Though the stories of each patient tend to move at different paces, "In Treatment" usually has thematic connections in each week. This week is about denial -- and about ticking clocks.
We're bookended by two people (first Mia, then Paul) being in denial about whether they're actually having a therapy session, and in between you have April refusing to deal with her cancer diagnosis, Oliver's parents being so lost in their own heads that they failed to have a candid conversation with their son about the separation, and Walter revealing that he's spent a lifetime with his psyche stuck in the sand.
Beyond that, there's an urgency to several of the cases. Mia notes that she basically needed to decide yesterday to get pregnant, so Paul doesn't have much time to get her head wrapped around what she wants her life to be. April's deadline is even more pressing -- it's literally life and death -- while Oliver's dad messes up the divorce timetable by jumping into a new relationship, and the scandal at Walter's company gets worse, jumping from the business section to the front page.
And Paul? Paul needs to let Gina help him, so he can help his patients -- fast.
"I meant you owe me a child, Paul. That's what you owe me." -MiaMia's a tough nut to crack, so after last week's non-therapy session at her office, here she comes to see Paul, allegedly not for therapy but so she can apologize for how she acted a week ago -- and, really, so she can demand apologies from Paul for encouraging her to have an abortion and sending her down the road to being 43, single, childless and practically infertile.
But did he actually encourage her, or is that just how Mia remembers it 20 years later? There are times when Gabriel Byrne makes Paul's expressions clear as day, and times when he's deliberately inscrutable. This episode featured more of the latter, particularly as Mia recounted her memory of their old therapy sessions together. It's entirely possible that Paul has forgotten how it all went down, but it's equally possible that he's just letting her vent because hearing her version of things gives him insight into the issues she's dealing with today. The end of the episode, where Paul takes out Mia's old file -- and, remember, he said last week he stopped taking notes 15 years ago, but he treated her before that -- skims it, and then removes the cassette tape of classical music that's presumably the "gift" she gave him all those years ago. If he doesn't remember it all, he remembers enough.
Mia, meanwhile, is not only in denial of the fact that she's having a therapy session, but of the role her father played in her decision to terminate the pregnancy. Her dad both figuratively and literally drove her to the abortion, but she makes him blameless and directs all of her anger at Paul. Her comment about how all girls share secrets with their daddies raised my eyebrows even more than it did Paul's, and it wouldn't be "In Treatment" if we weren't about to explore some parental issues.
As others have pointed out, Mia could very easily be a caricature of the bitter career woman, but the character is saved by the specificity of the writing and by the vulnerability Hope Davis gives her. I love the way she delivers the line about how her affair with Bennett was like a fairy tale -- "Princess f---s the frog" -- because it's funny but it's also sad, and Mia recognizes both those things at once.
"April, would you rather die than be weak?" -PaulApril is, if anything, even more hostile and sarcastic than Mia, and understandably so. If Mia doesn't beat her ticking clock, she still gets to live. Even if Paul helps April get over the problems that are keeping her from getting chemo, she could still suffer an early and very painful death.
Like Walter with his panic attack last week, we see April has her own unsettling physical issue -- the hand tremors -- that she treats as totally normal, and the more we hear from her, the more we realize she's dealing with so much that she has no room to add another problem like the tremors, let alone the cancer.
She and the show are also doing their damndest to keep Paul and the audience at arm's length. Because she's dying, it would be so easy for her story to overwhelm the other four (including Paul's), but she has her armor up and doesn't want to be a victim. She's abrasive and self-destructive and we found out that she cheated on the boyfriend (with his best friend) she's been ranting about for much of the last two episodes.
But you can see in Alison Pill's great performance how much of an effort this is for April, and Paul can see it, too. He knows she wants help, even if she can't admit it, and so he cleverly finds the weak spots in that armor. She's smart enough to anticipate Paul's questions before he asks them, but rather than act offended by her presumption, Paul plays it like it only makes his job easier that she can see things from his point of view.
And looking through other people's eyes is definitely not one of her problems. She understands her autistic brother better than she understands anyone else in the world, and you can see her starting to disconnect herself from the world in the same way that he does. And that's scary, and dangerous -- dangerous enough that, while Paul promises to not discuss her case outside this room, he starts taking notes for the first time in decades, hoping to prevent another Alex situation.
"So you are getting a divorce, because of me?" -OliverWhile Oliver's predicament isn't quite as dire as April's, it's still pretty brutal. And because he doesn't have April's prickly defenses yet -- which, frankly, is one of the reasons he's suffering so much now -- he's an even more sympathetic character. Aaron Shaw is so natural as the poor kid that it really hurts to see his parents be oblivious twits around him, and I want Paul to yell at them even more than I want him to grab April by the wrist and physically escort her to chemo.
The pre-credits scene neatly illustrated the family's larger problem: they're each listening to their iPods, lost in their own worlds, oblivious to each other's wants and needs, and then Oliver is gobsmacked to see a perfectly happy-looking couple emerge from Paul's office. You can see him asking himself, "Is that what a normal family looks like?"
Oliver shows off the baby turtle he got for a class project, and his fears of what he might do to it -- forgetting to feed it, leaving it behind (which he, in fact, does) -- sound very much like how Luke is treating him. Luke wants Oliver to be a man, but he's not a man yet, and in this time more than anything else -- as he's suffering not only from his parents' fighting, but from being mercilessly picked on at school and having no one he feels he can tell about it -- he needs to be a boy, and to let his father take care of him.
And then, just as I was imagining that awful story about hiding behind the bush at the party and getting urinated on, Oliver went and proved that he's more perceptive than either of his parents realize. When Luke tells Bess about his new girlfriend, and Bess explodes at him, Oliver recognizes that the only good move in that situation -- for Luke, for himself, and even for his mom -- is to step up and offer to stay at Luke's apartment after refusing to go for the last week. The offer undercut Bess' attempt to attack Luke for not having Oliver's best interests at heart, and if it hurt his mom to hear Oliver siding with his dad for once, it still shut her up. And for this family, the only time they seem truly at peace is when none of them are talking (ala the opening scene); they may not be hearing what the others are feeling, but they're also not making the situation any worse.
"Don't read too much into that." -WalterAs Paul notes, that's a hell of a thing to say to your therapist, isn't it? But that's Walter's big problem: he doesn't read too much into anything, and so he's spent most of his long life completely oblivious to the importance of his panic attacks, or their connection to the other terrible tragedies he's suffered. He doesn't understand that the attacks are tied to his brother's death, or that a recent one might have been triggered by news of the death of Bob the security guard.
He has no flippin' clue. And, as I asked last week, might he not be better off at this point without Paul trying to give him one? Walter's made it into his 60s, and to a prominent (albeit currently embattled) position in the business sector while managing to ignore the root causes of his pain. Is making him confront his feelings about his brother's death and the rest really going to help him at this late date, or just cause more pain?
This was another great episode for Gabriel Byrne reactions, particularly the look on his face as Walter relates the chilling line his father gave him after his brother died: "This is yours now. I just told your mother, now I know why we had you." What the hell do you say in response to that? Particularly to a man who shrugs it off like it's nothing?
After Walter pays in cash -- like a drinker giving an insightful bartender a particularly big tip -- we see, as we do at the end of the April episode, just how much all of this weighs on Paul. He's good at his job -- and better than he was last year -- but sharing other people's secret pain is a burden, particularly when you understand that pain so much better than your patients.
"Maybe that's something you could work on in therapy." -GinaJust like last week, we get to see Gina the brilliant puppet-master, carefully leading Paul down the path she knows he needs to walk, no matter how angrily he denies that. They've moved past whatever grudges they had last year. Now she's just his doctor, and she's not going to indulge -- or even really acknowledge -- his tantrums. She's just going to keep nudging him in the right direction until he stops griping and starts self-examining.
With April having ordered Paul not to discuss her with anyone else, the bulk of the session deals with Paul's own past -- both the cases from last season and the bits of his childhood we already know a little about. Laura is still a presence in the room, thanks to her being deposed by Mr. Prince's lawyers, and for the first time, Paul seems to recognize that Alex wasn't sleeping with her to one-up Paul, but as an unspoken (probably unconscious) cry for help.
Like Walter, Paul tells his own painful childhood story, of the Christmas Eve party where he and Tammy Kent made out, followed by Paul returning home to find his mother after her first suicide attempt. Though Paul, like his patients, doesn't want to talk about his parents, it's clear that his savior complex came about precisely because he couldn't eventually stop his mom from killing herself. So Alex's apparent suicide, and April's attempt to do the same, are especially painful to him.
What I found interesting the first time I watched this episode was the expression on Dianne Wiest's face as Paul tells the Christmas Eve story, followed by Gina's suggestion that Paul call Tammy. What exactly does she know, if anything? Did Tammy -- her memory perhaps jogged by seeing Paul last week -- give her own version of that story in the previous session?
A few other thoughts:
• Lots of references, some more overt than others, to Paul's family. During the Oliver session, the camera lingers on his face for a long time as Luke and Bess fight, and it's clear he's thinking back to all the similar fights he and Kate had while facing Gina under similar circumstances a year ago. Then we see, briefly, Paul's daughter Rosie (played, again, by Mae Whitman, aka Ann from "Arrested Development") -- who, like Oliver, doesn't want to accept the reality of her parents' separation -- and Michelle Forbes as Kate, who still feels incredibly bitter towards Paul. (And, in bringing up how he neglects his younger son, she reminds us again that Paul's really only good with kids when they're patients.)
• I loved the shot of Oliver sitting in Paul's chair, his feet dangling way above the floor. Didn't Sophie try sitting in his chair a time or three last season?
• Hagai Levi, creator of the original Israeli "Be'Tipul," directed both the April and Walter episodes this week.
What did everybody else think?