The Shrink Next Door Episode 8: Marty Rebuilds Himself in “The Verdict”

Phyllis (Kathryn Hahn) comforts Marty (Will Ferrell).
Kathryn Hahn and Will Ferrell in The Shrink Next Door, now streaming on Apple TV+.

The following contains spoilers for The Shrink Next Door Episode 8, “The Verdict” (written by Georgia Pritchett and directed by Jesse Peretz)

I have a lot of thoughts regarding The Shrink Next Door’s finale. So many that I had to watch multiple times to see if I actually still had them, or if it was just the disappointment I had because I still held the podcast fresh in my brain. It’s understandable because those who have listened to the podcast will go into this finale probably thinking they just scratched the surface with this story, why are they ending it now? Or maybe not—maybe I’m just crazy in my little corner.

Lord knows I would’ve liked to fully experience Marty’s (Will Ferrell) PTSD when it came to the aftermath of Doctor Ike’s (Paul Rudd) horrendous treatment for 27 years. I would’ve loved seeing more of Marty rebuilding his relationship with Phyllis (Kathryn Hahn) and her children, especially given the extent of what he did. More importantly, Marty went to hell and back again, spending years trying to get a case opened on Ike with the medical community, and I would’ve liked more than just the closing moments of the show and a footnote to have focused on them.

These “I would’ve”s only clouded my mind and had me originally coming out disappointed. That’s probably because I wanted this series to be a replica of what Marty Markowitz went through. Who wouldn’t after hearing the details of his battle with lawyers and his own personal mental health? It’s a story that deals in the personal battles of how far one’s threshold can hold when it comes to emotional manipulation.

The Shrink Next Door had eight episodes to tell this story, and once I was able to separate the real-life experience of Marty Markowitz from the Marty Markowitz created by Will Ferrell and Georgia Pritchett, I was able to rewatch this final episode and appreciate it more.

Phyllis (Kathryn Hahn) peers through a window in The Shrink Next Door Episode 8
Kathryn Hahn in The Shrink Next Door, now streaming on Apple TV+.

From the very first episode of The Shrink Next Door, one thing rang true: this wasn’t just Marty and Ike’s story. Marty’s relationship with Phyllis was also front and center. She was the maternal force to be reckoned with when it came to protecting Marty. She often became his rock when he needed strength.

Kathryn Hahn’s performance brought a grounded comedy but also a vulnerability. You can sense that Phyllis was a person constantly putting on a face and only showed her softer side to her brother. Hahn’s performance seemed to find the balance between Phyllis’s strengths and her weaknesses. The chemistry she had with Will Ferrell rippled through entire episodes, so when she left (because Marty breaks ties with her) there is a change in the tone of the episodes.

Having The Shrink Next Door Episode 8 (“The Verdict”) open with a Phyllis and Marty scene allows us to refocus on the familiar tone of the first few episodes, but it also serves as a reminder of the closeness in their relationship. For so long we had seen the Marty and Ike love story unfold, which made us forget that Marty’s real love is for his family. The moment he’s separated from Phyllis and her children, he attaches himself to Ike’s twins. He never uses the word friend when describing Ike; instead, he uses brother. Family is such an important aspect to Marty and this opening scene reestablishes that for us.

We get to witness the night when Phyllis leaves her husband and just how much she ended up depending on Marty. She is so used to showing confidence that it’s strange to see her in such a vulnerable state. She lets her shields down and feels guilty for forcing it all on her brother, but Marty is there for her by telling her she’s a schmuck like the rest of them.

This scene doesn’t just show how important he is to Phyllis but also to her children. What this series hardly touches on, except for a few scenes in the first few episodes, is that Marty Markowitz was the closest thing to a father figure Phyllis’s three children knew. That night, as they drive back to New York City, those young children had witnessed their parents blow up at one another, which can be a traumatizing experience. They knew that their mother was upset but probably didn’t understand how to feel themselves. In order to raise their spirits and turn a bad situation better, Marty puts on the radio and the ride turns into an over-the-top sing-along to Jeffrey Osborne’s “On the Wings of Love.”

At this moment, he’s their savior from the horrible situation that just occurred, and he’s also his sister’s beacon of hope that everything will turn out for the best. The Shrink Next Door Episode 8 opening on such a pivotal moment in their sibling relationship makes the fact that Ike was able to break that bond even more heartbreaking. You realize how deep the cuts Marty created for himself are and that his sister wasn’t the only one affected by his choices. Those children lost their uncle and father figure the moment Marty decided to take Phyllis out of his life.

Even though I believe rebuilding the relationship with Phyllis and her children should have taken more than one episode, I do love the amount of care that went into crafting the scenes revolving around it. When Marty meets with his niece Nancy, now a fully grown woman, she wants one thing: an apology. Marty doesn’t realize that he needs to take responsibility for what happened. He may have been Ike’s victim, but Nancy and her siblings were Marty’s.

Nancy was old enough to remember the time shortly after being cut off from her uncle. She probably had to go through seeing her mother struggle through different jobs and men on her own because she hadn’t had any other family to reach out to. In an earlier episode, we had seen a young Nancy hover around her mother and ask if she was okay because Phyllis was a nervous wreck over Marty being late for an important meeting. Being a witness to those moments doesn’t just go away over one coffee date. Those wounds run deep and cause lasting effects on people. It probably took Nancy a long time to gain trust in people out of fear that they would leave her as Marty had.

She should be mad that Marty couldn’t give her an apology. I completely understand her not wanting to trust him. You can’t come back out of the blue after 27 years and expect everything to be peachy keen. There’s an elephant in the room, and until it’s dealt with, there can’t be a sudden burying of the hatchet.

Phyllis (Kathryn Hahn) talks to Marty (Will Ferrell) in front of a burning barrel in The Shrink Next Door Episode 8.

Later, when Phyllis shows up, Kathryn Hahn gives a performance that should have received a Golden Globe nomination (not that I’m still angry at her snub). Hahn managed to take what should have been a season-long arc’s worth of development and conveyed it all in one scene. From the moment she enters the Hamptons house and begins to see the changes Ike made, Phyllis’s face tells the entire story of how she goes from saying her brother has died to being willing to accept him back in her life. Phyllis says, “Getting used to it really is your superpower, huh, Marty? You’ll put up with anything, even actual shit,” and it’s the only way she can fathom Marty’s choice to be overtaken with Ike.

The big question on Phyllis’s mind is the same that was on Nancy’s: “How could you do that to us?” Marty says he was “bewitched” but still doesn’t realize the full extent of his actions. He was the one that made the conscious choice 27 years ago to cut ties with Phyllis. He was the one who cut her photo out of all the family photos and mailed them back (and on her birthday no less). When she asks if he is at all angry, Marty’s first reaction is to think of Ike. It’s not what she means, though. At any point, Marty could have stopped it. He could have disagreed. He could have picked up the phone. And most importantly, he could have apologized for being a jerk.

In her head, Phyllis had killed Marty. She had told herself enough times that her brother had died, and in a way he did. Post-Ike Marty is a completely different man from the brother Phyllis would find having a panic attack behind curtains or needing to get out of the bathroom so he could go back to his bar mitzvah. This new Marty had been broken down to the bare bones and was slowly learning how to be a person again. Phyllis needed to gain a new trust and bond before they could become those siblings shown at the beginning of the episode, let alone at the beginning of the season.

As a quick side note, I think Phyllis letting loose and going all Carrie Underwood on what she thought was Ike’s car allowed her to release some of the years worth of anger and resentment she had towards both Ike and Marty. Besides probably being placed in there for pure comedy (which Hahn completely owns every single second of, down to her reaction as Ike gets into the similar car parked next to it) I really feel that it sums up Phyllis’s frustration with the entire situation. As much as she thinks she needs the time to process Marty’s story, she knows deep down that she is still his protector, and one thing we should have learned by now (or by Episode 3) is that you do not mess with the thing Phyllis Shapiro loves.

Bruce (Cornell Womack) and Marty (Will Ferrell) order at a food truck.

“The Verdict” is very much about Marty rebuilding his voice as much as it is about getting a second chance with his life. Marty and Ike’s relationship is a symbiotic one. Ike wouldn’t be able to have the lifestyle he had without using Marty’s resources, and Marty wouldn’t be able to have a purpose without Ike. So when they break up there is a time when Marty goes through withdrawal because he has to relearn how to be by himself. For 27 years all he’s known has been what Ike coached him. Every decision had been filtered through Ike before even leaving Marty’s lips. Now that he’s alone, he has to relearn how to interact with people.

In that sense, Marty basically becomes a child again, imitating the only adult figure he’s had in his life up to that point. When Marty takes Bruce out for lunch because he is hungry for human interaction, we witness how much Ike’s hold on him has destroyed him. Marty attempts to talk like Ike and act like him in a reenactment of the time Ike brought Marty to the deli and told him to be decisive and say the first thing that came to his mind.

Being a symbiotic person, Ike also needs Marty in order to feel needed and to continue living the high life. He knows that the way to get Marty back is to make him feel important and so Ike asks Marty to be his best man when he renews his vows with Bonnie (Casey Wilson). We learn that Ike would say anything to win back Marty as he didn’t even have plans for a renewal of vows until he said it at that moment. Since Marty is addicted to earning Ike’s approval, he hesitantly says yes because there is still a part of him that yearns for it. It takes Marty discovering what Ike did to Hannah (Christina Vidal) back in Episode 4 for him to have that jolt in his brain that makes him realize that he shouldn’t have Ike in his life period.

The fear Ike instilled in Marty is something that constantly haunts him. Right after they cut it completely off, Marty changes the locks in his house. Ike’s actions have completely remained with Marty, and it shows a year later when Phyllis and her family are there celebrating Passover. As they sing a prayer, Marty takes in the fact that he finally has his family back. Yet when they open the door for Elijah, that is when his PTSD kicks in. He quickly closes the door and locks it because he is still afraid that Ike would show back up to reclaim him.

It’s this feeling that makes Marty gather the courage to report Ike so that others wouldn’t have to deal with what he is now faced with. The troubling thing is how, as someone who suffers mental health issues myself and found that therapy helped me, Marty could never find it in himself to go back. It’s completely reasonable, but this is the lasting damage that this abuse created for him. He could never fully get help because he probably could never trust another therapist. One bad experience is all it takes, and Marty had one heck of a bad experience. 

Ike (Paul Rudd) side-eyeing Marty (who is off camera)
Paul Rudd in The Shrink Next Door, now streaming on Apple TV+.

The most troubling thing out of all this is that Ike feels he has no responsibility as to what happened. This is as true in the podcast as the real Ike continued to live by the statement that he was doing his job in helping his patient. There was no way he was ever going to acknowledge what he did, even when Marty finally managed to get him into court. Instead, Ike has an outburst, stating to Marty that his allegations are unethical and not the actions Ike had taken to help him.

Marty needed closure with Ike. He needed to see if Ike would utter the words “I’m sorry.” After the verdict is read and Ike officially loses his license, Marty crosses paths with him one final time. He asks if there’s anything Ike would like to say, and then the cherry on top of the sundae happens—the moment that Marty needed to have in order to fully disconnect himself from Ike’s grasp. Ike tells him, “I forgive you.” He doesn’t apologize but instead accepts an apology that wasn’t even made. What sane person would do that? There were moments throughout the series where you felt sorry for Ike. There were moments where you disliked Ike, but this is the moment when you see him for the sociopath he truly is. 

Ike (Paul Rudd) and Marty (Will Ferrell) meet outside the court house in The Shrink Next Door Episode 8
Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell in The Shrink Next Door, now streaming on Apple TV+.

As a whole, I felt The Shrink Next Door managed to capture Marty’s story while also making it a universal one. Having those bad relationships—whether it be with a partner, friend, or even parent—is something that is universally felt. Seeing it play out on screen can help a lot of people process their own trauma or make them aware that they are not alone. For others, it can make them aware that they might know someone going through this.

Enough can’t be said at how unbelievably blown away I am by this cast. What originally drew my interest to The Shrink Next Door was Kathryn Hahn, but what made me stay was its ability to make me fall in love with Will Ferrell and despise Paul Rudd. Seriously! Paul Rudd is one of the most charismatic actors out there, and here is a role that turns his charisma into a force of evil and makes him a monster. I also really can’t say enough on how much this is my all-time favorite Will Ferrell performance. He managed to represent years of abuse by changing his body language. When the camera focused on him, you could see the emptiness in his eyes, but he also managed to have them full of life in moments such as the flashback at the beginning of “The Verdict.”

It’s disappointing that The Shrink Next Door only had eight episodes to tell its story because there was so much left. Sure, we can fill in the gaps and use our imaginations as to what really kept Marty around Ike for 27 years, but if we were given more time then we would have had a chance to delve deeper into all of Marty’s relationships. What was received was a well-crafted beginning, followed by a rushed ending, and what felt like a nonexistent middle. As I said, I could dwell on the “would’ve”s but what we were given was something that managed to capture the essence of these actual people.

I never knew Marty Markowitz’s story until I heard that this series was being made. Once I started watching, I needed to learn more and began to listen to Joe Nocera’s podcast where I was left speechless by the whole thing. Marty’s story sounds like the stuff of fiction, but the fact that it is real brought another layer to The Shrink Next Door series. I hope that others can watch Marty’s story and discover their own strength to step up to the toxic relationships in their life because they are not idiots. They are, as Marty and Phyllis say, “a schmuck like the rest of us.” So, welcome to the club.

Written by Katie Bienvenue

Katie is a writer, cosplayer, craftswoman, and Barista. When she isn't talking about Chainmaille she is usually found discussing some television series, film, or how to properly make one's latte.

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