The following contains spoilers for The Shrink Next Door Episode 6, “The Party” (written by Georgia Pritchett & Sas Goldberg and directed by Jesse Peretz)
Question: How do you create a passage of time in a series trying to tell itself in eight episodes? Answer: You get inventive and create an entire episode framed around the concept of house parties.
“The Party” starts off feeling similar to other episodes. Ike (Paul Rudd) and Marty (Will Ferrell) throw their first housewarming party, where we see Ike and Marty get ready, but once the party begins Ike makes little suggestions that push Marty to the outskirts of actually socializing with people. As the episode progresses through the years, we see more parties and the continuous exclusion of Marty until Marty’s only form of socializing is with his fish in the fishpond on the other side of the yard.
The time jumping through the years by using the multiple house parties (that actually happened according to The Shrink Next Door podcast) is an inventive way of showing us the progression of their relationship. We see how Ike becomes deeper and deeper into the illusion of the life he’s created while Marty’s mental state deteriorates. I do feel though that having this focus on the parties takes away from really understanding the hold Ike has on Marty. We go from seeing the formation of a “love story” last week into the deep abusiveness that comes from staying with Ike. The instant tone change really throws you for a loop.
Although we know Ike is a horrible person, it can’t be denied that the first bunch of episodes set him up to be somewhat sympathetic. We’re given his family life and exploration into his past. All aspects that may not make us completely root for him to make his goals but make us feel empathetic towards him. “The Party” discards all of that development to give us the first glimpses into the horrible person he truly is.
Everyone is a pawn to him. For the past few episodes, we’ve seen his treatment towards his wife Bonnie (Casey Wilson). At first, he is open to her and there is a connection where you can feel, and believe, that these two have a real relationship. As The Shrink Next Door progresses we begin to see the cracks where Ike is trying to pull the strings and Bonnie is attempting to fight back. After she has their twins, she asks Ike for help by hiring a nanny to help her. He tries to say they don’t need one because she’s “Super Mom” and that she can handle anything.
A key moment in Episode 6, though, is when Marty finds Bonnie in the kitchen hiding from the party happening outside, and she says she can’t do this anymore. She wants her husband back. Ike’s become the person she warned him about coming back during “The Foundation” when she told him that he doesn’t know when to stop sometimes. He’s cruel to her and the girls when it comes to their costumes for the parties, and he openly flirts with the other female guests. All of this is a smack in Bonnie’s loyal face and yet she stays with him and surrenders her kindness over to him so by the time we enter the later years we see how he’s transformed her. She becomes cold and decides to ignore what is going on, especially with the treatment of Marty.
There is a moment when a guest asks Marty about his family photo hanging on the wall among all of Ike’s because she mistakes it as being of Ike. He awkwardly tries to explain the situation on why Ike’s name is on the house even though it was really his, and Bonnie is listening to the entire conversation from the kitchen. You can see the guilt on her face but she keeps quiet because as Ike said back last week, “you have to learn to accept hospitality with good grace.” Marty can ask them to leave at any time but he’s choosing not to. Bonnie doesn’t want to take advantage of Marty but I believe she is completely wrapped up in the man she loves and is married to, and Ike has taken advantage of her good graces.
The cruelty doesn’t stop with Bonnie or Marty for Ike. He’s a therapist which means that he has many “clients”. The Shrink Next Door podcast managed to speak with a few of his other patients and their testimonies helped form the environment created during this week’s episode. Ike would play mind games with them, sometimes pitting them against one another or playing matchmaker. Either way, when it comes to the confidentiality clause that doctors need to follow, it seems Ike feels as though he is exempt.
Having listened to The Shrink Next Door podcast, we are introduced to two other of Ike’s patients in “The Party.” One of them goes by Judith (their names were changed for their safety). I believe Judith is who Episode 6’s Miriam (Sarayu Rao) is based around. Miriam is full of spirit in the beginning, enjoying her time at these parties and laughing it up with Ike. She’s willing to do anything Ike says including trying to befriend Marty. The interaction between them shows us how there are no boundaries between Ike’s patients. Marty accidentally brings up a situation regarding Miriam’s mother where she seems shocked that he knows about it. When time jumps forward years and we are reintroduced to her, Miriam is done with manipulating Ike. When she is alone with Marty she explains how Ike had convinced her to completely cut ties with her own mother. She had just found out about her passing and had the bigger regret of not being able to reconcile with her. This story is similar to one Judith tells Joe Nocera in the podcast.
Miriam also has elements of another patient Joe interviewed, who went by the name of Emily. When Emily left Ike she attempted to tell others so they could also get out. When she attempted to get Marty to follow her out, he didn’t. In “The Party,” we see Miriam finally break after Ike convinces Marty to push her into the pool because “it would be fun.” It’s during this time that she tells him about what Ike had convinced her to do to her mother. Marty explodes back on how it’s all lies because at this point he’s still in deep.
It’s then we see how far Ike’s cruelty will extend. In the final moments of Episode 6, Ike has Marty stage the bus that brings everyone to and from the Hamptons to New York City to break down. He then instructs Marty to get Miriam to go with him to a gas station (in the middle of the night) where Marty is to leave her stranded. This is a punishment for Miriam because she had attempted to fill Marty’s head with the truth. As far as I understand, this event never actually occurred but it wasn’t out of the norm for Ike to pit people against one another as a punishment. This was pushing it too far though as it showcased how hurtful he had become. It was one thing telling Hannah back in Episode 4 that she couldn’t be a fit for Marty, but it’s a completely different thing to purposefully leave a woman stranded in the middle of Long Island.
On a whole, I feel as though this episode has been the weakest. I think it rushed at trying to get through a large amount of time and in the process cut corners. The change in Ike’s character felt sudden and if we wanted to hate him more by this we shouldn’t have been made to feel sympathetic towards him last week.
That said, it did allow us to view how much Ike changed from that kind therapist Marty met back in Episode 1. I just felt that with seeing so much mental abuse put on Marty in this episode, one would easily make the decision to leave Ike and his toxic-ness behind. Yet, here we are, with two episodes left and I feel as though the writers are now trying to play crunch time.