"Jesse: Week 5"/"Adele: Week 5" S3 / E19-20
- A- Community Grade
You ever know that guy who in his rush to be a good guy becomes kind of a dick? Paul Weston is that guy. He'll see Jesse much later than he'd normally see a patient, and he'll try to make sure the kid's all right after a colossally terrible day. He's perhaps the only person Jesse can really turn to in that moment, and he both recognizes this and allows himself to transcend the normal patient/therapist relationship to help Jesse out. But he's also the guy who likes to play the martyr, who likes to make sure that everyone knows just how much it pains him to always be the good guy, to always be making sacrifices. And it's that side of himself that used to show up in his therapy with Gina and now shows up in his therapy with Adele, where he'll bait and bait and bait his fellow professional until she's put in a position where she has little to do but tell him off, thus beginning his cycle of martyrdom anew. One of the strengths of In Treatment has always been that it gets both of these sides of Paul's personality. It would be easy to make him the hero therapist, but the show understands those who consciously try to position themselves as saviors often have martyr complexes.
Tonight's two half-hours continue the week's general theme of raising the tension until it's just about to break. Jesse just goes ahead to see his birth parents, then he perhaps intentionally botches the meeting. At the same time, he learns that he has a little brother in a wheelchair, a little brother whose condition might be so bad that his birth parents mostly contacted him to be a donor of some sort for the child. Of course, he doesn't know any of this, but Jesse's mind has a tendency to wander in these directions. And at the same time, the show goes from just telling the story of whether an adopted kid is going to meet his birth parents to telling the story of him trying to discern their true motives and attempting to figure out if he's going to have to help the little brother he didn't know he had and just how much time he'll have to do that. Things are somewhat simpler over in Adele-ville, but she's still trying to push Paul to perform real self-examination, and he's resisting her. Plus, note how the show again links Sunil and Paul, as both are asked to come in for two sessions in this week's episodes. Clearly, Adele thinks Paul is in some sort of danger. It's most likely only to himself, but he's in a very fraught position nonetheless.
What's interesting is how both of these episodes (and, come to think of it, yesterday's Frances episode) create a situation where there's not enough time to get into some pretty heavy stuff. Jesse comes after 10 p.m., when Paul has long since stopped seeing patients and wants to spend time with his son making pancakes. Even if he had the time for a full session, it'd still be awfully late to be beginning one. In the Adele session, Paul's a half hour late because of having to drop off Max in Maryland with his mom and soon-to-be step-dad. The idea of the ticking clock comes back more directly in both, particularly when Paul keeps pushing Adele to go over her allotted time because he keeps tossing more and more issues at her, trying to get her to sense just how great he is, how much of a burden he operates under. And yet the overwhelming sense of the two episodes is that we're seeing Paul at both his best and his worst and that the two aren't so far apart from each other as they might seem.
Jesse: OK. That was yet another gut-punch in a season that's becoming more and more filled with them. The show has danced around the question of just why his birth parents didn't want Jesse a couple of times this season, but it most directly addresses it tonight, as Jesse sobs on Paul's front stoop. He feels alone and abandoned, stuck in a world where his adoptive parents don't seem to understand him and his birth parents didn't want him and now only want him for his organ donation potential (or so he thinks). I suspect we're heading to some sort of, "Yay, everybody loves you, Jesse!" finale, but that doesn't make his very real despair over the idea of never finding anybody who really, really wants him in their life any less heart-rending. Being adopted when you're a teenager sometimes means putting together a whole bunch of puzzle pieces and hoping that one or more of them will snap into place and tell you who you are. Jesse's overwhelmed by the sheer number of pieces confronting him, and in his confusion, he keeps trying to push people beyond their normal boundaries.
For an episode that lasts only 30 minutes, I was impressed by how gradually the episode was able to tease out just what happened when Jesse went over to Westchester (especially because the opening and closing scenes had to deal with Paul's relationship with Max). It starts with him relating how he went over early to scope things out before getting some coffee, then moves to the revelation that Kevin and Karen have other children, have procreated since they gave Jesse up. And from there, the rest of things come out in a fashion that doesn't feel rushed but does seem to keep the plot points coming as they need to. Kevin and Karen seemingly try to cover up their other children. The son is in a wheelchair. Jesse tries to work out a deal where the two will pay for RISD, so long as he gives his brother whatever he needs to stay alive. The revelations become more and more horrifying, until Jesse's yelling at Paul over what he perceives as Paul's role in the whole mess and telling him to go back to his "faggoty son." Jesse will never open up when he could push away, and this continues to be his pattern, eveen with Paul.
One of the great themes of In Treatment is obligation: To what degree are you obligated to someone because they're your parent or child or friend or lover? Jesse's navigating a complicated channel that few people ever have to deal with, one that isn't made any easier by the fact that basically no one in his life can talk him through it. Is he obligated to be anything to Kevin and Karen? Is he obligated to help his younger brother, even if he wants nothing to do with the family otherwise? CAN he even help? Of the four stories this season, Jesse's is my favorite (largely because of his personal overlap with my own life), but I'm duly impressed by just how much more the writers are able to muddy the waters this week.
Adele: One of the great pleasures of In Treatment is that in its best episodes, it can turn two great actors loose in a room and set them to tearing into some truly meaty material. That's the case with this half hour, which is pretty much nothing more than Gabriel Byrne being a dick and trying to push Amy Ryan's buttons until he finally succeeds, and the shit begins to hit the fan. It's easy to read Paul and Gina's relationship as kind of twisted beyond what a normal patient/therapist relationship should be, but a lot of that was because Gina allowed Paul to push her buttons. Adele's not going to take any of that. She knows she doesn't have to take any of that. And when she dashes Paul's hopes of making her his lover or life partner or supervisor or anything but his therapist by not immediately bringing up his admission of his feelings, she backs Paul into a place where he can be petty and vindictive and downright mean.
Byrne's not afraid of playing this side of Paul, and yet, it's also easy to see just why he snaps. Adele DOES seem awfully rigid. This is probably to her credit on a show full of therapists who are willing to bend the rules if it will help a patient, never mind how it might hurt the carefully defined relationship between the two parties, but it probably makes her slightly inconceivable to someone like him. She won't go even 10 minutes over to help him work out his trauma over having to send his son to Maryland? Who is this person, and does she have a heart? At the same time, Adele keeps trying to push Paul deeper, and he keeps trying to change subjects, darting from his son to Jesse to Sunil to how he wishes they could talk about his feelings for Adele. (Come to think of it, another reason the Frances episodes might feel slightly perfunctory is because they feel so disconnected from the other three. Just how often has Paul talked about her with Adele?) It's a great recipe for conflict, but to the show's credit, it keeps things cool until the very end, when Paul lashes out, followed by Adele chewing him out about how much she wants to help him and how impossible he's making it for her to do so.
If Adele has a fault, it's that she sees everything as psychology, but that's also her strength. She's the woman who can see Paul's aspirin bottle for what it is, not for what he proclaims it to be. That probably makes her a fairly irritating person to hang out with, but it can make her a therapist who's able to cut through the bullshit and just find the truth of what her patient is trying to keep from her. It's that sense of relentless pursuit that drives her character, and while it took a bit to calibrate her, I'd say the show has done a fine job of making her just the foil Paul needs in this season. In that final moment, when she asks him if he needs help standing up and dozens of emotions play across both actors' faces, there's a sense that everything in the season has been building up to this. Like with Sunil, something has to break. There's nowhere else for these emotions to go.