In Which I Don’t Know How To React Or If I Should Fight Back


Linda Was Her Name

by Karina Wolf

In Treatment, HBO

I once had a writing teacher who liked to confess secrets.

She had been married twice and arrested twice. She loved the color blue and eschewed orange. She believed that ghosts were communicating through the school’s intercom system, and she couldn’t speak the name of her ex-husband. She wore silver shoes and a ruffled pink dirndl that she called her hysteria skirt. Sometimes she would burst into tears. In her sensitivity, in her prescience, in her magical thinking, she was a little bit Mrs. Whatsit and a little bit Dianne Wiest.


Since DW first appeared onscreen in films like Purple Rose of Cairo and The Lost Boys, she has been the embodiment of whatever era she’s in. Somehow the afflictions of the times filter through her consciousness, becoming uniquely hers.

In Hannah and Her Sisters, for example, she is a struggling New York actress/caterer, aging single, admirer of New Wave and punk, insulter of Bobby Short, and nascent drug monster. In Parenthood, she’s an independent mom with an unruly vibrator.

In In Treatment, she’s a menopausal aspiring novelist who’s wise and shaky in equal measure—we can anticipate some turbulence when Paul returns to his former analytic supervisor, and she is played by Dianne Wiest.

The supervising session—which really isn’t even designated as such, since Paul has demanded an audience without clear purpose—is easier to watch than the other sessions, because we get to hear about the history on both sides.

Paul and Gina hedge at the conflict that caused him to walk out of his last session and not communicate with Gina for eight or nine years. The writers have managed to include some of Paul’s personal life in the Sophie sessions, since she’s a contemporary of Paul’s daughter, but here’s where we get a sense that he’s got a past.

“Two Cars” – Death Cab for Cutie (mp3)

“Ready to Follow Me” – Dana Dawson (mp3)

“Pink” – Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton (mp3)

Wiest is a trainwreck as a supervisor—you can’t tell if her assessment of Paul’s predicament reflects insight or a delusional amount of projection, fueled by personal history. She does have the office that I’d want my supervisor to have, full of African statuary and oriental carpets. Maybe Gina’s correct that Paul has been too swayed by Monday night’s patient’s play for his affections.

Paul’s marriage is in trouble and he has familial precedent: his dad, a medical doctor, apparently ran off with a patient.


But then there are some erratic interpretations. Who is this “Linda” that Gina keeps referring to? And why Paul’s odd nod to Preminger? (When Gina repeats the parapraxis of calling his amorous patient by the wrong name, Paul’s lines echo the Gene Tierney film: “Laura. Laura was her name.”)

laura is her name

Paul, it seems, has a cheating wife and an extremely gifted son, but the therapist is curiously paralyzed in his domestic life. He doesn’t explain why he is unable to confront his wife about her absences, or why he won’t allow his son to participate in the talented and gifted program at school.

In the Preminger film, a character is warned against falling in love with Laura: You’d better watch out, or you’ll end up in a psychiatric ward. I admit that I hope Paul’s story turns into Suddenly, Last Summer crossed with Twin Peaks. Since Gina is the audience and the shepherd for Paul’s case, I can’t help but feel optimistic.

Karina Wolf is a contributor to This Recording. You can read her full series about the first week of HBO’s In Treatment here.

Episode One: Freud’s Kitten

Episode Two: Control of the Story

Episode Three: All Attention is Good Attention

Episode Four: The Sparring Couple


Thinking myself able to go all the way alone.

Wedding advice you can depend on.

Read about Woody’s best here.

wiest in hannah and her sisters


2 thoughts on “In Which I Don’t Know How To React Or If I Should Fight Back

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