‘In Treatment’: Week three in review

Once again, we’re reviewing all four episodes of “In Treatment” this week in one chunk, with my thoughts on each session coming up just as soon as I like PBS and soup…


“I have no patience for those who do not live a principled life.” -Sunil

Even more than last week, it’s clear that the uncomfortable looks Julia talked about in the premiere were lustful ones that she didn’t find appropritate coming from her father-in-law – particularly from the father-in-law who was so disapproving of her so many years before. It may be that Sunil is specifically attracted to Julia (Sonya Walger is not unattractive), or that he’s simply jealous that his son was able to have the marriage and life that he himself abandoned for the sake of family duty and class consciousness. Either way, it should be obvious to everyone that he’s hung up on his pretty blonde daughter-in-law.

Obvious, that is, to everyone except Sunil. Like Walter last year, he’s in incredible denial of a problem that’s staring him, Paul and the audience right in the face. Like Walter, I would not be surprised if we spend the rest of the season watching Paul struggle to get his patient to see what was clear so early on. And as with John Mahoney’s performance as Walter, Irrfan Khan is just so spellbindingly great as Sunil that I will watch him work even if there aren’t any more layers of his story left to be revealed. That moment at session’s end(*) where Sunil simultaneously laughed and cried at Paul’s suggestion of his feelings for Julia, then abruptly composed himself to discuss their tea, was just incredible. Of course Paul would have no idea how to respond to that, just as he was dumbfounded by his first glimpse of Walter’s panic attacks last year.

(*) Sunil, like Frances and Jesse, will leave the session abruptly this week. None of them wants to accept the truths that Paul is edging them towards

Some men keep feelings bottled up for so long that they have no way to appropriately let them out, and then you get a ticking bomb like Sunil. I can only hope we don’t also wind up spending one episode of this story with Sunil as a patient in a hospital on suicide watch.


“I don’t want to be confused with my sister.” -Frances

Another element all three patient sessions have in common this week is how much they’re about outside characters. We met Julia a few weeks ago, and Jesse’s mom briefly joins him in Paul’s office, so I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Frances’ dying sister Tricia turns up before the season’s out.

But even without her physical presence, she pretty much dominates the session, with Frances telling the story of how she dashed her sister’s acting dream, and Paul mistakenly bringing up a detail about their mother that Trish must have told him when she was his patient 18 years earlier.

At this point, I think I’d be very happy to see Tricia, or Frances’ estranged daughter Isabel, because the one-on-one dynamic between Paul and Frances still isn’t really clicking. For now, this remains a story like some of the season one characters whose episodes I watched mainly because I was a completist, and because of what was revealed about Paul through them.


“Why are you always on her goddamn side?” -Jesse

Like Sunil, Jesse has adopted an image of the world that he’s not ready to let Paul try to alter. Marissa has to be the bad guy, and all of his own behavior has to be completely acceptable.

As he so often does when an outsider enters a session – particularly an unplanned visit like this (or like the arrival of Sophie’s dad back in season one) – Paul handled things fairly well. He shut down whenever Jesse tried to push him to tell Marissa about Karen, and seized control of the session when it threatened to turn into Jesse and Marissa just screaming at each other.

That Marissa couldn’t stand to stay in the room after being ambushed with the Karen news was unfortunate but understandable, and I thought the episode did a good job of painting her as much more complicated than one of Jesse’s black-and-white photos. No, she’s not in any way comfortable with having a gay son, but she’s trying to accept it – has, in fact, given up the Catholic Church because it condemns her son (though Jesse’s view of that decision is less charitable) – and seems more concerned with Jesse’s risky sexual behavior than the fact that it involves men. And when the session ends, we see that Marissa didn’t run very far; just out to the waiting room to show Jesse that she’s still there for him, even if she couldn’t handle what was being discussed in the room right then.

I also found it interesting that Paul finally constented to discuss his son, even a little, with Jesse. Is it a situation like with Sunil, where he realizes he has to break the rules to get through to a particularly troubled patient, or did Jesse’s comments last week touch a nerve that Paul now needs to explore?


“Do you want to retire?” -Adele
“Sometimes.” -Paul

Because Gina filled so many different roles for Paul, these end-of-week episodes functioned as much as a kind of director’s commentary on the four previous shows as they did a check-in on Paul’s mental health. With Gina understandably refusing to be Paul’s supervisor as well as his analyst, we’re not going to get as much discussion about the patients, but Paul is currently dealing with so much that I think that’s okay.

I’m enjoying seeing the evolution of their relationship. Paul keeps trying to take control of the sessions, but he also has a point sometimes, like when he notes that he understands where she’s trying to steer the conversation, but that he intends to get their eventually. And I laughed when he said, “Why do I have a feeling I’m not going to like this?”

And like Paul with Jesse and Marissa, Adele very much assumes control of the session, and finds a way to take Paul to a place he doesn’t want to go, but needs to, to ask how much of his misery-generating behavior is intentional, and how much he needs people to think less of him.

Unlike his patients, Paul doesn’t race out of the session early. He lets Adele get to the point and ask her big questions, but he’s no closer to an answer than any of his in-denial patients are.

What did everybody else think?

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