The Shrink Next Door
The word of the day is boundaries! Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. This episode is full of boundary talk and contains lots and lots of boundary crossing. I’m sure it comes as a shocker to exactly no one that Ike is doing almost all of the boundary breaking here and Marty is continuously left in the emotional lurch.
As someone who listened to the podcast, I felt this is an episode that mostly doesn’t need to exist. Paul Rudd continues to smize and simmer as Ike, Will Ferrell continues to put on his best puppy-dog eyes (they are quite effective), and Kathryn Hahn continues to let her protective-sister flag fly. Two key plot points in the episode — Phyllis going to see Ike for a therapy session and Marty nabbing a contract for a big Broadway production thanks to Ike’s wheeling and dealing — didn’t occur in real life, so it’s no wonder they feel like filler.
However, two key plot points occur in the last ten minutes, and a few shining moments are worth watching throughout. At the top of the episode, we’re invited to Marty’s dance party. He gyrates and twirls to the pop sensation “Gloria,” by Laura Branigan, as he enthusiastically rolls a thick layer of teal paint onto a wall of his office. The color is inexplicable, but honestly, when we see the finished product later in the episode, it does pop, so score one for Marty.
Marty is flying high on post–bar mitzvah vibes, but then Phyllis comes to chat with him. She comes to apologize … but also to ask for money to hire another divorce lawyer. This money is ostensibly Phyllis’s, but Daddy Markowitz only gave Marty the ability to unlock the trust. So he agrees to help.
“Unlocking the trust” is an inquisitive turn of phrase here because that’s what Ike has been trying to do with Marty the entire time. He continues to push his way into Marty’s life, demanding more latitude and taking more and more money, while encouraging very unhealthy (or, as Ike pronounces it, unelthy) levels of codependency and dependency. Although the series doesn’t concern itself much with an in-depth exploration of Marty’s and Ike’s relationships with their fathers, it’s clear both are re-creating elements of past parental dynamics that were flawed and toxic.
What Ike is doing is obvious to Phyllis, but when Marty brings Ike into the office as a consultant, Phyllis really does try to understand the situation. Meanwhile, Ike and his very loud three-piece suit are charming the pants off everyone else. Even the ordinarily stoic Bruce gets in on the action, repeating a clichéd Ike talking point about how obstacles are actually gifts. Sure. Just try giving an obstacle as a gift to your friends this holiday season. Spoiler: They will not be pleased.
At home later, Marty discloses to his wife, Bonnie, that he basically conned Marty into paying him for the seminar and all the sessions he had to cancel that day. Even Bonnie is like, Um, wut? But Ike shuts her down real quick. And then he shuts her down again when she proposes going back to school. Every single one of Ike’s relationships underscores his attempts to keep people in their places so they can better serve him. And this is exactly what he’s accusing Phyllis of doing to Marty. Classic deflection.
But Ike can do what he does only because of a robust education, a complete lack of ethics, and enough raw charisma to move mountains. So even when Phyllis comes to a session, he almost hoodwinks her as well. Almost.
I binge and re-binge Parks and Recreation a lot. (Maybe you do too? Let’s be friends!) So to me, Hahn and Rudd will never not be the comedy duo of PR shark Jen Barkley and the hapless Bobby Newport. But the tense scene in Ike’s office reminded me what great fun it is to watch the same pair of actors dance around each other as different characters. As Ike works his wiles on Phyllis, he goes heavy on the compliments, yet he accuses her of breaking a boundary by going to see his rabbi. And wait, Ike also breaks a boundary — and an ethical line — by accidentally disclosing something Marty shared in his session about Phyllis’s failed business venture. She storms out of the office, giving him a stern warning that she’ll be watching him closer than Sting watches his stalking victims.
After his botched session with Phyllis, Ike dons his black leather jacket, which obviously makes him feel tough and cool, and heads out to mess with Marty’s mind. As a result, Marty doesn’t show up at the meeting with the lawyer, and the Markowitz family trust stays locked. Phyllis is mad and barges into Marty’s office. I cannot state enough how wonderfully these two fight exactly like siblings. It’s a messy, nasty, high-stakes sort of fighting, but with a base of familiar and familial love. Phyllis levels an accusation that everything that comes out of Marty’s mouth isn’t him; it’s “Dr. Fuckface” talking. As per usual, she’s 100 percent correct.
At this point, Ike fully has Marty under his spell, so they head to the opening of Jesus Christ Superstar together to see the debut of their flammable fabric. The project was made possible by an out-of-the-box suggestion from Marty that they save money by fireproofing only the top of the fabric and leaving the rest untreated. Unfortunately, everyone in the brain trust neglected to account for the presence of candles onstage.
As the actors slowly walk out from behind the giant fire hazard, they are literally all holding open flames. The candles multiply faster than Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes in the Bible. Bonnie is delighted, but Ike and Marty start to panic. Their increasingly anxious banter is one of the truly comic moments in the series. Marty’s frantic comment that the candles aren’t “period accurate” absolutely killed me. But in the end, the scene finishes, the candles go backstage, and the entire theater doesn’t burn down.
Crisis averted, Marty ends up offering Ike a permanent job as an adviser at the fabric company, and Ike says yes because of course he does. The guys end the night happy. Yet Phyllis does not. While Marty was at the show, she went to see him at his apartment. She doesn’t find him, but she does encounter all of the bar mitzvah memorabilia, which sets her on fire. She blazes through the apartment, stealing all of the jewelry in Marty’s safe and leaving an angry note that says, “HOW’S THAT FOR CROSSING BOUNDARIES?!”
Well, it’s certainly crossing a line to steal half a mill in jewels from your brother’s place. But instead of calling Phyllis to discuss, Marty calls Ike. They go out to Marty’s Hamptons home to see if Phyllis has stolen anything else. She hasn’t, but Ike is agog. Marty has a level of wealth he had never imagined, and damn if he’s not going to exploit it.
The final scene of the episode sees Ike promising Marty he’ll take care of everything. He’ll always be there for him. And this is just the beginning. And as someone who knows the rest of this story, I’ll just say we’ve crested only the tip of the Ikes-berg.
Our time is up for now, but I’ll see you at our next session.
• Ike check-in: There’s a lot of talk about boundaries in this episode, specifically Ike and Phyllis leveling accusations at each other that they are both crossing boundaries. Yes, we need healthy boundaries with our friends and family, and we certainly need them with our therapists. But a concerned family member checking out the credentials of a shifty psychiatrist is not breaking a boundary. At least it’s not breaking a boundary as Ike himself is breaking a boundary. Ike has broken the boundary sound barrier, given how fast he’s able and willing to step over the invisible ethical no-no line.
• Marty check-in: Marty is having some cognitive dissonance about separating from his relationship with Phyllis. He refuses to call the police on her when she steals the jewelry, and he still says fond things about her throughout the episode. While it’s not exactly analogous to a domestic-abuse situation, Ike is clearly working to emotionally and socially isolate Marty to be completely dependent on Ike and Ike alone.
• Ike and Marty check-in: At this point, Marty wants and needs Ike to swoop in and promise to take care of him. When Ike says Marty won’t have to worry about things, the relief on Marty’s face is palpable. He went to therapy to find a solution to his indecisiveness and anxiety, and here he’s found it.
• One of Marty’s beat-up baseball caps simply says “ACK” on it. I know this is probably some sort of acronym, but all I could think about was the “Cathy” comics. You’d best believe Cathy would also have been 100 percent taken in by Ike’s shenanigans.
• Ike cracks out not one but two alternate personae in this episode. He admits to using the pseudonym Marshall Feldhammer to collect money from patients and then he re-creates himself as Issac Stevens when he speaks to Marty’s employees. For you non–podcast listeners, know that both of these things actually happened in real life.
• Truth is stranger than fiction, as is the case of Phyllis stealing from Marty to get his attention. The real Phyllis took not only a butt load of jewelry but also a bunch of important papers and even flew to Switzerland (!) and cleaned out an offshore bank account with over a million dollars in it. Marty eventually got his half … and then promptly signed over access to Ike. But we’ll get to that.