Where last week Masters of Sex repeatedly flashed forward into the future, episode 8, “Mirror Mirror,” kept dredging up the past. And surprise, surprise—there are some shocking secrets in those previous lives.
Like mystery man Frank. His meetings with Bill are all crack-of-dawn appointments and late-night diner dates. Frank is introduced as Bill’s old college mate, a successful plastic surgeon whom Bill lost touch with years ago; he’s seeking help now that he and his wife are having trouble conceiving. But losing touch happens to us all, right?
Except then there are the clues: Frank, like Bill, has a low sperm count. (Bill almost admits he shares this problem, then reconsiders and decides not to let this “weakness” be known.) Bill’s eager—maybe too eager—to brush off Frank and recommend another doctor closer to his old pal’s Kansas City home. It’s actually rude and unprofessional the way Bill dismisses Frank, even if they were formerly on good terms. And then the truth comes to light: Frank is Bill’s brother. “You think it’s enough to fix the outside—that’s the easy part,” Frank says, recounting the miraculous recovery of the patient who inspired him to get into plastic surgery… who later committed suicide. But he’s obviously talking about his relationship with Bill here. Frank admits he spent most of his life pretending Bill didn’t exist… but now he wants his brother back. What happened that so badly fractured their relationship? And did their mother—who reentered Bill’s life physically, emotionally, and financially last week—play a part in this surprise reunion? That’s to be seen… (Kudos to Christian Borle for giving a strong performance in his debut as the frustrated yet determined Frank.)
“Fixing the outside” turns out to be a good metaphor for Bill’s new philosophy for his practice, too. Virginia becomes almost obsessed with the sexual dysfunction cases they’ve been turning away since changing their screening process for the study. They’ve rejected nearly one third of all applicants because of issues like impotence and, as one woman describes her experience during intercourse: “Is it supposed to feel like knives?” Virginia kept all of their applications out of the would-be patients “bravery” for showing up. But it’s more personal for her than that—she’s still thinking about Bill’s old secretary Barbara and her tearful admission that she’s unable to have sex due to a “closed” vagina, medically known as vaginismus. And we all know Virginia can’t turn down the opportunity to try to help someone, even if it means intruding upon someone’s very painful secrets (see: her unlikely friendship with Lillian, RIP).
That leads to Virginia tracking down Barbara, asking for her help in better understanding her particular sexual dysfunction. Except that backfires when talking about Barbara’s first sexual experience, and Barb comes to the realization that it was with her brother. And it wasn’t a one-time thing, either—they continued their incestuous relationship until they were caught by their mother. The recalling of this memory shakes Barbara to the core, to the point where she shows up at Virginia’s house begging for help. When Virginia makes an appointment for Barbara with a prominent psychologist, Barb freaks out, unable to fathom telling her darkest secret to a stranger, let alone a man. And then Virginia makes a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad decision: She impersonates Barbara at the appointment. Sure, she may get a better understanding of how psychological trauma affects sexual performance, but holy crap. This has got to be the most unethical thing this show has so far tackled, and there is no way Virginia is going to get away with it.
Bill already said Virginia crossed a very dangerous line when Barbara showed up at her house. But because of Virginia’s passion to help Barbara, Bill agrees to take his former secretary on as a client—helping her together, no more solo advisements by Virginia. (Yeah, she totally ignored that request.) But it wasn’t all altruistic, of course—now that Bill can’t get it up, sexual dysfunction is of new importance to him.
NEXT: Physician, heal thyself