In Treatment has always been a little skeptical about the usefulness of therapy. When push comes to shove, it thinks therapy is probably useful, but there's also a streak of certainty that it's all probably bullshit running through both the show and its main character. Sure, Paul's helped a great number of people over the course of the show's three seasons, but he's also been unable to fill whatever gap it is inside of himself that he wishes the process could close up. After last night started out explosively with Sunil's most blatant threats toward his daughter-in-law yet, then closed quietly with Frances beginning to make peace with her relationship with her sister, tonight's episodes provided a mirror image, the Jesse episode proceeding quietly, with the Adele episode building to another heated confrontation between the two doctors. At the same time, both episodes tackled one of the central questions of the series as they both struggled with the purpose of therapy, both episodes arriving at fairly different conclusions.
The kind of work Paul does with young people has always been his most consistently solid work. There's an argument to be made, I guess, that he gets drawn too heavily into the lives of his young patients and he's more open with them about the circumstances of his life than he ought to be. (Honestly, his talk with Jesse about the patient preceding Jesse's session probably crossed a line.) But at the same time, when he's willing to break the doctor-patient relationship to make sure April goes to a doctor, it's one of the things that makes him both a good person and a good doctor (particularly when he's able to recognize a few weeks later that what he's done means a continued doctor-patient relationship is probably impossible). And, yeah, there are a few places in the Jesse episodes where he might cross a line, but always because he cares too much. The discussion between the two about the purpose of therapy early in the episode suggests a Platonic ideal of the therapist as a person who helps patients find the answers on their own, not through prodding.
On the other hand, the Adele episodes continue to walk the line between insightful and unsettling (intentionally so). Some of you thought Adele was calling Paul in such a fashion in last night's episodes as a sort of flirtatious gesture, and there's some evidence to support that viewpoint in tonight's episode. Yet, for all of the good Adele does, it seems as if she can't help but getting drawn into Paul's attempts to make her anything other than his therapist. She may believe she's got the best of intentions, particularly in regards to Sunil, but she does seem to be building situations that allow Paul to continue holding on to his fantasies of her as something more than just his therapist. And the way she reveals her pregnancy to him? Deeply unsettling, even if everything she says is true. And yet from the phone call last night, we know Adele didn't wake up in bed with anyone. Maybe the father of her child is just out of town, but there's every possibility she's doing this all alone. There's more here than meets the eye, and the Adele episodes seem dedicated to showing us how the therapeutic relationship can turn toxic, if the party in control isn't constantly on guard.
Jesse: Jesse's celebrating a birthday, Burger King crown atop his head, plans to ride the elevators at the Times Square Marriott in his heart. And yet his disappointment over how poorly the meeting with Kevin and Karen went has curdled into what seems like a deep depression, one that seems so profound that Paul almost insists Jesse not leave without his parents at the end of the session. And given the way that Jesse brings up how he's felt like this for years and the way he casually mentions suicide in his discussion about how long he has to live, Paul is probably right to worry. Would Jesse actually go through with something terrible like that? I'd like to think not, but he seems incredibly lost right now, unable to know where to turn and trying to turn Paul into the father he desperately wants and is unwilling to ask Roberto to be for him.
Tonight's Jesse episode may be slightly slow-moving, especially compared to last week's expertly paced half-hour, but the story needs the room to breathe at this point, and the pace suits the episode's mood, which is often deeply sad. Kevin has written to Jesse to tell him that it was probably a mistake to contact the teen prematurely and that he hopes Jesse will get in touch with his birth parents later on, even if now's not the right time. Jesse, of course, perceives this as yet another rejection, as he perceives absolutely everything, even as Paul tries to get him to see how his birth parents might have seen a teenager who was high and offering a kidney to save their son, in exchange for the money to attend a photography program. It couldn't have seemed good, certainly, but Paul's unable to get Jesse to step outside of himself long enough to admit that.
In a way, it's probably understandable though. Jesse lacks a central identity, the thing that would let him know who he is, on some fundamental level. When he talks about his friend, Barrett, who has a giant nose but doesn't seem terribly bothered by it because his happy father has the same nose, Paul suggests that having genetic similarities with your parents is a kind of contract, a suggestion that because your parents are a certain way, you can feel secure in being like that, too. But not only has Jesse never met his biological parents but his adopted parents have pulled away from him in recent years, while he's returned the favor. In Treatment is getting into some tricky emotional material here, on top of trying to navigate the waters of the potentially overdramatic suicidal teen storyline without ditching the show's realism. And yet there's so much hope for who Jesse could be. When he tells the girl whose session comes before his that she looks beautiful as she is, it's a genuinely heartfelt moment, a suggestion that for all of his airs of superiority, Jesse's just a kid who wants to bring a little happiness into the world in the end. Here's hoping he finds some peace of mind.
Adele: Honestly, I have no idea WHAT to make of this Adele episode. It seems to entertain Paul's most heartfelt fantasies, then it seems to dash them. It revolves as much around what Paul will do about Sunil as it does anything else. It's an oddly structured episode of the show, though not a bad one. There's one point where it seems like the show is going to have Adele admit that, yeah, she's carrying a little torch for Paul too, but a phone call interrupts the moment, letting the show off the hook and giving Adele a way to re-compose herself. It's an unsettling moment, but I like the way the show is playing Adele as a mystery, as someone Paul is trying to puzzle out, even as she's trying to get him to admit to some of his own issues. The episode invites us to play the same game Paul does, wherein we, too, ignore the big points she's raising about how Paul relates to the world and the self-chosen stasis he finds himself in in favor of trying to figure out just how Adele feels about him.
Here's the thing, though: It shouldn't MATTER how Adele feels about Paul. Given her actions this week, I'm tempted to say that, yeah, she has a bit of a crush on him, but that doesn't change the fact that her feelings are basically irrelevant. If Adele has that crush, she's doing a good job of not giving in to it, even as Paul can sense these feelings in her and tries to more thoroughly draw them out, the better to avoid talking about himself. The potential of Adele's feelings for Paul is certainly interesting for us to play around with as viewers, but it's avoiding the real issues as skillfully as Paul tries to avoid them. Therapy introduces such intimacy that it's probably normal for patients and therapists to feel other senses of that intimacy. What's important is what's done with those feelings, and I think Adele has mostly handled this situation well, not letting Paul draw her into a trap. Outside of how she reveals her pregnancy (which may have just been a clumsy moment on the show's part, more than the character's part), she's doing a good job of keeping the line between her feelings and her professional demeanor intact.
And it's a good thing, too. The way that Paul reacts when he finds out that she's pregnant is vaguely terrifying. She's right that it's obvious he won't bound across the table and strangle her, but you can see on his face how he WANTS to, and the things he says to her throughout the episode are deliberately cruel. Yeah, she has a tendency to bring everything back around to her, but I'd argue that has less to do with any narcissism she might experience and much more to do with the way that Paul keeps making everything about her. I have no idea what's going to happen in next week's season finale, though I think it may end up doubling as a series finale if Paul does decide to embark on his much talked about world travels, but the relationship Paul wants with Adele may have broken things so thoroughly that she'll need to refer him to someone else.