Here are the top moments from “Giants:”
The Lillian/Virginia Confrontation
The Lillian and Virginia pairing continues to be the heart and soul of Masters of Sex. It’s so refreshing to see a female relationship that’s so strife with conflict that has nothing to do with fighting over some boy. When these two fight, it’s clear they’re fighting for each other. Their relationship is built on respect and a similar interest in making an impact in medicine. The first season illustrated that Lillian needed a person like Virginia in her life, but this season proves that Virginia needs her even more.
It takes a loud argument between these two colleagues---disastrously overheard by the entire secretarial staff—for Virginia to start to see the flaw in her work at the hotel. She tries to defend the non-affair to Lillian as furthering the work. “It’s okay because you’re taking notes?” Lillian asks. It’s this fight that allows Virginia to move forward her relationship with Bill later in the episode.
Although Lillian is a bit upset about the affair, stating that she’s making it harder for women who aren’t willing to sleep their way to the top, she’s more betrayed by the fact that Virginia was always planning on leaving their study for Bill’s. They end the fight and their working relationship together.
However, Virginia still picks up Lillian for her doctor’s appointment and comes rushing when she hears Lillian passed out at work. Lillian’s employment at Memorial is over, as she can’t responsibly continue to work knowing that her disease can affect her performance. So that’s it. There’s no hope to continue their working relationship. But with any luck, Lillian will continue to be a large presence in Virginia’s life and the ever present voice that reminds her always to choose ambition over love.
Virginia Takes Some of the Power Back
Bill spends most of the episode acting uncharacteristically saintly. But when it comes to Virginia he’s downright creepy. He’s condescending when it comes to Virginia’s need to secure her future employment for the sake of her family. When she asks him if their work at the hotel is a condition of her job, he’s quick to assure her that it isn’t. But the second she starts to imply that she doesn’t want to continue having sex with him, he changes his mind, telling her that it’s part of the job. Nothing like blackmailing the woman you love into sleeping with you.
At the hotel, Virginia isn’t so quick to submit to his whims. (Is she ever?) She refuses to get naked or touch him, ordering him to strip and touch himself so he can feel just as demeaned as her. She asks him clinical questions while he masturbates. “What are you thinking about,” she asks. He admits, “You.” Finally, he admits to her that these hotel dalliances had nothing to do with the study and everything to do with his feelings for her. It’s disappointing that she is continuing their sexual relationship, but at least now they’re on equally footing.
Libby is Taken Down a Notch
The monster formerly known as Libby has continued her transformation into hideous, racist demon flawlessly. The only thing that makes Libby’s scenes palatable anymore is the constant animosity she receives from almost every other character. Robert, Coral’s boyfriend, visits the Masters home to confront Libby about forcing Coral to wash her hair. He’s calm and reasonable while he explains that he’s going to hold her accountable for her actions towards Coral, but to hear Libby retell it he may as well been holding a gun to her head.
Later, she tries to tell Coral, in the most condescending way possible, to stop dating Robert. Although it may have been unrealistic for this young girl to tell her employer about her love life and imply that she’s stuck in an unhappy marriage (“After I’m done making Mr. Master’s bed, should I make yours too?”), it was a cheer-worthy moment. Libby deserves ever dressing down she gets.
Bill even tells her that she was in the wrong with Coral and orders her to apologize, but Libby can’t bring herself to let Coral have the upper hand for even a second. Instead she apologizes to her man, as if it was him she demeans every single day. Robert tells Coral that Libby is proof that white people refuse to take responsibility for their actions, to which Libby responds “White people????????” Isn’t that just the perfect description of this storyline.
Race Relations at Buell Green
One of the main issues with Bill’s character this season is how uncharacteristically saintly he’s been when it comes to social issues. The show doesn’t need to be tied to the true history behind Bill Masters, but for a white, privileged man in the 50s, Bill feels like a liberal-minded transplant from the present. Bill Masters was notorious for being a curmudgeon and his study was marred by homophobia. In order to make him more likeable, and perhaps worthy of being in a relationship with forward-thinking Virginia, the show has set aside one teachable moment per episode to make him heroic.
Despite that, it’s refreshing that the show refuses to ignore the dark side of the time period. Unlike Mad Men, which took 4 seasons to acknowledge that black people existed, Masters of Sex isn’t shying away from showing racism, segregation, and the problems within the medical profession. One patient’s husband, who Bill had always known as an excited, good man, is quick to start a fight in the waiting room because a black man dared to look at his wife. Many of Bill’s patients are hesitant to even park their cars outside the hospital.
Bill’s fine with losing patients, especially since he really only cares about the study. But Dr. Charles Hendricks (played by Courtney B. Vance) gives him a rousing speech about changing the world and ending medical segregation through tenacity. It’s all very inspiring, which makes the revelation that he’s been sabotaging the sex study all the more disappointing.