Marty Markowitz used to be a person. Before he met Dr. Ike Herschkopf, Marty had a family and a life and a sense of humor. But in the final episode of The Shrink Next Door, the series reminds us repeatedly of the untold damage that Ike did to Marty throughout nearly three decades of emotional and financial abuse.
However, Ike mostly takes a back seat in the finale. Instead, our focus is on Marty as he begins the difficult process of shaking himself loose from Ike’s iron grip. As much as Marty doesn’t want to return to Ike, he knows he has to fill his empty support system somehow. So, in a very awkward scene involving a food truck, he tries to buddy up with Bruce. Bruce gracefully declines Marty’s bumbling offer of friendship, but he subtly redirects him back to Phyllis. Bruce remains a mensch and the ultimate work friend.
Marty calls Phyllis, and when she picks up the phone in a whirlwind of personality, he chickens out and pretends to be Ike’s alter ego, Marshall Feldhammer. Phyllis is determined not to give Marty anything: not a kidney, not even a drop of her blood. And she’s totally right to be furious at him.
Rejected, Marty limps back to Ike. However, things are different now. During this session, Marty is guarded, skeptical, and tense. Instead of being enraptured by every word Ike has to say, his face is alive with discomfort. His body language is screaming NO even as Ike slithers closer. Ike has a huge ask. He wants Marty to be the best man at a vow-renewal service for him and Bonnie. Marty’s eyes pinball all over the place before he reluctantly agrees.
But things change when Marty heads to the frame shop to talk to Hannah. The store owner informs Marty that Hannah stopped working there a while ago. However, he shares that Ike was the one who told Hannah to stay away from Marty. The owner adds insult to injury by telling Marty that Hannah even has a husband and kids now! Paired with the fact that Bruce pointedly mentions his grandkids to Marty earlier in the episode, it’s becoming quite clear that Ike stole Marty’s entire life from him. The promise of who Marty could have been if not for Ike’s influence hovers over every scene like the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Marty calls Ike, gives him the brush off and heads off to the Hampton house to change the locks. And who does he see there? Phyllis! After being absent for three episodes, Kathryn Hahn is back, people! This is not a drill!
An earlier flashback to 1982 already reacquainted us with Marty’s fast-talking, brash, and opinionated sister. In it, Marty helps Phyllis leave her no-good, cheating husband. As Phyllis and Marty navigate this charged moment, Marty lifts his sister and her children up with every opportunity he gets. When Phyllis tearfully apologizes and calls herself an idiot, Marty counters by saying, “You’re not an idiot; you’re just a schmuck like the rest of us.” They drive away, and Marty clicks on the radio. Jeffrey Osborne’s “On the Wings of Love” kicks in, and Marty starts singing. The kids join in. Phyllis smiles. They’re a family.
Phyllis’s bandwidth for forgiveness and her immense love for her brother — despite the terrible things he’s done to her and her children — powers the remainder of the episode. After Marty has a disastrous meeting with his now-adult niece Nancy, Phyllis tracks him down at the Hampton house to yell in his dumb face.
Ever the curious person, Phyllis invites herself in and starts to poke around her old family home. In a hilarious moment, Phyllis expresses her fear that Marty was engaging in a sexual relationship with Bonnie and Ike. “In here?! With YOU?!” she asks. Marty waves her concern away, but honestly it’s no weirder than what actually went down in that house.
Phyllis continues her tour of Marty’s twisted life with Ike, and Marty finally guides her to the koi pond. It’s the one thing that matters to him, and Phyllis shows more interest in it in two minutes than Ike did in an entire decade. She explains that the only way she could move on with her life was to make Marty dead to her. She’s so angry and sad, but at the same time she can see that her brother is broken.
So, when Marty claims that he’s an idiot for following Ike, Phyllis repeats Marty’s words to her from back in 1982, saying, “You’re not an idiot. You’re just a schmuck like the rest of us.” Anyone can make mistakes. And Phyllis sees that Marty was trapped in an abusive relationship, just like she was with her cheating ex-husband all those years ago. She softens a bit and begins to help her brother move on.
The siblings start a fire and toss all sorts of Ike paraphernalia into the inferno: The T-shirt from the bar mitzvah, the checkbook for the Yaron Foundation, and tickets to the PEN Gala all get burned. Phyllis even casually tosses the baseball from the gala into the fire, blazing 20 grand without even knowing it. Marty tries to object but then basically says “whatever” when he realizes it’s gone.
Marty wants to see the family, but Phyllis isn’t quite ready for that yet. She can see that Ike was a destructive presence in Marty’s life, but she wants Marty to recognize his part in this debacle as well. This loops back to the question Ike posed to Marty at the pickup basketball game in the series premiere: Ike asked Marty for the ball, but Marty chose to throw it. Phyllis just wants Marty to see that he is also responsible for the choices that led down this road.
Unfortunately, this conversation is cut short when Ike stumbles onto the scene. He slinks onto the property, framed by the blazing fire, like the devil he is. Phyllis immediately goes into attack mode, but Marty’s got this. It’s a brief scene, but Marty finally gets to rage at Ike, which feels very cathartic, and Ike takes a pretty hilarious fall while holding a teeny tiny chair.
A year later, we check back in with Marty as he gets ready to host Passover Seder at the Hampton home. He’s set up a few honeybee hives in the backyard, and he seems happier and more centered. But the Seder is bittersweet. Even though family surrounds Marty, he doesn’t really know any of them. A future is promised, but Marty is still dealing with the fallout from his traumatic relationship with Ike. He can’t bear to leave the door of his house open, not even for Elijah, as Ike might just storm in and take over his life again.
When we see Ike and Marty next, it’s the present day. Paul Rudd is old, which seems very wrong somehow because we all know that Paul Rudd is a benevolent, ageless vampire. Ike tries to sweet-talk the committee. He whines about caring too much and asserts that Marty became his family member. Everything that comes out of his mouth is clear-cut evidence that Ike did flout many ethical guidelines and, frankly, that he doesn’t even understand the basic ethical guidelines that a psychiatrist must follow. But Ike truly believes that he is the hero of his own story and that Marty is the one in the wrong.
After the hearing, Ike waits for Marty outside. The two have one final confrontation. And this time, Marty comes out on top. When Ike says he forgives Marty, Marty snaps back with a killer final line. As Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” swells in the background, Marty says, “I hope you find happiness, Dr. Ike. I don’t think you will, but I hope that you do. But I’m afraid to say, we’re out of time.”
The coda of the episode is informative, chilling, and brief. It details that the real Marty Markowitz paid Ike Herschkopf over $3 million throughout their relationship but that he finally had his license revoked … ten years after Marty lodged a complaint. The last frame of the series shows a haunting image of the real Ike and Marty, presumably at one of Ike’s lavish summer parties, and they’re both smiling for the camera.
In the immortal words of Marty Markowitz, we’re out of time, my friends. It has been a great pleasure and a privilege to watch The Shrink Next Door with you, and I’ve waived all co-pays because I appreciate you all so very much.
• Ike check-in: This series focused mainly on the damage that Ike did to Marty Markowitz, but he had hundreds if not thousands of other patients throughout his career. According to The Shrink Next Door podcast host Joe Nocera, Ike maintains innocence until this day, claiming that because he never sexually assaulted a patient or took their money (ha!), he didn’t break any ethical guidelines. This inflexible (and illogical) mind-set belies an inability to engage in empathy or flexible thinking. I’m not here to diagnose Ike Herschkopf, but it does seem as if his untreated mental-health issues caused untold pain and suffering in the world. Here’s a tip if you’re looking for a therapist: ask them if they’re in therapy. This isn’t a foolproof way to weed out unethical therapists, but it’s a huge red flag if a therapist isn’t open to exploring their own baggage. GET OUT!
• Marty check-in: Sending nothing but love and happiness to Marty Markowitz and his whole family. The coda also mentioned that Marty has never been back to therapy, and I get it. But I truly hope he’s found people he can trust and that his bees are thriving.
• One final thought. The therapist part of my brain feels it must leave you with a referral. If you haven’t already, you might want to check out the original Shrink Next Door podcast, available wherever you put content into your ears.