Masters of Sex Season 3 Premiere Skips Ahead to the Sexual Revolution: Recap

Masters of Sex Recap
Masters of Sex jumps ahead to the swinging '60s and the Sexual Revolution in the Season 3 premiere. Michael Desmond/SHOWTIME

Ch-ch-changes! Showtime’s Masters of Sex is back for Season 3, and the characters are all in vastly different places from where Season 2 wrapped up, thanks to a four-year time jump. The swinging ‘60s are well underway, birth control is widespread, and the sexual revolution has begun. Virginia's kids have become adults and Bill's babies have become kids! Libby has a drug problem! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Read on to find out what happened in the Season 3 premiere.

The Sexual Revolution

The episode began in a Boston hotel in 1965, and Virginia “Ginny” Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) and Bill Masters (Michael Sheen) were still working and sleeping together. The strange and strangely passionate affair they developed in previous seasons seems to have cooled off as the years have passed. Ginny talked distractedly over their low-impact lovemaking, which drove Bill to an out-of-character outburst. “Stop talking so I can f— you properly,” he exclaimed. Some things change, but some things stay the same.

While past seasons featured Johnson and Masters struggling to get their work accepted, now the tables have turned. The sexual revolution has swept the country, Johnson and Masters, speaking at a press conference for the impending release of their new book, Human Sexual Response, were accused of being late to the party and publishing sex research just because it was the popular thing to do. Bill was flustered by the criticism, but Ginny stated simply, “We ARE the sexual revolution.”

Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson and Caitlin Fitzgerald as Libby Masters in Masters of Sex
Michael Desmond/SHOWTIME

Four months before their rocky press conference, Bill and Ginny were still working away, coaching dysfunctional couples from behind two-way glass. The husband in this case balked at the idea of a “rump rub.” Fan-favorites Lester (Kevin Christy) and Betty (Annaleigh Ashford) popped up as fixtures of the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation, but don’t expect to see much of them. After a couple of quips, Ginny and Bill headed up to the lake to join Libby (Caitlin FitzGerald) and the kids for a weekend of “R and R” that Bill was sure would kill him. He has never been less of a family man than he was in this episode.

And what a family! Thing may have progressed for Johnson and Masters’ work and relationship, but the big change this season was that the kids have grown so much. Both of Ginny’s kids, Henry and Tessa, joined all three of Bill and Libby’s for the “relaxing” weekend, and so it was amid a whirlwind of shrieking kids, yelling siblings, and over-sexed teenagers that Bill and Ginny argued about whether or not Ginny should finally go back to finish her degree.

Those Crazy Kids

Henry, Ginny’s oldest, was not only having sex in the family cottage, he had put off going to college, quit three different jobs, and was in no mood to have any kind of discussion with his mother. Instead, after getting hit by a car, he revealed that he was enlisting in the Army, a move that sent Ginny to a painful conversation with her ex, George, who was convinced he could talk his son out of it. George, incidentally, had divorced new wife Audrey from last season, taken up with “some 18-year-old,” and was very obviously ready to put the moves on Ginny.

Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson and Mather Zickel as George in Masters of Sex
Michael Desmond/SHOWTIME

Tessa, meanwhile, was having growing pains of her own. After forcing Bill to drive her into town to buy Kotex for her newly-started period, she bonded with him over their shared aversion to having a proper sex talk. While Libby and Ginny were in the hospital dealing with Henry’s car injury, Tessa took the opportunity to get ultra drunk and thrust her very, very young nakedness at an unsuspecting Bill.

That would be bad enough as it was, but the whole thing happened in front of Bill’s oldest son, John. All episode, John was craving his father’s attention. Bill’s fear of being a bad parent (because of his own abusive father) has been such a large part of past seasons, and now we saw the results of all that fretting: Bill is a terrible dad.

Seeing Tessa nakedly flop around in Bill’s arms sent John over the top. He cursed out his dad before tossing the researcher’s prized book manuscript from the dock. Bill got close to flying off the handle, raising his voice and a fist to his son, but stepped back from violence at the last second. 

Three's a Crowd 

In the family cabin, everyone was finally home safe (except Henry, who was off having post-car-accident sex). Libby found Ginny alone in bed. After all they’d shared that day — Ginny saw Libby gulping down pills, both women took care of the other’s children, they teamed up to deal with Bill — Libby reached a breaking point. Bill chose to spend yet another night sleeping alone outside, and Libby admitted that her heart could only break so many times. In the end, Libby took complete control of the situation, kissing Ginny square on the mouth, letting her know that SHE knows about the affair, and soliciting one promise: Don’t break up my family. It was a plea for the three of them to settle for functional dysfunction.

Cut to four months later, where Ginny and Bill finally hit their stride in front of the reporters at the press conference. They were speaking from their hearts, and really beginning to work together. It turns out that the jerk in the crowd who’s been grilling them the whole time secretly loved the book! Everything was turning around, until the final moment, when Ginny dashed to the bathroom to vomit. Bill followed her in, not to comfort her, but to state: “You’re pregnant.”

Tell Us: Did Masters of Sex Season 3 feel like a whole new show? How can these families remain intact?

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