If you went simply by the title, you’d think the topic of tonight’s episode is pretty simple, but you’d be wrong. Yes, Charlie and Kate did kind of battle over passive aggressive gay patient Patrick, but they travelled so many paths to get there you’d have no idea what was going on unless you checked into the show at just the right time.
The whole battle began when Charlie purposely ignored Patrick early on in the program. He focused instead on Ed who was upset because his wife purchased a TV recorder to skip the commercials. This angered Ed because he no longer had any idea what to buy. Commercials told him what was new, improved or available for a limited time only. Patrick was quick to point out what’s limited is Ed’s time on this planet.
This conversation meandered through a discussion of whether or not Ed liked brown people and some other nonsense and ultimately came to rest on the fact that Ed was upset because he actually really just likes commercials. In fact, it turns out he’s only cried twice in twenty years and one of those times was over a commercial with puppies and a Chinese kid. Ed couldn’t remember whether they were trying to sell the puppies or the Chinese kid, but said “if that commercial didn’t get to ya, you’re a freakin robot.”
After listening to all this talk about Ed, Patrick says it’s his turn, but Charlie says they are going to have to call it a day. Patrick bemoans that they learned a lot about Ed today and Charlie says next time it will be Patrick’s turn. Patrick says there is no “I” in therapy. There is just a “Y” for why do I bother? Charlie says you bother for the “P” which stands for “progress” and for the “H” which stands for “hey” I’ll see you next week. I believe the writers are hoping you’ll see this as Charlie running a therapeutic exercise on Patrick, but it’s impossible to know for sure.
Charlie’s daughter Sam and ex-wife Jen come in at this point and Sam says hi to Patrick and then asks Charlie if it is okay to say hi to him. Before Charlie can answer, Patrick says no because everyone is just ignoring him today.
Sam and Jen’s arrival is from a book store where Jen has picked up an SAT prep book for Sam. Charlie points out that Sam is in middle school and that it will be four years before she needs to worry about taking the exam. Sam says the competition is unreal. Asian Americans make up 5.6% of the population, but represent 25% of the kids in the top 10 schools. Charlie tells her to go for extracurricular activities and to form a college prep club. The writers on this show love to randomly toss in odd statistics that add nothing to the stories and I included this one as an example and as a plea to them to please stop.
Sam leaves the kitchen and Charlie notices a book in the bag she left behind. He calls after her, but Jen leaps into action to grab the book from Charlie. It turns out the book is a Civil War romance novel called Sabrina’s Satin Surrender that belongs to Jen. Charlie begins reading passages and accuses Jen of reading spank. The discussion about the book actually goes on for quite a while, but you wish it wouldn’t. Jen and Charlie go back and forth over the differences between what men and women get out of novels such as Sabrina’s Satin Surrender and whether the contents of the book constitute pornography or literature with Charlie finally caving in to Jen’s contention that it is literature.
Soon after this encounter, Charlie has a session with Kate during which he further digs into the differences between what men and women get out of romance novels. Kate points out that it is not unusual for a woman to be stimulated by reading. She says men and women are wired differently; men are visual and women are, you know, smart. Kate tells Charlie that he is hostile toward romance novels because they hold men to an unrealistic standard he can’t compete with.
During this conversation, Kate realizes that the skirt she has on is too sexy to wear to court in her role as an expert witness against a whack job or, as she corrects herself, alleged whack job. She and Charlie also have a theoretical discussion during Kate’s various states of undress and Charlie wins a bet that leads to this episodes sexual encounter. Once Kate continues dressing, she realizes she has no clue as to how to dress herself for her stint as an expert witness in court. Charlie realizes he has a solution and offers up Patrick as a personal shopper.
At the next group session, Patrick doesn’t show. While they are waiting to see if he might be late, Ed asks Charlie why Patrick is in the group because as far as he’s concerned passive aggressiveness isn’t anger. In his day they called it being on the rag. Charlie tells Ed there are 12 major kinds of anger and that with his display of misogynistic homophobia he’s collected the whole set. Shortly thereafter, everyone receives a text from Patrick telling them he’s quitting the group.
We now segue to the prison group. Why? Not because they are particularly interesting or funny, but to create a plot device through which we can create a method for Charlie to try to get Patrick back as a patient. In a normal world, an educated psychiatrist would go to his former patient and try to work things out. In a cable sitcom, the shrink goes to a prison and works through a couple of comedy gigs to get to the one about what you do if somebody in your gang tries to leave the gang?
Well the obvious answer is to go and get them and bring them back. In the wacky world of television, the defector is going to know you are looking for them so you can’t go to their house because they won’t be there. Instead you need to go to their place of employment and confront them there. Charlie points out that it’s an invasion of privacy, but of course the next place we see Charlie is at Patrick’s work place.
Charlie shows up at the clothing store where Patrick works and asks him if this is about being ignored during their last session. Patrick tells Charlie that his new therapist says the best thing to do is to make a clean break. It takes a couple of seconds before Charlie realizes what Patrick said and then he looks at Patrick and asks is it Kate? Patrick hems and haws and talks in circles until Charlie asks him again if his new therapist is Kate. Patrick finally admits that Kate is, indeed, his new therapist.
Charlie next angrily confronts Kate over dinner. He makes several attempts to splash ketchup on Kate and huffs and puffs about her theft of Patrick, but nothing works as planned. Kate calmly explains to Charlie that it was Patrick’s decision. Charlie tries to explain that ignoring Patrick was part of his therapy. Patrick was seeking attention in a passive aggressive way and he wasn’t going to reward that.
Jen comes over to tell Charlie that Sam is having sex and all of her AP College prep study group friends are talking about it. They confront Sam about it to find that she was pretending that she had sex by quoting from scenes she read in the book Sabrina’s Satin Surrender.
Charlie asks Jen if it really is a turn on. Jen tells him it is the way women wish they were treated. She says a woman loves it when a guy comes back and fights for her and sweeps her off her feet and takes her. It’s great when he’s doing it because he has to have her. She explains that it’s about the passion, about being overwhelmed. She claims it’s irresistible to women, but you’ll never hear a girl say it because it sounds kind of rapey.
This over hyped explanation gives Charlie all the ammunition he needs to go after Patrick who, because he is gay, can be caught up in the same type of emotional dependency. The final scene shows Charlie walking up to Patrick in his workplace and telling him Patrick, Kate’s all wrong for you. I need you back and I need you back now. Don’t think. There is nothing, but this moment. You are coming back to group. You will be in that chair tomorrow. If you need extra attention you’ll pay me and we’ll do it private.
It took four different paths to get to the punch line, but Charlie finally did. I still contend that the prison breaks are without merit, especially given that the guys telling the jokes have accents so thick you can barely understand what they are saying.