By the end of the second installment of The Shrink Next Door, Dr. Ike Herschkopf has fully entranced Marty Markowitz. Presented with a shiny new father figure–friend–mentor, Marty has decided to follow Ike wherever he leads. And this episode illustrates exactly how Ike snuck his way in. One of the first big moves that Ike makes with Marty is to throw him a bar mitzvah for his 40th birthday. Having a bar mitzvah for a 40-year-old man who had one as a teen is already kind of a bonkers idea, but having a therapist throw said shindig? That’s a shanda.
At the top of the episode, we see that Marty’s life is actually improving somewhat under Ike’s guidance. He’s going to therapy regularly, but he’s still afraid to talk about his emotions. One of the best lines in the episode is when Phyllis asks Marty how therapy is going, and he says, “I have to talk about my feelings, but my main feeling is I don’t wanna.” From personal experience as a therapist (and as a therapygoer), I 100 percent know this mood. It’s totally normal. And Ike sees that it’s happening with Marty. He’s a trained psychiatrist, after all. But the way he goes about rectifying this issue is really just not great, Bob.
Marty deflects several times during a session with Ike, talking about Ike’s shirt and the absolutely wild real-life fact that Ralph Lauren’s real name is Ralph Lifshitz. But Ike keeps steering him back to his grief over his father’s death. Marty finally starts to really open up and get into the meat of his issues. When Marty recalls his disastrous bar mitzvah, Ike gets an idea.
Ike calls Marty out of a hilariously awkward meeting with his staff to present his proposal: He wants to throw a redo bar mitzvah for Marty. Marty races to meet him, but when he hears what Ike says, he’s not too excited about it. At this moment, Rudd finally lets the inner Ike shine through for just a moment. His eager smile falters and his whole face falls, determination and “want” glimmering behind his eyes. Marty is taken aback by this transformation. He would never do anything to disappoint his new idol. So he agrees to the (terrible) idea.
But one person thankfully still has her wits about her, and that’s Marty’s sister Phyllis. Throughout the process of Marty getting ready for the bar mitzvah, Phyllis pushes back hard. She tells Marty to celebrate his midlife crisis like the normals do. “Buy a Corvette. Fuck a prostitute. No judgment here,” she says. But really, there is judgment. She can’t stand by as her brother does this ridiculous thing. She doesn’t understand why her brother would do this; she doesn’t understand why a therapist would do this; she thinks this is all just ridiculous. And she’s right about everything. Hahn’s glorious wig bobs with confused frustration as Phyllis heads to see Marty’s rabbi. She finds out that Marty isn’t having his bar mitzvah at their temple; he’s having it at Ike’s. Red flags everywhere.
But it’s too late. Phyllis’s well-intentioned snooping leads to a full-on meltdown from Ike. When Ike’s rabbi questions him about the situation, something snaps in Ike. He realizes that to have a functioning Marty puppet, he needs to cut some external strings. And the key string is Marty’s connection to his sister. As Marty wraps up his totally hilarious and inappropriate practice session with the rabbi and teen overachiever Emily, Ike lies like a predator in wait. As an unsuspecting Marty heads out, Ike pounces. Remember that glimmer from earlier in the episode? Here, it explodes, becoming a firework of rage (This is definitely not what Katy Perry had in mind). Ferrell truly has the best hangdog look in the game, and he deploys it perfectly here. Marty’s big, shiny saucer eyes stare in disbelief as his beloved psychiatrist throws a legit tantrum. Ike sets to the task of planting seeds of doubt in Marty’s brain, turning him against Phyllis. In his tirade, he manages to invoke the doctor’s credo of “do no harm,” name-drop NYU Medical School, and repeatedly underscore that he’s all about trust.
Sure, guy. Methinks the (bad) doctor doth protest too much. But Marty buys it.
Ike gets what he wants as Marty heads over to Phyllis’s place and confronts her about the snooping. They squabble, hurling half-formed insults at one another and gesturing wildly. The crackling sibling dynamic here makes everything that’s about to happen even sadder. Phyllis does not deny Marty’s claims, and she admirably doubles down on her assertion that this whole bar mitzvah endeavor is crossing a line for a psychiatrist. She’s got an entire punch card full of red flags, but Marty is already in too deep. He says that she’s uninvited to his bar mitzvah, even if she changes her mind.
In the wake of this argument, it’s a real bummer to watch Marty continually scan the crowd for his sister at both the ceremony and the reception. Time after time, he seeks her out, only to see strangers in the form of Ike’s friends and family. Even the videographer seems wholly uninterested in talking to Marty. No one is there for him; they’re all there for Ike. When Marty sees a friendly face in Ike’s wife, Bonnie (Casey Wilson), he grabs on to her like a life preserver, desperate for some genuine human interaction. Thankfully, there are some moments of cringe-y levity throughout the bar mitzvah, particularly when Marty stumbles over part of the Torah and Ike steps in to help, even singing harmony at times.
Every time Will Ferrell sings onscreen, it is a true gift to the world. And every time he acts like he can’t sing, a comedy angel gets its wings. Ferrell has some serious singing chops, delivering earnest and heartfelt vocal performances in movies like Stranger Than Fiction, Eurovision, Anchorman, and the beloved holiday classic Elf. However, it’s always funnier when he botches it on purpose like he does in this episode.
The final few moments of the episode are scored to one of the best musical cues I’ve heard all year. Billy Joel’s effervescent “You Can Make Me Free” rings out over scenes of Marty finally connecting with Ike at the bar mitzvah. Marty finally gets to do the horah — therapeutic achievement unlocked — but here comes Ike, sharing this moment with his patient. The images of the giddy men are interspersed with short clips of Phyllis talking to her kids about family. She says, “Sometimes the people we love do things that we don’t agree with. And sometimes they act like fucking douchebags.”
Homemade cake and family >>>>>> bar mitzvah thrown by your psychiatrist. Remember that, friends. Our time is up for now, but until next episode.
• Ike check-in: Early on in the episode, Marty tells Ike about his bad experience at his bar mitzvah when he was a kid (we witnessed this disaster firsthand at the top of the episode in a flashback), and this prompts Ike to recall regrets about his own bar mitzvah. His parents couldn’t afford a party when he was a teen, you see, and the little boy inside of Ike wants to have all his friends come out and boogie on the dance floor. Big personal feelings surfacing as a result of work with patients is called countertransference. A good psychiatrist would have noticed these feelings, named them, and then sought supervision to rectify the situation. Not Ike! Like the impulsive and reckless child he is, he decides that he’s going to have his dream bar mitzvah.
• Marty check-in: While Marty believes he is beginning to stand up for himself with others (a.k.a. Phyllis), he’s really just self-sabotaging due to Ike’s poor advice. Ike may not realize exactly what harm he’s causing his patient — in his conversation with Bonnie, we see that he thinks he’s doing the right thing — but he’s engaging in classic abusive behaviors, cutting Marty off from everyone in his life who might be able to stop this train from crashing and burning.
• Ike and Marty check-in: Ike does seem to get more out of helping Marty than just a checkbook. The two appear to have some sort of electric connection, and it’s that connection that propels the final moments of this episode.
• Much like the vines that slink over the title credits, the overgrown ficuses in Ike’s waiting room are still attacking Marty’s face.
• Speaking of the waiting room, Ike continues his streak of unethical nonsense when he continues a session with a patient as they walk out into the waiting room. Marty witnesses the end of this session, as Ike tells a woman to “tell your mother you won’t go to Florida.” This is our first hint that Marty isn’t Ike’s only victim.
• The New York accents in this show are all over the place, and I love them dearly. I could totally make a meal out of the way that Hahn says “Telly Savalas” early on in the episode.