Post Mortems

Masters of Sex Finale Post Mortem: EP Talks Surprise Returns, Bill's Secret and More [Spoiler] in Season 3

Masters of Sex wrapped Season 2 Sunday night with two surprise comebacks (Barton! Ethan!), a shocking betrayal (Bill sabotaged the CBS story and unwittingly played a role in Virginia losing her kids!), and a big turning point with regard to Bill and Virginia’s work (they’re gonna start passing on their sex knowledge to couples like Lester and Barb!).

“Their work has now shifted from data collecting to actually helping people who are suffering,” explains series creator Michelle Ashford of the finale’s closing scene. “It’s the very beginning of what [becomes] intensely therapeutic work for them. This is what they ended up spending most of their time doing — trying to heal couples.”

In the following Q&A, Ashford sheds light on some of the episode’s (aforementioned) big moments, and previews what’s to come in Season 3.

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TVLINE | Barton’s return was a big surprise. Was that always in your back pocket?
Did I set out at the beginning of last season knowing that was going to happen? No. We’ve now realized that there are certain characters that we’ve introduced that are going to weave in and out for however long it lives, and I would say he is one of them. And his wife, Margaret, is another one. And then when we were talking about this episode and thinking, “Well God, if he can’t talk to Virginia about something who does he talk to?” And all of a sudden I thought, “Oh, wouldn’t it be fun, if it’s Barton?”

TVLINE | Was Barton being truthful with Bill when he said that he had come clean with Margaret about his homosexuality?

TVLINE | I’m bummed we didn’t get to see Beau Bridges and Allison Janney perform that scene. I know they both have their own shows, but still…
He pretty much comes clean to her at the end of Season 1 when he tells her, “This is actually what I am doing.” So I felt like she didn’t go from ignorance to all of a sudden, off screen, him telling her everything.

TVLINE | Will we see more of them in Season 3?
We love them. And we’re committed to them. And they are committed to us. I would say it’s likely we’ll see them one way or another.

TVLINE | Will Bill’s secret that he sabotaged the CBS story continue to haunt him next season? Will it be like a ticking time bomb between him and Virginia?
Michael Sheen and I had a very long discussion about this. It all depends upon what we decide to do [in terms of a time jump] when we come back [in Season 3]. We have this sort of odd burden, or you can call it an opportunity, which is that there are milestones that we need to hit. And they need to actually be at the date that they happened in real life. There are these great turning points in their lives and their careers that are looming, and we have to be faithful to when it happened in history. So we’re going to have to [incorporate] some time jumps again.

TVLINE | Ethan popping up was another surprise. Will we see that rivalry between him and Virginia-Bill play out?
That remains to be seen. But we loved bringing him back. And we love him. So he may [reappear].

TVLINE | Why didn’t Virginia fight harder to keep her kids?
That is not the end of the story at all. It is the beginning of the story, in fact. Her relationship to her children, to the notion of marriage, to creating some sort of functional family unit, is just beginning. Also, she deluded herself into thinking it was just a temporary thing.

MosTVLINE | Let’s talk about Libby. I kind of loathed her at the beginning of the season, but now I think she’s one of the most fascinating and sympathetic characters on the show. Caitlin FitzGerald really rose to the occasion.
Isn’t she just amazing?

TVLINE | Yes. Her speech last week was stunning.
I felt the same way. I would sit there in [the] editing [room] and look at her and go, “God, she is literally just the most perfect creature on earth.” Personally I adore her, but she’s also grown into this really complicated and interesting actress.

TVLINE | How long has Libby known about Bill and Virginia’s affair? Was it just a suspicion that suddenly clicked when she watched the two of them being interviewed by the CBS crew?
That was part of it. There was a very willful desire to ignore this for a long time that slowly, slowly, slowly bubbled up to the surface. And one of the things that allowed it to bubble up to the surface was realizing that she was going to act on her own needs [with Robert]; something was awakening in her. And once that happened it was easier for her to look at the whole package and go, “What is really happening here?”

TVLINE | Why does Robert bring out the strength and daring in Libby that Bill never did? Is it because he actually appreciates those sides of her?
Because he’s paying attention to her. He’s looking at her in a way that her husband does not. He is actually evaluating her, judging her — not kindly sometimes. And he’s not afraid of her sexually. Someone is seeing her and looking at her.

TVLINE | Will we see that relationship evolve in Season 3?
That’s something I’m really thinking about right now. I don’t know the form that that’s going to take. We love [Jocko Sims]. We just keep casting these people and going, “Oh, no, we can’t get rid of him!” We’re going to end up with 200 regulars by the time [the show ends].

TVLINE | For what it’s worth, I want to see more of that relationship.
Yeah? Good. I love hearing that feedback, because I’m in a little bit of a bubble here. I also think they’re really compelling.

TVLINE | Betty had a lot to do in the beginning of the season, but then she just ended up answering phones. Will she remain part of this world moving forward?
Absolutely. She was supposed to be in our pilot and nothing else and look what happened.

TVLINE | Will Sarah Silverman return as her unrequited love Helen?
Yes. I really think she will. She’s a busy woman, so we [will] have scheduling issues, but she was a delight and wonderful, and the two of them couldn’t have hit it off better.

Mos2TVLINE | The Austin-Flo subplot pretty much existed on its own island. What was it about that storyline that you felt it could stand on its own, separate from the rest of the show?
It was a tricky year [because] everybody fled Maternity Hospital and Austin was left behind. And we had a real story issue of, ‘How do we keep him connected to our gang?’ We thought, thematically, there was something really interesting bubbling here [with Flo and the diet pills], and then you [incorporate] a man whose objectification of women is sort of his M.O… There were a couple scenes that had to drop by the wayside because of time where Austin comes to Virginia and says, “What the hell is she doing? How could she make such an outrageous demand that my sexual favors are a condition of my employment?” And Virginia says, “Where have you been? Don’t you realize this goes on all the time?” So some of the connective tissue between Austin and our people got left behind, sadly.

TVLINE | I miss the Lillian-Virginia bond. I was hoping Lillian would miraculously be cured of her cancer.
So were we. [Laughs] We [saw] how fantastic she was on the show and we had this horrible realization that we had given her Stage 4 cancer. Why did we do that? [Laughs] We didn’t anticipate how much we could do with Julianne [Nicholson] until it was too late; we’d already put the curse on her. I share your sadness over Lillian.

TVLINE | I love Lester and Barb. They were in your closing scene — is that a sign that their story will continue?
We don’t really know. I think Lester is pretty firmly entrenched as one of the office regulars. And we love Betsy — love her. It was a fluke how we got her to do the role of the secretary, because it was Betsy Brandt. And then the press got wind of it and they were like, “Oh my God, you have Betsy Brandt?!” And I felt like saying, “Oh, you have no idea how small this role is.” But then I thought that it was silly [to not make better use of her], and that’s how the whole idea of bringing her back came about.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Elsa says:

    Thank you for this Q&A Michael, nicely done, as always!
    For what it’s worth, I would also love to see more of Libby and Robert’s relationship. I love their chemistry and I love that Libby is finally, finally getting some!

    • Libby and Bill’s relationship is one reason why I would never want to live in that time frame. Women were horribly oppressed and were basically meant to be “barefoot and pregnant” in the kitchen. Nothing was talked about. Gay was taboo. Women were nothing. I wish I could combine the 50’s with the 90’s. LOL.

  2. Tran says:

    Great season finale. Even better than last season. Can’t wait to see what happens next in Season Three.

  3. SB says:

    I think this was a very solid season. I think they got to a lot of significant parts of the real Masters & Johnson’s lives and have set themselves up to hit some big milestones for next season. My favorite parts of the season was Libby’s surge from background housewife into the forefront. I also enjoyed Betty, and wish they utilized her more after they did the time jump. I also really enjoyed the Lester and Barb storyline. For 2 characters that we didn’t really know or care about they really made us feel for them and get very engrossed in that storyline.

    My biggest disappointment with this season was the Flo and Austin storyline. Unlike Barb and Austin, I just felt it was too far away from the actual storylines we have grown to care about. And they are both 2 characters that aren’t very endearing. I think they both aren’t that strong and it was just too removed from the rest of the show. I know they wanted to keep Austin on the show, but it really didn’t work out and you could feel they were grasping at straws on how to keep the actor on the show.

  4. Dani says:

    Love this show.

    I also hope they show more of the Libby and Robert relationship next season. It was great watching that storyline play out throughout the season.

  5. Britta Unfiltered says:

    I love the show, and I loved the season. Great characters, and they all have such interesting relationships. Ever since season one, I have thought Caitlin Fitzgerald was a revelation on that show. I didn’t expect to like Libby those first couple of episodes, but she pretty quickly became sympathetic and likable to me. I think it was that first scene when she met Virginia that did it, when she instantly wanted to become friends with her. Michael Sheen and Lizzy Kaplan are pretty fantastic too. Everyone is fantastic on that show!
    I agree with another poster that Flo and Austin seemed a little disconnected from the rest of the MOS world. Plus, as much as I love that actress, she will always just be Artemis from Sunny to me. I will never be able to picture her as any other character. Every time she did a scene on Masters, all I could see was that scene from Sunny with her in the club telling the cute guy, “Hi, my name is Artemis, and I have a bleached a**hole.” If I work hard at it, maybe I can convince myself that Flo and Austin had a baby, and it grew up to Artemis from Sunny.

  6. wrstlgirl says:

    For me I was very bored with this season. The relationship between Masters and Virginia just fell flat with me, having sex for research, blah, blah, blah. I became much more interested in the side characters especially Libby.

  7. TamTam says:

    Where is the Boardwalk Empire recap? I get that MoS is Tvline’s favorite show in the history of tv but it was a victim of the infamous sophomore slump.

  8. Mary says:

    Great show. Depressed we have to wait for another season but looking forward to it!

  9. Liz says:

    Great Q&A. Looking forward to season 3.
    Why oh why did Lillian have to die? Loved the relationship between her and Virginia. :(

  10. Sarah Sterling says:

    I love this show!! Can’t wait for Season 3!!!

  11. I love the show… along with Breaking Bad and Homeland… amazing writing and performances!!!! I would do almost anything for Kaplan, my mom’s maiden name (Kiev). :)

  12. I would also like to see more of Libby and Robert. She bored me to death initially. I found her to be another Betty Draper who went on and on in the victim role, to be quite frank. However, I like Libby so much more now that her character has become more multi-dimentional. I love the thought of exploring the element of being in a biracial relationship because many people don’t know, or have forgotten about the perils that came with what people used to call “miscegenation” in the sixties. Would like to see Virginia come into her own and of course, how this changes the dynamics of her relationship with Bill once she does. I love how confident and unapologetic Virginia is, but it’s nice to see that she does have some vulnerability too. Love, love, love the show.

  13. Jackie says:

    Very honest performances from Martin Sheen and Lizzie Caplan.

    Loved Lester and Barbara and Libby and Robert this season, hope their relationships are developed in season 3.

    My favourite character is Betty. She knows how to put everyone in their place, but in a lovely way. Rather than just concentrate on her personal life, I would like to see her career develop, as she is as bright as a button.

  14. karin says:

    Just wanted to say I love love master’s of sex. I love bill and virgina together..

  15. I love love love this show. Virginia (Lizzy Caplan) is an amazing female lead. What I enjoy most is that it is based on a true story, and some poetic licence. Well done to all in creating this wonderful project. This story is so relevant today as many people suffer from some or other sexual problem. Thank you for a sleek intelligent Programme, I hope it wins many awards.
    I live in Port Elizabeth South Africa.

  16. Ibrahim300 says:

    I agree the show is super awesome…The last two episode were like wow…especially that part which Libby started showing interest with Robert….i was like ‘come on dont dissapoint me, u can do it’…and phew! got relieved when she took the first kiss.
    Awesome episode…cant wait for season 3

  17. Dan Wilson says:

    People really should know that this series is a highly, highly fictionalized version of the Masters/Johnson story. Most of the characters are fictional and M&J in reality were really quite messed up and not the so called geniuses portrayed here. Frankly, they need something new IMHO. I would almost give some of these actors (Lizzy Caplan in particular) 50 cents cash to spend more time fully clothed. It’s becoming very bland and routine.

  18. Jen says:

    You’ve gotta keep Libby and Robert going!!!!!!

    • Kekoa says:

      Have you forgotten how volatile interracial relationships were in the 50’s & 60’s? In most places, you faced unspeakable punishment for even being seen in public with a Negro. Hanging and brutal beatings were very common in the South.

      This character that Libby portrays is way over the top in that time of history. The mere fact that she was a doctor’s wife would have stopped here from doing anything you have written into this already factionalized account of the Masters & Johnson story. Any women of her stature would never even consider jeopardizing her standing on the social ladder, and more importantly ruining her marriage (however shaky it was)…not during that era.

      I would like to see her find her way home, and back into leading a more meaningful life. One in which white women were expected to engage in. Perhaps working more to help her husband understand her need for him to realize the gravity of their marriage going forward would be a start.