We see Virginia dressing in her bedroom, telling her children in the other room what to have for breakfast. As she pins her stockings, she practices in the mirror; she is practicing how to respond to William's request that they engage in the research themselves. She envisions telling William that it's an unreasonable request.
In the kitchen, Virginia serves breakfast to her children and her son discusses his comic book, Race to Space
. She envisions speaking to William a second time, this time in a more genial tone. She still declines, even in this second scenario.
Walking her children to the bus stop, Virginia kisses them goodbye and runs to catch her bus. On the bus, she envisions the response a third time, where she says she would rather not take part in the proposal as she believes it could jeopardize her position at the hospital. In this scenario, she imagines William responding well.
At the hospital, she approaches William's office door with trepidation. In his office, she begins the day's work and asks for a moment of William's time. She says that she thought about the proposal and is about to explain herself when William interjected and said that the Provost shut down the study that morning. Someone told the Provost what had happened--it was likely Ethan. William angrily yells that Virginia defied him by discussing the study with Ethan. He fires her and leaves his office.
Alone, stunned, Virginia answers Masters' phone when it rings and is told that her son Henry has been suspended from school.
In an examination room, William walks in on his wife Libby who is changing for another fertility treatment. He explains that Ethan will no longer be treating her. William is clearly angry about Ethan's involvement in his project. William orders all of the tests that Ethan performed re-done. He orders his wife to lie down for most of the day. Libby attempts to make things romantic and William remains his cold, practical self. William refuses to actually administer any procedure on Libby and calls a nurse in to do it.
In the hall, William storms passed Ethan. Ethan asks why he was taken off of Libby's case. William tells him to remember that Ethan's career is in William's hands. Ethan doesn't know what the problem is; he asks if it's because he knows about William's low sperm count. William leaves in a huff.
William goes to visit Betty, the prostitute that assisted with his research, at her house. Betty makes him some tea and discusses William losing his study. Betty has other people in her home having sex. William asks to move the research into Betty's home. Betty says that he will have to pay the women double and William agrees. Betty says that she will only agree if William can get her a job in the hospital.
At the hospital, Virginia is taking Henry through the halls. Henry spit on his teacher because his teacher took his comic books away. Ethan approaches and tells her that he sent flowers and called her to apologize for hitting her. Virginia confronts him about speaking of the study and getting her fired; Ethan claims he didn't say anything about the study at all.
Virginia is still working for William as he interviews potential replacements. She tells him that the leak didn't come from Ethan. William ignores her. Virginia asks if her firing is actually about the pair of them taking part in the research together and offers to go through with it. William ignores her and asks her to send in the first applicant.
Virginia watches women apply for her job while her son Henry sleeps on the bench. At the end of the day, she readies to leave when she spies Betty being trained as a receptionist at the gynecological ward.
The next day in the lunch line, Ethan is talking to Jane about how Virginia is missing out by not dating him. Then, Dr. Langham, her sexual partner, walks by and smiles at Jane. They discreetly plan to meet later.
Langham and Jane head through the halls after hours; they are spotted by Betty. They are arriving for the study and Betty explains that it has been moved to a cathouse. Jane and Langham are disappointed. Jane says it's over and says goodbye to Langham.
Back at Virginia's home, Virginia is asking her babysitter to watch Henry all week. Virginia pays her but shorts her, as Virginia is struggling financially. The babysitter shames Virginia for not watching Henry herself.
At the cathouse, Betty is explaining the study to the various prostitutes who live there.
William asks one of the women to demonstrate. The movers continue to bring his equipment in and leer at the women. All of the women are far more interested in a medical exam from William, speaking of their ailments. Before William can begin his research, there is a raid and the police arrest him.
Ethan is in bed with a blonde he met and he is trying to talk her into fellatio like Virginia gave him. The woman is hesitant. Ethan offers to perform cunnilingus on her and she panics and refuses. Ethan imagines being with Virginia and then offers to take the woman home.
In a holding cell, William sits with the prostitutes from the cathouse. William's friend Sam, the Chief of Police, comes in to talk to him. Sam gets him out of the cell and explains that thanks to William's fertility treatments, Sam has children--that's why he'll help him. Libby picks up William and is furious, believing William was a john at the cathouse. William explains that he was using the brothel as a working laboratory because he was thrown out of the hospital. Libby is shocked to learn that people were having sex in front of him. She chastises him for working in a brothel and not telling her anything. Libby wonders if it's something about their home life that has drawn him to this subject and says that any study that lands him in jail isn't good for his career; William says it is his career.
Virginia has brought Henry to the hospital and tells him to sit and do his homework. She approaches Betty, who has dressed up for work. Virginia asked Betty how she got the job and Betty explains the deal she struck with William. She tells Virginia that William needs her help.
In the lunch room, Jane is approached by Dr. Langham. He joins her and tells her that he has been preoccupied. He wants to find a way to continue the study. Langham tells her that they should continue the study just the two of them. Jane says she doesn't want to do it if it isn't for science; Dr. Langham is married. Suddenly Ethan interrupts and asks them who they think the most sexually adventurous woman in the hospital is. Langham tells Ethan to leave by pointing him towards a woman named Bernadette. Jane asks to get back to her book: The Second Sex
by Simone de Beauvoir. The men think the book is sexy from the title, and ask her to read some. She reads a passage, disappointing the men, then she leaves.
In the hallway, William is approached by Scully, who asks him about trying to study in a cathouse. Scully says that he spent fifteen years grooming William's career. William tells him that he wants the study brought back in the hospital with no restrictions and more funding.
At Virginia's home, she is putting Henry to bed. Henry is upset because he was looking forward to the last issue of Race to Space
, and says that life is always complicated. Virginia puts him to bed and leaves.
Virginia takes a cab to the cathouse and tells the cabbie that this is either the smartest or stupidest thing she has ever done. Inside, Virginia tells Betty that her babysitter quit, calling Virginia an unfit mother. She schedules the women who wish to participate in the study. The women are creeped out by Masters and Virginia talks them into continuing. She flatters them and convinces them that they can help people with this study. Masters walks in and overhears Virginia praising him. Masters explains that he has struck a deal with the police and they won't be raided as long as Masters is working there.
In a steamed-up car, Ethan is having sex with Bernadette. Bernadette offers him anal sex and he declines. She pushes him to his seat and performs fellatio on him. Once again, Ethan imagines it's Virginia going down on him.
At the cathouse, Masters is examining a woman complaining of headaches. She is seeing double and speaks of her mother dying of a brain tumor. Masters tells her that he needs to do more research. Virginia enters and tells him that she signed up nineteen of the women. He remains silent. Eventually he thanks Virginia for handling the girls and tells her she may leave. She does.
Alone, William calls Betty into the room hurriedly. Betty asks him something--she wants to reverse her tubal ligation so that she can have children. William follows her down the hall, incredulous, asking why she would want children if she's a lesbian and a prostitute. Betty says that's her business and Masters says that he won't do it. In response, Betty begins shoving William's equipment out the front door. William stops her and Betty says he'll do this or he's out.
At William's home, Libby asks how the study is going and wants to know what he did that night. William says he was only setting up. She presses him and he explains that he was examining the girls medically. No nudity, no sex. William and Libby get ready for bed. Libby asks if watching the girls is sexy. William says it's work. Libby wants to know if he likes to watch, if it excites him. If he does, he can watch her. William considers the offer and Libby begins to touch herself. William stops her and tells her that he loves her too much. Libby is disappointed and goes to bed.
At the hospital, Virginia arrives to find more applicants in the office. Virginia informs them that the position has been filled and they leave. Virginia grabs one of the applicants and offers her the job as her new babysitter.
William and Libby have coffee in the morning and William explains that stress plays a role in fertility, so he offers to do the fertility capping in the comfort of their home. Libby abruptly tells him that she wants Ethan back as her doctor. William says that isn't going to happen. Libby wants to keep their home and their problem apart. Libby wants Ethan. She explains that, knowing she is barren is causing her pain daily. William still won't tell her that the problem is him, not her.
In his office, William stares out the window. Virginia enters and tells him that she has thought about the proposal and thinks that the two of them should engage in the research together. She says it would be good for the study, good for science, and good for something else... Suddenly the real Virginia enters and William snaps out of his fantasy. Virginia asks him to sign some papers. She informs him that there are no more secretarial candidates. William asks Virginia to talk to Betty about her tubal reversal; he wants her to talk her out of it.
At the cathouse, William is with the headache patient. She says the pain is worse and is prepared for horrible news. William gives her a pair of glasses and her vision corrects, ending the pain. The woman bursts into tears of joy and offers him a free blowjob as method of thanks; William declines.
In the kitchen, Betty is cleaning and Virginia comes to talk to her. Virginia says the cathouse is not the best environment to raise a child in. Betty says she met a guy at church and wants to have a future with him, to escape her present. She wants to be a nice girl who works in a hospital and have a bunch of kids. Betty says she left Helen and Helen understands. Betty wants a shot at something good. Betty asks why Virginia had kids--she says she would have felt like a failure otherwise.
William is driving Virginia home and Virginia is telling him to perform the surgery. Virginia tells him that his moralizing is hypocritical. She exits the car and tells him that she is aware that he is keeping her hanging about the job, and asks to speak honestly. William needs her and he knows it. She asks him if she's rehired or not. William gives her the job back and drives away. Virginia heads inside; we see Ethan parked in the dark, watching her as she goes home. Inside, the new babysitter tells her that she had a wonderful time and that she read the last issue of Race to Space
with Henry. Virginia is hurt, as Henry wanted to read that with her. After the sitter leaves, Virginia reaches for Race to Space
and begins to read about a little boy who was different, outcast and lonely.
At William's house, he stares into space as Virginia's voice-over speaks of the lonely boy caught between worlds.