Masters of Sex Season Premiere Recap: The Kids Aren't Alright

Masters of Sex Season 3

So what if the Fourth of July has already come and gone? In its Season 3 premiere Sunday night, Masters of Sex proved the fireworks don’t have to stop when Independence Day is over.

For months now, we’ve been reminding you that the Showtime drama’s third season would pick up in 1965, as Virginia and Bill prepare to present their sex research to the masses. Now that the season’s first hour is over, though, it’s clear that Virginia and Bill’s study is the least shocking thing about the episode.

Before we get your thought on Masters‘ return, a brief recap of what went down in the premiere:

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FAMILY MATTERS | The episode begins just one night before Virginia and Bill will hold a private press conference for reporters who’ve read Human Sexual Response in advance — but more on that in a minute. The bulk of the action takes place in a series of flashbacks to four months prior, in which Virginia, Bill, Libby and their gaggle of children head to the lake for an annual “vacation” weekend, which seems to be dreaded by all parties involved.

Bill, having just received the manuscript for his and Virginia’s book, is consumed by proofreading all weekend, leaving Virginia and Libby to hang out with the kids. Best case scenario? The kids play board games and fashion grass hula skirts and don’t cause any trouble. Worst case scenario? Well, let’s start with Henry. The 17-year-old — allow me to emphasize: seven-freaking-teen — is sleeping with a young mom, and he wants to enlist in the Army rather than drive an ice cream truck around town all summer. (Considering how annoying the Mister Softee jingle is, I can’t say I blame him for choosing a different path.)

Masters of Sex Season 3And then there’s Tessa: Now 15 years old, she’s more than ready for the birds-and-the-bees conversation — but she seems more interested in bumming her mom’s cigarettes and raiding the lake house’s liquor cabinet. In fact, during her second night of vacation, Tessa overdoes it with the alcohol, landing herself in the bathtub where she drunkenly takes off her clothes in front of Bill and plants a sloppy kiss on him.

That leads us to Bill’s boy, Johnny, who spends most of the vacation weekend being treated like he’s perpetually in his father’s way. When Johnny spies his dad kissing Tessa (without context, mind you), he flips out. He tells his old man to shut up, calls him a “f—ker,” then screams, “You never kiss Mommy, and then you kiss Tessa? Why would you even do that, you freak?” But Johnny’s harsh words are nothing compared to his next move: running off to the lake with Bill’s manuscript in hand and tossing the pages into the water. Even when Bill threatens to hit him, Johnny insists that he will never apologize to his dad — and Bill, realizing how similar he’s become to his own father, merely grounds the boy instead.

The rest of the vacation weekend is, by comparison, much calmer. Libby — who is sporting her most posh hairstyle yet — confesses to Virginia that she’s medicating for anxiety and depression. And although her life with Bill might not be the one she imagined for herself, she’s willing to bear the emotional burden of Bill’s affair if it means keeping her family intact. (And although she never says it aloud, Libby seems to be preoccupied with her feelings for/about Robert, too. Something terrible must’ve happened to him, right?)

RELATED Masters of Sex Season 3: Lizzy Caplan Says Her Kiss With [Spoiler] Is ‘Not What You’d Think’

MEET THE PRESS | In the present day, Virginia and Bill are nervously preparing for their press conference, which goes about as smoothly as all of their previous press events have — that is to say, the researchers spend most of their allotted time trying to convince the reporters that their work is valid at all. By the end of the conference, though, Virginia and Bill seem to have persuaded the crowd: Even their biggest critic admits that Human Sexual Response is an enormous contribution to society. Put this one in the win column for Masters and Johnson, right?

Well, kinda. After Virginia has an emotional breakdown during the conference (in which she tearfully confesses to Bill that she hasn’t yet obtained her bachelor’s degree), Bill grows concerned about his partner — even more so when he realizes Virginia’s skirt is busting at the seams as she chats with reporters. Later, after the conference is over, Virginia makes a beeline to the toilet, where she becomes sick to her stomach — and Bill realizes, just then, that Virginia is pregnant.

OK, your turn. What did you think of Masters of Sex‘s Season 3 premiere? Grade the episode via our poll below, then hit the comments to back up your choice!

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. I was underwhelmed This show’s strengths are the dynamics between Masters and Johnson and the reactions from the rest of the world when confronted with direct and unvarnished information about sex and sexual response I don’t need to see Tessa throw herself at Bill or see Johnny have a tantrum and throw a manuscript in the lake; They’re secondary and peripheral and they’re not even the same actors and actresses as in previous seasons. We have no emotional investment or interest in these children

    • Mike M says:

      More strangely, the show is careful to point out that the children are in fact totally fictional characters and did not actual exist within the timeline of events. So we not only have padding, but now padding that is being reupholstered and placed center stage of the living room and languished in.

      That said, the children do exist in the show’s context, and the time has moved forward those years. So we knew how old they would have become and no doubt it has been a deliberate plot device for what is after all a TV drama. I would have been a lot happier with more content that filled in the transition to where we are now with this three-way marriage, and indeed the non-presentation parts could have happily filled the screen with just this alone, and it was essentially ignored. I certainly hope that there will now be some drama around it given the fact Virginia is pregnant, and we wont just see Libby drink her way to the credits.

      As for Bill I think he wasn’t in that moment just aware of how much he could be like his father, but also how suddenly aware that he had allowed his son to feel the same resentment about him as he had about his father. It wasn’t about Tessa directly, that had just allowed it to explode, but Bill had been blind to the very same feelings building in his son that he had experience himself with his own father, and felt so wronged by.

  2. Porter says:

    Season 3 looks like a dud. What did they do to this show????Where is Alison Janney?

  3. julia says:

    Good start to the season but it was all over the place. The time jumps are abit jarring esp seeing as the main cast do not seem to age, just the kids do…I’m really hoping for more as the season goes on