This episode “Dirty Jobs” seemed to have a lot to do with illusions and people trying to fit into them. Betty isn’t used to being called “Mrs. Moretti,” and she tells Bill, “It makes me feel like I’m pretending to be somebody I’m not.”
“Things aren’t always what they seem, are they,” Bill says to Douglas Greathouse, talking about how Virginia is much more than just a secretary.
When we get to know someone, we often want to feel we really know that person. First impressions can be misleading. Spending time with someone, having conversations, can make us feel we’re making headway, and the relationship seems like it’s getting deeper.
Learning that someone is lying to us, or concealing the truth, can be a hard blow. Lillian DePaul is a lot like Bill Masters in some ways. She doesn’t let people in easily. She puts up a wall, and not many people can break through. When Lillian starts to trust Virginia, to confide in her, to let the wall down a little, it’s a huge deal for Lillian, especially as she worries that her mental capacities might be failing her.
When she learns (after a conversation with Austin Langham) that Virginia is romantically involved with Bill, she’s disappointed and upset. She wanted her first impression of Virginia–as a woman who needs to latch on to a man–to be wrong. She’s disappointed to find out that Virginia apparently needs a man for success after all. “How could I have missed something so obvious?” Austin says, about himself, not realizing that Lillian feels the same way.
Lillian later talks to Virginia, hoping for some kind of confession, some clarification about taking shortcuts to get where you want to go in life. When Virginia claims to have no secrets, Lillian is disappointed once again, and extremely hurt that Virginia—Virginia who she’s shared so much with—won’t confide in her. She feels deeply betrayed. This is likely the closest Lillian has ever come to having a real friend, and now she feels it’s just an illusion, and the only one she can count on is herself. (And when you’re struggling with cancer, that has to be truly terrifying.)
Betty and her husband Gene have a tense confrontation over the betrayal he feels. She didn’t tell him that she knew she couldn’t have children. When she says he never would have married her if he knew the truth, he says it’s not true, and he drops a bombshell—he knows that she was a prostitute, and in fact, that’s how they met. He says she was the first woman who was truly nice to him, and when he saw her again at church, he knew they were meant to be together.
It brings up some interesting points. Can you love someone without truly knowing everything about them, or is that love only an illusion? And if it is possible to love someone without knowing all of their aspects, is that love strong enough to endure a betrayal?
In the case of Betty and Gene, did he really love her or did he just see this lovely vision that seemed so comforting he thought it would sustain a whole marriage? As for Betty, we know (although I almost forgot) that she was a lesbian. When she is with Gene, does he just seem like a knight in shining armor, a safe meal ticket to get her out of the life that she had before? Or is it more than that–does she genuinely feel that she can change for him, and love him, and be someone totally different than she used to be? She told Bill that she felt funny pretending to be someone she’s not. But if you marry a stranger, someone who doesn’t know very much about you, maybe you have to be comfortable with pretense, at least on some level.