What a sucker punch to the gut of an ending. Bill, defeated after getting fired from yet another hospital (more on that later), goes to Virginia’s house to only then be greeted by some man we’ve never even been introduced to before. And it’s her boyfriend(!) of a couple months(!) — I love how the show just cleverly pulled that one out of nowhere. Then again, maybe it shouldn’t come as that much of a shock. Do we really think a woman like Virginia would’ve been doing what she’s doing with Bill without having a real back-up plan man back at home, while Bill has Libby? It was such a well-executed moment that leaves you feeling empathy toward Bill, even though he acts like a pompous ass throughout this entire episode. ‘Masters’ always has a way of bringing us back around to Bill, even though he’s so largely unlikeable.
A lot of this episode focuses on Virginia and BFF Lillian. With her radiation treatments getting serious (and taking place in a nearly pitch black and extremely ominous room), she asks the doctor what’s going to happen to her. The answer is not pretty, and it puts Lillian in the mindset of not even wanting to fight a battle she knows she’s going to lose. Naturally, Virginia is offended Lillian doesn’t want to fight for her life. “I don’t know how to not fight,” she tells Lillian, pleading that she doesn’t give up. In this moment, Virginia actually realizes Lillian is perhaps her only friend, her best friend. She unloads all of these feelings on to Bill back in their hotel room (that god damned hotel room). “She knows me,” she tells him, to which he responds, “I know you.” And then they kiss, which even with all the sex they have, kissing is the one thing they never do.
So, back to why Bill gets fired (again). A journalist, who’s interested in Bill and Virginia’s desire to get African Americans involved in the study, wants to do a piece on them. At first they think it would be a great idea to help Dr. Hendricks realize why his staff should be participating in the study. (They quickly found out about his removing of the flyers like a shady cartoon villain.) Turns out, however, the journalist is much more interested in Bill as “a revolutionary of sorts estranged from the white community,” she explains during an interrogative one-on-one with him. Of course Bill has none of it and demands her not to publish the story. As obvious as it was this was Bill asserting himself as a man, he then glances at a framed picture that reads: “I AM A MAN.” Flashbacks to the “Fight” bottle episode incurred.
Beyond that, Bill then goes to her editor and threatens him with distasteful findings about African American sexuality — all fabricated lies. Bill isn’t above playing dirty when it comes to saving his reputation, which is pretty much already tarnished at this point, wouldn’t you think? As it would, this gets back to Dr. Hendricks, and Bill is done with his time at Buell Green. It also allows him, though, to finally realize that maybe a hospital is no longer the proper venue for him to continue his work.
And then there’s Libby. What even IS this subplot anymore? If someone has the Cliff’s Notes to what in the hell Libby is going after by harassing Coral over and over and over, please send those my way. Anyway, whatever this has been finally comes to a head when she becomes a downright stalker. She watches Coral and her boyfriend intently, most likely just jealous of the supposedly great sex they have. Cue Bill, who tells her to stop being so obsessive over Coral. She claims she doesn’t feel safe with that boyfriend around and even looks up his criminal record to provide backing in demanding Coral get rides from someone else. Coral agrees but secretly still gets rides from him; this leads to Libby later following them to their apartment and discovering this man is actually Coral’s brother. There’s an undertone of Libby perhaps being attracted to the brother, in a moment when he dabs the blood from her leg after she gets a scrape. There’s definitely some sexual desire Libby isn’t getting fulfilled, something she sure as hell isn’t getting from Bill. It’s a fascinating part of her character, but I wish she would stop being so insufferable. In any case, she fires Coral, so now maybe after six episodes we can finally give Libby something else to do.
Betty and Sarah Silverman — I mean Helen — have a romp in bed and discuss their arrangement. Betty offers up the suggestion of having Helen as a mistress to her and Gene’s marriage. It’s Betty wanting to have the best of both worlds. She wants the money and the white picket fence of her marriage to Gene, while also having the true love and sexual satisfaction of being with Helen. She, however, sees right through this and, soon thereafter, smacks Betty in the face with the announcement of her and Gene’s friend Al eloping. Betty is aghast and storms off after having to watch them kiss. Gene thinks Betty might have a thing for Al based on her reaction, but Al dishes to him he saw her and Helen locking lips at that restaurant. How dense must Al be to think that kiss means the two women are just very good friends? Gene confronts Betty in a wonderfully acted scene, accusing Betty of being in love with Helen. It’s a tough situation, an unredeemable situation and, although Betty has been lying to her husband (and herself) all this time, you do really feel for her.
This is an episode cloaked in dark shadows, for a season that has been continually traveling down a bleak tunnel. The show’s creator Michelle Ashford has said in interviews, however, there is a light at the end of this tunnel, and it’ll likely come in the form of that multiple-year jump ahead we’re going to see halfway through this second season.
But in the meantime, we’re left to bask in sorrows like the death of Lillian. She and Virginia spend an intimate evening together, and Lillian presents her a metaphorical letter of accepting her decision to stop fighting her cancer. The letter is actually one addressed to her family about where she wants to be buried or dedicating her body to science. After tucking Lillian into bed, Virginia returns to pick up the metaphorical letter and enters a much more literal situation of being forced to let Lillian go. She has swallowed a bunch of sleeping pills, and just as Virginia is about to give the address to the 911 operator, she puts the phone down and lies next to Lillian as she drifts away. I think we’ve reached the darkest portion of this tunnel.