Virginia stands before Bill to discover he’s been continuing the study without him, that she is officially out of the picture because instead of applying herself, she decided to go ahead and give herself the job description of “mistress.” What is this? Have we flashed forward a few years? No. Virginia wakes up from this nightmare, but sadly for her what she dreamt is scarily close to the actual nightmare she’s living in.
She confronts Bill yet again about getting into Memorial Hospital as his research assistant back on the study, but he tells her Greathouse is still dragging his feet on getting approval from the board. And so she remains still in limbo, left hiding away in a hotel room with Bill. But even that isn’t safe when Austin Langham — who happens to stay at the same hotel when he visits his kids during the separation with his wife — spots them there together. Langham later addresses Virginia about what he saw, and she delivers what she thinks is a clean and tidy story as a response, skirting all suggestion of having an affair with Bill.
It’s nice that we do see Bill really fighting for Virginia’s place in the hospital, telling Greathouse she is both instrumental and indispensable. This is especially true as we watch Bill unable to be personable at all with the subjects who come in to participate. That was all Virginia. And yet Greathouse explains the board only views her as an overpriced secretary, which is especially insulting because dear Betsy Brandt’s Barbara is struggling to be even a competent secretary.
Meanwhile, Betty continues to come in to get her fake fertility treatments, even though she very well knows she is infertile. She brings in husband Gene to get his own fertility test, and she tells Bill to lie and say he’s shooting blanks. Although Betty succumbs and allows Bill to reveal she’s the infertile one, it isn’t until a later scene that the entire truth comes out, that Betty was unable to have children all along. This leads to a touching monologue from Gene about him having actually met her in the brothel the first time, not in the church like he originally told her. So he really did like her for who she was — even as a prostitute — which cuts into Betty, who was lying all this time. And it makes for a great scene for Annaleigh Ashford, too, who has been having shining moments through this season so far.
Still slurring her words with her worsening condition, Lillian meets with a doctor from Miami about her Pap smear program, while continuing to suggest Virginia should eventually take over the work. Enter Langham, who acts like a walking Bill-Virginia truth bomb through the episode, not believing their tidy story and thinking there is definitely an affair going on. He has a few drinks with Lillian and in a moment of misunderstanding, ends up divulging his inkling to Lillian and thinks she has known about it for some time — though she has no idea. “How could I not have known they were sleeping together the entire time?” he implores. Unbeknownst to Langham, this is a shocking revelation for Lillian.
Later, Lillian gives Virginia a very sincere chance to come clean. After sharing a little secret about herself, Lillian says to her, “It seems only right that you should share with me.” When Virginia claims there’s nothing to tell, Lillian is rightfully hurt, especially after all they’ve been through together. From Lillian’s perspective, Virginia is keeping something huge from her, which insults and disappoints her. It’s why Lillian then decides to turn her entire Pap smear program over to the doctor from Miami and nonchalantly drops the news on Virginia without even consulting her first. Virginia, of course, feels double-crossed, unaware of what Lillian thinks she knows to be true about her.
Being stripped of yet another scientific partnership, it forces Virginia to completely betray her own dignity and go deeper into her business of making women feel bad about themselves in order to sell the Cal-o-Metric diet pill she’s been peddling in order to make it by. By episode’s end, it’s all she has left and feels completely helpless for it. She confides to her children, telling them in order to get any work done, you have to do it all your own. Most disturbing, she says this while loading up her cabinets with those damned diet pills.
If only Virginia knew how much Bill is fighting for her inside that hospital. The sleazy Greathouse’s only interest in the study comes from the desire to watch attractive women masturbate from behind closed doors. “What’s on the menu tonight?” he asks. Meanwhile, Bill tries to thwart him off by suggesting two men observing the study will create homosexual tendencies. For a second, he thinks it has worked; that is, until Greathouse shows up with a bigger audience of doctors to watch, perhaps thinking more men will diffuse any homosexuality to spread, or whatever it is he would think. When Bill demands his study be taken seriously and to have his examination room cleared, and not only that, but have Virginia return as his assistant first thing tomorrow, Greathouse threatens to pull the program entirely. Understandably infuriated, Bill throws a few punches and then gets fired.
Bill arrives home to find none other than ticking truth bomb Langham waiting with Libby. They have a conversation outside, where Langham spouts advice to Bill on how best to keep his affair with Virginia under wraps and asks whether if it’s even worth it to him.
Then there’s the oblivious Libby, still being horribly rude to poor nanny Coral, correcting her speech and making her wash her hair to rid herself of lice she doesn’t even have. What insufferable battle she thinks she’s fighting here is still unclear, and she’s digging herself deeper into this hole. When she discovers Bill is out of yet another job, she finally unleashes all of her pent up anxieties. “How many opportunities will you have to squander before this works? You have a wife and child who depend on you,” she says. Here’s a woman who doesn’t understand her husband is ambitious beyond wanting to be a good husband and father. They are simply on two different planes of living.
The episode ends with Bill taking a meeting at Buell Green Hospital, a predominantly African American hospital, which for the era must’ve felt like a place that was the only remaining outlet willing to offer a position to him. But maybe it’s also the place where he can finally get Virginia properly back in the picture.