The Shrink Next Door craps out a real party pooper [Apple TV+ recap] | Cult of Mac

The Shrink Next Door craps out a real party pooper [Apple TV+ recap]

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The Shrink Next Door recap: Sometimes parties are no fun at all.
Sometimes parties are no fun at all.
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+’s true comedy The Shrink Next Door heads into its endgame this week. Manipulative psychiatrist Ike has all but moved into his patient Marty’s house in the Hamptons. And the bad doctor has started professionally throwing parties.

However, the longer the party goes on, the less fun it feels. The same is true of this show, which increasingly feels like it should have been a two-hour movie — if it needed to exist at all.

The Shrink Next Door recap: Episode 6, ‘The Party’

Marty (played by Will Ferrell) and Ike (Paul Rudd) are now partners in such a way that there’s very little distance between them. Ike throws a housewarming party and invites a raft of his other famous patients. Prior to this, Marty didn’t realize that most of Ike’s friends are his patients, just like he is, which shakes him a little. Marty has a whatever time at the party. He’s glad when it’s over, but then Ike lets him know it’s only the beginning. They’ll be throwing a lotta parties from now on.

When Marty lets it slip to one of Ike’s guests that the property is his, that he paid for the house next door and that they’re living in his family’s house, Ike goes ballistic. Ike makes it clear that under no circumstances should Marty be telling people that Ike isn’t the owner of the house and indeed the rich power player he masquerades as week after week.

This party’s no fun

Marty’s not the only one who gets tired of the permanent vacation lifestyle, either. Ike’s wife, Bonnie (Casey Wilson), hates what Ike has become. He’s a constant schmoozer and social climber who prizes telling dreadful jokes to rich people over spending time with his family.

By 2007, Ike’s parties have become a depressing burlesque. No one enjoys themselves anymore. This comes to a head when Ike convinces Marty to push another of his guests, fellow patient Miriam (Sarayu Blue), into the pool.

Marty apologizes effusively but Miriam is inconsolable. Turns out that, much like Ike convinced Marty to stop talking to his own sister, Miriam stopped talking to her mother at Ike’s advice. And then she died, so Miriam couldn’t say goodbye.

Marty screams at Miriam for trying to blame Ike for her problems, but the damage is done. He suddenly unravels. Everything Miriam says about Ike is true. Ike doesn’t love or care about Marty. His life has become a springboard for Ike’s success. The realization almost makes him crash his car.

We thought you left without saying goodbye

This is the part where The Shrink Next Door finally becomes Harold Pinter’s The Servant, except louder and overly comedic but less funny. There’s even, at last, a quasi-sexual threat to the central relationship in the form of Miriam.

The Servant, about a rich, preening young aristocrat who acquires a manservant only to have him become the only person in his life, with their roles definitively reversed, feeds the audience only what it needs to stay afloat. The psychosexual elements are claustrophobically smothered under the noisy game of masculine wills the two men outwardly play.

However, if you’re remaking The Servant, you need more compellingly closed-off characters than Ike or Marty. It means nothing when a lifelong pushover like Marty continues to be one. And it was always going to be that a martinet guru Ike would emerge as Marty’s puppet master. The only surprise is the dully predictable form their stories take.

Marty makes a sad realization

Marty finally understands that his life is not his own — it hasn’t been since he started seeing Dr. Ike — and it breaks him. Or anyway it should, but The Shrink Next Door goes back on that realization, too, and rather insultingly it must be said. Unfortunately, thanks to Ferrell’s childlike emotions (which can be a strength in better circumstances), this doesn’t really play like the earthshaking event it should be.

There is a nice moment where Marty tells Ike the names of the fish in his koi pond — probably the best this show’s been since the pilot. But ultimately, it just can’t commit to the psychological interiority needed to make this stuff sing.

Take, for instance, this week’s inexcusable final scene. Ike has Marty pretend to have the bus back to New York break down. Then, Marty walks Miriam to a gas station and abandons her there so Ike can call her on a payphone and say he won’t be her therapist anymore as punishment for confessing to Marty that Ike is a terrible therapist.

The show has simply not laid the groundwork for this to play at all. Marty is a nice man. Everything we’ve been taught about him, and everything Ferrell has put into the character, says this is not who he is. If he was someone willing to be a true, no-holds-barred villain, it should have been foregrounded by something else.

Unbelievable … and unbelievably infuriating

It is simply not believable that Marty would become Ike’s worm like this, especially in an episode where he finally realizes how much he misses his family. It’s terrible writing and needlessly cruel for the sake of effect. The Shrink Next Door long ago lost the good will it built up early on, but this is like bad science fiction. Harold Pinter wept.

Another problem is that the dynamic is given short shrift. The show races through the decades to arrive at Marty’s come-to-Jesus moment, which means we go from his first party to the last in about five minutes. Just like that, 15 years of incident disappear. If that period wasn’t interesting to the writers, why make this show at all? Why not make this a movie where you can jump around to make your point as a rule?

All in all, this is the most infuriating episode of The Shrink Next Door yet. Outside of The Morning Show and For All Mankind, it’s the most unimaginative and dogmatic show on Apple TV+.

Watch The Shrink Next Door on Apple TV+

The first three episodes of The Shrink Next Door premiere November 12 on Apple TV+. New episodes will follow on Fridays.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On The Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.