This recap of The Shrink Next Door season 1, episode 5, “The Family Tree”, contains spoilers.
Until now, we haven’t been given much sense of why Ike is the way he is. As of “The Family Tree”, we’re still not entirely sure, though at least now we know it’s something to do with his father — a survivor of the war who was apparently a good man but not such a good father. He dies in the opening scene of this episode, or at least Ike is told about him having died, but the news sends Ike down an even more self-serving spiral than he was on before. The Shrink Next Door doesn’t do a very good job of emphasizing the passage of time, but Ike’s transition here is very evident. It’s 1990, and he’s ready to start living the kind of life he has always imagined for himself, but at Marty’s expense.
The Shrink Next Door season 1, episode 5 recap
It starts when Marty suggests Ike, Bonnie, and the girls all go to stay at his place in the Hamptons as a way to take a load off after the bad news. Ike gets there and immediately starts mentally sprucing the place up, berating Marty about him essentially keeping it as a museum for the memory of his parents. The episode gets its title from the cherry tree in the back garden, which Marty’s parents planted when they moved there and still holds a lot of sentimental value for Marty. As long as it still stands, Marty hasn’t given himself over completely to Ike’s manipulations just yet. Needless to say, by the end of the episode, it is no longer standing.
You get a sense of just how submissive Marty is when he offers to sleep in the guest house just so Ike and Bonnie stay. Having cut Phyllis out of his life, he’s increasingly lonely, and his desperation for companionship is evident to Ike. Ike, though, can’t handle that Marty’s rich neighbor Ken is throwing parties next door while they’re just lounging in the pool with the kids. He has to compete. And since he can’t compete on his own dime, he has to convince Marty to compete on his.
It was obvious anyway, but “The Family Tree” really solidifies Ike’s MO — whatever he wants Marty to do is framed in a psychological context, as though it represents something traumatic in Marty’s past, and rectifying it is part of his healing process. So, it’s unhealthy for Marty to not renovate the house and make it a party hotspot. If Marty simply purchases the property next door, he’ll own one mega-property in the Hamptons, making his real estate the most valuable in the area. He’s presenting his own ideal life as Marty’s; trying to convince him that if he just has this house, this pool, he’ll finally be content. It’s the opposite of therapy, and one of the show’s downsides is that it keeps double-underlining the irony.
The tree is an issue, though. Since Marty is so reluctant to chop it down, Ike realizes he has to take drastic measures, so he mentions how he’s planning to take some time off to focus on writing a book. He’s thinking about doing so in Jerusalem, he claims, which he isn’t, since he’s relying on Marty doing exactly what he immediately proceeds to do, which is invite Ike to stay at his house with him so they can work on it together. Before long, Marty is typing Ike’s narration. Soon after that, Ike is in the pool next door, learning information about the owner and once again pushing Marty to buy it. When the tree remains an issue, Ike starts smashing holes in Marty’s bathroom wall.
Eventually, Ike’s manipulations become nastier and more obvious. He starts to frame Marty’s feelings for the tree as his fondness for his mother’s inappropriate love. “I love you properly,” he says, “I won’t hurt you.” And then he immediately threatens to leave. That night, Marty takes an ax to the tree.
“The Family Tree” ends a year later, with Marty having bought the house next door, and the tree nothing but a stump. Ike thinks they should throw a housewarming party.