The Shrink Next Door Recap: A Fish Called Adam

The Shrink Next Door

The Breakthrough
Season 1 Episode 7
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

The Shrink Next Door

The Breakthrough
Season 1 Episode 7
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Apple TV+

You’d be forgiven for thinking you pressed play on the wrong show this week. This episode of The Shrink Next Door opens on a very peculiar black-and-white scene. It’s an imagining of one of Ike’s novels. The genre and setting seem to be primed for Ferrell and Rudd to get their comedy faces on, but it’s not particularly funny, takes us out of the story, and goes on way too long.

But this dream sequence does make one thing very clear: Marty Markowitz would have been happy to be Ike Herschkopf’s sidekick for the rest of his days. Yet here, FINALLY, after almost three decades of use and abuse, Marty realizes he was never the sidekick. He was just getting kicked in the side. Repeatedly. For twenty-seven years.

Marty’s slow realization that Ike does not care about him unfolds over the entirety of the episode. As the two men finish work on Ike’s ninth (?!) novel in his “Some Like It” series, Marty starts telling Ike about some pretty serious health concerns. He’s in pain all the time, he can’t fart, and he feels like he’s going to accidentally poop his pants. Even though Ike is literally a doctor, he can’t be bothered to listen to his friend, and he packs up and takes off.

Moments later, we’re treated to a welcome sight: Cathy and Bruce! Two people who actually care about Marty! What a treat! While Cathy encourages Marty to rest, Bruce tries to talk to him about the dire financial situation the company is in. But Bruce has a solution. They can shift operations to a space in Jersey for half the rent. Ike arrives just in time to burst this bubble of collaboration and kindness. As soon as he hears the word “Jersey,” he stomps off in a huff. Cathy, on the other hand, sticks around to get Marty the help he needs.

It turns out that Marty has a hernia. It’s pretty bad, and he needs surgery. And that surgery will require a few days of recovery in the hospital. As Marty talks to the doctor, he gets increasingly agitated, standing up and pacing and generally panicking about having to be laid up for that long. At this point, it’s unclear why exactly Marty is so panicked, but this all becomes clear a bit later.

Despite Marty’s diagnosis and pending surgery, Ike still refuses to place focus on Marty’s health or health stressors. During their last session, before Marty goes under the knife, Ike is still harping on New Jersey. The session is up, and Ike is literally walking Marty out the door before Marty gets a chance to talk about his real concerns. Ike flippantly compares the surgery to when his twins got their tonsils out as kids. He says, “we watched Jungle Book and we ate ice cream and Jell-O.” (Of course Ike would brag about watching one of THE most racist Disney movies with his kids. Also, the Jungle Book is only like an hour long, meaning that Ike spent a single hour with his kids as they recovered from major surgery. Not exactly a shocker.)

For the next ten or so minutes, we’re with Marty. And the experience is lonely and intense. A pall of desperation begins to settle over Marty as he successfully goes through surgery and ends up in the recovery room. No one is there to greet him; there’s not even a flower delivery or an Edible Arrangement. There’s. Not. Even. A. Card.

Over the next few days, Marty tells himself all sorts of lies to cover up the fact that Ike has abandoned him. First, Marty tricks himself into thinking that Ike is being barred from visiting because he hasn’t put him on a visitors list. Then, he’s convinced that his iPhone is on the fritz. His insistence on these manufactured delusions starts to freak out the hospital staff, and one nurse even offers to up his dose of pain meds so he can rest more comfortably (or maybe to get him to shut up).

But the true breakthrough for Marty finally comes when a student named Terrel comes to read to him. Terrel is nice enough, but for some reason he’s chosen to read Steinbeck’s ultra-depressing Of Mice and Men. It’s not exactly a beach read. Steinbeck’s words really hit home for Marty. Terrel reads, “A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. I tell you, a guy gets too lonely, and he gets sick.”

Is this what happened to Marty? Is his hernia just a hernia, or is Ike the real hernia? I mean, three decades of mental and spiritual abuse can take a toll on a person, and Marty is living proof. He’s been cut off from almost anyone who cares about his well-being, and the one person who said he’d always be there for him is completely MIA.

Oh, no, wait. Ike’s not actually MIA. He’s hosting yet another lavish party AT MARTY’S HOUSE. (Oh, hey, it’s the party from the first episode!)

Marty breaks out of the hospital so he can find Ike. When Marty finally arrives wearing nothing but a disheveled hospital gown and a pair of wild eyes, Ike doesn’t care about his friend’s mental state. Instead, he cares more about how things look to his guests. Marty’s tush is hanging out and his emotional vulnerability is infecting the vibe. So Ike steers him over to the side and gives him a pep talk. It’s all b.s., but Marty buys it for a brief moment. Until, that is, he finds Adam.

When Marty visits the koi pond, Adam is dead. Ike didn’t bother to follow any of the instructions that Marty had left him. And Marty’s fears about going into the hospital all came true. He knew that if he had to rely on Ike to do or be anything while he was gone, the façade would collapse and the reality of the past three decades of his life would come undone entirely. As Marty heads out to confront Ike one final time, his gaze lingers over the chef that Ike has hired to replace him. He begins to fully realize that he was never really anything to Ike except a glorified grill master.

And then he moves on to the anger stage of grief.

A repeat of the scene from the premiere unfolds, but now we have the context. Marty stumbles around the yard full of rage and regret, smashing every smashable item. Then, he buries Adam, apologizing to him for his negligence. He’s really apologizing to himself, though. He’s apologizing for lost relationships, lost opportunities, and lost time. In his final act of rage, Marty buries those giant cow statues, perhaps indicating once and for all that Ike’s cash cow is now closed for business. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just because the cows were gaudy and hideous.

Ike doesn’t know that anything is wrong though. Ike has treated Marty so terribly for so long that he thinks he’s entitled to Marty’s continued devotion, no matter what. So when Marty doesn’t show for his session, Ike panics. He heads to the AFC warehouse, only to find that he’s been ghosted. So Ike gamely heads to Jersey.

What Ike finds in Jersey shocks him. The warehouse is bustling, and Marty is a new man. When Ike starts to throw a tantrum about having to travel to the new location, Marty pulls himself up a bit higher and says, “Then don’t come.”

This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. As Marty gives Ike his walking papers (courtesy of Norman Horowitz, naturally), he’s got a new twinkle in his eye. And his entire staff applauds his newfound strength. It’s an electric moment, and the excitement carries us right into the end credits, ending on a true high.

Our time is up for now, but I’ll see you at our final (!) session next week for the finale.

Progress Notes

• Ike check-in: Even though this episode focuses on Marty’s long-overdue realization that Ike is an abusive presence in his life, we also see that Ike is infecting others. First, he’s super nasty to Bonnie and then tries to pass it off as a joke … but then we see that the two are sleeping in separate rooms later that night. In his professional world, we saw his impact on poor Miriam last week, but we see him with a new, young client this week. He advises her to cut off both of her parents on Facebook as a punishment for being “toxic” people. When a psychiatrist’s go-to move is to recommend cutting off existing support systems, it is not therapy; it’s abuse.

• Marty check-in: Will Ferrell gives a really astounding performance in this episode, mainly communicating through some truly epic face journeys. While most viewers are familiar with Ferrell as an explosively reactive comedy actor, he’s also really great at sitting back in heavy scenes and subtly guiding his character in and out of dark places. We’ve talked before about how Rudd and Ferrell are both playing against type in this series. Still, while there might not be too much of a market for Rudd (a.k.a.: America’s Ageless Sweetheart) to play a villain, there’s certainly room for a world in which Serious Actor Will Ferrell enters the chat.

• Ike and Marty check-in: Norman Horowitz is good at two things: drawing pictures of genitalia and firing Ike Herschkopf.

The Shrink Next Door Recap: A Fish Called Adam