The differences between sex and love have been a recurring theme on Masters of Sex so far this year, and “Two Scents” explored that concept further, through the lens of fantasy; in short, sex has it, and love should transcend it.
We open with Virginia and perfume man Dan Logan in the lab introducing this concept with their conclusion that “Smells elicit emotions rather than arousal,” implying that the two are mutually exclusive, but later on when they bottle a scent laced with Lester’s sweat in an attempt to figure out if human pheromones exist, they find that the women who smelled it experienced the physiological changes associated with arousal despite not reporting being turned on by the smell. It’s nature, but Bill—who has a hunch that Virginia’s “slipping away” from him and falling for Dan—dismisses it as trickery. Wearing a particular scent to attract someone is deception, in his mind, while Dan sees it differently: “Nature can always be improved upon,” he says.
Of course, that’s not necessarily true, and that’s where fantasy comes into play. This week Virginia and Bill attempt to counsel a celebrity couple—football star Al Neely and actress Isabella Ricci—and cure their “frigidity” issues. It’s quickly apparent that their problem is more than physical, however: they’re both unfaithful, and they’ve lost that initial “spark.” As Al admits, when he first fell for Isabella, she “was 20 feet tall”—a fantasy on a movie screen, not a real-life, complex person, and now that he has achieved the dream of having her, he’s bored with her. Those pheromones can only do so much.
Bill and Virginia find themselves lured in by their own respective fantasies as well. For Bill, that means palling around with two alpha males who remind him of the father who never loved him. It starts with Paul, who is now apparently his jogging buddy, and an offer to help coach his youth football team, but it turns into something a little more messed-up when Bill discovers that the team’s star quarterback is Dennis, the kid who beat up his son. He quickly makes amends with the kid, and soon he’s trying to teach a disinterested Johnny some of Dennis’ plays and “atta boy”-ing the same boy he threatened with violence a few episodes ago when he scores a touchdown. And when Dennis turns up on his doorstep later, Bill seizes the opportunity to bond over football stats and live out his fantasy father-son relationship while his actual son is forced to look on from the background, watching his dad befriend the kid who hurt him so badly he needed stitches. Yeesh.
Virginia, on the other hand, is drawn in by the prospect of a fairytale romance. At the beginning of the episode, she seems to be devoted to Bill, telling Dan she’s not sure why she asked him out but that it was a mistake. “You deserve a proper courtship,” he insists, and apparently that sticks with her, because when she and Bill are forced to get it on in their lab because her parents are staying at her house, she frets over the fact that the two of them didn’t meet by locking eyes across the room at a dinner party. “We had a courtship,” Bill claims. “We had a negotiation,” she responds. That’s an oversimplification of a very complicated relationship, and later on, she’s back in the lab with Dan, except there’s far more romance this time—slow-dancing instead of wires and charts. She sleeps with him, and it’s another big obstacle for the Bill and Virginia relationship, but again, we’re dealing with real-life events here, and we know how this love story ends (with Bill and Virginia marrying in 1971). But we’re not there yet, and so we’ve got yet another hurdle for these two to overcome romantically while we wait for the show’s next time jump. The frustration lies in the fact that we know the love is there—Dan is, so far at least, nothing more than a plot device, a fantasy meant to distract from the inevitability of Bill and Virginia’s future.
—Looks like based on the teasers for next week, Sarah Silverman’s back as Helen.
—The Libby-Joy-Paul storyline is compelling, if not a little predictable. How long before Libby and Paul are having secret rendezvous in Joy’s empty apartment behind Bill’s back?
—Seriously though, whatever happened to Robert?
—It was nice to see Tessa and Virginia bond for a little bit this week, even if it was almost immediately undercut by Tessa’s discovery that her mother had been out getting laid.
— “Your job is to be invisible while cheering them on.”
— “Her mouth is saying no, but her vagina says yes.”
— “What you call science, most people call chemistry.”