Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Masters of Sex: Below the Belt

"If there's one thing I've learned it's that everyone has their own version of everything that's ever happened."

In ‘Below the Belt’, everyone and everything is pretty messy, at times, even bloody. Luckily, there’s surrender, too. And we all can collectively sigh.

I didn't dare ask for nail polish downstairs, not that they would notice my run, not that they would notice if I mimeographed for them in a day-glo bikini.

Libby is a smart woman. In some ways, from her vantage point, she understands better than most the limitations the world around her holds her gender to. Add to that her station in life and she might be more wildly camouflaged from the population than Betty. At the end of the day, in the CORE office (or anywhere), she, as a woman, is the low rung on the ladder. Her joke that she is so insignificant that those in her office wouldn’t even burn the calories to objectify her shows real sophistication of thought.

All I'm asking, for now, is for you to join me in putting our best foot forward.

Other than all of the universal fantastic things this show does for emotionality, psychology and humanity, another well-written component to the story is in the revelation of the roots to the Masters and Johnson rise to fame. It’s wonderfully consistent with show’s POV that it was both of them that wanted recognition and we’re just beginning to scratch that surface. In fact, I can’t remember as nuanced or seamless a scene of back and forth, give and take, ‘my agenda, your agenda, our agenda’ between the two of them about hiring Shep Tally (Adam Arkin!) as their PR guy. It's 100% smoother than the last scene in 'Parallax', in the hotel lobby. They don’t ever oppose each other just to be contrary (sort of amazing since Bill has shown to be an expert at that in other relationships), they really do listen to the other and genuinely want to want the same things as the other. Just further proof of the genius in their coupling.

Please, um, summon your better nature.

Yes, Libby, we all secretly wished for that. Because that fight with Francis was everything we all dreaded and knew it would be. Because we know this repressed taciturn character so well by now that we know Bill would not or could not summon anything but his father’s worst side which is of course his own. And as Bill schools Virginia in ‘Fight’ about the stance of two boxers, there’s an entire unspoken conversation happening between them. But damn he drew Frank’s fire with everything he had. This was so much effort just to punish himself. And Frank. And their mom. And he justifies it within, thinking it allows Frank some kind of release but why it’s so misaligned is because Frank is doing everything he can to permanently turn off that same shared switch because that switch controls his drinking too. But, lest we forget, Bill's the champion-- the one getting the stuffing knocked out of him. Because he never fought back and my god, why doesn’t everyone see that.

I'm broken, and you're the one -- you're the only one who can fix me.

I think this is a real turning point for Bill who before the fight with his brother might really have believed that Virginia will save him (or worse thinks that’s what she wants to hear) and even though she will kind of ‘fix’ him (already has), it’s mostly because he’s let her see who he really is. His blood is on her. But in fairness, because no one could, he can’t do it alone. There’s a facet to them that’s all her because she is the one of them who believes, in the fibers of her being, that there’s no shame is saying you’ve had enough. In stopping the fight if you’re hurt.

Bits and Pieces

*I loved the session with Dr. Madden with the flashback to the rest of the scene in the hotel about resuming the study stitched into it. And I adored what Dr. Madden understood about her because it was deep and real and true.

*I also adore Essie who has more wisdom than anyone currently on this show. Poor thing has to take a hit one after the other from her sons, and they are coming at her from wildly different angles, too.

*That little pact that Libby and Virginia made so that Libby could steal way that night to work for CORE is everything I love about this show.

*So, I guess a divorce lawyer is moving into the building?

*So the mild domination in the hotel room with Virginia and Bill quasi-worked.

*Flo is turning into another arm of womanhood and one underrepresented on television. Artemis Pebdani is effervescent.

Bits and Pieces: the 1960s edition

*Shep Tally referenced the seeds that grew into 60 Minutes, which debuted in ’68.

*Addiction and alcoholism was generally misunderstood (I.E. Frank and Pauline fretting that it was the reason the were not getting pregnant) and the portrayal of it here is right on for the time period. Just through sheer numbers and collecting and reading data, AA was starting to understand that it was a family disease but we were many moons away from even suspecting it to be a gene. A gene that not everyone in the family had.


Dr. Madden: “What does the word "affair" connote for you that "relationship" doesn't?”

Virginia: “All right. Well -- Uh, why don't you tell me? Why am I here?”
Dr. Madden: “I think you want me to be all right with you.”

Essie: “Lullabies never worked with you. You'd stare at me with that expression that said, ‘I will not sleep, ever.’”

Essie: “Has he forgiven you for something you didn't do? I just said, "Thank you, Francis. That's very generous of you." But it felt a little like an accusation that's dressed up to be an apology.”

Robert: “And besides, there's rats in those towers and lice, too. And I think we both know how you feel about lice.”

Cindy (rehearsing a commercial for Cal-O-Metric): “I was a size 60.”
Flo: “16. A size 16.”

Austin: “Boy, she is fantastic.”
Flo: “A regular Barrymore.”

Lester: “I prefer to think of it as telling the truth 24 times a second. Le Petit Soldat? Godard?”

Libby: “It's a good cause. And we'd just keep it between us. Unless the idea of lying to Bill is too uncomfortable.”
Virginia: “Uh, it's not, in fact.”

Shep: “Hey, you know what's great about you two? This. The two of you arguing, the back and forth. You are like every married couple in America.”

Lester: “Do you mind if I sit? I'd like to apologize.” (really long pause)
Barbara: “Is that the apology?”

Bill: “I abandoned him to that monster. And then I punished him for it. What is wrong with me? I give up.”


  1. The last two scenes of this episode were among the most powerful of this season -- and, that's saying something. The fight between Bill and Frank and Bill's words to Virginia were so moving. Just when I think this show can't wrest any more emotion out of me, I am shown to be wrong.

    On a lighter note, I loved the fact that Lester and Barb shared their darkest secrets before they knew each other's names. The coda of his bouncing down the stairs after their meeting was simply lovely.

    But it felt a little like an accusation that's dressed up to be an apology. Wow, but is that statement dead on the money!

  2. The coda of his bouncing down the stairs after their meeting was simply lovely.
    Especially symmetrical since she fell down the stairs when they first connected!

  3. I had forgotten that! Now, it's even better.


We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.