In Treatment -- Paul, week 9

I suspect we all expect this to be where the shit hits the fan for Paul.

Paul looks at his phone and then calls Laura -- her machine answers. He hangs up and calls again and this time leaves a message, hoping she is there and not picking up. Then we see that she is there and listening. She picks up the phone.

Paul asks if she is okay. He says he would like to see her, that they should talk. Laura agrees. She tells him to come to her house.

Kate is in their bedroom. It looks like she fell asleep reading on the bed. She wakes up to discover Paul in the doorway watching her. He tells Kate he is going to see Laura. Kate says nothing.

Laura answers the door and says it is strange answering the door for him. He says she sounds sick; she says it's just a cold. Paul comments that her house is very nice. They both seem awkward. Laura asks if her place is as he imagined it. He says it smaller and he expected more color. Laura offers him a drink, he asks for water. Paul wanders about looking at things. His cell phone rings and he sees it is his daughter.

Paul asks if she has seen Andrew. She says yes, he brought by soup. Paul asks if she has been upset with him. She says not upset but frustrated because she doesn't know who they are to each other. Paul says they should decide. He says he knows what he wants and tells her he loves her. Laura doesn't believe him. He asks if it is because he hasn't left home. Paul starts to interpret her response and she tells him to stop. She asks what changed. Paul says he realized what he would lose if he didn't see her. Laura says he will get over her. Paul says he doesn't want to get over her. Paul again starts to tell her how she feels and she tells him to stop because she is not in therapy now and he can't tell her how she feels. He again starts to talk with her as a therapist. Paul asks if she is over him. She says no. She says she doesn't want just happiness in the moment any more; she wants something that will last. She doesn't want to be someone in his life just because his marriage ran out of steam. She says she does not want to talk.

Laura says , as she touches his face, that he doesn't really want this. Paul whispers that he does. Laura gets up and leaves the room. He gets up and follows to her bedroom. Laura is sitting on the bed and starts to undress.

An abrupt change and Paul is knocking on Gina's door.  Gina answers and asks what is the matter. He tells her he saw Laura. He tells her had been calling her since the funeral and finally she picked up. He tells Gina that he had gone to her and that he told her that he was ready to be with her. Paul tells Gina that he couldn't do anything, that he had an anxiety attack and could not respond to Laura. He tells her he felt like he was suffocating, drowning in sweat. Then he got out as fast as he could. And that Laura told him she changed her mind, that she didn't want it any more. Paul says he couldn't touch her.

Gina says nothing is wrong with Paul. She reminds him that it had to be his decision. Paul says it came down to fearing he would be swallowed up by all of it and that he would lose control. Gina says the anxiety attack was him, was his, his best self stopping him. Gina says he steered himself away from something he knew he would regret and from hurting Laura and himself. If he hadn't want her so badly, it would have been easy. But he had the anxiety attack and he did what he needed to do.

Paul says Laura told him that she did not want to use sex anymore as she always had and that Paul was using her to bail himself out of his marriage. Gina says that what maters is that he did the right thing for himself and his patient.

Paul asks what is left for him now. Gina asks if he would like to talk about that. The episode ends.


Well, my hope about Paul turned out to be accurate but not in the way I thought. I did not expect Paul to go through with actually seeing Laura and telling her he was in love with her. It was my fantasy that he be able to recognize what that would mean and step back from the brink. But as it turns out, both of them acted in the way one would hope.

If we watch carefully, we can see in the awkwardness between Laura and Paul that they don't really know each other, that they have far less upon which to build anything than either of them wanted to believe. Her house, very modern and in neutral colors, stands in contrast to the richness and homey clutter of his own. They can't connect over art.

Paul's anxiety attack is, as Gina says, his psyche acting to protect him from his own bad impulse. It is, again as she says, his best self preventing him from doing something that would be very hurtful. And, in deciding she does not want Paul after all, Laura is actually demonstrating having gained from therapy.

But this is a terrible way to end in the right place. Paul has acted out and that is a big problem. And settling to talk more with Gina does not seem like an especially good idea. Paul still needs to see a therapist with whom he does not have such a tangled history. He needs to decide he actually wants help and be willing to surrender to the process in order to get it.

And Laura? Her father issues are still there in a big way. And though she seems to have for once made a choice not to use sex to have a relationship, what has she really learned from this failed therapy? 

This weekend I'll pull together thoughts about the series as whole. Please leave any questions in the comments and we can continue to discuss the show.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.