“You’re not your worst part.”
In an episode dedicated to showing the “good” side of characters whose decisions often fall into a gray moral area, “you’re not your worst part” is a reminder that beyond the controversial research, checkered pasts, and yes, even affairs, these are decent human beings worth rooting for.
The case of Rose, a promiscuous 18-year-old who becomes Masters’ first patient at Memorial Hospital, serves as the centerpiece of this lesson in episode 2, “Kyrie Eleison.” Rose’s parents are VIPs at Memorial—in other words, they’re hospital mega-donors—so when she is rushed to the emergency room for vaginal bleeding, she’s expected to be met with the best care. And that means Dr. Bill Masters.
It’s his first day at the new office, and he’s already perturbed by the charade his old test patient Betty is trying to pull over on her husband—she’s seeing Bill for “fertility treatments” even though he told her last season, heartbreakingly, that she’s unable to have children. These “treatments” involve Betty hanging out in his office for an hour or so, trading barbs with the doc and his new secretary, Barbara—comic relief in an otherwise glum situation. (Betty has always been a whip-smart jolt of street smarts and humor to a show that often takes a more serious, clinical approach to drama. Considering the subject matter, serious and clinical is quite appropriate. But Betty is a welcome scene-stealer.) Bill’s not happy about Betty’s presence, but he tolerates it because her husband, the Pretzel King, is a VIP himself. He’s more than a VIP, actually—he’s Masters’ lifesaver. The Pretzel King donated a boatload of money to Memorial, but only on the condition that Masters get a job in obstetrics—so Bill could help him and Betty conceive—and that Masters gets to continue his study on human sexuality at the new hospital. All that to say: Hopefully this leads to Betty sticking around for a while.
Bill scrubs in and quickly diagnoses Rose with a perforated uterus. Her mother is hysterical as Bill urgently spouts medical jargon. In all of her “what is happening?!” mania, Bill hisses, “So you have no idea when your daughter terminated this pregnancy?” Uh-oh.
In the aftermath, Rose’s mother demands he perform a hysterectomy. Her reasoning: Rose’s sexual urges can’t be controlled. She first caught Rose “naked with a boy” at the age of 14. Her father can’t even stand to be near his daughter anymore. “We are a loving and generous family,” she tells Bill—or, rather, reminds Dr. Greathouse. The head of obstetrics agrees with his VIP and tells Bill to go through with the procedure.
This becomes a defining moment for Bill. On his very first day, does he stand by his ethics—yes, he has them—or play by the rules? Bill, of course, was never one for coloring within the lines. (See: Undertaking a groundbreaking study on human sexuality; getting fired for showing footage of the female response to sex.)
Bill meets Rose as she’s waking up from the procedure he performed to stop the bleeding. She knows what her mother has asked of him, and she wants him to go ahead with the surgery. She’s desperate: “There’s this dark thing inside of me,” she says, explaining that she’s unable to control herself when she starts thinking about sex. Bill tries to reason with her, explaining that no matter what her emotions, this is an irreversible procedure and she will never be able to have children. But Rose doesn’t want to be bothered with the future; she wants these dark feelings to go away now. She doesn’t want these “sick thoughts” anymore, and she doesn’t want to feel ashamed. If taking a part of her could make that go away, she says, do it.
As a doctor, Bill is dogged in his mission to help all women have a chance at procreating (more on the irony of that later). He again comes back to Rose to try reasoning with her. This time, he brings a tiny piece of plastic with him: an IUD. The technology, he says, was “recently refined,” it’s the most effective form of birth control, she doesn’t need her mother’s consent for it because she is 18, and “it’s the first step in fixing her problem.” Rose is skeptical: How can a piece of plastic make her “stop acting like a whore”? Bill flinches at those words, demanding she never say them again. “There is such promise of hope ahead,” he says. And while they wait for answers, the least they can do is make sure she doesn’t have another unwanted pregnancy.
Rose’s story serves as a metaphor for the other characters in this episode. Let’s break it down.
NEXT: Bill Masters, the Best Damn Baby Doctor in St. Louis