgasmic.’

Two Scents- Tessa shows Edna an essay she wrote on Life and Love

At House Johnson, Tessa flips through an issue of Teen Society– she wrote an essay entitled “Life and Love” and hopes that her mother can read it.  Tessa didn’t even expect to win, but there you go.  Edna wants Tessa to get a hair appointment so she can look more attractive to the boys.  And when Tessa turns it down, Edna advises her to not be like her mother and fight her decisions.

Tessa softens and thinks that her mother may have a good reason for fighting, which prompts Edna to think that Virginia has turned Tessa against her.  Harry always said what Virginia wanted to hear, but Virginia, Edna says, should be treated as a cautionary tale.  Sure, Virginia wrote a book, but her life is a mess.  Right now, Tessa needs to focus on what matters.

Two Scents- Bill and Paul coach a football game

Like football.  Johnny’s not interested in playing, though.  The next quarterback, Paul says, has a great arm, but a bad attitude.  Who should it be but #14: Dennis Daughtry.  Paul thinks that the kid needs to learn, but Bill, ready to put him in, wants there to be another kind of punishment that doesn’t embarrass the team by losing.

Two Scents- Libby and Eunice, played by Samantha Klein, watch the game

In the stands, Libby and another mother, Eunice, played by Samantha Klein, watch.  Eunice has been around the block more than once.  These games aren’t about everyone- it’s just the boys, coaches, and fathers.  Eunice has a huge responsibility, though.  She’s in charge of snacks.  And if you’re a mother that isn’t on the snack rotation, then you’re grounded, young lady.  Nah, you’re just a bad mother, even though no one cares about your presence.  But the second mom steps away to do her own thing and enjoy the day, she’s negligible.  The job is to be invisible.

On the field, Dennis throws a touchdown.  He gets some encouraging words from Bill, who also apologizes for threatening him last time.  He sees true potential in him.  Much more than Johnny, who gets knocked on his ass.

Two Scents- At apartment 7D, Libby speaks with Vincent, played by Keir O’Donnell

Libby leaves the game not to sign up for the snack rotation, but to head to apartment 7D.  She takes a nice long bath, but is interrupted by the arrival of Vincent, played by Keir O’Donnell, who has come to turn off the gas.  Libby introduces herself to him as Mrs. Joy Edley.

Two Scents- Al talks to Bill about Isabella and gorillas

Back at work, Bill and Virginia speak with the pairs, but one-on-one.  First up, Al tells Bill that his marital problems started one year ago.  He thinks that Isabella overthinks things.  Dogs, though, don’t think, but using dogs as an example, Bill says, is an oversimplification.  True, so let’s keep that going.  Al wants to know that if Bill was in his position, would he be concerned with being asked to open a gorilla exhibit.

See, Al was asked to open one at the zoo.  Featured in this exhibit would be the famous Gil the Gorilla.  Not Magilla, mind you, just Gil.  Al will be paid double the money if Isabella appears with him, and she agreed to go to the ape house if Al came to see Bill.  Bill, like anyone else, doesn’t care about this or anything involving their personal lives outside of their marriage issues.  Al says that he’s not the one with the problem.

Two Scents- Isabella tells Virginia that Al is the problem

And smash cut to Isabella, who tells Virginia that Al is indeed the problem.  He’ll screw anything that walks, winks, and sits to take a leak.  When Isabella was filming Johnny Reno with Jane Russell, Isabella didn’t need to buy perfume because her bedsheets reeked of whatever Jane had.  Similar incidents occurred with Natalie Wood during the shooting of Penelope, and Shelley Winters on Patch of Blue.  Hell, Isabella even found Al eying Virginia as well.

Virginia informs Isabella that success with struggling couples only happens when the partners commit to each other.  Isabella is no stranger to commitment and love.  When they first met, they made love in so many places. Hell, Al once had Isabella in a fountain in Rome at three in the morning.  They felt like gods that day.  Just the scent of Al would make her climax.  Huh.  But now they can’t go out without Al drooling over some other woman.  Men would kill to have Isabella, she says, but Al makes her feel old.  She asks Virginia right now, and I quote: “Who on God’s green Earth wouldn’t want to fuck this?”

Two Scents- Isabella bares her breasts

And then this happens.  I know this Isabella Ricci isn’t based off an actual actress, but damn it if she’s not fucking gorgeous, even before ripping open her top.  If that makes me sound like a sexist asshole, so be it, but really, who wouldn’t want to have sex with her?

Two Scents- Bill and Virginia discuss how to proceed with Al and Isabella

Okay, I’m done.  And so is Virginia, who concludes that this couple is insane.  Bill argues that they can’t choose cases based on degree of difficulty, but Virginia says that’s not true since they’ve turned couples away in the past.  True as that is, frigidity is their expertise.  Though the core problems with this couple go way beyond Bill and Virginia’s skill set, Bill doesn’t want to alienate the community by dumping patients.  What community?  The one that paid $3,000 for two weeks of their expert advice.  Holy shit, that’s bank.  Betty already cashed the damn check, too.

Two Scents- Dan is ready to begin the experiment

Dan enters, ready for his project, but Bill will be joining him and Virginia.  While Dan heads over, Bill tells Virginia that it’s time for Mr. and Mrs. Holden to revisit the Chancery Park Plaza Hotel.

Two Scents- Dan and Virginia watch Lester pedal for his life

Dan and Virginia’s work involves Lester pedaling for his life to work up a sweat since the suspecting idea is that human pheromones are secreted through sweat glands.  Bill calls this a theory, nay, a trick since a person is being manipulated into feeling sexual attraction for someone they might not be attracted to.  Or, Dan says, he’s trying to develop a product customers want.  Bill thinks that Dan may have some other interest, but Dan just wants to take nature’s guidelines for pointing humans to the right partner and give that guideline a little boost.

Science plus commerce equals a happy marriage.  Virginia interrupts this back and forth by reminding the two that they all just want to find a link between scent and human sexual response.

Two Scents- Bill teaches Johnny about football, Libby arrives home late

That evening, at House Masters, Bill goes over football with Johnny when Libby arrives later than expected- she had to drop Jenny off at a friend’s.  When Libby learns that Bill is teaching Johnny a play based on what he saw Dennis Daughtry, Bill’s defense is that he had no idea that Dennis was on the team.  But hey, they’re on the same side now.  Johnny heads off to read.

Two Scents- Thomas refers to Bill as Dr. Masters instead of Dr. Holden

At the Chancery Park Plaza Hotel, Bill heads to the desk and has a short reunion with Thomas, who refers to Bill not as Dr. Holden, but Dr. Masters.  Thomas thanks Bill for the book, saying that his wife purchased it, which brought some pizzazz to their home.  Why’s Bill stopping by the hotel?  He and Mrs. Johnson are headed to a symposium and need to pay for their drink.  Not a problem, Thomas says.  It’s on the house.

Two Scents- Bill and Virginia take refuge in the lab

Since they can’t stay at the hotel, Bill and Virginia take refuge in the lab.  Back to ground zero, which Bill thinks sounds grim, but Virginia doesn’t think that a relationship that began in a lab counts as a courtship.  Bill disagrees.  It’s unorthodox, but it was a spark.  No, Virginia says, it was a negotiation that led to them hooking wires up to each other and talking through the four phases.  Remember those days?

Virginia says that nature isn’t how they got together, even though Bill thinks different.  Virginia wonders what if they had met under different circumstances, like being drawn toward each other at a dinner.  Bill just calls that a simple schoolgirl fantasy. Plus, he thinks it’s unfair that romantic circumstances alone define a natural courtship.  But Virginia knows that what they had is far from natural.

Two Scents- Tessa's new hairdo

At House Johnson, Virginia sees Tessa’s new hairdo and isn’t much of a fan.  She tells Edna just as much when the two argue in the kitchen.  Edna says that Tessa needs this sort of relationship with an adult figure.  Virginia rages, calling out her mother for always belittling and criticizing her.  She also doesn’t want Tessa dragged into their affairs.  All Virginia’s ever wanted is her mother’s approval with no strings attached.

Two Scents- Virginia and Edna argue

It may be too late for the two of them, but Virginia will be damned if she’s going to let her mother turn Tessa into a twisted version of herself that she’ll come to loathe.  Never mind that Tessa is doing that to herself, mind you.  Edna counters that she can love her daughter and tell the truth.

Two Scents- Vincent fixes a leak

Back at apartment 7D, Vincent fixes a leak for Libby.  She’s never been good at mastering the half-pot of coffee, she says, but the highlight of her day has always been the first sip.  When asked about her marital status, Libby says that she’s split from her husband, but still has her three children.  Vincent regrets what happened to his kids after his divorce.

Libby assures Vincent that nothing will happen to her children, though.  She’s made sure of that.  Vincent informs Libby that she’s paid for up to six months, so she can enjoy her stay.

Two Scents- Virginia instructs Al to add more depth to his answers

Virginia drops off Al’s forms so he can redo them by having more than one-word answers.  For example, when asked about what form of contraception he uses- Al responded with ‘Television.’

Two Scents- Isabella prepares to work with Ulysses

Meanwhile, Isabella is all set to enjoy herself with our old friend, Ulysses.  It’s warm, which is meant to make penetration easier.  Plus, as Bill says, this will help them rule out if there are any physical problems that may be preventing orgasm.

Two Scents- Isabella strips down

Isabella strips down for her performance.  Bill, though, isn’t fazed in the slightest.  Of course.

She manages to climax in 54 seconds, indicating that the problems don’t come from her.  Bill tells her that one variable to consider is transference.  What she feels can be explained by science, though Isabella believes that what Bill calls science, most would call chemistry.

Two Scents- Beth, played by Beth Fraser, responds to the sweat

Still in the office, Virginia and Dan try out Lester’s sweat on their newest subject, Beth, played by Beth Fraser.  Beth just wonders if she needs to pick up Tide on her way home.  While it looks like the sweat did nothing, Virginia looks at the results and finds a few spikes.  Her mouth says no, but her vagina says yes.  Only on Masters of Sex.  The flushes, the blotches, erect nipples, and vaginal lubrication show that the body responds to the smell, even if the patients say that they do not.

Two Scents- Libby finds Paul tending to Johnny's ankle

At House Masters, Libby finds Paul tending to Johnny’s strained ankle.  He was on the wrong end of a pile-up.  But hey, he tackled two other guys.  That’s gotta count for something.  Libby is pissed, to say the least, and elects to take Johnny out of football.  Paul, echoing Bill’s words, tells Libby that she can’t deprive Johnny the chance of working through the pain.  Don’t mollycoddle him.  Paul doesn’t believe in that.

But is Paul the exception?  Libby spills that Joy was drowning in an unhappy marriage and planned to leave him.  Paul, suddenly shocked and dismayed by this revelation, leaves without a word.

Two Scents- Bill and Virginia ask Al and Isabella to recount what attracted them to each other

Back at the office, Bill and Virginia speak with Al and Isabella about the impediments to treating their infidelity- the lack of commitment.  Al says that as celebrities, they’re paid to be charming, but Isabella isn’t on board with that.  Bill and Virginia highlight one question on the form: what attracted them to each other when they first met?

For Isabella, she liked Al’s smile and body when he came to her at the Brown Derby.  Al’s response is that Isabella was 20 feet tall.  It was in a dark theater.  While other men watched and lusted for Isabella on the screen, Al felt that she was actually within reach.  When the curtains went up, she didn’t vanish to Al.  He wanted her at the derby as well.  But then, Al thought of the woman he saw on the screen and wished that he had her instead of the real one next to him.  Cruel as fuck, but what Al considers crueler is that he wasn’t honest with her earlier.

Two Scents- Bill admits his feelings to Virginia in the elevator

On the elevator ride down after, Bill and Virginia conclude that Al and Isabella were, in fact, doomed from the start.  Bill stops the elevator so the two can have a quickie right there.  Virginia’s parents are leaving tomorrow, so they may as well take advantage.  Bill thinks to when he first spotted Virginia at Maternity.  He agrees that yes, the two would have found each other at that dinner party.  But, Virginia says as she restarts the elevator, now they’ll never know.

Two Scents- Libby finds Paul waiting at the apartment

At the apartment, Vincent informs Libby that her husband is waiting for her.  Upon heading upstairs and finding Paul sitting at the table, Libby leaves.

Two Scents- Bill shows Dennis his card collection

Dennis visits House Masters just as Bill is in the middle of watching a game.  Dennis is just there for his football, but Bill invites him in to join him in watching.  He then takes out his card set and plays a guessing game with Dennis.  All while Johnny watches from afar…

Two Scents- Virginia finds Dan still working at the office

Virginia finds Dan still working at the office.  The two toast to their love potion.  Virginia isn’t feeling anything, but then, she’s not hooked up, so she wouldn’t know.  Dan has an idea for an experiment: as Dan doesn’t believe that the body can respond sexually without a person knowing.  Maybe they need to be close.

So the two dance.  There’s no physiological response yet, but then, you can never know what’s happening in your nether regions.

Two Scents- Dan and Virginia get intimate

Then things get more intimate…

Two Scents- Tessa prepares to show Virginia her essay

When Virginia finally returns home, she finds that Tessa has returned her hair to normal.

Two Scents- Tessa sees Virginia's blouse unbuttoned

Just as Tessa is about to show her mother the article that she wrote, she sees that Virginia’s blouse is unbuttoned in the back.  Tessa heads to bed instead, trashing the magazine on the way up the stairs.

Two Scents- Betty hands Bill the check

Betty gives Bill the check from the celebrity couple, who also had a referral.

Two Scents- Bill prepares for money business

The episode comes to a close as Bill meets with a man at the zoo to see a gorilla that just isn’t into girls.  Why?  Who knows?  We’ll find out next time.

If there’s a central battle seen in “Two Scents,” it’s the ongoing battle between expectations versus reality.  Whether it’s our dreams, nightmares, or stories we share with others, what we conjure in our head doesn’t always translate into reality.  As Masters and Johnson are discovering, the world of sex is ever-changing and unpredictable, so it would be impossible to try and predict every scenario.

Two Scents- Isabella refers to science as chemistry

Yes, some aspects can be explained through science, but others are more mysterious.  That’s what I feel Isabella was getting at when she told Bill that what he calls science, others call chemistry.  Some things just happen without explanation or as part of some strange phenomena.  It goes back to Bill discussing how we can’t see things like gravity or love, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

At times, we try to come up with a justification for something that isn’t there because it fits our narrative.  Like when Virginia thought that her mother was the one who entered her into beauty pageants.  Here, we see that Edna fantasized herself in a much happier lifestyle than with Harry not because she dislikes him, but because she wanted more than the hand that life dealt her.  Now there’s nothing wrong with fantasizing.  It doesn’t make us ungrateful, I feel- just that we want to take ourselves out of reality for some time and live within our own bubble where we set the rules.

At the end of the day, though, unless we take the initiative to make our dreams real, they’re still just that: fantasies conjured up to distract us from the hardships of real life.  Or, in some instances, a better alternative to our own state of affairs.

Another challenge characters faced in this episode is with people losing the ones closest to them.  Now this has been a constant of the show.  Hell, Libby has been dealing with abandonment by Bill for almost three seasons now, but now, when Bill and Virginia attempt to make connections with their respective children, they fail by connecting to someone else.  It’s very easy for children to be jealous when they see their parents devote time and love to someone other than them, and we watch this through Johnny and Tessa’s eyes.

While Johnny and Bill haven’t had any semblance of a close bond, we saw shades of it when Bill got him into football and tried to teach him a few maneuvers.

Two Scents- Bill bonds with Dennis

The problem comes when Bill starts softening to Dennis after threatening him one episode ago.  It’s clear that Bill does regret his actions, but like Paul Edley, he likes having a connection with someone that has similar interests.  When Bill sees Dennis’ football prowess and interest in the cards, Bill wishes that Dennis was his son.  More than that, I’m willing to bet that Bill wishes he had some of Dennis’ strength and fortitude when he was a child.  The expectations Bill had for Johnny now manifest in Dennis.

Two Scents- Johnny watches Bill bond with Dennis

And Johnny, like Libby, is left to just watch from a distance as one of the important male figures in his life bonds with his temporary replacement.  We already know that these two don’t get along.  A father-son relationship wouldn’t be impossible, but what little chance of it there may have been- since Johnny was getting into the game- has come to a screeching halt.

Two Scents- Tessa sides with her mother for once

Tessa almost had a chance at a connection with her mother when she came to her defense.  Tessa has few female adult figures in her life she can look to without skepticism, but the ones closest to her cause the most division.  She enjoys Edna’s companionship, but not her attempts to change her into someone that she isn’t.  Both Virginia and Edna note that Tessa is their chance to get it right, and that’s true, but Tessa is already screwed up as is.  All Virginia and Edna are doing is making the damage worse.

Like Virginia, Tessa knows what it’s like to seek appreciation with no strings attached.  She gets little appreciation as is, and when she finally gets it, Edna goes from talking about the magazine to suggesting that she change her look.  Given how much of a rebel Tessa is, I’m actually surprised she even went along with the hairdo, especially after saying that maybe her mother has a reason to fight.

Two Scents- Tessa rethinks showing Virginia her essay

But just when it seems like she and her mother may have found common ground, she finds Virginia’s blouse is undone in the back.  This indicates to Tessa that Virginia still isn’t willing to put family first, but fooling around with men when she can.  It’s unfortunate because while I’m not a fan of this version of Tessa, it was sad to see her be so proud of her work, only to discard it after realizing her mother was out having sex with another man.

I’m gonna say this, though: Tessa is part to blame for Virginia arriving at this point.  Had Tessa not planted that bow-tie, Edna wouldn’t have suspected things were going on between Bill and Virginia, thus things would have gone on as usual and Virginia probably wouldn’t have been as invested in Dan Logan as she is now.  I know, that’s a stretch, but you can connect some of the dots there.

Two Scents- Dennis and Bill talk football cards

Bill, meanwhile, is losing the battle on multiple fronts.  He can’t bond with his son, so he instead befriends the bully who beat him up, he and Virginia are unable to solve the couple’s troubles, and his relationship with Virginia isn’t as solid as it once was.  As has been the case many times before, Bill is very clinical in how he approaches things.  Instead of believing in fantasies and what-if scenarios, he believes in science.

Two Scents- Bill says that Virginia's idea of courtship is just a schoolgirl fantasy

When Virginia describes a scenario where she and Bill could have met under different circumstances, Bill writes it off as nothing more than a schoolgirl fantasy.  What they had was true romance at first sight, but as often is the case, he’s in denial.  If it was a real relationship, there would have been no need to pay Virginia for her services way back when during “Involuntary.”

Two Scents- Bill and Dan debate

And if he believes in there being something besides science leading to love, he wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Dan’s experiments to find the link between scent and human sexual response.  But then, this was also his jealousy showing.

Two Scents- Virginia tells Edna that she only wanted her approval

For all the criticism she’s received for her work, it was nice to see Virginia stand up to her mother in a desperate plea for validation.  Here’s someone who believed that her mother placed certain expectations on her as a child, and some of that may be true, but Virginia also holds herself to a higher standard because she’s always pushing herself to be better.  And the rage she showed at Edna was long overdue.

Two Scents- Virginia describes meeting Bill a different way than how they did

And unlike Bill, Virginia is willing to believe in a fantasy where the two met under different circumstances.  The spark that’s lit Bill and Virginia’s relationship for so long may still be burning bright for Bill, but Virginia looks to have grown tired of some of it.  Now, if history is any indication, we know these two will be together for quite some time, but as far as this episode goes, for Virginia to compare their arrangement to that of amoeba in a Petri dish demonstrates that she doesn’t share Bill’s bliss at the thought of their first encounter.

Two Scents- Virginia and Dan dance

So she turns to Dan Logan, who is a refreshing change of pace, as he’s exploring an avenue that Bill and Virginia haven’t fully explored yet.  It’s unfortunate that Virginia continues to slide backwards because, in the end, she is still married to George, even if just in name.  Right now, she’s just doing what makes her happy, even though that means neglecting her family and ignoring Tessa’s accomplishment.

Two Scents- Thomas recognizes Bill for who he actually is

Side-note, in a nice nod to continuity, I did appreciate that Bill and Virginia encountered a familiar bellhop at the hotel as opposed to someone new.  Sure, Thomas didn’t make a big deal out of the fact that Bill and Virginia had been lying to him.  In fact, he was just overjoyed by the book.  But I’m glad to see how difficult it is for Bill and Virginia to maintain their secrets as their reputations continue to grow.

Two Scents- Libby takes a bath

Libby, having already been neglected for years, gets a chance at the dream life by taking on Joy’s identity.  Tired of being invisible, she sheds her normal demeanor not because she has to, but simply because she can.  We’ve seen Libby tell others before that she didn’t have a husband, but this is her living out that fantasy.  Rather than worry about what Bill’s up to, Libby can lay her concerns aside and relax.  She’s like Isabella, really: instead of Bill cozying up to an attractive woman like Libby, he goes after Virginia instead because he’s grown tired of his wife.

Two Scents- Libby lashes at Paul

Like before, though, Libby is taking her ire out on the wrong man.  I’ll agree with Bill and Paul that she does mollycoddle Johnny.  Also, it’s just rare that I hear the word mollycoddle.  Anyway, Bill is the one who deserves all of her wrath, but she takes it out on Paul when he just wants to help toughen up Johnny.  It’s not a bad thing to want and I’m sure that Libby wouldn’t want Johnny to grow up as a pushover.  Yeah, Paul may not be the best of husbands, but as far as I can tell, he has Johnny’s best interests at heart while Libby ops to remove Johnny from football altogether at the first sign of danger.  I get that she’s concerned and overprotective- most mothers tend to be- but let the boy take a risk.

Two Scents- Isabella learns that Al is not attracted to the real her anymore

Al and Isabella’s tale, like Barton and Margaret’s, is one of tragedy.  Isabella sees the lack of fire in their relationship as her fault, only to learn that Al grew bored of her.  I can’t really explain this because regardless of what she looked like then, she still looks attractive as hell.

The scene with Al revealing that he wanted more of the woman on the movie screen instead of the one next to him was rough, but it felt real.  Not all couples, even power couples, remain intact.

Two Scents- Bill and Virginia listen to Al talk about his feelings for Isabella

And Bill and Virginia aren’t always going to score a win with troubled romances.  For all their knowledge of human sexuality, even they couldn’t save a relationship that was doomed from the start.

Two Scents- Isabella about to rip open her blouse

Again, though, as serious as this episode was, it had its lighter moments. The scene of Isabella ripping open her top was funny.  It was a bit shocking because it was right in your face, but that’s par for the course on this show and it made me laugh nonetheless.

Two Scents- Virginia's non-reaction to Isabella ripping open her blouse

And Virginia’s blank reaction is priceless.

“Two Scents” dealt a lot with expectations pitted against reality.  What we conjure in our heads, watch on television, or read in books is an escape from this world, but then we realize the world we live in isn’t as much entertaining as fiction.  A great episode with some great guest appearances and an ending that leaves things up in the air as Bill heads to the zoo.

A Look at “The Walking Dead” #145: “Blood for Blood”

The Walking Dead #145- Cover

#144 was no doubt a game-changer for The Walking Dead.  So Issue #145: “Blood for Blood,” is an appropriate follow-up that is less about action and more on reflecting, reacting, and regrouping in light of what Rick and company have discovered.

And one of the better ways to do that is by having almost no dialogue in the issue’s first few pages.  We can read the horror and sadness on the characters’ face, particularly Michonne.

The Walking Dead #145- Michonne reacts to losing Ezekiel

She, I feel, had the most impactful reaction because she realizes what she’s lost.  After spending so much time as a loner and even more time denying herself the happiness that Rick said she deserved, Michonne didn’t accept how good she had it until she saw Ezekiel dead before her eyes.  One of the few times she would have been willing to drop her defenses and pursue a relationship, and now, she will never have that chance with Ezekiel.  She had a great life, all things considered, but she didn’t truly appreciate what she had.

The Walking Dead #145- Michonne accuses Lydia of knowing about the murders

And with that bond gone, it makes sense that Michonne would lash out at Lydia.  But I’ve gotta give credit where it’s due: Lydia handled that situation well.  We know how much of a cold killer Michonne is, and Lydia knows next to nothing about what Michonne is capable of, but she’s ready to defend herself and kill Michonne nonetheless.  Even though Lydia has pulled this innocent routine so far, it’s nice to see that she isn’t helpless.  And it’s interesting to learn from Lydia that even this level of brutality is far from what she expected of The Whisperers.

The Walking Dead #145- Rick and Andrea debate how to counter the 12 murders

Again, this could potentially ruin the peace and stability Rick has fought hard to maintain.  The three communities may not see eye to eye on everything, but they’re a lot better now than before the time skip.  These 12 murders will lead to people wanting to retaliate.  Rick is trying to be diplomatic about this because he doesn’t want to start another war and he knows that Alpha has a massive swarm of roamers waiting for him.

But I like how Michonne calls out Rick’s double standard, and Rick even agrees: if it had been Carl or Andrea’s heads on one of those spikes, he’d be more willing to take a stand, and he knows that.  But he has to consider what he stands to lose, particularly his position of leadership and respect he’s earned from the people.  People like Michonne and Andrea just want to act on instinct- not because it’s right, but because it will make them feel good for what The Whisperers did.  That temporary bliss would lead to more suffering when, not if, The Whisperers retaliate.

The Walking Dead #145- Maggie checks on Eugene

And just like how Maggie hasn’t told Rick about what happened to Gregory, this revelation is sure to cause a split in their friendship.  But then, no one knew just what The Whisperers were capable of- Lydia even points out that they’d never encountered a group of Rick’s size before.

The Walking Dead #145- Rick addresses the people to delivre bad news

So now Rick is about to deliver some of the most devastating news he’s ever had to tell a group of people who will no doubt be thirsty for blood.  Everything: community stability, the peace, and cooperation are now in jeopardy of collapsing in wake of The Whisperers’ crime.

How will this affect things?  We’ll find out next time.  “Blood for Blood” did not need to be fast paced or have any action.  After the discovery at the end of #144, this issue needed to just give us character reactions and let them take in the full weight of their current circumstances.

The Walking Dead #145- Rick has terrible news

The twelve murders have already put people at odds, with Michonne and Andrea wanting revenge, Rick trying to maintain some calm, and a group of townspeople unaware of what has happened to twelve of their loved ones.  Sure, Negan and the Saviors were a force to be reckoned with, but the surrounding communities managed to band together to overtake them.  Here, all of said communities have been affected and Rick’s leadership, like Maggie, is sure to be called into question.

Looking forward to September when we return.  If the previews are any indication, it looks like Rick and Maggie will come to blows.  That’ll be fun.

A Look at “Masters of Sex” Season 3, Episode 5: “Matters of Gravity”

Time to meet the parents.  That and see what it’s like when a grown man goes toe-to-toe with a kid bully.  “Matters of Gravity” is a very good episode that moves at a good pace and puts Bill and Virginia back at the university where they first started their journey.  And on that, remember how we got those sort of awkward, but sort of funny sexual demonstrations in the first season?  Time to return to those.

Matters of Gravity- Bill and Virginia in bed

The episode begins with Bill and Virginia taking a moment to enjoy the peace and quiet.  The baby isn’t crying, the phone isn’t ringing, no neighbors are coming by to borrow things- it’s a great time to be alive right now.  Let’s throw a wrench into this tranquility.

Matters of Gravity- Virginia's parents, Edna Eshelman, played by Frances Fisher, and Harry Eshelman, played by Michael O’Keefe

Upon hearing a very familiar laugh, Virginia heads downstairs.  She has received a surprise visit in the form of her parents: Edna Eshelman, played by Frances Fisher, and Harry Eshelman, played by Michael O’Keefe.  Tessa said that Tuesdays are best, after all, since that’s when she’s with George and Mom is just alone with the baby.

Matters of Gravity- Harry, Virginia, and Tessa hear a noise

At Tessa’s insistence, Virginia makes some tea for her parents.  Their talk is cut short when they hear a noise outside- as Bill opted to take the window in order to leave.  Harry wants to check it out, as does Tessa, but Virginia says that can be taken care of in the morning.

Matters of Gravity- Jo wants to go with Margaret and Graham to their appointment

Because Jo has been having nightmares due to some book she read by Truman Capote, she’s currently in the bed on Margaret’s night.  Margaret and Graham have an upcoming appointment.  Jo wants to come with them, but Margaret is against that.  They shouldn’t do counseling together because they aren’t in bed at the same time, but Jo is quick to point out that they’re currently in bed together.  She’s not wrong, but shut up.

Truth be told, Margaret isn’t ready to tell Bill about her three-way.  The world isn’t ready for that, but Graham reminds her that Bill and Virginia are experts on this sort of stuff.  In his mind, Bill and Virginia would have to know that monogamy is an exception, not the rule.

Matters of Gravity- Edna and Virginia talk about Virginia's work

Over at House Johnson, Edna fills her daughter in on how things have been in her area.  A boy named Lance, who has trouble with his throwing arm, just finished high school.  And a woman named Marjorie wants Edna to introduce Lance to Tessa, but good luck with that.  Edna doesn’t find Tessa’s living situation good for a growing teenager since she’s constantly bouncing from one household to the other.  What if she had some secrets?

Like not knowing about an unexpected visit?  Virginia isn’t a fan of being left out of the loop when it comes to Tessa, and this trend has been going on since Tessa was young, as Edna spoiled her.  That’s what grandmothers are supposed to do.  But Edna fights back.  All Virginia has done is get married in name only while going off to do sex work.  Virginia counters that she’s co-authored a work on human sexuality and getting along well enough to support herself.  So how about now?  Edna switches the subject to marmalade.  Don’t you hate when people just change the topic like that?

Matters of Gravity- Betty helps Bill's aching back

Bill arrives at the office, still regretting his decision to jump out of a window.  It also doesn’t help that he’s received a number of notes from Ronald Sturgis and his pals.  But Betty, recalling an experience with Helen, pulls Bill across her back and straightens him out just as Chancellor Fitzhugh enters.

Matters of Gravity- Bill and Chancellor Fitzhugh talk

The two talk.  It’s been ten years since there was bad blood between them and Fitzhugh thinks that it’s time to bury the hatchet.  Interesting, considering that Fitzhugh insulted and demeaned Bill just two weeks ago.  Bill wonders if there’s any sort of ulterior motive, and there is.  Fitzhugh’s son, Ronnie, is an architect and just married a lovely girl named Leelah.  They haven’t had much luck producing a baby.

And then Fitzhugh received a letter from the draft board.  He’s concerned because unlike his other two, older sons, Ronnie wouldn’t last.  What he needs is a deferral.  A pregnant wife would lead to a III-A.  Bill isn’t about to welcome Fitzhugh with open arms after being thrown out 15 years ago, and Fitzhugh can’t take that back, but he just wants to make things right.

Matters of Gravity- Barton stops by Graham's

Graham receives a surprise visit from Barton, who wants to talk about Graham’s mentor: Rich Huffman, who spoke highly of Graham’s knowledge of bacteria.  To be specific, Graham focuses on cholera when teaching at St. John’s.

Matters of Gravity- Barton meets Jo

Oh, hi there, Jo.

Matters of Gravity- Barton disagrees with Margaret's life decisions with Jo and Graham

Margaret enters just as Graham goes to look for her earrings.  Barton, who had been thinking about Margaret’s words, is too focused on the kiss Jo and Graham shared.  Yes, Margaret confirms, Jo and Graham are in a romantic relationship.  And this isn’t new.  See, Jo works at a travel agency and booked a lot of Graham’s trips abroad.  It was love at first dial, Margaret says.  Eventually, the two met in person and then moved in together six months ago.

It was a joint decision.  Barton calls it a commune, like those crazy people in Berkeley.  Barton came here to tell Margaret that she could be honest with Graham about their marriage, but now he sees that Margaret can’t even be honest with herself.  Margaret disagrees- she’s living in the truth, which is much more than Barton can say.

Matters of Gravity- Virginia talks to Bill about her parents

Back at the office, while Bill searches for dolls, Virginia isn’t sure how her parents will be staying.  Edna, Virginia says, is quite good at inserting herself into other people’s business.  Bill shares that he’s received an invitation to speak at a faculty consortium tomorrow night at Washington University, as the keynote speaker dropped out and Fitzhugh was desperate for a replacement.  Virginia isn’t keen on returning to a place where dildos were placed on her desk, but Bill intends to return so he can tell the folks at Washington University that the battle is over and they have lost.

Matters of Gravity- Bill and Virginia meet with Graham and Margaret to discuss different ways to have sex

We then see Bill and Virginia explaining, with aforementioned dolls, the ins and outs of a different way to have sex.  Just the tip to start.  Graham, they say, needs to do as little as possible and just let Margaret insert him into her.  Graham is used to taking charge and Margaret acknowledges that when she’s in control, it doesn’t go well.  If they want to cure their issue, they need to be open to different sexual dynamics, though Graham isn’t sure how to keep an erection if he’s not active.

Graham’s problem, Bill says, is that he’s anticipating finishing before he starts.  He needs to focus on what it feels like to be inside of Margaret.  I think a lot of men would love to imagine what it feels like to be inside of Allison Janney, but I digress.  If Graham feels like he’s going to ejaculate, he needs to withdraw and Margaret should apply the squeeze technique.

Matters of Gravity- Bible thumpers

This riveting sex session is interrupted by some Bible-thumpers.  Bill has Betty call the police.

So Bill arrives at home early and finds a miffed Libby waiting for him.  She’s been calling the office nonstop because of some bad news: Johnny got into a fight at school, presumably with a bully.

Matters of Gravity- Bill stitches Johnny back together

Bill stitches Johnny together in the bathroom and learns what happened: Johnny started the whole thing during a football game at recess.  Some kid tried to take the ball and Johnny made him stop.  But don’t worry.  The other kid looks worse.  Bill advises his son to not get into fights.  Focus on your studies instead.

Matters of Gravity- Dan Logan has Lester and Betty smell a perfume to capture their reactions

Dan Logan tests out a scent on Lester and Betty.  It reminds Betty of her grandma, as she used to keep licorice in her purse and would bribe her with it if she acted up.  Betty’s heart rate, though, doesn’t increase.  For Lester, the scent reminds him of a woman named Wanda Petrowski, who would list the reasons why she wouldn’t kiss him.  Lester asks if failure is an emotion, since that’s his emotional response, which may be one of my favorite lines of the episode.

Matters of Gravity- Dan needs unspoken explanations

This isn’t going the way Dan hoped.  He’s looking for more unspoken explanations, which he thinks are better than what people feel.  For example, he tells Virginia about a girl he knew that liked gin and orchids.  Dan, as fate would have it, hated both of those things.  Even still, whenever he traveled to Pittsburgh, he would call her anyway and she would respond.  Why?  Dan wants to explore that theory right now, while Betty and Lester want out.  Can’t say I blame them.

Matters of Gravity- Tessa packs a bow-tie into the laundry

At House Johnson, Tessa prepares a batch of clothes- including a bow tie- that she passes onto Edna.  Consider: for this plan to work, Tessa had to buy a bow-tie.

Matters of Gravity- Harry and Virginia talk about how hard Edna pushed Virginia to be in a pageant

In fact, Edna is so busy with laundry that night that she’s unable to join Virginia and Harry for dessert.  Harry tells Virginia that her mother just worries about her.  Virginia disagrees, saying that her mother wants her to shine, which is why she put her in beauty pageants.  But Harry reminds Virginia that she wanted to go and begged her mother to take her.  Mom just didn’t want Virginia to be disappointed.

Matters of Gravity- Edna finds a bow-tie

Elsewhere in the house, Edna finds a bow-tie.  The plot, or the bow-tie, I should say, does she thicken.

Matters of Gravity- Margaret and Graham read about sex while having sex

Margaret and Graham go through the instructions on how to have sex a different way while having sex.  I’m sorry, I just can’t get enough of Allison Janney’s body.  Graham wants to move, but Margaret reminds him stay still.  Think of it like your body adjusting to the temperature of a warm bath.  I suppose that’s one way to look at it.  Margaret also doesn’t want Graham to close his eyes.  They begin to moan in synch.  In true television fashion, I expected Jo to burst in and ruin this moment.

Matters of Gravity- Jo overhears sex in the hallway

But no.  She’s just listening in the hallway.  I’ve gotta say, this may be the first show where I’ve seen people read about how to have sex while still having sex.

Matters of Gravity- Libby shows Bill an apology note that Dennis Daughtry wrote to Johnny

As Bill prepares for his speech, Libby gives him the details of a note she found in Johnny’s backpack: it’s an apology note from Dennis Daughtry.  Johnny, it turns out, made up the part about starting the fight.  Dennis has been picking on Johnny for some time.  He and four others even beat Johnny on the football field until Johnny admitted that he was a sissy.  The teacher who broke up the fight made Dennis apologize.  Bill promises to handle this himself.

Matters of Gravity- Bill confronts Dennis, played by Blake Morgan Ferris

He does.  We then cut to him confronting Dennis, played by Blake Morgan Ferris.  You see, Bill is a doctor, and he knows things.  Guessing that Dennis is about 13, he assumes that the boy has been held back a number of times.  Why?  Because he’s stupid and likes to lash out at smarter boys.  But when a doctor threatens you, no one can protect you.  Not even Dennis’ dad with his plumbing business.  Dennis is alone and needs to take care of his hands if he’s going to be handling people’s shit in his future.

Matters of Gravity- Dennis needs to change his pants

That and he needs to change his pants.

Matters of Gravity- Jo, Margaret, and Graham argue

Confrontation time.  Jo wants to know about Graham and Margaret’s lessons, but Margaret insists that the two need time alone together before passing on what they know.  Jo heard it all, yes, but she was jealous and scared.  She thinks that Margaret wants Graham cured so he can love her more.  And Margaret affirms this.

After all, Margaret knows what it’s like, listening on the other side of a door and wondering about the future of your marriage.  She endured that for 30 years and her life imploded.  She’s been scraping her life together since then and didn’t have any problems with Graham until Jo came onto the scene.  And Margaret didn’t agree on this arrangement.  Jo is young and pretty, Margaret says.  Why is she there?

Graham feels for her and he won’t lie about how he feels.  He’s just going act on his feelings.

Matters of Gravity- Bill meets Harry and Edna

Harry and Edna arrive at the office and meet Bill for the first time.  Edna, paying particular attention to Bill’s tie, asks about his wife and kids.  Bill says that they’re well and then extends an invitation to the parents to the Washington University consortium.

While Betty shows the parents around, Bill shows Virginia the guest list, which is actually the petition with the names of people who wanted Bill fired.  Pretty weird looking guest list.

Matters of Gravity- Bill tells Libby that bullies have to see that there are consequences for their actions

At House Masters, Bill is again preparing for his presentation.  He’s interrupted by a furious Libby, who received a call from Dennis Daughtry’s mother.  Whoops.  Bill says it was just a simple conversation, but Libby is smarter than that.  Okay, fine.  Bill tells her that someone needed to teach the kid a lesson.  What kind of lesson, Libby asks.  The lesson that you can’t let a bully get away with something.  There are consequences for bullies, whether they’re 13 year old boys or university chancellors.

All of Bill’s data was taken from him at Washington University.  He only regrets giving them the satisfaction.  Libby turns the conversation back to their son, but Bill will talk about this…tomorrow.

Matters of Gravity- Bill addresses the audience at Washington University

We then cut to Washington University, where Bill takes the stage after an introduction by Fitzhugh.  After going over the architecture of the St. Louis arch, he speaks of it as a monument to those pioneers who went west to make the unknown known.  Now, Bill and Virginia are those pioneers as they explore the fabric of human sexuality.

Matters of Gravity- Barton learns that Margaret left Graham and now has to start over

Margaret arrives at the office, hoping to find Bill, but meets Barton instead.  Barton is glad that she made a fresh start, but Margaret doesn’t even know if that’s possible.  Now that she’s not with Graham, she realizes that she was the problem all along.  And Graham was so different from Barton in that he had nothing to hide.  Margaret was ready to fix what was broken, only to learn that it was her all along.

With no possessions to her name or home, Margaret now feels more alone than ever and hasn’t changed.  But Barton disagrees- she changed in that she left Margaret instead of waiting around, like she did with Barton.  And Barton knows that Margaret deserves better, or she wouldn’t have tried again.

Matters of Gravity- Barton calls Vivian to tell her the truth

Barton promises to help her, and this starts with the two making a phone call to Vivian to let her know why her parents’ marriage really ended.  Oh?  A tease to Rose McIver’s possible return?

Back at Washington University, Bill ends his address on an optimistic note by hoping that future generations look back now and wonder what all the fuss was about.  There’s time for questions.

Matters of Gravity- Leslie Farber, played by Peter Mackenzie, asks Bill where the love is

One comes from Leslie Farber, played by Peter Mackenzie, who says that we can’t know how the future will receive this book.  He’s concerned about the hidden risks of this work.  Science has taken relationships and reduced them to statistics, graphs, and an overall mechanical process without any reference to the human psyche.  Nowhere is the term ‘love’ mentioned in the book.

Matters of Gravity- Bill references Newton and discusses the similarities between gravity and love

Bill begins by referring to Newton’s first discovery of gravity.  This theory left a problem for scientists of the day: where was the gravity?  After all, you couldn’t touch, see, or feel it.  Some 230 years later, a German patent clerk named in Switzerland saw that scientists asked the wrong questions.  You can never find an object called gravity.  This clerk, named Albert Einstein, found that an apple falls due to it following the lines and grooves that gravity forms in space.

With sex, there’s no mention of love since it can’t be rendered into columns and graphs.  It’s not exerted by one body on top of another, but the fabric of those bodies, their curves, grooves, and the curvature of desire.  The audience applauds.

Matters of Gravity- Edna tells Virginia that she just needs to get Bill to leave his wife and marry her

Afterward, while Harry goes to bring around the car, Edna admits that she underestimated Virginia.  She thought that her daughter made a mess of her life, but she’s proud that Virginia has done well for herself.  Now she just needs to get Bill to leave his wife and marry her.  Strike while the iron is hit and don’t give him a chance to get tired of her.

Matters of Gravity- Dan talks with Virginia after Bill's speech

Dan Logan arrives- he snuck in- and notes to Virginia that Bill really knows how to work a crowd.  He notices that Virginia looks upset, but he’s not given much time to find out what’s wrong before Virginia asks if he wants to take her out to dinner.  She asked him if he wants to take her out to dinner.

Matters of Gravity- Libby finds that Bill isn't happy after his speech

On the car ride back, Libby notes how quite Bill is.  After all, he receives validation from the very people that scorned him.  He should be happy.  But no.  If Bill didn’t respect their opinion before, he certainly doesn’t right now.  So what was the point of scaring the hell out of a kid?  Bill doesn’t know.  As he listened to the applause, he thought of the one time he purchased his father aftershave for his birthday.

As Bill counted the change, the woman asked if he needed a bandage for his split lip: a gift from his father that morning.  Making his father happy would be great, but like walking the horizon, Bill knew he would never get there.

Matters of Gravity- Bill checks on Johnny, who is reading The Red Badge of Courage

At home, Libby checks on the girls while Bill talks with Johnny, who is sitting on the couch and reading The Red Badge of Courage.  It’s a book that Bill remembers from his youth, but he also remembers going to the attic to read it so his father wouldn’t know where he was.  Why?  He didn’t want to get chores.  Bill talks about a part in the book where Henry faces a charge and fires his gun, but Johnny leaves to read the book in his room.  Bill is left on the couch alone as the episode comes to a close.

There’s a lot going on in “Matters of Gravity.”  It’s a strong episode in its own right, but I also appreciate the callbacks to previous episodes.  It built upon the issues with the Johnsons, Masters, and Scully families and had the advantage of having Tessa do as little as possible.  Plus, with Virginia’s parents having been mentioned a few times in previous episodes, we got the payoff of finally meeting them.

Matters of Gravity- Harry and Virginia talk beauty pageants

And though Harry seems like a pretty good father, Edna comes with certain expectations of her daughter and takes control when she deems it necessary.  She spoils Tessa and knows that Virginia’s marriage to George in name only means nothing.

Matters of Gravity- Edna talks with Virginia about Tessa

Like Virginia tells Bill, Edna has a certain habit of inserting herself into other people’s business, which is a constant of this show and episode in particular.  When it seems like Virginia has finally won her mother’s validation for her hard work, it’s only because she’s wise to Virginia’s philandering with Bill.  And yet, rather than be disapproved, she approves because of Bill’s well-known reputation and realizes how much the two care for one another.

Matters of Gravity- Edna tells Virginia to strike while the iron is hot

For Edna, this is an opportunity that Virginia can’t afford to lose, so instead of telling her daughter to go with what the heart wants, she says to get the man to leave his wife and be with her.  While Virginia might not have expected her mother to admit that she underestimated her, she certainly didn’t expect to be encouraged to get a married man to walk away from his marriage.

Matters of Gravity- Harry and Virginia

And really, a lot of this episode dealt with living up to and expecting certain expectations, both of ourselves and what others make of us.  We set high expectations on ourselves because we want to have something to shoot for if the sky is the limit, but if we’re constantly letting ourselves and others down, we’ll never truly be happy.  I’d add that if we spend so much time doing things based on what others thought, we won’t be happy because we’re living according to someone else’s rules- not our own.

Plus, it’s hard to satisfy everyone all the time. And we can’t satisfy anyone, we feel like losers because it’s like we’ve let down ourselves and the others around us.  It’s hard to account for how others will react or how situations will play out, so we act on a whim.

Matters of Gravity- Bill compares himself and Virginia to the pioneers

This came across in Bill’s speech about the pioneers who went west into unchartered territory.  They didn’t know what awaited them during their travels, and the same applies to people like Bill and Virginia, the Scullys, and even folks like Jo and Graham.  When you don’t know what lies ahead, you can proceed with caution, sure, or you can go in head first and take a risk, damn the consequences, in your never-ending search to make the unknown known.

Matters of Gravity- Dan Logan wants a different explanation

Both Bill and Dan are looking to find what can’t be quantified or just explained through science- it has to come through a feeling.  Dan isn’t interested in what Lester or Betty think they feel, so much as something unspoken.  That’s hard to do because, like the scientists of Newton’s time, people want to be able to see what’s been discovered.  If you can’t touch or see it, how do you know that it exists?  Like Bill said, you can’t find things like gravity or love, but you’ll realize when you yourself have come across it.  And when you do, it’s a satisfying feeling.

Matters of Gravity- Margaret and Graham have sex

That’s the opposite of what’s going on with Margaret and Graham.  She had that satisfying feeling when she and Graham joined as one, but at the end of the day, Graham didn’t have the passion for her that he had for Jo.  It’s like when Virginia told George that sometimes the body takes over during sex and you can have intercourse without any sort of feeling or emotional attachment.

Matters of Gravity- Graham sides with Jo

Sure, Graham managed to let Margaret take over, but when it’s all said and done, he sided with Jo and wouldn’t deny his true feelings.

Matters of Gravity- Barton knows that Margaret deserves to be happy

Again, it’s unfortunate because, as Barton tells her, Margaret deserves to be happy.  It’s unfortunate to watch her beat herself up because for over 30 years she’s been denied true happiness and is now struggling to make a fresh start.  With two failed relationships, what other option is there but blaming herself?  She tried someone radically different from Barton, but only had temporary satisfaction.  She wanted to prove that she could move on and be a better person, but now has to start over again.  If failure was an emotion, as Lester asked, it would perfectly represent Margaret.

Matters of Gravity- Margaret has no home to go to right now

As much as Libby is a tragic character, Margaret is right up there with her with what she’s had to endure.  At the very least, it looks like she and Barton have been able to reconcile for the sake of their futures.  And it’s a big step forward that Barton is deciding to be honest with who he is, starting with his daughter.  Whether this brings Vivian back into the fold somehow remains to be seen.

Matters of Gravity- Matters of sexual explanation

By the way, the scene of Bill and Virginia demonstrating coitus to Margaret and Graham using the dolls may have been one of the funniest moments of this season to me.  It hearkened back to the explanations at Washington University during the first season when the demonstrations could make you giggle, but you also learned at the same time.

Matters of Gravity- Bill knows that the battle is over and Washington University has lost

Bill has come a long way since his days at Washington University.  He was ridiculed and demeaned for his work, but now Fitzhugh has managed to worm his way into Bill’s new life because he needs help.  Of course, neither of them expected this to be easy, and how would they?  Bill lost his research and credibility, so he won’t just walk back into that institution.

However, Bill has had much success since then and his reputation is well-known for the right reasons.  And while he has an opportunity to gloat, he doesn’t take it because, in the end, it’s not satisfying.  He’s learned this lesson from trying to please his father, knowing that he would never do it.

Matters of Gravity- Bill realized that he could never please his father

Even though he has validation from the peers that once scorned him, Bill believes that they’ll never truly be on his side.  Even though Bill is an outright dick, I do like these moments where he becomes contemplative, and Sheen is great at balancing that against Bill’s more outrageous moments.

Matters of Gravity- Bill threatens Dennis, tells him that he's alone

Like when he scared the shit out of a little kid.  Like in the premiere, Bill became his father, again building off of the man he spoke of in “Fight.”  Sure, Bill avoided being direct and confronting the people at Washington University, but he didn’t need to try and outmuscle them.  He let his work speak for itself.

But with Dennis, Bill decided to teach him a lesson: there are consequences for being a bully.  Bill’s issue is that he became the bully just by threatening the kid.   I think this cut more to Dennis’ core because instead of beating him up, Bill got into his head and made him feel worthless.  And not until the torment ended did Bill realize what he’d done.  While this was a powerful moment for him, it’s a step backwards because he didn’t learn from how he lashed out at Johnny.

Matters of Gravity- Fitzhugh asks Bill if he would do anything for his son

Part of me thinks that Bill did this not just to prove a point about bullies, but also in response to what Fitzhugh asked him: would he do anything for his son?  I think Bill does care for Johnny, as seen when he stitches him up and tries to talk about the book he’s reading.  He doesn’t want his son to grow up as a coward and just take punches.  I do wonder why Bill decided to take this route, though.  We’ve seen him teach Virginia how to box, so I think it would have been a good moment for him and Johnny to bond if Bill had just taught him how to be a better fighter.  And yes, I am saying that violence does solve the problem sometimes.

Matters of Gravity- Libby demands to know why Bill threatened Dennis Daughtry

I also wish that Libby could be given a more active role with Johnny here.  As is, Libby, just like Margaret or Jo, is an outlier.  She’d like to have more of an impact, and I’m glad that she railed against Bill for his extreme actions.  If Libby knows that she’s being replaced by Virginia, at least she’s still useful for calling Bill out on his shit.

Matters of Gravity- Virginia learns that she put pressure on herself

Virginia has been an ambitious person for as long as we’ve known her, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume she might have picked up some of that spirit from her parents.  But then we learn here that Virginia’s high expectations and standards have always been what she projects on herself- less so what others expect of her.

Matters of Gravity- Virginia tells her mother that she's doing fine for herself

She’s in a prominent position, but still feels that her mother treats her like a child.  Instead of having a fresh start, she’s being left out of conversations between Edna and Tessa.  And unlike Bill, she had no intention of looking back at Washington University to gloat about her success because of how she had been treated.  But Virginia had a legitimate question, though: what kind of parent puts an eight-year-old in a beauty pageant?

Toddlers

Wait…

So now another person is onto her and she finds herself in an awkward position.  She has feelings for Bill, is married to George in name only, and now Dan Logan is making advances on her- all men who desire Virginia because of how intriguing she is.  Well, if the situation with Margaret is any indication, this won’t end well.

“Masters of Gravity” was a great episode, all things considered.  It continued the conflicting storylines with Margaret and Barton, put Bill in a tense situation as he became the very man he hated, and put Virginia on alert as her mother is now aware to her fooling around with a married man.  Bill returned to his stomping grounds in order to make his case and received the recognition he and Virginia were denied two seasons back.  The fight is over, Bill says, and he’s won.  But for how long?

A Look at “True Detective” Season 2 Finale: “Omega Station”

And so here we are, Season Two finale of True Detective.  We get the world that we deserve, but we damn sure can fight to change it.  That can be a challenge if darkness reigns.  There was a lot to overcome in this finale and a lot at stake.  Will everyone get out alive?  Let’s jump right into it.  This is “Omega Station.”

Omega Station- Ani and Ray talk about their pasts

The episode begins back at the motel where Ani and Ray lay awake in bed.  Ani, taking puffs of a cigarette, talks of trees and a little place in the rock- a cave is how she remembers it, just like a fairy tale.  Four days.  Ani thinks that maybe she was given something, but she just remembers a black, empty space.  She later got in the car, but this man didn’t force or even get near her.  He just cut her pretty.  Not the best feeling.  Each time she remembers that prideful feeling, she feels sick to her stomach.  She felt proud that this guy thought she was pretty.  Ray, though, says that none of this was Ani’s fault.

As Ani relays this to Ray, we get snippets of them watching each other that night.

Ray then talks about walking up behind the guy who he’d been picturing for months.  He couldn’t sleep.  Ray didn’t say a word.  He just raised his hand and killed the man as he was turning.  And yet, this didn’t make things better, but worse.  People, Ani says, will want to blame him, but she doesn’t.  Despite his intentions, Ray then tells Ani that he killed the wrong man, while the real one was captured not too long ago.  Now, Ray doesn’t even know if who the guy was really matters anymore.

Ani can tell that Ray hasn’t been like this way in years.  He seems like he’s making up for lost time, she says.  I suppose sex is the best outlet for letting your emotions fly, you know?

Omega Station- Jordan and Frank's final moment together in the train station

At the train station, Jordan and Frank talk about their future and ten more years.  Frank still plans for Jordan to go with Nails and he’ll follow in two weeks, but fuck that, Jordan refuses to go.  She always has a choice and puts her foot down on staying.  Frank tells her that things between them won’t work, but Jordan is too smart for that.  Even still, Frank insists that this isn’t an act.  He tosses his ring to make an example, but then Jordan does the same.  And hers had a big diamond, too!

Now it’s Jordan’s time to talk.  Whatever happens to Frank, happens to her as well.  There’s them and everything else is in the gray.  She came into this with her eyes closed.  Jordan will leave if Frank goes with her to hold onto what’s theirs, but Frank won’t run because he knows that others will keep coming for him.  He needs to finish this with his final play.  Frank refuses to put Jordan’s life in danger.  If something happens to her, he couldn’t live with that.  He can’t do the things that he does unless he knows that she’s safe.

But would that make the last six years nothing?  No.  Frank promises to see Jordan in at least two weeks or less.  There’s a park where Frank wants Jordan to wear a white dress.  In exchange, Frank will wear a white suit and a jacket.  He’ll come out of the crowd, higher than everybody else.  The two kiss.

Frank pays Nails, who doesn’t feel that he needs it.  He owes so much to Frank already, though he promises that nothing will happen to Jordan.  Goodbyes are said as Jordan and Nails head off.

Let’s see how this plays out.

Omega Station- Burris tells Ray about Paul's death

Elsewhere, Lieutenant Burris is at the crime scene and receives a call on Paul’s phone- it’is Ray, who soon learns of Paul’s death.  Ray tells Burris that he knows all about the news dating back to 1992, so Burris arranges to meet in person so they can make this go away.  Burris doesn’t see a major issue.  After all, he was queer.  When the call ends, Ray informs Ani about Paul’s death, which is a major blow to his family.

Ray concludes that this was Burris.  Ray’s already being implicated for Davis’ death and blame for this may fall on him as well.  Ani is distraught.  Paul, she says, was better than both of them and saved their asses not two, but three times.  He deserved better.  So where to go now?  Erica is in the wind.  Ray turns his attention to the two orphaned kids.  One of them works at the film set.  If there’s a chance to get them, Ani wants to take it, despite how dangerous this can be.

Omega Station- Frank finds Austin Chessani dead in his pool

Frank finds to the Chessani household to find Austin himself floating dead in his pool.  Inside, the mansion appears deserted.  He finds plan for a rail system, but then he hears the voice Veronica, who tells him about Tony and a Russian man.  She was introduced to Austin through Tony, but she was Tony’s friend first.

Omega Station- Frank shows Austin's body to Veronica

Frank shows Austin’s body to Veronica.  He wants to know where Betty is.  Veronica can’t believe that Tony would do this.  Chances are that she’ll be taking the fall.  And Tony is the one with access to the money.

Omega Station- Ani and Ray investigate, find evidence

Ani and Ray enter a home and find a familiar looking bird mask.  Deeper inside?  Computers, rifles, nonlethal shells, photos of Burris and Holloway- pretty much the jackpot.

Omega Station- Ray and Ani speak with Laura-Erica

Oh, and a young woman.  Actually, this is Laura, or Erica, whom we met on the film set a few episodes back.  She and her brother were split up after the ’92 shooting.  She ran away at the age of 16 from her foster family.  She met Caspere through Tasha, who introduced her to Tony.  She learned about the diamonds and the family knew.  Tony used to visit her mother.  She changed her name and dyed her hair red.  She eventually found her brother years back and he’d been through a lot.  She got him a job on the movie set.

And Caspere?  She went to his other place, put a pill in his drink, and then she was spotted.  Leonard, her brother, was going to use the asset to get Ben to talk and learn who killed their parents, but he got too angry and put him out on the road.  Maybe he thought it was funny, even though Caspere confessed everything about the rail corridor.  Thus, Leonard drove him around to all of those places.  Erica was driven around because she was going to talk.

There’s an exchange coming with Lieutenant Holloway.  The hard drive, though, erased itself.  Leonard is probably going to kill Holloway.  They’ll be meeting at a public place- the train station.  Ray heads off and tasks Ani with watching Laura.

Frank speaks with Osip, who is very upset for what happened.  Frank tells him that he’s long out of the state, but they’ll soon meet to finish their business.  But then he gets another call: Ray.

Omega Station- Ani gives Erica a bus ticket out of the area

Ani gives Laura a bus ticket to Seattle.  She needs to leave and forget this so it can blow over, but she’s convinced that it never will.  Ani is giving her a chance to have a life because whatever debt there was, she’s not the one who needs to be punished.  Lay her brother to rest since it sounds like she lost him years ago.  As for what she’s supposed to do, Ani doesn’t have an answer.  For one, I’d suggest taking a bus line that isn’t Greyhound, but that’s another subject.

Omega Station- Felicia helps Frank into a hidden section of the bar

Back to Frank, who arrives at a hidden location in the bar, with guns in tow.  He’s signing the bar over to Felicia when this is all done.  For Ray, it’s a frame-up, and Frank needs transportation for Ray and Ani to Mexico.

Omega Station- Ray encounters Leonard at the train station

We then cut to Ray, who arrives at the train station and keeps an eye open for his intended target.  He notices on the news that there’s a manhunt for him.  He comes upon one man he believes blasted him while wearing a bird mask- this is Leonard.  Ray knows why he’s there and what happened to his father and sister.  Ray wants revenge too, but suicide won’t help.  Leonard, though, says that he’s the blade and bullet.  I wonder if he’s also the stone that the builder refused.

Omega Station- Ray and Chief Holloway talk about Caspere

In casual wear, Chief Holloway arrives at the station, where Burris also watches him from a distance.  Ray, holding a bag, catches Holloway’s attention and the two have a seat on a bench. Inside the bag, Ray says, is the hard drive.  One of the hostage kids killed Caspere, but he’s in a Vinci landfill now.  If something happens to Ray now, Holloway will lose the agency.

Holloway reveals the diamonds.  Ray wants his name cleared in exchange for the hard drive and land documents.  As for Bezzerides, Ray says that Ani and Paul think he killed Davis.  Caspere made a deal with Chessani.  How’d the shootout happen?  Dixon may have gotten a tip about the raid.  Now Holloway has a piece of that central corridor.

Chessani is dead, but not the Chessani that Holloway worked for.  He says to put this on Bezzerides.  Geldof is already on board.  And Ray can’t walk away right now, with Burris watching.  The woman was pregnant and knew things.  Ben didn’t even want the kids, especially the girl, who, it turns out, was Ben’s illegitimate daughter.

Omega Station- Leonard slashes at Holloway

Leonard snaps and springs to life, slashing at Holloway.  This brings Burris into the action as he fires away.  As Ray tries to lend a hand, he loses his gun and the recorder is crushed.  Now that’s just insult to injury.  The struggle between Holloway and Leonard continues as Holloway manages to shoot Leonard before the two are both killed by other officers.  Ray catches up with Ani, hidden in the crowd, and the two make their escape.

Omega Station- Frank and Ani meet for the first time

At the safe location, Frank has new bunk mates in the form of Ani and Ray.  Frank can tell that Ani is a call not because of her tits, but dignity.  Relationships are important, Frank says, even though he thinks that Ani disagrees.  Take the Venezuela deal and get out.  There’ll be a lady there in two weeks in a park.  Her name is Jordan.  If she’s there and Frank isn’t, he wants Ani to give her a message: tell her that he wanted to be there.  The story they told is still true.  He hands her a photo.

Omega Station- Frank and Ray talk about their plan

Ray, now a bit patched up, enters to see Frank’s massive arsenal.  The two talk alone.  Frank knows that Ray doesn’t have access to finds to make an escape.  If he wants to leave, he’ll need money.  Frank gives up the name of the man who set up Ray: Blake, who did not go nicely.  When asked if Paul was his friend, Ray admits that he didn’t know him very well.  This can be justice or vengeance, but Ray knows that these kind of corrupt men usually escape.  With Frank, though, they won’t.

Omega Station- Felicia tells Ani how Ray and Frank helped her

Ani and Felicia go over plans to get to Venezuela.  Much easier to get people in than out.  The man that hurt her years ago was taken care of by Ray, and then Frank then gave her the money for the bar.  As for Ray, Ani admits that the two saved each other’s lives.

Omega Station- Ray and Ani smoke and hold hands

Later, Ani and Ray talk over a shared cigarette and joined hands.  Tony, Betty, Pitlor- Ani wants their confessions on the record, but Ray has heard enough confessions.  Neither Ani nor Ray have nothing to run on and Ray owes these filth.

One highway shot and evening later, it’s time to get to work.  Frank and Ray investigate one home.

Omega Station- Ani finds Dr. Irving Pitlor's body

While Ani finds Dr. Irving Pitlor’s body, tied to a chair.

Omega Station- Frank kills Osip

Ray and Frank advance on the cabin and kill everyone and everything that moves to escape.  After throwing in a smoke grenade, the two enter and continue their killing spree.  Frank comes face to face with Osip.  Old times, Osip says.  He saved him.  Frank responds by shooting Osip until he’s out of bullets in his clip.  Ray and Frank begin bagging all of the money they soon find.

Omega Station- Frank and Ray shake hands before parting ways

Later that evening, the two head to a meeting point and vow to meet each other down south.  Ray, though, doesn’t leave.  He’s thinking about Chad.  Frank has made other arrangements besides the boat, but he still promises to see Ray down there.  After setting fire to the Range Rover, Frank and Ray leave.

Omega Station- Ray calls Ani

Ani informs Ray about Betty and Tony’s disappearance.  Frank is on his way with a hell of a retirement bonus.  Ani is all packed and the boat leaves at three.  Ray stammers on his next sentence, but needless to say he’s in a bit of a good mood right now.

Let’s see how long this lasts.

Omega Station- Frank prepares to put away the diamonds

Frank packs and delivers the diamonds to the Jewish men he previously met for the monetary value of the jewels.  He then pockets the jewels and puts them in his suit pocket.  He then meets with Armin and receives his passport in exchange for the money.  They wonder when they’ll hear about what Frank did to the Russians.  He promises another $500 when he’s where he needs to be.

Omega Station- Ray watches Chad from afar

Ray, though, unable to get his family off of his mind, makes a detour and watches Chad from afar.  Sitting on the table in front of Chad is the badge that his father gave him.  Chad looks over and spots his father.  The two give a silent salute to each other just before Ray leaves.

Omega Station- Ray sees a transponder under his vehicle

However, when Ray returns to his car, he notices fluid leaking underneath and a transponder planted on the vehicle that he can’t loosen.  He surveys his surroundings and lights up as he considers his next move.  Soon enough, against his best judgment, Ray heads off.

And not long after that, a black SUV begins to tail him.

Omega Station- Frank taken hostage

Frank, though, gets stuck in traffic and before he can grab his gun, he’s ambushed with guns all around him.  His captors give him no response when he asks why.

Ani dyes her hair black as she receives a call from Ray, who tells her to get on that boat.  He’ll catch up.  Ani, confused, just tells Ray to hurry, but Ray thought that he had time to see Chad again.  Ray can’t get rid of the transponder on his car and if there are eyes on him, it won’t matter what he does with the tracker.  He’d lead them to Ani.  He plans to ditch the car at a parking garage, but right now, he tells Ani to stick to the plan.  He then asks Ani to put Felicia on the phone.

On the phone, Ray tells Felicia that he won’t make it.  Calling in a favor, Ray wants Felicia to make sure that Ani gets on that boat, no matter what.

Omega Station- Frank is brought before Gonzalez

At a deserted…well, desert, Frank is brought before Gonzalez.  The two made a deal.  No club, no location.  Frank tells Gonzalez about the flat million in the suitcase.  So is business square?  Sure, but that doesn’t buy Frank a ride back to town.  One henchman wants Frank’s suit, which Frank isn’t ready to hand over, since the diamonds are in the suit pocket.

Omega Station- Frank gets stabbed

Instead, Frank punches the henchman, which earns him a knife in the back.  Badly bleeding, Frank is left in the middle of nowhere on his own.  He begins hobbling on foot.

Omega Station- Frank envisions his father berating him

As he does, he envisions his father and others berating him. Soon, Frank is bleeding to the point where crows are starting to follow his blood trail.

Omega Station- Ray leaves one final message for Chad

Ray leaves an apology message for the man he became and the father he was.  He hopes that Chad knows how much his father loves him.  If Ray had been stronger, he would have been more like his son.

Omega Station- Ray on the run from Burris

He drives faster and enters a forest, where he abandons his car, cash, and flees on foot with a rifle on hand.

He continues to flee as Burris’ squad gets closer.  Ray manages to kill one of the officers and soon picks off another and continues fleeing as bullets whiz over his head.

Eventually, Ray rests against a tree and looks to the sky.  When Burris asks where Bezzerides is, Ray says to himself that she’s in a better place.

Omega Station- Ray dies

He heads off to face the officers and is promptly shot to death.  I’m not sure what Ray expected to happen, and his recording didn’t even send.  Well, that’s just an extra kick in the teeth.

Omega Station- Ani sets sail

At the docks, meanwhile, Ani boards the ship for a new life.

Omega Station- Frank spots Jordan waiting for him

Finally, Frank spots Jordan, which makes me think that he’s already dead.  She tells him that he’s safe.   Hell, Frank even starts walking regularly.  Like he told her, he’d make it.  And he did.  This means that he can rest.  But no.  He stopped moving way back there.

Omega Station- Frank is already dead

Frank looks back and spots his body.  When Jordan disappears, Frank falls flat onto the earth.

Omega Station- Ray is the father

Later, Elliot learns about his son’s fate and Gena receives the paternity test results: Ray is most definitely Chad’s father.

Omega Station- Paul Woodrugh Memorial Highway

Paul Woodrugh also has a Memorial Highway named in his honor.

Omega Station- Tony Chessani becomes Mayor of Vinci

In the next year, through narration, Ani informs us that arrests came in later that year.  Tony Chessani was made Mayor of Vinci.  These people really do deserve a better world.

Omega Station- Ani presents her evidence

We then see her providing evidence to a journalist- all about larceny, murder, and cascading betrayals.  The man wants Ani to testify to bring this to the Times, but Ani won’t.  She wants the man to remain until she’s been gone for an hour.

Omega Station- Jordan, Ani, and the baby

She then heads to speak with Jordan, who was taking watch of Ani’s baby.  Ani gets ready to head off for her long trip ahead.

Omega Station- Nails, Jordan, and Ani head into the night

As the festivities around them continue, Jordan and Ani meet up with Nails and head into the night as Season Two of True Detective comes to a close.

As Ray said just two episodes in, we get the world that we deserve.  If it’s ridden with corruption, the forces of good should take it upon themselves to right the wrongs of evil.  Where there is light, there will always be darkness.

But in this case, there may be too much darkness for our protagonists to handle.  While I still contend that this season has been slow to start, now that it’s over, I actually enjoy watching this growing conspiracy unravel as we go from one mystery to the next.  As they put out one fire, they have to contend with several larger ones.

I see the second season of True Detective as a tragedy.  No one is truly happy with the lives they have and our main characters in particular exist in a world where corruption runs in an endless cycle, as seen with Tony Chessani stepping into his father’s shoes as Vinci’s new mayor.  There’s no triumphant victory.  Granted, the first season didn’t exactly end on the most uplifting note either, but the outlook here is bleak, even with who survives.

Omega Station- Ray's farewell to Chad

The characters themselves are looking to redeem themselves for their past sins.  It’s hard to escape the darkness when there’s so much around you, but the characters kept moving to make new lives for themselves.  Despite how the season wraps up, there’s some semblance of redemption and possibility of vindication, but that remains to be seen.

Caspere’s death kicked off a ripple effect throughout Vinci that led our detectives digging deeper into the rabbit hole as they worked to unravel this mystery.  I’ll give the writers credit for this: the 1992 robbery and mystery surrounding the two orphaned kids came up in the latter half of the season, but little did we know that we’d seen both of them on the film set.  Sure, their parts were minor, but these two kids who had been missing for years were right in front of us.  Their roles were so insignificant that I didn’t think much of their appearances back then.

Omega Station- Gonzalez speaks with Frank

“Omega Station” felt like a race against the clock with Ray, Ani, and Frank realizing that the odds were too highly stacked against them.  Okay, so Ray, Ani, and Paul found Vera, but that didn’t solve the Caspere investigation.  Frank may have burned down the club, but while he kept his eyes on the Russians, he forgot about the Mexicans.  And Paul, though he’s dead, didn’t anticipate Burris coming from behind to finish him off after he thought he was in the clear.

Omega Station- Ani and Ray have a moment

Only on a few occasions did characters have time to breathe, and even then, it was either to grasp the reality of their situation, consider their future, or discuss their pasts.  We see this play out when Ani and Ray talk about the moments where their lives changed forever as they entered dark places.  Or, in Ani’s case, brought to a dark place.

Omega Station- Frank hallucinates

Same goes with Frank and his past haunting him as he walked to his death, though I think this was a tad more blatant with the real-life visualizations of him being taunted.  On a side-note, I wasn’t a fan of the way these final sequences were edited together.  Just show all of Frank’s final moment and then cut to Ray.  Doing them together and giving us glimpses of Ani was jarring to watch.

Omega Station- Paul's body wrapped up

And though the detectives had some minor victories here and there, not only were they not ready for one new threat after another, they weren’t the best people to handle this.  Granted, I’d be hard-pressed to name detectives in this world who could, but they aren’t the best at their jobs, either.  Chief Holloway even tells Ray that few thought of him as competent, and I think that applies to all three.  The shootout was a bust, saving Vera came at the expense of two men being killed, Ray and Paul died during battle, and even though she escapes, Ani doesn’t fully win in the end.

Omega Station- Ray's final moment

Neither does Ray, whose death irks me because it didn’t have to go down the way that it did.  Let’s take a look: so Ray is being blamed for the murders of both Davis and Woodrugh.  He’s a wanted man, but he has a clear exit strategy that just involved him sticking to the plan.  Even if he didn’t nail the likes of Holloway and Burris and bring some closure to Ben Caspere’s murder, he had a way out.

Omega Station- Ray salutes to Chad

But the moment he decided to take a detour and check on Chad, despite telling Gena that he would leave them alone, it was clear that something bad would happen.  So while I get that he wants to have one last look at his son, I’m not certain that Ray needed to do what he did.  He knew in his heart that he was Chad’s father, and that’s all that mattered to him.  But doing this made him a target and set up his death.  At the same time, at this point, there weren’t many places Ray could go since he was still wanted for murder, so I just call this detour a foolish decision on his part.

While I’m glad that Ray went out fighting, it wasn’t a very smart way to go because he could have escaped.  He wanted vindication that his son was alright, and he was, but Ray didn’t need to see this with his own eyes.  Get to a safe location first, and then just call your son, especially when Gena learned the paternity test results and would probably be more receptive to setting things straight.

Omega Station- Failed to upload recording

And to add insult to injury, after Ray rushes to his death after dispatching some of the officers with Burris, his final message to Chad about being strong didn’t even send.  That’s just more salt in the wound for a man who tried to right his wrongs and had a chance to start over, but his error led to a hastened death.

Omega Station- Ray beneath the trees

It brings some of Ray’s arc full circle, as his father said during the dream sequence of “Maybe Tomorrow” that he saw his son running through the trees, but the trees are like giants.  And where does Ray end up before meeting his end?  Beneath the giant trees.

Omega Station- Frank and Jordan in the train station

Again, Frank takes the necessary precautions to ensure Jordan’s safety, but their bond is tight enough to the point where she almost refused to leave, no matter what.  Like Ray and Ani, he knows that there are others coming for him, but he has loose ends to tie by getting back at Osip.  He manages to do that, destroy the casino, and send Jordan away, so Frank is making the sacrificial play, knowing that there’s little chance that he’ll see his wife again.

When characters in television shows or movies part ways, but talk about some dream moment where they’ll reunite, it’s pretty clear that one of them is going die.  Perhaps someone would ambush Jordan and Nails, or Frank would bite it, but this kind of pre-happy ending just spelled trouble from the beginning.

Omega Station- Frank walks to his death

Frank had lost so much already, but to the very end, he went down fighting.  Could Frank have been put in a position where he’d survive, but be unable to reunite with Jordan?  It’s possible.  After all, the reason he didn’t hand over his suit is because he still had the diamonds.  Giving those up in addition to the money he surrendered to Gonzalez would leave him with nothing except his clothes.

Given how the characters have been dealing with these large, corrupt forces and paying little attention to the smaller ones in front of them, it’s interesting how much stock Frank put into killing Osip, but didn’t consider that Gonzalez would keep to the terms of their agreement.  With no club to run, Gonzalez can’t make a profit.  The question of how Gonzalez found Frank confounds me, though, considering he was in a completely different vehicle.  Maybe Armin sold him out?  I dunno.  He seemed like a low-key player, so I’m just speculating.

Omega Station- Frank walks without a problem

I did really enjoy the final moment between Frank and Jordan in the desert.  It’s like in recent moments on Boardwalk Empire or The Walking Dead where a character on their way out envisions a more perfect world where they’re at peace, only to reveal that they’ve already died.  Frank had come so far and looking at severity of his stab wound, it was clear that he wasn’t going to make it out of that desert alive.  So he had one moment to say goodbye to his wife before realizing that he’d already left this world.

Omega Station- Ani fears the worst

But the last person standing is Rachel McAdams.  Ani’s quick bond with Ray still isn’t something I’m a fan of, but these are two tortured characters that found each other through their own messy lives and tried to make something out of it, which came in the form of Ray’s second son that he never got to see.

Omega Station- Ani learns that Ray won't be joining her

Despite not thinking much of Ray in the beginning, Ani formed a close bond with him and given the concern in her voice when she learned that Ray wouldn’t make it in time, this was a connection that she did not want to lose.

So her trump card is all of the collected evidence in the hands of the Times reporter, which is a nice callback to the eight part mini-series on Vinci that we heard of the season premiere.  I think of this as similar to the ending of Watchmen: there’s a chance to right wrongs and ensure justice to those denied, but we don’t know where the story goes from here.  All we know is that Ani, Jordan, Nails, and the baby must navigate a new world on their own, always watching their backs.

Omega Station- Ani is the last detective standing

Even though Ani is the only one of the four main characters to survive, she doesn’t much to show for it.  She has her child, but to make it to this point, she had to cut all ties to her family, she’s still wanted for questioning in a security guard’s death, and both of her new partners, one of whom is the father of her child, are now dead.

No one gets a happy ending.  Chad will never hear the final words of his father, who is still blamed for the deaths of Davis and Woodrugh.  Paul himself just gets a highway named after him, Jordan will never get that reunion, and Ani must abandon her past life to start anew in secrecy.  It’s like Dante said on Clerks: “That’s what life is- a series of down endings.”

Light Winning

Let’s wind back a year.  At the end of Season One, Rust told Marty that between light and darkness, the light was winning.  Yes, the slight optimistic note, that season also ended on a downer.  That trend continues here with the corrupt cycle continuing and claiming the lives of most of the characters we’ve followed for eight episodes.  And there’s still some parts unresolved, as we don’t follow up with Emily or Cynthia at all since Paul’s death.  Yeah, we see them and the baby during the dedication ceremony, but that’s it.  We don’t get their reactions to Paul’s death.

There was a lot of “Omega Station” that I liked: the reveal of the two orphaned kids being right in front of us all along, the shootout sequence, Frank wandering through the desert, Ani and Ray bonding in their final moments, and the lack of an optimistic ending.  That, I think, makes it feel a tad more real.

Again, Season Two of True Detective had a large hill to climb before it even aired and when it eventually premiered.  During its run, the season has had many comparisons to Season One- some criticism was warranted, I’ll admit, but I’m trying as best I can to judge this on its own merits.  As a whole, this season is good.  I personally wouldn’t say it’s as good as Season One, but just for now.  I need this to settle in and want to revisit this later so I can catch up on the hints and plot points planted that I missed on my first viewing.

Omega Station- Ani and Ray escape the train station

The biggest strength, I feel, of this season came through the performances from the leads.  Each of them has something strong to bring, with Colin Farrell being the standout, in my opinion.  Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch were good as well, and Vince Vaughn took awhile to grow on me since some of his dialogue felt like it was written for Rust Cohle.  Like 2014, the mystery became more complex as the protagonists kept moving forward, but every time it felt like they had a way out, darkness pulled them back in.

There’s a possibility that the light may win in the end, but we can only wonder.

A Look at “Masters of Sex” Season 3, Episode 4: “Under Influence”

So, your book is on the shelves, but what happens when the sales aren’t coming in as fast as you’d like?  Is it necessary to make love face to face to prove that you care for someone?  And how annoying is it when your friend keeps quoting Dale Carnegie?  As Bill and Virginia try to find new ways to market their books, they have a run-in with an old friend while Tessa continues to struggle, Libby takes a stand, and Barton grapples with his identity and honesty.  Welcome to “Under Influence.”

The episode begins in a bookstore, where Bill reads Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.  He spots a man idling as if he’s waiting for everyone to leave so he can pick up a copy of Human Sexual Response on a nearby shelf, but he tells the owner, Leslie, played by Christian Clemenson, that he wants something else instead.

Under Influence- Bill asks Leslie, played by Christian Clemenson, about the lack of Human Sexual Response

Bill tells Leslie that Human Sexual Response was once in the front window, but now it’s behind the reference books.  Leslie explains that for Bill’s book, people call ahead for it.  The book is then either waiting behind the counter or shipped out.

Under Influence- Bill comes home, finds Johnny awake

That night, Bill arrives home and finds Johnny still awake.  Libby is next door with the Edley couple.  Bill plans to join soon, but he needs to watch Johnny…so he sends the boy to bed.  Good parenting.

Under Influence- Virginia reads a letter from Henry, Tessa goes through drawers

At House Johnson, Virginia searches for a letter from Henry, only to learn that Tessa had it.  Henry, we learn, doesn’t sound like he’s doing all that well.  There are bright spots: he found a dog, but because he chose the wrong M.O.S., he keeps pulling guard duty.  Virginia hopes to get in touch with her son soon, though Tessa, for some reason, just wants to go to school.

Under Influence- Bill and Virginia speak with a Little, Brown representative- Bob Drag, played by Danny Jacobs, about book sales

We then go to the office, where Bill and Virginia speak with a Little, Brown representative: Bob Drag, played by Danny Jacobs.  The book has sold 15,000 copies and the two hope for more sales, but chances are that anyone who wants the book already has it.  There needs to be a better way to spread word of mouth.  Bill senses that there’s momentum through his so-called field research, and he and Virginia are getting calls from medical schools.

The public has an appetite for sure, and Virginia thinks that it may be time to change perception by talking up the book in populist forums like women’s magazines.  Bob has a different approach: get Bill and Virginia in front of the regular people.  Little, Brown will only agree to a second printing if the book sells out, and one way to go about that is with more press through a Midwest book tour.  Bill and Virginia need to pull their weight.

Under Influence- Margaret gets eaten out by Graham Pennington, played by Tate Donovan

Then Allison Janney gets eaten out as we rejoin Margaret Scully being orally pleasured by Graham Pennington, played by the voice of Hercules himself, Tate Donovan.  It’s fine, but Margaret wants the sex to be about just the two of them and not Jo.  Who is Jo?  We’ll find out later.

Under Influence- Dan Logan brings in Mary Lynn, played by Nicole Rochell, Mary Ann, and Trudy

We then go back to the office, where Dan Logan brings in his assistants: Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup- I mean, Mary Lynn, played by Nicole Rochell, Mary Ann, Mary Lynn, and Trudy.  Mary Lynn, a Virgo and fan of astrology, wants Bill to sign her copy of Human Sexual Response.  But then Virginia, who wasn’t asked, signs the book as well.

Under Influence- Jenny asks Libby if Mrs. Edley is a turnip

Back at House Masters, Jenny asks Libby if Mrs. Edley is a turnip.  Kids, those days.  You see, Johnny said that Mrs. Edley is a vegetable, but vegetables don’t sit in wheelchairs.  But Joy has help from both Paul and the caretaker.  Jenny worries that if something is wrong Mrs. Edley’s brain, maybe it could happen to her mother as well.  Libby assures her daughter that it can’t happen to her, but she doesn’t sound so confident when she says it.

Under Influence- Virginia, Betty, and Bill discuss potential book tour schedules

Virginia’s schedule makes it hard for her to find a date she and Bill can agree on, which makes Betty’s job no fun right now.  Virginia is just too busy with Tessa and can’t drop everything so she can hit the road.  In addition, they still have the work and investors.  Bill says that Dan Logan isn’t a priority, but he shows some concern upon learning that Henry is under the weather.  He says that Henry’s sick reaction to the tropical climate is normal.

Given Virginia’s schedule, she suggests that the two divide and conquer for the tour.  Not possible since this is Masters and Johnson– the two are perceived as a team.  True as that is, Virginia is trying to be practical.

Under Influence- Bill continues reading while Libby heads to bed

That night, while Libby heads to bed, Bill reads up more on Dale Carnegie’s book.  Tonight’s excerpt deals with making the other person in your life feel important.

Under Influence- Elsa, played by Sarah Scott, gives Bill his fur coat

So Bill decides to buy a fur coat.  The clerk, Elsa, played by Sarah Scott, calls Bill a fur virgin, meaning he’s just a man who has never bought fur before.  But it’s important, Bill says, to show how much you appreciate someone.

Under Influence- Virginia dumps Tessa off with Betty

Because Tessa has been suspended from school due to cutting class, Virginia brings her to the office and dumps her with Betty.  No worry, she’ll only be helping alphabetize files and with Rolodex cards.

Under Influence- Virginia reacts to the fur coat

When Bill shows Virginia the coat, she doesn’t know what to say.  So Bill decides to quote John Dewey- every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.  Virginia has been that and more- she’s tireless and brilliant.  This fur coat is a token of appreciation.  This moment is interrupted when Betty tells the two that their first appointment has arrived.

Under Influence- Bill and Virginia listen to Margaret and Graham talk about their problems with sex

The appointment turns out to be Margaret and Graham.  Margaret catches up with Virginia and Bill and tells them all about how Graham is teaching her to not care what people think.  It’s been three years since her divorce from Barton and while she and Graham aren’t married, they are at least living together.

The two met at one of William Glasser’s reality therapy workshops.  Reality therapy itself is all about personal choice and responsibility.  Huh.  Sounds a bit libertarian-ish, in my opinion.  Margaret has been giving Graham hints about what she needs in bed.  Graham’s problem is that he’s a premature ejaculator.

Under Influence- Graham speaks with Bill about how long he lasts

Bill and Virginia then talk to the two separately.  Graham tells Bill that he lasts maybe a minute, sometimes before he even enters Margaret.  What, does he have his cock in his hand before he goes for the plunge?  He apparently doesn’t need stimulation.

Under Influence- Virginia and Margaret discuss Graham and simultaneous orgasms

Margaret, meanwhile, tells Virginia that she wants Graham to look into her eyes.  It sounds a bit silly, but Virginia assures Margaret that simultaneous orgasm is a romantic notion.  How’s that for some medical knowledge for your ass?  The romance spark was there when Graham and Margaret first met and she wants to rekindle that fire.  It’s only good when they climax together.

Graham, though, doesn’t like to look back, despite Bill advising him that the past may hold some answers.  Graham has tried before, though, to make two exes and former girlfriends happy.  Looking back, he doesn’t think that he ever liked them, but he likes Margaret because she looks forward.

Under Influence- Barton runs into Margaret, meets Graham

Barton, who is supposed to be off today, shows up at the office and has that awkward run-in with Margaret and Graham.  That ends fast.

Under Influence- Margaret and Bill discuss Barton

Soon after, Margaret speaks with Bill alone.  It’s been some time since she and Barton interacted and she realizes that this was his way of letting her have a new life.  But has she?  Bill tries to comfort her by saying that Graham’s premature ejaculation isn’t a sign that he’s not attracted to the opposite sex- confirming to Margaret that he knows all about Barton’s homosexuality.  Despite that, Margaret still thinks that this is her fault since she’s been with now two men with sexual dysfunctions.

Bill thinks that Graham can assure Margaret that he desires women, but that would require him to know the truth about how and why her marriage ended, why she insists on face-to-face sex, and why she can’t do anything to him orally.  She doesn’t see herself telling Graham in confidence.  All Margaret did was tell Graham a version of what she told Vivian- that the divorce was her fault because she had other male lovers.

Since then, Vivian has wanted nothing to do with Margaret, though she’s confident that Vivian will forgive her.  She thinks that if Vivian knew Barton’s secret, he would lose her forever.  It haunts Margaret to hold onto a secret that doesn’t belong to her and isn’t hers to tell.

Under Influence- Barton and Libby talk about her bleeding and the pill

Barton meets with his patient of the day, Libby, who learns that a little breakthrough bleeding is normal with the pill.  No, it’s not a sign of a blood clot.  After Joy’s stroke, Libby just wanted to make sure everything was fine.  Barton is surprised that Libby even takes the pill since those are normally used by single women.  It just helps keep Libby’s cycle regular.  As for why Libby hasn’t talked with Bill, she thinks that it’s better to maintain some mystery in that area.  Well, the vagina is quite mysterious.

Under Influence- Tessa and Betty file cards and talk about sex

Now to see how Tessa and Betty pass the time.  Tessa tries to bait Betty into talking about Virginia’s so-called lovers, but Betty doesn’t take the bait.  So Tessa wonders why people can’t just figure out sex stuff on their own.  Valid point, but if that were the case, I don’t think this show would exist, but I digress.  Betty says that the study has kept people from having to learn on their own.  In her day, people understanding the bathroom plumbing better than their own ducts and pipes.  A funny line that I think only Betty could deliver.

Tessa just thinks people need to be careful.  What she and Matt do won’t leave you with a crying baby.

Under Influence- Libby finds the fur coat box

Libby pops by Bill’s office to leave a note when she spots a box.  Curiosity getting the better of her, she opens it and finds a fur coat.

Under Influence- Dan Logan reads Henry's letter

Virginia calls Sergeant Ivey to get an update on Henry, but she doesn’t get anywhere.  Dan, having overheard Virginia’s loud conversation, enters.  Upon hearing Henry’s symptoms, Dan figures that Henry has either malaria or dengue- turns out that Dan served in the Pacific and came down with both.  After reading Henry’s letter, he tells Virginia that if Henry’s condition is that bad, he could possibly be tossed out on a medical discharge.  He offers to make some calls.

Under Influence- Bill asks Betty if she's finalized the travel schedule

Bill asks if Betty managed to confirm a tour date, but Virginia’s schedule won’t permit her to agree to anything.  Bill isn’t pleased since it’s apparently Betty’s job to get her to commit.  He then quotes JP Morgan- there are two reasons people do something: one that sounds good…

…and, as Betty finishes, the real reason, as she knows that Bill has been reading Dale Carnegie.  She knows the book by heart and Carnegie is a local boy who crossed paths with Betty long ago.  That’s a story for another day, but as for Virginia, her real reasons are that she has an infant stuck with a babysitter that likes the liquor cabinet, Tessa’s troubles, and a son in war.  It’s hard to drop all of that for a book tour.  Betty then drops some more of Carnegie’s knowledge on Bill: three-fourths of the people you meet hunger and thirst for sympathy.  Give it to them and they will love you.

Under Influence- Tessa cuts her finger, finds aftershave

Elsewhere in the office, Tessa cuts her finger.  Upon looking for something to clean up with, she spots some aftershave in a cabinet drawer.  Bill enters and hopes that drinking isn’t why she’s suspended.  He cares for Tessa because Virginia is overextended, but Tessa isn’t in the mood for a lecture and leaves.

Under Influence- Betty informs Bill that she’s canceled their subscription to Doll Parade

In the meantime, Betty informs Bill that she’s canceled their subscription to Doll Parade- a magazine that is the stimulation of last resort for sperm donors.  The guys need a little more skin.  As for why the magazine is wrapped in brown paper, Betty tells Bill that it’s good for circulation.

Under Influence- Libby visits Paul and Joy Edley, Paul complains about Joy

Libby drops by the Edleys’ disheveled home to drop off dinner and learns that Paul has fired the caretaker.  He realized that Joy’s birthday is next week and, at that moment, he just wanted that nurse gone so he and Joy could be alone.  However, life is a nightmare for him.  He doesn’t even see why he should buy her something since she’s already gone- it’s like living with a dead person.

But Libby is insulted that Paul would refer to his wife as a corpse.  Writing her off as such is criminal and Paul should honor her for who she is by treating her with dignity.  Libby decides that the two will give her a bath together.

Under Influence- Margaret visits Barton’s apartment with a plate of beef bourguignon

Margaret visits Barton’s apartment with a plate of beef bourguignon.  The two have some small talk of wanting to be honest with one another until Margaret asks who J is.  Barton tells her his friendship with Judith and how it’s not a sexual relationship.  Margaret, though, feels that Judith deserves the truth, but Barton thinks that Margaret is overstepping.  Plus, Margaret moved on as well, so they both had a choice.

Barton feels that how he conducts his private life is his business.  Both have learned what lying does when it affects the people that care for them and Margaret can’t just tell Graham that sex is the only way to know that he loves her.  But no.  Barton tells Margaret that she’s asking too much.

Under Influence- Bill has a proposition for Leslie, wrap Human Sexual Response in brown paper

Back at the book store, Bill has a proposition for Leslie: since controversy is a good thing, what if people thought Human Sexual Response was a dirty book, similar to Lolita or Women in Love?  He wants the books wrapped in brown paper and for Leslie to make a display for them.  Curiosity, Bill guesses, will get people’s attention since they want what they can’t have.  And if this doesn’t lead to increased sales, Bill will buy all of the copies.

Following this, Bill reads more from Carnegie: when it comes to stopping arguments, tell the other person that you understand how they feel.  He tests this when he talks to Paul, who realizes that his life is over.  Well, at least Bill understands how he feels.

Under Influence- Libby tells Bill about the time he called her instrumental in helping him

Bill then heads home early, to Libby’s surprise.  She’s been thinking about when Bill was first named head of the department at Maternity.  He wanted to celebrate with Libby since he called her instrumental in winning the position.  When asked if he remembers what he did, Bill says that he took them to dinner and bought the most expensive champagne on the menu.

Under Influence- Dan and Virginia at the office, waiting to hear on Henry's condition

At a recruiting office, Dan and Virginia continue to wait.  Dan realizes that Virginia reminds him of a girl he used to know, and this isn’t a pick-up line.  He met her at the USO dance and almost broke her ankle while dancing, but she laughed.  She liked being the center of attention.  The two had their fun during the six months before Dan shipped out, but after the war, Dan returned to his wife.  His wife who is still married to him but is now wiser.

Under Influence- Tessa offers to put her mouth on Matt

Then we have a scene with Matt and Tessa because reasons.  Tessa learned something bad about her mother, but she decides against talking when Matt makes one too many ridiculous assumptions.  Matt is trying and wants Tessa to make up her mind.  She has: Matt should undo his belt so Tessa can put her mouth on him.

Under Influence- Bill learns that the bookstore sold out every last copy of Human Sexual Response

Bill returns to the store and learns that his plan worked- all the books have sold out.

Under Influence- Dan and Virginia at a restaurant, discuss Henry

Back to Dan and Virginia, now at a restaurant.  Turns out that Henry just had alcohol poisoning.  And now he’s volunteered for a combat unit, even though he promised to not get engaged with combat.  Henry was once a scared little boy, but he’s now a soldier and adult who lives his life one moment to the next.  Anything else, Dan says, is speculation.

Under Influence- Barton tells Judith that he’s on medication for high blood pressure

Barton tells Judith that the beef came from a girl at the office.  She wants to stay the night, but he decides to come clean and admit that there have been difficulties in his past marriage…he’s on medication for high blood pressure.  He’s enjoyed Judith’s company and doesn’t want to ruin that.  Judith, though, isn’t one of those who men who thinks that sex is all that important.

Under Influence- Margaret, Graham, and Jo, played by Julie Ann Emery

Margaret, meanwhile, walks in on Graham, who is busy with another partner: Jo, played by Julie Ann Emery.  Oh hey, it’s Ida from Fargo.  Margaret just remembered the wrong night.  Easy mistake.

Under Influence- Libby digs out her fur coat

At home, Libby digs through her closet and unearths a fur coat.  How about that?

Under Influence- Bill admits to Virginia that he meant what he said about their success being impossible without her

While at House Johnson, Bill arrives with good news: Little, Brown has agreed to a second book run.  Bill also realized that now may not be the best time for Virginia to be on the road.  Instead, he has a new marketing strategy: wrap the books in brown paper in order to elicit curiosity the public from something they see as illicit.  Bill learns that Henry is well, which is good news to him.

He admits that the fur coat was an odd gesture since fur coats are typically for your wife, but he meant what he said: the success of the book isn’t possible without Virginia.  Virginia, who has already been out to eat, accepts Bill’s offer for dinner as the episode comes to a close.

So the moral of the story is to never buy your significant lover and your significant other lover a fur coat.

I think the strength of “Under Influence” comes from using Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People as a backdrop against what the characters face and having it be a plot point to help Bill navigate his way through the lives of everyone around him.  The line that stuck out to me the most was the one delivered by Betty: three-fourths of the people you meet hunger and thirst for sympathy.  Give it to them and they will love you.

As we watch the show progress through the Sexual Revolution, several characters are still seeking sympathy and some form of acceptance from the people closest to them.  When that doesn’t work, they seek their own form of acceptance through other means.  This week, characters like Tessa, Bill, and even Barton and Margaret choose decisions that satisfy them.  They aren’t necessarily the best options- especially in Tessa’s case- but they aren’t crumbling under the influence of what other people want.  They’re sticking to their gut feelings, even when they know that it’s wrong.

Under Influence- Libby and Barton talk about secrets

Even though we’re in a period where people are becoming more accepting of people different than them, it can be hard to come clean with a repressed secret that keeps you from embracing your true self.  Being open can ruin the semblance of happiness you have through the lie you’re living, but as long as you remain happy, it’s better for some to keep some things private.  Just like Libby tells Barton, some areas are better if you keep them a mystery.  And the mystery you find may not lead to something you even want to learn.

Under Influence- Bill reads Dan Carnegie's book

The title of Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, is indicative not just of what characters try this week, but of Bill and Virginia’s study in general.  They’re trying to win the favor of universities, bookstore owners, and patients, but also hoping to educate them as well.

Under Influence- Betty and Tessa talk about sex and Virginia's so-called boyfriends

And they’ve made progress.  Season One, sex was taboo.  It still is, to an extent, but like Betty told Tessa, the study has made it so people don’t have to learn about sex on their own.  Now people are more comfortable talking about their bodies.  This isn’t always the case, since there are still some who call ahead if they want to order Human Sexual Response, but Bill and Virginia are making progress with changing the conversation about sex.

Under Influence- Libby stands up for Joy

But winning friends and influence people isn’t always possible, despite your best intentions.  Libby and Joy had a connection through their marriages, but now Joy is in a helpless state.  Margaret wants to convince Graham to look to the past and find what made them both happy, but she herself isn’t having as much joy as she could be.    The past, as Bill says, can hold some keys to present solutions, but it’s not always that easy to just take an old Band-Aid and apply it to a new wound.

Under Influence- Bill gives Libby a fur coat

This ties in with the idea that Bill can just buy presents and gifts to placate the people that he’s hurt or neglected.  Try and repackage it all you like, it’s just a token gesture to mask the fact that you’ve caused another person pain.  Sometimes people take the bait, but someone like Betty would be smart enough to see through a ruse.  It’s one thing to lie to yourself because no one else is being harmed, but it’s another when you try to fool others.  That just leads to everyone being hurt later down the line.

Under Influence- Barton and Margaret argue

And this is the dilemma that the Scullys find themselves in right now.  First off, it’s great to have Beau Bridges and Allison Janney sharing screen-time again, and they still do a great job playing an ever-troubled couple, despite not even being together anymore.

Under Influence- Margaret and Graham decide to keep their appointment

Through Graham, Margaret has recaptured some of the same passion she discovered with Austin, but the problem is her past with Barton haunts her to the point that she can’t fully be happy with Graham.  Instead of token gestures like a fur coat, Margaret absolutely needs sex to be the one thing that Graham does to prove that he loves her because of how long she had been deceived by Barton.  And she’s burdening herself by keeping Barton’s secret.

Under Influence- Margaret tells Barton that sex is the only way for Graham to prove that he loves her

I get that she’s upset with Barton for not being true to Judith because it shows that she still cares for him, but she’s also not being completely honest with Graham.  Like Libby, I find Margaret to be a very tragic character denied happiness for so long.  She blames herself for being the reason why neither Graham nor Barton can fully satisfy her when there’s no need for her to be so self-defeating.  This is the woman who didn’t even know what an orgasm felt like for years- she deserves to have some joy in her life.

But even her past isn’t the only thing keeping her from being happy with Graham, since it looks like he currently has more than one partner.  While it’s a change of pace for Margaret, it doesn’t like one that she enjoys.

Under Influence- Barton can't be completely honest yet

Barton is right, to an extent, about his personal life being his business, but Margaret had a point about keeping his homosexuality when it could end up hurting another woman.  Right now, Barton just wants to be happy, and he’s taken a step toward that by quickly accepting Bill’s offer to work for him, but he’s still in denial to others about who he is.

Under Influence- Barton and Judith

He can’t bring himself to be open to Judith, who is clearly interested him, because he just enjoys her company, but nothing beyond that.  And while it’s nice that he has made a nice life for himself and a job where he’s respected, he’s still setting himself up for a confrontation if or when Judith learns the truth.

On a side-note, Vivian is referenced and apparently Margaret thinks that she would hate her father if she learned the truth.  Given her extreme distraught at Barton’s attempted suicide, I get the feeling that she still cares for him very much, but it remains to be seen how she’d react.  And with Vivian wanting nothing to do with Margaret, I don’t know whether we’ll see her this season.  Maybe Rose McIver’s a tad busy.

izombie

I can’t possibly imagine why.

Under Influence- Tessa observes herself in the mirror

While I didn’t sympathize all that much with Tessa last week, she seems resigned to continue in this downward spiral because she’s being neglected by her mother.  For all of Henry’s issues overseas, Virginia can’t or won’t notice that the daughter right in front of her is being lost to the dark side of the Sexual Revolution.  One of Carnegie’s lessons was about people understanding how others feel, but few of the adults around Tessa can understand how she feels because they aren’t her age and can’t relate to her on certain topics.

Under Influence- Tessa and Matt in the car

Sure, you’ve got the free love side of things, but Tessa is resolute in allowing herself to pleasure the same guy who abused her in the previous episode.  Matt is a dick, to be sure, but he’s also one of the few, if only, people that Tessa can talk to about anything when he isn’t dicking around.

Under Influence- Betty and Tessa

The closest I can think of would be Betty, and part of me wishes that these two had more scenes together.  Like Virginia, Betty is very practical and street-smart.  And as the first two seasons indicated, she knows a thing or two about how to pleasure men- this is a former brothel owner we’re talking about.  So Betty has some wisdom that Tessa could use and wouldn’t try to talk down to her.  Betty is at least practical enough to talk straight to people and cut through the bullshit, and Tessa doesn’t need any more shit in her life right now.

Just like Henry going off to war, Tessa being in this slump is a minor issue that I have with her ever since she was reintroduced since recasting both her and Henry as older feels like a reboot of their characteristics.  As if these are the versions of Henry and Tessa that we accept moving forward and should forget everything from the first two seasons.  We’ve also yet to see an older Tessa interact with George, so I’m curious to where their relationship is.

Under Influence- Libby tells Jenny that she's fine and nothing will happen to her

Libby is still lying to herself about whether she’s happy.  She isn’t and she knows that, but she gets more confirmation that she’s being replaced upon finding the fur coat for Virginia.  A tad convenient that she just decided to leave a note in Bill’s office instead of just telling Betty, but whatever.

Under Influence- Libby asks Bill if he remembers what he did for her when he got his job at Maternity

She quizzes Bill on how they celebrated his success and he gave the wrong response, indicating that he, like Graham, isn’t overly concerned with their past.  He’s moving onward to Virginia and leaving Libby in the dust.

Under Influence- Libby chews out Paul for disrespecting Joy

So her one chance to be happy and influence others right now is through the Edleys.  When Libby snaps at Paul for disrespecting Joy, I get the feeling that Libby is speaking for herself as well.  No, Libby isn’t in a vegetative state, but she’s still being written off instead of treated with dignity.  The anger she directs at Paul is the same disappointment she feels for Bill and since she’s not being treated well by him, I’m hoping she up and leaves.

That and takes the kids with her because aside from them, there’s nothing left for her.  But, as previous seasons have indicated, it’s not exactly all that easy for a woman to have a job and raise a family on her own in the 1960s.

Under Influence- Virginia learns that Tessa was suspended from school

All you’d need to do is look at Virginia and see how she’s struggling.  She’s trying to be practical, but her schedule won’t let her devote equal time to work and her daughters, never mind Henry being overseas and on his own.  She wants to do both, and because Bill is so crafty at influencing her to focus on the work, she neglects her troubled daughter.  My guess is that because of their arguments in the previous episode, Virginia may just be letting Tessa handle herself.  Given how much of a prat Tessa has been, I don’t blame her, if that’s the case.

Under Influence- Virginia and Dan

As has been the case before, Virginia is overworked and gets little room to breathe.  She can’t fully commit to her family and she’s trying to compromise to make time for the work.  Credit where it’s due, though, she has made a change since giving birth a third time and shows more care for her kids, as seen through her concern for Henry.  And just like how Bill is putting on a front for Libby, part of me thinks that her interest and connection with Dan Logan means that she’s now putting on a front for Bill.

Under Influence- Bill's awkward smile as he gives Virginia a fur coat

But as for Bill, he’s trying to take Dale Carnegie’s words to heart by sympathizing with folks like Paul and convincing people like Virginia that they’ve been a major impact in his life.  A nice gesture that he’s already played with Libby, showing that he’s just resorting to an old tactic.  The difference is that Bill is genuinely impressed with Virginia’s intellect.  That, I think, is what impresses her and gives her a reason to accept his proposal.

Bill is awkward when he’s trying to be down-to-earth.  He purchases the fur coat with the same hesitation as the man in the book store from the beginning because he’s not used to emoting.  There are exceptions, such as his conversation with Margaret, but that’s due to their history as friends.  He wants what’s best for both Margaret and Barton, but he also knows that this is a situation that they have to figure for themselves.  Right now, Bill’s got his own battles.

Under Influence- Bill gets an idea

However, credit where it’s due, I do like how he changes up his marketing strategy.  Before, he was all for putting the book and study out in the open for everyone to see.  He paid for that with his job at Washington University when he realized that shock factor wasn’t what would wow the public.  The book has sold, but the idea of making something hidden or untouchable does arouse curiosity because people want what they can’t have.  For all the talk about having an open conversation about sex, Bill’s tactic of hiding that conversation seems to have worked.  Now to see how he and Virginia progress from here.

Under Influence- Betty calls Bill out on reading Dale Carnegie

Oh, and for as much as Bill relied on Dale Carnegie to make a point, I loved his reaction when Betty called him out on it, as if no one else in the office had ever read the book besides Bill.

Like “Three’s a Crowd,” “Under Influence” put Bill and Virginia in difficult situations that they’re overcoming as they move forward with their book, but it comes at the expense of crumbling relationships with the people around them.  Tessa is falling fast, Libby realizes that she’s no longer the most important woman to Bill, and the Scully family is still fractured as Barton and Margaret try to be honest with themselves and the new people in their new relationships.  Bill and Virginia continue to rise while most of their friends and families begin to fade.  And we know this won’t last for long.

But seriously, where is Vivian Scully?

A Look at “True Detective” Season 2, Episode 7: “Black Maps and Motel Rooms”

How do you recover from nearly being killed at an orgy with powerful figures?  Well, you can’t, really.  It’s hard to come back from that sort of thing without it fucking up your head.  We ended “Church in Ruins” with our detectives making some headway and finding the missing girl, Vera.  But instead of things looking up, they just get worse.  Oh, and everything is fucking.  Welcome to “Black Maps and Motel Rooms.”

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Ani and Ray regroup after the mission

The episode begins at the Molera Motel where Paul goes over the documents retrieved from the heist while Vera sleeps.  He receives another call from Emily, but ignores it.  Ani, meanwhile, feels fucked up from what happened at the mansion.  She tells Ray all the powerful men she saw during the operation and how she’s been waiting her entire life to gut a man like she did.  How sweet.

She talks about running out and being found in the woods, but drops it when Ray asks her to clarify.  She then starts putting the moves on Ray, who had very different plans for the night.  He lets a delirious Ani go as she tries to rest off the effects of the drugs.  Plus, Ani is too far out of Ray’s league, anyway.  Ray wants the ladies to stay while he and Paul report to Davis.  In the meantime, Ani can call Athena.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Paul and Ray go over the documents and signatures

Paul and Ray go over the documentation to new owners, including Osip and Anthony Chessani.  It includes mentions of new land parcels and a buy-sell deal that involves reselling Caspere’s land.  Paul receives an ominous text regarding Emily, but disregards it for the time.

Ani joins the two to discuss their next move.  Paul needs to check in on his fiancé, so he heads off for now.  Ray thinks that Ani should drop their information on Davis when the next opportunity arrives.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Frank plays by himself, Jordan joins him

At the casino, Frank assembles a game with himself when Jordan joins him.  He fills her in about new people helping out at the club while being gangbanged by forces unseen.  What can Frank pull together right now?  Maybe $2 or even $3 hundred thousand.  That’d be 45 years of his life gone.  He can’t see himself working at Applebees, though.  Soon, Ray enters and sits with Frank to tell him about his strange night.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Paul and Emily talk

Paul tells Emily about his text message involving the undercover case.  He wants her to be safe for a couple of days so he can clear this situation up.  He’s just trying to be a good man, but Emily thinks that he doesn’t try hard enough.  Well, she’s not completely wrong.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Ani fills Athena in on what happened at the orgy

Ani fills Athena in on her night and tells her to disappear for awhile.  After all, Ani did use her name.  Maybe she can go up north to Oregon to be safe.  For how long?  No idea.  And Ani is seeing someone and starting school soon, but Ani needs her gone now.  She won’t go back home.  Ani tells Athena that she saved her a girl and that she herself was given something at the party, as Athena had done before, but leaves out the killing details.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Paul drops Emily and Cynthia at a motel

Paul drops off Emily and Cynthia at the motel where they’ll be staying.  It’s too complicated to go to his superiors at this point and this may be nothing, but Paul needs them to be safe for two, maybe three nights.  He advises them to not answer the door or phone if it isn’t him.  All they need to do is relax.  I’m sure that’ll be easy.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Frank and Ray talk about personal attachment and investment

Frank talks to Ray about personal attachment and investment.  For what?  This goes bigger than Blake, Ray says.  He mentions the documents from holding companies and how it involves Chessani’s kid.  Ray also mentions a European-looking man by the name of Osip.  He’s actually Russian-Israeli and part of a deal to fuck over Frank.  Frank fills in Ray about Irina Rulfo’s involvement and how he found her…dead.  Frank promises through word of honor to have a name for Ray by the end of the day.  Ray calls Paul to let him know about Rulfo’s involvement.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Vera looks through some photos

Ani speaks with Vera about her disappearance and the contents of a mailbox that Vera kept- some photos.  Vera apparently forgot about the box and the contents that must have been sent from a woman named Tascha.  Vera met Ben Caspere at the Panticapaeum Institute and that’s where Vera had been hooked up on the circuit.  Tascha was his favorite and had photos of these parties.  Maybe the photos were backup.

As for the diamonds, Vera says that Caspere showed them to Tascha once.  But what happened to Tascha?  Wherever they were up North, someone had a camera.  There was a cabin out back where Tony Chessani and his men took Tascha…

Vera refuses to testify and she clarifies to Ani that she never tried to get out of the mansion.  Hell, she didn’t want to.  She was never missing, despite the condition she was in when Ani found her.

Okay.  So who is the other girl in the photos?  Probably Laura.  She wasn’t dumb enough to end up at the cabin.  Vera just wants to get back to her life, but she’s not looking forward to reuniting with Dani.  She has nice things and had something well going on with Tony Chessani.  But Ani tells her that maybe she was put on this Earth for more than fucking.  To Vera, everything is fucking.

How very profound, True Detective.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Dani and Vera reunite

Dani arrives, though Vera isn’t pleased to see her and won’t be going with her.  Ani tells Vera to lay low until it’s safe.  After all, Ani is the only one who can get her out of danger.  And if Vera doesn’t abide, Ani can just spill that Vera talked to a cop.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Paul looks into Dixon's background, sees that Ani is wanted for questioning

Paul looks into Teague Dixon’s background.  His chief accountant?  Ben Caspere.  Paul also learns that Ani’s wanted for questioning in the death of a security guard.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Blake alone with Frank

Blake meets with Frank and talks of a private thing he had last night.  He made $15,000, so he’s like a natural born pimp.  Frank saw a difference between a whore and a pimp.  A whore has integrity.  Blake says that he can be moved up, but there’s nothing he can be moved up to, Frank says.  All Frank’s shit has been taken down to the street.  Blake assures Frank that he’ll make it back to the top.

Stan followed Blake, Frank says.  Frank wants to know what it is that Stan saw that led him to die.  Blake fucked up by letting himself be alone with Frank right now.  That’s just arrogance.  Frank smashes his glass into Blake’s face.  He lays into Blake, who tells Frank everything that Ray already told him.  Osip and the other powerful names reached out to Blake, who just took the opportunity.

No one knows who killed Caspere, though.  Caspere was always going to fuck over Frank out of his money.  Where were all of Frank’s plans going to leave Blake?  Stan?  He did always teach them to make their own opportunities.

Frank then asks about the man who hurt Ray’s wife.  It was some meth head that said Blake ripped him off.  He was going to come after Blake, but then Blake heard about some deputy’s wife.  Blake says that he can get the money back, though, which stops Frank from choking him to death.  There’s a cash exchange tomorrow- $12 million.  Blake doesn’t know who will be at this handoff for sure, though.  Osip, at least, is sure to be present.  Osip’s people are taking it all.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Blake bleeds out on Frank's carpet

Blake can work on the inside as a triple-cross since Osip doesn’t know he’s been found out, but Frank decides to shoot Blake in the stomach instead.  He relays the tale of how he first found Blake, who had potential, and is now bleeding out on Frank’s carpet.  So his tale has come full circle, I suppose.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Ray finds Davis dead

Meanwhile, at an industrial plant, Ray receives a surprise when he goes to meet with Davis, only to find her dead in her car.  He speeds off.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Ani shows her father some photos

Ani shows some photos to Eliot, who had no real relationships with the others.  Everyone was passing on separate journeys.  Some wanted freedom, many came and went.  He regrets so much of this time.  Ani tells her Eliot she finally remembered the face of the man who took her away, even though she said she couldn’t remember anything.  True, but people came and went.  There was a man and Ani thinks that she always remembered it.

Eliot searched the forests for four days.  He wishes that he could give that time back to Ani.  He wanted to be like his strict father.  God damn everything.  Ani won’t and can’t turn herself in, but she can fix this.  Though Ani’s life hasn’t been easy, Eliot still thinks that Ani is the same, innocent person he’s always known.  I can’t tell if that was meant to be a joke.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Ani says goodbye to her father and sister

Elvis shows up and lets her know her place is being watched because of the APB.  The two make amends, with Elvis admitting that he was jealous.  However, Ani admits that she fucked up on that one.  She admits that she may be unfair to people at times.  Understatement of the fucking season, Rachel McAdams.  Ani says her farewell to her family and tells Elvis to tail them until Eugene.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Jordan sees Blake's body

Back to Frank, who acknowledges that he’s in a secret war.  He wants Jordan brought inside.  She sees Blake’s body and isn’t aghast at the sight.  Frank tells her that others are gunning for him.  As for what Jordan can do, Frank tells her to pack a bag since she can’t stay home anymore.  Nails will accompany her.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Frank looks into the diamond exchange rate

Frank looks into the diamond exchange rate, where the owner doesn’t wish to partake in such exchanges, even though the money would be untraceable.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Frank and Armin talk about the consignment

He then speaks with a travel agent about plans and even gets some passports made.  At the bakery, he arranges with Armin on how he’ll pay the consignment them the day after tomorrow.  He fills them in about the Russians’ takeover plan.  If the owners help Frank now, he’ll pay them back later.  Right now, he needs two clean cars and a clean passport to get where he’s going.  If that’s done, there’s another half million for the owners.  His ship has come in.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Ani, Paul, and Ray discuss Davis' murder

Ani, Ray, and Paul discuss Davis’ murder and how the three are covering their tracks.  Ray even changed his license plates at a fucking mall because he’s being set up as Davis’ murderer.  Burris and Dixon served together under Holloway in 1992.  It’s possible that Caspere helped them move the diamonds.  The diamonds are how they bought in.  But Dixon?  He checked in on the diamonds before our characters knew about them.

In addition, Burris arrested Ledo Amarilla in 2006, but soon released him after interrogation.  Hell, there weren’t even any notes left over from that arrest.  The shooting from a few months back also turned out be a setup, as it’s possible that the key players involved thought it would go down different.  That would explain why Caspere’s place was tossed- a frantic search for those diamonds.  Tascha was going to blackmail Caspere.

Caspere’s death kicked off everything, but why wasn’t he tortured for the diamond?  It doesn’t add up.  There are also few places to take this to since Davis is dead and this investigation was off the books.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Frank talks with Mayor Chessani

Mayor Chessani talks it up with a woman when Frank arrives and tells him about Tony’s involvement with Osip.  He’s getting fucked over by his own son.  You don’t see that too often.  Frank, while leaving a gun behind the bar, serves some drinks to Osip, who later arrives.  The clubs, Osip says, are now his.  He’ll be doing a lot of business in California.  Frank admits he was out of his element with this land stuff, to which Osip finds it surprising that Frank is taking it so easily.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Osip talks with Frank

Osip tells Frank that his board wanted to take him out, but Osip spoke on his behalf as a smart businessman.  He offers Frank a chance to help run the club, even though Frank wants out.  It’s time to find something new to build on.  That’s all Frank hopes for, going into the future.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Paul meets with Miguel

Paul, on his own and having received some compromising photos, calls Ray and lets him know something that no one else knows.  He tells him that someone sent photos of him and how he thinks that he’s walking into a trap.  He meets Miguel, who has to take his gun on orders.  Paul isn’t in a position to protest, as there are eyes all over, watching him.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Ani and Paul go through some photos

Ray tells Ani that they need an exit strategy, since there’s no way they’d be allowed to go to trial.  Ani mentions a woman named Laura.  The two go through the photos and Ray notices a woman named Laura, Caspere’s secretary.  One of the orphans in the robbery was also named Laura.  Ray pulls out the photo and they put it against the more recent photo of Laura.  Coincidence?

They plan to move forward, but when they call Paul, they only get a voicemail.  All to do now is wait.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Paul is brought before Chief Holloway

Paul is brought before, to his surprise, Chief Holloway, to answer some questions.  The tunnels they’re in go throughout the city.  Dixon was keeping an eye on Paul, which is what led to the photos.  Documents were stolen from a private gathering and Holloway knows that Paul had them.  He asks about Ani and Ray’s whereabouts.  Paul offers to call them and set up a meeting.  Davis used them all, but she’s dead now, and Paul could give a shit about either Ray or Ani.

Problem is that Paul doesn’t get any service.  He gets Holloway subdued and manages to make an escape.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Frank kills a henchman after announcing a gas leak

Back at the casino, Frank tells a henchman that the club needs to be cleared for a few hours due to a gas leak.  Time to cash in those chips.  One of Osip’s henchmen asks about the gas leak.  He’s killed for his troubles.  So Frank does indeed start a gas leak, starts a fire, and leaves.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Cynthia and Emily watch a movie

Emily and Cynthia bond over some old-timey movies since they have nothing else to do.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Ani and Ray drink

Ray doesn’t think that this will go over well with Chad, given what his son will learn about him when this gets out.  Ani apologizes for bringing Ray back into this, but that’s no big deal to him.  A long time ago, Ray thought everything came from something else, but it came from there.  She had something like that too, right?  No.  That’s not something that Ani talks about, which is something that Ray admires about her.  Well, now.

After a long silence, Ani admits that Paul isn’t a bad man, but he disagrees.  He is, in fact, a bad man.  He asks Ani if she misses it- anything.  She responds by taking his hand into hers.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Paul on the run

Paul, meanwhile, continues his escape, but the men are closing in on him.  He manages to take out two men and slowly makes his way out, but he’s forced to run as bullets start flying his way.  He takes cover and ambushes two men searching for him.

After taking a moment to regain his composure, Paul heads to a ladder and makes his way up.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Ani and Ray kiss

He’s not having as good a time as Ani and Ray, who start to have their fun.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Frank burns it down

Back at the club, Frank empties alcohol all over and turns on the gas.  Then, from a comfortable distance, he watches the fire.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Paul is shot by Lieutenant Burris

Ray escapes, but just as he’s about to make a call, he’s shot and killed by Lieutenant Burris.  Burris nabs Paul’s phone and flees as the episode comes to a close.

So instead of our detectives having some feeling of accomplishment after their convenient rescue of Vera last week, “Black Maps and Motel Rooms” showed that things only got worse for them.  And they aren’t getting any better, from the looks of it.

Kind of like how Rust and Marty tried to make sense of the occult stuff from the first season, our four protagonists learn that this corruption goes deeper than they imagined.  The shootout from the end of “Down Will Come,” Davis’ murder, Blake’s involvement with Osip, all of them set-ups for the main characters.

And there’s little to no recovery time because they all realize that they’ve been screwed over by a corrupt system.  Much like “Other Lives,” this episode mostly dealt with the fallout of the previous one, but the stakes and consequences are much larger here.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Paul with Miguel

Let’s go straight to Paul, as he’s an unfortunate casualty due to being betrayed by Miguel.  Of the three detectives, Paul, I feel, is the most shrouded in mystery.  We’re given hints about his past, but we know the least about him compared to Ray and Ani.  What we do know is that, despite the shit thrown his way, he’s a fighter to the very end.   But he couldn’t let his closet homosexuality get out.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Paul making his way out

Despite the impossibility of his situation, he fought his way out in an impressive sequence that, to be frank, impressed me a bit more than the shootout of “Down Will Come,” if only because Paul appears to be better than Ray and Ani at adapting to his environment and using anything to his advantage.

The problem is that Paul got too deep.  He learned more about the diamonds than necessary and managed to connect the investigation to an unlikely source: Lieutenant Burris.  Burris has had a number of appearances, but he’s mostly been a background character popping up every now and then to speak with Ray.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Lieutenant Burris kills Paul

We learn this week that Burris was involved with the likes of Dixon and Caspere as far back as the 1992 robbery with the jewelry store being their district.  When Tascha was going to blackmail Caspere, Holloway and Burris killed Caspere instead.  So these two officers of the law that, for the most part, just stick to making sure Ray did his job, have been orchestrating part of this affair for years.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Chessani talks with Frank

Yes, we’ve known since the season premiere that Vinci is a corrupt hellhole, but unlike someone like Mayor Chessani- who turned out to be naïve all along- nothing gave me the impression that Burris and Holloway had a corrupt slant to them.  Maybe a bit of darkness in their lives, sure, but that they’d be behind this was a bit of a surprise to me.  This makes Burris out to be even more dangerous, I think, because of how unassuming he is.

Caspere is dead, but Burris is still alive and can put a stop to anyone that learns too much, as we see with Paul.  The threat didn’t have to be some looming, shadowy presence.  It ended up being someone that we knew this entire time.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Blake under Frank's heel

That’s a constant in this episode, with characters being screwed over not by some unknown force, but by those within their inner circle.  Take Blake, who felt that Frank couldn’t be touched, only for us to learn that he’s been touching Frank the entire time.  Phrasing, I know.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Frank strangles Blake

Rather than remain a lackey, Blake wanted to rise above his mentor.  Okay, that’s fair, but that came at the expense of his life when he decided to try and screw over Frank.  Blake is that lackey who’s unhappy with playing second fiddle.  He’s tired of playing the game and wants to be a kingmaker, but his methods are sloppy.  He gets involved with the very people already screwing over Frank, thinking that he’s one step ahead of him, but he forgets how much Frank utilizes Ray.  That or he didn’t count on Ray spying on him.  He got in over his head.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Frank watches the casino burn

And Frank just wants out at this point, but not before screwing over everyone that screwed him.  It’s understandable why he’d kill Blake, but now he wants to make sure that Osip doesn’t get his hands on the casino after his power play.  It may be part of his legacy, but if it’s out of his hands, Frank sees no need to let others have what he’s lost.  He may be down, but he’s taking down as many people with him as possible.

Because the characters can meet their end at any point, they take steps necessary to protect their loved ones.  Frank entrusts Nails to travel with Jordan, Paul sends Emily and Cynthia to a hotel, and Ani has her father and sister sent out of the state and escorted by Elvis.  All because they don’t fully know what they’re dealing with and want to keep their families safe.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Ani and Eliot

Ani gets a chance to make well with her father and sister and while they’re still a screwed-up bunch, at least they get to end on a good note for now.  I’m mixed on the interaction this episode between Eliot and Ani.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Eliot asks if Ani will turn herself in

Eliot calls Ani the most innocent person he’s ever known, and that is seven kinds of fucked up.  There are few to no honest people on True Detective.  If this is meant to be an emotional moment, I think it fails because Ani, who has been pretty blunt from the start, should have rebuked that because she’s far from innocent.  Hell, she’s far from even being a good person.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Ani won't turn herself in

I get that she wants to end on good terms, but I think she had a chance to admit that she’s not this angel that her father thinks she is.  And not that Ani has been shy about admitting how much of a fuck-up she is.  But then, the people who she tries to make amends to aren’t all that much better.

I mean, they’re a notch above her, but they also aren’t innocent.  Even if Athena was out of the game, she still did webcam shows, Eliot’s lifestyle may have led to Ani losing her innocence, and Elvis sold out his partners.  It can be argued that these things aren’t as bad as Ani killing two men, but again, there aren’t many honest people in this world.

Even though Ani managed to rescue Vera, she’s still reeling from the effects of the drugs and what she did.  For all the turmoil caused by the shootout, the sting was, I feel, much more dangerous for Ani because she stepped into that den alone.  She had Paul and Ray outside, but she had to fend for herself and almost died as a result.  That sort of stuff can really fuck with your head, and we see that here with Ani.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Ani and Ray join hands

She tries putting the moves on Ray for, I think, just some form of attachment.  I repeat, just some attachment.  Even before Davis suggested that Ani make advances on Ray, it was clear that there was no sort of attraction between Ani and Ray.  For them to get intimate seems to be them just going through the motions of two fucked-up people finding one another.  I doubt much will be made of this next week and I certainly don’t expect them to pair off and ride into the sunset when the season ends.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Ani and Ray on the bed

And the second go, though I’m not a fan of it, at least felt more natural than when Ani put the moves on Ray earlier.  There, the effects of the drugs still lingered, but come episode’s end, they’ve both accepted that they are, in fact, bad people.  They may have good intentions, but in general, like most characters in True Detective, they’re not good people.  And when they try to do the right thing, fate fucks them over in the worst ways possible.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Ray realizes that Davis is dead

Ray, one of the few to constantly acknowledge that he’s a fuck-up, has his share of personal issues already, but now he’s being implicated in Davis’ death.  Davis, one of the few with some semblance of integrity, winds up as a victim.  And though it looked like a brutal murder, what made this moment so impactful, I think, is that we’re not given time to dwell on it.  Sure, we see Davis’ body before Ray does, but we don’t get much time to soak in the murder.  It’s just body on a growing pile, but it’s made worse because Davis actually wanted to solve Caspere’s murder.

And it happens pretty early in the episode as opposed to being a final moment.  Davis is dead, Ray learns this, move onto the next scene.  You can’t absorb it because there’s too many other things to deal with at the moment, which I like because it keeps things moving.  If we stayed in the car, we’d just get Ray realizing that Davis is dead, but we know that and there’s nothing more that can be done at the moment.  Despite Davis being a relatively straight arrow, even she wasn’t immune to death.  It’s a bleak world these characters live in, but as Ray said, we get the world that we deserve.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms- Paul dead

As we head into the season finale, what took seven episodes to build up to is slowly giving us pieces of an incomplete puzzle.  “Black Maps and Motel Rooms” gives our characters room to breathe, but little more than that.  Their situations have gone from bad to worse as the conspiracy around them involves almost every single powerful figure around them, with the exception of Mayor Chessani.

It put Ani and Ray in dire situations with them both wanted for murder, gave Frank motive to burn bridges and the casino along with them, and put Paul in the crosshairs of Lieutenant Burris.  We did learn more about this growing mystery: we learned of Burris involvement way back in 1992, who died in the cabin, how long Dixon had been looking into the diamonds, and overall, just how fucked-up this world really is.  Our protagonists are navigating into unknown territory and already one of them has been taken.  What happens next?  We’ll see as we head into the season finale.