In Treatment – Season 3-Undercurrents


This season is as superlative as the previous two, not only because of the taut acting and writing, but because you can see the story arcs’ impacts on Paul’s personal life. This is made very clear by Paul’s sessions with Adele, who brilliantly connects the dots and synthesizes stray bits of information as he lets them slip.

Nonetheless, it wasn’t until the session of five that I began to take an active dislike to Adele. It was a very loaded session in which Paul elaborates a bit on his romantic feelings toward her, his talk with his son Max, his concern over how to handle immigrant patient Sunil, and teen-in-crisis Jesse.  There were things about how Adele responded to Paul that really bothered me. First, she wanted Paul to elaborate further on his fantasies regarding her, and Paul shifted gears and told her that she wasn’t really on his radar that much in the past week. Then she pressured him to leave her office on time as he was trying to get her feedback regarding handling Sunil. She insisted that their session was up and he lingered in the chair defiantly. She then asks “Are you so paralyzed you’re unable to stand?”  This seemed so bitchy to me that it completely undermined her claim of concern regarding how Paul would get angry with her when she tried to get him to see things differently. And need I point out that antagonizing someone who’s just confessed to waiting outside your office for an hour after the end of the session may not be the safest or smartest move?  Why would she even want to continue seeing him at all much less twice a week?  Countertransference perhaps??

My basic problem with Adele’s character is that she says one thing, then does another. She made it very clear that she would not help him past 5:50 pm, but what’s her next move? She calls him from her home to leave him a message at 7:30am, offering him another session just in case “he needed it” she later explains.  Paul calls her on the carpet a bit for this by asking her whether she called from her office, and questioned the timing of it, and tells her point blank that he knew she called him from her home by looking at the number on his caller ID.  Does this mean that Adele wanted him to know she thought about him while she was at home? That the door to her home is open to him as well as the one to her office?  Maybe.  Another example of Adele saying and doing different things is the way she ended session four, saying that they had to stop, after Paul’s declaration of personal feelings for her, and her statement that this would be an excellent place to start the next session. Does she start the next session there?  No. In fact, Paul is the one who steers the conversation back to it, and criticizes her for allowing him to fantasize about her while being in a healthy relationship, which he suspects from her now-evident pregnancy (why was this a surprise if he sees the woman weekly???) She responds by asking whether he assumes this is the case, but doesn’t confirm that she is in fact involved in a healthy relationship. In addition, she  correctly criticizes Paul for blurring the lines of their relationship and assigning her the roles of colleague, supervisor, and life partner instead of therapist, but darned if she doesn’t entertain trying at least a few of those roles on; in week six, she gives Paul advice on handling his patient, Sunil, and presents this as the urgent reason for her calling him at 7:30am, instead of initiating the session with this after he asked her point blank what she wanted him to do.  She does this after he threatens to walk out of the session.  Three things are problematic here a) She assumes that the patient Sunil is dangerous and Paul’s inaction will result in a preventable tragedy b) She assumes that Paul’s inaction will result in the loss of his therapy practice c) She assumes that she has to save him from himself.

Here are a few other random observations of  Adele’s behavior. Adele’s very evasive with Paul. She apologized for the phone call which interrupted their session in week six, and seemed very interested in concealing the call. She was concerned that he felt betrayed by the fact that she was pregnant.

My bottom-line take on Adele is that she’s not willing to admit how Paul gets to her. She wants to insist – a bit too much from my perspective – that everything is strictly professional. In their final session together, she was very clearly trying to hold on to him as a patient, and never once suggested that he see someone else.  (If you really want to establish boundaries and are concerned about transference, you don’t call a patient’s home at 7:30am from your home number and let it show up on his or her caller ID).

A foreshadowed possibility for season four is Max’s sexuality or  some sort of sexual trauma . I don’t think it’s an accident that we’ve seen the most of him during episodes which featured gay teen Jesse, who called Max Paul’s “faggoty” son. Although I’m not sure Max will be gay, I thought it quite disturbing that the last thing we hear stepfather Steve say to Max is “I’ve got something to show you out back.” I find it hard to believe that the writers have done any of this by accident.  It was also telling that when  Paul turned his back on his son Max briefly to tend to Jesse’s needs that  Max nearly started a fire; yet there was Paul, walking away from Max in Baltimore.  Is or will Max be sexually abused?  This story arc could bring Kate back, who might then see how much better life was with Paul, and how much this wounded family could help each other heal. Stay tuned…

David Zurawik’s analysis of season 3

Alan Sepinwall’s analysis

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