Persuading white patients to patronize a predominantly black hospital during the late 1950s proves a daunting challenge on “Giants,” Episode 205 of Showtime’s “Masters of Sex.”
Fired twice for his controversial study of human sexual response, Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) makes a fresh start at Buell Green in a low-income St. Louis neighborhood.
Libby (Caitlin Fitzgerald) worries that her husband’s career is on a downward trajectory.
“Where does he go from here?” she asks Bill’s colleague Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan). “The resident doctor at the state penitentiary?”
Many of Bill’s patients refuse to visit Buell Green. And the situation worsens when a fight breaks out in the waiting room between a white man and a black man.
“I fear I may have misjudged how my patients would handle the transition to a new hospital,” Bill informs his supervisor, Dr. Charles Hendricks (Courtney B. Vance). Charles disapproves of Bill’s fatalistic attitude.
“This hospital will be integrated,” Charles insists. “Now, are you willing to help me do that?”
Virginia is far better at wooing patients than Bill, but first she must be persuaded to leave Washington University. Since she’s a single mom supporting two kids, Virginia demands an employment contract.
“I don’t have the luxury of jumping ship on a whim,” she tells Bill. “And if you end up leaving this hospital like you left the last one and the one before that, what guarantee do I have that they will keep me on without you?”
To help win her over, Bill reveals that Virginia isn’t highly regarded by her current boss, Dr. Lillian DePaul (Julianne Nicholson). That’s because she knows Bill and Virginia are engaged in a sexual relationship that appears more like adultery than scientific exploration.
When Virginia broaches this sensitive topic with Lillian, a heated exchange ensues.
“Our participation in the study has been unorthodox, I’ll admit that,” Virginia says, emphasizing that their physiological reactions during coitus are charted — just like with all the other volunteers.”
“So let me understand,” Lillian haughtily replies. “It’s OK because you’re taking notes?”
Lillian is dying of cervical cancer, however, and can’t afford to be antagonistic for long. After fainting in public, she turns to Virginia for support.
“They would only release me to a responsible party,” Lillian says meekly. “I didn’t know who else to call.”
As the fast-spreading disease takes its toll, Lillian’s practice at the university draws to an end. This clears the way for Virginia to join Bill at Buell Green.
But getting their sex study back on track is tougher than expected when volunteer recruitment fliers are ripped off the bulletin boards. The culprit? It’s Charles, the hospital’s head honcho.
Meanwhile, Gene Moretti (Greg Grunberg) — who funds the sex research — feels betrayed by his wife, Betty (Annaleigh Ashford), for lying about her ability to bear children. Gene’s mood brightens, however, when Betty says she’s willing to adopt.
The wealthy “Pretzel King” is his usual cheery self when a “psychic” named Helen (Sarah Silverman) unexpectedly arrives. Unbeknownst to Gene, Betty and Helen were once lovers. But Betty has no intention of resuming their secret lesbian partnership.
“You’re not coming back into my life after the hell it took getting you out,” Betty firmly states.
“You got to grab the brass ring. Now it’s my turn,” replies Helen, who has her eye on Al (Johnny Sneed), one of Gene’s rich buddies.
When Betty visits the ladies room during a double date, Helen is close behind. She makes her move, tenderly kissing Betty on the lips.
“You can’t do that,” Betty protests.
“I just did,” Helen says with a sly smile.