Masters of Sex: Coats or Keys – Swingers (Review)


Masters of Sex slips away from the office, except for a couple of scenes and moves into swinger territory.  “Coats or Keys” uses the setting of a sex party, hosted by Art and Nancy, to dig a bit deeper into the characters.

The beginning of the episode is the aftermath of that party. Linden has gotten lucky in the back seat of a station wagon and Virginia leaves Art’s bed. Bill is talking to someone off camera about mending their ways.

24 hours earlier, Nancy is worrying over the swingers party and Art explains that Bill will not be coming.  Masters and Johnson talk about the party. Bill says he cannot attend as it is his night with the kids. Virginia invites Lester.

Libby is in Bill’s office complaining about the dog he bought their kids.

“He shat Bill. He shat in the Barbie Dream House.”

In the office, Bill and Virginia each speak separately with the couple from last week.  As they speak with the sexually dysfunctional man and wife, it becomes clear that they are not compatible in the bedroom.

The backstory of each one features polar opposite cause and effect issues.  Gary had an overbearing father who ran over his family like a steamroller. Fran’s mother was the steamroller in her house. The woman demeaned and bullied her father non-stop.

As Bill and Virginia talk about secrets, she says “I’ve told you mine.” “Not all, I’m sure,” replies Bill.  Their discussion about the couple in treatment shadows what they need to do to repair their relationship.

Linden and Betty arrive at the party together. Both are telling each  other of miseries mentioned many times before.  Betty’s partner lying to her parents about their relationship and Lester’s wife messing around with balloon man.

Virginia and Libby arrive and like their office colleagues have no idea what the party really is. Virginia meets Michael, a friend of her “husband” Dan Logan. Things get awkward because he knows Dan and Alice.

Libby and Michael make a connection, although she still has no idea that this is a swinger’s party.  Soon after, Abe Perlman, Bill’s lawyer comes in and she tries unsuccessfully to avoid him.

Lester is too intoxicate to be appealing, he actually finishes the drink of the woman he is talking to, and Betty tells Virginia she needs to tell Bill about Dan.  After she agrees to tell him, Bill shows up wanting to know where the kids are.

Libby, discovering what the party is really all about combined with Bill’s arrival decides to leave.


The penny drops for Betty, Libby and Lester.

Art picks Virginia’s coat and Lester picks his drinking partner’s.  She declines and he steps outside. Betty plunks herself down next to the piano player.  She sticks with the only other “homo at the party” for moral support and to keep her coat from being picked.

Nancy goes off with her choice while Art and Virginia talk. The orgasmic sounds of Nancy and her sex partner can be heard through the walls. As the tempo and the volume increases, Art reveals that he is not an enthusiastic proponent of their open marriage.

Bill drives Libby home.  The couple get into a spirited discussion that ends in Bill performing oral sex on Libby. This opens the door to further interaction that goes far to mending any burnt bridges.  While not a reconciliation per se, they seem to have dampened her hostility.

Amusingly, it all starts with Bill granting Libby three wishes.

Hysterically, after Bill brings Libby to an orgasm she is still angry. Bill asks why? “Because that was great,” Libby replies. “We could have been doing that for 20 years.”

Lester hooks up with Cleo the caterer. They have a talk by the driveway and Cleo proves to have a brilliant sense of humor. She tells Linden that “nothing radical has ever been catered.”

Betty and the piano player; Guy, spend the evening singing show tunes and leave together at nine.  They end up sleeping in the two lab beds at the office.

Art and Virginia talk throughout the night. She reveals that to her, sex is a weapon or a tool with which she can vanquish other women.  She realizes that Bill was, and is still, her perfect mate. He is willing to “kiss her bruises” and to accept her as she is.

In the morning Art gives Virginia her keys and she grabs Libby’s coat. Bill has taken the new dog, Baxter, for a walk and when Virginia knocks on the door he answers it.  After an awkward moment she tells him about Dan and Bill reveals he knew already.


Bill responds with “I’ll see you at the office.”

“Coats or Keys” was, perhaps, the funniest episode of Masters of Sex this season. It was also the most poignant.  Letting the viewer into Virginia’s mind and showing how she really feels about sex, herself and Bill.

The two comic highlights of the episode were Libby’s “we could have been doing this for 20 years” and Cleo asking Lester to “say something sexy” as she approaches climax.

“Civil disobedience,” whispers Linden…

Masters of Sex ended with Virginia realizing that she really belongs with Bill. Meanwhile, he and  Libby seem to be on the road to reconciliation.

The series airs Sundays on Showtime. Tune in and see where all this self discovery leads.


Guest starring David Walton as Abe Perlman,  Enuka Okuma as Cleo and Nick Clifford as Guy.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

5 thoughts on “Masters of Sex: Coats or Keys – Swingers (Review)”

  1. This episode was so brilliantly written and acted. I truly forgot I was watching Lizzy play Virginia. She did it so well. This is the kind of writing that keeps me coming back each week..year after really long year. That hiatus was way too long!


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