In episode 9 of The Patient, Alan dreams again of Auschwitz. He walks up to a man named Viktor to wake him up from a nightmare. It’s Viktor Frankl–the author of Man’s Search for Meaning. Viktor asks him if he’s read his book. “I said not to wake the person up,” he says.
Alan then wakes up himself. He scrapes his tube of foot cream against the bed, then feels its sharp point. He tells Charlie it’s sharper than it looks, but Charlie wonders if the dream is saying he should keep working, be a therapist, and prevail. Alan thinks it means he shouldn’t die “like a sheep.”
Alan calls for Sam before he goes to work. He tries to convince him not to see a new therapist. He says he’s come to care about him, despite the strange situation. Sam gives him at least a week to change his mind. That’s when he’s planning to see Mr. Buchella.
Alan then tells Sam about Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived Auschwitz. He said in his writings that people need meaning in their lives more than anything. “The deepest place we can find meaning is in relationships,” Alan states.
He suggests that Sam have Mary over for a meal so they can build a relationship again. Sam could get a nanny cam so Alan can see everything that’s going on and give him a professional opinion.
Mary agrees to come over for brunch, and Alan’s plan is set in motion. Charlie tells him that it will be his fault if his plan to stab Sam ends in Mary’s death as well. But Alan’s focus is on escaping.
Sam is nervous about the brunch, so Alan suggests some role-play to practice. Sam stumbles through it. Afterwards, he asks Alan about the possibility of he and Mary having a baby–if it would be like him. Alan doesn’t exactly provide him with encouragement. He says no one knows how their kids will turn out.
The next morning, Sam has Mary over for brunch, and Alan watches on the nanny cam. He’s holding his tube of foot cream in his hand.
The meal is silent, and Sam struggles to make conversation. He eventually panics and goes down to get advice from Alan.
Alan holds the tube of cream and stares at Sam, but he can’t do it. He remembers Charlie telling him that he’ll get Mary killed.
Sam returns, but doesn’t get any better at making conversation. He tells Mary his dad beat him a lot as a kid; that’s why he’s in therapy. He’d never told Mary that before. Candace then awkwardly gets up from the table, and Mary decides to leave.
Alan imagines screaming for help before she departs, but he doesn’t. Mary leaves, and Alan remains a prisoner.
Sam reports to Alan how things went. Mary said she thinks it’s good for exes to have friendly relationships, and that they should do this once a year. Sam feels terrible. He says this was a mistake, and he blames Alan.
But Alan insists this was important for Sam. Finding meaningful relationships requires taking risks. Sam doesn’t care. He tells him he’s going to see Mr. Buchella next week.
Alan proposes that Sam try to access his memories and feelings about his dad first. He says that when he gets so angry that he hurts someone, it’s his dad he’s truly angry with–not other people. He kills people instead of killing his father.
Something then clicks for Sam. He shows Alan a video of a man named Edmond Kemper, a serial killer who murdered his own mother to stop his cycle of killing women like his mother.
Sam agrees with Alan, but he takes his assessment the wrong way. He decides that, to finally stop killing others, he’s going to kill his own father. He leaves the house while Alan protests.
The Episode Review
In this episode, Alan dreams of another man in captivity only to wake up in his own prison. But like Victor Frankl, Alan is inspired to go on his own search for meaning.
He wrestles again in his mind with Charlie, who in the past has pushed Alan to fight to escape with all his strength. That advice shifts when Alan’s plan to escape potentially endangers Mary. It seems Charlie is implying that if Alan causes someone else to die, his experiences lose their meaning.
He’s come so far, that in the end he has to wonder: Can he save Sam and himself? The conclusion of Alan’s putting down his tube of foot cream and instead making a breakthrough with Sam nicely portrays a balance of self-preservation and selfless sacrifice in the patient-therapist relationship.
I’m not quite sure how the final episode will tie everything together, but I’m excited about the possibilities. We have Sam off to try to kill his father, the problem of Alan still being trapped but the hopeful possibility of a family reunion (Alan’s daughter can’t be totally insignificant, right?), and the matter of Candace’s role in the abuse Sam has suffered.
I certainly think Sam is going to have to do more than wrestle with his father to receive some closure. His mother has played a significant role in his childhood trauma. Can Alan help the family heal and still save himself?