Vivian goes to her bed and says her line about being relieved to get back to her room (but with two “goddamns” thrown in). Jason enters and asks how she’s feeling—Vivian says, “Fine.” Jason discusses Vivian’s side effects, and makes it clear that he’s simplifying things for her because “we’re supposed to.” He complains that he had to take a whole course on bedside manner, and says it was a “colossal waste of time for researchers.”
Jason assumes that Vivian is still her “old self” (or just doesn’t care), and thus he is impatient with social niceties or anything that might get in the way of research and study. He is being especially callous here, but the old Vivian would not have been hurt by his manner, and probably would have admired his rationality and work ethic.
Jason turns to go, but Vivian stops him, “trying to ask something important.” She hesitates, and Jason worries that she is experiencing confusion as a side effect. Vivian denies this, and then asks Jason why he decided to study cancer. Jason says cancer is the only thing he ever wanted to study, because it’s so powerful and mysterious in its unstoppable growth and science’s inability to understand it. He says that the endlessly replicating cancer cells grown in a lab are called “immortality in culture.”
Vivian is trying to interact with Jason on a person-to-person level and talk about important matters, but he can still only see her as a specimen who might be experiencing certain side effects. His fascination with cancer also shows his detachment once again, as he sees no issue with rhapsodizing about cancer’s “awesomeness” right in front of someone currently dying of cancer.
Vivian asks if Jason has any theories about curing cancer, and he says he’s mostly waiting to get a lab of his own, once he gets through this fellowship. “The part with the human beings,” Vivian clarifies, and Jason complains about how it’s a waste of time. Vivian then asks what he says when a patient is “frightened.” Jason is confused by this question, and again asks if Vivian is experiencing memory loss. Vivian reassures him she’s not, and Jason leaves.
Jason is explicit in his preference of solo research over human interaction, and of rationality over emotion. Vivian understands this—it’s been her way of thinking for most of her life—so she’s able to almost finish Jason’s sentences for him, but it’s also apparent that she now longs for something more. She needs basic comfort, because she is the one who’s frightened.
Vivian gets out of bed and addresses the audience, commenting on how “the young doctor, like the senior scholar, prefers research to humanity. At the same time the senior scholar, in her pathetic state as a simpering victim, wishes the young doctor would take more interest in personal contact.” Vivian says there will now be a “series of flashbacks” showing how in the past she denied her students “the touch of human kindness she now seeks.”
This is an important moment of self-reflection for Vivian. She’s still speaking about it in a detached, analytical way, but is basically admitting that she now wants kindness and human connection, not just intellectual expertise and rationality. She then ironically comments on the flashbacks to follow, which will highlight how she’s being “taught a lesson” by this ordeal.