Pilot is the first episode of Season 1 of Masters of Sex.
Dr. William Masters, Washington University’s foremost OB/GYN, runs a successful medical practice by day and conducts a secret study of human sexuality by night. Former nightclub singer Virginia Johnson joins the hospital secretarial staff and proves herself to be an asset to Masters’ work.
The episode opens in October 1956 at an honorary dinner for Dr. William Masters, a fertility specialist in the teaching hospital at Washington University in St. Louis. Provost Barton Scully announces Bill and his work to the crowd of people gathered at the dinner. During his speech, Bill announces that he must leave his own dinner because he has work to do.
In the next scene, a prostitute, Betty DiMello, is having sex in her room with a man, Ernie, while Bill watches with a stopwatch, pen, and pad of paper. Betty is aware that Bill is there. She proceeds to fake her own orgasm and Ernie climaxes rather dramatically.
The scene then cuts to Bill and Betty in a restaurant together discussing the times of plateau and climax for each of the men Betty has spelt with, presumably under Bill’s watch. He defends his work against Betty’s accusations. When Bill tries to chart how long Betty’s climax was he is shocked to learn she was faking her orgasms (and that most women do). She suggests that Bill gets a female partner to help him learn more about sex.
Ethan Haas excitedly tells Bill about the arrival of Virginia Johnson, a nice insurance worker for the hospital. He details that rumor has it (and are true) that Virginia is recently divorced; her husband was a band leader, so she must be looking for more security. Ethan is surprised to learn that Bill is still trying to pursue his study on sex. Bill assures him that the study will continue and remain a secret until he has sufficient findings. Ethan eagerly tries to meet the new girl but gets back to work, per Bill’s request.
As Bill walks down the hospital hall he sees Virginia for the first time.
Bill’s secretary, Miss Horchow, is concerned that she is losing she job, as Bill is planning to interview new secretaries. He informs her that the job has changed and he need someone for his new study who is not “squeamish” and required taking the sexual histories of clients in great detail. Miss Horchow calls the study smut and leaves Bill’s office.
As Bill walks down the hall at the end of the day he sees Ethan talking with Virginia and helping her into her coat. He drives home to find his wife, Libby, has a romantic dinner prepared and she tells him that she is currently ovulating. They pray before having sex, not making eye contact.
The scene cuts to Ethan driving Virginia home from work. Ethan wants to be invited in. Virginia tells him that she looks forward to being his friend. When Ethan tells her that he’d been thinking about kissing her the whole drive home, Virginia replies, “well friends can kiss.”
Back in the Masters home, Bill and Libby have finished and Libby moves to the position Bill instructs to help increase her chances of getting pregnant.
In the next morning, Ethan walks into the hospital with Bill, detailing his evening with Virginia.
In a separate part of the hospital Jane Martin is training Virginia. Virginia asks if there is a directory of the doctors and Jane assumes correctly that it is to look up the available doctors in the hospital. The look up Ethan’s file together.
Ethan is still in Masters’ office trying to figure out Virginia’s motives the night before. He tells Bill that he knows “for sure [he] is going to marry that woman.” The two are interrupted by an emergency in the OR. Ethan grabs Virginia on his way to the operating room so she can watch him in action.
The doctors, primarily Bill, operate on the woman and save her.
Virginia grabs some documents to deliver to Bill and asks to interview for his open secretary position. She lies about being enrolled in a behavioral science program at Washington University. After detailing her personal relationships she tells Bill that she thinks “women often think sex and love are the same thing but they don’t even have to go together.”
Bill asks Virginia why a woman would fake an orgasm and she gives him an answer he appears to like.
Virginia tries to sign up as a student with the university but learns they don’t have a department of behavioral science. The secretary tries to lecture Virginia about being a mother rather than a student.
Provost Scully rejects Bill’s study as “smut” and not serious science.
Libby welcomes Bill home while watching Elvis on Ed Sullivan. Bill tells her about Scully rejecting the study. Libby tells Bill that she got her period and, thus, cannot get pregnant from their intercourse the previous night. She cries about not being able to give Bill a child.
Bill tells Virginia, who is now his secretary, that Libby will be coming in to take part in his cervical cap trial and asks Virginia to help her through the process. They discuss the problem of infertility.
The scene cuts to Ethan and Virginia in her bedroom having sex.
Bill goes to talk with the woman, Mrs. May, who was in surgery the day before. She worries that she’ll never be able to have a child again and Bill promises that he won’t rest until she leaves the hospital with a baby.
Ethan and Virginia are talking, post-coitus, about Virginia’s new work. Ethan tells Virginia about the cervical cap and that Bill has a low or nonexistent sperm count. When Ethan implies that he’ll stay the night, Virginia tells him they are just friends and that he can’t stay.
The next morning, Ethan complains to Bill about Virginia’s actions. He tells Bill that he is in love with Virginia and he doesn’t know what she wants.
Virginia helps Libby prepare for the cervical cap study. When she leaves the room she finds Betty DiMello waiting in the office. The discuss her sexual history.
Bill enters Libby’s hospital room and tells her that Ethan will be her doctor for the study.
Bill then enters a storage room where Betty is hooked up to several machines (EEG, EKG) waiting for him. When Betty asks for a vibrator she also tells Bill that she needs visual stimulation. Betty surprises Bill by telling him she is a lesbian and has a lover, Helen.
Virginia finds Bill grabbing “Man” magazines from a closet and judges him for his work while his wife is in another room. Bill tells Virginia that he can teach her everything that she needs to know. Here he explains that the study isn’t sanctioned by the university so he’s risking his career on it.
Virginia appears in the courtyard of the hospital with Jane telling her about the volunteer opportunity in Bill’s new study.
In the following scene, Virginia hands Jane her paperwork to fill out and tells Bill about the study.
Under the pretense that there is a long list of volunteers, Jane quickly hops onto the exam table and begins the study.
Bill operates again on Mrs. May and narrates the entire procedure out loud for Virginia’s benefit. She is seen furiously writing down everything Bill is saying.
Workers are seen adding more things to the storage closet where Bill’s study is taking place. Virginia catches Dr. Langham listening at the wall with his stethoscope. Dr. Langham informs her that there is a bet going on what’s happening in the room.
Bill designs a vibrator with a camera inside so that they can see the inside while the study is going on. He then argues with Provost Scully, eventually getting him to come to the exam room and shows him his new invention, Ulysses. Jane is worried about participating in the study in front of Provost Scully but her identity remains anonymous. Scully then sees the study firsthand.
In the courtyard Scully admits the study is a remarkable feat but still remains resistant to accepting the study. After Bill pulls his weight and tells Scully that he will leave the university and work somewhere else if his study is not supported.
Waiting for Scully to call, Ethan barges in to Bill’s office dressed for the NICU Benefit and upset that his date is being robbed from him. Virginia tells Ethan she will meet him there. Bill warns Virginia that they cannot have any scandal or their study will be even further compromised. When they are about the leave the phone rings.
At the NICU Benefit, Libby is excited to learn that Scully and Bill have made up, confirming that the study has been accepted. Virginia and Bill discuss adding Dr. Langham to their study.
Virginia and Libby talk about the cervical cap study and having children.
Virginia and Bill tell Dr. Langham about the study. While the three are talking, a very drunk Ethan interrupts the conversation. Ethan takes Virginia outside and yells at her about their relationship. The conversation escalates during their debate of friendship versus love and Ethan smacks Virginia. She hits back and the two get into a fight. Ethan calls her a whore and walks off.
Alone in the bathroom, Virginia looks at her bloodied face.
At the office the next morning Virginia accepts a shipment of “Man” magazines and sees Mrs. May crying. She happily tells Virginia that she’s going to have a baby.
In the newly renovated storage room/study room, Jane and Dr. Langham meet and take part in phase two of the study, couples. Bill notices that Virginia’s cheek is bruised and she lies about the bruise’s origin. Bill and Virginia watch as Jane and Dr. Langham have sex.
Bill worries that because he and Virginia are watching the patients, this may cause them to want to have sex with the patients themselves. He proposes that the two of them should have sex with each other (for the longevity of the project). Virginia asks for the weekend to consider it.