The Shrink Next Door
We’ve officially hit the halfway mark of The Shrink Next Door, and things are starting to get painfully real for both Marty and Ike. We’ve also reached the ’90s, a fact that is made apparent by Ike’s giant clunker of a cell phone and his fluorescent basketball attire in the opening scene. This is the only time that Rudd comes close to looking like a yummy “Sexiest Man Alive” in this series, and I may or may not have watched him run up and down the court more than once.
Ike gets a call from someone telling him that his father has died. He rips his tank top at the collar to indicate he is mourning and jumps right back into the game. Ike is a master at repressing feelings. So when Marty invites Ike and his family to the Hamptons for Memorial Day weekend, Ike uses it as an opportunity to deflect from his grief by taking over Marty’s childhood home. It’s a reverse What About Bob.
Oddly enough, What About Bob came out in 1991, right around this exact time in history. The film features Bill Murray as an eager, puppylike patient who follows his psychiatrist (Richard Dreyfuss) to his summer home and then staunchly refuses to leave. It’s ostensibly a comedy, but I know that What About Bob is a literal horror show to all therapists.
But Marty is predictably delighted when Ike starts to make gestures toward staying for a while. At first, if you set aside the whole Ike-is-Marty’s-therapist thing, the situation seems like a good time. Marty is a very generous host, offering up the master bedroom for Bonnie and Ike while he plans to sleep in the tiny guest house. Bonnie and Ike lounge by the pool while their daughters have a ball splashing around with Marty.
Unfortunately, the weekend takes a turn when Bonnie mentions how nice and generous Marty is. Ike bristles at this idea, saying that, no, actually, they’re helping Marty by coming to visit. Ike literally cannot admit when someone else is extending kindness to him. Bonnie seems to know this, but she also gently pushes back against her husband’s protests.
We haven’t talked a ton about Casey Wilson’s portrayal of Bonnie yet, but this moment is indicative of the great work she’s been doing. Ike is a shape-shifting force of nature, and Bonnie is the one who knows him the best. For some reason, she continues to stand by him even though she’s often perplexed by his actions and frustrated by his “more more more” mentality. Wilson lends Bonnie a subdued but curious demeanor. She’s not afraid to question Ike’s motives, but she also allows him to exit difficult conversations without pressing or challenging him, making her quietly complicit.
When Ike and Marty get back to the city, Ike immediately starts in on the Hampton home. The house needs to be updated and renovated and, in fact, the property next door is for sale as well, and he thinks that Marty should buy it! Yet Marty is happy with what he has, and he amiably rejects the idea. But then Ike changes. He becomes sullen and withdrawn. In a matter of milliseconds, he disengages with Marty, making him feel abandoned and alone and desperate to reconnect. These subtle cues have been sprinkled throughout the series so far, but Ike really begins to use these tactics as a form of psychological warfare against his patient.
And yet. The show also wants to illustrate that the relationship between Ike and Marty is marked by good times. A delightful montage set to “Waiting For a Star to Fall” by Boy Meets Girl shows the two men bopping around the house and getting into high jinks as they gleefully paint one of the rooms … and each other.
Too bad Ike has to go and be Ike.
When Marty tells Ike that the house next door has structural problems and his real-estate agent advises him not to buy, Ike threatens to head to Jerusalem to get some headspace and write the great American novel something something. It honestly doesn’t matter what he’s saying here. It’s that psychological warfare all over again; it’s all an act to get Marty to fall in line. Marty begs Ike to stay, and he does because that’s what he wanted all along. In fact, he takes a sabbatical so that he can fully devote himself to his new house.
Ike is seeking catharsis from his grief in exactly all the wrong ways. Instead of climbing into his own mind and examining the damage there, he has taken up residence in Marty’s childhood home — a physical representation of Marty’s own childhood demons in many ways — and proceeds to tear it apart. After a small protest, Marty quickly accepts most of the changes that Ike wants to make, including redecorating, painting, and even hacking apart the bathroom. But he draws the line at the tree.
An absolutely gorgeous cherry tree stands in the backyard of the house. And for some vague reason, Ike wants it gone. Marty does not. The tree is totally stunning. It’s the Laura Linney of trees. It’s also Marty’s link to his mom, who loved the tree so much that she would talk to it sometimes. As Marty strongly protests the removal of the tree, Ike gets outright hostile and borderline terrifying. He starts screaming Freudian accusations, claiming that the tree is “a big looming totem” of Mrs. Markowitz’s “inappropriate desire” for Marty. Marty is dumbfounded.
And then, feeling lost and trapped, Marty chops down the tree. It’s a devastating moment.
Here, the episode jumps several months to the one-year anniversary of Ike’s father’s death. This anniversary happens to coincide with Marty finally closing on the second house in the Hamptons. Fresh from the ceremony at his dad’s gravesite, Ike breaks out of his glass case of emotion and goes HAM on the fence between the two properties. Then, he brushes himself off, picks himself up, and tells Marty that they’re going to have a party. Coming from Ike, it sounds more like a threat than a good time. And Marty looks worried.
• Ike check-in: The scene at the gravesite sees Ike whispering to Bonnie about another woman named Pearl. Without context, this moment may have been a bit confusing. Pearl is Ike’s stepsister. And Joe Nocera tells me that in real life, Ike’s step-sister survived the Holocaust along with both of Ike’s parents. In fact, she is the youngest Holocaust survivor in history (!). In the show, it’s made clear that Ike feels a strong sense of resentment toward this woman, as she took away a portion of his father’s attention and affection in his childhood. His mom also unintentionally provokes him here by saying that his father didn’t have it in him to love another boy after Baruch, his first son, died in the Holocaust. There’s so much generational trauma to unpack here, and one certainly wonders if Dr. Ike ever attended therapy to work through his dense family history. He probably had a crap therapist if he did, because the man has a venomous lack of self-insight.
• Marty check-in: When Marty sees his niece Nancy’s boogie board in the guest house, he gets a case of the sads. It’s a moment with no dialogue and, while attentive viewers may remember that Phyllis’s eldest daughter’s name was Nancy, this moment is another example of how the series does a lot of showing, not telling. Usually, this tactic would be an effective storytelling device, but there’s often not enough explicit context for the “show” part to land with the desired emotional impact.
• Ike and Marty check-in: As the overall tone of this episode is one of looming doom, Ike and Marty’s painting dance party might seem a bit out of place to some viewers, but it does serve an important purpose. If Marty wasn’t getting something out of his relationship with Ike, he wouldn’t have continued to engage in the relationship. This episode is peppered with examples of genuine and electric human connection that Ike offered up to Marty as their relationship progressed. Admittedly, Marty was starved for these things because Ike had effectively cut him off from the rest of the world, but if we take a look from Marty’s perspective, painting the wall with Ike really does look like a ton of fun.
• Apparently Ike has zero clue how much trees are worth. Gorgeous, well-kept, mature trees like Marty’s cherry tree are worth a lot. A lot. Check out the glorious r/treelaw subreddit if you don’t believe me.
• We briefly see Ike and Marty working on Ike’s novel. Ike is dictating, so we can hear every word of his hacky, icky prose. Surprise! Ike is terrible at writing women. In fact, I’ll invoke another subreddit, r/menwritingwomen, and say that Ike belongs there. Not all men, but definitely Ike Herschkopf.