We're in week 3, which means (in the compressed therapeutic timeline of "In Treatment," anyway) the patients' defenses are starting to come down. No more pretending that they're not in therapy, or why they're there. They're starting to grow comfortable enough with Paul that April and Oliver both fall asleep in his office (really, it's the only place they can find peace), and April and Walter both feel okay with showing up at odd times. (Mia, on the other hand, winds up being annoyed that Paul's late for her.)
At the end of Mia's session, Paul talks about the phenomenon of "doorknob moments," where something dramatic happens just as the patient is on the way out of the office. As a TV drama, "In Treatment" has an awful lot of doorknob moments, and an especially high concentration this week, now that Paul's finally getting through (a little bit) to his patients.
"Aren't you glad I'm back?" -MiaGod, Hope Davis is such a delight playing an enormous pain in the butt, isn't she? While her situation is in many ways as sad as Oliver's or Walter's, you can always count on the Mia episodes to provide laughter -- whether it's the "Mia, 7:12 a.m." chyron at the end of the opening credits, or her declaing, "And I'm demanding, and I'm needy, and I'm angry, and I'm weepy. I'm the seven f--king dwarves!" -- before the inevitable tragedy of the April episodes.
Because she knew Paul way back when, and because she has access to personal details that an ordinary patient wouldn't -- including Laura's deposition -- Mia tries to act like she's not your average patient, and that she's entitled to know more about Paul's life. But where Paul let himself dance to Laura's tune last year -- and to Alex's when Alex started looking into Paul's past -- he very easily fends Mia off. Where a year ago I would have been nervous to hear Paul encouraging Mia to share her vision of how things might have gone between himself and Laura, here I was never concerned, because it was obvious that he was using that as an excuse to make Mia open up about her own fantasies and neuroses.
What's particularly amusing is that, other than the "small hips" comment, Mia could not be more wrong in her assumptions about Laura, who was every bit as complicated and difficult and frustrating as Mia herself is. But because Paul -- who was married, presumably happily, back then -- never showed an interest in her during their original therapy, she assumes he could never be drawn to someone so much like her.
This episode also has one of my favorite moments of the week, as Paul completely disarms Mia by playing the piano concert tape to show her just how well he remembered her. Again, all those scenes of the patients being difficult and Paul fumbling for answers are always worth it for when we get to see him have a breakthrough or make a grand gesture like that.
It's understandable why Mia might fear that Paul had forgotten her, as she's suffering from major abandonment issues on top of everything else. Note once again that she blames everyone in the world but her father for everything, in this case letting him slide for shipping her off to New Jersey while her mom had the twins.
"Can I use your phone again?" -AprilThis one's going to be the death of me. Allison Pill is so amazing, and the stakes are so high, that I almost want to skip to the last episode on this one and hope that Paul has finally dragged her to the world's greatest oncologist. The final scene -- when we're deliberately out of the room, so as not to know for sure if April called her mom, or if she just told Paul she did -- was as tense as you can get with a show that's nothing but talk, and the knot in my stomach only grew when she came out and told Paul she'd try her mom again another time.
I can understand, unfortunately, why April would be so reluctant to tell her mother about this. Bad luck in the genetic lottery meant that she spent her childhood always coming in second to her brother Daniel, and so concerned for her parents' emotional well-being that she couldn't even bring herself to tell them when she fell out a window, because she didn't want to ruin their one happy, carefree moment together. After that trip, and the way her mom and Daniel both backslid because of it, April decided she could never ask her mother to put her first. And so here she sits, with no one to call, no one she feels she can burden with this terrible news, other than a random construction worker, her ex-boyfriend (and his new girlfriend) and now Paul.
"I don't feel comfortable anywhere." -OliverFirst, I want to commend all of you who spent so much time last week analyzing the deeper meaning of Oliver's turtle. Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar, but on this show, I feel like a turtle is surely not a turtle. Keep at it, even though Paul finally gets to send the turtle home with Oliver here.
As with Mia, and April, we see more and more of how clueless and neglectful Oliver's parents are. Bess thinks she's being a good mom by hovering over Oliver and trying to anticipate all his moods, but she's only making him more nervous, and more reluctant to share his feelings with her, or with anyone else. And she and Luke combined are so damned oblivious that it never once occurred to them to tell Oliver what happened to the adoptive brother he was going to get from Africa.
In the same way that Mia wishes she was Laura, the object of Paul's affection, Oliver desperately wants to be Paul's son -- not knowing, as we do, that Paul wouldn't be half as attentive to him if he were family and not a patient. And where April asks to be woken up after only a minute of napping -- and wakes up just as restless and disturbed as she was before -- Oliver's parents and Paul seem willing to let him keep sleeping in the waiting room for as long as possible (at least until the next patients arrive, I guess).
"And then she told me to go f--k myself... She broke my heart, Paul. She broke my heart." -WalterLook at John Mahoney as he delivers that line. He is so angry, and so vulnerable, and so pained and so lost, as if nothing that's happened in Walter's long and difficult life -- not the loss of his brother, or the distance of his parents, or Vietnam, or the death of the Donaldson's son, or this current fiasco with the tainted baby food -- has mattered remotely as much to him as hearing those words come from his daughter's mouth.
Clearly, the love of his daughter -- the one person, other than his wife, who seems to have given Walter the affection he was denied for his childhood and much of his life -- is so important to him that he would leave the country, in the middle of the worst crisis of his career, just to check up on her based on a gut feeling. And in going, he only makes both situations worse, by opening himself up professionally to a move by this Jace he distrusts so much, and personally by becoming so controlling that he drove Natalie further away when he wanted to bring her closer.
His issues with abandonment and loss of control are so great that he's lost all sense of proportion, and of his own current problems. He tells Paul that the company can't get rid of him, quoting Louis XV's "Apres moi, le deluge" ("After me, the flood"), but he doesn't seem to realize that the flood has already started, and he's in danger of drowning in it.
"I just want to stop them all going through the windshield." -PaulMia and Gina provide nice bookends to the week, not only because they both have a longer history with Paul than the other three characters, but because what laughs there are to be found in "In Treatment" tend to come from the two of them. Paul's examination of his family history isn't what you'd call a laugh riot. But Dianne Wiest still gets these marvelous moments where Gina knows a lot more than Paul thinks she knows -- or wants her to know -- like when Gina refuses to get up from her chair to invite him in, just saying "Hello, Paul" in a perfect sing-song, then returning to that tone at the end of the session to warn him, "And next week, we'll talk about Tammy."
Fortunately, we don't have to wait until next week. That Paul should run into his first great love at his old therapist's office is as much of a dramatic contrivance as the rate at which his cases progress. But it gives us insight into what's making Paul tick this season, and into how he's changed since last year. A year ago, he waited forever to try anything with Laura, where here he dove right in. Admittedly, there was an ethical conflict present then and not now, but the man couldn't even wait seven days before breaking his promise to not try to date her until one or both of them were done being Gina's patient.
Because Gina is a good therapist and better friend, she lets the transgression slide this week once it becomes clear Paul has weightier problems on his mind from an especially rough week with his patients. And that conversation inevitably returns to talk of his parents, and the Christmas Eve memory -- which, like April's story of falling out the window, and many other unusually vivid stories we hear the patients tell, may be a screen memory, where what happened isn't exactly what the storyteller remembers as having happened.
Gina's good at this, and she's already been working with Paul for a while, and so she's able to get to a breakthrough moment more quickly than he has with his own patients, as Paul starts to realize that his father isn't the monster that he remembers -- that any man might be driven to infidelity by a bipolar wife, under the right (or wrong) circumstances.
Moments like Paul's Eureka, like Paul playing the piano tape for Mia, are why I keep coming back to this series, why I obsess on each episode of it when seemingly little happens, why last year I stuck with it even though I hated half the patients. Those breakthroughs -- or those simple instances of professional grace -- feel so much more powerful because we've gone through all the work to get there.
Now, obviously we have four weeks to go in this season, so Paul's not out of the woods yet. (And, in the event there's a third season, I imagine Warren Leight and company aren't going to "cure" him altogether.) But for a moment, everything in his fuzzy, messed-up life became crystal-clear, and I was glad to be on my own couch with him to see it happen.
What did everybody else think?